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What’s wrong with CHAT?
Clay Spinuzzi, clay.spinuzzi@utexas.edu
Part I: Why writing
studies embraced CHAT
Spinuzzi, C. (1996).
Pseudotransactionality, activity theory,
and professional writing instruction.
Technical Communicatio...
Kinneavy, J. L. (1971). A theory of discourse:
The aims of discourse. Englewood Cliffs,
New Jersey: Pretice-Hall, Inc.
Hairston, M. (1985). Breaking our bonds
and reaffirming our connections. College
Composition and Communication, 36(3),
272...
Rhetoric and
writing studies
didn’t have...
A paradigm
A set of methodologies
A set of methods
A set of research techniques
Faigley, L. (1986). Competing Theories of
Process: A Critique and a Proposal. College
English, 48(6), 527-542.
Charney, D. (1998). From logocentrism to
ethnocentrism: Historicizing critiques of
writing research. Technical Communicati...
social cognitive
sociocognitive
Part II: Why CHAT was a
good fit
1GAT
2GAT
3GAT
mediation, internalization, proximal development
activity system, structure of activity
activity networks, ...
Part III: CHAT’s
methodological problems
3GAT was applied
to design research
And consequently changed in
fundamental ways
From research subjects to
participants
Fr...
Problem 1: Application
sociocognitive
Problem 2: Theory
objectobjectobjectobject
Problem 3: Phenomenon
object
object
objectobject
Problem 4: Development
object
object
object
object
object
1GAT
2GAT
3GAT
4GAT
Part IV: How can we
iterate CHAT?
Solution 1: Apply AT to sociocognitive, not just social,
research into writing
sociocognitive
Solution 2: Rebuild activity theory around dialogism
Solution 3: Understand the object(ive) as multiple
object
object
objectobject
Solution 4: Theorize interfering cycles of development
Pivot it again
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What’s wrong with CHAT?

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A talk I presented at the 2016 Dartmouth Institute about cultural-historical activity theory: how it entered writing studies, how it developed, and what methodological challenges it faces.

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What’s wrong with CHAT?

  1. 1. What’s wrong with CHAT? Clay Spinuzzi, clay.spinuzzi@utexas.edu
  2. 2. Part I: Why writing studies embraced CHAT
  3. 3. Spinuzzi, C. (1996). Pseudotransactionality, activity theory, and professional writing instruction. Technical Communication Quarterly, 5(3), 295–308.
  4. 4. Kinneavy, J. L. (1971). A theory of discourse: The aims of discourse. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Pretice-Hall, Inc.
  5. 5. Hairston, M. (1985). Breaking our bonds and reaffirming our connections. College Composition and Communication, 36(3), 272–282.
  6. 6. Rhetoric and writing studies didn’t have... A paradigm A set of methodologies A set of methods A set of research techniques
  7. 7. Faigley, L. (1986). Competing Theories of Process: A Critique and a Proposal. College English, 48(6), 527-542.
  8. 8. Charney, D. (1998). From logocentrism to ethnocentrism: Historicizing critiques of writing research. Technical Communication Quarterly, 7(1), 9–32.
  9. 9. social cognitive
  10. 10. sociocognitive
  11. 11. Part II: Why CHAT was a good fit
  12. 12. 1GAT 2GAT 3GAT mediation, internalization, proximal development activity system, structure of activity activity networks, contradictions, rules
  13. 13. Part III: CHAT’s methodological problems
  14. 14. 3GAT was applied to design research And consequently changed in fundamental ways From research subjects to participants From individual to collective subjects From prediction to description (and deliberation) From individual activities to networked activities
  15. 15. Problem 1: Application sociocognitive
  16. 16. Problem 2: Theory objectobjectobjectobject
  17. 17. Problem 3: Phenomenon object object objectobject
  18. 18. Problem 4: Development object object object object object
  19. 19. 1GAT 2GAT 3GAT 4GAT
  20. 20. Part IV: How can we iterate CHAT?
  21. 21. Solution 1: Apply AT to sociocognitive, not just social, research into writing sociocognitive
  22. 22. Solution 2: Rebuild activity theory around dialogism
  23. 23. Solution 3: Understand the object(ive) as multiple object object objectobject
  24. 24. Solution 4: Theorize interfering cycles of development
  25. 25. Pivot it again

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