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Invisible Colleges in Rhetoric and Composition, Part II

The following chart helps show the distribution of faculty placement that I described here. Here's a recap of the data and how it was collected.
  1. I recorded the names of faculty associated with a rhetoric and composition program from each school listed as a member of the Consortium of Doctoral Programs in Rhetoric and Composition.
  2. I identified each faculty member PhD alma mater and year of graduation.
  3. I created a dataset that associated feeder institutions to the doctoral consortium schools.
The idea was to identify "invisible colleges" that are generating faculty for schools that train the rhetoric & composition instructors in the United States. The institutions identified would theoretically (as in invisible college theoretically) be institutionally powerful for distributing the disciplinary knowledge of rhetoric and composition. There are a few drawbacks to this approach. One, the Doctoral Consortium is a self-selecting group. The bar for entry is pretty low I think. I believe a program simply needs to contact the consortium and ask to be listed. Alternatively, it's possible that an influential rhetoric & composition program never identified itself for inclusion. It seems like the University of Kentucky would probably have PhD program for rhetcomp, but it's not listed, and the hell if I was going to try to locate every possible program in the United States that has a PhD program marginally related to rhetcomp. In those case, those schools would have been left out of my data. Another drawback: I gathered faculty data from webpages. Most of these programs are components of English departments. Identifying which faculty were part of the rhetoric & composition faculty was sometimes difficult. This is especially true since programs often make their programs look stronger than they are by including faculty that are marginal to the program. I could give examples of this, but if you're reading this you're probably associated with a rhetcomp program and can name the faculty listed that are not really involved with your program. I erred on the side of selecting too many rather than too few. If a program listed faculty as interested in rhetcomp, that person became a data point. My first post listed the schools placing the most faculty members. Below is a chart that shows the temporal spread of the top 23 schools placing faculty (click here to see it big). The highest placing school was Purdue with 39 placements. The cutoff for selecting these programs was at least 8 placements.   [caption id="attachment_1565" align="alignnone" width="960"]Box and Whisker Plot of Placement Data Box and Whisker Plot of Placement Data[/caption] This is a simple box plot of the data. Each column represents a school and the years that school was graduating students who ended up as Doctoral Consortium faculty. The bottom box is the first quartile to the median. The line in the middle is the median of the data. The top box is the median to the third quartile of the data. The whiskers represent the first graduate and the last graduate. So for example, the first column is Arizona State University (eight Doctoral Consortium faculty graduated from ASU). The first faculty member graduated in 1979 (the bottom whisker). The last graduated in 2012 (the top whisker). The median graduation date of ASU faculty was 2000. The median of the graduates pre-2000 was 1989. The median of the graduates post-2000 was 2006. This basic plot highlights when programs were most actively graduating faculty for the consortium. There are a few interesting schools worth pointing out. First, Michigan State has been more actively placing faculty in recent years. So have the University of Arizona and the University of Washington. Second, it looks like Rensselaer, UC-Berkeley, and the University of Iowa were more active before 2000. In this case "more actively" means that the dates of graduates were proportionally higher. Keep in mind when you look at this chart that the range of placement for a school is from 39 to 8. You can't say that placement rates were necessarily higher, simply that the graduates were more likely to come from the time periods highlighted in the chart. This chart doesn't represent the placement of Purdue or the University of Texas at Austin particularly well because of how many graduates come from those two schools. But, this does highlight interesting trends that people familiar with the school might be better able to talk about. For instance, the University of Texas at Arlington has a tiny time frame where they graduated several people that ended up in the Doctoral Consortium. These students were most frequently advised by Victor Vitanza, and when he moved to Clemson, Arlington stopped graduating as many students into Doctoral Consortium schools. If this were baseball, I suppose that would qualify Vitanza as a franchise player. The fact that Clemson only has Doctoral Consortium faculty after Vitanza arrived seems to suggest that. I'm sure there are other stories that help explain the institutionality of this data. I'd love to start collecting stories that help explain the weird points.

Invisible Colleges in Rhetoric and Composition

* updated with a note on data collection 5/2/15 The Invisible College was introduced in Diana Crane's book Invisible Colleges: Diffusion of Knowledge in Scientific Communities. The idea is a foundational part of sociology of science. Crane suggests that the memberships of knowledge communities influence the diffusion of ideas and what communities come to know and think about. Crane's idea is similar to Lave and Wenger's Communities of Practice, Knorr Cetina's Epistemic Cultures, or Swales's Discourse Communities. Crane was writing in the early 70s, and the idea seems fairly commonplace in the social sciences and humanities. Crane is particularly useful because she focused on networks that influence communities. Following Derek de la Solla's bibliometric approach to history, she uses citation networks as a methodological approach to identifying invisible colleges. In her book, she focused on faculty in the hard sciences. This idea has relevance for other disciplines, though, and I've been playing around with approaches to better understand rhetorical studies, rhetoric of science, and professional and technical communication. For the last couple of days I've been collecting the PhD institution of faculty in programs associated with the Doctoral Consortium of Rhetoric and Composition. These programs are the primary producers of PhDs in rhetcomp in the United States. Although they aren't citation networks, they are institutions that shape the questions that their graduates ask. So viewing an Invisible College this way is a hybrid Crane/Institutional Critique approach. By collecting information on faculty's graduating institutions, I collected information on the institutions feeding the faculty of the majority of rhetcomp faculty in the U.S. Practically, I did this by going to the websites of Doctoral Consortium programs, identifying their faculty, and then finding their alma maters and year of degree. The ProQuest Dissertations database helped a lot. This collection isn't as straightforward as it seems. I decided not to count visiting faculty or continuing lecturers (unless they were directing a program), for instance. Some faculty were difficult to distinguish as contributing to rhetcomp. Rhetcomp is usually a part of an English department, and some departments will imply their rhetcomp program is healthier than it is by sticking more faculty into a rhetcomp "specialization" on their website. I used my best judgment to distinguish whether a faculty member would be actively contributing to the rhetcomp research and education. I didn't want to limit it to folks who were not actively doing rhetcomp work in the 70s or earlier 80s because the field is fairly young, and a midcareer shift in interests was common. Lots of the rhetcomp faculty (especially early on) were trained in literature. Of course, having been a part of a department, I can also say that there would be disagreements between faculty within the department about who would be considered part of a rhetcomp teaching/research mission, so that made it easier. Keep that in mind. I haven't analyzed this data seriously yet, but here's a few interesting notes. 1.) There were 119 unique programs that fed the Doctoral Consortium. 2.) 54% of the consortium faculty were accounted for by 20 programs. Those twenty programs are: Purdue University (39) University of Texas at Austin (28) Pennsylvania State University (27) Carnegie Mellon University (20) University of Michigan (18) University of Wisconsin-Madison (18) Ohio State University (18) University of Minnesota (17) University of California at Berkeley (16) University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (16) University of Louisville (15) Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (14) University of Washington (13) Iowa State University (13) University of Arizona (13) Michigan State University (11) University of Illinois at Chicago (11) University of Iowa (10) Texas Christian University (10) Miami University (9) 3.) The median graduation date of these faculty was 1999. 4.) Four of the faculty graduated from non-U.S. institutions. All of those were European: Sofia University, University of Durham, University of London, and Bar-Ilan University. 5.) If faculty weren't from a rhetcomp background, prior to 1995 they'd likely have a literature background. After 1995 they were likely to be from Education, Linguistics, or Curriculum and Instruction programs. I'm about to do a time-series analysis of this dataset. Just eyeballing the data, it's clear that many of the schools had a specific time period when they were generating faculty for the doctoral consortium. For instance, University of California at Berkeley's alumni primarily graduated between 1980 and 1995. They're alumni (minus one outlier) don't hit the median mark. Conversely, Michigan State had 11 alumni, 10 of which graduated after 2000. More soon.

Popular Sources/Authors in Professional and Technical Communication

Professional and Technical Communication is a relatively new field, with a fairly small set of journals that are central to the field. According to studies by Smith and Lowry et al. these are the core PTC journals: The Journal of Business and Technical Communication, IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, The Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, Technical Communication, and Technical Communication Quarterly. Smith used citation analysis to come to that conclusion. Lowry et al. used the opinions of experts. Neither method is authoritative, but if I had to pick a journal to read to get the best of PTC, it would be one of those. So this is useful to know, but it doesn't get at specific secondary sources central to the field. Journals are one thing, but which books and articles stand out as particularly widely read? I took those five journals and counted citations to primary sources in them between approximately 2005 and 2015. Because of the way that Web of Science and Scopus parse out data files (and limitations in my current access), some of the journals extend to 2004 while some coverage doesn't start until 2009. It's an uneven data set, which I'll being fixing in the future. Still this exercise is good for a rough estimate of what research is seeing play in the field. The ten most cited sources in the field are:
  1. 30 citations. Spinuzzi, C. (2003). Tracing genres through organizations: A sociocultural approach to information design:Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  2. 24 citations. Miller, C.R. (1984). Genre as social action. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 70(2), 151-167.
  3. 17 citations. Johnson-Eilola, J. (1996). Relocating the value of work: Technical Communication in a post-industrial age. Technical Communication Quarterly, 5(3), 245-270.
  4. 16 citations. Russell, D. R. (1997). Rethinking genre in school and society: An activity theory analysis. Written Communication, 14(4), 504-554.
  5. 15 citations. Miller, C.R. (1979). A humanistic rationale for technical writing. College English, 40(6), 610-617.
  6. 14 citations. Bazerman, C. (1988). Shaping written knowledge: The genre and activity of the experimental article in science. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
  7. 13 citations. Farkas, D. K. (1999). The logical and rhetorical construction of procedural discourse. Technical Communication, 46(1), 42-54.
  8. 13 citations. Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  9. 12 citations. Hart-Davidson, W. (2001). On writing, technical communication, and information technology: The core competencies of technical communication. Technical Communication, 48(2), 145–155.
  10. 12 citations. Starke-Meyerring, D. (2005). Meeting the challenges of globalization: A framework for global literacies in professional communication programs. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 19(4), 468–499.
Those numbers might seem low, but keep in mind that is only for the five core journals in PTC for the last 10 years. So, for example, Google Scholar suggests that the Starke-Meyerring article has 64 citations in the total 2005-2015 Google Scholar universe. My count is only noting references to that piece from within the five journals. So in all, about 20% of the Scholar citations are coming from the PTC journal set. Since its interesting to know those percentages, I figured them for the whole set. Again, I limited the Googler Citations to 2005-2015 because that's the time period of my corpus.
  1. 30/294 = 10%. Spinuzzi, C. (2003). Tracing genres through organizations: A sociocultural approach to information design:Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  2. 24/1940 = 1%. Miller, C.R. (1984). Genre as social action. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 70(2), 151-167.
  3. 17/92 = 18%. Johnson-Eilola, J. (1996). Relocating the value of work: Technical Communication in a post-industrial age. Technical Communication Quarterly, 5(3), 245-270.
  4. 16/470 = 3%. Russell, D. R. (1997). Rethinking genre in school and society: An activity theory analysis. Written Communication, 14(4), 504-554.
  5. 15/142 = 11%. Miller, C.R. (1979). A humanistic rationale for technical writing. College English, 40(6), 610-617.
  6. 14/1380 = 1%. Bazerman, C. (1988). Shaping written knowledge: The genre and activity of the experimental article in science. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
  7. 13/54 = 24%. Farkas, D. K. (1999). The logical and rhetorical construction of procedural discourse. Technical Communication, 46(1), 42-54.
  8. 13/32900 = less than a hundredth of 1%. Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  9. 12/64 = 19%. Hart-Davidson, W. (2001). On writing, technical communication, and information technology: The core competencies of technical communication. Technical Communication, 48(2), 145–155.
  10. 12/66 = 18%. Starke-Meyerring, D. (2005). Meeting the challenges of globalization: A framework for global literacies in professional communication programs. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 19(4), 468–499.
Note that when that percentage starts dropping below 10%, the source is more likely to be an import that's not specifically about PTC. The higher percentages are articles that are field specific. While I was at it, I calculated the most cited authors in my corpus, too. This counted citations across publications. This is no surprise.
  1. C. Spinuzzi: 224 citations
  2. C. Bazerman: 160 citations
  3. B. Latour: 135 citations
  4. C. Miller: 127 citations
  5. E. Tebeaux: 126 citations
  6. A. Freedman: 122 citations
  7. G. Hofstede 114 citations
  8. R.L. Daft: 105 citations
  9. J. Yates: 103 citations
  10. J. Johnson-Eilola: 102 citations
If I were learning PTC as a field, these are the sources and authors that I would read to get up to speed and increase the likelihood that I could have a conversation with a colleague in the field.

What is a Rhetorical Perspective?

During my thesis defense, a committee member asked this question. I found myself stumbling for an answer, not because I didn’t have one, but because I had too many. During the defense, I answered by suggesting that a rhetorical perspective was one indebted to the ever-changing interests of professionals who identify as rhetoricians. In my case, I’m most indebted to the disciplinary histories of rhetoric that emerge from the field of speech communication in the United States. I wasn’t happy with that answer, because it’s not palpable enough. The idea is too abstract to be applicable during the hands-on work of a project. After my committee member’s question, I realized that my own rhetorical perspective had become backgrounded in order to focus on more elaborate parts of research. Like the idea that Gadamer refers to as prejudices, my rhetorical perspective was something I had stopped reflecting on. Given that, I’ve been collecting various definitions from textbooks, articles, and conference proceedings, looking for one that I can recognize in my own work. I'll be adding more as I find them. Some of these are more sophisticated than others, but they've all appeared in publication. Enjoy, and please add to the list in the comment section.
  • The shift towards a transcendent definition of rhetorical criticism is likely to be accompanied and reinforced by a shift towards an interdisciplinary conception of the "rhetorical perspective. . . . Similarly, as more interdisciplinary links are fashioned, the encompassing concept of effectiveness may increasingly function as one of the dominant definitional features employed to characterize the rhetorical perspective. (Brock, Scott, & Chesebro, 1989, pg. 514)
  • The bias of a rhetorical perspective is its emphasis on and its concern with the resources available in language and in people to make ideas clear and cogent, to bring concepts to life, to make them salient for people. A rhetorical perspective is interested in what influences or persuades people. (Campbell & Huxman, 2003, pg. 2)
  • A rhetorical perspective, then, focuses on social truths, that is, on the kinds of truths that are created and tested by people in groups and that influence social and political decisions. . . . From its beginnings, this emphasis on social truths has been the distinctive quality of a rhetorical perspective. (Campbell & Huxman, 2003, pg. 2)
  • . . . to take a rhetorical perspective means to assume that rhetoric itself is not good or bad, but instead is a vehicle that can be used for either (or both) of these purposes. (Cisneros, McCauliff, & Beasly, 2009, pg. 233)
  • This is the second premise of a rhetorical perspective: that discourse, language, and persuasive symbols are influential tools within a society. In short, rhetoric matters. (Cisneros, McCauliff, & Beasly, 2009, pg. 234)
  • A rhetorical perspective . . . calls attention to the ways in which language use crystallizes relations between readers and writers. Such a perspective also brings into focus the extent to which the ways authors position themselves within a certain social space is contingent upon a.) authority . . . b.) the purposes that bring writers together within a particular social forum, and c.) the topic of their discourse or task at hand. (Greene & Ackerman, 1995, pg. 383)
  • In the public understanding of science, rhetoric has two distinct roles. It is both a theory capable of analysing public understanding and an activity capable of creating it. From the perspective of its first role, Aristotle’s Rhetoric is primarily a treatise on public understanding; from the perspective of its second, it is primarily a handbook for speakers seeking to co-create public understanding. (Gross, 1994, pg. 5)
  • A rhetorical model of the public sphere would regard each of these engagements as part of the ensemble of discourse that constitutes civil society, examining each encounter as part of a social dialogue on appropriating historicity. A rhetorical model reveals rather than conceals the emergence of publics as a process. (Hauser, 1999, pg. 49)
  • A rhetorical perspective . . . draws on the rich rhetorical heritage of Western civilization that originated with the writings of ancient Greeks and Romans. (Heath, 2000, pg. 69)
  • Whereas a public spheres approach may end itself to reifying rigid boundaries—between inside and outside, us and them, dominant and resistant—a public modalities perspective aims not only to foreground the fluidity of identities across time and space, but also recognize how specific contexts of time and space constitute our identities . . . . A theoretical approach that recognizes publics as processes must value studies that reveal failed attempts at publicity, blockades to democracy, and marginalized stories of critique. (Pezzullo & Depoe, 2010, pg. 103)
  • A rhetorical perspective includes a variety of methodological and theoretical approaches . . . . a rhetorical approach . . . often shares the following characteristics . . . critics focus on texts of written or spoken words. Nonetheless, nonverbal forms of argument are also being analyzed by rhetorical/argumentation critics . . . . rhetorical critics are guided by the belief that our communicative interactions are epistemic and inform most of what we come to know about the world. As a result, rhetoric/argument is important because it is both the how and what of socially-constructed reality. Rhetorical/argumentation analysis is thus also ideological analysis, since all understandings of the world serve particular interests. (Schiappa, 2002, pg. 67)
  • A "rhetorical perspective increases our understanding about how discursive linguistic symbols and non-discursive aesthetic symbols function together to communicate and persuade . . ." (Sellnow & Sellnow, 2001, pg. 395)