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September 28, 2006

Phillips, Donna Burns, Ruth Greenberg, and Sharon Gibson. "College Composition and Communication: Chronicling a Discipline's Genesis."

Phillips, Donna Burns, Ruth Greenberg, and Sharon Gibson. "College Composition and Communication: Chronicling a Discipline's Genesis." College Composition and Communication 44.4 (Dec 1993): 443-465. [link]


There are some similarities between this essay and the Stevens and Williams piece from Critical Inquiry, in that this article is looking to CCC and its development for a sense of how the discipline developed over that period of time.

"Examining each issue published between 1950 and May of 1993, we considered three basic areas: the physical format, the conversants (including both authors and editors), and the subject matter. Changes in its appearance, in the content of the conversations contained between its covers, and in the conventions for conducting those conversations suggest that while such growth may have been unimagined by, or even unimaginable for, the early CCC editors, by the mid-seventies, composition had become a specific area of study, and at the end of the eighties, a potential discipline still experimenting with methodology and refining its theoretical, pedagogical, political, and social vision" (443, 445).

Physical format, from bulletin to journal (paper quality, metadata, #s of advertisements, etc.)


Accounts of various editors and their influence on journal.

"By 1986, sentiment for making CCC a refereed journal was growing" (449).

450 - Most frequently published authors: 1950-1964, 1965-1979, 1980-1993
451 - Citations (Table of # of formal citations by year)
452 - Most Frequently Cited Authors

Discussion on 453-4 about interpreting citation numbers:

"Nevertheless, self-reference is a factor in determining the relation between influence and number of citations. Another consideration is the difference between numbers of citations for a particular author versus those for a particular piece. Although Flower and Hayes each have twice the total number of citations of Mina Shaughnessy, her Errors and Expectations is cited with well over twice the frequency of their most popular piece. Twenty-three different works by Andrea Lunsford appear, but the most cited is referenced only five times ("Audience Addressed/Audience Invoked," with Lisa Ede). One explanation for this circumstance may be focus: Shaughnessy, for example, generally restricted her work to a single area, while Lunsford publishes on a variety of issues" (453-4).

Money quote: "Such quantitative measures help determine what can be considered within the community as common knowledge, and common knowledge is the power base. Writers will construct their discourse around what their audiences can be assumed to know and accept. Researchers will see the investigative techniques as models. Initiates will ingest this core as part of the membership rite. CCCC members will rely on name recognition in the elections shaping the organization that molds the field. In sum, work associated with these names becomes the traditional paradigm, and all subsequent work moves toward its support, its enlargement, or its overthrow" (454).

Subject Matter of journal
458 - Disciplinary identity = "continual concern"

"With the growth of rhetoric as a theoretical foundation for scholarship and the emergence of composition specialists, through professional choice or formal graduate programs, the meaning of composition has been shifting from a course title to a conceptual paradigm for an emerging discipline" (461).


Insofar as I'm going to be using some of my work with CCCO to ground some of this project's discussion of conversation/citation networks, this article is going to be a good reference point for me. In fact, it might make for a nice intermediate project to update this piece.

(Definitely didn't mean to sound as arrogant here as I did. I meant more something along the lines of the fact that almost 15 years have passed since the data collected for this article, and that building on it would be a viable article-length somethin-or-other.)

One place that I'll need to work on is the question of editorial influence. There's a sense of almost authorial intention behind the idea of discussing editorial influence, an accounting of the editors' perceptions that may or may not correspond with how we as a discipline have actually encountered the journal. The risk of this kind of approach is that it tends towards the anecdotal, reinscribing the discipline along the lines of celebritacy (which is another version of disciplinary networks, to be sure, but one that I'm wary of).

September 13, 2006

Pierce, Sydney J. "Disciplinary Work and Interdisciplinary Areas: Sociology and Bibliometrics."

Pierce, Sydney J. "Disciplinary Work and Interdisciplinary Areas: Sociology and Bibliometrics." Scholarly Communication and Bibliometrics. Ed. Christine Borgman. Newbury Park: Sage, 1990. 31-45.


"the first section of the chapter deals with what a sociologist might find lacking in one area of bibliometric research (citation analysis). The second section discusses ways in which interdisciplinary research may be affected by barriers to communication across disciplinary boundaries. The final section briefly describes some recent sociological work dealing with the place of research literatures in scientific communication that might contribute to new theoretical perspectives in bibliometric research" (47).

"The assumptions made in citation analysis have been summarized by Smith (1981; and Garfield, 1979a) as (a) citation implies use; (b) citation is based on merit; and (c) citation reflects similarity of content. A fourth assumption, that all citations are equal, is more easily criticized but is less problematic to a sociologist..."(48)

"citation patterns are affected by more factors than are normally taken into account in bibliometric studies" (49)

patterns differ from genre to genre, specialty to specialty

def'n of discipline (50-51): "To work in bibliometrics from a disciplinary perspective means one's work is in some way (through the problems addressed, the previous work acknowledged, the publication channels used) connected to that of others in the relevant discipline."

Merton: "Merton's normative view of science describes scientists as freely disseminating (communism), testing (organized skepticism) and using research results, evaluating them on the basis of their intrinsic merit (disinterestedness) rather than their origin (universalism). Such an approach to science makes it possible to measure scientific productivity through numbers of publications and to measure the influence of published work through numbers of citations" (54).

Departures from Merton: Gilbert & Mulkay "conclude that the reception given to scientific work is too complicated and too unstable to be subject to bibliometric measurement. They suggest that the best approach to understanding it is to study the presentational strategies controlling the interpretation and use of scientific content, instead of seeking to gather evidence on the reception of specific papers" (55).

Bazerman, Latour & Woolgar, Latour (55-57)

"The other contribution [of sociology] may lie in research on disciplinary formation processes and disciplinary functions, important both because of the role disciplines play in scientific communications and because greater theoretical understanding of disciplines may ultimately give us better understanding ofthe role and function of the interdisciplinary area" (58).


More background. A decent, fairly short discussion of bibliometrics, citation analysis, and disciplinarity. Not a lot to ultimately sink my quotes into, since the balance between disciplines and interdisciplines isn't a chief concern, but a fair introductory sort of piece.

Griffith, Belver. "Understanding Science: Studies in Communication and Information."

Griffith, Belver. "Understanding Science: Studies in Communication and Information." Scholarly Communication and Bibliometrics. Ed. Christine Borgman. Newbury Park: Sage, 1990. 31-45.


Science studies

"Communication is the only general scientific behavior; other behaviors are mostly specific and technical. Information and its representations are its principal and general artifacts" (31).

Social Process and Structure: Merton as Theorist

"The major ideas that related communication to social processes were Merton's....He explores the response of science as a social system subject to various historical stresses and thus suggests the ways in which the game evolves. Most important are those social processes and structures designed to protect awards for a most fragile prize, cognitive achievement and originality" (34).

Kuhn (36-7)
Modeling Science/Price (37-40)

Garvey & Griffith (42): "Students of science were at first surprised by G&G's (1971) findings that few people cared to read the published article when it finally appeared."

Treating the scientific journal as a newspaper vs. thinking of it as a registry of births. Citation, review, incorporation all subsequent to publication and as, if not more, important.

Specialties: Clusters of Ideas, People, and Documents
strong social organizations underlying scientific work (43)
co-citation methodology
"The discovery of a bibliographic, information structure that parallels social and intellectual structure was of major importance" (44). Allows combination of Kuhn and Price.


Another backgroundy piece that may not make it explicitly into what I'm doing. I'm conscious as I read essays like this of the differences between some of this bibliometric, social network stuff and what I'll eventually have to do in my own work. Fact is that there's a different model of knowledge production operating in the sciences than the one operating in humanities disciplines, and even simple stuff like the lack of significant collaboratively authored scholarship in the humanities limits some of the work that I might do.

The trail from Merton to Kuhn to more empirical work outlined here, though, is pretty interesting, and the level of detail accomplished in other fields as far as looking at this kind of stuff makes me humble.

Allen, Liza. "Scholarly Publication as an Indicator of Change."

Allen, Liza. "Scholarly Publication as an Indicator of Change." 2000 STC Conference Proceedings. [pdf]

(I found this via direct search, and can't get into the database to get the full citation. Anyone out there with an STC membership who might help?)


This short piece focuses mostly on technical communication: "Journal publication in technical communication has served and continues to serve as a conduit for ideas of
practitioners and scholars" (1). But the methods described aren't exclusive to a particular field.

"In Lievrouw’s view, maps or patterns of references among publications can suggest a "shape or ’geography’ of scholarship..." (2)

"The work of Christine Borgman suggests that studying scholarly publication can provide an entrance into a discipline’s identity and can become an index of change
in a discipline. She champions bibliometrics as a way to trace and measure disciplinary identity and change" (2).

Rhetorical considerations: "Because bibliometric methods cannot in themselves explain what makes a particular article significant or what role an article played in influencing disciplinary identity. Rhetorical, genre, and discursive analyses are often useful for qualitative analyses" (3).

cites Berkenkotter & Huckin, Swales, Bazerman

"Technical communication scholars who have an interest in the development of technical communication as an academic discipline may choose to examine changes in
technical communication scholarship by examining publication practices in the field" (4).


Mostly, this paper was useful in tipping me to Scholarly Communication and Bibliometrics, and the three chapters cited from that book (Lievrouw, Borgman, Griffith). Otherwise, it's basically a call for a certain kind of analysis, a combination of empirical/bibliometric methods with rhetorical/genre awareness.

It may be worth my time to actually contact Allen and see if she's done any of this kind of work. This particular essay provides some theoretical groundwork, but without any sort of demonstration, it's hard to credit claims like those in the abstract:

These cross-disciplinary perspectives provide theoretical and methodological approaches to understanding the relationships between journal publication and knowledge production within an academic field. These approaches can aid technical communication scholars and practitioners understand the history of technical communication scholarship and where technical communication scholarship may be headed in the future.

So, it's promising, and connected to what I'm interested in doing, but not quite complete. I'll see if I can dig up those chapters next...

September 3, 2006

Alberich, R., Miro-Julia, J. & Rosselló, F. "Marvel Universe looks almost like a real social network."

Alberich, R., Miro-Julia, J. & Rosselló, F. Marvel Universe looks almost like a real social network. Preprint, (11 February 2002). [link]

This is more for fun than anything else. As you might imagine, the title basically gives away the thesis. That being said:


"Does this similarity in features represent some profound principle in human interaction? Or,
on the contrary, does any large network with some “collaboration? between nodes present
these characteristics? ... In this paper we want to contribute to a possible answer to these questions by analyzing a new collaboration network, that is artificial, but mimics real-life networks: the Marvel
Universe collaboration network. In it, the nodes correspond to Marvel Comics characters,
and two nodes are linked when the corresponding characters have jointly appeared in the
same Marvel comic book" (2).

"We considered therefore interesting to know if the Marvel Universe network’s artificial nature would resemble real-life collaboration networks, or, on the contrary, would rather look like a random collaboration network" (3).

And after a fair amount of math,

"Although to some extent the Marvel Universe tries to mimic human relations, and in par-
ticular it is completely different from a random network, we have shown that it cannot
completely hide its artificial origins. As in real-life collaboration and, in general, social net-
works, its nodes are on average at a short distance of each other, and the distribution of
collaborators shows a clear power-law tail with cutoff. But its clustering coefficient is quite
smaller than what’s usual in real-life collaboration networks" (12).


Okay, in other words, there is a small-world effect at play-- the diameter of the Marvel Universe is 5 (degrees of separation). And there are particular hubs (Captain America, Spiderman), with the distribution of degrees (connections) falling off according to power laws. But the place where the MU doesn't mimic real-world collaborative networks is in its clustering coefficient.

That's the probability that two people, each having linked to a third person, would themselves be connected. ("In most social networks, two nodes that are linked to a third one have a higher probability
to be linked between them: two acquaintances of a given person probably know each other" (9).)

A much lower clustering coefficient occurs in the MU, an artificially designed and executed social network, because it's highly hub-centric. That is, the characters in the Tail don't have their own titles, and so their only appearances are as guests and team-ups. No one worries much about the continuity of minor characters, so they appear as guests, disappear, and genuinely disappear from the network.

Also, because it is an artificial network, there are issues of property/ownership that enter into things. Certain artists and writers may "own" particular characters (like Bendis with Jessica Jones), such that their fortunes in the real world affect the characters' encounters in the MU. And then there are broader continuity issues in terms of the balance struck between the "eternal present" and the narrative value of the passage of time.

Still, fun stuff. One of the struggles that I'm sure I'll have to work through is the ability to communicate this stuff without math that I just don't have. And that without shortchanging the mathematics of it. I like to think that there's a happy medium.

Lynch, Clifford. "Open Computation: Beyond Human-Reader-Centric Views of Scholarly Literatures."

Lynch, Clifford. "Open Computation: Beyond Human-Reader-Centric Views of Scholarly Literatures." Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and Economic Aspects. Neil Jacobs, Ed. Oxford: Chandos Publishing, 2006.

I shouldn't crack wise about books on open access priced exclusively for the library market, I suppose, but there you are. At least Lynch made his contribution available publicly--I caught the link to it over at if:book and even wrote a bit about it on cgbvb.


Speculative piece about computational approaches to scholarly literature, endangered by lack of cooperation, access, agreements

"It is important to realize that while researchers focusing specifically on computational manipulation of scholarly literatures are reporting great advances in their work, I think that the broad community of working scholars remains to be convinced of the critical future contributions of such technologies."

Thought experiment: Absent encumberances, "We would also see a move beyond federation and indexing to actual text mining and analysis, to the extraction of hypotheses and correlations that would help to drive ongoing scholarly inquiry."

Most likely scenario: locally-hosted corpora, upon which computation could be performed.

"As the scholarly literature moves to digital form, what is actually needed to move beyond a system that just replicates all of our assumptions that this literature is only read, and read only by human beings, one article at a time?" Answer both legal and technical.


I think it's worthwhile to push for the kind of legal and technical answers that Lynch advocates, but from my perspective, it's possible to accomplish much of what he's asserting on smaller scales, without necessarily running afoul of the legal departments. That may be in part because we run beneath the radar both as a discipline and as individuals.

As I wrote earlier, I see our work on CCCO to be part and parcel with what Lynch outlines in his thought experiment.

Not much else to add at this time.

September 2, 2006

Moretti, Franco. Signs Taken for Wonders. (ch1)

Moretti, Franco. Signs Taken for Wonders: On the Sociology of Literary Forms. London: Verso, 1983.

I bought this book after having devoured Maps Graphs Trees, and so my interest in it has primarily been historical. It's interesting to look at a book almost 25 years older and to see what/how/if it predicts Moretti's later work. Because I think it does, to an extent. Having read MGT, it's a lot easier to see what he was talking about in STW as well as the eventual payoff of this work. That being said, there's not a lot beyond the first chapter that I'm interested in, at least for this context.


Moretti begins from rhetoric, and specifically from Kenneth Burke, Max Black, and the Annales crew.

"Rhetorical figures, and the larger combinations which organize long narratives, are thus of a piece with the deep, buried, invisible presuppositions of every world view" (6).

"It is no longer a question, then, of contrasting rhetorical (or ideological) 'consent' with aesthetic 'dissent,' but of recognizing that there are different moments in the development of every system of consent, and above all different ways of furthering it" (8).

"Consent" ends up, I think, as Moretti's term for the double-sided identification/division

"Literary texts are historical products organized according to rhetorical criteria. The main problem of a literary criticism that aims to be in all respects a historical discipline is to do justice to both aspects of all its objects: to work out a system of concepts which are both historiographic and rhetorical" (9).

Lukacs as someone who began this way, but ended up opposing history and forms (10-12)

"I have a specific example in mind, which to me seems the most successful attempt to found a 'rhetorical' historiography: Erwin Panofsky's Perspective as a Symbolic Form" (17)

Understands unity of historical and rhetorical study and graps distinction between them.

Falsifiable criticism: "the fundamental area where they should be tested is their analysis of rhetorical mechanisms" --moving away from "sprit of the age" kinds of criticism, which is only ever an aspiration rather than a fact. Plurality of rhetorical forms means that histories become "more comprehensible and more interesting the more one grasps the conflict, or at least the difference, connecting it to the forms around it" (26).

"the substantial function of literature is to secure consent" (27).

(Kant, Schiller, Freud...)


These notes feel a little scattered to me. Here are the two or three main things I take away from this chapter, though:

First, there's a real resonance here with work on genre studies in rhetcomp, and Moretti uses the term occasionally. Genre isn't simply a formal category for him, but one where rhetoric and history combine in the form of particular works. And those two dimensions connect a given work outward to other texts in time (history) and space (rhetoric), placing any given work in a network of other texts.

Second, "consent" is important and emphasizes continuity over breaks. I'll talk more about this when I get to Randall Collins, because he's more thorough in his argument, but to "break" from something is nevertheless to consent to its importance--that's the double-edge of identification/division that Moretti is drawing on, I think.

I may go back and look at Panofsky again in light of this chapter, but not immediately, I think.

There's a resistance on Moretti's part to the figure/ground or text/context divisions that strike me as consonant with Latour in Reassembling the Social. To wit: "an extra-literary phenomenon is never more or less important as a possible 'object' or 'content' of a text, but because of its impact on systems of evaluation and, therewith, on rhetorical strategies" (21).

Also a parallel with Collins in the rejection of literary heroism, zeitgeist, etc. Enough to study literature as the rhetorical and historical signs, without infusing them with "wonder." Wonder being neither extrarhetorical nor extrahistorical.

(ps. It's not hard to imagine that this book didn't exactly fly off the shelves when it was first published, at least in its translation. An argument for the importance of rhetoric and genre in the study of literature/culture? Heh.)

Stevens, Anne H. and Jay Williams. "The Footnote, in Theory."

Stevens, Anne H. and Jay Williams. "The Footnote, in Theory." Critical Inquiry 32.2 (Winter 2006): 208-225. [link]

Having just recommended this article to Jenny, I thought I'd throw up a quick description and some notes, and make it more widely visible.


"we sought to investigate how theory is transmitted through notes, what sorts of conversations are held below the main text, and to thus discover in a different sort of way the identity of our journal" (208)

The essay presents the results of the authors' tabulation of footnoted citations from 30+ years of the journal. They begin with a list of 147 names, compiled by the staff, and counted the number of times that each was cited (counting only the first citation of any given text, but counting each of separate texts by the same author). (212)

Table 1: Citations of Theorists, divided into 5 year periods
Table 2: Most frequently cited theorists (top 10 lists) per 5-year period
Table 3: The 95 most frequently cited overall (Derrida, Freud, Foucault, Benjamin, Barthes...)

Followed by discussion of trends in footnoting within the journal, some review of related projects.

222: "theoretical canon" that's emerged alongside literary canon
223-224: microtrends (e.g. cultural anthropology citations, emerging figures and areas)


This is a nice, solid example of the kind of work that we're working to enable over at CCC Online, and the kind of claims about disciplinarity that work in citational networks can make possible. Stevens and Williams draw on very basic information, and limit the scope of their inquiry in advance, but are able to note several trends about the journal and its identity based upon their tabulations.

One of the things worth expanding in this piece, if I had my druthers, is the extremely limited sense of information design here. Although there are a couple of charts laid out in the article, there are lots of opportunities for potentially more informative information designs that ultimately go neglected. That's not a criticism, although I suppose it sounds like one. And such design would be limited in b/w certainly, but still. With the data they gathered, there are all sorts of possibilities.

For example, imagine a Flash graph that allowed you to compare, by checkboxing their names, any of the theorists on their list, immediately highlighting a plotted year-by-year path along a chronological x-axis and a citational y-axis. That'd be slick. And no, not possible in the pages of Critical Inquiry. But given that kind of tool, it would be possible to contrast 3-5 thinkers simultaneously on a b/w graph. Or to do the same with some of the interdisciplines they cite.

So think of this less as critique and more as exciting possibility, I suppose. There's an argument to be made, and I'll move towards it eventually, that visualization is as important a part of this as anything. I'll probably touch on this as I get to Randall Collins and Franco Moretti.

For the moment, though, this is a nice example of the kind of potentially rich data that even a simple yes/no tabulation of citations can generate.