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Invisible Effects

Rethinking Writing through Emergence


Chris Mays

Invisible Effects directly engages systems and complexity theory to reveal how the effects of writing and writing instruction work in deferred, disguised, and unexpected ways. The book explains how writing and language that exist in "writing systems" can indirectly (though powerfully) affect people and environments in sometimes distant contexts. In so doing, the book takes on a question central to rhetoric and writing throughout its long history but perhaps even more pressing today: how do we recognize and measure the effects of writing when those effects are so tangled up with our complex material and discursive environments? The surprisingly powerful effects explored here suggest new ways of thinking about and teaching writing and the applications, lessons, and examples in the text precisely model what this thinking and teaching might look like.

This book is primed to serve as an important addition to reading lists of scholars and graduate students in Writing Studies and Rhetoric and should appear on many syllabi in courses on writing and writing instruction and on rhetoric, both introductory and advanced. As well, the book’s advocacy for the unrecognized potential impact of writing instruction makes it appealing for writing program directors and any potential university faculty, administrators, and non-academics interested in the importance and the efficacy of writing instruction. This book is also a useful resource for scholars and graduate students specializing in Writing Across the Curriculum, as the text provides a useful way to shift the conversation and communicate about writing across disciplines.

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2 Nonlinear Effects in and of the Classroom


This chapter’s opening section explores the setup and the effects of an assignment in an advanced writing course taught in the English Department of a mid-sized public university: the University of Nevada, Reno. The topic/title of the course was “Multimodal Writing and Visual Rhetoric: Text, Image, Culture.” The general premise was to explore traditional print composition, but also to explore modes of writing that, while certainly not new (Palmeri), are becoming more and more salient in contemporary digital culture. These modes would include aural, visual, material, and hybrid “multimodal” forms that incorporate more than one of these modalities.

The project to be focused on in this chapter is the “material” writing project (each project focused on a different modality) that was titled: “Writing on Objects: Distribution, Circulation, and the Materiality of Texts.” As the assignment introduction sums up the project:

This assignment will focus on texts’ ability to travel, and to make impacts on various audiences in diverse locations …. Specifically, in this project you will be creating a mobile text—in this case, a t-shirt. The project will have two parts, and will begin with the production of a t-shirt of your own design (in groups, in this case). We will be collaborating with the UNR Art Department on this project, and will have the ←61 | 62→opportunity to experience the material processes of the creation of your work, and will be able to interact with artists and learn a bit about the printing process. This...

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