Licastro, Miller, and their excellent cohort of contributors turn the field’s attention to the digital life of writing for a much needed ‘collective reckoning’ with the programs and systems that we use. In this timely collection, we learn that we cannot ignore how our writing is coupled to platforms that store, deliver, quantify, leverage, and profit from our everyday work.
In a data-driven world, anything can be data. As the techniques and scale of data analysis advance, the need for a response from rhetoric and composition grows ever more pronounced. It is increasingly possible to examine thousands of documents and peer-review comments, labor-hours, and citation networks in composition courses and beyond. Composition and Big Data brings together a range of scholars, teachers, and administrators already working with big-data methods and datasets to kickstart a collective reckoning with the role that algorithmic and computational approaches can, or should, play in research and teaching in the field. Their work takes place in various contexts, including programmatic assessment, first-year pedagogy, stylistics, and learning transfer across the curriculum. From ethical reflections to database design, from corpus linguistics to quantitative autoethnography, these chapters implement and interpret the drive toward data in diverse ways.
This is a fantastic collection of approaches to using data analytics in writing studies. I’m particularly impressed with the breadth of applications, from using big data in the classroom to tracing the contours of the discipline. For anyone concerned about the continual encroachment of data analysis and algorithmic structures on our lives as teachers and scholars, this collection offers a foundation for understanding how to turn these tools to productive uses for our own practices, which helps us to resist and mediate big-data analyses that are antithetical to the mission of the humanities.
Amanda Licastro is the emerging & digital literacy instructional designer at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research explores the intersection of technology and writing, including book history, dystopian literature, and digital humanities, with a focus on multimodal composition and extended reality.
Benjamin Miller is assistant professor of composition in the English Department at the University of Pittsburgh, focusing on digital research and pedagogy. He is the author of the poetry collection Without Compass.