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Participatory Composition

Video Culture, Writing, and Electracy

Sarah J. Arroyo

Publication Year: 2013

Like. Share. Comment. Subscribe. Embed. Upload. Check in. The commands of the modern online world relentlessly prompt participation and encourage collaboration, connecting people in ways not possible even five years ago. This connectedness no doubt influences college writing courses in both form and content, creating possibilities for investigating new forms of writing and student participation. In this innovative volume, Sarah J. Arroyo argues for a “participatory composition,” inspired by the culture of online video sharing and framed by theorist Gregory Ulmer’s concept of electracy.

Electracy, according to Ulmer, “is to digital media what literacy is to alphabetic writing.” Although electracy can be compared to digital literacy, it is not something shut on and off with the power buttons on computers or mobile devices. Rather, electracy encompasses the cultural, institutional, pedagogical, and ideological implications inherent in the transition from a culture of print literacy to a culture saturated with electronic media, regardless of the presence of actual machines.

Arroyo explores the apparatus of electracy in many of its manifestations while focusing on the participatory practices found in online video culture, particularly on YouTube. Chapters are devoted to questions of subjectivity, definition, authorship, and pedagogy. Utilizing theory and incorporating practical examples from YouTube, classrooms, and other social sites, Arroyo presents accessible and practical approaches for writing instruction. Additionally, she outlines the concept of participatory composition by highlighting how it manifests in online video culture, offers student examples of engagement with the concept, and advocates participatory approaches throughout the book.

Arroyo presents accessible and practical possibilities for teaching and learning that will benefit scholars of rhetoric and composition, media studies, and anyone interested in the cultural and instructional implications of the digital age. 


Published by: Southern Illinois University Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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pp. 4-4


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pp. 5-7


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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-13

Several people deserve thanks for contributing to the making of this book. Victor Vitanza, my dissertation chair, mentor, and friend, whose work inspired this book. Victor continues to inspire me in all areas of life. Gregory Ulmer, whose concept of electracy frames all aspects of my scholarship and teaching. Geoffrey Carter, who single-handedly helped propel my own think-...

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1. Introduction: Electracy, Videocy, and Participatory Composition

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pp. 1-28

Embed. Share. Comment. Like. Subscribe. Upload. Check in. The commands of our online world relentlessly prompt participation, encourage collaboration, and quite literally connect us in ways not possible even five years ago. This connectedness no doubt changes college writing courses in both form and content, thus,,,

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2. Recasting Subjectivity for Electracy: From Singularities to Tubers

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pp. 29-48

In 2010, ToshBabyBoo’s video—dedicated to her friends on the live video chat site Stickcam and posted on YouTube—circulated around the Internet and created an instant buzz. This video, which is over six minutes long, simply features ToshBabyBoo singing along to a popular song coming from her headphones, so we only hear...

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3. The Question of Definition: Choric Invention and Participatory Composition

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pp. 49-76

Vitanza’s first counterthesis raises the question of definition, or What is x?, and this chapter examines this first of three theoretical constructs that create a framework for electrate and participatory practices. These three constructs are based on the countertheses and include: the question of definition (What is x?), the question of...

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4. Who Speaks When Something Is Spoken? Playing Nice in Video Culture

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pp. 77-100

In the spring of 2010, a YouTuber who went by the moniker “peachofmeat” posted a video in which he revealed that he had just pulled off the YouTube scam of the century by manipulating Facebook fan pages. To grasp the severity of the scam, we must first understand the importance of “subscribers” to any one YouTube user. As both Burgess and Green and Alexandra Juhasz have pointed out, achieving popularity...

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5. Participatory Pedagogy: Merging Postprocess and Postpedagogy

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pp. 101-118

As one of the field’s enduring areas of contention, the rift between theory and practice in rhetoric and composition still elicits strong response and creates distressing separations between “irresponsible,” “abstract” theory and “responsible,” “real-life” practice. For electracy, as Ulmer has shown in most of his works (most notably Teletheory and Heuretics), theory is practice; that is, theories in electracy are...

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6. Afterword: Productive Knowledge, Participatory Composition

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pp. 119-140

Participatory composition, inspired by Ulmer’s early articulation of “videocy” (see chapter 1) and suitable for the emerging apparatus of electracy, offers a way to link writing, participation, and video culture from multiple perspectives. I hope this effort both contributes to and offers a different take on the growing numbers of rhetorics for electracy and presents readers with an alternative for both...


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pp. 141-146

Works Cited and Consulted

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pp. 147-162


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pp. 163-169

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Author Biography

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pp. 170-183

Sarah J. Arroyo is an associate professor of English at California State Uni-versity, Long Beach, where she teaches courses ranging from composition and critical theory to digital rhetoric and multimedia composition. She has published articles in JAC, Composition Forum, Kairos, Enculturation, ...

Back Cover

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pp. 184-184

E-ISBN-13: 9780809331475
E-ISBN-10: 0809331470
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809331468
Print-ISBN-10: 0809331462

Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 1 line drawing
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 856627321
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Participatory Composition

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Online authorship.
  • Digital media.
  • Communication and technology.
  • Multimedia systems -- Design.
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