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M e tac o nc e p t Writing Is an Activity and a Subject of Study Elizabeth Wardle and Linda Adler-Kassner Writing is created, produced, distributed, and used for a variety of purposes . In this sense, it is an activity in which individuals and groups engage. However, the production, consumption, circulation, distribution , and use of writing are also areas of inquiry. Researchers in a number of fields (including, but not limited to, rhetoric and composition, linguistics, and literacy studies) investigate questions about writing. These include: • How have forms of writing developed over time? • What conceptions of writing do people have, and what values are suggested by these conceptions? What writing practices and processes are encouraged by these conceptions? Where do these conceptions come from? • How is writing produced by individuals and groups, for what purposes , and with what implications or consequences? • How are attitudes toward the production and uses of writing shaped by individuals and groups within specific contexts? • How have different approaches to shaping the production of writing taken form, with what motivations, and to what ends? • How is writing a technology, and how do writing technologies impact how writing happens and what can be done with writing? Outside of scholars involved in the study of writing, the idea that writing is not only an activity in which people engage but also a subject of study often comes as a surprise, partially because people tend to experience writing as a finished product that represents ideas in seemingly rigid forms but also because writing is often seen as a “basic skill” that a person can learn once and for all and not think about again. Research in writing and rhetoric has demonstrated that these ideas about writing do not match the ways that writing actually works and 16   Part 1 : Threshold Concepts of Writing happens, but this more complex view of writing is not one that is widely shared or understood beyond the field. In fact, to be considered “successful ,” all writers must learn to study expectations for writing within specific contexts and participate in those to some degree. The threshold concept that writing is a subject of study as well as an activity is troublesome because it contravenes popular conceptions of writing as a basic, ideology-free skill. When teachers and learners recognize writing as complex enough to require study, and recognize that the study of writing suggests they should approach, learn, and teach writing differently, they are then invited to behave differently and to change their conceptions of what writing is and their practices around writing that extend from those conceptions. ...


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