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Writing class and value in the information economy: Toward a new understanding of economic activity in the composition classroom

Michael R Edwards, University of Massachusetts Amherst


As a discipline, composition today inadequately understands the ways digital technologies intersect with economic concerns and the effects of that intersection on the teaching of writing. Digital technologies produce and call attention to economic inequalities via the very same means by which they increase economic productivity---by substituting capital-intensive processes for labor-intensive processes---but composition has largely failed to address those inequalities in economic terms. Instead, composition's pedagogies have reduced economy to culture and student social class to pedagogical exigency. This dissertation offers a categorical analysis of the one way in which composition does explicitly address economic issues: by constructing them as class. However, even in its various engagements with class, composition's theoretical constructions of class habitually posit the remediation of inequality as a cultural rather than economic concern. The work of Raymond Williams, Pierre Bourdieu, and J. K. Gibson-Graham offers the foundations for an alternative theory of class that maintains a useful focus on economic concerns while not denying the cultural. After constructing this theory, this dissertation applies it to the composition classroom in order to examine the economic nature and value of student work, particularly in terms of the production and digital reproduction of student writing. The dissertation's final portion connects recent scholarship on the value of affect and immaterial labor to the ideas of legal scholar Lawrence Lessig and the open source movement today often associated with digital technologies of reproduction in order to posit an alternative theory of value for student writing, and the implications of such a theory for composition pedagogy in general.

Subject Area

Rhetoric|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Edwards, Michael R, "Writing class and value in the information economy: Toward a new understanding of economic activity in the composition classroom" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3242374.