A cultural critique of the use of networked electronic discourse in a liberatory composition pedagogy
Jordan, Mark Wayne
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This dissertation examines the similar goals and characteristics of liberatory pedagogy and networked electronic discourse pedagogy. Liberatory pedagogy is usually dated from Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) while network pedagogy, based on textual communication between linked microcomputers, is dated from Trent Batson's pioneering work at Gallaudet University in the mid- 1980s. Both pedagogies attempt to cultivate within students a critical consciousness, though liberatory pedagogy focuses more on societal transformation than network pedagogy generally has done. Interpretive readings of seminal works within each field reveal that both pedagogies share the two fundamental qualities of a formal dialogic communication model and a nascent postmodernity. Dialogogically, both pedagogies demonstrate awareness of the dynamic ambiguity of language, privileging of communal dialogue, encouragement of epistemological knowledge-making, and nurturing of a critical consciousness. Common postmodern qualities are innate skepticism for prescribed values, an awareness of the decentered yet often oppressive nature of contemporary power formulations, and an intrinsic respect for diverse voices and differing subjectivities. Despite such similarities, the literature regarding liberatory pedagogy seems scarcely aware of the parallels between it and network discourse pedagogy. Literature on the latter pedagogy, meanwhile, shows more awareness of liberatory pedagogy but tends to borrow from it in piecemeal fashion, seldom invoking the full liberatory apparatus. Nevertheless, the similar goals and characteristics of both pedagogies suggest that they can be mutually beneficial allies which together can create a more effective learning environment than either can separately. Further, this alliance of similar pedagogies can find a fruitful context for implementation in the community college, the third major element examined. Despite the typical community college focus on preparatory or vocational goals, some features which make the community college fertile ground for the suggested pedagogical alliance are the diversity of student populations, their large percentage of ethnic minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged students, and such colleges' own typical identity as small, locally-rooted, largely independent and thus versatile entities.