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Ease in compostion studies

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Ease in compostion studies
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EASE IN COMPOSITION STUDIES


By

C BRADLEY DILGER
















A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2003

































Copyright 2003

by

C Bradley Dilger















Dedicated to the memory of my grandmothers, Elisa Vanina Dilger (1917-2000)

and Mabel Fulton Boutwell (1911-2001).















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


First, before all else, and for so many reasons, I thank my wife Erin Easterling.

My doctoral committee-Greg Ulmer, Stephanie Smith, Blake Scott, and Joe

Wilson-have guided this dissertation, helped me develop the long-term project it

represents, supported other research, and allowed me to cultivate an eclectic focus.

Sid Dobrin and Phil Wegner provided extremely valuable assistance throughout

my graduate studies, gladly helping me whenever I requested advice, letters of

reference, or a bit more time to finish an essay. Joe Martin and Lucille Schultz both

helped a graduate student they had never met get a copy of a rare but very important

dissertation which has helped focus this project immeasurably. Jeff Rice, Erich Nunn,

and Traci Gardner read drafts of this dissertation or other related work, and provided

valuable advice and suggestions. Jane Love helped develop the framework of the last

chapter, which includes some of the trickiest material presented here.

Bruce Leland and the faculty of Western Illinois University recently welcomed

me to their campus and asked me to become their colleague.

The players of the WTFL, past and present, have not contributed much which can

be cited in this work, but have helped make it possible by cheerfully rumblin' bumblin'

and stumblin' through many Saturday mornings.

Ronald L. Corbin helped me through high school and to the university. I aspire

to his wisdom and sense of humor, and am proud to have been his student. In many

ways, I still am.















PREFACE


Throughout this dissertation, "contemporary" is used to mean "at the time of

writing being considered." "Current" means at the time this dissertation is being

written, e.g. 2002 and 2003.

Many texts published during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are

quoted in this work. Their distinctive orthography and typography-for example,

frequently capitalizing of nouns, or typesetting single words or phrases in italics-is

reproduced as faithfully as possible here. In many cases, this typography conveyed

didactic emphasis, and it unquestionably has semantic content. Current rhetoric and

composition handbooks make much of their use of four-color printing, extensive

indexing, and tabbed binding; though Isaac Watts and his contemporaries did not have

those means, they did employ the best available printing technologies to make writing

easy. Standardizing or normalizing their work to meet current orthographic standards

would erase valuable meanings which should be considered carefully.
















TABLE OF CONTENTS



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . ............

PREFA CE . . . . . . .

LIST OF FIGURES ....................

ABSTRACT .. .. ... ... .... ... ... ...

1 INTRODUCTION ........


W hy Ease? .........
Upon Further Review ....


2 THE CONCEPT OF EASE.


2.1 Overwhelmed? The Answer is Easy! .........
2.2 Historicizing and Defining Ease ............
2.2.1 Historical and Popular Definitions . ..
2.2.2 Reforming Education in England, 1680-1740
2.2.3 Bringing Ease Home in America, 1880-1930
2.2.4 Humanizing Technology, 1939-1958 . .
2.2.5 Computing Made Easy, 1984-present .....
2.3 The Role of Ease Today ................

3 EVALUATING EASE ......................


. . 15
. . 19
. . 2 1
. . 25
. . 3 1
. . 35
. . 39
. . 45


3.1 Is Ease Good or Bad? ........................
3.1.1 Technology and Ease. . . .....
3.1.2 The Ideology of Ease . . .....
3.2 Critical Evaluation of Ease . . .....
3.2.1 Benefits of Ease . . .. . . .
3.2.2 Problems Caused by Ease . . . . .
3.3 C conclusion . . . . . . . .
3.4 Introduction.. . . . .....


3.4.1
3.4.2
3.4.3


The English Roots of Ease in Writing
Transforming Philosophy to Pedagogy:
Caveat Facilitor . .


Major Figures .
... .. ....


3.4.4 Four Assumptions About Ease and Writing . .
3.5 Students Should Find Writing Easy . . .....
3.5.1 Early Exemplars. . . .....


47
48
50
54
54
58
78
79
81
87
94
95
97
101


page

iv









3.5.2 Strategies for Making Writing Easy . ..... 105
3.5.3 Emotional Needs: Comfort and Familiarity . . 111
3.5.4 It's Just That Easy . . . . . 120
3.5.5 A Mixed Bag of Ease . . .. . . 122
3.5.6 The Results . . . . . . 124
3.6 Students Should Write Easy-To-Read Prose . . . 125
3.6.1 Clarity . . . . . . 126
3.6.2 Brevity and Conciseness . . . . 128
3.6.3 Sim plicity . . . . . . 131
3.7 Teaching Writing is Easy . . . . . 132
3.7.1 Textbooks and Other Tools . . . . 135
3.7.2 The Curriculum . . . . . 137
3.7.3 Composition and the Institution . . 141
3.8 Writing as Gatekeeper to a "Life of Ease" . . . 143
3.8.1 Ease, Vulgarity, and Gentility . . 146
3.8.2 Writing and Upward Mobility . . . 148
3.9 Conclusion . . . . . . . 149

4 BEYOND EASE . . . . . . . 152

4.1 The Endurance of Ease . . . . . 152
4.2 The Transitional Apparatus . . . . . 161
4.2.1 The Principles of New Media . . 162
4.2.2 Supplementing the essay . . . . 171
4.2.3 The Logic of Conduction.... . . . 179
4.3 Supplementing Ease . . . . . . 183
4.3.1 Translucence . . . . . . 183
4.3.2 The Complex . . . . . .... 186
4.3.3 Repetition and Iteration . . . . 188

WORKS CITED . . . . . . . . . 192

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . 199















LIST OF FIGURES

Figure page

2.1 Kodak Advertisement, 1884 . . . . . . 20

3.1 LG Electronics Advertisement, 2001. . . . . 67















Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

EASE IN COMPOSITION STUDIES

By

C Bradley Dilger

August 2003

Chair: Gregory L. Ulmer
Major Department: English

For many Americans, the idea of "ease" shapes understanding of complexity

and difficulty. Though many consider ease of use a twentieth-century phenomenon

associated with personal computers, its origins date from the seventeenth century.

"Ease in Composition Studies" investigates the role of ease in American culture,

especially college-level writing.

I begin by defining ease and tracing its history through four critical periods of

development dating from 1700 to the present. I show that ease can be defined using

a list of eight qualities opposed to other important concepts: comfort, transparency,

effortlessness, simplicity, pragmatism, femininity, expediency, and pictorialism.

Calling on the work of Evan Watkins, I show problems which can occur when ease is

uncritically demanded or mobilized-as is frequently the case when consumer models

of ease, based on simple transaction, appear in educational contexts.

With ease defined, I demonstrate that current-traditional rhetoric, the simplified

approach to writing developed in American nineteenth-century colleges, includes a

pedagogy based on ease. Nineteenth-century composition portrays the act of writing,









writing style, and teaching writing as easy, and position writing as the gatekeeper

for the "life of ease." By investigating textbooks, teaching methods, and strategies

which writers of supposedly easy rhetoric use, and calling on the work of Lucille

Schultz and Sharon Crowley, I identify specific connections between writing and ease,

charting the transformation of ease in the classroom from close identification with

"easy" pedagogical techniques (atomization, alliteration, and gradation) to a less clearly

defined, but no less powerful concept.

The connection of ease and writing established in current-traditional rhetoric was

not disrupted by the pedagogical reforms of the 1960s and 1970s. Today ease shapes

the development of teaching writing using computers and new media. Can composition

instructors continue to mobilize ease to teach electronic "writing" technologies, given

the differences in institutional practices and subject formation associated with them-

what Greg Ulmer calls "electracy?" My research suggests otherwise. I conclude

my dissertation by outlining an electorate supplement to ease: concepts suitable for

practicing, learning, and teaching electronic discourse.















CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION


True ease in writing comes from art, not chance
As those move easiest who have leam'd to dance.
-Alexander Pope, An Essay On Criticism

1.1 Why Ease?

Robert Johnson's outstanding book User-Centered Technology begins with a

sort of apology for its ordinary focus. Johnson makes his case for working with the

mundane, the common, and the everyday-common things which are so familiar that

they are all but invisible. The concept of ease is often associated with this natural,

comfortable character: it conjures up images of elegant simplicity, gracefulness,

painless use, pleasant speed, and welcome diversion. But there is nothing simple about

the way ease influences American culture and the practice of writing in American

colleges and universities.

Much of my research focuses on the role of ease in composition studies, the

institution of English, and American culture. However, better understanding of ease

is not my principal research concentration. My interest in ease is means, not end.

As I see it today, my life's work will be the development of physical and virtual

writing environments, along with pedagogical practices, forms of communication and

expression, and institutions which support them. I have spent a terrific amount of time

studying ease because, as my first investigations suggested six years ago, ease has a

huge role in the institution of composition studies, and a significant influence in the

nascent electronic classroom.









Though I approach ease, electronic writing, information technology, new media,

and hypermedia1 from the standpoint of composition studies, not media studies, I

share many long-term research goals with Gregory Ulmer, my doctoral committee

chair. In Heuretics and the recently published Internet Invention, Ulmer observes

that the apparatus of literacy is in transition, being supplemented by the technology

of digital computing. While print literacy remains the primary and most important

communicative apparatus, its status is changing as the importance of the emerging

apparatus grows. Like Ulmer, I see this ongoing shift as an opportunity for the

humanities, especially the language arts. As Ulmer says of his 1994 Heuretics:

My interest is not only in the technology itself but also in the problem
of inventing the practices that may institutionalize electronics in terms of
schooling. [. .] It may be that eventually the screen will replace the page
(and the database replace the library) as the support of all academic work.
[This book] is intended as a means to achieve that transition in the most
productive way, including using book strategies to help with the invention
process and revising paper practices in the light of the new possibilities of
thought manifested in electronic technology. (17)

I follow Ulmer's desire to invent and discover practices suitable for our tran-

sitional moment. As well, I share the long-term ambition, reflected most directly

here in Chapter 5, of inventing practices which will be usable beyond the transitional.

Ulmer's neologism "electracy," used to signify the equivalent of literacy for electronic

writing and communication, provides a suitable target. As Ulmer notes, "[e]lectracy

does not already exist as such, but names an apparatus that is emerging 'as we speak,'

rising in many different spheres and areas, and converging in some unforeseen yet


1Throughout this dissertation, Ini media" will signify hypermedia, hypertext, digital cinema, and
other forms often produced with and displayed on computers. "Hypermedia" will describe a smaller
subset of new media made of objects connected by links, often using a branching-tree structure. Nci'
media object" will describe a work of new media. The somewhat undesirable phrase "old media" will
signify oral, printed, and telecommunicative forms not numerically represented or modular.









malleable way" (Internet Invention 7). I hope my work with ease will capitalize on that

malleability, shaping both current and future pedagogical practices.

My first formal research into ease was provoked by my interest in the Unix

operating system, which I used while working with students in the Networked Writing

Environment (NWE) at the University of Florida. The unique NWE system combined

elements of "easy to use" graphical user interfaces with command-line environments

which most people consider difficult and arcane. The NWE's system architecture and

liberal administration philosophy facilitated experimentation, enabling me and other

graduate students to push the envelope of the boundary between "easy" and "difficult."

When I began teaching in the NWE, the ideas of easy computing had been

codified for more than ten years (as the Apple Human Interface Guidelines-see page

40 below). Why were my students having so much difficulty using something they

grew up with? I could understand the frustration of students who found the NWE

interface difficult upon first use-while designed with user-friendliness in mind,

the interface was a bit different from that most used on their home computers. But

students expressed chagrin with having to use a computer at all, even when I scaled

back assignments to involve little more than word processing. Why were interfaces

designed with ease in mind, at the cost of millions, failing all but a few students?

Why, also, did ease seem to function in exactly the opposite manner it was

supposed to? Instead of enabling productivity, allowing students to become comfortable

with computers in a protected virtual space, and gradually maturing into more chal-

lenging and creative arenas, ease seemed to cause incapacitation. Few students moved

from easy patterns into experiment and deep engagement. Any perceived resistance on

the computer's part became a stopping point. The NWE system's seeming difficulty

enabled sharp attacks on "stupid computers" and some fairly harsh comments on course









evaluations. Some students were able to use their computer or their software, but not

the NWE's-which I considered analogous to being able to drive a Ford, but not a

Chevrolet.

More seriously, student attitudes about the ease of computing spilled into other

arenas. Even in the courses I taught without using computers, significant numbers

of students resisted challenge, claimed to lack creativity or writing skill, abhorred

theoretical or abstract readings or assignments, and sought the easiest path to an

A-all but requesting a diagram illustrating the procedure for completing the projects

outlined in the syllabus. T. R. Johnson argues that standardized testing, an increasingly

programmed curriculum, and a masochistic culture of mastery have encouraged

students to expect education to be difficult, banal, and boring (645); I believe that

expectation motivates students to seek the easiest, least emotionally and labor intensive,

course experience-minimizing their acknowledgment of schooling. (Hence Johnson's

title, "School Sucks.") Consistent with Johnson's argument, most of my students

avoided showing confusion or difficulty in front of others, and if blame for their

difficulties could not be shifted to my unreasonable assignments, the general sucky

nature of college, or other agents, became enraged or horrified. Projecting an easy

aspect in front of their peers was extremely important for students, even those from

very different social and peer groups.

Stephanie A. Smith suggested the phrase "the ideology of ease" to describe

the patterns of ease I was seeing in computers, education, and American culture. In

the spring of 2000 I connected the classroom desire for ease I had observed in the

classroom, and the pedagogical difficulties it caused for me, to cultural pressures in the

essay "The Ideology of Ease." This first publication established some of the conceptual









limits, definition, and history of ease investigated in more detail in chapters 2 and 3 of

this work, "The Concept of Ease" and "Evaluating Ease."

"The Concept of Ease" establishes a specific definition for the current shape of

ease using an account from a popular magazine as representative of current attitudes

about the roles of ease, complexity, difficulty, and technology. In its oldest sense,

ease was defined by comfort, transparency, and effortlessness. I demonstrate how

it expanded beyond those original meanings during four historical periods. English

educational reforms between 1680 and 1740 extended the definition of ease through

simplicity and pragmatism. Near the turn of the twentieth century (1880-1930),

budding American consumerism built on the feminine component of ease (the often

ham-handed association of women with comfort and nurturing) by establishing women

as the central target of advertising and marketing for new gadgets which made life

easier. World War Two and the post-war boom in technology (1939-1958) brought

expediency, and the era of personal computing (1984-present) pictorialism. During

each of these time periods, the functions of ease also grew, with ease shifting from a

state of mind to a commodity which could be produced by certain practices. Postwar

technological development changed ease to a commodity which could be purchased in

certain circumstances; the "information revolution" meant it could be had anywhere,

anytime.

In "Evaluating Ease," I scrutinize the concept of ease developed in Chapter 2,

contextualizing it in the Western ideal of technology, and documenting its ideological

function. I acknowledge the benefits of ease, then call on Johnson, Evan Watkins,

and other critics to show some of the negative effects of ease, offering examples

from composition studies when possible. Unfortunately, I find many complications:

maintenance of an novice/expert division, self-reinforcement, discouragement of









critique, and a lamentable construction of femininity. Though composition studies has

acknowledged these tensions and in many ways is confronting the paradoxical nature of

ease, my critique isolates some areas where more attention to ease is needed.

After publishing "The Ideology of Ease" I turned to the role of ease in com-

position studies. Several presentations at national conferences and considerable work

invested in my doctoral exams allowed me to discover several other notable trends.

Most importantly, I confirmed my suspicion that ease was introduced into the class-

room before the time of computing and new media, with a history in composition

dating back to the seventeenth century. I present portions of this extensive history in

"Making Writing Easy," Chapter 4 of this work. Working forward from English philo-

sophical antecedents, I trace the deep connection of ease to current-traditional rhetoric,

the writing pedagogy developed in nineteenth-century America. The correlation of

ease with Enlightenment epistemology supported two compactly stated assertions:

that anyone could easily express their thoughts in unproblematic language, and that

such expression was easily taught. My analysis shows the way ease, as the primary

pedagogy of literacy, affected writing style, students' image of writing, and the insti-

tutional organization of American colleges and universities. The concepts of literacy

and writing still operant in American schools owe a tremendous debt to the qualities of

ease.

Continuing my inquiry into the role of ease in the discipline of Computers and

Writing convinced me the role of ease in composition was, if anything, becoming

larger. At conferences, I was attacked for suggesting the need to think twice about

the use of ease as a pedagogical tool. For many, my argument was quite literally

counter-intuitive, and despite my pleas for measured consideration, questions about









application of ease often fell back onto old debates about interface design.2 My

attempts to connect discussions of ease in American culture with its appearance

in computer classrooms had very limited success. From this experience and other

research, I conclude that ease is still shaping university information technology

in many ways, and that this influence is not fully acknowledged in composition

scholarship. I am frustrated by the amount of resources spent on courseware and other

expensive software which "makes education easy," given the limited capacity of these

systems and their tendency to sacrifice creativity and pedagogical flexibility in favor of

implementing least-common-denominator ease of use.

In Chapter 5 I take up this issue, discussing the future of ease mentioned earlier:

my proposed creation of a supplement for ease which serves the same function (a

pedagogy for English education) for the nascent apparatus of electracy. After I present

the terms of the grammatological analogy which will guide my work, I review the

technical principles of new media, as defined by Lev Manovich, and the institutional

and social framework of Ulmer's textbook Internet Invention. The juxtaposition of

these two works will allow me to project a tentative supplement for ease, through

revision of some qualities of ease, as well as establishment of new pedagogical devices

based on patterns which emerge when the two books are juxtaposed.

Hopefully, by now it is obvious that I do not want to attack every appearance

of ease-or those who seek to find it. I believe that ease, or at least parts of it,

can be rehabilitated or reappropriated-and that an electorate supplement to ease

which minimizes its negative qualities can be developed. One model might be Jeff

Rice's forthcoming textbook Writing About Cool, which I mention because of many


2The most lamentable and frequent distraction: audience participants recasting my argument in the
terms of the HTML-versus-WYSIWIG debate about Web authoring.









commonalities (the use of new media, a cultural studies approach, positioning in the

discipline of composition studies). Rice notes the repeated use of the concept "cool"

in a wide variety of advertising and a fair amount of academic writing. He suggests

developing critical awareness of the way "cool" is used, and builds on that activity to

construct an alternative rhetoric of cool optimized for new media. I hope to develop a

similar approach for ease.

I expect that the ongoing research represented by these five chapters will involve

quite a few publications. Writing this dissertation has helped me shape future work

into three large areas.

First, I want to learn more about the history of ease, especially its connection

to literate epistemology. This is important not only because of the ease-writing

connection, but because a better understanding of the philosophical basis of current-

traditional rhetoric can serve as a model for connecting Computers and Writing (or

other disciplines of composition studies) to postmodern epistemology. (One could

consider Lester Faigley's Fragments of Rationality a well-meaning but less than

successful attempt at this task.) Though I have carefully researched the role of ease

in some periods of composition studies history, an extensive amount of work remains,

notably grammatological study which places composition in the larger context of the

history of writing. In this dissertation, I rely heavily on Sharon Crowley, James Berlin,

and Robert Connors, and now see (as I better understand their important scholarship)

more divergence between my image of composition studies history and theirs.

Secondly, I want to revise and improve the framework for ease presented in

Chapter 2, as noted below. The concepts developed here-the qualities of ease,

the functions of ease, the ease equation, ease mobility, and the ideology of ease-

have excellent potential. A better framework for defining ease, combined with more









effective tools for discussing its power in education and consumer culture, will help

efforts to reform the practice of ease in those areas. I plan to join the voices of those

speaking against the adverse effects of ease I hint at above (and discuss more fully

in Chapter 3). Work in both cultural studies and composition studies is needed: the

cookie-cutter deployment of ease as a pedagogy of literacy is one of the key forces

which legitimates its uncritical use, and composition remains an excellent site for

effective intervention.

Thirdly, as noted at the beginning of this chapter, I hope to look ahead to the

electorate apparatus, extending the work of "Beyond Ease" in both the short term (the

production of transitional forms) and the long term (inventing supplements to ease

with accompanying institutional practices). Without a doubt, this work will build on

the first two objectives listed above. The possibility of application of these devices to

the literate apparatus, following Lev Manovich's notion of transcoding (see page 170

below), creates the opportunity to recontextualize newly developed ideas in revision of

current composition pedagogy. As more work like Manovich's appears, and the shape

of the new media apparatus can be more assuredly expressed, I will be able to offer a

more definitive shape for the electorate equivalent of ease.

The stakes surrounding ease-and the shape of Computers and Writing-are

extremely high. A transactional view of language and education, what Paulo Friere

would call the banking model, is creeping further and further into writing programs and

the university as a whole. For example, recently announced changes in the University

of Florida writing program reduce the number of student contact hours and install a

lecture model in writing classes. This will doubtless provide expedient, standardized

teaching, and more student credit hours per full-time instructor, but what does it mean

for critical thinking? As Ulmer notes in Internet Invention, students arrive in English









classes with excellent training in utility, practicality, and other forms of calculativee

thinking," and needing to be taught meditative thinking (74). In much the same way,

I see little if any need to spend valuable classroom time encouraging students to

conceptualize writing as another task which follows the easy transactional logic of

consumer culture. It would be better to encourage a conceptualization of writing which

allows for calculative and meditative critical thinking, a variety of writing styles, and

an approach to education which acknowledged the usefulness of ease but rejected its

universal, unconditional application.

To use local language: it is easy to keep being easy. It is hard to understand that

a counter-intuitive approach may be, for this transitional moment, the best thing going.

Somewhat paradoxically, the questions I raised about my composition courses, echoed

in Johnson's work, may be answered by moving beyond ease for pedagogy and ways

of understanding technology. Surely, it will be challenging for me to suggest revisions

or alternatives to ease without being seen as another William Bennett preaching the

back-to-basics gospel of Boot Camp English or Hooked on Phonics. The history I

present in Chapter 4 shows that the debate has to be more complex than that. The

pedagogy I outline in Chapter 5 begins movement toward the long and short term goals

I sketch out here.

1.2 Upon Further Review...

Ulmer encourages thinking of the dissertation as a "practice book," or dress

rehearsal for a book. To that end, here is my preliminary review of the rehearsal

represented by these five chapters, and a short list of areas of concern to address in my

next performance (in addition to the few areas, noted above, where more research is

needed).









While writing this dissertation, I had to learn how to juggle the mountain of

material related to ease, being extremely selective, and bracketing irrelevant content.

My ability to work with a small amount of material, yet keep my entire project in

mind, has improved steadily since I began writing intensively ten months ago. But I

still need to work harder to foreground the critical perspectives which have provided

so many valuable insights for my research, and to keep ideas introduced early in my

analysis viable during a prolonged argument. The work of some writers which may

seem sorely lacking here-like the definitions of ease presented by Roland Barthes or

Giorgio Agamben-are bracketed simply because of sheer volume, and I look forward

to considering their impact on my work as a whole. Also, some texts I really wanted

to consider here just because I like them so much-like Clear and Simple as the Truth:

Writing Classic Prose by Francis-Noel Thomas and Mark Turner-are absent or not

very well represented.

To cope with the massive amounts of material relevant to my project, I tried

several approaches to historicizing ease-some more successful than others. Several

reviewers observed that investigating only the historical periods in which significant

change occurred, the cultural studies approach of Chapter 2, works better than the

more comprehensive, but much more tedious, approach of Chapter 4. I agree. I like

composition history and am fascinated by old textbooks, but given the theoretical

ideas mobilized here, I should combine selective inventories of that work with a

more inclusive approach. In some ways, the weight of the material I was juggling

overpowered the apparatus theory, cultural studies, and grammatological frameworks

which have been so valuable for me in many other circumstances.

In several places my historical work missed opportunities to discuss the develop-

ment of American individualism and the role socioeconomic class played in American









higher education. Both certainly had measurable effect on writing. The specifics of the

process by which electronic technologies became a part of everyday life merits further

study as well. These tasks do not require original research on my part, but connecting

my argument about ease to existing scholarship. As stated earlier, my research will

soon be at the point where I must evaluate the composition histories which I rely on

here and determine which of several theories about ease and composition history is

most accurate.

I remain pleased with the idea of the qualities of ease (explained in Chapter 2

and summarized in table 2.1), especially when it is complemented by a multivalent

notion of ease which has several different functions (pedagogy, ideology, technology,

etc.). My repeated reference to the chart of the qualities of ease taped to my white-

board helped keep the dissertation focused, and its success is also demonstrated by the

strength of my argument. However, the framework could use some revisions.

Blake Scott suggested that I might extend the list of qualities of ease. I agree.

Two opposition appear useful and should be added. First, the quality "natural," as

opposed to artificial or synthetic. David Mindell's War, Technology, and Experience

on the U.S.S. Monitor, an account of the lives of sailors aboard that pioneering vessel,

provides the material necessary for situating this development historically (around the

time of the Civil War). Second, "flexible" or customizablee," as opposed to rigid and

universal. Though I am unsure of the historical origin of this quality of ease, or a text

which might be relied on for better understanding of it, I see two possibilities: (a) the

classification of made to order "custom" goods and services as the highest order of

consumerism, as response to the mass standardization of consumer society; (b) the

customization of computing and new media, discussed on page 168 below.









At times, my discussion of the qualities of pragmatism and expediency lacks

specificity, and I need to define those qualities more carefully. Similarly, my pairing

of facility with expediency seems problematic at times: perhaps I should consider the

former a component of simplicity. Also, the qualities of femininity and pictorialism

have very deep internal contradictions, and I wonder if they should be included in the

oppositional structure of the qualities of ease I am working with now. Notably, my

opposite of pictorialism is literacy-but how can that be possible if ease is a pedagogy

of literacy, as I argue in Chapter 4?

Perhaps I should visualize the matrix of the qualities of ease differently. At any

rate, the framework has survived the trials of my practice book, and does connect very

nicely to the history of ease and its role in composition studies-as we shall now see.















CHAPTER 2
THE CONCEPT OF EASE


Between 1850 and 2000, the number of technological objects present in Amer-

ican homes increased drastically. Numerous scientific discoveries and new inventions

became a part of daily life during this 150-year period. And while the convenient,

labor-saving properties of these appliances, tools, and technologies are still celebrated

today, at the same time, other voices wax nostalgic for the "olden days," when apple

pie was made from scratch and not a single clock in America endlessly flashed 12:00.

Not surprisingly, for many, both stories are compelling: any account of increasing

technological sophistication is also a tale of increasing complexity.

A brief query into the history of technology produces many versions of the

narrative of increasing technology and complexity, in a wide variety of forms: liter-

ature, journalism, history, philosophy, and more. Because the tale itself is complex,

and deeply influenced by powerful assumptions about Western culture and American

history, perspectives on what Walter Ong might call "the technologization of daily

life" abound. Despite often shared historical assumptions, one can find critics and

cheerleaders of varying enthusiasm, radicalism, and analytical sophistication, with an

astounding variety of motivations, writing about this change in vastly different ways.

Both Luddites and wireheads, to use common labels, often embrace a deeply paradoxi-

cal stance toward technology, recognizing that it can simplify and streamline daily life,

or befuddle or confuse it, simultaneously.









2.1 Overwhelmed? The Answer is Easy!

A recent cover story from U. S. News and World Report demonstrates these

paradoxes, as well as common assumptions about technology and complexity. The set

of articles which make up the cover story confront issues relevant for American culture

at both ends of the historical period I consider here. The main article, "Overwhelmed

by Tech," which appears in the Business & Technology section of the magazine, opens

with a nostalgic reference to Al Gross, maker of gadgetry which inspired Dick Tracy.

Gross's gizmos possessed a "sense of simple fun [. .] entirely lacking from the

endless numbers of personal organizers, portable phones, and multiple-function whatsits

no self-respecting millennialist can afford to be about" (Lardner, LaGesse, and Rae-

Dupree 31). By contrast, today's technologies are not fun gizmos but "fiendish new

instruments of mental torture" which are anything but enjoyable, and instead difficult to

use (32).

The consequences of this complexity are indicated in several anecdotes. A

frustrated minister notes repeated trouble with her laptop, but prefers to put up with

crashes and lost files instead of spending two hours on the phone with tech support.

Jeff Hawkins, designer of the Palm Pilot personal digital assistant (PDA) and now

chairman (sic) of Handspring, complains about the problems he has had trying to get

a television, videocassette recorder, and camcorder made by the same manufacturer

to operate in concert: "What a disaster," he laments (32). But the articles look

beyond tales of lost sermon manuscripts and recalcitrant home entertainment systems,

and argue that complexity endangers the entire technology industry. The authors

observe that despite potential for sales of new products such as digital cameras and

downloadable music, consumers have already stopped buying new products, as they









"[try] to figure out how to work the devices they already have" (31). And the bear

market in technology will worsen if sales do not pick up.

The suggested solution, making things easy, has been advanced as the panacea

for numerous technological problems. Noting the "runaway success" and "straightfor-

ward and intuitive design" of Hawkins's PDAs and other popular consumer electronics,

the writers argue that high-tech devices do not have to be high-stress (32). Good

design, rejection of what Donald Norman calls "featuritis," extensive usability research,

and more patient product development offer a path to simplicity and ease. For example,

more sophisticated software could update itself silently, "without the consumer even

knowing" (34). Ben Shneiderman offers an analogy based on automobiles: "[put] the

engine under the hood and [let] everyone but people willing to get their hands dirty

operate the car from the driver's seat" (34). As the article concludes:

one thing has become clear from the blowback high-tech companies have
been treated to over the past few months: Consumers may not expect all
their new gadgets and gizmos to be fun, but they are demanding that at
least they don't make them feel like idiots. (36)

Consumers want things to be easy. But the first paradox of ease revealed

by the article is that "making it easy" will not be, well, easy: "It takes enormous

computer power and programming know-how to make something complicated look

simple" (33). Hawkins's PDAs are easy only because his companies defy conventional

wisdom and use a recursive-and expensive-development cycle which focuses on

ease of use throughout design and production. Unfortunately for consumers, the

writers moan, Hawkins's companies are the exception. The entrenchment of engineer-

oriented cultures at companies like Sony and Gateway regulates the influence of

consumers, insuring product designs best suited for "cocky developers," not Joe and









Jane Consumer. Apparently, Norman and Shneiderman's critiques of these system-

centered cultures have had little effect.

Fortunately, a slightly different version of this "easy is hard" paradox offers a

solution: "Continuing leaps in processing power and computer storage promise more

horsepower to make complex products easier to use" (34). Supposedly, the same

technology which threatens to overwhelm us will soon enable the end of complexity.

Operation through voice commands and hand signals is just around the corner-

it is just a matter of time before advances at MIT "make computing as effortless

as breathing" (34). Increases in technological sophistication promise more natural

computers which work like we do, and enable us to get our jobs done, unlike today's

artificial tools which work as they do, maintaining unnecessary attention to procedure

and systematic concerns. The authors contend that entrepreneurship, in the form of

start-up companies free from profit expectations and developer-centered corporate

cultures, will play a big role in this march toward ease.

But can every technological gadget be made easy? Somewhat grudgingly, the

writers admit that certain devices may not be straightforward and intuitive, and in

order to use them, one must read the manual, purchase training, or work with support.

Such effort and expense could be quite productive: for example, a few hours spent

learning to use filters could save hours of time deleting junk email (36). However, the

admission that "making it easy" is not the only way to approach technology takes up

less than two paragraphs on the last page of the article.

The conflict of common sense present in "Overwhelmed by Tech" reflects the

deeply paradoxical nature of ease and considerable frustration about how to confront

that paradox. Again, this is nothing new: the paradoxes of ease are evident in the

technologies of writing, kitchen appliances, and warfare. However, the degree to









which these paradoxes are acknowledged varies considerably, and I will discuss that in

detail later in this work. For the U. S. News article, one could begin such discussion

with some questions: what happens if the software download which occurs invisibly

contains a bug which causes a program to crash? Who will pay for the cost of the

development required to make products easy to use? "So many gadgets and so little

time," a sidebar to the article, offers one answer. Consumers will pay for ease, at least

if they follow the strategy suggested there for buying a digital camera: "Start with a

low-cost model so there's less guilt if it gathers dust. As a bonus, cheaper versions

can be easier to learn. [. .] If you like digital photography, you can buy a better

camera at next year's plunging prices" (Lardner 36, my emphasis). How purchasing

a second camera will reduce the number of gadgets one owns is unclear-as is what

will become of the old camera and the pictures taken with it. The tentative correlation

between cheaper versions and ease of use contradicts the previously introduced maxim

"Easy to use is hard to make" (though that correlation is consistent with the assumption

that entrepreneurial start-up companies are able to peddle cheap wares thanks to low

expectations of profitability).

A glance at the rest of the magazine in which the article appears establishes that

the U. S. News writers are correct about consumers' demands for ease. In editorial

content, software is praised as "easy for newbies but flexible for techies" and because

it "makes group blogging easy" (Morris 52). Advertising for a hearing aid bubbles,

"Your friends will notice how much more easily you can hear and understand"

(Hearing Help Express 53). Another advertisement promises to "make your computer

as easy to use as your telephone" (Green Tree Press 25). Indeed, this small sample

reflects advertising in other media, where a huge variety of technological and non-

technological products and services are marketed as "easy" or "easy to use."









"Overwhelmed by Tech" presents ease as a solution to a technical and economic

problem. But it leaves open many important questions, the most significant of which

is the nature of ease itself. What indeed is ease? What role does it play in the

history of American culture-and in discourses and disciplines such as composition?

What problems does ease solve, and what new problems does it create? What is its

relationship to technological and non-technological objects, systems, actions, and

agents? Why does ease seem to have a paradoxical nature? Do the contradictions

introduced by paradoxes of ease have affects on those seeking an easier everyday

life? In the first two chapters of this work, I will tackle these and other questions,

while providing a general introduction to ease. My description of ease will start with

historical consideration which provides a frame for definition and introduces several

broad trends in the development of ease. In later chapters, I will investigate the role of

ease in composition pedagogies in detail.

2.2 Historicizing and Defining Ease

"Overwhelmed by Tech" is by no means the only text which presents ease

as a remedy for the growth of complexity in technological products. Several of

the academic and professional experts mentioned in the article have written strong

theoretical arguments advocating ease of use. Norman's The Psychology of Everyday

Things and Shneiderman's Designing the User Interface offer detailed arguments

grounded in cognitive psychology. These two books, other texts published by these

authors, and the work of Jakob Nielsen and Edward Tufte, among others, have

established very influential theories of design (and psychology) which valorize ease

of use and demonstrate that applications for ease extend far beyond the realm of the

"high-tech" devices which are the focus of the U S. News article.












HOME

PHOTOGRAPHY

IS EASY
when your camera is built on our "cartridge system." It
enables you to load and unload the camera in broad
daylight-no fumbling around a dark room for missing
keys or pins. Everything but the developing is done
in daylight, and we do that if you wish it-or you
can do it yourself.

THE $500 POCKET KODAK, f~p~r.Sb

THE $800 BULLS-EYE, if s 3. 3

Both are built on the "cartridge system." They embody
the refinement of photographic luxury. From the fine
leather covering to the inmost soul-the lens, they are
perfect, and being perfect they make perfect pictures.
Free pamphlet tells all about them.
EASTMAN KODAK CO.
K Rochester, N. Y.
; _,- s00.00.


Figure 2.1: Kodak Advertisement, 1884.


My research of the historical role of ease underscores this point. Advertising has

mobilized ease for years, developing methodologies for selling products and services

quite similar to those Norman, Shneiderman, and others advocate for their design.

Indeed, the disciplines of usability, human factors engineering, human-computer

interaction, and information architecture show considerable debt not only to Norman

and Shneiderman but to Madison Avenue. For over a century, ease has been associated

with consumer products ranging from paper towels and sanitary napkins to rotisserie

cookers and automobiles. Technologically advanced products were marketed as "easy

to use" long before America Online's slogan was "So easy to use, no wonder it's

number one"-Kodak advertisements argued that "Home photography is easy" as early

as 1894 (see Figure 2.1).









I will consider the history of ease by describing the oldest meanings of ease

which remain relevant today, then turn to four time periods during which supplemental

meanings for ease were established or the scope of objects, systems, or practices

considered as "easy" expanded. While this method will fall short of a comprehensive

history of ease, I will cover critical time periods in its evolution, establishing the

grounds for developing a systematic definition of the qualities of ease which are

powerful today. The definitions of ease I introduce in this historical review will provide

a method for understanding ease in composition studies as well as in American culture

at large.

2.2.1 Historical and Popular Definitions

In the Oxford English Dictionary, the first sense of the noun "ease" (I.1) has

economic connotations: opportunityit, means or ability to do something" (31). This

significance remains in current usage as the colloquial "life of ease" or "living on easy

street" which represent the pinnacle of economic achievement (33). While not often

used in a denotative sense, connotations of wealth and well-being remain associated

with ease. By 1700, the second sense of ease, comfortot [or] absence of pain or

trouble," where ease is a state of being, was well established (32). The OED offers

multiple variations of this sense of ease quite relevant today, with many synonyms

and variations reflecting considerable expansion of meaning. Today ease is not only

comfort, but convenience. It is a state of being in which annoyances and problems

are minimized and the possibility of pleasure is imminent. Ease is freedom from

hard work, toilsome physical labor, and excessive strain. A person "at ease" has a

calm, collected appearance and no urgency in her aspect. American common-sense

prerogatives to minimize labor, for maximizing profit as well as in the pursuit of

happiness, offer a powerful endorsement of the system of values implied by ease,







22

despite the paradoxical condemnation of "taking the easy way out" which can occur if

minimizing labor is taken too far.

Easy objects, systems, or practices can be learned quickly, even mastered,

with a minimum of effort, and their use appears effortless or natural. They are non-

threatening, intuitive, simple, even comforting. Complication, complexity, and difficulty

are absent from easy things, or at least not apparent to the casual user. In most cases,

the use of easy things serves one of two purposes: simplification or mitigation of a

complex or difficult task, or production of a feeling of ease (or feelings congruent with

the characteristics of ease) in the agent. Three qualities of ease which appear in current

definitions were well established in historical definitions.1

2.2.1.1 The qualities of ease: comfort, effortlessness, and transparency

As I note above, comfort is the most fundamental quality of ease, and the quality

on which many uses of "ease" or "easy" hinge, in both historical and current usage.

Though some qualities of ease delineated here are derived from comfort, ease is often

little more than a pure state of comfort, enjoyment, or pleasure. Close association with

comfort or enjoyment encourages the widespread valorization of ease and easy things.

In current usage, "natural" is often used to describe the sense of ease facilitated by

comfortable things, as in the third sense in the OED: absencene of pain or discomfort;

freedom from annoyance" (34). "Intuitive" is another important synonym for comfort

which has gained widespread usage thanks to the popularity of desktop computing-at

times "intuitive" designates a contextualized, familiar, or habitual nature, but its use is

often simply clever marketing.


1The labels I select for these and other qualities of ease outlined here are derived from current
usage and may be somewhat anachronistic.









Effortlessness matches the fourth sense in the OED: absencene of painful

effort; freedom from the burden of toil; leisure;" (34). Ease is a state nearly free from

physical labor and intense activity. Easy things facilitate this effortlessness by reducing

or eliminating the manual labor needed to require a task, or by allowing things to be

done more quickly, possibly creating leisure time (comfort). Historical nautical uses

of ease and easy, as well as the colloquial "take it easy" and "easy-going," reflect

a meaning of calm, undisturbed passage or mental state. The relative position of

effortlessness in the definition of ease increased during industrialization, as a life with

less back-breaking manual labor became possible for more individuals, raising the bar

for the standard of effortlessness required to achieve ease. However, to a large extent,

effortlessness is the mere appearance of being at ease in the eyes of others, and one's

actual condition of effort, toil, or leisure is less important.

Ease frequently appears as transparency: freedom from concern with complica-

tion or procedure. Transparency (also identified as invisibility or passivity) is opposed

to opacity or visibility. This meaning of ease, derived from combination of comfort and

effortlessness, is the sense of "easy" which dominates the U. S. News article I discuss

above. Transparent things appear understandable and enable a person to complete a

task without paying unnecessary attention to details or steps in the process which can

be automated, removed, or completed in accordance with the intended use and design.

But valorization of transparency can make ease quite problematic: it may eliminate or

conceal complication and painful effort for the agent as it displaces it to another less

fortunate, invisible worker. As Evan Watkins has observed, this is one of the means

by which the increasing class stratification in American culture can be ignored: if

the labor of the lower classes is invisible, perhaps they can be invisible too. Also,

transparency can make ease self-perpetuating, because if one learns a specific way of









functioning without a general understanding of a device or activity, accomplishing a

task in a different manner is impossible (or, at the very least, less likely).

Named as "clarity," transparency frequently appears as one of the goals of

writing or argument-indeed, the OED notes that as early as 1711, writing "showing

no trace of effort; smooth, flowing" was considered easy (33). English and American

composition textbooks and writing style guides for other disciplines have valorized

clear, easy to read prose for years, while denying the difficulty of achieving such

clarity, as well as the philosophical arguments which question its possibility. Ironically,

the nature of transparent or clear writing remains quite unclear in many of these

influential texts, which I return to at length in Chapter 4 of this work.

Though it is most often seen as positive, both historical and current definitions of

ease include pejorative variants and connotations. Comfort, especially in its ultimate

sense, can indicate excess or sinful attention to entertainment and frivolity. The Bible

famously warns against lax discipline: "Those who spare the rod hate their children,

but those who love them are diligent to discipline them" (Proverbs 13:24). Puritan

religious teaching-undoubtedly influential in American education-frowned on

excessive mirth and frivolity (Bercovitch 4). Similar assumptions about rigor and

difficulty of instruction create the implication that facilitating comfort and ease is

coddling or pandering-a difficulty anticipated by John Locke in Some Thoughts

Concerning Education (see page 84, below).

Ease also indicate economically enabled detachment-a state of mind in which

one's luxurious lifestyle enables an unrealistic disconnection from the laborious rigors

of daily life. The OED definition reflects this usage with its repeated references to

royalty, whose daily lives included little exertion. As economic development and

industrialization changed standards of living and reduced the arduous nature of many









of the tasks of daily life-or in the case of production of food, erased them almost

completely-this particular negative connotation became less important. Today ease

is seldom seen as detachment or aloofness, though it is still identified with economic

well-being.

While effortlessness can indicate leisure and relaxation, it can also be evidence

(or the cause of) idleness and sloth. Praise for hard work is codified in many forms

in influential religious and secular texts (again, consider the Puritans). There is little

doubt this praise made the burdens created by everyday life more manageable: if

hard work was evidence of virtue, then moral character-or at least its appearance-

was accessible to even the poorest laborers. Indeed, this correlation has weakened

little since the time when intensive labor was a fact of daily life for all but the very

rich-and one could argue that the correlation of hard work and virtue has increased

since daily arduous physical exertion is now, for many, optional. To be sure, changing

definitions of "hard work" have affected definitions of ease.

Finally, transparency can be a necessity enforced by a lack of mental sophis-

tication. There is a perception that less talented or intelligent individuals require

transparent things in order to be productive. The currently popular "For Dummies"

series of educational texts embraces this sort of perceived need, partially neutralizing

its pejorative character. Regardless, a tinge of guilt or shame often accompanies the

desire for transparency, effortlessness, or comfort-feelings which can be exacerbated

by criticisms of these three qualities.

2.2.2 Reforming Education in England, 1680-1740

Ambivalence toward ease is well-represented in a text published at the end of

the first historical period considered here as part of the evolution of ease. The Art

of Rhetoric Made Easy, written by John Holmes and first published in London in









1738, appeared during an intense period of educational reform. Reformers supported

more vernacular instruction, challenged teaching methods unchanged for centuries,

and sought to supplement traditional curricula with more practical matters such as

geography and bookkeeping (Stoker 1). Holmes acknowledged and supported these

reforms in the Rhetoric and other publications. But his preface shows mixed feelings:

[I]n this Day [. .] School-Boys are expected to be led, sooth'd, and
entic'd to their studies by the Easiness and Pleasure of the Practice, rather
than by Force or harsh Discipline drove, as in days of Yore. For while
some of them are too Copious in Things not so immediately the Concern
of Boys at School, most are too Brief in Things really necessary for Youth
to be informed of, and none at all so happy or methodical as to distinguish
between One and T'Other. (xiii)2

Here Holmes argues that easiness and pleasure lead to a lack of discipline and inability

to tell worthy pursuits from trifles. Despite this problematic, ease (named as such, but

also implied by the "pleasure" and calls for gentler discipline) retains enough value

to appear in the title of his work and to be mobilized pedagogically. This is a new

context for ease-before Holmes's time, pedagogues seldom suggested students should

be comfortable or subject matter accessible, or that teachers or texts make learning

easy. Quintilian was one of few ancient voices suggesting a gentler way of teaching

(Kennedy 42). Though as indicated above Holmes does not unconditionally support

demands for ease made by contemporary schoolboys, his production of a textbook

which offers an easy method amounts to argument for a pedagogy of ease, and support

for reformers like Locke and Isaac Watts.

Brevity and simplification are Holmes's principal methods for making rhetoric

easy to learn. The Art of Rhetoric Made Easy offers "a Short, Plain, Comprehensive


2The dedication, preface, and introduction in John Holmes's The Art of Rhetoric Made Easy are
unnumbered. Therefore, I have cited Holmes's frontmatter as if the first page of the text (the title
page) was numbered with the small Roman numeral "i," the next page with "ii," and so on, making
the final page of the preface "xx."









and Regular Method." Its foundation is "the glorious and extensive Plan of the

Ancients" abridged "by leaving out the copious Parts of their Works" (xiv). As

common in contemporary rhetorical textbooks, long lists of tropes are included, but

uncommonly, their definitions are presented as short verses, and Holmes implies study

of lesser tropes can be omitted. Holmes's "easy" would doubtless fall short of twenty-

first century standards: Latin and Greek quotations fill the Rhetoric, and even though

each is brief, and his system not comprehensive, the list of tropes and definitions to

memorize is lengthy.3

The success of Holmes's work is evidence of the legitimacy of the "easy"

pedagogy of reformers. His Rhetoric was reprinted almost immediately, a second

edition issued in 1755, and another version appeared in 1786. In England and America,

the text "maintained a degree of popularity for well over a hundred years after

its publication" (Howell 137), as the first rhetoric to explicitly identify ease in its

methodology. Outside of rhetoric, it would inaugurate a long series of "How-to" books

which promised arts, crafts, and disciplines "made easy."

But even today many voices object to the absence of discipline assumed to

accompany ease, and demand the preservation of difficulty and discomfort in education

in a wide variety of forms. Many educational practices displace comfort, effortlessness,

and transparency: corporal punishment for misbehaving schoolchildren, the preser-

vation of classic British and American literature as "the canon," standardized testing

rubrics which mandate retention or remedial education for low scoring students, at-

tempts to shore up "soft" curricula, and the preservation of educational practices which


3Holmes argues that other features of his work help make it easy; see page 103 for more discus-
sion of those techniques, and my review of the "easy" rhetoric and pedagogical practices of Holmes's
reform-minded contemporaries and followers.









resemble intellectual hazing (public recitations, dissertation defenses). (See page 113

below.)

2.2.2.1 The qualities of ease: simplicity and pragmatism

Holmes's work demonstrates the emergence of simplicity and pragmatism, two

new qualities of ease which supplement the three listed above. Both are largely absent

from the OED definition of ease, even today. However, Holmes's textbook, "Over-

whelmed by Tech," and many other sources suggest they have been key components of

definitions of ease for quite some time.

Simplicity, a lack of complexity or difficulty, is not well-represented in OED

definitions, but readily apparent in "Overwhelmed by Tech," and a key component

of current definitions of ease. Simplicity appears variously as lack of ornament,

uncomplicated presentation, brevity, the absence of difficulty, and an unambiguous

nature. In Holmes's work, simplicity takes two forms: the reduction of complexity

though the omission of unnecessary details, and the reduction of complex ideas

to elemental unities congruent with Cartesian principles. This is congruent with

many senses of simplicity which have been connected with ease over the years. In

some cases experts make complicated objects, systems, or practices easy through

simplification; in others, objects, systems, or practices are developed from the start with

simplicity in mind. Notably, definitions of simplicity in writing and other contexts are

quite similar.

A pejorative cast of "simplicity" appeared very early in the evolution of the

definition of ease, around the same time and with the same meaning as the adjective

"simple-minded." This sense of easy, movedvd without difficulty to action or belief"

(OED 33), was expressed in the colloquial "easy mark" and "easy game." Today









creating this form of simplicity as ease is often called "dumbing down" or "making

idiot-proof'-like the transparency of the For Dummies-style series I mention above.

A class of consumer goods which pretend to "simplicity" appeared contemporary

to the rise of the consumer movement, and remain quite popular today. These goods

are "simple things" representing the "simple life," albeit heavily commodified and

transformed into expensive designer goods and services out of the reach of many

people.4 This simplicity is highly, but quietly, selective: the crooked artwork and

charming handcrafts of the Appalachian farmer are included; abject poverty and the toil

of hand-operated tools are not. Such affected simplicity has the outward appearance of

the simplicity of poverty and low-tech daily life-relevant because, as noted above, it is

the appearance of ease, not its actual presence, which is important.

The reforms which The Art of Rhetoric Made Easy represented included a

pragmatic attitude toward education. As Locke and others argued, geography and

bookkeeping had value in contemporary culture as the tools of colonial mercantil-

ism. Not surprisingly, pragmatism extends much deeper into the definition of ease.

A disengagement from generalization or general understanding is the most powerful

pragmatic tendency present in easy objects, systems, or practices. The practice of

ease suggests that contextualized, specific, local knowledge is preferable to abstract,

theoretical knowledge. Because development of the latter can be difficult and com-

plex, it receives secondary, if any, emphasis. Pragmatic approaches rely heavily on

transparency-achieving a goal or accomplishing a task without unnecessary delay or

obfuscation-and are closely connected to expediency, a quality of ease introduced

after World War Two.

4Retail stores like Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn provide good examples of these prod-
ucts.









The division between novice and expert common in Western education and

attitudes toward technology reinforces the simple, pragmatic character of ease. Experts

perform processes of simplification and determine boundaries of pragmatic relevance.

Novices, who are not supposed to be able to understand difficult things, and should

prefer easy alternatives or representations, must accept the expert interpretation of

importance. The pragmatic character of ease discourages developing skills which

enable the rise from novice to expert, like understanding Cartesian method, which

Sharon Crowley argues underlies much composition pedagogy (42-50 passim). Both

simplicity and pragmatism reinforce disciplinary structures, which in turn reinforce the

power of expertise.

Cautions against simplicity also play a large part in the formation of the

novice/expert binary. Because simplicity is often associated with ease, and is the

province of novices, difficulty is reserved for experts, and easy things appear less so-

phisticated and unsuitable for expert usage-simple imitations of the complex original.

For writing, Jacques Derrida charts this process using Plato's Phaedrus: "According

to a pattern that will dominate all of Western philosophy, good writing (natural, living,

knowledgeable, intelligible, internal, speaking) is opposed to bad writing (a moribund,

ignorant, external, mute artifice for the senses). And the good one can be designated

only through the metaphor of the bad one" (Derrida 149). Here, again, is the paradox

of ease. So simplicity and pragmatism enforce the novice/expert split in both direc-

tions: encouraging experts to look down on easy things, portraying them as deficient to

the original; and discouraging novices from complexity and difficulty, proffering easy

solutions as "good enough" for their less demanding situation.









2.2.3 Bringing Ease Home in America, 1880-1930

The second period of intense change in the nature of ease occurs after indus-

trialization and the development of new technologies affected the daily life of most

Americans. Susan Strasser has chronicled the changes in American culture which

occurred between 1880 and 1930, focusing on the effects on women. Her scholarship

reminds us that accounts of technologization which occurred during this "rise of con-

sumerism" are often radically simplified. Many interrelated agents and forces should

be considered in studies of consumer culture, including attention to ease in advertising,

publishing, and product development.

Contemporary popular and scholarly works show great faith in technological

advancement, presenting an unproblematic account of new wealth and increased

standard of living. In 1919 Christine Frederick collated writings from Ladies' Home

Journal and other sources into Household Engineering, a manual for homemakers

which suggests they could radically improve their quality of life by applying principles

of scientific management to daily routines. The argument of Household Engineering

is a clear and simple syllogism: Taylorist methodologies simplify work, saving steps

and time; newly available household products and devices ease the intensity of manual

labor; therefore, employing both results in a more organized and efficient home, and a

happier homemaker.

Ease appears in Frederick's text in several ways. First, she argues the tools of

housework should be more "scientifically" designed for comfort in use. Suggestions

include raising or lowering tabletops and sinks to prevent stooping, using a stool in-

stead of standing, and purchasing a stove-top of proper height (12, 18). But "comfort"

is narrowly defined-"effectiveness" seems closer to what Frederick had in mind, given

her descriptions of "comfortable" tools. Second, Fredrick encourages mitigation of









effort and reduction of toilsome labor or difficulty. Throughout Household Engineering,

she argues that newly developed technological devices and household products could

perform labor done previously by hand, change household processes to eliminate labor,

or reduce the intensity of manual labor required for a certain task.

Frederick's work recognizes historical qualities of ease and the economic

pinnacle demonstrated by the contemporary colloquial "easy street" and "life of

ease," (OED 33). Her prescriptions for homemakers demonstrate that as America

industrialized and developed a consumer culture, a new possibility for ease appeared.

Ease itself changed from an abstraction most people could only dream about, or enjoy

in infrequent and fleeting moments, to a commodity which could be produced and

enjoyed in the home, given the right tools properly used. In one sense, this was a

genuine change in the standard of living and working conditions of many people. But

in another, it was just relaxation of the standards of the mythical "life of ease" which

enabled the development of the consumer economy. To some extent, the reality of

change is moot. Because more and more people believed that new products delivered

on promises of ease, it began to build inertia and cultural power.

Like Holmes, Frederick shows some reluctance to "make it easy" unconditionally,

and her approach is quite complex. Though she asserts household engineering would

"enable the homemaker to have leisure time to devote to interests which are more

important than the mere mechanics of living," she insisted that time recovered through

her methods be devoted to the "higher ends of personal and family happiness and

success" (Household Engineering 504, 509). While Frederick argues that household

efficiency is more than a method for getting women to do more work, and envisions

more power for women and a partnership with husband and family, rather than service

to them, her method for achieving that power is "well planned work and equally









planned for minutes of leisure-time" (515-6)-perhaps a bit more structure and

regulation than current concepts of an easy, comfortable, effortless approach might

intimate.

Contemporary advertisers were not nearly as cautious as Frederick. Numerous

new and old products were touted for their labor-saving properties. Some marketing

suggested that products themselves were easy to use, such as magazine advertisements

from Kodak stating "Home Photography is Easy," or the use of the "Easy" brand name

by the Syracuse Washing Machine Company. However, description of labor-saving

properties and the new leisure time possible by efficient vacuum cleaners, detergents,

or washing machines was much more common. The products Frederick helped market

were just too complicated to be convincingly presented as easy to use-another

example of the paradox of ease. Transparency of technology was, in most cases, not

yet a reality, despite Frederick's call for devices which brought "comfort in use." In

this time period, ease in consumer products was primarily represented by effortlessness,

comfort, and pragmatism; transparency and simplicity were present, but secondary.

During this time reformers critiqued several forms of ease. Thorsten Veblen

introduced "conspicuous consumption" and other concepts such as "trained incapacity"

to the language of sociology and progressivism (18, 68). Veblen's pointed criticisms

of upper-class Americans find fault with many things identified here as qualities of

ease: the desire to improve social standing, rejection of the functional, valorization of

abstention from or reduction of labor, and a life of idleness facilitated by wealth (the

"life of ease"). Around the same time, numerous literary critics, artists, and philoso-

phers involved in the avant-garde, modem artistic movements, and Russian Formalism

embraced complexity and difficulty, rejecting many of the qualities of ease identified

here. Their work questioned many of the assumptions on which the valorization of









ease was constructed. The Formalists praised difficulty in and of itself, identifying

characteristics such as "making strange" and "defacilitation" as the fundamental quali-

ties of literariness. In painting, theater, and literature, aesthetic realism and naturalism

were rejected in favor of more abstract, less directly representative forms. However,

these critiques were exceptions to the rule of gradually increasing strength, importance,

and desirability of ease.

2.2.3.1 The qualities of ease: femininity

Correspondence between ease and femininity strengthened during this time

period. The ancient correlation of women and comfort, through their supportive role

as mothers and wives, was supplemented with new meanings which bolstered ease's

gendered nature. The coarsest equation of ease and femininity, "Women cannot handle

difficulty, so they need easy things," reflected the perception that women were delicate,

fragile, and unsuited for "man's work." Victorian ideals for femininity encouraged

women to cultivate this role, reinforcing the assumption of womanly weakness.

A pejorative sense of "easy" connected feminine comfort and the notion that

women were inferior workers (and thus needed comfort, transparency, simplicity,

and effortlessness). Interestingly, if women cultivated this trained incapacity (to use

Veblen's term), they would find themselves in needs of devices which produced ease,

such as electric appliances, since hand-operated machinery was too hard for their

gentle nature. Frederick encouraged women to embrace ease through consumption:

in Household Engineering she directly addresses women, advising them to purchase

household products which possess qualities of ease, and to follow principles of

scientific management in order to produce ease in the home. Her followup, Selling

Mrs. Consumer, addresses advertisers and marketers hoping to capitalize on the

spending power newly vested in women. These extremely influential works solidified









the gendered nature of ease and helped establish the role of women as gatekeepers for

household consumer spending.

The ambivalent nature of ease was also reflected in contemporary slang: the

sexually promiscuous "easy woman," who is simultaneously attractive and repulsive,

and the use of "easy on the eyes" or "easy to look at" to describe physical beauty-

especially in women (OED 34).

2.2.4 Humanizing Technology, 1939-1958

After World War Two ended, technological advancements made during wartime

began to filter into civilian use, industries commandeered for wartime production

resumed their regular output, and memories of years of depression and rationing were

quickly swept away by uninterrupted economic growth. A 1957 U. S. News article

labeled the decade following the war "ten amazing years," noting a general increase

in wealth, financial security, and the spread of new products and inventions like

television, freezers, vacuum cleaners, and air conditioning-items most would consider

technological goods (28). More and more often, advertising for these products noted

not only ways their use could improve standard of living by producing qualities of ease

such as comfort and effortlessness, but the ways in which the products /theie/\'\ were

easy to use. Electrically controlled, push-button operation replaced "old-fashioned"

types of controls. "Automatic" or "computerized" products became more common.

Wartime weapons development introduced new disciplines as well as new

technologies: nuclear physics, rocket science, and computer science, to name a few,

and provided the bureaucratic structures which ensured their post-war survival. Lesser

known fields like human factors engineering also benefited from huge government

expenditures and the push to make more effective military forces. During the war,

experiments and research efforts were somewhat limited, taking the form of "knob and









dial studies"-analyses of the arrangement of the controls of airplane cockpits and

other complex mechanical devices. Though not widespread, these efforts did improve

the efficacy of the increasingly sophisticated machines of war and paved the way

for organized human factors research. The legitimacy of this new discipline and the

dramatic rise in the popularity of technological devices are evidence of another step in

the evolution of ease. Producing ease through the use of technology, as was the case

during Frederick's time, would not suffice. Now technology itself had to be easy.

The evaluative power of ease had grown remarkably: devices which lacked

ease of use were of questionable worth and could be discarded and replaced with

newer, easier ones. As is often the case, advertisers and manufacturers noticed (and

encouraged) the new attitude toward technology rapidly, mobilizing ease of use in

marketing programs and product design. But academics were not far behind. The

growth of human factors engineering and concern for ease of use is demonstrated

by the formation of new institutional formations. The Ergonomics Research Society

began publishing the journal Ergonomics in 1957, and in 1958 the Human Factors

Society started distribution of its Human Factors. Early issues of these journals reflect

the military heritage of the discipline, focusing on nuclear physics, avionics, and

spaceflight, with most contributors affiliated with American armed forces.

The opening editorial of Human Factors argues that "[t]he ultimate aim of each

human factors effort is toward the optimal utilization of human and machine capabil-

ities to achieve the highest degree of effectiveness of the total system" (Morehouse

1). Most of the prose in the first issue has a similar militaristic, bureaucratic tone.

But a forward-looking letter to the editor written by a member of the Human Factors

editorial board insists upon "good coverage from a wide spectrum of civilian industrial

human factors problems, all kinds of transportation problems, human factors problems









in communications, and in consumer goods and equipment" (Spragg 46). When an

article in issue 1.4 (November 1959) came under attack for exhortatoryy phraseology"

and a lack of technical detail, the authors defended their approach by arguing such

"pedantic 'scientific"' language contradicted the editorial mission of the magazine.

In fact, they pointed out, other reviewers of the article thought it was "unnecessarily

technical" and hard to follow (Dreher and Evans 102). Clearly, some researchers

wanted to make Human Factors easily read, and believed the missions of the journal,

the discipline, and ease extended far beyond military-oriented "knob and dial" work.

These struggles should be considered not only as disciplinary growing pains

but as a continuation of the ambivalence toward ease demonstrated in Holmes's

introduction and Frederick's directives for the use of leisure time. Neither "ease"

nor "easy" appear in early issues of Human Factors, though it is clear (at least in

retrospect) that beneath the militaristic jargon many contributors are valorizing qualities

similar to the new definitions of ease: especially the virtue of expediency.

2.2.4.1 The qualities of ease: expediency

Demand for the first five qualities of ease I identify here (comfort, transparency,

effortlessness, simplicity, and pragmatism) increased notably after the war. The

connections of ease and femininity remained strong, even as women's wartime success

in the workforce was leveraged into limited gains in gender equity. A new quality of

ease, expediency, was developed from the synthesis of pragmatism, transparency, and

general valorization of speed made possible by mass production, industrialization, and

electronic communication. As it appears in ease, expediency is generally congruent

with definitions which date back to Aristotle. The expediency of ease embraces speed

and suppresses of negative consequences or complications. Expediency enables more









effective transparency: it supplements the filter of relevance provided by pragmatism

with a filter of speed.

Many of the easy "convenience products" which appeared during this time

period were valued because of expediency. Fast and frozen food, more expensive

and less healthy than freshly prepared food, are valuable for ease of preparation and

cleanup (cook or buy it, eat it, throw the container away). As was the case with

previously discussed qualities of ease, advertising implied that devices which were not

obviously convenient and easy were unsuitable. Manufactures often proposed shelving

or disposing of last year's gadgets in favor of new and improved models-as was the

case with the digital camera I describe on page 18 above.

Changes in infrastructure also demonstrated demand for expediency: controlled-

access highways appeared during this time, and locally controlled and named roads

were abandoned in favor of federally regulated systems. This had tremendous impact:

as Marshall McLuhan observes, "Great improvements in roads brought the city more

and more to the country. [. .] With superhighways the road became a wall between

man and the country" (Media 94). Similar walls grew between economic classes who

could afford expediency and those who could not. Educational systems were affected

as well: with more subjects to learn at all levels of education, and increasing numbers

of machines and technological processes in daily life, there was a considerable need for

learning quickly and without complication.

Critiques of consumerism which had been gaining steam since Veblen's time

grew along with the American economy. Indeed, the title of Ralph Nader's Unsafe at

Any Speed takes on new meaning if expediency is considered. Consumer protection

and environmentalist discourse called for understanding of the costs of the explosion of

consumer society, both in terms of personal, local effects and perhaps unseen or distant









changes wrought by new technologies and consumerist practices. Other criticisms in

popular writing lamented the loss of knowledge as specialization spread, and hiring

maintenance and repair technicians replaced traditions of owner-operator repair work.

Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is not shy about its Platonic

heritage, invoking the figure of Phaedrus to speak out against the increased speed and

pressure of consumer society and the turn away from general knowledge, especially as

manifest in a failure to understand technological devices.

2.2.5 Computing Made Easy, 1984-present

The final development in the meanings of ease I examine here is the extension

of ease to the personal computer, a device exponentially more complicated than any

of the devices Christine Frederick mentioned in her two books, yet more flexible

than machines which human factors engineers of the knob and dial era evaluated.

The Macintosh personal computer, introduced in 1984, was the first commercially

viable computer which used a graphical user interface and was marketed as "easy to

use." Other graphical computers, notably the Xerox Star, existed at the time, as did

computers and software being marketed as "easy to use." However, Apple was the first

to combine the two: in sharp contrast to its principal competitor, the IBM Personal

Computer (PC), which ran Microsoft's DOS operating system (MS-DOS) and had

extremely limited graphical capability, everything about the Macintosh was graphical.

The PC was boxy, boring, silent, and ugly; the Macintosh was curvy, flashy, talkative,

and cute.

The Apple Human Interface Guidelines, published in 1987, codified many of

the principles expressed in the early Mac OS, enabling transfer of its foundational

principles to other technological and non-technological devices. The Apple design

philosophy, as expressed in maxims which introduce the Guidelines, foregrounded









comfort, transparency, simplicity, and speed. Ease of use is reinforced through

pragmatic novice/expert division (named here as "user/programmer"), and consistent

preference for visual display.

The Apple Desktop Interface provides a consistent and familiar computer
environment in which people can perform their many tasks. People aren't
trying to use computers-they're trying to get their jobs done. (2)
Most programmers have no trouble working with a command-line interface
that requires memorization and Boolean logic. The average user is not a
programmer. (4)
[The command-line interface .. .] distracts all users from their tasks and
focuses attention instead on the computer's needs. (5)
User activities should be simple at any moment, though they may be
complex taken together. (7)
Users feel comfortable in a computer environment that remains understand-
able and familiar rather than changing randomly. People use computers
because computers are versatile and fast. (8)

The introduction of the Macintosh demonstrated another change in the character

of ease: if a system as flexible, powerful, and technologically complicated as a

personal computer could be made easy, why couldn't anything be easy? Norman's

The Psychology of Everyday Things, also published in 1987, would help legitimate

that syllogism of ease. This book has become one of the most influential books in

the "usability" movement: an outgrowth of the discipline of human factors which

encourages design and development practices which result in easy to use objects and

systems. Norman analyzes the design of doors, light switches, refrigerators, and other

everyday things, critiquing any lack of consistency, user control, feedback, access to

conceptual models, or forgiveness of errors-the same principles which, according

to Apple, made its Apple Desktop Interface easy.5 Norman's prose style matches his

argument: unlike the psychologists working in human factors, who clouded calls for

ease and usability in dense Armyspeak, Norman frequently uses the first person or


5Norman intensifies his critique of difficulty in later work such as The Invisible Computer









"we," and seldom employs technical language. While well-researched, and not at all

anti-academic, The Psychology of Everyday Things begins with anecdotes and direct

address to the reader, not a literature review filled with footnotes or parenthetical

references to other research. For most readers, Norman's extensive background in

cognitive psychology is transparent-in fact, paperback versions of the book are titled

The Design of Everyday Things.

The long-standing connections between transparency, simplicity, and ease have

been strengthened markedly by the Apple Guidelines Norman's Everyday Things, and

comparable publications from other writers, reflecting (and helping to better establish)

further evolution in the character of ease. Consider "Overwhelmed by Tech," the article

which I used to open this chapter: demands for transparency, simplicity, or ease appear

in nearly every paragraph, and the concepts are often used interchangeably. Close

correspondence of transparency, simplicity, and ease enables rapid interchange between

them. Notably, popular writing and scholarship is less often treating the qualities of

ease distinctively, but invoking "ease" and assuming the particular meaning will be

apparent.

The current shape of human factors research indicates that most people would

name the personal computer or the Web as the current frontier of usability and

ease of use. But from its original incarnation to the present day, the Web would be

nothing without writing, the technology Holmes wished to make easy-and, to this

day, the most important technology involved in the personal computer. Once more,

common-sense reasoning is nearly syllogistic: more than anything else, personal

computers are machines for making texts and communicating. If the computer itself

should be easy, and use of its word processing and typesetting applications should

be easy, shouldn't writing and communicating be easy as well? This expectation is









strengthened immeasurably by the role the qualities of ease has long played in rhetoric

and composition. It is easy to assume the parallel movement toward clarity, brevity,

and simplicity in the goals, style, and pedagogy of writing, and the design, use, and

purpose of other things, is a simple, natural, inevitable evolution.

Critiques of this new role for ease have been limited. A few magazine columnists

attacked the Macintosh because it supposedly failed to measure up for business. John

C. Dvorak even cast the battle in gender terms, calling the Mac "effeminate" and its

principal competitor, the IBM PC, a "man's computer designed by men for men" (Levy

qtdin Brown). Once again, appearance was a problem: the Mac did not look like a

business machine. Almost fifteen years later, Dvorak would say of a new Macintosh

notebook computer, the iBook, "I can only describe it as a 'girly' machine. You expect

to see lipstick, rouge, and a tray of eye shadow inside when you open it up" (34).

However, Dvorak's critiques of the Macintosh interface have disappeared now that it is

apparent visually rich software like the original Mac OS is here to stay.

Updated versions of earlier critiques against ease have appeared, like Neil

Stephenson's In the Beginning Was the Command Line, an argument for the GNU/Linux

operating system which echoes many of Pirsig's concerns about dwindling user know-

how. However, the development of computer operating systems such as GNU/Linux

and FreeBSD has also demonstrated that in the context of networked computing, flex-

ibility and power can be harnessed to create systems which defy conventional wisdom

on ease. Most Linux distributions include command-line and graphical user interfaces

and applications, integrating these "hard" and "easy" environments, making much

of Stephenson's critique of graphical systems irrelevant. Projects like Linux and the

K Desktop Environment show that highly usable computer systems can be extremely









powerful and versatile-contrary to general definitions of ease and expectations com-

mon in in mainstream computing. Though it will take time to affect enduring change,

non-traditional development models now offer an alternative to the system-centered

development model which has preserved the culture of difficulty of computing.

Advertising usually touts the benefits of ease, but some companies have suc-

cessfully mobilized its negative characteristics of ease. Nike's long-running "Just Do

It" campaign argued both explicitly and implicitly that in order to succeed, athletes

must ignore discomfort and inconvenience, embracing hard work and extreme exertion

(as well as Nike products). By contrast, General Motors's "This is not your father's

Oldsmobile," which admitted that the Oldsmobile brand was associated with easy-

driving, somewhat emasculated cars suited for aging men, was unable to shake the

negativity of ease and a younger, hipper clientele. Despite considerable effort, the cam-

paign failed, and the brand was phased out. Both accounts show the endurance of the

ambivalent character of ease-as well as the importance of the image and appearance

of ease in figuring the resolution of that contradiction.

2.2.5.1 The qualities of ease: pictorialism

My list of the qualities of ease concludes with pictorialism. The graphical

and visual nature of the Macintosh interface, Norman's calls for "visibility," and the

changing nature of "transparency" as a quality of ease reflect the drastic shift in the

importance of the visual and pictorial which has shaped twentieth-century Western

culture. Following Richard Rorty, W. J. T. Mitchell calls this shift "the pictorial turn,"

a general recognition that the visual demands cultural attention due to increasing

importance and relevance-or suspicion. Images, valorized in fantasy, spectacle, and

by the immense popularity of visual media, are opposed to the rational discursivity of

the literate apparatus (2-4). In a similar way, ease privileges the pictorial, visual, and









electorate over the graphical, verbal, and literate. It is a reflection of common-sense

knowledge of the status of images: watching a movie is easier than reading a book; a

picture is worth a thousand words.

Pictures seem to possess, naturally and intrinsically, many of the qualities of

ease, notably expediency and simplicity. Without a doubt, the connection of under-

standing and vision ("I see" meaning "I understand;" "vision" signifying "wisdom")

supports this correlation. The awesome influence of Edward Tufte's studies of visual-

ization (Envisioning Information and The Visual Display of Quantitative Information)

for usability studies has also bolstered the widespread assumption that ease of use

and the pictorial are, generally speaking, congruent. But Mitchell reminds us that

the pictorial turn is by no means not unconditional. The embrace of the visual and

pictorial is deeply ambivalent: images are critiqued as dangerous, debilitating, and

dehumanizing-especially by those defending the icons of literate culture (1-4).

This ambivalence is paralleled by the ambivalence found in ease: are pictures really

better than words? Do words and images follow the same patterns, where ease is

concerned-for example, are images which are easy to read hard to make, as is the

case with words? Derrida's recognition of the complex nature of the graphical as a

hybrid of visual and verbal underscores the problem with this oppositional formulation.

In The Language of New Media Lev Manovich notes that twentieth-century

pictorialism is shaped markedly by traditional realism, particularly the realism of

Hollywood cinema which Robert Ray calls the "invisible style" (Manovich passim;

Ray 32). Through transparency and effortlessness, here is another connection to ease:

while as carefully, methodically produced as any other, the "invisible style" appears

natural, and its incredible information density is easily assimilated by the viewer.

As Manovich points out, perverse versions of that model of information exchange









infect many areas of desktop computing, such as virtual reality, where Jaron Lanier's

resistance to linguistic forms continues "the fantasy of objectifying and augmenting

consciousness" and "the desire to see in technology a return to the primitive happy

age of pre-language, pre-misunderstanding" (59). I return to Manovich's extremely

important book in the final chapter of this work.

Finally, the idea of "image" is relevant for ease in a slightly different sense. In

some cases, especially the image one projects to others, an appearance (or an image) of

ease is critical, and one's actual condition of comfort, effortlessness, or other qualities

of ease is not important.

2.3 The Role of Ease Today

Table 2.1 summarizes the qualities of ease I introduced in the preceding historical

review, and notes opposites frequently contrasted to them. These qualities still shape

American culture, though shifts in relative importance and desirability have occurred

as new qualities supplemented historically powerful ones. Also, many of the functions

of ease I presented during the historical review remain powerful today. The origi-

nal meanings of ease, abundant wealth and comfort, live on today as the "American

Dream." Ease can also be a state of mind attainable during rest or leisure, a pedagog-

ical device, a commodity produced by a concert of individuals and technology, or a

design philosophy.

My historical definition of ease can be summarized as a list of five trends:

1. Over its long history, the number of discourses, disciplines, and areas in which
consideration of ease is relevant has increased consistently.

2. Though it once carried extremely negative connotations, the negativity associated
with ease has gradually decreased, though it remains influential today.









Table 2.1: Charting the Qualities of Ease

quality often opposed to
comfort, enjoyment discomfort, pain, annoyance
transparency, invisibility, passivity apparent, visible, active
effortlessness, leisure intensity, work
simplicity complexity, difficulty
pragmatics, specificity, localization theory, abstraction, generalization
femininity, attraction masculinity, distancing
expediency, facility deliberation, hard to learn
pictorialism literacy


3. Ease has always had a deeply paradoxical nature, acknowledged to differing
degrees over time. The simplest expression of this paradox is, "Achieving ease is
not easy."

4. The number of different qualities by which ease is made manifest, and which
define ease, has increased over time. New qualities have supplemented older
ones, and are often expressions derived from historical forms.

5. The number of functions which ease serves in society has increased over time,
and the relative importance of functions has shifted so that most recently
introduced functions are most important.

Since the middle of the nineteenth century, the growing use of new methods, products,

and technological devices have enabled the production of ease in its most fundamental

role (comfort and leisure). Post-war booms in consumption and consumerism extended

the realm of possibility for this production of ease to many other objects, systems, and

practices, and added the criterion that things which produced ease should themselves

be easy. Today, this extension continues, as the development of easy-to-use personal

computers has all but ended restrictions on the application of ease in technological

products or devices, legitimizing demands for ease in nearly any context.















CHAPTER 3
EVALUATING EASE


3.1 Is Ease Good or Bad?

In her 1929 follow-up to Household Engineering, Christine Frederick argued

that the logical conclusion of the progress of American industrial society was a shift

in the goals of civilization and culture. Though realization of her vision for America

was delayed by the Great Depression, the postwar explosion in consumerism-and the

growth of ease-followed her prescription to a large extent:

A civilization like ours-unlike that of the Roman or the Greek-centers
its genius upon improving the conditions of life. It secures its thrills from
inventing ways to live easier and more fully; means to bring foods from
more ends of the earth and add to the variety served on the family table;
methods to bring more news and entertainment to the family fireside; ways
to reduce the labor and hardships of living; ways to have more beauty and
graciousness in the domestic domicile; ways to satisfy more of the instincts
of more of the family group. (Frederick, Selling Mrs. Consumer 15)

For many people, this quest for easier, fuller living through variety, entertainment,

relaxation, and beauty is simply natural and instinctive, as Frederick has identified

it here, and the history of American civilization is simply one of betterment, a long

increase in economic, educational, and democratic successes. Ingenuity, technological

advances, and hard work drive betterment, and the valorization of ease is an unprob-

lematic part of that ongoing process. The roles of ease I describe above-as abstract

standard for economic achievement, temporary state of mind, pedagogy, and both

means and end of technological consumer products-are nearly totally naturalized.









But I have also noted that ease has never been accepted outright. Though in

many ways it seems unquestionably positive ("instinctive," as Frederick would have

it), nearly every quality and function of ease has a negative side ranging in strength

from ambivalence which provokes caution to a very strong reservation which prevents

valorization of ease completely (or at least limits its contexts). To summarize: comfort

and effortlessness still carry the stigma of sloth. Those who demand transparency

or simplicity are often labeled as stupid or lazy. Controversy over pragmatism and

expediency frequently appears in education, as well as in ethical and environmental

rejections of consumerism. And as Mitchell argues, the concept of the pictorial turn is

a recognition that the problem of the spectacular image is serious enough to mandate

immediate philosophical and popular attention.

3.1.1 Technology and Ease

The consistent presence of these ambiguities and paradoxes is the first reason

why it is difficult, if not impossible, to make a final judgment about ease-to determine

if it is good or evil. Qualities of ease often appear intertwined, and overlapping

meanings exist side by side. Positive and negative aspects are produced in almost

any situation in which ease is involved. An easy-to-use thing may indeed deliver

tremendous benefit. But what problems does it produce? Are benefits so much the

focus that problems are ignored? Should one consider the effect on other individuals or

systems while attempting to make a case for or against a particular appearance of ease?

In technological thought, the question of good or evil is often answered with deferral:

technology is just a tool, and its good or evil character is determined by the human

agents who use it. Langdon Winner has pointed out that despite its attractiveness and

frequency of invocation, this resolution is problematic. The faults Winner identifies

for the question "Is technology good or bad?" are applicable to the question "Is ease









good or bad?" because the connections of ease and technology run very deep, as I

demonstrate above.

Evaluation of the good or evil of ease presumes that one can understand fully

the impacts of any given situation where it is present. For technology, Winner reminds

us there are three reasons this is impossible: first, technologies have unintended

consequences which, though they may not be pernicious, are often not visible to the

agents involved, and perceived (much less understood) only with removal of time and

distance (21). Second, though Western common sense about technology assumes that

human beings are the masters of both the natural world and the technology they create,

this is simply not the case. Changes in the natural world, failures of technological

systems, and other factors prevent mastery of technology (26-7). Thirdly, though

Western common sense about technology encourages a conceptualization of technology

as a neutral tool, it is all but impossible for any technology to achieve this neutrality

(30). Doing so would entail the complete absence of the agency of the designer

(problematic for a variety of reasons) as well as achieving freedom from ideological

structures of the culture from which the technology originated. Even the simplest tool

reflects the design choices and ideological assumptions of its creators. One can argue

that foregrounding assumptions made during the design process (through user manuals,

directions, or other explanations) makes it possible for the user to understand a given

design-but that understanding, even if complete, is certainly not neutrality. And that

leaves open the question of unexamined ideological assumptions or predilections not

acknowledged for other reasons. To be sure, the extent to which choices of human

designers are manifest in technology is influenced by a huge number of agents which

affect the production of the device or system and its use. No matter how conscientious

the designer, users can ignore directions and use technologies as they see fit, or be







50

influenced by cultural pressures unbeknownst to the designers-pressures which could

shift an object, system, or practice from intended use.

Following the usual path of deferral of "good or bad" to "it depends upon the

way it is used" can distract attention from the ambiguity of ease previously discussed.

My answer to the question, then, is "Both," and the course of action implied by

Winner's critique is investigating both the dangers and benefits of ease-not just

legislating against "bad" use and shifting blame for it away from ease itself. It

would be better to preserve of the ambivalent quality of ease through review of some

arguments for and against ease. While it may be quite difficult to predict how ease

affects a given situation, the plurality of arenas in which ease appears legitimate makes

some effect almost certain. In fact, that ubiquity of effect is the next thing about ease

which I will consider.

3.1.2 The Ideology of Ease

Ease has evolved to the point where it has become a powerful ideology with

tremendous effect on American culture. This function of ease may have the power

to trump those discussed in Chapter 2 above. Because there are numerous ways in

which ease is made manifest, and a wide scope of potential application, evaluating

an object, system, or practice often, if not always, includes consideration of its ease.

The ideology of ease is its power to be mobilized as an evaluative tool, especially for

technologies, and the way it functions as a system of representation.

3.1.2.1 Stuart Hall's concept of ideology

Because many theories of ideology exist, I would like to clarify the specific

way I understand the concept. Stuart Hall outlines a theory of ideology which es-

tablishes a balance between classical Marxian concepts, rightly criticized for rigidity,

and postmodernist theory, which in some forms makes theorizing determination or









ideology impossible. Through a selective reading of Louis Althusser, Hall suggests a

complex model of determination and a pluralistic concept of ideology, rejecting simple,

mechanical models in which there is a one-to-one correspondence between determining

base and determined superstructure, and class position the sole criterion for establishing

control of the base.

Hall begins from a complex notion of determination which replaces fixed

correspondence between determining base and determined superstructure with a

connection more like Raymond Williams's setting of limits and exerting of pressures

(Williams 87). This formulation acknowledges complex structures of authority, like

that of the modern state, in which power is articulated from countless positions, and

in diverse ways. It also allows the operation of ideological forces outside the strict

control of the state, and recognizes that ideology may fail to affect certain institutions.

Thankfully, Hall is clear that refusing rigid notions of "determination" does not mean

adopting a wantonly post-structuralist attitude, in which difference is "pushed beyond

the point where it is capable of theorizing the necessary unevenness of a complex unity,

or even the 'unity in difference' of a complex structure" (92). A post-structuralist

critique of determination should mean there is "no necessary correspondence" between

base and superstructure, not "necessarily no correspondence" between the two. Instead

of post-structuralist tendency to become[] hostage to the privileging of difference as

such," Hall calls for "thinking unity and difference; difference in complex unity" (93).

Hall's concept of determination allows for development of theories of ideology

which more closely match lived experience: economic benefit for the upper classes

is derived from the mobilization of a number of different ideologies which need not

appear simultaneously or consistently (97). Recognition of multiple, interconnected

ideologies, instead of a "dominant ideology," and articulation of complexity and









difference, instead of only difference, better enables representation of "the complex

interplay of different ideological discourses and formations in any modern developed

society" (104). Thus ideologies are articulated recursively, with both structures of

determination and practices-discursive or otherwise-connected interdependently. In

the middle ground Hall establishes, ideologies have both discursive character (as ideas,

thoughts, and other discourses) and material existence (when inscribed in practices).

Hall explicitly reestablishes the importance of language and discourse for ideology:

"language and behavior are the media, so to speak, of the material registration of

ideology, the modality of its functioning" (99). According to the concept of ideology

which he advocates, and which I use here, ideologies are "systems of representation,"

the "systems of meaning through which we represent the world to ourselves and one

another" (103).

3.1.2.2 The ideology of ease today

Ease is one of the many systems of representation which enforce the common

sense of American culture and society, setting limits for the roles of technology and

other artifacts, exerting pressures on decisions made in everyday life, and reinforcing

the assumptions which undergird other ideological formations. For example, as shown

by anecdotes from "Overwhelmed by Tech" on page 16 above, objects, systems,

and practices which cannot be made easy can be discredited by manufacturers and

consumers alike-their use is limited, or completely ignored. In response to the

demands of everyday life, consumers are pressured to see ease as the solution for rising

complexity and increasing technological sophistication. Common assumptions about

technology are shaped by the desire for ease, and the system of representation places

the qualities of ease on the strong side of influential binary opposition.









The close connection of ease with writing and other technologies, established

over time, provides several reasons why the ideology of ease is so pervasive. First,

if demanding ease is acceptable for the process of learning how to write, which is

alternately portrayed as difficult and easy, it should be acceptable for nearly anything.

Without a doubt, the connections between ease and writing, strengthened substantially

by college composition curricula developed in American colleges during the nineteenth

century, facilitated the expansion in the role of ease to certain technological objects,

and eventually, with introduction of the personal computer, to all technological things.

In the next chapter of this work, I will examine the relationship of ease and writing in

much greater detail.

The role transparency has played in ease also boosts the ideological power of

ease by encouraging ideological operations themselves. I do not mean that unseen

agents are duping the citizenry through the invisibility of ease; in most cases, the

invisibility is quite apparent, and willingly accepted. Easy things are valued because

they are easy, not because of nefarious advertisers fooling us into believing they are

not. A "false consciousness" model of ideology is not the point. Rather, it is the

congruence between the operations of transparency, and the function of ideology, which

both encourage acceptance of dominant, accepted, common-sense values (or, to put it

in marketspeak, off-the-shelf solutions).

Most importantly, when ease functions as an ideology, its act of representation

privileges its benefits and deemphasizes its dangers. Obviously, the operation of

ease is beneficial in some circumstances. But its ideological function often enables

sidestepping or dismissing the critiques of ease which have been introduced over the

years, as noted above, and minimizes the pejorative meanings of ease which seemingly

contradict its valorization. Most potential problems with ease are overlooked in









context in favor of the "it's in the way that you use it" ethos which dominates Western

thinking about technology. Critical evaluation of ease, which I begin now, is not on the

ideological radar screen.

3.2 Critical Evaluation of Ease

My critical evaluation of ease begins with examination of the benefits produced

by easy things. I then offer a more extensive discussion of some of the problems

created by the growing legitimacy of ease, its careless valorization, and the increasing

willingness to ignore the adverse effects which can occur when ease is demanded in

situations of high difficulty or complexity. Also, I discuss several problems introduced

during the definition of ease presented in Chapter 2 in greater detail.

The function of ease as an ideology does not mean the demise of other functions

of ease previously discussed, such as reduction of the work needed to obtain basic

human needs, or its considerable role in teaching the use of technologically advanced

systems. Nor does it mean ease should be condemned in all of its forms. There

are varying levels of dangers and benefits in all the functions of ease, and critical

evaluation of ease is intended to acknowledge those benefits, keep them in perspective,

and to better understand other effects which may accompany them.

3.2.1 Benefits of Ease

Because I noted many of the benefits of ease while defining the qualities of ease

in Chapter 2, I will not afford this section exhaustive detail. The reader can provide

more particulars if desired.1


1Donald Norman's work also provides thorough, accessible discussion of the benefits of ease,
though his terminology differs somewhat from that used here.









3.2.1.1 Quality of life

The original meaning of ease included connotations of pleasure, beauty, and

enjoyment; the pursuit of easy objects, systems, and practices can and should provide

opportunities for the same in everyday life, in both leisure and work situations. Small

conveniences, such as getting take-out to avoid cooking and washing dishes after a

hard day at work or while traveling, and much more complex systems in which ease

streamlines a difficult process, present genuine physical and psychological benefit.

3.2.1.2 Safety and security

Easy-to-read traffic signals and signage save lives, as do easy-to-operate emer-

gency medical devices and much simpler things, like irons which shut off automati-

cally. The development of conventions, protective systems built into infrastructure and

technological devices, and the standardization and simplicity they offer has increased

the safety of daily activities. For example, controlled-access highways separate traf-

fic with medians or concrete barriers, reducing the chance of a catastrophic head-on

collision with an oncoming vehicle. On these roads, rest stops are placed at intervals

calculated to encourage breaks which reduce fatigue and the chance of accident (Berger

68). Standardized colors, frequency, and styles of signage makes getting lost much less

likely, and numbered interchanges and route numbers make it easy to give and follow

directions.

Following easy models of system design can also increase safety by reducing

the possibility for human error-and by making safe procedures less troublesome to

follow. Ease can embed user preferences or provide instructions to save time safely.

For example, fill-out forms which include directions are more likely to be completed

correctly. Doors which automatically close and lock upon exit reduce the likelihood of









crimes of opportunity; doors which open outward are easier to open for those exiting a

building in a hurry-which, as Norman observes, can save lives during a fire (86).

3.2.1.3 Reduced cost

Development of easy-to-use devices allows users to speed up daily activities by

focusing less energy on mundane tasks and reducing learning by repeated trial-and-

error. Easy devices which store and retrieve user preferences and customizations, and

provide automation of mundane repetitive tasks, save time and frustration, permitting

humans to focus on more creative, less monotonous work.

Many usability advocates have offered quantitative arguments which show

that the impact of saving a typical worker a few seconds here and there can add up

very quickly. Norman argues convincingly that paying attention to the design of

light switches, doors, and other simple devices can reduce long-term operating cost,

despite the increased costs of research and development needed for the production

of easy devices. Carol Barnum's textbook Usability Testing and Research includes

an assignment which duplicates these analyses, figuring the cost per second of any

worker's time and ascertaining the dollar amount which could be recovered from timed

testing (22-3, 28). The time and motion studies Frederick used and advocated for

homemakers follow similar patterns.

3.2.1.4 Practicality

Ease enables action by automating or eliminating steps or complication and

relying on systemic defaults or controls to make assumptions about expected behaviors

and outcomes-or by getting something done despite differences in quality or cost. For

example, while developing a customized database-driven web site with accompanying

professional quality printed course materials might be the best way to prepare a

syllabus, many instructors do not have the necessary programming or pre-press skills.









However, using easier alternatives such as a course management system (CMS) like

BlackBoard or WebCT, and photocopies of laser-printed materials prepared with a word

processor, will often provide the educational resources needed. The development of

easy-to-use technologies has enabled the expansion of technological power far beyond

the engineers and technicians who reserved it for themselves little more than a century

ago.

3.2.1.5 Legitimation of the pictorial

Mitchell contends that with the pictorial turn, study of the visual arts is on the

rise, and more people recognize the negative effects of conflating "culture" and "literate

culture." Of course, Mitchell illustrates the ambivalence of this movement, especially

continued resistance from defenders of literate epistemology-but certainly, in the ten

years since he penned Picture Theory, desktop computing has embraced the pictorial

turn vigorously. It may be a tangential benefit, but the preference for pictorial and

visual which is a part of ease does increase the legitimacy of pictorial forms. Scholarly

programs in film studies, new media, and related disciplines remain secondary to

traditional literary pursuits. But in both academia and wider culture, critical attention

to pictorial forms is no longer universally dismissed as misguided fascination with

"entertainment."

3.2.1.6 Pedagogy

Pedagogues like Holmes mobilized contemporary philosophy to create systems

for learning which endure to this day. Ease has been mobilized as a pedagogy for at

least three hundred years, and in some areas successfully challenged its opposition

(mental discipline, "back to basics" learning, or curricula based on the assumption

that "nothing worth learning is easy"). Making it easy is the model for learning in









educational institutions as well as workplaces and extra-institutional educational

settings ("Quilting made easy" or "Accounting for dummies").

3.2.2 Problems Caused by Ease

Even the most careful and well-intentioned practices which rely on ease for

cultural valorization have unintended effects and consequences. More importantly,

the ideological nature of ease encourages uncritical application: ignorance, willing

suppression, or denial of negative effects. Notably, because ease is often made manifest

only as simplicity or transparency, this uncritical application can rapidly become self-

reinforcing: critical evaluation which makes the ideological articulation of ease visible

is discouraged by ease's valorization of transparency.

3.2.2.1 Self-reinforcement

Philosophy, literature, and popular writing about technology have noted its self-

perpetuating nature. Plato's objections to writing are well-known, based in part upon

the fact that once schoolchildren learned to write, their memories would atrophy and

their reasoning skills would suffer from a lack of use. In Moby-Dick, Ishmael observes

that precautions taken to protect the harpooneer dangled over the side of the vessel

necessitated further measures to protect his protectors-a cycle of doublings which,

in an attempt to ease dangers, only created more of them (Melville 349). Finally,

texts such as Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, mentioned on page

39 above, argue that the anti-technological mindset common in modem culture is,

for most people, an inarguable matter of faith, and criticize the lack of technological

know-how caused by this technophobia. Similarly, technological and non-technological

applications of ease are self-reinforcing in several different ways.

The definition of ease as transparency or invisibility provides the first and most

powerful self-reinforcement mechanism. Transparent objects, systems, and practices









"just work." To use Norman's language, "affordances" provide prompts or assistance

which reduce the need for fully understanding or memorizing the way something

works. But reducing the level of understanding or knowledge can cause problems

in the absence of transparent systems, or given a system malfunction. For example,

the replacement of gauges with warning lights enables a person operating a device

so equipped (such as an automobile) to use the device without understanding how

to read the gauge, or knowing very much about the system to which it is connected.

If the warning light comes on, the driver takes action (stopping to call a tow truck).

However, lacking the ability to read the gauges, the driver cannot safely operate a

car which uses them. Thus warning lights, intended as a mechanism for facilitating

transparency, become a requirement of use. A preson who drives a car with warning

lights, not gauges, may not develop knowledge of oil pressure, temperature, and other

indicators of engine performance. For that person, it may also be easier to question the

severity of a problem indicated by the sudden appearance of a light, as opposed to the

continuous feedback from a gauge.

Malfunction of easy things can force to self-reinforcement of ease. As Robert R.

Johnson notes for computer interfaces:

[User-friendly interfaces] can mask the complexities of the system to such
an extent that if there is a system breakdown, such as when you receive
a cryptic error message that explains the problem in virtually encrypted
language [. .] you are left helpless, unable to solve the problem, and
continue with your work because you are dependent on external expertise
not available to you in any useful form. (28)

This was the case with the preacher mentioned in "Overwhelmed by Tech": unable

to understand error messages and system operation, and unwilling to cope with

troublesome external expertise, she suffered data loss (see page 15 above). Computers

and Writing scholars were reminded of some of the costs of transparency in winter









2001, when the online CMS provider BlackBoard began charging for what had

previously been a free service. Courseware like BlackBoard is popular because it

enables an instructor with little knowledge of the technical complexity of hypertext to

produce a sophisticated course web site using only a web browser, content prepared in

a word processor, and BlackBoard's online system.

To the instructor adding content to BlackBoard, the complex and technical

nature of the hypertext file structure underlying the site is transparent. But when

BlackBoard changed its pricing structure, and many instructors were forced to stop

using the no-longer-free servers, the cost of this transparency became apparent in

more ways than one. Instructors who wanted to download their information from

BlackBoard had to move each file separately, one at at a time, and were suddenly

forced to deal with hundreds of files they did not even know existed. (Without

technical understanding of hypertext, BlackBoard users saw only "a web site" not "a

collection of files hierarchically organized.") Additionally, there was no automated

method for moving syllabi out of BlackBoard into other CMS systems (Harris).

Suddenly, BlackBoard users' lack of hypertext file management skills was no longer

transparent. Unfortunately, as budget cuts loom, similar difficulties continue to plague

schools which have committed resources to easy-to-use CMS products. Given the

tremendous difficulty of getting information out of the proprietary systems, many

educators are paying increased costs rather than abandoning hours of time invested in

designing courses for specific platforms.

Johnson's User-Centered Technology documents the second mode of self-

reinforcement of ease: exacerbation of the (already mentioned) division between

novices and experts. Western concepts of technology and disciplinary structure provide

a strong basis for novice/expert divisions (9-11). In its manifestation as pragmatism,









ease legitimizes the simplification process by which experts render difficulty easy for

the benefit of novices. Easy things maintain this separation by encouraging users to

cultivate their role as novices for whom an inability to understand difficult or complex

systems is perfectly normal, even desirable. Sometimes novices view experts as saviors

whose mastery of complicated systems earns respect and admiration; in other instances,

experts are seen as "elites" obsessed with detail or particulars simply irrelevant for

the general public. Notably, in both cases, expert knowledge and the possibility of

technical mastery are out of the question. In contrast to experts, normal folks just want

the darned thing to work, and assume that the role of expertise is the transformation of

difficult, even frightening technology to an easy, user-friendly manifestation.

Structures of expertise also contribute to the differentiation of novice and expert.

Johnson argues that most technologies are "system-centered," with all decisions

regarding the technology revolving around the technology itself:

In representations of human life and our attendant technologies through the
system-centered view, however, users are inevitably ancillary, or, in some
cases, they are nonexistent because the system is powerfully hegemonic:
the system is the source and ultimately the determiner of all. System-
centered technology [. .] locates the technological system or artifact in a
primary position. There is no need for the user to be involved with system
or artifact development, this perspective suggests, because the system is too
complex and therefore should be designed and developed by experts who
know what is most appropriate in the system design. (26)

The system-centered model venerates technical systems and the experts who designed

them. Experts responsible for the design and maintenance of a given technological

system often take a quite proprietary, paternalistic stance toward it, refusing to share

information, reserving decision-making power, and relegating anyone without expertise

to subsidiary advisory roles. (Note the gender implications: powerful, masculine

experts do not need ease; but weak, feminized novices do.) In many cases, the expert









view of novice users is quite hostile, and novice demands for transparent, easy-to-use

things are considered evidence of mental weakness or laziness (the negative sense of

idleness or sloth mentioned earlier). However, some experts are less derogatory; the

Apple Human Interface Guidelines I quote on page 40 above provide a gentler example

of novice/expert division. Either way, the power signified by expertise, especially in the

West, provides a huge impetus for experts to design easy-to-use devices and encourage

novices to avoid anything else-strengthening the valorization of ease.

In Throwaways, Evan Watkins argues that true "gender mobility," where a

person of one gender takes the usual role of another gender, is restricted to men. A

man providing comfort or showing emotion (roles usually reserved for women) is

"sensitive"-but a woman who crosses to the male side by showing self-confidence or

leadership is a "bitch" (155). Adapting that concept to my analysis of novice/expert

separation, one might say that "ease mobility" is the province of experts, who can

enjoy easy-to-use artifacts and seek ease without risking their power and prestige. But

novices who cross the expertise line and made suggestions about the system are seen

as uppity, presumptuous, or ungrateful. Additionally, for novices, unlike experts, the

use of easy things and the desire for ease demonstrates their deference to expertise, and

weakness of character.

The common-sense division of novice and expert is reinforced by novices as

well as experts, with some often shrugging off their "idiocy" as inevitable in the light

of technological complexity. For novice users, ease consistently encourages wink-

and-shrug acceptance of this separation, a phenomenon which Norman calls "learned

helplessness," and Johnson labels "technological idiocy."

Users reside on the weak side of the idiot/genius binary. We have embed-
ded the notion of technological idiocy so strongly in our culture that we









actually begin to think of ourselves as idiots when we encounter technolog-
ical breakdowns. Experts are the ones who "know," so we let them have
the power, which of course means we accept whatever is given to us. (45)

Since ease has become more powerful and acceptable, people sometimes blame

themselves for poor design, mechanical failure, or other problems which are absolutely

beyond control (and perhaps the fault of so-called experts). Sadly, this pathology

sometimes becomes an ontology: "I'm not good with computers" or "I'm one of

those people who just can't understand this." Most depressingly, sometimes novices

reverse the syllogism of ease explicated above, reasoning: "If this is easy and I can't

figure it out, I must really be an idiot, and I'm good for nothing." The ideology of

ease plays a huge part in the reinforcement of this corrosive view of complication and

difficulty by consistently and unproblematically mobilizing novice/expert separation

and downplaying the need to truck with, much less engage critically, anything which is

not easy. The selectivity of ease mobility and the ideological status of ease naturalize

novices' seeming inability or refusal to learn, and the cycle continues.

3.2.2.2 Supporting uncritical assumptions about technology

The conceptualization of technology encouraged by the ideology of ease relies

on, and therefore endorses and reinforces, common assumptions about technology

which are questionable, if not completely inaccurate. A review of the "Overwhelmed

by Tech" article which I quoted earlier shows five assumptions about technology which

connect it to, or rely on, assumptions about the function of ease:

1. Technology is not difficult in and of itself. Through manifest intent and hard
work, talented designers and engineers can overcome complexity and produce
easy to use technologies (like Jeff Hawkins's PDAs and the original Macintosh).
Only the most complicated and difficult devices and systems (not a concern for
consumers, so merely alluded to in the article) will not be easy.

2. Simple, transparent technology is good technology. Complex, opaque technology
is bad. When technology is visible, either a mechanical failure as occurred, or









the technology is deficient. (These sentiments are expressed constantly, in quotes
from consumers and experts like Norman, Hawkins, and Alan Cooper.)

3. Because technology is artificial, it is hard to use, uncomfortable, and unfamiliar.
Making technology follow natural patterns makes it easier to use, pleasant, and
intuitive. (Not a major emphasis in the article, but underlying the frequent use of
"intuitive" and similar verbiage.)

4. Technological development and economic growth are correlated on a personal
level: one must own and be able to operate technically sophisticated objects in
order to be economically successful. Such correlation applies nationally, too: in
the modern world, the health of any nation's economy is dependent on being able
to produce technologically sophisticated goods, services, and knowledge. (The
authors repeatedly mention the economic downturn, and quote consumers who
complain about the need to keep up with the latest technology.)

5. Finally, technological progress is constant, consistent, inevitable, and natural. As
technology's power and sophistication increases, its ability to produce ease and to
be easy increases as well. (See page 17 for several quotes which confirm this.)

Scholarly work is also marked by these assumptions. Winner has shown that

critiques of technology from philosophers as influential as Martin Heidegger often

reproduce and reinforce "inevitability" hypotheses despite attempts to overcome them

(14). In Orality and Literacy, Walter Ong argues that histories of communication

technology often represent familiar, well-established (e.g. easy) technologies as natural

despite their inarguable artificiality (81-2). While much of his Psychology of Everyday

Things is carefully developed, Norman's work often falls back on many, if not all, of

these assumptions, and he has a tendency to assume conventions established over years

are "natural" (4, 17, 23).2 Combining assumptions about ease and technology into a

single assertion could be accomplished in several different ways. One approach centers

on artificiality: "Technology may seem artificial today, but eventually it'll be natural."


2Several pages on Norman's web site express regret for the terminology in his books. He may
have meant "conventional" instead of "natural," and the forthcoming work Emotional Design (i 2i4)
will confirm the presence or absence of problematic assumptions about the "natural" properties of
human-made things.









Another rendering (well-represented in "Overwhelmed by Tech") would match the

Western faith in technology with faith in ease: "Sooner or later, everything will be

easy." However, if critics of technological determinism such as Winner are correct,

this faith in ease is misplaced and simply unrealistic. The contradictory nature of

common-sense assumptions about technology, and the paradoxical nature of ease, also

call uncomplicated faith in ease into question. Compare assertions one and three: how

can the solution for a lack of natural properties be an increase in artificiality?

3.2.2.3 Reinforcement of stereotypical gender roles

The connection of ease and femininity echoes stereotypical gender roles in a

manner which some might consider innocent, not intended to be derogatory, or simply

a representation of "the way things are." It is impossible to ignore the sheer quantity

of advertising and popular writing which capitalizes on the connection of ease and the

female gender. Casually dismissing these texts legitimizes other contexts in which the

easy-female correlation is made unproblematically, especially its crudest expression:

the assumption that women cannot handle difficulty, or that they become "hysterical"

under emotional stress.

More than anything else, the connection of gender and ease is this perception that

women lack the intellect and fortitude needed to handle difficult tasks. Traditionally,

"hard labor" is the province of men (never mind the labor of childbirth), and women

are better off nurturing the children. It is more "natural" for the physically and

emotionally stronger man to take on more physically and emotionally challenging

tasks. Supposedly, women's genetically imposed weakness, when compared with men,

places them at a number of disadvantages, and can be blamed for their continued

exclusion from certain competitive sports, battlefield roles, and salary equity, among

other things. The gendered nature of ease is built on this and the correlation between









the role of women as familiar, comforting, maternal figures and the familiarity and

comfort present in the definition of ease.

Apple Computer's iMac marketing provides several excellent examples of

"innocent" connection of ease and the female gender. (Indeed, the history of the

Macintosh is marked by frequent correspondence of the feminine gender and the

computer's easy-to-use qualities, and this is one of many possible examples from

Apple.) Shortly after its introduction in 1998, the iMac was marketed in a series

of television commercials which focused almost exclusively on two things: the

external appearance of the iMac and its easy-to-use qualities. None of the technical

specifications of the machine were discussed-not even its oft-criticized lack of a disk

drive. Thus the commercials are already "feminine": physical appearance and aspect

are the focus, not the hard numbers of performance data.

It is hard not to see the iMac commercials as the performance of a group of

scantily clad dancers or synchronized swimmers flirting with the viewer. With the

Rolling Stones' "She's a Rainbow" providing accompaniment, five of the translucent

computers-one in each color available-move around and through the screen, offering

glimpses of circuit boards when the camera moves in for a close-up. The Stones

make it clear the iMac is a girl, as they sing, "She comes in colors everywhere / She

combs her hair / She's like a rainbow." There is little doubt Apple intended the viewer

to consider the iMac a female that was easy to use and came in whatever color one

wanted. The advertisement evidently appeals to traditional models of femininity in

which women are attractive, easy, silent servants of their male masters.

The idea of the "easy woman" or "lady of easy virtue" provides another com-

plicated connection of gender and ease. While on the one hand, the easy woman is

described for being too willing, too sexual, on the other hand, overabundant sexuality














SEAT TISE E-MAIL
SUPERMODEL EASY.









*LG


Figure 3.1: LG Electronics Advertisement, 2001.

and promiscuity make her very desirable. Like ease in general, this sense of ease is

deeply ambivalent, and the easy woman is simultaneously attractive and repulsive. As

above, this particular meaning of ease cannot be dismissed as a historical oddity (recall

the OED definition mentioned on page 35 above). Instead, it is often assumed that the

meanings are interchangeable. This was the case with a 2002 LG Electronics advertise-

ment which bragged their cellular phone offered "Easy to use email. Supermodel easy."

In this advertisement, several connotations of ease which portray women negatively

are juxtaposed. First, the phone is easy enough to be used by a supermodel (who, as

the highest representation of femininity, must have the lowest technological skill and

intelligence). Second, the phone is as easy to master as a supermodel (who, since she

bares much of her body in advertising, is likely promiscuous).

3.2.2.4 Repression of critique

For most educators, the repression of critique, facilitation of acceptance of the

status quo, and discouragement of critical thinking are the worst problems caused









by ease. Simplicity and pragmatism, which John Holmes connected with ease in

an educational context, are frequently and rightly criticized for encouragement of a

non-critical attitude, which in Technology and Literacy in the Twenty-First Century,

Cynthia Selfe calls "not paying attention." Though Selfe speaks of composition

studies scholars, not students or the general public, the problem applies to all of

these groups-certainly, teachers' attitudes are reflected in, as well as influenced by,

curricula. The problem of not paying attention applies to extra-educational situations

as well: indeed, willing invisibility is critical for the function of transparency in the

service of ease, no matter what the context.

Selfe's argument begins by discussing technology and the dominant methodology

for dealing with it: hoping that it will be invisible. In composition studies (and perhaps

all of English), consideration of technological issues limits real composition work:

studying "the theory and practice of language" (21-2). The desire for invisible (trans-

parent, to use the terms for ease established above) technology in classroom situations

is a reflection of the desire for all technology to "just work," to be unproblematic,

unchallenging, and simple. However, this uncritical acceptance of the technological

situation runs counter to encouraging development of critical thinking skills, one of the

stated goals of most composition courses (as well as, for many, rhetoric itself). Selfe

acknowledges that failure to ask questions about technology will entrench the powerful

expert vs. disenfranchised novice opposition described by Johnson above (143).

Building on her technological analysis, Selfe argues that the desire for com-

fortable, familiar, non-challenging technology is often extended to a lack of paying

attention to other situations, in the hopes that a similarly comfortable environment can

be discovered there (Selfe 23, 38-9). Educators prefer to ignore the effects of technol-

ogy which occur outside the immediate educational situation-in fact, they prefer to









dismiss everything outside the immediate environment, citing their inability to affect

change, irrelevance of "distant" events, or the need to "just get my work done" (a siz-

able dose of pragmatism is evident here). However, as Selfe's analysis of the Clinton

administration's desire to increase "technological literacy" shows, a failure to think

critically about these seemingly unrelated events has real effects for students and teach-

ers. In rather uncomfortable detail, Selfe shows how Clinton administration mandates

resulted in diversion of funds from salaries, construction projects, and other classroom

expenditures to new technological infrastructure, networking and technology-often

without training or support (43-63). At least in part, educators' failure to ask hard

questions about the effects of these new policies led to the entrenchment of assump-

tions about technology which facilitated them-and which are very similar to the

assumptions about technology and ease which mark "Overwhelmed by Tech"-as well

as the development of policies which affected "non-technological" areas of educational

systems.

Selfe's solution for this problem is encouragement of the development of "critical

technological literacy" through a cooperative effort undertaken by educators, parents,

and government agencies. She sees this as, following Donna Haraway, a situated

knowledge, a more skeptical, questioning, discursive approach to understanding what

technological literacy might be (147). Language very similar to that which is often

used to describe critical thinking marks Selfe's discussion of this critical technological

literacy, which she describes in detail in the third part of Technology and Literacy.

Unfortunately, the ideological nature of ease means that common sense runs in

exactly the opposite direction. Selfe calls for an end to valorizing invisibility (134)-

as ease makes transparency more and more acceptable. She argues that increasing

students' understanding of technology is not merely a matter of installing network









cables and servers (71-5)-but ease backs the simple, instrumental solution. She

points out that truly understanding a given situation or practice means connecting local,

discursive, and instrumental knowledge with general understanding of its larger context

(146-9)-but ease suggests a pragmatic approach, learning only the immediate context

needed to accomplish the short-term goal. If the qualities of ease are kept in mind

while reading Selfe's work, it is clear reform-minded educators face an uphill battle.

Stephen Katz has critiqued the push for expediency in technical communication

on ethical grounds. The tendency to collapse all deliberative rhetoric into a push for

expediency-speed, efficiency, and efficacy, or "technical criteria as a means to an

end" (257)-shifts rhetoric away from Aristotle's focus on means to a more utilitarian

focus on ends. Katz reminds us that before and during World War Two, the Nazi

government cultivated expediency in nearly all its communications, and gently points

out the horrid consequences of that obsession with ends and disregard for means. For

Katz, the Nazi's ethic of expediency helped prevent internal questioning of the "Final

Solution," the repression of dissent, and the bombing of civilians. Expedient language

made it easier to deal with the nasty business of day to day life as a Nazi official. But

as he points out, problems of expedient rhetoric did not disappear on V-E Day. The

expedient technologization of rhetoric could transform its "democratic decision-making

process" into "techniques of persuasion and audience adaptation calculated to serve"

ends with no attention to means (Katz 271). A highly technologized rhetoric with

an ethic of expediency encourages bypassing deliberation, objections, or less popular

opinions in favor of easy ends achieved through the use of the latest technologies. In

the classroom, this can result in decontextualized learning (the presentation of pure

technique), and more seriously, the debasement of ethics through reduction of concern

for the reader to minimizing the time necessary for transmission of the information









being presented (or another item to check off the list of details to address when

proofreading). Katz's connection of ease, expediency, and technique has great potential

and needs further study.

The repression of critique by ease also occurs because critique often involves

the development or explanation of sophisticated, pluralistic points of view which fail

several tests of ease. First, complex positions take time and effort to develop-it is

easier to reiterate simple, well-established positions backed by common sense, since

they do not require an inventive process for either establishment or protection against

rhetorical attack. Sharon Crowley has noted that the rhetoric most common in first-year

composition encourages repetition of common sense by moving invention outside of

the province of rhetoric-and out of the composition classroom. Secondly, common

sense has the advantage of transparency: it is obvious why one would argue that

way. Lengthy explanations and investigation of assumptions are not required for the

inarguable facts of common sense. As Roland Barthes demonstrates in Mythologies,

common sense is natural, depoliticized, comfortable speech: ideas which are "natural

and without saying" (143). Finally, complex, abstract ideas based on theory are

described as "disconnected," the work of "elites" who do not understand the real

world. Eschewing abstraction in all forms enables highly personalized, contextualized

writing-in both content and style-which, as James Berlin notes, mobilizes individual

experience consistent with American predilections for positivism. To summarize: ease

has the power to neuter critique, reducing it to a trope employed for the sake of form,

because being Fair and Balanced is a Good Thing. Ease can transform critical thinking

to a ritual speed bump over which one slows as little as possible on the straight and

narrow way forward.









3.2.2.5 Increased cost

If one of the benefits of ease is overall reduction in cost despite increased

design cost, how can increased cost be one of its problems? The answer lies in the

paradoxical nature of ease, and in questioning the accuracy of ease as a system of

representation.

Valorization of certain forms of ease are built on assumptions about the relative

value of work. For example, replacing home preparation of meals with frozen or fast

food is justified because, as numerous advertisements repeatedly stress, time spent

on meal preparation is better spent working or relaxing with the kids. McDonald's

or Healthy Choice is much easier-and the implication is more responsible-than

preparing a home-cooked meal. There is no doubt these easy alternatives require

less time for purchase, preparation, and cleaning, and higher monetary cost (even

the cheapest fast or frozen meal is substantially more expensive than its home-made

analogue). But does meal preparation (or any other activity) necessarily prevent one

from "relaxing with the kids?" Rapid but perhaps inaccurate movement between

qualities of ease facilitates several assumptions: that meal preparation and enjoying

time with children are necessarily mutually exclusive; that there can be no pleasure in

"menial" tasks like laundry, landscaping, or maintenance of one's home; that filing a

tax return is too complicated for most people, and requires the aid of software or an

accountant. For all these things, a more careful analysis would show the incongruity

of exchange between the senses of ease equated here. Nevertheless, increased cost

is justified by the assumed congruence of qualities of ease: cooking can be a hassle,

therefore it cannot be enjoyable or expedient. Landscaping involves hard work:

therefore it is neither pragmatic nor enjoyable. Tax law is complicated; therefore it lies

beyond the grasp of laypeople.









Once again, Watkins's Throwaways usefully points out several ideological

assumptions which empower the valorization of ease. Watkins argues that "time is

money" only for those who have enough money to consider converting their money

into someone else's time. For the working class, time is not money, but all they have.

That's why spending an hour or two on meal preparation, automobile repair, laundry,

yardwork, or tax preparation (in addition to and despite of the amount of those things

one might be doing for others) make sense. It must make sense-it is the only option

for survival (93). To continue adapting Watkins's work, this is another case of "ease

mobility": paying for an oil change, doing something the easy way, makes sense if you

can afford it-if you enjoy a life of ease. But if you cannot afford the expenditure,

there is no extra money-as-time to exchange for ease.

The ideological drive for ease helps justify the increased cost almost always

present in "easy" things. In many ways tolerance of increased cost is also made

possible by the next negative effect of ease: making cost transparent by shifting it to

another agent, time, or place.

3.2.2.6 Rendering cause or effect invisible

Robert Johnson offers a powerful example of the displacement of causes and

effects typical to the operation of ease:

The most mundane [user-friendly technology] may be the simple light
switch. You flip a switch and a light comes on. Simple enough. You
have, however, through a simple, user-friendly interface just accessed a
complex technological system that uses a vast array of natural, human,
and economic resources in order to function. Every time we flip a simple
switch then we are using a large, possibly controlling, technology: yet
we are virtually unaware of the consequences in any immediate way.
Even though we may read daily of the problems of overconsumption of
electrical energy, we still are likely to (ab)use the technology because it is
so "friendly"-so easy-to-use. (28)







74

Literal physical displacement of the infrastructure, noise, and pollution of the electrical

power system makes it comfortable. The switch is simple and effortless, and electricity

literally invisible. The monetary cost of electricity is presented only monthly, if at

all; its other effects displaced far from its use. Unless there are massive systemic

difficulties, like the power shortages which plagued California in 2000 and 2001 (and

which are still having political repercussions), the displacment is complete. For ease,

there is no more profound technological change than the switch from human, animal,

and mechanical forms of energy to electrically produced and distributed power, though

the ongoing shift from analog and mechanical things to digital, electronic systems

may displace electricity from this throne-what one might call "the easy chair."

Electrical power is behind nearly all of the technologies which Frederick advocated

for production of ease: even appliances she pushed which did not use electricity,

such as kitchen stoves, furnishings, and hand-operated machinery, were only feasible

because of manufacturing driven by electrical power. The Depression-era drive for

rural electrification provided an important economic stimulus: delivering electricity to

the country created a new market for convenience products and electric appliances of

all kinds (Hughes 464).

A direct, traceable, quantifiable connection between end users and electrical

consumption exists. But the connection between the "distant" effects of that electrical

consumption-pollution, political struggles over petroleum-rich areas, and global

climate change-is much less clear. Distancing allows consequences to be shrugged off

or even totally questioned. A typical result: around the turn of the century, curbside

garbage collection began in New York City, and city residents no longer had to burn,

dispose of, recycle, or be otherwise confronted with their own garbage. When New

Yorkers could simply stack trash by the curb and know that it would be removed









by someone else, the amount of garbage produced per capital grew rapidly, and to

some extent the production of copious amounts of garbage became an indicator of

affluence (Strasser, Waste and Want 124-5, 136). The effects displaced by ease are

often forms of increased cost, not only monetary costs incurred in the production of

easy-to-consume products and services, but ecological, governmental, or societal costs

resulting from unforeseen (or simply unseen) consequences. Spreading, sharing, or

concealing these costs may make them easier to stomach-but their disappearance is

only figurative, and in many ways displacement of cause and effect makes the web of

agency connected to an easy practice quite wide indeed.

Ease can also contribute to obscuring the amount of labor or complication

involved in any particular task. This slippage takes at least three forms. First, one

can show a lack of concern, respect, or acknowledgment of the labor and agency

of other people, as is often the case when considering the labor of those in service

industries (Watkins 159-61). Second, the amount of effort and discomfort associated

with certain tasks is often underestimated or remembered incorrectly-especially for

things naturalized long ago. Mina Shaughnessy contends that some of the problems of

basic writers result from teachers' failure to recall the tremendous difficulty of learning

how to manipulate pen and paper, much less the irregularities of English grammar (14,

16). Thirdly, many people underestimate or misunderstand the complexity of things

which appear to be easy but in fact are quite elaborate or extensive. The example of

the light switch Johnson offers provides one form of this underestimation, but extensive

infrastructure deliberately made invisible, like the electrical grid, need not be involved

for such underestimation to occur-consider the example of the Blackboard users on

page 60 above.









Several forms of forgetting the labor or agency of others involve transferring

decisions made by human designers and agents to technologies or other objects,

assuming that human agency does not exist at all, or allowing one's agency to be

subjugated to another's because of ignorance of (or lack of concern with) cause and

effect. The design features Norman describes as "affordances" can be considered

foregroundings of the intentions of the designer, and as Johnson points out, the

"proper" system model associated with a technological artifact (Norman 9, Johnson

29). Johnson's analysis of system-centered culture recognizes the tendency to blame

the system (or even find fault with one's own actions) when in fact a human agent may

be the cause of a problem. But this form of "forgetting" agency also appears when,

motivated by pressures for ease, people allow decisions about their privacy, security,

or health to be subjugated to other factors. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11,

2001, and the resulting establishment of the Transportation Security Administration,

discussions of American airline security have frequently opposed travelers' convenience

with their safety and security. In all but a few instances, airline and government agents

alike have insisted a system which delivers both is possible. Given the consequences

of the lack of security, the power of ease is demonstrated by the insistence upon its

possibility and the huge expenditures undertaken to ensure its preservation.

3.2.2.7 Repression of experimentation

Because ease is highly pragmatic, it encourages a method of dealing with

problems or completing a task in a manner which eliminates experimentation and trans-

gression. Instead, ease suggests the path of least resistance. Hopefully, following the

dictates of transparency, expediency, and simplicity, that path will not only be obvious,

but will not take much time and will involve no complication. Experimentation, where

the end result might be "failure" to achieve the goal, is not worth the risk if a readily









acceptable, easy method is available, even if ready-mades have obvious limitations, or

are clearly an unacceptable fit for the rhetorical or technical situation. Indeed, without

the channels of transparency to act as a guide, experimentation is uncomfortable stuff.

Experimentation is further repressed by physical or systemic constraints. In

The Invisible Computer Norman imagines solving the problem of the complexity

of computers by replacing the flexible, general-purpose personal computer with a

number of a separate, customized computers-one for each function the computer

serves (28-30). In this "information appliance" model, one would have a personal

finance computer, a music and entertainment computer, and a recipe computer, among

others (253). There are definitely appealing advantages to this type of device, as the

popularity of PDAs shows, but highly customized, specialized machines will by their

nature make experimentation less possible-since restrictions built into the appliances

would likely prevent repurposing a device or modifying its software to facilitate

other functions. To return to the notion of increased cost for a moment, adapting an

information appliance model of computing would be very difficult for someone who

lacked the living space necessary for storing these multiple appliances. Additionally,

the extra time required to purchase, maintain, and synchronize information stored

on the various appliances would result in cost pressures and further extension of the

selective "ease mobility."

In "Overwhelmed by Tech" Shneiderman suggested that technology should

follow the model of automobiles, putting the working parts of a system under the hood,

out of the reach of most people (see page 16 above). But as noted by Stephenson, the

hood is frequently welded shut, sometimes metaphorically, but sometimes literally.

Inability to exercise direct control is often permanent, even if it is marketed as

transient. Watkins observes that increasing technological sophistication of automobiles









and the equipment necessary to work on them has literally made tinkering under

the hood impossible for most car owners. Sophisticated, expensive electronics have

replaced the mechanical tools formerly used to control engine operation, shifting

the focus of auto enthusiasts from manipulating engine performance to obsession

with external appearance (89-92). This is consistent with the focus on image and

appearance common to several qualities of ease. The necessary training and investment

transform what may have been a pleasurable (or at least affordable) weekend activity

accessible to thousands of individuals into a specialization performed only at work.

(Johnson notes the same end effect, in a slightly different context, in his critique of

forced novice/expert separation.)

While being forced to hire mechanics for all but the simplest maintenance

may not seem like a large problem, consider the impact of a more metaphorical

sense of "welding the hood shut." If ease discourages putting an object, system or

practice to work in a method not intended or sanctioned by the its designers, or

even satisfying one's curiosity about the way something works by opening the hood,

willful transgression of those intended norms will become even less likely, as another

ideological force exerts limiting pressures on such activity. Transfer these attitudes to a

situation such as civil disobedience, where small acts of improper use are mobilized for

political effect. Little wonder then, that in America, where ease is valorized unlike in

any other nation, political protest is less and less common, and speaking out against the

government increasingly viewed as unpatriotic and subversive.

3.3 Conclusion

The complex history of ease, its strong connection to technological progress

and commodification (forces which arguably drive American consumer culture), and

the development of multiple functions for ease (especially ideology) all stand against









sustained critique of ease. But although it has become quite powerful in many different

situations, ease is not universally demanded or valorized. And ease does deliver

measurable benefits, so unmitigated critique is unwise. I have named several contexts,

critical movements, and popular activities in which the power of ease is limited in

the historical review which began this chapter. These positions, some of which are

powerful indictments of ease, are a small sampling of a larger body of material which I

will consider in future work.

If, as I argue here, the scope of situations where ease can be demanded has

grown to near universality, shouldn't learning be easy, as Holmes envisioned in 1738?

Perhaps so. However, ease meant something very different when used by Holmes than

it does today when advertisers use it to sell nearly every kind of product and service.

What are the consequences of applying the principles of ease as it has developed in

consumer culture to educational systems and institutions? Given the problems with

ease I present above-especially those in composition studies-the development of

ease as a pedagogical strategy should proceed with great care, although lapsing into

a reactive "get tough" mode is undesirable as well. In order to better understand the

pedagogical role of ease today, I will now investigate the development of the bond of

ease and writing pedagogy.

3.4 Introduction

So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood,
how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.
(I Cor. 14:9)

Many works in composition studies tell the story of the development of writing

pedagogies in America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The best known

of these works, Alfred Kitzhaber's Rhetoric in American Colleges, 1850-1900, Sharon

Crowley's The Methodical Memory, James Berlin's Writing Instruction in Nineteenth









Century American Colleges, and Robert Connors's Composition-Rhetoric, provide

an overview of the development of the uniquely American pedagogy called "current-

traditional rhetoric" or "composition-rhetoric."3 Several make specific arguments

which move beyond history or historiography. Crowley focuses on the ways current-

traditional rhetoric pushed the canon of invention out of the classroom, creating a

basic rhetoric for budding writers from a simplified blend of Cartesian method and

the canon of style. Similarly, Berlin's comparative analysis charts the demise of

classical and romantic rhetoric from an epistemological standpoint, connecting trends

in twentieth-century composition to antebellum rhetoric.

This chapter will follow the path charted by Crowley and Berlin, telling the

story of current-traditional rhetoric with a particular focus: its bond with ease. Early

American rhetoricians, textbook writers, schoolteachers, and professors drew on

classical sources, Scottish and English writers, and their own innovations to fashion

a writing pedagogy which, in its attitudes toward writing, teaching, reading, and

economy, was deeply marked by ease. As current-traditional rhetoric matured and

developed into a powerful force shaping the educational experiences of children and

young adults from Harvard Yard to the Inner Quadrangle at Stanford, its connections

to ease strengthened. Between 1700 and 1900, the power of ease shaped the discipline

of rhetoric and composition-perhaps more than any other single force-and the

bond formed between ease and writing would endure well past the waning of current-

traditional rhetoric's domination of composition pedagogy.


31 am following Berlin and Crowley, not Connors, in using the former term, instead of the latter.









3.4.1 The English Roots of Ease in Writing

The rise of ease in American writing pedagogy, like many of the trends which

characterize American composition, has roots in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century

England. In The Methodical Memory Crowley shows how the massive changes in

"thinking about thinking" which occurred during this time undergird the assumptions

about thought, language, and the individual which characterize current-traditional

rhetoric.

The development of that rhetoric began with changes in the role of the indi-

vidual and the relationship of writing to lived experience, human thought and divine

inspiration. Philosophers such as Rene Descartes and John Locke considered knowl-

edge production as an individual phenomenon, unlike in classical frameworks, where

knowledge was "enshrined in authoritative books and commentaries or in God's law

made manifest in the nature of things" (5). They believed language was capable of

representing, unproblematically, both the knowledge produced in individual minds

and things observed in one's environment. And they had strong faith in the power of

reason and the desire for learning to overcome human frailties, ensuring the accuracy

of individually produced knowledge, and supporting the assumption that rigorous

knowledge production facilitated humanity's continual moral, social, and technological

advancement.

To replace traditional sources of authority (God and history), seventeenth-century

thinkers radically changed the status of a writer's text, and by doing so, imposed

new conditions for its production. Validation of one's argument became a matter of

workmanlike presentation-"an orderly completed text, which reproduced the history

of the thinker's investigation, was assumed to constitute sufficient testimony to the

authenticity of its findings" (8). In other words, given the facts being considered, and a









clear history of their development, any reader could understand the truth offered by a

text. Writers who made their texts orderly, transparent, and enjoyable to read-easy-

created authority through their manner of presentation. Consequently, directives for

clear, easy-to-read writing begin to appear during this time, and ornate prose structures

began to disappear under pressure from numerous sources.

Cartesian method, in particular, would be immensely influential in composition

pedagogy. Its four basic rules-accept no unclear judgments, divide difficulties

into parts, think in order from simple to complex, and be complete, leaving nothing

from consideration-provide a philosophical basis for atomization, gradation, and

simplification: key strategies educators would use to make writing easy. Descartes's

ideas were also adapted to composition style and content as well: clarity had long

been considered a virtue in writing, but Cartesian philosophy added a huge boost to it,

and provided a partner, "distinction," with whom clarity would appear in composition

textbooks published from the early eighteenth century.

Questioning the nature of knowledge helped legitimize questions about the

nature of learning. Notably, Thomas More, Francis Bacon, and Petrus Ramus (Pierre

de La Ramee) openly questioned the efficacy of the classical curriculum of the liberal

arts, the nature of the student-teacher relationship, and prohibitions of the use of the

vernacular in education, among other things. Educators began to believe children and

young adult learners could learn without harsh discipline and the confines of rigorous

ancient curricula. While the pace of change was slow by current standards, reforms

proposed by John Amos Comenius (Jan Amos Komensky) and Locke, among others,

were considerable. British and American educators influenced by these men would

suture writing and ease by repeatedly acknowledging the effects of emotional and

physical comfort on their students' ability and desire to learn.









Locke's 1693 treatise Some Thoughts Concerning Education, originally written

as a series of letters to Edward Clarke, reflects the trends in contemporary philosophy

which Crowley traces. It provided both philosophical arguments and concrete, often

incredibly detailed suggestions for parents and educators, and was very influential in

both Britain and the American colonies (Cremin v-vi). Locke's work, which owes

some debt to Comenius, undoubtedly paved the way for future reformers like Johann

Heinrich Pestalozzi, as well as legitimizing writing about education such as Jean

Jacques Rousseau's Emile. Lucille Schultz cautions that "[i]t would be a mistake

to point to similarities among these four writers-Comenius, Locke, Rousseau, and

Pestalozzi-and assume they were alike in every aspect of their thinking about a child's

education." However, as she demonstrates in considerable detail, these four educators,

and many American rhetoricians influenced by them, "shared a concern for tailoring

education to coincide with the child's developmental level" (Composers 62, 63). Locke

in particular is interesting because of the comprehensiveness of his work-he outlines

an educational plan which stretched from cradle to grave. Interestingly, many of

his directives suggest students should be made to feel "easy" or "at ease." For that

reason, and because many of his ideas were adopted by American writing teachers and

educational theorists, his work will be considered in detail here.

Locke is perhaps best known for his arguments against the widespread use of

corporal punishment, or "beating" as he calls it. But these are part of a larger philoso-

phy of child-rearing and education which favors a positive approach-encouragement

and the cultivation of good habits-rather than negativity-punishment and the enforce-

ment of rules. Some Thoughts Concerning Education asks teachers to make learning

enjoyable for children. "None of the Things they are to learn," Locke argues, "should

ever be made a Burthen to them, or impos'd on them as a task" (52). Over and over









again, in language often reminiscent of educational psychology, he suggests methods

for presenting education as if it were play. From an early age, children should be

encouraged to enjoy what they learn, and learning should gently guide them toward

lessons, not enforce a prescribed curriculum. In this way Locke recognizes the power

of comfort and enjoyment, as well as effortlessness and leisure, the first and third of

the qualities of ease I name in Chapter 2 of this work. But Locke's philosophy did

not encourage "cockering and tenderness" (21): he asked parents to cultivate tough

children by methods which, three hundred years later, seem questionable, if not cruel.

He suggests a plain and simple diet, with few sweets and not too much meat (10, 14);

immersing children's feet in cold water to build their constitutions (4); and refusing

to allow them to cry (91). Instead, children must learn to develop self-denial, which

Locke sees as "the Principle of all Virtue and Excellency," and which should be "made

easy and familiar by an early practice" (25).

Locke's call for a balance of denial and indulgence repeatedly invokes the idea of

ease. On the one hand, he maintains that "My Meaning therefore is not, that Children

should purposely be made uneasy." But he argues that children's "Minds, as well

as Bodies, [can] be made vigorous, easy, and strong, by the Custom of having their

Inclinations in Subjection, and their Bodies exercis'd with Hardships" (86). Indeed,

Locke acknowledges the difficulty of this task for parents:

To avoid the Danger that is on either Hand is the great Art; and he that has
found a Way how to keep up a Child's Spirit, easy, active, and free; and
yet, at the same time, to restrain him from many Things he has a Mind to,
and to draw him to Things that are uneasy to him; he, I say, that knows
how to reconcile these seeming Contradictions has, in my Opinion, got the
true Secret of Education. (30)

In these arguments for self-denial, as well as claims for the superiority of a more

natural style of learning foreign languages, the benefits of frequent but measured praise,









and proposed reforms of the classical curriculum, Locke may seem to collapse the

difference between children and adults. This would be consistent with the dominant

contemporary conceptualization of childhood as a debased state of being which should

be arrested as rapidly as possible (Schultz, Composers 24-5). For example, at times it

is unclear if Locke is speaking of adults or children, as he remarks on the power of his

methodology:

We would be thought rational Creatures, and have our Freedom; we
love not to be uneasy under constant Rebukes and Brow-beatings; nor
can we bear severe Humours, and great Distance, in those we converse
with. Whoever has such Treatment when he is a Man, will look out other
Company, other Friends, other Conversation, with whom he can be at Ease.
(27-8)

However, more often, Locke writes as if there are fundamental differences between

children and adults, balancing calls to challenge children with the connection he

makes between childhood curiosity and the Enlightenment-style desire for knowledge

Crowley discusses. Locke argues for simplicity: "Long Discourses, and Philosophical

Reasonings, at best, amaze and confound, but do not instruct Children" (61). Instead,

teachers should use as few words as possible, and speak plainly. This instruction

extends even to the Bible, which for children, but not adults, is best avoided in favor

of an abridged version (167). His arguments for atomization and gradation-dividing a

complex or difficult subject into smaller chunks, and moving from simple to complex,

so that it can be more easily understood-provide a template for educational practices

which remain in use today. Note that, in the following excerpt, Locke suggests not

only breaking down ideas into smaller units but ensuring each sub-idea is "simple."

Building on Cartesian philosophy, Locke was one of the first to suggest difficult

materials could be taught successfully in this manner without transformation or, to use

current parlance, "dumbing down."










But in this, as in all other Parts of Instruction, great Care must be taken
with Children, to begin with that which is plain and simple, and to teach
them as little as can be at once, and settle that well in their Heads before
you proceed to the next, or any thing new in that Science. Give them first
one simple Idea, and see that they take it right, and perfectly comprehend
it before you go any farther, and then add some other simple Idea which
lies next in your Way to what you aim at; and so proceeding by gentle and
insensible Steps, Children without Confusion and Amazement will have
their Understandings opened and their Thoughts extended farther than could
have been expected. (158)

Additionally, Locke's pragmatic approach to curriculum, suggesting inclusion

of skills relevant to contemporary commerce (geography, navigation, and Western

European languages), included considerable allowance for children's intellectual

development. Other ways in which Locke valorizes ease-preference for the concrete

over the abstract (72, 173), positioning cultivation of an "easy" conversational style as

measurement of good breeding (122-4), insisting on an "easy calm temper" (143) for

educators, repeatedly echoing the value of an "easy" writing style, and arguing for the

use of "easy" picture-books (135)-will be considered in future work.

Notably, shortly after Some Thoughts Concerning Education was published,

the word "easy" began to appear in the titles of rhetoric and grammar textbooks.

In 1704, Thomas Watt penned Grammar Made Easie, which taught Latin grammar

using English, "rendered Plain, and Obvious, to the meanest Capacity" (i). John

Holmes's The Art of Rhetoric Made Easy, introduced in Chapter 1 of this work, put

Locke's ideas into practice, with frequent use of atomization, brevity, and simplicity, an

extensive preface for instructors which outlined methods for best using the text, and a

detailed table of contents, and other features. These works would be the first in a long

line of books continued today in composition by titles such as Andrea Lunsford's Easy

Writer and Michael Keene and Katherine Adams's Easy Access.









3.4.2 Transforming Philosophy to Pedagogy: Major Figures

While more historical work is needed to track precisely the ways ease was

popularized in teaching writing, several very influential writers included considerable

mention of ease or advocated methods for teaching writing which mobilized the

qualities of ease. Between 1700 and 1850, a wide variety of influential texts would

build on the work of philosophers like Descartes and Locke, making possible a solid

connection between ease and writing. Four men will be considered here: Isaac Watts

(1674-1748), John Holmes (1703-59), John Walker (1732-1807), and John Frost

(1800-59).4

Perhaps more than any other eighteenth-century writer, Isaac Watts would call for

both a style of writing and a method of teaching writing with ease at the core. Though

best known for his hymns and religious writings, in his time Watts was "a popular and

respected author in the fields of education, theology, philosophy, and poetry" (Davis

ix). Watts wrote many books which focus on educational theory, some published in

multiple editions, and portions of his writing were often reprinted in other works.

(Titles such as Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language (1715) and The Knowledge

of the Heavens and the Earth Made Easy (1726) offer great promise for future research

but will not be the focus here.) His educational theories and practical advice shaped

the work of thousands of British and American teachers. In philosophy and writing,

Watts's best known work is Logick: or, the Use of Right Reason in the Inquiry after

Truth (1724), which draws heavily on Ramistic thought and Cartesian method to

mobilize logic for the broader goals of education and general improvement of the mind

(Hoyles 159). Crowley remarks, "The influence of Watts' (sic) Logick on rhetorical and


4I include birth and death dates here because there are several men with these names living around
this time period.







88

logical pedagogy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries cannot be underestimated"

(177)-an argument reinforced by the sheer numbers of editions printed on both sides

of the Atlantic (Howell 341-2). Thus, Watts was one of the most important figures

in terms of synthesizing ease and writing pedagogy, since the content of the Logick

repeatedly valorizes ease and clarity, and encourages atomization and simplification.

Watts's writings would help popularize Cartesian method and make it applicable to all

levels of rhetoric and composition.

The last section of the Logick offers seven well-illustrated rules for method

which "[amount] to a theory of composition" (Crowley 42). For Watts, method is "the

Disposition of a Variety of Thoughts on any Subject in such Order as may best serve

to find out unknown Truths, to explain and confirm Truths that are known, or to fix

them in the Memory" (340). Watts encourages using method to prevent "Confusion,

Darkness, and Mistake" (339) as well as avoiding discomfort or embarrassment in

readers and learners-in other words, to ensure their comfort and enjoyment of reading

or learning. Watts admits that his concern with method focuses on the "Communication

of Knowledge," rather than on production and verification of it, and his examples and

more detailed explanations make his didactic emphasis quite clear.

Of the seven rules of method, the second stands out: "Let your Method be

plain and easy, so that your Hearers or Readers, as well as your self, may run thro' it

without Embarrassment, and may take a clear and comprehensive View of the whole

Scheme" (351). Compositions should begin with obvious things and proceed "by

regular and easy steps" to more difficult matters. Teachers and learners should be

patient, avoiding hasty movement to new ideas. Sentences and paragraphs should

be simple, not crowded with "too many Thoughts and Reasonings" (352), and long









parenthesis or subordination should be avoided. Finally, "a clear and easy way of

expressing your conceptions" should be cultivated from an early age.

The other rules Watts pens also valorize ease and its qualities, though not

as directly: rule three, "Let your Method be distinct," provides specific guidelines

for atomization (again, following Descartes and Locke, and further establishing the

connection between method and ease), and rules four and five address the value of

simplicity and brevity. Indeed, Watts develops his seven rules in a manner which

makes his writing an example of the principles being explained-his method develops

without haste, technical terms are defined in footnotes, and his method of atomization

is quite methodical.

Watts's second large area of influence was popularizing Locke's educational

ideas. Like Locke, Watts believed that children were different and needed to be treated

differently than adults:

Watts, of course, is predominantly Lockean in his concept of education. It
would be comparatively simple to show that most if not all of his theories
come from Locke's educational works; but this is not so important as to
note that through his popularization of Locke, Watts helped to prepare the
ground for modem education. The influence of John Locke played a large
part in undermining the Ciceronian concept of education still in vogue in
eighteenth-century English schools. Although Watts can by no means be
placed besides his master as an educational influence, he did a good job
in providing suitable texts for a more liberal curriculum. He helped to
make Locke practicable. Because of this humble but necessary service,
he deserves a small place among the influential secular educators of the
century. (Hoyles 101)

In other words, Watts was careful to practice what he preached, making Locke easy to

read for educators, and suggesting the best way they in turn could teach was by making

education easy. His encouragement and practice of a more "practicable" viewpoint is

another example of the growing importance of pragmatism, one of the qualities of ease

which, as I argue in Chapter 2 above, was gaining strength during this time.









Consistency of message and presentation extended to Watts's writing style.

"Such was his devotion to the plain style in prose, that he felt it necessary to apologise

for any sally into figurative speech he may inadvertently have made" (Hoyles 225).

Indeed, the phrase "plain and easy," noted from the Logick above, appears to have

been rather marketable-several printers who produced posthumous editions of Watts's

work created titles of their own including it, and it appears in several other works by

Watts. In summary, Isaac Watts was a key player in the construction of ease-writing

connections at a variety of levels, and his extensive bibliography demands much further

study.

John Holmes, the English schoolmaster whose Art of Rhetoric Made Easy is

introduced in the first chapter of this work, is not considered a major figure in British

rhetoric by most scholars, but still deserves mention here for two reasons. First, while

Rhetoric Made Easy was not nearly as popular as Watts's Logick, it was the first of

several books designed specifically for young learners which were used widely at

English schools (Howell 126).5 Holmes's immediate influence, through his contacts

with other schoolmasters, cannot be discounted, and his influence on American writers,

especially Richard Green Parker, is sizable. Second, in his Rhetoric and other writings,

Holmes employed a wide variety of devices intended to make rhetoric easy, drawing

on suggestions from Locke and other writers, but also creating innovations of his own.

These devices will be discussed in detail below. While Holmes did not produce the

number of books intended for children which Isaac Watts was able to publish during

his much longer life, his work had definite impact.


5Unfortunately, several of these works, published as pamphlets or single broadsheets, are incredibly
difficult to find.




Full Text

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EASE IN COMPOSITION STUDIES By C BRADLEY DILGER A DISSER T A TION PRESENTED T O THE GRADU A TE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORID A IN P AR TIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQ UIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCT OR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORID A 2003

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Cop yright 2003 by C Bradle y Dilger

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Dedicated to the memory of my grandmothers, Elisa V anina Dilger (1917–2000) and Mabel Fulton Boutwell (1911–2001).

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A CKNO WLEDGMENTS First, before all else, and for so man y reasons, I thank my wife Erin Easterling. My doctoral committee—Gre g Ulmer Stephanie Smith, Blak e Scott, and Joe W ilson—ha v e guided this dissertation, helped me de v elop the long-term project it represents, supported other research, and allo wed me to culti v ate an eclectic focus. Sid Dobrin and Phil W e gner pro vided e xtremely v aluable assistance throughout my graduate studies, gladly helping me whene v er I requested advice, letters of reference, or a bit more time to nish an essay Joe Martin and Lucille Schultz both helped a graduate student the y had ne v er met get a cop y of a rare b ut v ery important dissertation which has helped focus this project immeasurably Jef f Rice, Erich Nunn, and T raci Gardner read drafts of this dissertation or other related w ork, and pro vided v aluable advice and suggestions. Jane Lo v e helped de v elop the frame w ork of the last chapter which includes some of the trickiest material presented here. Bruce Leland and the f aculty of W estern Illinois Uni v ersity recently welcomed me to their campus and ask ed me to become their colleague. The players of the WTFL, past and present, ha v e not contrib uted much which can be cited in this w ork, b ut ha v e helped mak e it possible by cheerfully rumblin' b umblin' and stumblin' through man y Saturday mornings. Ronald L. Corbin helped me through high school and to the uni v ersity I aspire to his wisdom and sense of humor and am proud to ha v e been his student. In man y w ays, I still am. i v

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PREF A CE Throughout this dissertation, “contemporary” is used to mean “at the time of writing being considered. ” “Current” means at the time this dissertation is being written, e.g. 2002 and 2003. Man y te xts published during the se v enteenth and eighteenth centuries are quoted in this w ork. Their distincti v e orthography and typography—for e xample, frequently capitalizing of nouns, or typesetting single w ords or phrases in italics—is reproduced as f aithfully as possible here. In man y cases, this typography con v e yed didactic emphasis, and it unquestionably has semantic content. Current rhetoric and composition handbooks mak e much of their use of four -color printing, e xtensi v e inde xing, and tabbed binding; though Isaac W atts and his contemporaries did not ha v e those means, the y did emplo y the best a v ailable printing technologies to mak e writing easy Standardizing or normalizing their w ork to meet current orthographic standards w ould erase v aluable meanings which should be considered carefully v

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T ABLE OF CONTENTS page A CKNO WLEDGMENTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . i v PREF A CE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . v LIST OF FIGURES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . viii ABSTRA CT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix 1 INTR ODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1.1 Why Ease? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1.2 Upon Further Re vie w . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 2 THE CONCEPT OF EASE . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 2.1 Ov erwhelmed? The Answer is Easy! . . . . . . . 15 2.2 Historicizing and Dening Ease . . . . . . . . . 19 2.2.1 Historical and Popular Denitions . . . . . . 21 2.2.2 Reforming Education in England, 1680–1740 . . . 25 2.2.3 Bringing Ease Home in America, 1880–1930 . . . 31 2.2.4 Humanizing T echnology 1939–1958 . . . . . . 35 2.2.5 Computing Made Easy 1984–present . . . . . 39 2.3 The Role of Ease T oday . . . . . . . . . . . 45 3 EV ALU A TING EASE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 3.1 Is Ease Good or Bad? . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 3.1.1 T echnology and Ease . . . . . . . . . . 48 3.1.2 The Ideology of Ease . . . . . . . . . . 50 3.2 Critical Ev aluation of Ease . . . . . . . . . . 54 3.2.1 Benets of Ease . . . . . . . . . . . 54 3.2.2 Problems Caused by Ease . . . . . . . . . 58 3.3 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78 3.4 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 3.4.1 The English Roots of Ease in Writing . . . . . 81 3.4.2 T ransforming Philosophy to Pedagogy: Major Figures . 87 3.4.3 Ca v eat F acilitor . . . . . . . . . . . 94 3.4.4 F our Assumptions About Ease and Writing . . . . 95 3.5 Students Should Find Writing Easy . . . . . . . . 97 3.5.1 Early Ex emplars . . . . . . . . . . . 101 vi

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3.5.2 Strate gies for Making Writing Easy . . . . . . 105 3.5.3 Emotional Needs: Comfort and F amiliarity . . . . 111 3.5.4 It' s Just That Easy . . . . . . . . . . . 120 3.5.5 A Mix ed Bag of Ease . . . . . . . . . . 122 3.5.6 The Results . . . . . . . . . . . . 124 3.6 Students Should Write Easy-T o-Read Prose . . . . . . 125 3.6.1 Clarity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126 3.6.2 Bre vity and Conciseness . . . . . . . . . 128 3.6.3 Simplicity . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131 3.7 T eaching Writing is Easy . . . . . . . . . . . 132 3.7.1 T e xtbooks and Other T ools . . . . . . . . 135 3.7.2 The Curriculum . . . . . . . . . . . 137 3.7.3 Composition and the Institution . . . . . . . 141 3.8 Writing as Gatek eeper to a “Life of Ease” . . . . . . 143 3.8.1 Ease, V ulgarity and Gentility . . . . . . . . 146 3.8.2 Writing and Upw ard Mobility . . . . . . . 148 3.9 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149 4 BEY OND EASE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 152 4.1 The Endurance of Ease . . . . . . . . . . . 152 4.2 The T ransitional Apparatus . . . . . . . . . . 161 4.2.1 The Principles of Ne w Media . . . . . . . . 162 4.2.2 Supplementing the essay . . . . . . . . . 171 4.2.3 The Logic of Conduction . . . . . . . . . 179 4.3 Supplementing Ease . . . . . . . . . . . . 183 4.3.1 T ranslucence . . . . . . . . . . . . 183 4.3.2 The Comple x . . . . . . . . . . . . 186 4.3.3 Repetition and Iteration . . . . . . . . . 188 W ORKS CITED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 192 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199 vii

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LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 2.1 K odak Adv ertisement, 1884. . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 3.1 LG Electronics Adv ertisement, 2001. . . . . . . . . . . 67 viii

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Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the Uni v ersity of Florida in P artial Fulllment of the Requirements for the De gree of Doctor of Philosophy EASE IN COMPOSITION STUDIES By C Bradle y Dilger August 2003 Chair: Gre gory L. Ulmer Major Department: English F or man y Americans, the idea of “ease” shapes understanding of comple xity and dif culty Though man y consider ease of use a twentieth-century phenomenon associated with personal computers, its origins date from the se v enteenth century “Ease in Composition Studies” in v estigates the role of ease in American culture, especially colle ge-le v el writing. I be gin by dening ease and tracing its history through four critical periods of de v elopment dating from 1700 to the present. I sho w that ease can be dened using a list of eight qualities opposed to other important concepts: comfort, transparenc y ef fortlessness, simplicity pragmatism, femininity e xpedienc y and pictorialism. Calling on the w ork of Ev an W atkins, I sho w problems which can occur when ease is uncritically demanded or mobilized—as is frequently the case when consumer models of ease, based on simple transaction, appear in educational conte xts. W ith ease dened, I demonstrate that current-traditional rhetoric, the simplied approach to writing de v eloped in American nineteenth-century colle ges, includes a pedagogy based on ease. Nineteenth-century composition portrays the act of writing, ix

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writing style, and teaching writing as easy and position writing as the gatek eeper for the “life of ease. ” By in v estigating te xtbooks, teaching methods, and strate gies which writers of supposedly easy rhetorics use, and calling on the w ork of Lucille Schultz and Sharon Cro wle y I identify specic connections between writing and ease, charting the transformation of ease in the classroom from close identication with “easy” pedagogical techniques (atomization, alliteration, and gradation) to a less clearly dened, b ut no less po werful concept. The connection of ease and writing established in current-traditional rhetoric w as not disrupted by the pedagogical reforms of the 1960s and 1970s. T oday ease shapes the de v elopment of teaching writing using computers and ne w media. Can composition instructors continue to mobilize ease to teach electronic “writing” technologies, gi v en the dif ferences in institutional practices and subject formation associated with them— what Gre g Ulmer calls “electrac y?” My research suggests otherwise. I conclude my dissertation by outlining an electrate supplement to ease: concepts suitable for practicing, learning, and teaching electronic discourse. x

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CHAPTER 1 INTR ODUCTION T rue ease in writing comes from art, not chance As those mo v e easiest who ha v e learn' d to dance. —Ale xander Pope, An Essay On Criticism 1.1 Wh y Ease? Robert Johnson' s outstanding book User -Center ed T ec hnolo gy be gins with a sort of apology for its ordinary focus. Johnson mak es his case for w orking with the mundane, the common, and the e v eryday—common things which are so f amiliar that the y are all b ut in visible. The concept of ease is often associated with this natural, comfortable character: it conjures up images of ele gant simplicity gracefulness, painless use, pleasant speed, and welcome di v ersion. But there is nothing simple about the w ay ease inuences American culture and the practice of writing in American colle ges and uni v ersities. Much of my research focuses on the role of ease in composition studies, the institution of English, and American culture. Ho we v er better understanding of ease is not my principal research concentration. My interest in ease is means, not end. As I see it today my life' s w ork will be the de v elopment of physical and virtual writing en vironments, along with pedagogical practices, forms of communication and e xpression, and institutions which support them. I ha v e spent a terric amount of time studying ease because, as my rst in v estigations suggested six years ago, ease has a huge role in the institution of composition studies, and a signicant inuence in the nascent electronic classroom. 1

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2 Though I approach ease, electronic writing, information technology ne w media, and hypermedia 1 from the standpoint of composition studies, not media studies, I share man y long-term research goals with Gre gory Ulmer my doctoral committee chair In Heur etics and the recently published Internet In vention, Ulmer observ es that the apparatus of literac y is in transition, being supplemented by the technology of digital computing. While print literac y remains the primary and most important communicati v e apparatus, its status is changing as the importance of the emer ging apparatus gro ws. Lik e Ulmer I see this ongoing shift as an opportunity for the humanities, especially the language arts. As Ulmer says of his 1994 Heur etics: My interest is not only in the technology itself b ut also in the problem of in v enting the practices that may institutionalize electronics in terms of schooling. [. .] It may be that e v entually the screen will replace the page (and the database replace the library) as the support of all academic w ork. [This book] is intended as a means to achie v e that transition in the most producti v e w ay including using book strate gies to help with the in v ention process and re vising paper practices in the light of the ne w possibilities of thought manifested in electronic technology (17) I follo w Ulmer' s desire to in v ent and disco v er practices suitable for our transitional moment. As well, I share the long-term ambition, reected most directly here in Chapter 5, of in v enting practices which will be usable be yond the transitional. Ulmer' s neologism “electrac y ” used to signify the equi v alent of literac y for electronic writing and communication, pro vides a suitable tar get. As Ulmer notes, “[e]lectrac y does not already e xist as such, b ut names an apparatus that is emer ging `as we speak, rising in man y dif ferent spheres and areas, and con v er ging in some unforeseen yet 1 Throughout this dissertation, “ne w media” will signify hypermedia, hyperte xt, digital cinema, and other forms often produced with and displayed on computers. “Hypermedia” will describe a smaller subset of ne w media made of objects connected by links, often using a branching-tree structure. “Ne w media object” will describe a w ork of ne w media. The some what undesirable phrase “old media” will signify oral, printed, and telecommunicati v e forms not numerically represented or modular

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3 malleable w ay” ( Internet In vention 7). I hope my w ork with ease will capitalize on that malleability shaping both current and future pedagogical practices. My rst formal research into ease w as pro v ok ed by my interest in the Unix operating system, which I used while w orking with students in the Netw ork ed Writing En vironment (NWE) at the Uni v ersity of Florida. The unique NWE system combined elements of “easy to use” graphical user interf aces with command-line en vironments which most people consider dif cult and arcane. The NWE' s system architecture and liberal administration philosophy f acilitated e xperimentation, enabling me and other graduate students to push the en v elope of the boundary between “easy” and “dif cult. ” When I be gan teaching in the NWE, the ideas of easy computing had been codied for more than ten years (as the Apple Human Interface Guidelines —see page 40 belo w). Why were my students ha ving so much dif culty using something the y gre w up with? I could understand the frustration of students who found the NWE interf ace dif cult upon rst use—while designed with user -friendliness in mind, the interf ace w as a bit dif ferent from that most used on their home computers. But students e xpressed chagrin with ha ving to use a computer at all, e v en when I scaled back assignments to in v olv e little more than w ord processing. Why were interf aces designed with ease in mind, at the cost of millions, f ailing all b ut a fe w students? Why also, did ease seem to function in e xactly the opposite manner it w as supposed to? Instead of enabling producti vity allo wing students to become comfortable with computers in a protected virtual space, and gradually maturing into more challenging and creati v e arenas, ease seemed to cause incapacitation. Fe w students mo v ed from easy patterns into e xperiment and deep engagement. An y percei v ed resistance on the computer' s part became a stopping point. The NWE system' s seeming dif culty enabled sharp attacks on “stupid computers” and some f airly harsh comments on course

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4 e v aluations. Some students were able to use their computer or their softw are, b ut not the NWE' s—which I considered analogous to being able to dri v e a F ord, b ut not a Che vrolet. More seriously student attitudes about the ease of computing spilled into other arenas. Ev en in the courses I taught without using computers, signicant numbers of students resisted challenge, claimed to lack creati vity or writing skill, abhorred theoretical or abstract readings or assignments, and sought the easiest path to an A—all b ut requesting a diagram illustrating the procedure for completing the projects outlined in the syllab us. T R. Johnson ar gues that standardized testing, an increasingly programmed curriculum, and a masochistic culture of mastery ha v e encouraged students to e xpect education to be dif cult, banal, and boring (645); I belie v e that e xpectation moti v ates students to seek the easiest, least emotionally and labor intensi v e, course e xperience—minimizing their ackno wledgment of schooling. (Hence Johnson' s title, “School Sucks. ”) Consistent with Johnson' s ar gument, most of my students a v oided sho wing confusion or dif culty in front of others, and if blame for their dif culties could not be shifted to my unreasonable assignments, the general suck y nature of colle ge, or other agents, became enraged or horried. Projecting an easy aspect in front of their peers w as e xtremely important for students, e v en those from v ery dif ferent social and peer groups. Stephanie A. Smith suggested the phrase “the ideology of ease” to describe the patterns of ease I w as seeing in computers, education, and American culture. In the spring of 2000 I connected the classroom desire for ease I had observ ed in the classroom, and the pedagogical dif culties it caused for me, to cultural pressures in the essay “The Ideology of Ease. ” This rst publication established some of the conceptual

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5 limits, denition, and history of ease in v estigated in more detail in chapters 2 and 3 of this w ork, “The Concept of Ease” and “Ev aluating Ease. ” “The Concept of Ease” establishes a specic denition for the current shape of ease using an account from a popular magazine as representati v e of current attitudes about the roles of ease, comple xity dif culty and technology In its oldest sense, ease w as dened by comfort, transparenc y and ef fortlessness. I demonstrate ho w it e xpanded be yond those original meanings during four historical periods. English educational reforms between 1680 and 1740 e xtended the denition of ease through simplicity and pragmatism. Near the turn of the twentieth century (1880-1930), b udding American consumerism b uilt on the feminine component of ease (the often ham-handed association of w omen with comfort and nurturing) by establishing w omen as the central tar get of adv ertising and mark eting for ne w gadgets which made life easier W orld W ar T w o and the post-w ar boom in technology (1939–1958) brought e xpedienc y and the era of personal computing (1984–present) pictorialism. During each of these time periods, the functions of ease also gre w with ease shifting from a state of mind to a commodity which could be produced by certain practices. Postw ar technological de v elopment changed ease to a commodity which could be purchased in certain circumstances; the “information re v olution” meant it could be had an ywhere, an ytime. In “Ev aluating Ease, ” I scrutinize the concept of ease de v eloped in Chapter 2, conte xtualizing it in the W estern ideal of technology and documenting its ideological function. I ackno wledge the benets of ease, then call on Johnson, Ev an W atkins, and other critics to sho w some of the ne gati v e ef fects of ease, of fering e xamples from composition studies when possible. Unfortunately I nd man y complications: maintenance of an no vice/e xpert di vision, self-reinforcement, discouragement of

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6 critique, and a lamentable construction of femininity Though composition studies has ackno wledged these tensions and in man y w ays is confronting the paradoxical nature of ease, my critique isolates some areas where more attenton to ease is needed. After publishing “The Ideology of Ease” I turned to the role of ease in composition studies. Se v eral presentations at national conferences and considerable w ork in v ested in my doctoral e xams allo wed me to disco v er se v eral other notable trends. Most importantly I conrmed my suspicion that ease w as introduced into the classroom before the time of computing and ne w media, with a history in composition dating back to the se v enteenth century I present portions of this e xtensi v e history in “Making Writing Easy ” Chapter 4 of this w ork. W orking forw ard from English philosophical antecedents, I trace the deep connection of ease to current-traditional rhetoric, the writing pedagogy de v eloped in nineteenth-century America. The correlation of ease with Enlightenment epistemology supported tw o compactly stated assertions: that an yone could easily e xpress their thoughts in unproblematic language, and that such e xpression w as easily taught. My analysis sho ws the w ay ease, as the primary pedagogy of literac y af fected writing style, students' image of writing, and the institutional or ganization of American colle ges and uni v ersities. The concepts of literac y and writing still operant in American schools o we a tremendous debt to the qualities of ease. Continuing my inquiry into the role of ease in the discipline of Computers and Writing con vinced me the role of ease in composition w as, if an ything, becoming lar ger At conferences, I w as attack ed for suggesting the need to think twice about the use of ease as a pedagogical tool. F or man y my ar gument w as quite literally counter -intuiti v e, and despite my pleas for measured consideration, questions about

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7 application of ease often fell back onto old debates about interf ace design. 2 My attempts to connect discussions of ease in American culture with its appearance in computer classrooms had v ery limited success. From this e xperience and other research, I conclude that ease is still shaping uni v ersity information technology in man y w ays, and that this inuence is not fully ackno wledged in composition scholarship. I am frustrated by the amount of resources spent on course w are and other e xpensi v e softw are which “mak es education easy ” gi v en the limited capacity of these systems and their tendenc y to sacrice creati vity and pedagogical e xibility in f a v or of implementing least-common-denominator ease of use. In Chapter 5 I tak e up this issue, discussing the future of ease mentioned earlier: my proposed creation of a supplement for ease which serv es the same function (a pedagogy for English education) for the nascent apparatus of electrac y After I present the terms of the grammatological analogy which will guide my w ork, I re vie w the technical principles of ne w media, as dened by Le v Mano vich, and the institutional and social frame w ork of Ulmer' s te xtbook Internet In vention. The juxtaposition of these tw o w orks will allo w me to project a tentati v e supplement for ease, through re vision of some qualities of ease, as well as establishment of ne w pedagogical de vices based on patterns which emer ge when the tw o books are juxtaposed. Hopefully by no w it is ob vious that I do not w ant to attack e v ery appearance of ease—or those who seek to nd it. I belie v e that ease, or at least parts of it, can be rehabilitated or reappropriated—and that an electrate supplement to ease which minimizes its ne gati v e qualities can be de v eloped. One model might be Jef f Rice' s forthcoming te xtbook Writing About Cool, which I mention because of man y 2 The most lamentable and frequent distraction: audience participants recasting my ar gument in the terms of the HTML-v ersus-WYSIWIG debate about W eb authoring.

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8 commonalities (the use of ne w media, a cultural studies approach, positioning in the discipline of composition studies). Rice notes the repeated use of the concept “cool” in a wide v ariety of adv ertising and a f air amount of academic writing. He suggests de v eloping critical a w areness of the w ay “cool” is used, and b uilds on that acti vity to construct an alternati v e rhetoric of cool optimized for ne w media. I hope to de v elop a similar approach for ease. I e xpect that the ongoing research represented by these v e chapters will in v olv e quite a fe w publications. Writing this dissertation has helped me shape future w ork into three lar ge areas. First, I w ant to learn more about the history of ease, especially its connection to literate epistemology This is important not only because of the ease-writing connection, b ut because a better understanding of the philosophical basis of currenttraditional rhetoric can serv e as a model for connecting Computers and Writing (or other disciplines of composition studies) to postmodern epistemology (One could consider Lester F aigle y' s F r a gments of Rationality a well-meaning b ut less than successful attempt at this task.) Though I ha v e carefully researched the role of ease in some periods of composition studies history an e xtensive amount of w ork remains, notably grammatological study which places composition in the lar ger conte xt of the history of writing. In this dissertation, I rely hea vily on Sharon Cro wle y James Berlin, and Robert Connors, and no w see (as I better understand their important scholarship) more di v er gence between my image of composition studies history and theirs. Secondly I w ant to re vise and impro v e the frame w ork for ease presented in Chapter 2, as noted belo w The concepts de v eloped here—the qualities of ease, the functions of ease, the ease equation, ease mobility and the ideology of ease— ha v e e xcellent potential. A better frame w ork for dening ease, combined with more

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9 ef fecti v e tools for discussing its po wer in education and consumer culture, will help ef forts to reform the practice of ease in those areas. I plan to join the v oices of those speaking against the adv erse ef fects of ease I hint at abo v e (and discuss more fully in Chapter 3). W ork in both cultural studies and composition studies is needed: the cookie-cutter deplo yment of ease as a pedagogy of literac y is one of the k e y forces which le gitimates its uncritical use, and composition remains an e xcellent site for ef fecti v e interv ention. Thirdly as noted at the be ginning of this chapter I hope to look ahead to the electrate apparatus, e xtending the w ork of “Be yond Ease” in both the short term (the production of transitional forms) and the long term (in v enting supplements to ease with accompan ying institutional practices). W ithout a doubt, this w ork will b uild on the rst tw o objecti v es listed abo v e. The possibility of application of these de vices to the literate apparatus, follo wing Le v Mano vich' s notion of transcoding (see page 170 belo w), creates the opportunity to reconte xtualize ne wly de v eloped ideas in re vision of current composition pedagogy As more w ork lik e Mano vich' s appears, and the shape of the ne w media apparatus can be more assuredly e xpressed, I will be able to of fer a more deniti v e shape for the electrate equi v alent of ease. The stak es surrounding ease—and the shape of Computers and Writing—are e xtremely high. A transactional vie w of language and education, what P aulo Friere w ould call the banking model, is creeping further and further into writing programs and the uni v ersity as a whole. F or e xample, recently announced changes in the Uni v ersity of Florida writing program reduce the number of student contact hours and install a lecture model in writing classes. This will doubtless pro vide e xpedient, standardized teaching, and more student credit hours per full-time instructor b ut what does it mean for critical thinking? As Ulmer notes in Internet In vention, students arri v e in English

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10 classes with e xcellent training in utility practicality and other forms of “calculati v e thinking, ” and needing to be taught meditati v e thinking (74). In much the same w ay I see little if an y need to spend v aluable classroom time encouraging students to conceptualize writing as another task which follo ws the easy transactional logic of consumer culture. It w ould be better to encourage a conceptualization of writing which allo ws for calculati v e and meditati v e critical thinking, a v ariety of writing styles, and an approach to education which ackno wledged the usefulness of ease b ut rejected its uni v ersal, unconditional application. T o use local language: it is easy to k eep being easy It is hard to understand that a counter -intuiti v e approach may be, for this transitional moment, the best thing going. Some what paradoxically the questions I raised about my composition courses, echoed in Johnson' s w ork, may be answered by mo ving be yond ease for pedagogy and w ays of understanding technology Surely it will be challenging for me to suggest re visions or alternati v es to ease without being seen as another W illiam Bennett preaching the back-to-basics gospel of Boot Camp English or Hook ed on Phonics. The history I present in Chapter 4 sho ws that the debate has to be more comple x than that. The pedagogy I outline in Chapter 5 be gins mo v ement to w ard the long and short term goals I sk etch out here. 1.2 Upon Further Re view . Ulmer encourages thinking of the dissertation as a “practice book, ” or dress rehearsal for a book. T o that end, here is my preliminary re vie w of the rehearsal represented by these v e chapters, and a short list of areas of concern to address in my ne xt performance (in addition to the fe w areas, noted abo v e, where more research is needed).

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11 While writing this dissertation, I had to learn ho w to juggle the mountain of material related to ease, being e xtremely selecti v e, and brack eting irrele v ant content. My ability to w ork with a small amount of material, yet k eep my entire project in mind, has impro v ed steadily since I be gan writing intensi v ely ten months ago. But I still need to w ork harder to fore ground the critical perspecti v es which ha v e pro vided so man y v aluable insights for my research, and to k eep ideas introduced early in my analysis viable during a prolonged ar gument. The w ork of some writers which may seem sorely lacking here—lik e the denitions of ease presented by Roland Barthes or Gior gio Agamben—are brack eted simply because of sheer v olume, and I look forw ard to considering their impact on my w ork as a whole. Also, some te xts I really w anted to consider here just because I lik e them so much—lik e Clear and Simple as the T ruth: Writing Classic Pr ose by Francis-No ¨ el Thomas and Mark T urner —are absent or not v ery well represented. T o cope with the massi v e amounts of material rele v ant to my project, I tried se v eral approaches to historicizing ease—some more successful than others. Se v eral re vie wers observ ed that in v estigating only the historical periods in which signicant change occurred, the cultural studies approach of Chapter 2, w orks better than the more comprehensi v e, b ut much more tedious, approach of Chapter 4. I agree. I lik e composition history and am f ascinated by old te xtbooks, b ut gi v en the theoretical ideas mobilized here, I should combine selecti v e in v entories of that w ork with a more inclusi v e approach. In some w ays, the weight of the material I w as juggling o v erpo wered the apparatus theory cultural studies, and grammatological frame w orks which ha v e been so v aluable for me in man y other circumstances. In se v eral places my historical w ork missed opportunities to discuss the de v elopment of American indi vidualism and the role socioeconomic class played in American

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12 higher education. Both certainly had measurable ef fect on writing. The specics of the process by which electronic technologies became a part of e v eryday life merits further study as well. These tasks do not require original research on my part, b ut connecting my ar gument about ease to e xisting scholarship. As stated earlier my research will soon be at the point where I must e v aluate the composition histories which I rely on here and determine which of se v eral theories about ease and composition history is most accurate. I remain pleased with the idea of the qualities of ease (e xplained in Chapter 2 and summarized in table 2.1 ), especially when it is complemented by a multi v alent notion of ease which has se v eral dif ferent functions (pedagogy ideology technology etc.). My repeated reference to the chart of the qualities of ease taped to my whiteboard helped k eep the dissertation focused, and its success is also demonstrated by the strength of my ar gument. Ho we v er the frame w ork could use some re visions. Blak e Scott suggested that I might e xtend the list of qualities of ease. I agree. T w o oppositions appear useful and should be added. First, the quality “natural, ” as opposed to articial or synthetic. Da vid Mindell' s W ar T ec hnolo gy and Experience on the U .S.S. Monitor an account of the li v es of sailors aboard that pioneering v essel, pro vides the material necessary for situating this de v elopment historically (around the time of the Ci vil W ar). Second, “e xible” or “customizable, ” as opposed to rigid and uni v ersal. Though I am unsure of the historical origin of this quality of ease, or a te xt which might be relied on for better understanding of it, I see tw o possibilities: (a) the classication of made to order “custom” goods and services as the highest order of consumerism, as response to the mass standardization of consumer society; (b) the customization of computing and ne w media, discussed on page 168 belo w

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13 At times, my discussion of the qualities of pragmatism and e xpedienc y lacks specicity and I need to dene those qualities more carefully Similarly my pairing of f acility with e xpedienc y seems problematic at times: perhaps I should consider the former a component of simplicity Also, the qualities of femininity and pictorialism ha v e v ery deep internal contradictions, and I w onder if the y should be included in the oppositional structure of the qualities of ease I am w orking with no w Notably my opposite of pictorialism is literac y—b ut ho w can that be possible if ease is a pedagogy of literac y as I ar gue in Chapter 4? Perhaps I should visualize the matrix of the qualities of ease dif ferently At an y rate, the frame w ork has survi v ed the trials of my practice book, and does connect v ery nicely to the history of ease and its role in composition studies—as we shall no w see.

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CHAPTER 2 THE CONCEPT OF EASE Between 1850 and 2000, the number of technological objects present in Amer ican homes increased drastically Numerous scientic disco v eries and ne w in v entions became a part of daily life during this 150-year period. And while the con v enient, labor -sa ving properties of these appliances, tools, and technologies are still celebrated today at the same time, other v oices w ax nostalgic for the “olden days, ” when apple pie w as made from scratch and not a single clock in America endlessly ashed 12:00. Not surprisingly for man y both stories are compelling: an y account of increasing technological sophistication is also a tale of increasing comple xity A brief query into the history of technology produces man y v ersions of the narrati v e of increasing technology and comple xity in a wide v ariety of forms: liter ature, journalism, history philosophy and more. Because the tale itself is comple x, and deeply inuenced by po werful assumptions about W estern culture and American history perspecti v es on what W alter Ong might call “the technologization of daily life” abound. Despite often shared historical assumptions, one can nd critics and cheerleaders of v arying enthusiasm, radicalism, and analytical sophistication, with an astounding v ariety of moti v ations, writing about this change in v astly dif ferent w ays. Both Luddites and wireheads, to use common labels, often embrace a deeply paradoxical stance to w ard technology recognizing that it can simplify and streamline daily life, or befuddle or confuse it, simultaneously 14

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15 2.1 Ov erwhelmed? The Answer is Easy! A recent co v er story from U S. Ne ws and W orld Report demonstrates these paradox es, as well as common assumptions about technology and comple xity The set of articles which mak e up the co v er story confront issues rele v ant for American culture at both ends of the historical period I consider here. The main article, “Ov erwhelmed by T ech, ” which appears in the Business & T echnology section of the magazine, opens with a nostalgic reference to Al Gross, mak er of gadgetry which inspired Dick T rac y Gross' s gizmos possessed a “sense of simple fun [. .] entirely lacking from the endless numbers of personal or ganizers, portable phones, and multiple-function whatsits no self-respecting millennialist can af ford to be about” (Lardner LaGesse, and RaeDupree 31). By contrast, today' s technologies are not fun gizmos b ut “endish ne w instruments of mental torture” which are an ything b ut enjo yable, and instead dif cult to use (32). The consequences of this comple xity are indicated in se v eral anecdotes. A frustrated minister notes repeated trouble with her laptop, b ut prefers to put up with crashes and lost les instead of spending tw o hours on the phone with tech support. Jef f Ha wkins, designer of the P alm Pilot personal digital assistant (PD A) and no w chairman ( sic ) of Handspring, complains about the problems he has had trying to get a tele vision, videocassette recorder and camcorder made by the same manuf acturer to operate in concert: “What a disaster ” he laments (32). But the articles look be yond tales of lost sermon manuscripts and recalcitrant home entertainment systems, and ar gue that comple xity endangers the entire technology industry The authors observ e that despite potential for sales of ne w products such as digital cameras and do wnloadable music, consumers ha v e already stopped b uying ne w products, as the y

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16 “[try] to gure out ho w to w ork the de vices the y already ha v e” (31). And the bear mark et in technology will w orsen if sales do not pick up. The suggested solution, making things easy has been adv anced as the panacea for numerous technological problems. Noting the “runa w ay success” and “straightfor w ard and intuiti v e design” of Ha wkins' s PD As and other popular consumer electronics, the writers ar gue that high-tech de vices do not ha v e to be high-stress (32). Good design, rejection of what Donald Norman calls “featuritis, ” e xtensi v e usability research, and more patient product de v elopment of fer a path to simplicity and ease. F or e xample, more sophisticated softw are could update itself silently “without the consumer e v en kno wing” (34). Ben Shneiderman of fers an analogy based on automobiles: “[put] the engine under the hood and [let] e v eryone b ut people willing to get their hands dirty operate the car from the dri v er' s seat” (34). As the article concludes: one thing has become clear from the blo wback high-tech companies ha v e been treated to o v er the past fe w months: Consumers may not e xpect all their ne w gadgets and gizmos to be fun, b ut the y are demanding that at least the y don' t mak e them feel lik e idiots. (36) Consumers w ant things to be easy But the rst paradox of ease re v ealed by the article is that “making it easy” will not be, well, easy: “It tak es enormous computer po wer and programming kno w-ho w to mak e something complicated look simple” (33). Ha wkins' s PD As are easy only because his companies defy con v entional wisdom and use a recursi v e—and e xpensi v e—de v elopment c ycle which focuses on ease of use throughout design and production. Unfortunately for consumers, the writers moan, Ha wkins' s companies are the e xception. The entrenchment of engineer oriented cultures at companies lik e Son y and Gate w ay re gulates the inuence of consumers, insuring product designs best suited for “cock y de v elopers, ” not Joe and

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17 Jane Consumer Apparently Norman and Shneiderman' s critiques of these systemcentered cultures ha v e had little ef fect. F ortunately a slightly dif ferent v ersion of this “easy is hard” paradox of fers a solution: “Continuing leaps in processing po wer and computer storage promise more horsepo wer to mak e comple x products easier to use” (34). Supposedly the same technology which threatens to o v erwhelm us will soon enable the end of comple xity Operation through v oice commands and hand signals is just around the corner — it is just a matter of time before adv ances at MIT “mak e computing as ef fortless as breathing” (34). Increases in technological sophistication promise more natural computers which w ork lik e we do, and enable us to get our jobs done, unlik e today' s articial tools which w ork as the y do, maintaining unnecessary attention to procedure and systematic concerns. The authors contend that entrepreneurship, in the form of start-up companies free from prot e xpectations and de v eloper -centered corporate cultures, will play a big role in this march to w ard ease. But can e very technological gadget be made easy? Some what grudgingly the writers admit that certain de vices may not be straightforw ard and intuiti v e, and in order to use them, one must read the manual, purchase training, or w ork with support. Such ef fort and e xpense could be quite producti v e: for e xample, a fe w hours spent learning to use lters could sa v e hours of time deleting junk email (36). Ho we v er the admission that “making it easy” is not the only w ay to approach technology tak es up less than tw o paragraphs on the last page of the article. The conict of common sense present in “Ov erwhelmed by T ech” reects the deeply paradoxical nature of ease and considerable frustration about ho w to confront that paradox. Again, this is nothing ne w: the paradox es of ease are e vident in the technologies of writing, kitchen appliances, and w arf are. Ho we v er the de gree to

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18 which these paradox es are ackno wledged v aries considerably and I will discuss that in detail later in this w ork. F or the U S. Ne ws article, one could be gin such discussion with some questions: what happens if the softw are do wnload which occurs in visibly contains a b ug which causes a program to crash? Who will pay for the cost of the de v elopment required to mak e products easy to use? “So man y gadgets and so little time, ” a sidebar to the article, of fers one answer Consumers will pay for ease, at least if the y follo w the strate gy suggested there for b uying a digital camera: “Start with a lo w-cost model so there' s less guilt if it gathers dust. As a bonus, cheaper v ersions can be easier to learn. [. .] If you lik e digital photography you can b uy a better camera at ne xt year' s plunging prices” (Lardner 36, my emphasis). Ho w purchasing a second camera will reduce the number of gadgets one o wns is unclear —as is what will become of the old camera and the pictures tak en with it. The tentati v e correlation between cheaper v ersions and ease of use contradicts the pre viously introduced maxim “Easy to use is hard to mak e” (though that correlation is consistent with the assumption that entrepreneurial start-up companies are able to peddle cheap w ares thanks to lo w e xpectations of protability). A glance at the rest of the magazine in which the article appears establishes that the U S. Ne ws writers are correct about consumers' demands for ease. In editorial content, softw are is praised as “easy for ne wbies b ut e xible for techies” and because it “mak es group blogging easy” (Morris 52). Adv ertising for a hearing aid b ubbles, “Y our friends will notice ho w much more easily you can hear and understand” (Hearing Help Express 53). Another adv ertisement promises to “mak e your computer as easy to use as your telephone” (Green T ree Press 25). Indeed, this small sample reects adv ertising in other media, where a huge v ariety of technological and nontechnological products and services are mark eted as “easy” or “easy to use. ”

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19 “Ov erwhelmed by T ech” presents ease as a solution to a technical and economic problem. But it lea v es open man y important questions, the most signicant of which is the nature of ease itself. What indeed is ease? What role does it play in the history of American culture—and in discourses and disciplines such as composition? What problems does ease solv e, and what ne w problems does it create? What is its relationship to technological and non-technological objects, systems, actions, and agents? Why does ease seem to ha v e a paradoxical nature? Do the contradictions introduced by paradox es of ease ha v e af fects on those seeking an easier e v eryday life? In the rst tw o chapters of this w ork, I will tackle these and other questions, while pro viding a general introduction to ease. My description of ease will start with historical consideration which pro vides a frame for denition and introduces se v eral broad trends in the de v elopment of ease. In later chapters, I will in v estigate the role of ease in composition pedagogies in detail. 2.2 Historicizing and Dening Ease “Ov erwhelmed by T ech” is by no means the only te xt which presents ease as a remedy for the gro wth of comple xity in technological products. Se v eral of the academic and professional e xperts mentioned in the article ha v e written strong theoretical ar guments adv ocating ease of use. Norman' s The Psyc holo gy of Everyday Things and Shneiderman' s Designing the User Interface of fer detailed ar guments grounded in cogniti v e psychology These tw o books, other te xts published by these authors, and the w ork of Jak ob Nielsen and Edw ard T ufte, among others, ha v e established v ery inuential theories of design (and psychology) which v alorize ease of use and demonstrate that applications for ease e xtend f ar be yond the realm of the “high-tech” de vices which are the focus of the U S. Ne ws article.

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20 Figure 2.1: K odak Adv ertisement, 1884. My research of the historical role of ease underscores this point. Adv ertising has mobilized ease for years, de v eloping methodologies for selling products and services quite similar to those Norman, Shneiderman, and others adv ocate for their design. Indeed, the disciplines of usability human f actors engineering, human-computer interaction, and information architecture sho w considerable debt not only to Norman and Shneiderman b ut to Madison A v enue. F or o v er a century ease has been associated with consumer products ranging from paper to wels and sanitary napkins to rotisserie cook ers and automobiles. T echnologically adv anced products were mark eted as “easy to use” long before America Online' s slogan w as “So easy to use, no w onder it' s number one”—K odak adv ertisements ar gued that “Home photography is easy” as early as 1894 (see Figure 2.1 ).

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21 I will consider the history of ease by describing the oldest meanings of ease which remain rele v ant today then turn to four time periods during which supplemental meanings for ease were established or the scope of objects, systems, or practices considered as “easy” e xpanded. While this method will f all short of a comprehensi v e history of ease, I will co v er critical time periods in its e v olution, establishing the grounds for de v eloping a systematic denition of the qualities of ease which are po werful today The denitions of ease I introduce in this historical re vie w will pro vide a method for understanding ease in composition studies as well as in American culture at lar ge. 2.2.1 Historical and P opular Denitions In the Oxfor d English Dictionary the rst sense of the noun “ease” (I.1) has economic connotations: “[o]pportunity means or ability to do something” (31). This signicance remains in current usage as the colloquial “life of ease” or “li ving on easy street” which represent the pinnacle of economic achie v ement (33). While not often used in a denotati v e sense, connotations of wealth and well-being remain associated with ease. By 1700, the second sense of ease, “[c]omfort [or] absence of pain or trouble, ” where ease is a state of being, w as well established (32). The OED of fers multiple v ariations of this sense of ease quite rele v ant today with man y synon yms and v ariations reecting considerable e xpansion of meaning. T oday ease is not only comfort, b ut con v enience. It is a state of being in which anno yances and problems are minimized and the possibility of pleasure is imminent. Ease is freedom from hard w ork, toilsome physical labor and e xcessi v e strain. A person “at ease” has a calm, collected appearance and no ur genc y in her aspect. American common-sense prerogati v es to minimize labor for maximizing prot as well as in the pursuit of happiness, of fer a po werful endorsement of the system of v alues implied by ease,

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22 despite the paradoxical condemnation of “taking the easy w ay out” which can occur if minimizing labor is tak en too f ar Easy objects, systems, or practices can be learned quickly e v en mastered, with a minimum of ef fort, and their use appears ef fortless or natural. The y are nonthreatening, intuiti v e, simple, e v en comforting. Complication, comple xity and dif culty are absent from easy things, or at least not apparent to the casual user In most cases, the use of easy things serv es one of tw o purposes: simplication or mitigation of a comple x or dif cult task, or production of a feeling of ease (or feelings congruent with the characteristics of ease) in the agent. Three qualities of ease which appear in current denitions were well established in historical denitions. 1 2.2.1.1 The qualities of ease: comf ort, eff ortlessness, and transpar ency As I note abo v e, comf ort is the most fundamental quality of ease, and the quality on which man y uses of “ease” or “easy” hinge, in both historical and current usage. Though some qualities of ease delineated here are deri v ed from comfort, ease is often little more than a pure state of comfort, enjo yment, or pleasure. Close association with comfort or enjo yment encourages the widespread v alorization of ease and easy things. In current usage, “natural” is often used to describe the sense of ease f acilitated by comfortable things, as in the third sense in the OED : “[a]bsence of pain or discomfort; freedom from anno yance” (34). “Intuiti v e” is another important synon ym for comfort which has gained widespread usage thanks to the popularity of desktop computing—at times “intuiti v e” designates a conte xtualized, f amiliar or habitual nature, b ut its use is often simply cle v er mark eting. 1 The labels I select for these and other qualities of ease outlined here are deri v ed from current usage and may be some what anachronistic.

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23 Eff ortlessness matches the fourth sense in the OED : “[a]bsence of painful ef fort; freedom from the b urden of toil; leisure;” (34). Ease is a state nearly free from physical labor and intense acti vity Easy things f acilitate this ef fortlessness by reducing or eliminating the manual labor needed to require a task, or by allo wing things to be done more quickly possibly creating leisure time (comfort). Historical nautical uses of ease and easy as well as the colloquial “tak e it easy” and “easy-going, ” reect a meaning of calm, undisturbed passage or mental state. The relati v e position of ef fortlessness in the denition of ease increased during industrialization, as a life with less back-breaking manual labor became possible for more indi viduals, raising the bar for the standard of ef fortlessness required to achie v e ease. Ho we v er to a lar ge e xtent, ef fortlessness is the mere appear ance of being at ease in the e yes of others, and one' s actual condition of ef fort, toil, or leisure is less important. Ease frequently appears as transpar ency : freedom from concern with complication or procedure. T ransparenc y (also identied as in visibility or passi vity) is opposed to opacity or visibility This meaning of ease, deri v ed from combination of comfort and ef fortlessness, is the sense of “easy” which dominates the U S. Ne ws article I discuss abo v e. T ransparent things appear understandable and enable a person to complete a task without paying unnecessary attention to details or steps in the process which can be automated, remo v ed, or completed in accordance with the intended use and design. But v alorization of transparenc y can mak e ease quite problematic: it may eliminate or conceal complication and painful ef fort for the agent as it displaces it to another less fortunate, in visible w ork er As Ev an W atkins has observ ed, this is one of the means by which the increasing class stratication in American culture can be ignored: if the labor of the lo wer classes is in visible, perhaps the y can be in visible too. Also, transparenc y can mak e ease self-perpetuating, because if one learns a specic w ay of

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24 functioning without a general understanding of a de vice or acti vity accomplishing a task in a dif ferent manner is impossible (or at the v ery least, less lik ely). Named as “clarity ” transparenc y frequently appears as one of the goals of writing or ar gument—indeed, the OED notes that as early as 1711, writing “sho wing no trace of ef fort; smooth, o wing” w as considered easy (33). English and American composition te xtbooks and writing style guides for other disciplines ha v e v alorized clear easy to read prose for years, while den ying the dif culty of achie ving such clarity as well as the philosophical ar guments which question its possibility Ironically the nature of transparent or clear writing remains quite unclear in man y of these inuential te xts, which I return to at length in Chapter 4 of this w ork. Though it is most often seen as positi v e, both historical and current denitions of ease include pejorati v e v ariants and connotations. Comfort, especially in its ultimate sense, can indicate e xcess or sinful attention to entertainment and fri v olity The Bible f amously w arns against lax discipline: “Those who spare the rod hate their children, b ut those who lo v e them are diligent to discipline them” (Pro v erbs 13:24). Puritan religious teaching—undoubtedly inuential in American education—fro wned on e xcessi v e mirth and fri v olity (Berco vitch 4). Similar assumptions about rigor and dif culty of instruction create the implication that f acilitating comfort and ease is coddling or pandering—a dif culty anticipated by John Lock e in Some Thoughts Concerning Education (see page 84 belo w). Ease also indicate economically enabled detachment—a state of mind in which one' s luxurious lifestyle enables an unrealistic disconnection from the laborious rigors of daily life. The OED denition reects this usage with its repeated references to ro yalty whose daily li v es included little e x ertion. As economic de v elopment and industrialization changed standards of li ving and reduced the arduous nature of man y

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25 of the tasks of daily life—or in the case of production of food, erased them almost completely—this particular ne gati v e connotation became less important. T oday ease is seldom seen as detachment or aloofness, though it is still identied with economic well-being. While ef fortlessness can indicate leisure and relaxation, it can also be e vidence (or the cause of) idleness and sloth. Praise for hard w ork is codied in man y forms in inuential religious and secular te xts (again, consider the Puritans). There is little doubt this praise made the b urdens created by e v eryday life more manageable: if hard w ork w as e vidence of virtue, then moral character —or at least its appearance— w as accessible to e v en the poorest laborers. Indeed, this correlation has weak ened little since the time when intensi v e labor w as a f act of daily life for all b ut the v ery rich—and one could ar gue that the correlation of hard w ork and virtue has incr eased since daily arduous physical e x ertion is no w for man y optional. T o be sure, changing denitions of “hard w ork” ha v e af fected denitions of ease. Finally transparenc y can be a necessity enforced by a lack of mental sophistication. There is a perception that less talented or intelligent indi viduals require transparent things in order to be producti v e. The currently popular “F or Dummies” series of educational te xts embraces this sort of percei v ed need, partially neutralizing its pejorati v e character Re gardless, a tinge of guilt or shame often accompanies the desire for transparenc y ef fortlessness, or comfort—feelings which can be e xacerbated by criticisms of these three qualities. 2.2.2 Ref orming Education in England, 1680–1740 Ambi v alence to w ard ease is well-represented in a te xt published at the end of the rst historical period considered here as part of the e v olution of ease. The Art of Rhetoric Made Easy written by John Holmes and rst published in London in

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26 1738, appeared during an intense period of educational reform. Reformers supported more v ernacular instruction, challenged teaching methods unchanged for centuries, and sought to supplement traditional curricula with more practical matters such as geography and bookk eeping (Stok er 1). Holmes ackno wledged and supported these reforms in the Rhetoric and other publications. But his pref ace sho ws mix ed feelings: [I]n this Day [. .] School-Bo ys are e xpected to be led, sooth' d, and entic' d to their studies by the Easiness and Pleasure of the Practice, rather than by F orce or harsh Discipline dro v e, as in days of Y ore. F or while some of them are too Copious in Things not so immediately the Concern of Bo ys at School, most are too Brief in Things really necessary for Y outh to be inform' d of, and none at all so happ y or methodical as to distinguish between One and T'Other (xiii) 2 Here Holmes ar gues that easiness and pleasure lead to a lack of discipline and inability to tell w orthy pursuits from tries. Despite this problematic, ease (named as such, b ut also implied by the “pleasure” and calls for gentler discipline) retains enough v alue to appear in the title of his w ork and to be mobilized pedagogically This is a ne w conte xt for ease—before Holmes' s time, pedagogues seldom suggested students should be comfortable or subject matter accessible, or that teachers or te xts mak e learning easy Quintilian w as one of fe w ancient v oices suggesting a gentler w ay of teaching (K ennedy 42). Though as indicated abo v e Holmes does not unconditionally support demands for ease made by contemporary schoolbo ys, his production of a te xtbook which of fers an easy method amounts to ar gument for a pedagogy of ease, and support for reformers lik e Lock e and Isaac W atts. Bre vity and simplication are Holmes' s principal methods for making rhetoric easy to learn. The Art of Rhetoric Made Easy of fers “a Short, Plain, Comprehensi v e 2 The dedication, pref ace, and introduction in John Holmes' s The Art of Rhetoric Made Easy are unnumbered. Therefore, I ha v e cited Holmes' s frontmatter as if the rst page of the te xt (the title page) w as numbered with the small Roman numeral “i, ” the ne xt page with “ii, ” and so on, making the nal page of the pref ace “xx. ”

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27 and Re gular Method. ” Its foundation is “the glorious and e xtensi v e Plan of the Ancients” abridged “by lea ving out the copious P arts of their W orks” (xi v). As common in contemporary rhetorical te xtbooks, long lists of tropes are included, b ut uncommonly their denitions are presented as short v erses, and Holmes implies study of lesser tropes can be omitted. Holmes' s “easy” w ould doubtless f all short of twentyrst century standards: Latin and Greek quotations ll the Rhetoric and e v en though each is brief, and his system not comprehensi v e, the list of tropes and denitions to memorize is lengthy 3 The success of Holmes' s w ork is e vidence of the le gitimac y of the “easy” pedagogy of reformers. His Rhetoric w as reprinted almost immediately a second edition issued in 1755, and another v ersion appeared in 1786. In England and America, the te xt “maintained a de gree of popularity for well o v er a hundred years after its publication” (Ho well 137), as the rst rhetoric to e xplicitly identify ease in its methodology Outside of rhetoric, it w ould inaugurate a long series of “Ho w-to” books which promised arts, crafts, and disciplines “made easy ” But e v en today man y v oices object to the absence of discipline assumed to accompan y ease, and demand the preserv ation of dif culty and discomfort in education in a wide v ariety of forms. Man y educational practices displace comfort, ef fortlessness, and transparenc y: corporal punishment for misbeha ving schoolchildren, the preser v ation of classic British and American literature as “the canon, ” standardized testing rubrics which mandate retention or remedial education for lo w scoring students, attempts to shore up “soft” curricula, and the preserv ation of educational practices which 3 Holmes ar gues that other features of his w ork help mak e it easy; see page 103 for more discussion of those techniques, and my re vie w of the “easy” rhetorics and pedagogical practices of Holmes' s reform-minded contemporaries and follo wers.

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28 resemble intellectual hazing (public recitations, dissertation defenses). (See page 113 belo w .) 2.2.2.1 The qualities of ease: simplicity and pragmatism Holmes' s w ork demonstrates the emer gence of simplicity and pragmatism, tw o ne w qualities of ease which supplement the three listed abo v e. Both are lar gely absent from the OED denition of ease, e v en today Ho we v er Holmes' s te xtbook, “Ov er whelmed by T ech, ” and man y other sources suggest the y ha v e been k e y components of denitions of ease for quite some time. Simplicity a lack of comple xity or dif culty is not well-represented in OED denitions, b ut readily apparent in “Ov erwhelmed by T ech, ” and a k e y component of current denitions of ease. Simplicity appears v ariously as lack of ornament, uncomplicated presentation, bre vity the absence of dif culty and an unambiguous nature. In Holmes' s w ork, simplicity tak es tw o forms: the reduction of comple xity though the omission of unnecessary details, and the reduction of comple x ideas to elemental unities congruent with Cartesian principles. This is congruent with man y senses of simplicity which ha v e been connected with ease o v er the years. In some cases e xperts mak e complicated objects, systems, or practices easy through simplication; in others, objects, systems, or practices are de v eloped from the start with simplicity in mind. Notably denitions of simplicity in writing and other conte xts are quite similar A pejorati v e cast of “simplicity” appeared v ery early in the e v olution of the denition of ease, around the same time and with the same meaning as the adjecti v e “simple-minded. ” This sense of easy “[m]o v ed without dif culty to action or belief ” ( OED 33), w as e xpressed in the colloquial “easy mark” and “easy game. ” T oday

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29 creating this form of simplicity as ease is often called “dumbing do wn” or “making idiot-proof ”—lik e the transparenc y of the F or Dummies -style series I mention abo v e. A class of consumer goods which pretend to “simplicity” appeared contemporary to the rise of the consumer mo v ement, and remain quite popular today These goods are “simple things” representing the “simple life, ” albeit hea vily commodied and transformed into e xpensi v e designer goods and services out of the reach of man y people. 4 This simplicity is highly b ut quietly selecti v e: the crook ed artw ork and charming handcrafts of the Appalachian f armer are included; abject po v erty and the toil of hand-operated tools are not. Such af fected simplicity has the outw ard appearance of the simplicity of po v erty and lo w-tech daily life—rele v ant because, as noted abo v e, it is the appear ance of ease, not its actual presence, which is important. The reforms which The Art of Rhetoric Made Easy represented included a pragmatic attitude to w ard education. As Lock e and others ar gued, geography and bookk eeping had v alue in contemporary culture as the tools of colonial mercantilism. Not surprisingly pragmatism e xtends much deeper into the denition of ease. A disengagement from generalization or general understanding is the most po werful pragmatic tendenc y present in easy objects, systems, or practices. The practice of ease suggests that conte xtualized, specic, local kno wledge is preferable to abstract, theoretical kno wledge. Because de v elopment of the latter can be dif cult and comple x, it recei v es secondary if an y emphasis. Pragmatic approaches rely hea vily on transparenc y—achie ving a goal or accomplishing a task without unnecessary delay or obfuscation—and are closely connected to e xpedienc y a quality of ease introduced after W orld W ar T w o. 4 Retail stores lik e Restor ation Har dwar e and P ottery Barn pro vide good e xamples of these products.

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30 The di vision between no vice and e xpert common in W estern education and attitudes to w ard technology reinforces the simple, pragmatic character of ease. Experts perform processes of simplication and determine boundaries of pragmatic rele v ance. No vices, who are not supposed to be able to understand dif cult things, and should prefer easy alternati v es or representations, must accept the e xpert interpretation of importance. The pragmatic character of ease discourages de v eloping skills which enable the rise from no vice to e xpert, lik e understanding Cartesian method, which Sharon Cro wle y ar gues underlies much composition pedagogy (42–50 passim ). Both simplicity and pragmatism reinforce disciplinary structures, which in turn reinforce the po wer of e xpertise. Cautions a gainst simplicity also play a lar ge part in the formation of the no vice/e xpert binary Because simplicity is often associated with ease, and is the pro vince of no vices, dif culty is reserv ed for e xperts, and easy things appear less sophisticated and unsuitable for e xpert usage—simple imitations of the comple x original. F or writing, Jacques Derrida charts this process using Plato' s Phaedrus : “ According to a pattern that will dominate all of W estern philosophy good writing (natural, li ving, kno wledgeable, intelligible, internal, speaking) is opposed to bad writing (a morib und, ignorant, e xternal, mute artice for the senses). And the good one can be designated only through the metaphor of the bad one” (Derrida 149). Here, again, is the paradox of ease. So simplicity and pragmatism enforce the no vice/e xpert split in both directions: encouraging e xperts to look do wn on easy things, portraying them as decient to the original; and discouraging no vices from comple xity and dif culty prof fering easy solutions as “good enough” for their less demanding situation.

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31 2.2.3 Bringing Ease Home in America, 1880–1930 The second period of intense change in the nature of ease occurs after industrialization and the de v elopment of ne w technologies af fected the daily life of most Americans. Susan Strasser has chronicled the changes in American culture which occurred between 1880 and 1930, focusing on the ef fects on w omen. Her scholarship reminds us that accounts of technologization which occurred during this “rise of consumerism” are often radically simplied. Man y interrelated agents and forces should be considered in studies of consumer culture, including attention to ease in adv ertising, publishing, and product de v elopment. Contemporary popular and scholarly w orks sho w great f aith in technological adv ancement, presenting an unproblematic account of ne w wealth and increased standard of li ving. In 1919 Christine Frederick collated writings from Ladies' Home J ournal and other sources into Household Engineering a manual for homemak ers which suggests the y could radically impro v e their quality of life by applying principles of scientic management to daily routines. The ar gument of Household Engineering is a clear and simple syllogism: T aylorist methodologies simplify w ork, sa ving steps and time; ne wly a v ailable household products and de vices ease the intensity of manual labor; therefore, emplo ying both results in a more or ganized and ef cient home, and a happier homemak er Ease appears in Frederick' s te xt in se v eral w ays. First, she ar gues the tools of house w ork should be more “scientically” designed for comfort in use. Suggestions include raising or lo wering tabletops and sinks to pre v ent stooping, using a stool instead of standing, and purchasing a sto v e-top of proper height (12, 18). But “comfort” is narro wly dened—“ef fecti v eness” seems closer to what Frederick had in mind, gi v en her descriptions of “comfortable” tools. Second, Fredrick encourages mitigation of

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32 ef fort and reduction of toilsome labor or dif culty Throughout Household Engineering she ar gues that ne wly de v eloped technological de vices and household products could perform labor done pre viously by hand, change household processes to eliminate labor or reduce the intensity of manual labor required for a certain task. Frederick' s w ork recognizes historical qualities of ease and the economic pinnacle demonstrated by the contemporary colloquial “easy street” and “life of ease, ” ( OED 33). Her prescriptions for homemak ers demonstrate that as America industrialized and de v eloped a consumer culture, a ne w possibility for ease appeared. Ease itself changed from an abstraction most people could only dream about, or enjo y in infrequent and eeting moments, to a commodity which could be produced and enjo yed in the home, gi v en the right tools properly used. In one sense, this w as a genuine change in the standard of li ving and w orking conditions of man y people. But in another it w as just relaxation of the standards of the mythical “life of ease” which enabled the de v elopment of the consumer economy T o some e xtent, the reality of change is moot. Because more and more people belie ved that ne w products deli v ered on promises of ease, it be gan to b uild inertia and cultural po wer Lik e Holmes, Frederick sho ws some reluctance to “mak e it easy” unconditionally and her approach is quite comple x. Though she asserts household engineering w ould “ enable the homemak er to have leisur e time to de v ote to inter ests whic h ar e mor e important than the mer e mec hanics of living ” she insisted that time reco v ered through her methods be de v oted to the “higher ends of personal and f amily happiness and success” ( Household Engineering 504, 509). While Frederick ar gues that household ef cienc y is more than a method for getting w omen to do more w ork, and en visions more po wer for w omen and a partnership with husband and f amily rather than service to them, her method for achie ving that po wer is “well planned w ork and equally

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33 planned for minutes of leisure-time” (515–6)—perhaps a bit more structure and re gulation than current concepts of an easy comfortable, ef fortless approach might intimate. Contemporary adv ertisers were not nearly as cautious as Frederick. Numerous ne w and old products were touted for their labor -sa ving properties. Some mark eting suggested that products themselv es were easy to use, such as magazine adv ertisements from K odak stating “Home Photography is Easy ” or the use of the “Easy” brand name by the Syracuse W ashing Machine Compan y Ho we v er description of labor -sa ving properties and the ne w leisure time possible by ef cient v acuum cleaners, deter gents, or w ashing machines w as much more common. The products Frederick helped mark et were just too complicated to be con vincingly presented as easy to use—another e xample of the paradox of ease. T ransparenc y of technology w as, in most cases, not yet a reality despite Frederick' s call for de vices which brought “comfort in use. ” In this time period, ease in consumer products w as primarily represented by ef fortlessness, comfort, and pragmatism; transparenc y and simplicity were present, b ut secondary During this time reformers critiqued se v eral forms of ease. Thorsten V eblen introduced “conspicuous consumption” and other concepts such as “trained incapacity” to the language of sociology and progressi vism (18, 68). V eblen' s pointed criticisms of upper -class Americans nd f ault with man y things identied here as qualities of ease: the desire to impro v e social standing, rejection of the functional, v alorization of abstention from or reduction of labor and a life of idleness f acilitated by wealth (the “life of ease”). Around the same time, numerous literary critics, artists, and philosophers in v olv ed in the a v ant-garde, modern artistic mo v ements, and Russian F ormalism embraced comple xity and dif culty rejecting man y of the qualities of ease identied here. Their w ork questioned man y of the assumptions on which the v alorization of

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34 ease w as constructed. The F ormalists praised dif culty in and of itself, identifying characteristics such as “making strange” and “def acilitation” as the fundamental qualities of literariness. In painting, theater and literature, aesthetic realism and naturalism were rejected in f a v or of more abstract, less directly representati v e forms. Ho we v er these critiques were e xceptions to the rule of gradually increasing strength, importance, and desirability of ease. 2.2.3.1 The qualities of ease: femininity Correspondence between ease and femininity strengthened during this time period. The ancient correlation of w omen and comfort, through their supporti v e role as mothers and wi v es, w as supplemented with ne w meanings which bolstered ease' s gendered nature. The coarsest equation of ease and femininity “W omen cannot handle dif culty so the y need easy things, ” reected the perception that w omen were delicate, fragile, and unsuited for “man' s w ork. ” V ictorian ideals for femininity encouraged w omen to culti v ate this role, reinforcing the assumption of w omanly weakness. A pejorati v e sense of “easy” connected feminine comfort and the notion that w omen were inferior w ork ers (and thus needed comfort, transparenc y simplicity and ef fortlessness). Interestingly if w omen culti v ated this trained incapacity (to use V eblen' s term), the y w ould nd themselv es in needs of de vices which produced ease, such as electric appliances, since hand-operated machinery w as too hard for their gentle nature. Frederick encouraged w omen to embrace ease through consumption: in Household Engineering she directly addresses w omen, advising them to purchase household products which possess qualities of ease, and to follo w principles of scientic management in order to produce ease in the home. Her follo wup, Selling Mr s. Consumer addresses adv ertisers and mark eters hoping to capitalize on the spending po wer ne wly v ested in w omen. These e xtremely inuential w orks solidied

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35 the gendered nature of ease and helped establish the role of w omen as gatek eepers for household consumer spending. The ambi v alent nature of ease w as also reected in contemporary slang: the se xually promiscuous “easy w oman, ” who is simultaneously attracti v e and repulsi v e, and the use of “easy on the e yes” or “easy to look at” to describe physical beauty— especially in w omen ( OED 34). 2.2.4 Humanizing T echnology 1939–1958 After W orld W ar T w o ended, technological adv ancements made during w artime be gan to lter into ci vilian use, industries commandeered for w artime production resumed their re gular output, and memories of years of depression and rationing were quickly swept a w ay by uninterrupted economic gro wth. A 1957 U S. Ne ws article labeled the decade follo wing the w ar “ten amazing years, ” noting a general increase in wealth, nancial security and the spread of ne w products and in v entions lik e tele vision, freezers, v acuum cleaners, and air conditioning—items most w ould consider technological goods (28). More and more often, adv ertising for these products noted not only w ays their use could impro v e standard of li ving by producing qualities of ease such as comfort and ef fortlessness, b ut the w ays in which the products themselves were easy to use. Electrically controlled, push-b utton operation replaced “old-f ashioned” types of controls. “ Automatic” or “computerized” products became more common. W artime weapons de v elopment introduced ne w disciplines as well as ne w technologies: nuclear physics, rock et science, and computer science, to name a fe w and pro vided the b ureaucratic structures which ensured their post-w ar survi v al. Lesser kno wn elds lik e human f actors engineering also beneted from huge go v ernment e xpenditures and the push to mak e more ef fecti v e military forces. During the w ar e xperiments and research ef forts were some what limited, taking the form of “knob and

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36 dial studies”—analyses of the arrangement of the controls of airplane cockpits and other comple x mechanical de vices. Though not widespread, these ef forts did impro v e the ef cac y of the increasingly sophisticated machines of w ar and pa v ed the w ay for or ganized human f actors research. The le gitimac y of this ne w discipline and the dramatic rise in the popularity of technological de vices are e vidence of another step in the e v olution of ease. Producing ease through the use of technology as w as the case during Frederick' s time, w ould not suf ce. No w technology itself had to be easy The e v aluati v e po wer of ease had gro wn remarkably: de vices which lack ed ease of use were of questionable w orth and could be discarded and replaced with ne wer easier ones. As is often the case, adv ertisers and manuf acturers noticed (and encouraged) the ne w attitude to w ard technology rapidly mobilizing ease of use in mark eting programs and product design. But academics were not f ar behind. The gro wth of human f actors engineering and concern for ease of use is demonstrated by the formation of ne w institutional formations. The Er gonomics Research Society be gan publishing the journal Er gonomics in 1957, and in 1958 the Human F actors Society started distrib ution of its Human F actor s Early issues of these journals reect the military heritage of the discipline, focusing on nuclear physics, a vionics, and spaceight, with most contrib utors af liated with American armed forces. The opening editorial of Human F actor s ar gues that “[t]he ultimate aim of each human f actors ef fort is to w ard the optimal utilization of human and machine capabilities to achie v e the highest de gree of ef fecti v eness of the total system” (Morehouse 1). Most of the prose in the rst issue has a similar militaristic, b ureaucratic tone. But a forw ard-looking letter to the editor written by a member of the Human F actor s editorial board insists upon “good co v erage from a wide spectrum of ci vilian industrial human f actors problems, all kinds of transportation problems, human f actors problems

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37 in communications, and in consumer goods and equipment” (Spragg 46). When an article in issue 1.4 (No v ember 1959) came under attack for “e xhortatory phraseology” and a lack of technical detail, the authors defended their approach by ar guing such “pedantic `scientic”' language contradicted the editorial mission of the magazine. In f act, the y pointed out, other re vie wers of the article thought it w as “unnecessarily technical” and hard to follo w (Dreher and Ev ans 102). Clearly some researchers w anted to mak e Human F actor s easily read, and belie v ed the missions of the journal, the discipline, and ease e xtended f ar be yond military-oriented “knob and dial” w ork. These struggles should be considered not only as disciplinary gro wing pains b ut as a continuation of the ambi v alence to w ard ease demonstrated in Holmes' s introduction and Frederick' s directi v es for the use of leisure time. Neither “ease” nor “easy” appear in early issues of Human F actor s though it is clear (at least in retrospect) that beneath the militaristic jar gon man y contrib utors are v alorizing qualities similar to the ne w denitions of ease: especially the virtue of e xpedienc y 2.2.4.1 The qualities of ease: expediency Demand for the rst v e qualities of ease I identify here (comfort, transparenc y ef fortlessness, simplicity and pragmatism) increased notably after the w ar The connections of ease and femininity remained strong, e v en as w omen' s w artime success in the w orkforce w as le v eraged into limited gains in gender equity A ne w quality of ease, expediency w as de v eloped from the synthesis of pragmatism, transparenc y and general v alorization of speed made possible by mass production, industrialization, and electronic communication. As it appears in ease, e xpedienc y is generally congruent with denitions which date back to Aristotle. The e xpedienc y of ease embraces speed and suppresses of ne gati v e consequences or complications. Expedienc y enables more

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38 ef fecti v e transparenc y: it supplements the lter of rele v ance pro vided by pragmatism with a lter of speed. Man y of the easy “con v enience products” which appeared during this time period were v alued because of e xpedienc y F ast and frozen food, more e xpensi v e and less healthy than freshly prepared food, are v aluable for ease of preparation and cleanup (cook or b uy it, eat it, thro w the container a w ay). As w as the case with pre viously discussed qualities of ease, adv ertising implied that de vices which were not ob viously con v enient and easy were unsuitable. Manuf actures often proposed shelving or disposing of last year' s gadgets in f a v or of ne w and impro v ed models—as w as the case with the digital camera I describe on page 18 abo v e. Changes in infrastructure also demonstrated demand for e xpedienc y: controlledaccess highw ays appeared during this time, and locally controlled and named roads were abandoned in f a v or of federally re gulated systems. This had tremendous impact: as Marshall McLuhan observ es, “Great impro v ements in roads brought the city more and more to the country [. .] W ith superhighw ays the road became a w all between man and the country” ( Media 94). Similar w alls gre w between economic classes who could af ford e xpedienc y and those who could not. Educational systems were af fected as well: with more subjects to learn at all le v els of education, and increasing numbers of machines and technological processes in daily life, there w as a considerable need for learning quickly and without complication. Critiques of consumerism which had been gaining steam since V eblen' s time gre w along with the American economy Indeed, the title of Ralph Nader' s Unsafe at Any Speed tak es on ne w meaning if e xpedienc y is considered. Consumer protection and en vironmentalist discourse called for understanding of the costs of the e xplosion of consumer society both in terms of personal, local ef fects and perhaps unseen or distant

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39 changes wrought by ne w technologies and consumerist practices. Other criticisms in popular writing lamented the loss of kno wledge as specialization spread, and hiring maintenance and repair technicians replaced traditions of o wner -operator repair w ork. Robert Pirsig' s Zen and the Art of Motor cycle Maintenance is not shy about its Platonic heritage, in v oking the gure of Phaedrus to speak out against the increased speed and pressure of consumer society and the turn a w ay from general kno wledge, especially as manifest in a f ailure to understand technological de vices. 2.2.5 Computing Made Easy 1984–pr esent The nal de v elopment in the meanings of ease I e xamine here is the e xtension of ease to the personal computer a de vice e xponentially more complicated than an y of the de vices Christine Frederick mentioned in her tw o books, yet more e xible than machines which human f actors engineers of the knob and dial era e v aluated. The Macintosh personal computer introduced in 1984, w as the rst commercially viable computer which used a graphical user interf ace and w as mark eted as “easy to use. ” Other graphical computers, notably the Xerox Star e xisted at the time, as did computers and softw are being mark eted as “easy to use. ” Ho we v er Apple w as the rst to combine the tw o: in sharp contrast to its principal competitor the IBM Personal Computer (PC), which ran Microsoft' s DOS operating system (MS-DOS) and had e xtremely limited graphical capability e verything about the Macintosh w as graphical. The PC w as boxy boring, silent, and ugly; the Macintosh w as curvy ashy talkati v e, and cute. The Apple Human Interface Guidelines published in 1987, codied man y of the principles e xpressed in the early Mac OS, enabling transfer of its foundational principles to other technological and non-technological de vices. The Apple design philosophy as e xpressed in maxims which introduce the Guidelines, fore grounded

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40 comfort, transparenc y simplicity and speed. Ease of use is reinforced through pragmatic no vice/e xpert di vision (named here as “user/programmer”), and consistent preference for visual display The Apple Desktop Interf ace pro vides a consistent and f amiliar computer en vironment in which people can perform their man y tasks. People aren' t trying to use computer s —the y' re trying to get their jobs done. (2) Most programmers ha v e no trouble w orking with a command-line interf ace that requires memorization and Boolean logic. The a v erage user is not a programmer (4) [The command-line interf ace . .] distracts all users from their tasks and focuses attention instead on the computer' s needs. (5) User acti vities should be simple at an y moment, though the y may be comple x tak en together (7) Users feel comfortable in a computer en vironment that remains understandable and f amiliar rather than changing randomly People use computers because computers are v ersatile and f ast. (8) The introduction of the Macintosh demonstrated another change in the character of ease: if a system as e xible, po werful, and technologically complicated as a personal computer could be made easy why couldn' t anything be easy? Norman' s The Psyc holo gy of Everyday Things also published in 1987, w ould help le gitimate that syllogism of ease. This book has become one of the most inuential books in the “usability” mo v ement: an outgro wth of the discipline of human f actors which encourages design and de v elopment practices which result in easy to use objects and systems. Norman analyzes the design of doors, light switches, refrigerators, and other e v eryday things, critiquing an y lack of consistenc y user control, feedback, access to conceptual models, or for gi v eness of errors—the same principles which, according to Apple, made its Apple Desktop Interf ace easy 5 Norman' s prose style matches his ar gument: unlik e the psychologists w orking in human f actors, who clouded calls for ease and usability in dense Armyspeak, Norman frequently uses the rst person or 5 Norman intensies his critique of dif culty in later w ork such as The In visible Computer

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41 “we, ” and seldom emplo ys technical language. While well-researched, and not at all anti-academic, The Psyc holo gy of Everyday Things be gins with anecdotes and direct address to the reader not a literature re vie w lled with footnotes or parenthetical references to other research. F or most readers, Norman' s e xtensi v e background in cogniti v e psychology is transparent—in f act, paperback v ersions of the book are titled The Design of Everyday Things The long-standing connections between transparenc y simplicity and ease ha v e been strengthened mark edly by the Apple Guidelines Norman' s Everyday Things, and comparable publications from other writers, reecting (and helping to better establish) further e v olution in the character of ease. Consider “Ov erwhelmed by T ech, ” the article which I used to open this chapter: demands for transparenc y simplicity or ease appear in nearly e v ery paragraph, and the concepts are often used interchangeably Close correspondence of transparenc y simplicity and ease enables rapid interchange between them. Notably popular writing and scholarship is less often treating the qualities of ease distincti v ely b ut in v oking “ease” and assuming the particular meaning will be apparent. The current shape of human f actors research indicates that most people w ould name the personal computer or the W eb as the current frontier of usability and ease of use. But from its original incarnation to the present day the W eb w ould be nothing without writing, the technology Holmes wished to mak e easy—and, to this day the most important technology in v olv ed in the personal computer Once more, common-sense reasoning is nearly syllogistic: more than an ything else, personal computers are machines for making te xts and communicating. If the computer itself should be easy and use of its w ord processing and typesetting applications should be easy shouldn' t writing and communicating be easy as well? This e xpectation is

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42 strengthened immeasurably by the role the qualities of ease has long played in rhetoric and composition. It is easy to assume the parallel mo v ement to w ard clarity bre vity and simplicity in the goals, style, and pedagogy of writing, and the design, use, and purpose of other things, is a simple, natural, ine vitable e v olution. Critiques of this ne w role for ease ha v e been limited. A fe w magazine columnists attack ed the Macintosh because it supposedly f ailed to measure up for b usiness. John C. Dv orak e v en cast the battle in gender terms, calling the Mac “ef feminate” and its principal competitor the IBM PC, a “man' s computer designed by men for men” (Le vy qtd in Bro wn). Once again, appearance w as a problem: the Mac did not look lik e a b usiness machine. Almost fteen years later Dv orak w ould say of a ne w Macintosh notebook computer the iBook, “I can only describe it as a `girly' machine. Y ou e xpect to see lipstick, rouge, and a tray of e ye shado w inside when you open it up” (34). Ho we v er Dv orak' s critiques of the Macintosh interface ha v e disappeared no w that it is apparent visually rich softw are lik e the original Mac OS is here to stay Updated v ersions of earlier critiques against ease ha v e appeared, lik e Neil Stephenson' s In the Be ginning W as the Command Line an ar gument for the GNU/Linux operating system which echoes man y of Pirsig' s concerns about dwindling user kno who w Ho we v er the de v elopment of computer operating systems such as GNU/Linux and FreeBSD has also demonstrated that in the conte xt of netw ork ed computing, e xibility and po wer can be harnessed to create systems which defy con v entional wisdom on ease. Most Linux distrib utions include command-line and graphical user interf aces and applications, inte grating these “hard” and “easy” en vironments, making much of Stephenson' s critique of graphical systems irrele v ant. Projects lik e Linux and the K Desktop En vironment sho w that highly usable computer systems can be e xtremely

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43 po werful and v ersatile—contrary to general denitions of ease and e xpectations common in in mainstream computing. Though it will tak e time to af fect enduring change, non-traditional de v elopment models no w of fer an alternati v e to the system-centered de v elopment model which has preserv ed the culture of dif culty of computing. Adv ertising usually touts the benets of ease, b ut some companies ha v e successfully mobilized its ne gati v e characteristics of ease. Nik e' s long-running “Just Do It” campaign ar gued both e xplicitly and implicitly that in order to succeed, athletes must ignore discomfort and incon v enience, embracing hard w ork and e xtreme e x ertion (as well as Nik e products). By contrast, General Motors' s “This is not your f ather' s Oldsmobile, ” which admitted that the Oldsmobile brand w as associated with easydri ving, some what emasculated cars suited for aging men, w as unable to shak e the ne gati vity of ease and a younger hipper clientele. Despite considerable ef fort, the campaign f ailed, and the brand w as phased out. Both accounts sho w the endurance of the ambi v alent character of ease—as well as the importance of the image and appearance of ease in guring the resolution of that contradiction. 2.2.5.1 The qualities of ease: pictorialism My list of the qualities of ease concludes with pictorialism. The graphical and visual nature of the Macintosh interf ace, Norman' s calls for “visibility ” and the changing nature of “transparenc y” as a quality of ease reect the drastic shift in the importance of the visual and pictorial which has shaped twentieth-century W estern culture. F ollo wing Richard Rorty W J. T Mitchell calls this shift “the pictorial turn, ” a general recognition that the visual demands cultural attention due to increasing importance and rele v ance—or suspicion. Images, v alorized in f antasy spectacle, and by the immense popularity of visual media, are opposed to the rational discursi vity of the literate apparatus (2–4). In a similar w ay ease pri vile ges the pictorial, visual, and

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44 electrate o v er the graphical, v erbal, and literate. It is a reection of common-sense kno wledge of the status of images: w atching a mo vie is easier than reading a book; a picture is w orth a thousand w ords. Pictures seem to possess, naturally and intrinsically man y of the qualities of ease, notably e xpedienc y and simplicity W ithout a doubt, the connection of under standing and vision (“I see” meaning “I understand;” “vision” signifying “wisdom”) supports this correlation. The a wesome inuence of Edw ard T ufte' s studies of visualization ( En visioning Information and The V isual Display of Quantitative Information ) for usability studies has also bolstered the widespread assumption that ease of use and the pictorial are, generally speaking, congruent. But Mitchell reminds us that the pictorial turn is by no means not unconditional. The embrace of the visual and pictorial is deeply ambi v alent: images are critiqued as dangerous, debilitating, and dehumanizing—especially by those defending the icons of literate culture (1–4). This ambi v alence is paralleled by the ambi v alence found in ease: are pictures r eally better than w ords? Do w ords and images follo w the same patterns, where ease is concerned—for e xample, are images which are easy to read hard to mak e, as is the case with w ords? Derrida' s recognition of the comple x nature of the gr aphical as a hybrid of visual and v erbal underscores the problem with this oppositional formulation. In The Langua g e of Ne w Media Le v Mano vich notes that twentieth-century pictorialism is shaped mark edly by traditional realism, particularly the realism of Hollyw ood cinema which Robert Ray calls the “in visible style” (Mano vich passim ; Ray 32). Through transparenc y and ef fortlessness, here is another connection to ease: while as carefully methodically produced as an y other the “in visible style” appears natural, and its incredible information density is easily assimilated by the vie wer As Mano vich points out, perv erse v ersions of that model of information e xchange

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45 infect man y areas of desktop computing, such as virtual reality where Jaron Lanier' s resistance to linguistic forms continues “the f antasy of objectifying and augmenting consciousness” and “the desire to see in technology a return to the primiti v e happ y age of pre-language, pre-misunderstanding” (59). I return to Mano vich' s e xtremely important book in the nal chapter of this w ork. Finally the idea of “image” is rele v ant for ease in a slightly dif ferent sense. In some cases, especially the image one projects to others, an appearance (or an image) of ease is critical, and one' s actual condition of comfort, ef fortlessness, or other qualities of ease is not important. 2.3 The Role of Ease T oday T able 2.1 summarizes the qualities of ease I introduced in the preceding historical re vie w and notes opposites frequently contrasted to them. These qualities still shape American culture, though shifts in relati v e importance and desirability ha v e occurred as ne w qualities supplemented historically po werful ones. Also, man y of the functions of ease I presented during the historical re vie w remain po werful today The original meanings of ease, ab undant wealth and comfort, li v e on today as the “ American Dream. ” Ease can also be a state of mind attainable during rest or leisure, a pedagogical de vice, a commodity produced by a concert of indi viduals and technology or a design philosophy My historical denition of ease can be summarized as a list of v e trends: 1. Ov er its long history the number of discourses, disciplines, and areas in which consideration of ease is rele v ant has increased consistently 2. Though it once carried e xtremely ne gati v e connotations, the ne gati vity associated with ease has gradually decreased, though it remains inuential today

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46 T able 2.1: Charting the Qualities of Ease quality often opposed to comfort, enjo yment discomfort, pain, anno yance transparenc y in visibility passi vity apparent, visible, acti v e ef fortlessness, leisure intensity w ork simplicity comple xity dif culty pragmatics, specicity localization theory abstraction, generalization femininity attraction masculinity distancing e xpedienc y f acility deliberation, hard to learn pictorialism literac y 3. Ease has al w ays had a deeply paradoxical nature, ackno wledged to dif fering de grees o v er time. The simplest e xpression of this paradox is, “ Achie ving ease is not easy ” 4. The number of dif ferent qualities by which ease is made manifest, and which dene ease, has increased o v er time. Ne w qualities ha v e supplemented older ones, and are often e xpressions deri v ed from historical forms. 5. The number of functions which ease serv es in society has increased o v er time, and the relati v e importance of functions has shifted so that most recently introduced functions are most important. Since the middle of the nineteenth century the gro wing use of ne w methods, products, and technological de vices ha v e enabled the production of ease in its most fundamental role (comfort and leisure). Post-w ar booms in consumption and consumerism e xtended the realm of possibility for this production of ease to man y other objects, systems, and practices, and added the criterion that things which produced ease should themselv es be easy T oday this e xtension continues, as the de v elopment of easy-to-use personal computers has all b ut ended restrictions on the application of ease in technological products or de vices, le gitimizing demands for ease in nearly an y conte xt.

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CHAPTER 3 EV ALU A TING EASE 3.1 Is Ease Good or Bad? In her 1929 follo w-up to Household Engineering Christine Frederick ar gued that the logical conclusion of the progress of American industrial society w as a shift in the goals of ci vilization and culture. Though realization of her vision for America w as delayed by the Great Depression, the postw ar e xplosion in consumerism—and the gro wth of ease—follo wed her prescription to a lar ge e xtent: A ci vilization lik e ours—unlik e that of the Roman or the Greek— center s its g enius upon impr o ving the conditions of life It secures its thrills from in v enting w ays to li v e easier and more fully; means to bring foods from more ends of the earth and add to the v ariety serv ed on the f amily table; methods to bring more ne ws and entertainment to the f amily reside; w ays to reduce the labor and hardships of li ving; w ays to ha v e more beauty and graciousness in the domestic domicile; w ays to satisfy more of the instincts of more of the f amily group. (Frederick, Selling Mr s. Consumer 15) F or man y people, this quest for easier fuller li ving through v ariety entertainment, relaxation, and beauty is simply natural and instincti v e, as Frederick has identied it here, and the history of American ci vilization is simply one of betterment, a long increase in economic, educational, and democratic successes. Ingenuity technological adv ances, and hard w ork dri v e betterment, and the v alorization of ease is an unproblematic part of that ongoing process. The roles of ease I describe abo v e—as abstract standard for economic achie v ement, temporary state of mind, pedagogy and both means and end of technological consumer products—are nearly totally naturalized. 47

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48 But I ha v e also noted that ease has ne v er been accepted outright. Though in man y w ays it seems unquestionably positi v e (“instincti v e, ” as Frederick w ould ha v e it), nearly e v ery quality and function of ease has a ne gati v e side ranging in strength from ambi v alence which pro v ok es caution to a v ery strong reserv ation which pre v ents v alorization of ease completely (or at least limits its conte xts). T o summarize: comfort and ef fortlessness still carry the stigma of sloth. Those who demand transparenc y or simplicity are often labeled as stupid or lazy Contro v ersy o v er pragmatism and e xpedienc y frequently appears in education, as well as in ethical and en vironmental rejections of consumerism. And as Mitchell ar gues, the concept of the pictorial turn is a recognition that the problem of the spectacular image is serious enough to mandate immediate philosophical and popular attention. 3.1.1 T echnology and Ease The consistent presence of these ambiguities and paradox es is the rst reason why it is dif cult, if not impossible, to mak e a nal judgment about ease—to determine if it is good or e vil. Qualities of ease often appear intertwined, and o v erlapping meanings e xist side by side. Positi v e and ne gati v e aspects are produced in almost an y situation in which ease is in v olv ed. An easy-to-use thing may indeed deli v er tremendous benet. But what problems does it produce? Are benets so much the focus that problems are ignored? Should one consider the ef fect on other indi viduals or systems while attempting to mak e a case for or against a particular appearance of ease? In technological thought, the question of good or e vil is often answered with deferral: technology is just a tool, and its good or e vil character is determined by the human agents who use it. Langdon W inner has pointed out that despite its attracti v eness and frequenc y of in v ocation, this resolution is problematic. The f aults W inner identies for the question “Is technology good or bad?” are applicable to the question “Is ease

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49 good or bad?” because the connections of ease and technology run v ery deep, as I demonstrate abo v e. Ev aluation of the good or e vil of ease presumes that one can understand fully the impacts of an y gi v en situation where it is present. F or technology W inner reminds us there are three reasons this is impossible: rst, technologies ha v e unintended consequences which, though the y may not be pernicious, are often not visible to the agents in v olv ed, and percei v ed (much less understood) only with remo v al of time and distance (21). Second, though W estern common sense about technology assumes that human beings are the masters of both the natural w orld and the technology the y create, this is simply not the case. Changes in the natural w orld, f ailures of technological systems, and other f actors pre v ent mastery of technology (26–7). Thirdly though W estern common sense about technology encourages a conceptualization of technology as a neutral tool, it is all b ut impossible for an y technology to achie v e this neutrality (30). Doing so w ould entail the complete absence of the agenc y of the designer (problematic for a v ariety of reasons) as well as achie ving freedom from ideological structures of the culture from which the technology originated. Ev en the simplest tool reects the design choices and ideological assumptions of its creators. One can ar gue that fore grounding assumptions made during the design process (through user manuals, directions, or other e xplanations) mak es it possible for the user to understand a gi v en design—b ut that understanding, e v en if complete, is certainly not neutrality And that lea v es open the question of une xamined ideological assumptions or predilections not ackno wledged for other reasons. T o be sure, the e xtent to which choices of human designers are manifest in technology is inuenced by a huge number of agents which af fect the production of the de vice or system and its use. No matter ho w conscientious the designer users can ignore directions and use technologies as the y see t, or be

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50 inuenced by cultural pressures unbekno wnst to the designers—pressures which could shift an object, system, or practice from intended use. F ollo wing the usual path of deferral of “good or bad” to “it depends upon the w ay it is used” can distract attention from the ambiguity of ease pre viously discussed. My answer to the question, then, is “Both, ” and the course of action implied by W inner' s critique is in v estigating both the dangers and benets of ease—not just le gislating against “bad” use and shifting blame for it a w ay from ease itself. It w ould be better to preserv e of the ambi v alent quality of ease through re vie w of some ar guments for and against ease. While it may be quite dif cult to predict ho w ease af fects a gi v en situation, the plurality of arenas in which ease appears le gitimate mak es some ef fect almost certain. In f act, that ubiquity of ef fect is the ne xt thing about ease which I will consider 3.1.2 The Ideology of Ease Ease has e v olv ed to the point where it has become a po werful ideology with tremendous ef fect on American culture. This function of ease may ha v e the po wer to trump those discussed in Chapter 2 abo v e. Because there are numerous w ays in which ease is made manifest, and a wide scope of potential application, e v aluating an object, system, or practice often, if not al w ays, includes consideration of its ease. The ideology of ease is its po wer to be mobilized as an e v aluati v e tool, especially for technologies, and the w ay it functions as a system of representation. 3.1.2.1 Stuart Hall' s concept of ideology Because man y theories of ideology e xist, I w ould lik e to clarify the specic w ay I understand the concept. Stuart Hall outlines a theory of ideology which establishes a balance between classical Marxian concepts, rightly criticized for rigidity and postmodernist theory which in some forms mak es theorizing determination or

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51 ideology impossible. Through a selecti v e reading of Louis Althusser Hall suggests a comple x model of determination and a pluralistic concept of ideology rejecting simple, mechanical models in which there is a one-to-one correspondence between determining base and determined superstructure, and class position the sole criterion for establishing control of the base. Hall be gins from a comple x notion of determination which replaces x ed correspondence between determining base and determined superstructure with a connection more lik e Raymond W illiams' s setting of limits and e x erting of pressures (W illiams 87). This formulation ackno wledges comple x structures of authority lik e that of the modern state, in which po wer is articulated from countless positions, and in di v erse w ays. It also allo ws the operation of ideological forces outside the strict control of the state, and recognizes that ideology may f ail to af fect certain institutions. Thankfully Hall is clear that refusing rigid notions of “determination” does not mean adopting a w antonly post-structuralist attitude, in which dif ference is “pushed be yond the point where it is capable of theorizing the necessary une v enness of a comple x unity or e v en the `unity in dif ference' of a comple x structure” (92). A post-structuralist critique of determination should mean there is “no necessary correspondence” between base and superstructure, not “necessarily no correspondence” between the tw o. Instead of post-structuralist tendenc y to “becom[e] hostage to the pri vile ging of dif ference as such, ” Hall calls for “thinking unity and dif ference; dif ference in comple x unity” (93). Hall' s concept of determination allo ws for de v elopment of theories of ideology which more closely match li v ed e xperience: economic benet for the upper classes is deri v ed from the mobilization of a number of dif ferent ideologies which need not appear simultaneously or consistently (97). Recognition of multiple, interconnected ideologies, instead of a “dominant ideology ” and articulation of comple xity and

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52 dif ference, instead of only dif ference, better enables representation of “the comple x interplay of dif ferent ideological discourses and formations in an y modern de v eloped society” (104). Thus ideologies are articulated recursi v ely with both structures of determination and practices—discursi v e or otherwise—connected interdependently In the middle ground Hall establishes, ideologies ha v e both discursi v e character (as ideas, thoughts, and other discourses) and material e xistence (when inscribed in practices). Hall e xplicitly reestablishes the importance of language and discourse for ideology: “language and beha vior are the media, so to speak, of the material re gistration of ideology the modality of its functioning” (99). According to the concept of ideology which he adv ocates, and which I use here, ideologies are “systems of representation, ” the “systems of meaning through which we represent the w orld to ourselv es and one another” (103). 3.1.2.2 The ideology of ease today Ease is one of the man y systems of representation which enforce the common sense of American culture and society setting limits for the roles of technology and other artif acts, e x erting pressures on decisions made in e v eryday life, and reinforcing the assumptions which under gird other ideological formations. F or e xample, as sho wn by anecdotes from “Ov erwhelmed by T ech” on page 16 abo v e, objects, systems, and practices which cannot be made easy can be discredited by manuf acturers and consumers alik e—their use is limited, or completely ignored. In response to the demands of e v eryday life, consumers are pressured to see ease as the solution for rising comple xity and increasing technological sophistication. Common assumptions about technology are shaped by the desire for ease, and the system of representation places the qualities of ease on the strong side of inuential binary oppositions.

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53 The close connection of ease with writing and other technologies, established o v er time, pro vides se v eral reasons why the ideology of ease is so perv asi v e. First, if demanding ease is acceptable for the process of learning ho w to write, which is alternately portrayed as dif cult and easy it should be acceptable for nearly an ything. W ithout a doubt, the connections between ease and writing, strengthened substantially by colle ge composition curricula de v eloped in American colle ges during the nineteenth century f acilitated the e xpansion in the role of ease to certain technological objects, and e v entually with introduction of the personal computer to all technological things. In the ne xt chapter of this w ork, I will e xamine the relationship of ease and writing in much greater detail. The role transparenc y has played in ease also boosts the ideological po wer of ease by encouraging ideological operations themselv es. I do not mean that unseen agents are duping the citizenry through the in visibility of ease; in most cases, the in visibility is quite apparent, and willingly accepted. Easy things are v alued because the y are easy not because of nef arious adv ertisers fooling us into belie ving the y are not. A “f alse consciousness” model of ideology is not the point. Rather it is the congruence between the operations of transparenc y and the function of ideology which both encourage acceptance of dominant, accepted, common-sense v alues (or to put it in mark etspeak, of f-the-shelf solutions). Most importantly when ease functions as an ideology its act of representation pri vile ges its benets and deemphasizes its dangers. Ob viously the operation of ease is benecial in some circumstances. But its ideological function often enables sidestepping or dismissing the critiques of ease which ha v e been introduced o v er the years, as noted abo v e, and minimizes the pejorati v e meanings of ease which seemingly contradict its v alorization. Most potential problems with ease are o v erlook ed in

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54 conte xt in f a v or of the “it' s in the w ay that you use it” ethos which dominates W estern thinking about technology Critical e v aluation of ease, which I be gin no w is not on the ideological radar screen. 3.2 Critical Ev aluation of Ease My critical e v aluation of ease be gins with e xamination of the benets produced by easy things. I then of fer a more e xtensi v e discussion of some of the problems created by the gro wing le gitimac y of ease, its careless v alorization, and the increasing willingness to ignore the adv erse ef fects which can occur when ease is demanded in situations of high dif culty or comple xity Also, I discuss se v eral problems introduced during the denition of ease presented in Chapter 2 in greater detail. The function of ease as an ideology does not mean the demise of other functions of ease pre viously discussed, such as reduction of the w ork needed to obtain basic human needs, or its considerable role in teaching the use of technologically adv anced systems. Nor does it mean ease should be condemned in all of its forms. There are v arying le v els of dangers and benets in all the functions of ease, and critical e v aluation of ease is intended to ackno wledge those benets, k eep them in perspecti v e, and to better understand other ef fects which may accompan y them. 3.2.1 Benets of Ease Because I noted man y of the benets of ease while dening the qualities of ease in Chapter 2, I will not af ford this section e xhausti v e detail. The reader can pro vide more particulars if desired. 1 1 Donald Norman' s w ork also pro vides thorough, accessible discussion of the benets of ease, though his terminology dif fers some what from that used here.

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55 3.2.1.1 Quality of life The original meaning of ease included connotations of pleasure, beauty and enjo yment; the pursuit of easy objects, systems, and practices can and should pro vide opportunities for the same in e v eryday life, in both leisure and w ork situations. Small con v eniences, such as getting tak e-out to a v oid cooking and w ashing dishes after a hard day at w ork or while tra v eling, and much more comple x systems in which ease streamlines a dif cult process, present genuine physical and psychological benet. 3.2.1.2 Safety and security Easy-to-read traf c signals and signage sa v e li v es, as do easy-to-operate emer genc y medical de vices and much simpler things, lik e irons which shut of f automatically The de v elopment of con v entions, protecti v e systems b uilt into infrastructure and technological de vices, and the standardization and simplicity the y of fer has increased the safety of daily acti vities. F or e xample, controlled-access highw ays separate trafc with medians or concrete barriers, reducing the chance of a catastrophic head-on collision with an oncoming v ehicle. On these roads, rest stops are placed at interv als calculated to encourage breaks which reduce f atigue and the chance of accident (Ber ger 68). Standardized colors, frequenc y and styles of signage mak es getting lost much less lik ely and numbered interchanges and route numbers mak e it easy to gi v e and follo w directions. F ollo wing easy models of system design can also increase safety by reducing the possibility for human error —and by making safe procedures less troublesome to follo w Ease can embed user preferences or pro vide instructions to sa v e time safely F or e xample, ll-out forms which include directions are more lik ely to be completed correctly Doors which automatically close and lock upon e xit reduce the lik elihood of

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56 crimes of opportunity; doors which open outw ard are easier to open for those e xiting a b uilding in a hurry—which, as Norman observ es, can sa v e li v es during a re (86). 3.2.1.3 Reduced cost De v elopment of easy-to-use de vices allo ws users to speed up daily acti vities by focusing less ener gy on mundane tasks and reducing learning by repeated trial-anderror Easy de vices which store and retrie v e user preferences and customizations, and pro vide automation of mundane repetiti v e tasks, sa v e time and frustration, permitting humans to focus on more creati v e, less monotonous w ork. Man y usability adv ocates ha v e of fered quantitati v e ar guments which sho w that the impact of sa ving a typical w ork er a fe w seconds here and there can add up very quickly Norman ar gues con vincingly that paying attention to the design of light switches, doors, and other simple de vices can reduce long-term operating cost, despite the increased costs of research and de v elopment needed for the production of easy de vices. Carol Barnum' s te xtbook Usability T esting and Resear c h includes an assignment which duplicates these analyses, guring the cost per second of an y w ork er' s time and ascertaining the dollar amount which could be reco v ered from timed testing (22–3, 28). The time and motion studies Frederick used and adv ocated for homemak ers follo w similar patterns. 3.2.1.4 Practicality Ease enables action by automating or eliminating steps or complication and relying on systemic def aults or controls to mak e assumptions about e xpected beha viors and outcomes—or by getting something done despite dif ferences in quality or cost. F or e xample, while de v eloping a customized database-dri v en web site with accompan ying professional quality printed course materials might be the best w ay to prepare a syllab us, man y instructors do not ha v e the necessary programming or pre-press skills.

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57 Ho we v er using easier alternati v es such as a course management system (CMS) lik e BlackBoard or W ebCT and photocopies of laser -printed materials prepared with a w ord processor will often pro vide the educational resources needed. The de v elopment of easy-to-use technologies has enabled the e xpansion of technological po wer f ar be yond the engineers and technicians who reserv ed it for themselv es little more than a century ago. 3.2.1.5 Legitimation of the pictorial Mitchell contends that with the pictorial turn, study of the visual arts is on the rise, and more people recognize the ne gati v e ef fects of conating “culture” and “literate culture. ” Of course, Mitchell illustrates the ambi v alence of this mo v ement, especially continued resistance from defenders of literate epistemology—b ut certainly in the ten years since he penned Pictur e Theory desktop computing has embraced the pictorial turn vigorously It may be a tangential benet, b ut the preference for pictorial and visual which is a part of ease does increase the le gitimac y of pictorial forms. Scholarly programs in lm studies, ne w media, and related disciplines remain secondary to traditional literary pursuits. But in both academia and wider culture, critical attention to pictorial forms is no longer uni v ersally dismissed as misguided f ascination with “entertainment. ” 3.2.1.6 P edagogy Pedagogues lik e Holmes mobilized contemporary philosophy to create systems for learning which endure to this day Ease has been mobilized as a pedagogy for at least three hundred years, and in some areas successfully challenged its opposition (mental discipline, “back to basics” learning, or curricula based on the assumption that “nothing w orth learning is easy”). Making it easy is the model for learning in

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58 educational institutions as well as w orkplaces and e xtra-institutional educational settings (“Quilting made easy” or “ Accounting for dummies”). 3.2.2 Pr oblems Caused by Ease Ev en the most careful and well-intentioned practices which rely on ease for cultural v alorization ha v e unintended ef fects and consequences. More importantly the ideological nature of ease encourages uncritical application: ignorance, willing suppression, or denial of ne gati v e ef fects. Notably because ease is often made manifest only as simplicity or transparenc y this uncritical application can rapidly become selfreinforcing: critical e v aluation which mak es the ideological articulation of ease visible is discouraged by ease' s v alorization of transparenc y 3.2.2.1 Self-r einf or cement Philosophy literature, and popular writing about technology ha v e noted its selfperpetuating nature. Plato' s objections to writing are well-kno wn, based in part upon the f act that once schoolchildren learned to write, their memories w ould atrophy and their reasoning skills w ould suf fer from a lack of use. In Moby-Dic k, Ishmael observ es that precautions tak en to protect the harpooneer dangled o v er the side of the v essel necessitated further measures to protect his protectors—a c ycle of doublings which, in an attempt to ease dangers, only created more of them (Melville 349). Finally te xts such as Pirsig' s Zen and the Art of Motor cycle Maintenance mentioned on page 39 abo v e, ar gue that the anti-technological mindset common in modern culture is, for most people, an inar guable matter of f aith, and criticize the lack of technological kno w-ho w caused by this technophobia. Similarly technological and non-technological applications of ease are self-reinforcing in se v eral dif ferent w ays. The denition of ease as transparenc y or in visibility pro vides the rst and most po werful self-reinforcement mechanism. T ransparent objects, systems, and practices

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59 “just w ork. ” T o use Norman' s language, “af fordances” pro vide prompts or assistance which reduce the need for fully understanding or memorizing the w ay something w orks. But reducing the le v el of understanding or kno wledge can cause problems in the absence of transparent systems, or gi v en a system malfunction. F or e xample, the replacement of gauges with w arning lights enables a person operating a de vice so equipped (such as an automobile) to use the de vice without understanding ho w to read the gauge, or kno wing v ery much about the system to which it is connected. If the w arning light comes on, the dri v er tak es action (stopping to call a to w truck). Ho we v er lacking the ability to read the gauges, the dri v er cannot safely operate a car which uses them. Thus w arning lights, intended as a mechanism for f acilitating transparenc y become a requirement of use. A preson who dri v es a car with w arning lights, not gauges, may not de v elop kno wledge of oil pressure, temperature, and other indicators of engine performance. F or that person, it may also be easier to question the se v erity of a problem indicated by the sudden appearance of a light, as opposed to the continuous feedback from a gauge. Malfunction of easy things can force to self-reinforcement of ease. As Robert R. Johnson notes for computer interf aces: [User -friendly interf aces] can mask the comple xities of the system to such an e xtent that if there is a system breakdo wn, such as when you recei v e a cryptic error message that e xplains the problem in virtually encrypted language [. .] you are left helpless, unable to solv e the problem, and continue with your w ork because you are dependent on e xternal e xpertise not a v ailable to you in an y useful form. (28) This w as the case with the preacher mentioned in “Ov erwhelmed by T ech”: unable to understand error messages and system operation, and unwilling to cope with troublesome e xternal e xpertise, she suf fered data loss (see page 15 abo v e). Computers and Writing scholars were reminded of some of the costs of transparenc y in winter

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60 2001, when the online CMS pro vider BlackBoard be gan char ging for what had pre viously been a free service. Course w are lik e BlackBoard is popular because it enables an instructor with little kno wledge of the technical comple xity of hyperte xt to produce a sophisticated course web site using only a web bro wser content prepared in a w ord processor and BlackBoard' s online system. T o the instructor adding content to BlackBoard, the comple x and technical nature of the hyperte xt le structure underlying the site is transparent. But when BlackBoard changed its pricing structure, and man y instructors were forced to stop using the no-longer -free serv ers, the cost of this transparenc y became apparent in more w ays than one. Instructors who w anted to do wnload their information from BlackBoard had to mo v e each le separately one at at a time, and were suddenly forced to deal with hundreds of les the y did not e v en kno w e xisted. (W ithout technical understanding of hyperte xt, BlackBoard users sa w only “a web site” not “a collection of les hierarchically or ganized. ”) Additionally there w as no automated method for mo ving syllabi out of BlackBoard into other CMS systems (Harris). Suddenly BlackBoard users' lack of hyperte xt le management skills w as no longer transparent. Unfortunately as b udget cuts loom, similar dif culties continue to plague schools which ha v e committed resources to easy-to-use CMS products. Gi v en the tremendous dif culty of getting information out of the proprietary systems, man y educators are paying increased costs rather than abandoning hours of time in v ested in designing courses for specic platforms. Johnson' s User -Center ed T ec hnolo gy documents the second mode of selfreinforcement of ease: e xacerbation of the (already mentioned) di vision between no vices and e xperts. W estern concepts of technology and disciplinary structure pro vide a strong basis for no vice/e xpert di visions (9–11). In its manifestation as pragmatism,

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61 ease le gitimizes the simplication process by which e xperts render dif culty easy for the benet of no vices. Easy things maintain this separation by encouraging users to culti v ate their role as no vices for whom an inability to understand dif cult or comple x systems is perfectly normal, e v en desirable. Sometimes no vices vie w e xperts as sa viors whose mastery of complicated systems earns respect and admiration; in other instances, e xperts are seen as “elites” obsessed with detail or particulars simply irrele v ant for the general public. Notably in both cases, e xpert kno wledge and the possibility of technical mastery are out of the question. In contrast to e xperts, normal folks just w ant the darned thing to w ork, and assume that the role of e xpertise is the transformation of dif cult, e v en frightening technology to an easy user -friendly manifestation. Structures of e xpertise also contrib ute to the dif ferentiation of no vice and e xpert. Johnson ar gues that most technologies are “system-centered, ” with all decisions re garding the technology re v olving around the technology itself: In representations of human life and our attendant technologies through the system-centered vie w ho we v er users are ine vitably ancillary or in some cases, the y are none xistent because the system is po werfully he gemonic: the system is the source and ultimately the determiner of all. Systemcentered technology [. .] locates the technological system or artif act in a primary position. There is no need for the user to be in v olv ed with system or artif act de v elopment, this perspecti v e suggests, because the system is too comple x and therefore should be designed and de v eloped by e xperts who kno w what is most appropriate in the system design. (26) The system-centered model v enerates technical systems and the e xperts who designed them. Experts responsible for the design and maintenance of a gi v en technological system often tak e a quite proprietary paternalistic stance to w ard it, refusing to share information, reserving decision-making po wer and rele gating an yone without e xpertise to subsidiary advisory roles. (Note the gender implications: po werful, masculine e xperts do not need ease; b ut weak, feminized no vices do.) In man y cases, the e xpert

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62 vie w of no vice users is quite hostile, and no vice demands for transparent, easy-to-use things are considered e vidence of mental weakness or laziness (the ne gati v e sense of idleness or sloth mentioned earlier). Ho we v er some e xperts are less derogatory; the Apple Human Interface Guidelines I quote on page 40 abo v e pro vide a gentler e xample of no vice/e xpert di vision. Either w ay the po wer signied by e xpertise, especially in the W est, pro vides a huge impetus for e xperts to design easy-to-use de vices and encourage no vices to a v oid an ything else—strengthening the v alorization of ease. In Thr owaways, Ev an W atkins ar gues that true “gender mobility ” where a person of one gender tak es the usual role of another gender is restricted to men. A man pro viding comfort or sho wing emotion (roles usually reserv ed for w omen) is “sensiti v e”—b ut a w oman who crosses to the male side by sho wing self-condence or leadership is a “bitch” (155). Adapting that concept to my analysis of no vice/e xpert separation, one might say that “ease mobility” is the pro vince of e xperts, who can enjo y easy-to-use artif acts and seek ease without risking their po wer and prestige. But no vices who cross the e xpertise line and made suggestions about the system are seen as uppity presumptuous, or ungrateful. Additionally for no vices, unlik e e xperts, the use of easy things and the desire for ease demonstrates their deference to e xpertise, and weakness of character The common-sense di vision of no vice and e xpert is reinforced by no vices as well as e xperts, with some often shrugging of f their “idioc y” as ine vitable in the light of technological comple xity F or no vice users, ease consistently encourages winkand-shrug acceptance of this separation, a phenomenon which Norman calls “learned helplessness, ” and Johnson labels “technological idioc y ” Users reside on the weak side of the idiot/genius binary W e ha v e embedded the notion of technological idioc y so strongly in our culture that we

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63 actually be gin to think of ourselv es as idiots when we encounter technological breakdo wns. Experts are the ones who “kno w ” so we let them ha v e the po wer which of course means we accept whate v er is gi v en to us. (45) Since ease has become more po werful and acceptable, people sometimes blame themselv es for poor design, mechanical f ailure, or other problems which are absolutely be yond control (and perhaps the f ault of so-called e xperts). Sadly this pathology sometimes becomes an ontology: “I'm not good with computers” or “I'm one of those people who just can' t understand this. ” Most depressingly sometimes no vices re v erse the syllogism of ease e xplicated abo v e, reasoning: “If this is easy and I can' t gure it out, I must really be an idiot, and I'm good for nothing. ” The ideology of ease plays a huge part in the reinforcement of this corrosi v e vie w of complication and dif culty by consistently and unproblematically mobilizing no vice/e xpert separation and do wnplaying the need to truck with, much less engage critically an ything which is not easy The selecti vity of ease mobility and the ideological status of ease naturalize no vices' seeming inability or refusal to learn, and the c ycle continues. 3.2.2.2 Supporting uncritical assumptions about technology The conceptualization of technology encouraged by the ideology of ease relies on, and therefore endorses and reinforces, common assumptions about technology which are questionable, if not completely inaccurate. A re vie w of the “Ov erwhelmed by T ech” article which I quoted earlier sho ws v e assumptions about technology which connect it to, or rely on, assumptions about the function of ease: 1. T echnology is not dif cult in and of itself. Through manifest intent and hard w ork, talented designers and engineers can o v ercome comple xity and produce easy to use technologies (lik e Jef f Ha wkins' s PD As and the original Macintosh). Only the most complicated and dif cult de vices and systems (not a concern for consumers, so merely alluded to in the article) will not be easy 2. Simple, transparent technology is good technology Comple x, opaque technology is bad. When technology is visible, either a mechanical f ailure as occurred, or

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64 the technology is decient. (These sentiments are e xpressed constantly in quotes from consumers and e xperts lik e Norman, Ha wkins, and Alan Cooper .) 3. Because technology is articial, it is hard to use, uncomfortable, and unf amiliar Making technology follo w natural patterns mak es it easier to use, pleasant, and intuiti v e. (Not a major emphasis in the article, b ut underlying the frequent use of “intuiti v e” and similar v erbiage.) 4. T echnological de v elopment and economic gro wth are correlated on a personal le v el: one must o wn and be able to operate technically sophisticated objects in order to be economically successful. Such correlation applies nationally too: in the modern w orld, the health of an y nation' s economy is dependent on being able to produce technologically sophisticated goods, services, and kno wledge. (The authors repeatedly mention the economic do wnturn, and quote consumers who complain about the need to k eep up with the latest technology .) 5. Finally technological progress is constant, consistent, ine vitable, and natural. As technology' s po wer and sophistication increases, its ability to produce ease and to be easy increases as well. (See page 17 for se v eral quotes which conrm this.) Scholarly w ork is also mark ed by these assumptions. W inner has sho wn that critiques of technology from philosophers as inuential as Martin Heide gger often reproduce and reinforce “ine vitability” hypotheses despite attempts to o v ercome them (14). In Or ality and Liter acy W alter Ong ar gues that histories of communication technology often represent f amiliar well-established (e.g. easy) technologies as natural despite their inar guable articiality (81–2). While much of his Psyc holo gy of Everyday Things is carefully de v eloped, Norman' s w ork often f alls back on man y if not all, of these assumptions, and he has a tendenc y to assume con v entions established o v er years are “natural” (4, 17, 23). 2 Combining assumptions about ease and technology into a single assertion could be accomplished in se v eral dif ferent w ays. One approach centers on articiality: “T echnology may seem articial today b ut e v entually it' ll be natural. ” 2 Se v eral pages on Norman' s web site e xpress re gret for the terminology in his books. He may ha v e meant “con v entional” instead of “natural, ” and the forthcoming w ork Emotional Design (2004) will conrm the presence or absence of problematic assumptions about the “natural” properties of human-made things.

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65 Another rendering (well-represented in “Ov erwhelmed by T ech”) w ould match the W estern f aith in technology with f aith in ease: “Sooner or later e v erything will be easy ” Ho we v er if critics of technological determinism such as W inner are correct, this f aith in ease is misplaced and simply unrealistic. The contradictory nature of common-sense assumptions about technology and the paradoxical nature of ease, also call uncomplicated f aith in ease into question. Compare assertions one and three: ho w can the solution for a lack of natural properties be an increase in articiality? 3.2.2.3 Reinf or cement of ster eotypical gender r oles The connection of ease and femininity echoes stereotypical gender roles in a manner which some might consider innocent, not intended to be derogatory or simply a representation of “the w ay things are. ” It is impossible to ignore the sheer quantity of adv ertising and popular writing which capitalizes on the connection of ease and the female gender Casually dismissing these te xts le gitimizes other conte xts in which the easy-female correlation is made unproblematically especially its crudest e xpression: the assumption that w omen cannot handle dif culty or that the y become “hysterical” under emotional stress. More than an ything else, the connection of gender and ease is this perception that w omen lack the intellect and fortitude needed to handle dif cult tasks. T raditionally “hard labor” is the pro vince of men (ne v er mind the labor of childbirth), and w omen are better of f nurturing the children. It is more “natural” for the physically and emotionally stronger man to tak e on more physically and emotionally challenging tasks. Supposedly w omen' s genetically imposed weakness, when compared with men, places them at a number of disadv antages, and can be blamed for their continued e xclusion from certain competiti v e sports, battleeld roles, and salary equity among other things. The gendered nature of ease is b uilt on this and the correlation between

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66 the role of w omen as f amiliar comforting, maternal gures and the f amiliarity and comfort present in the denition of ease. Apple Computer' s iMac mark eting pro vides se v eral e xcellent e xamples of “innocent” connection of ease and the female gender (Indeed, the history of the Macintosh is mark ed by frequent correspondence of the feminine gender and the computer' s easy-to-use qualities, and this is one of man y possible e xamples from Apple.) Shortly after its introduction in 1998, the iMac w as mark eted in a series of tele vision commercials which focused almost e xclusi v ely on tw o things: the e xternal appearance of the iMac and its easy-to-use qualities. None of the technical specications of the machine were discussed—not e v en its oft-criticized lack of a disk dri v e. Thus the commercials are already “feminine”: physical appearance and aspect are the focus, not the hard numbers of performance data. It is hard not to see the iMac commercials as the performance of a group of scantily clad dancers or synchronized swimmers irting with the vie wer W ith the Rolling Stones' “She' s a Rainbo w” pro viding accompaniment, v e of the translucent computers—one in each color a v ailable—mo v e around and through the screen, of fering glimpses of circuit boards when the camera mo v es in for a close-up. The Stones mak e it clear the iMac is a girl, as the y sing, “She comes in colors e v erywhere / She combs her hair / She' s lik e a rainbo w ” There is little doubt Apple intended the vie wer to consider the iMac a female that w as easy to use and came in whate v er color one w anted. The adv ertisement e vidently appeals to traditional models of femininity in which w omen are attracti v e, easy silent serv ants of their male masters. The idea of the “easy w oman” or “lady of easy virtue” pro vides another complicated connection of gender and ease. While on the one hand, the easy w oman is descried for being too willing, too se xual, on the other hand, o v erab undant se xuality

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67 Figure 3.1: LG Electronics Adv ertisement, 2001. and promiscuity mak e her v ery desirable. Lik e ease in general, this sense of ease is deeply ambi v alent, and the easy w oman is simultaneously attracti v e and repulsi v e. As abo v e, this particular meaning of ease cannot be dismissed as a historical oddity (recall the OED denition mentioned on page 35 abo v e). Instead, it is often assumed that the meanings are interchangeable. This w as the case with a 2002 LG Electronics adv ertisement which bragged their cellular phone of fered “Easy to use email. Supermodel easy ” In this adv ertisement, se v eral connotations of ease which portray w omen ne gati v ely are juxtaposed. First, the phone is easy enough to be used by a supermodel (who, as the highest representation of femininity must ha v e the lo west technological skill and intelligence). Second, the phone is as easy to master as a supermodel (who, since she bares much of her body in adv ertising, is lik ely promiscuous). 3.2.2.4 Repr ession of critique F or most educators, the repression of critique, f acilitation of acceptance of the status quo, and discouragement of critical thinking are the w orst problems caused

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68 by ease. Simplicity and pragmatism, which John Holmes connected with ease in an educational conte xt, are frequently and rightly criticized for encouragement of a non-critical attitude, which in T ec hnolo gy and Liter acy in the T wenty-F ir st Century Cynthia Selfe calls “not paying attention. ” Though Selfe speaks of composition studies scholars, not students or the general public, the problem applies to all of these groups—certainly teachers' attitudes are reected in, as well as inuenced by curricula. The problem of not paying attention applies to e xtra-educational situations as well: indeed, willing in visibility is critical for the function of transparenc y in the service of ease, no matter what the conte xt. Selfe' s ar gument be gins by discussing technology and the dominant methodology for dealing with it: hoping that it will be in visible. In composition studies (and perhaps all of English), consideration of technological issues limits real composition w ork: studying “the theory and practice of language” (21–2). The desire for in visible (transparent, to use the terms for ease established abo v e) technology in classroom situations is a reection of the desire for all technology to “just w ork, ” to be unproblematic, unchallenging, and simple. Ho we v er this uncritical acceptance of the technological situation runs counter to encouraging de v elopment of critical thinking skills, one of the stated goals of most composition courses (as well as, for man y rhetoric itself). Selfe ackno wledges that f ailure to ask questions about technology will entrench the po werful e xpert vs. disenfranchised no vice opposition described by Johnson abo v e (143). Building on her technological analysis, Selfe ar gues that the desire for comfortable, f amiliar non-challenging technology is often e xtended to a lack of paying attention to other situations, in the hopes that a similarly comfortable en vironment can be disco v ered there (Selfe 23, 38–9). Educators prefer to ignore the ef fects of technology which occur outside the immediate educational situation—in f act, the y prefer to

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69 dismiss e verything outside the immediate en vironment, citing their inability to af fect change, irrele v ance of “distant” e v ents, or the need to “just get my w ork done” (a sizable dose of pragmatism is e vident here). Ho we v er as Selfe' s analysis of the Clinton administration' s desire to increase “technological literac y” sho ws, a f ailure to think critically about these seemingly unrelated e v ents has real ef fects for students and teachers. In rather uncomfortable detail, Selfe sho ws ho w Clinton administration mandates resulted in di v ersion of funds from salaries, construction projects, and other classroom e xpenditures to ne w technological infrastructure, netw orking and technology—often without training or support (43–63). At least in part, educators' f ailure to ask hard questions about the ef fects of these ne w policies led to the entrenchment of assumptions about technology which f acilitated them—and which are v ery similar to the assumptions about technology and ease which mark “Ov erwhelmed by T ech”—as well as the de v elopment of policies which af fected “non-technological” areas of educational systems. Selfe' s solution for this problem is encouragement of the de v elopment of “critical technological literac y” through a cooperati v e ef fort undertak en by educators, parents, and go v ernment agencies. She sees this as, follo wing Donna Hara w ay a situated kno wledge, a more sk eptical, questioning, discursi v e approach to understanding what technological literac y might be (147). Language v ery similar to that which is often used to describe critical thinking marks Selfe' s discussion of this critical technological literac y which she describes in detail in the third part of T ec hnolo gy and Liter acy Unfortunately the ideological nature of ease means that common sense runs in e xactly the opposite direction. Selfe calls for an end to v alorizing in visibility (134)— as ease mak es transparenc y more and more acceptable. She ar gues that increasing students' understanding of technology is not merely a matter of installing netw ork

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70 cables and serv ers (71–5)—b ut ease backs the simple, instrumental solution. She points out that truly understanding a gi v en situation or practice means connecting local, discursi v e, and instrumental kno wledge with general understanding of its lar ger conte xt (146–9)—b ut ease suggests a pragmatic approach, learning only the immediate conte xt needed to accomplish the short-term goal. If the qualities of ease are k ept in mind while reading Selfe' s w ork, it is clear reform-minded educators f ace an uphill battle. Stephen Katz has critiqued the push for e xpedienc y in technical communication on ethical grounds. The tendenc y to collapse all deliberati v e rhetoric into a push for e xpedienc y—speed, ef cienc y and ef cac y or “technical criteria as a means to an end” (257)—shifts rhetoric a w ay from Aristotle' s focus on means to a more utilitarian focus on ends. Katz reminds us that before and during W orld W ar T w o, the Nazi go v ernment culti v ated e xpedienc y in nearly all its communications, and gently points out the horrid consequences of that obsession with ends and disre gard for means. F or Katz, the Nazi' s ethic of e xpedienc y helped pre v ent internal questioning of the “Final Solution, ” the repression of dissent, and the bombing of ci vilians. Expedient language made it easier to deal with the nasty b usiness of day to day life as a Nazi of cial. But as he points out, problems of e xpedient rhetoric did not disappear on V -E Day The e xpedient technologization of rhetoric could transform its “democratic decision-making process” into “ tec hniques of persuasion and audience adaptation calculated to serv e” ends with no attention to means (Katz 271). A highly technologized rhetoric with an ethic of e xpedienc y encourages bypassing deliberation, objections, or less popular opinions in f a v or of easy ends achie v ed through the use of the latest technologies. In the classroom, this can result in deconte xtualized learning (the presentation of pure technique), and more seriously the debasement of ethics through reduction of concern for the reader to minimizing the time necessary for transmission of the information

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71 being presented (or another item to check of f the list of details to address when proofreading). Katz' s connection of ease, e xpedienc y and technique has great potential and needs further study The repression of critique by ease also occurs because critique often in v olv es the de v elopment or e xplanation of sophisticated, pluralistic points of vie w which f ail se v eral tests of ease. First, comple x positions tak e time and ef fort to de v elop—it is easier to reiterate simple, well-established positions back ed by common sense, since the y do not require an in v enti v e process for either establishment or protection against rhetorical attack. Sharon Cro wle y has noted that the rhetoric most common in rst-year composition encourages repetition of common sense by mo ving in v ention outside of the pro vince of rhetoric—and out of the composition classroom. Secondly common sense has the adv antage of transparenc y: it is obvious why one w ould ar gue that w ay Lengthy e xplanations and in v estigation of assumptions are not required for the inar guable f acts of common sense. As Roland Barthes demonstrates in Mytholo gies, common sense is natural, depoliticized, comfortable speech: ideas which are “natural and without saying” (143). Finally comple x, abstract ideas based on theory are descried as “disconnected, ” the w ork of “elites” who do not understand the real w orld. Esche wing abstraction in all forms enables highly personalized, conte xtualized writing—in both content and style—which, as James Berlin notes, mobilizes indi vidual e xperience consistent with American predilections for positi vism. T o summarize: ease has the po wer to neuter critique, reducing it to a trope emplo yed for the sak e of form, because being F air and Balanced is a Good Thing. Ease can transform critical thinking to a ritual speed b ump o v er which one slo ws as little as possible on the straight and narro w w ay forw ard.

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72 3.2.2.5 Incr eased cost If one of the benets of ease is o v erall reduction in cost despite increased design cost, ho w can increased cost be one of its problems? The answer lies in the paradoxical nature of ease, and in questioning the accurac y of ease as a system of representation. V alorization of certain forms of ease are b uilt on assumptions about the relati v e v alue of w ork. F or e xample, replacing home preparation of meals with frozen or f ast food is justied because, as numerous adv ertisements repeatedly stress, time spent on meal preparation is better spent w orking or relaxing with the kids. McDonald' s or Healthy Choice is much easier —and the implication is more responsible—than preparing a home-cook ed meal. There is no doubt these easy alternati v es require less time for purchase, preparation, and cleaning, and higher monetary cost (e v en the cheapest f ast or frozen meal is substantially more e xpensi v e than its home-made analogue). But does meal preparation (or an y other acti vity) necessarily pre v ent one from “relaxing with the kids?” Rapid b ut perhaps inaccurate mo v ement between qualities of ease f acilitates se v eral assumptions: that meal preparation and enjo ying time with children are necessarily mutually e xclusi v e; that there can be no pleasure in “menial” tasks lik e laundry landscaping, or maintenance of one' s home; that ling a tax return is too complicated for most people, and requires the aid of softw are or an accountant. F or all these things, a more careful analysis w ould sho w the incongruity of e xchange between the senses of ease equated here. Ne v ertheless, increased cost is justied by the assumed congruence of qualities of ease: cooking can be a hassle, therefore it cannot be enjo yable or e xpedient. Landscaping in v olv es hard w ork: therefore it is neither pragmatic nor enjo yable. T ax la w is complicated; therefore it lies be yond the grasp of laypeople.

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73 Once again, W atkins' s Thr owaways usefully points out se v eral ideological assumptions which empo wer the v alorization of ease. W atkins ar gues that “time is mone y” only for those who ha v e enough mone y to consider con v erting their mone y into someone else' s time. F or the w orking class, time is not mone y b ut all the y ha v e. That' s why spending an hour or tw o on meal preparation, automobile repair laundry yardw ork, or tax preparation (in addition to and despite of the amount of those things one might be doing for others) mak e sense. It must mak e sense—it is the only option for survi v al (93). T o continue adapting W atkins' s w ork, this is another case of “ease mobility”: paying for an oil change, doing something the easy w ay mak es sense if you can af ford it—if you enjo y a life of ease. But if you cannot af ford the e xpenditure, there is no e xtra mone y-as-time to e xchange for ease. The ideological dri v e for ease helps justify the increased cost almost al w ays present in “easy” things. In man y w ays tolerance of increased cost is also made possible by the ne xt ne gati v e ef fect of ease: making cost transparent by shifting it to another agent, time, or place. 3.2.2.6 Rendering cause or effect in visible Robert Johnson of fers a po werful e xample of the displacement of causes and ef fects typical to the operation of ease: The most mundane [user -friendly technology] may be the simple light switch. Y ou ip a switch and a light comes on. Simple enough. Y ou ha v e, ho we v er through a simple, user -friendly interf ace just accessed a comple x technological system that uses a v ast array of natural, human, and economic resources in order to function. Ev ery time we ip a simple switch then we are using a lar ge, possibly controlling, technology: yet we are virtually una w are of the consequences in an y immediate w ay Ev en though we may read daily of the problems of o v erconsumption of electrical ener gy we still are lik ely to (ab)use the technology because it is so “friendly”—so easy-to-use. (28)

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74 Literal physical displacement of the infrastructure, noise, and pollution of the electrical po wer system mak es it comfortable. The switch is simple and ef fortless, and electricity literally in visible. The monetary cost of electricity is presented only monthly if at all; its other ef fects displaced f ar from its use. Unless there are massi v e systemic dif culties, lik e the po wer shortages which plagued California in 2000 and 2001 (and which are still ha ving political repercussions), the displacment is complete. F or ease, there is no more profound technological change than the switch from human, animal, and mechanical forms of ener gy to electrically produced and distrib uted po wer though the ongoing shift from analog and mechanical things to digital, electronic systems may displace electricity from this throne—what one might call “the easy chair ” Electrical po wer is behind nearly all of the technologies which Frederick adv ocated for production of ease: e v en appliances she pushed which did not use electricity such as kitchen sto v es, furnishings, and hand-operated machinery were only feasible because of manuf acturing dri v en by electrical po wer The Depression-era dri v e for rural electrication pro vided an important economic stimulus: deli v ering electricity to the country created a ne w mark et for con v enience products and electric appliances of all kinds (Hughes 464). A direct, traceable, quantiable connection between end users and electrical consumption e xists. But the connection between the “distant” ef fects of that electrical consumption—pollution, political struggles o v er petroleum-rich areas, and global climate change—is much less clear Distancing allo ws consequences to be shrugged of f or e v en totally questioned. A typical result: around the turn of the century curbside garbage collection be gan in Ne w Y ork City and city residents no longer had to b urn, dispose of, rec ycle, or be otherwise confronted with their o wn garbage. When Ne w Y ork ers could simply stack trash by the curb and kno w that it w ould be remo v ed

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75 by someone else, the amount of garbage produced per capita gre w rapidly and to some e xtent the production of copious amounts of garbage became an indicator of af uence (Strasser W aste and W ant 124–5, 136). The ef fects displaced by ease are often forms of increased cost, not only monetary costs incurred in the production of easy-to-consume products and services, b ut ecological, go v ernmental, or societal costs resulting from unforeseen (or simply unseen) consequences. Spreading, sharing, or concealing these costs may mak e them easier to stomach—b ut their disappearance is only gurati v e, and in man y w ays displacement of cause and ef fect mak es the web of agenc y connected to an easy practice quite wide indeed. Ease can also contrib ute to obscuring the amount of labor or complication in v olv ed in an y particular task. This slippage tak es at least three forms. First, one can sho w a lack of concern, respect, or ackno wledgment of the labor and agenc y of other people, as is often the case when considering the labor of those in service industries (W atkins 159–61). Second, the amount of ef fort and discomfort associated with certain tasks is often underestimated or remembered incorrectly—especially for things naturalized long ago. Mina Shaughnessy contends that some of the problems of basic writers result from teachers' f ailure to recall the tremendous dif culty of learning ho w to manipulate pen and paper much less the irre gularities of English grammar (14, 16). Thirdly man y people underestimate or misunderstand the comple xity of things which appear to be easy b ut in f act are quite elaborate or e xtensi v e. The e xample of the light switch Johnson of fers pro vides one form of this underestimation, b ut e xtensi v e infrastructure deliberately made in visible, lik e the electrical grid, need not be in v olv ed for such underestimation to occur —consider the e xample of the Blackboard users on page 60 abo v e.

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76 Se v eral forms of for getting the labor or agenc y of others in v olv e transferring decisions made by human designers and agents to technologies or other objects, assuming that human agenc y does not e xist at all, or allo wing one' s agenc y to be subjugated to another' s because of ignorance of (or lack of concern with) cause and ef fect. The design features Norman describes as “af fordances” can be considered fore groundings of the intentions of the designer and as Johnson points out, the “proper” system model associated with a technological artif act (Norman 9, Johnson 29). Johnson' s analysis of system-centered culture recognizes the tendenc y to blame the system (or e v en nd f ault with one' s o wn actions) when in f act a human agent may be the cause of a problem. But this form of “for getting” agenc y also appears when, moti v ated by pressures for ease, people allo w decisions about their pri v ac y security or health to be subjugated to other f actors. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the resulting establishment of the T ransportation Security Administration, discussions of American airline security ha v e frequently opposed tra v elers' con v enience with their safety and security In all b ut a fe w instances, airline and go v ernment agents alik e ha v e insisted a system which deli v ers both is possible. Gi v en the consequences of the lack of security the po wer of ease is demonstrated by the insistence upon its possibility and the huge e xpenditures undertak en to ensure its preserv ation. 3.2.2.7 Repr ession of experimentation Because ease is highly pragmatic, it encourages a method of dealing with problems or completing a task in a manner which eliminates e xperimentation and transgression. Instead, ease suggests the path of least resistance. Hopefully follo wing the dictates of transparenc y e xpedienc y and simplicity that path will not only be ob vious, b ut will not tak e much time and will in v olv e no complication. Experimentation, where the end result might be “f ailure” to achie v e the goal, is not w orth the risk if a readily

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77 acceptable, easy method is a v ailable, e v en if ready-mades ha v e ob vious limitations, or are clearly an unacceptable t for the rhetorical or technical situation. Indeed, without the channels of transparenc y to act as a guide, e xperimentation is uncomfortable stuf f. Experimentation is further repressed by physical or systemic constraints. In The In visible Computer Norman imagines solving the problem of the comple xity of computers by replacing the e xible, general-purpose personal computer with a number of a separate, customized computers—one for each function the computer serv es (28–30). In this “information appliance” model, one w ould ha v e a personal nance computer a music and entertainment computer and a recipe computer among others (253). There are denitely appealing adv antages to this type of de vice, as the popularity of PD As sho ws, b ut highly customized, specialized machines will by their nature mak e e xperimentation less possible—since restrictions b uilt into the appliances w ould lik ely pre v ent repurposing a de vice or modifying its softw are to f acilitate other functions. T o return to the notion of increased cost for a moment, adapting an information appliance model of computing w ould be v ery dif cult for someone who lack ed the li ving space necessary for storing these multiple appliances. Additionally the e xtra time required to purchase, maintain, and synchronize information stored on the v arious appliances w ould result in cost pressures and further e xtension of the selecti v e “ease mobility ” In “Ov erwhelmed by T ech” Shneiderman suggested that technology should follo w the model of automobiles, putting the w orking parts of a system under the hood, out of the reach of most people (see page 16 abo v e). But as noted by Stephenson, the hood is frequently welded shut, sometimes metaphorically b ut sometimes literally Inability to e x ercise direct control is often permanent, e v en if it is mark eted as transient. W atkins observ es that increasing technological sophistication of automobiles

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78 and the equipment necessary to w ork on them has literally made tink ering under the hood impossible for most car o wners. Sophisticated, e xpensi v e electronics ha v e replaced the mechanical tools formerly used to control engine operation, shifting the focus of auto enthusiasts from manipulating engine performance to obsession with e xternal appearance (89–92). This is consistent with the focus on image and appearance common to se v eral qualities of ease. The necessary training and in v estment transform what may ha v e been a pleasurable (or at least af fordable) week end acti vity accessible to thousands of indi viduals into a specialization performed only at w ork. (Johnson notes the same end ef fect, in a slightly dif ferent conte xt, in his critique of forced no vice/e xpert separation.) While being forced to hire mechanics for all b ut the simplest maintenance may not seem lik e a lar ge problem, consider the impact of a more metaphorical sense of “welding the hood shut. ” If ease discourages putting an object, system or practice to w ork in a method not intended or sanctioned by the its designers, or e v en satisfying one' s curiosity about the w ay something w orks by opening the hood, willful transgression of those intended norms will become e v en less lik ely as another ideological force e x erts limiting pressures on such acti vity T ransfer these attitudes to a situation such as ci vil disobedience, where small acts of improper use are mobilized for political ef fect. Little w onder then, that in America, where ease is v alorized unlik e in an y other nation, political protest is less and less common, and speaking out against the go v ernment increasingly vie wed as unpatriotic and sub v ersi v e. 3.3 Conclusion The comple x history of ease, its strong connection to technological progress and commodication (forces which ar guably dri v e American consumer culture), and the de v elopment of multiple functions for ease (especially ideology) all stand against

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79 sustained critique of ease. But although it has become quite po werful in man y dif ferent situations, ease is not uni v ersally demanded or v alorized. And ease does deli v er measurable benets, so unmitigated critique is unwise. I ha v e named se v eral conte xts, critical mo v ements, and popular acti vities in which the po wer of ease is limited in the historical re vie w which be gan this chapter These positions, some of which are po werful indictments of ease, are a small sampling of a lar ger body of material which I will consider in future w ork. If, as I ar gue here, the scope of situations where ease can be demanded has gro wn to near uni v ersality shouldn' t learning be easy as Holmes en visioned in 1738? Perhaps so. Ho we v er ease meant something v ery dif ferent when used by Holmes than it does today when adv ertisers use it to sell nearly e v ery kind of product and service. What are the consequences of applying the principles of ease as it has de veloped in consumer cultur e to educational systems and institutions? Gi v en the problems with ease I present abo v e—especially those in composition studies—the de v elopment of ease as a pedagogical strate gy should proceed with great care, although lapsing into a reacti v e “get tough” mode is undesirable as well. In order to better understand the pedagogical role of ease today I will no w in v estigate the de v elopment of the bond of ease and writing pedagogy 3.4 Intr oduction So lik e wise ye, e xcept ye utter by the tongue w ords easy to be understood, ho w shall it be kno wn what is spok en? for ye shall speak into the air (I Cor 14:9) Man y w orks in composition studies tell the story of the de v elopment of writing pedagogies in America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The best kno wn of these w orks, Alfred Kitzhaber' s Rhetoric in American Colle g es, 1850–1900, Sharon Cro wle y' s The Methodical Memory James Berlin' s Writing Instruction in Nineteenth

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80 Century American Colle g es, and Robert Connors' s Composition-Rhetoric, pro vide an o v ervie w of the de v elopment of the uniquely American pedagogy called “currenttraditional rhetoric” or “composition-rhetoric. ” 3 Se v eral mak e specic ar guments which mo v e be yond history or historiography Cro wle y focuses on the w ays currenttraditional rhetoric pushed the canon of in v ention out of the classroom, creating a basic rhetoric for b udding writers from a simplied blend of Cartesian method and the canon of style. Similarly Berlin' s comparati v e analysis charts the demise of classical and romantic rhetorics from an epistemological standpoint, connecting trends in twentieth-century composition to antebellum rhetoric. This chapter will follo w the path charted by Cro wle y and Berlin, telling the story of current-traditional rhetoric with a particular focus: its bond with ease. Early American rhetoricians, te xtbook writers, schoolteachers, and professors dre w on classical sources, Scottish and English writers, and their o wn inno v ations to f ashion a writing pedagogy which, in its attitudes to w ard writing, teaching, reading, and economy w as deeply mark ed by ease. As current-traditional rhetoric matured and de v eloped into a po werful force shaping the educational e xperiences of children and young adults from Harv ard Y ard to the Inner Quadrangle at Stanford, its connections to ease strengthened. Between 1700 and 1900, the po wer of ease shaped the discipline of rhetoric and composition—perhaps more than an y other single force—and the bond formed between ease and writing w ould endure well past the w aning of currenttraditional rhetoric' s domination of composition pedagogy 3 I am follo wing Berlin and Cro wle y not Connors, in using the former term, instead of the latter

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81 3.4.1 The English Roots of Ease in Writing The rise of ease in American writing pedagogy lik e man y of the trends which characterize American composition, has roots in sixteenthand se v enteenth-century England. In The Methodical Memory Cro wle y sho ws ho w the massi v e changes in “thinking about thinking” which occurred during this time under gird the assumptions about thought, language, and the indi vidual which characterize current-traditional rhetoric. The de v elopment of that rhetoric be gan with changes in the role of the individual and the relationship of writing to li v ed e xperience, human thought and di vine inspiration. Philosophers such as Ren e Descartes and John Lock e considered kno wledge production as an indi vidual phenomenon, unlik e in classical frame w orks, where kno wledge w as “enshrined in authoritati v e books and commentaries or in God' s la w made manifest in the nature of things” (5). The y belie v ed language w as capable of representing, unproblematically both the kno wledge produced in indi vidual minds and things observ ed in one' s en vironment. And the y had strong f aith in the po wer of reason and the desire for learning to o v ercome human frailties, ensuring the accurac y of indi vidually produced kno wledge, and supporting the assumption that rigorous kno wledge production f acilitated humanity' s continual moral, social, and technological adv ancement. T o replace traditional sources of authority (God and history), se v enteenth-century think ers radically changed the status of a writer' s te xt, and by doing so, imposed ne w conditions for its production. V alidation of one' s ar gument became a matter of w orkmanlik e presentation—“an orderly completed te xt, which reproduced the history of the think er' s in v estigation, w as assumed to constitute suf cient testimon y to the authenticity of its ndings” (8). In other w ords, gi v en the f acts being considered, and a

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82 clear history of their de v elopment, an y reader could understand the truth of fered by a te xt. Writers who made their te xts orderly transparent, and enjo yable to read—easy— created authority through their manner of presentation. Consequently directi v es for clear easy-to-read writing be gin to appear during this time, and ornate prose structures be gan to disappear under pressure from numerous sources. Cartesian method, in particular w ould be immensely inuential in composition pedagogy Its four basic rules—accept no unclear judgments, di vide dif culties into parts, think in order from simple to comple x, and be complete, lea ving nothing from consideration—pro vide a philosophical basis for atomization, gradation, and simplication: k e y strate gies educators w ould use to mak e writing easy Descartes' s ideas were also adapted to composition style and content as well: clarity had long been considered a virtue in writing, b ut Cartesian philosophy added a huge boost to it, and pro vided a partner “distinction, ” with whom clarity w ould appear in composition te xtbooks published from the early eighteenth century Questioning the nature of kno wledge helped le gitimize questions about the nature of learning. Notably Thomas More, Francis Bacon, and Petrus Ramus (Pierre de La Ram ee) openly questioned the ef cac y of the classical curriculum of the liberal arts, the nature of the student-teacher relationship, and prohibitions of the use of the v ernacular in education, among other things. Educators be gan to belie v e children and young adult learners could learn without harsh discipline and the connes of rigorous ancient curricula. While the pace of change w as slo w by current standards, reforms proposed by John Amos Comenius (Jan Amos K omensk y) and Lock e, among others, were considerable. British and American educators inuenced by these men w ould suture writing and ease by repeatedly ackno wledging the ef fects of emotional and physical comfort on their students' ability and desire to learn.

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83 Lock e' s 1693 treatise Some Thoughts Concerning Education, originally written as a series of letters to Edw ard Clark e, reects the trends in contemporary philosophy which Cro wle y traces. It pro vided both philosophical ar guments and concrete, often incredibly detailed suggestions for parents and educators, and w as v ery inuential in both Britain and the American colonies (Cremin v-vi). Lock e' s w ork, which o wes some debt to Comenius, undoubtedly pa v ed the w ay for future reformers lik e Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, as well as le gitimizing writing about education such as Jean Jacques Rousseau' s Emil e. Lucille Schultz cautions that “[i]t w ould be a mistak e to point to similarities among these four writers—Comenius, Lock e, Rousseau, and Pestalozzi—and assume the y were alik e in e v ery aspect of their thinking about a child' s education. ” Ho we v er as she demonstrates in considerable detail, these four educators, and man y American rhetoricians inuenced by them, “shared a concern for tailoring education to coincide with the child' s de v elopmental le v el” ( Composer s 62, 63). Lock e in particular is interesting because of the comprehensi v eness of his w ork—he outlines an educational plan which stretched from cradle to gra v e. Interestingly man y of his directi v es suggest students should be made to feel “easy” or “at ease. ” F or that reason, and because man y of his ideas were adopted by American writing teachers and educational theorists, his w ork will be considered in detail here. Lock e is perhaps best kno wn for his ar guments against the widespread use of corporal punishment, or “beating” as he calls it. But these are part of a lar ger philosophy of child-rearing and education which f a v ors a positi v e approach—encouragement and the culti v ation of good habits—rather than ne gati vity—punishment and the enforcement of rules. Some Thoughts Concerning Education asks teachers to mak e learning enjo yable for children. “None of the Things the y are to learn, ” Lock e ar gues, “should e v er be made a Burthen to them, or impos' d on them as a task” (52). Ov er and o v er

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84 again, in language often reminiscent of educational psychology he suggests methods for presenting education as if it were play From an early age, children should be encouraged to enjo y what the y learn, and learning should gently guide them to w ard lessons, not enforce a prescribed curriculum. In this w ay Lock e recognizes the po wer of comfort and enjo yment, as well as ef fortlessness and leisure, the rst and third of the qualities of ease I name in Chapter 2 of this w ork. But Lock e' s philosophy did not encourage “cock ering and tenderness” (21): he ask ed parents to culti v ate tough children by methods which, three hundred years later seem questionable, if not cruel. He suggests a plain and simple diet, with fe w sweets and not too much meat (10, 14); immersing children' s feet in cold w ater to b uild their constitutions (4); and refusing to allo w them to cry (91). Instead, children must learn to de v elop self-denial, which Lock e sees as “the Principle of all V irtue and Excellenc y ” and which should be “made easy and f amiliar by an early practice” (25). Lock e' s call for a balance of denial and indulgence repeatedly in v ok es the idea of ease. On the one hand, he maintains that “My Meaning therefore is not, that Children should purposely be made uneasy ” But he ar gues that children' s “Minds, as well as Bodies, [can] be made vigorous, easy and strong, by the Custom of ha ving their Inclinations in Subjection, and their Bodies e x ercis' d with Hardships” (86). Indeed, Lock e ackno wledges the dif culty of this task for parents: T o a v oid the Danger that is on either Hand is the great Art; and he that has found a W ay ho w to k eep up a Child' s Spirit, easy acti v e, and free; and yet, at the same time, to restrain him from man y Things he has a Mind to, and to dra w him to Things that are uneasy to him; he, I say that kno ws ho w to reconcile these seeming Contradictions has, in my Opinion, got the true Secret of Education. (30) In these ar guments for self-denial, as well as claims for the superiority of a more natural style of learning foreign languages, the benets of frequent b ut measured praise,

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85 and proposed reforms of the classical curriculum, Lock e may seem to collapse the dif ference between children and adults. This w ould be consistent with the dominant contemporary conceptualization of childhood as a debased state of being which should be arrested as rapidly as possible (Schultz, Composer s 24–5). F or e xample, at times it is unclear if Lock e is speaking of adults or children, as he remarks on the po wer of his methodology: W e w ould be thought rational Creatures, and ha v e our Freedom; we lo v e not to be uneasy under constant Reb uk es and Bro w-beatings; nor can we bear se v ere Humours, and great Distance, in those we con v erse with. Whoe v er has such T reatment when he is a Man, will look out other Compan y other Friends, other Con v ersation, with whom he can be at Ease. (27–8) Ho we v er more often, Lock e writes as if there are fundamental dif ferences between children and adults, balancing calls to challenge children with the connection he mak es between childhood curiosity and the Enlightenment-style desire for kno wledge Cro wle y discusses. Lock e ar gues for simplicity: “Long Discourses, and Philosophical Reasonings, at best, amaze and confound, b ut do not instruct Children” (61). Instead, teachers should use as fe w w ords as possible, and speak plainly This instruction e xtends e v en to the Bible, which for children, b ut not adults, is best a v oided in f a v or of an abridged v ersion (167). His ar guments for atomization and gradation—di viding a comple x or dif cult subject into smaller chunks, and mo ving from simple to comple x, so that it can be more easily understood—pro vide a template for educational practices which remain in use today Note that, in the follo wing e xcerpt, Lock e suggests not only breaking do wn ideas into smaller units b ut ensuring each sub-idea is “simple. ” Building on Cartesian philosophy Lock e w as one of the rst to suggest dif cult materials could be taught successfully in this manner without transformation or to use current parlance, “dumbing do wn. ”

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86 But in this, as in all other P arts of Instruction, great Care must be tak en with Children, to be gin with that which is plain and simple, and to teach them as little as can be at once, and settle that well in their Heads before you proceed to the ne xt, or an y thing ne w in that Science. Gi v e them rst one simple Idea, and see that the y tak e it right, and perfectly comprehend it before you go an y f arther and then add some other simple Idea which lies ne xt in your W ay to what you aim at; and so proceeding by gentle and insensible Steps, Children without Confusion and Amazement will ha v e their Understandings opened and their Thoughts e xtended f arther than could ha v e been e xpected. (158) Additionally Lock e' s pragmatic approach to curriculum, suggesting inclusion of skills rele v ant to contemporary commerce (geography na vigation, and W estern European languages), included considerable allo w ance for children' s intellectual de v elopment. Other w ays in which Lock e v alorizes ease—preference for the concrete o v er the abstract (72, 173), positioning culti v ation of an “easy” con v ersational style as measurement of good breeding (122–4), insisting on an “easy calm temper” (143) for educators, repeatedly echoing the v alue of an “easy” writing style, and ar guing for the use of “easy” picture-books (135)—will be considered in future w ork. Notably shortly after Some Thoughts Concerning Education w as published, the w ord “easy” be gan to appear in the titles of rhetoric and grammar te xtbooks. In 1704, Thomas W att penned Gr ammar Made Easie which taught Latin grammar using English, “rendered Plain, and Ob vious, to the meanest Capacity” (i). John Holmes' s The Art of Rhetoric Made Easy introduced in Chapter 1 of this w ork, put Lock e' s ideas into practice, with frequent use of atomization, bre vity and simplicity an e xtensi v e pref ace for instructors which outlined methods for best using the te xt, and a detailed table of contents, and other features. These w orks w ould be the rst in a long line of books continued today in composition by titles such as Andrea Lunsford' s Easy Writer and Michael K eene and Katherine Adams' s Easy Access.

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87 3.4.2 T ransf orming Philosoph y to P edagogy: Major Figur es While more historical w ork is needed to track precisely the w ays ease w as popularized in teaching writing, se v eral v ery inuential writers included considerable mention of ease or adv ocated methods for teaching writing which mobilized the qualities of ease. Between 1700 and 1850, a wide v ariety of inuential te xts w ould b uild on the w ork of philosophers lik e Descartes and Lock e, making possible a solid connection between ease and writing. F our men will be considered here: Isaac W atts (1674–1748), John Holmes (1703–59), John W alk er (1732–1807), and John Frost (1800–59). 4 Perhaps more than an y other eighteenth-century writer Isaac W atts w ould call for both a style of writing and a method of teaching writing with ease at the core. Though best kno wn for his hymns and religious writings, in his time W atts w as “a popular and respected author in the elds of education, theology philosophy and poetry” (Da vis ix). W atts wrote man y books which focus on educational theory some published in multiple editions, and portions of his writing were often reprinted in other w orks. (T itles such as Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Langua g e (1715) and The Knowledg e of the Heavens and the Earth Made Easy (1726) of fer great promise for future research b ut will not be the focus here.) His educational theories and practical advice shaped the w ork of thousands of British and American teachers. In philosophy and writing, W atts' s best kno wn w ork is Lo gic k: or the Use of Right Reason in the Inquiry after T ruth (1724), which dra ws hea vily on Ramistic thought and Cartesian method to mobilize logic for the broader goals of education and general impro v ement of the mind (Ho yles 159). Cro wle y remarks, “The inuence of W atts' ( sic ) Lo gic k on rhetorical and 4 I include birth and death dates here because there are se v eral men with these names li ving around this time period.

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88 logical pedagogy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries cannot be underestimated” (177)—an ar gument reinforced by the sheer numbers of editions printed on both sides of the Atlantic (Ho well 341–2). Thus, W atts w as one of the most important gures in terms of synthesizing ease and writing pedagogy since the content of the Lo gic k repeatedly v alorizes ease and clarity and encourages atomization and simplication. W atts' s writings w ould help popularize Cartesian method and mak e it applicable to all le v els of rhetoric and composition. The last section of the Lo gic k of fers se v en well-illustrated rules for method which “[amount] to a theory of composition” (Cro wle y 42). F or W atts, method is “the Disposition of a V ariety of Thoughts on an y Subject in such Order as may best serv e to nd out unkno wn T ruths, to e xplain and conrm T ruths that are kno wn, or to x them in the Memory” (340). W atts encourages using method to pre v ent “Confusion, Darkness, and Mistak e” (339) as well as a v oiding discomfort or embarrassment in readers and learners—in other w ords, to ensure their comfort and enjo yment of reading or learning. W atts admits that his concern with method focuses on the “ Communication of Kno wledge, ” rather than on production and v erication of it, and his e xamples and more detailed e xplanations mak e his didactic emphasis quite clear Of the se v en rules of method, the second stands out: “Let your Method be plain and easy so that your Hearers or Readers, as well as your self, may run thro' it without Embarrassment, and may tak e a clear and comprehensi v e V ie w of the whole Scheme” (351). Compositions should be gin with ob vious things and proceed “by re gular and easy steps” to more dif cult matters. T eachers and learners should be patient, a v oiding hasty mo v ement to ne w ideas. Sentences and paragraphs should be simple, not cro wded with “too man y Thoughts and Reasonings” (352), and long

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89 parenthesis or subordination should be a v oided. Finally “a clear and easy w ay of e xpressing your conceptions” should be culti v ated from an early age. The other rules W atts pens also v alorize ease and its qualities, though not as directly: rule three, “Let your Method be distinct, ” pro vides specic guidelines for atomization (again, follo wing Descartes and Lock e, and further establishing the connection between method and ease), and rules four and v e address the v alue of simplicity and bre vity Indeed, W atts de v elops his se v en rules in a manner which mak es his writing an e xample of the principles being e xplained—his method de v elops without haste, technical terms are dened in footnotes, and his method of atomization is quite methodical. W atts' s second lar ge area of inuence w as popularizing Lock e' s educational ideas. Lik e Lock e, W atts belie v ed that children were dif ferent and needed to be treated dif ferently than adults: W atts, of course, is predominantly Lock ean in his concept of education. It w ould be comparati v ely simple to sho w that most if not all of his theories come from Lock e' s educational w orks; b ut this is not so important as to note that through his popularization of Lock e, W atts helped to prepare the ground for modern education. The inuence of John Lock e played a lar ge part in undermining the Ciceronian concept of education still in v ogue in eighteenth-century English schools. Although W atts can by no means be placed besides his master as an educational inuence, he did a good job in pro viding suitable te xts for a more liberal curriculum. He helped to mak e Lock e practicable. Because of this humble b ut necessary service, he deserv es a small place among the inuential secular educators of the century (Ho yles 101) In other w ords, W atts w as careful to practice what he preached, making Lock e easy to read for educators, and suggesting the best w ay the y in turn could teach w as by making education easy His encouragement and practice of a more “practicable” vie wpoint is another e xample of the gro wing importance of pragmatism, one of the qualities of ease which, as I ar gue in Chapter 2 abo v e, w as gaining strength during this time.

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90 Consistenc y of message and presentation e xtended to W atts' s writing style. “Such w as his de v otion to the plain style in prose, that he felt it necessary to apologise for an y sally into gurati v e speech he may inadv ertently ha v e made” (Ho yles 225). Indeed, the phrase “plain and easy ” noted from the Lo gic k abo v e, appears to ha v e been rather mark etable—se v eral printers who produced posthumous editions of W atts' s w ork created titles of their o wn including it, and it appears in se v eral other w orks by W atts. In summary Isaac W atts w as a k e y player in the construction of ease-writing connections at a v ariety of le v els, and his e xtensi v e bibliography demands much further study John Holmes, the English schoolmaster whose Art of Rhetoric Made Easy is introduced in the rst chapter of this w ork, is not considered a major gure in British rhetoric by most scholars, b ut still deserv es mention here for tw o reasons. First, while Rhetoric Made Easy w as not nearly as popular as W atts' s Lo gic k it w as the rst of se v eral books designed specically for young learners which were used widely at English schools (Ho well 126). 5 Holmes' s immediate inuence, through his contacts with other schoolmasters, cannot be discounted, and his inuence on American writers, especially Richard Green P ark er is sizable. Second, in his Rhetoric and other writings, Holmes emplo yed a wide v ariety of de vices intended to mak e rhetoric easy dra wing on suggestions from Lock e and other writers, b ut also creating inno v ations of his o wn. These de vices will be discussed in detail belo w While Holmes did not produce the number of books intended for children which Isaac W atts w as able to publish during his much longer life, his w ork had denite impact. 5 Unfortunately se v eral of these w orks, published as pamphlets or single broadsheets, are incredibly dif cult to nd.

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91 Less important than W atts and Holmes, b ut still notable, is John W alk er whose T eac her' s Assistant in English Composition mobilized the notions of “easy rules” and “easy essays. ” Though W alk er' s books often focus on elocution, lik e W atts, W alk er felt not only students b ut teachers could benet from ease. Robert Connors contends that the T eac her' s Assistant had a tremendous ef fect on secondary and colle ge-le v el writing pedagogy and w as “the seminal book for `composition' as opposed to `rhetoric' [. .] a set of principles, partly original and partly based in classical rhetoric, that were to become the guiding forces in early composition pedagogy” (218). In some w ays, especially re garding the use of rules for writers, W alk er' s book f ails to break from long-established pedagogical patterns. But W alk er did call for “gradual adv ances in dif culty ” a paced learning style which mak es clear his respect for dif ferences between child and adult learners. “The tutor must be constantly on the w atch not to o v erload the pupil' s mind, and to gi v e him rather too little than too much” (10). W alk er' s directions for breaking lessons up into smaller components are for the most part consistent with W atts' s. The most progressi v e part of W alk er' s pedagogy is encouraging children to write as early as possible, and a some what e xpressi vist (to use current terminology) orientation to w ard de v eloping writers. In the follo wing long quote, note ho w ease in one form is assumed to lead to ease in another —a reection of contemporary assumptions of transparent mo v ement between thought and language. W alk er calls on teachers to limit their e xpectations of students in a manner which allo ws for dif ferences between adult and child learners b ut does not display childhood as a debased state. Instead, W alk er belie v es that, gi v en easy training, children naturally be gin to think in adv anced f ashion:

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92 The moment young people can read uently and talk upon common subjects, the y may be enabled to write upon them; and nothing b ut the habit is w anting. It is true the path must be smoothed for them; we must not e xpect them to in v ent matter: what the y write must be infused into them, and what we infuse must be of the easiest kind, and so connected that one part will naturally suggest another: when a subject is thus prepared, it will be easy e v en for a child, to set it do wn from memory on paper; and when once a habit of doing this is acquired, the greatest dif culty is o v er By de grees the y will naturally supply with their o wn w ords those the y do not remember and soon be gin to think upon a subject for themselv es. (4) The f aith in ease W alk er demonstrates here is echoed in other places. In f act, he ar gues that “Ease is the complition ( sic ) of e v ery operation of art” (50). A similar equation pro vides support for W alk er' s call for students to write narrati v es: “Nothing so easy to comprehend and retain as a story and therefore nothing so easy to write do wn from memory” (152). Perhaps W alk er' s f aith in ease w as greater than his trust of children—his pedagogy stopped short of complete trust in their abilities (Schultz 43–5). Re gardless, his use of “ease” and other features of his pedagogical approach represented breaks from the norm. Finally we turn to the Philadelphia schoolmaster John Frost, whose contrib ution to American education remains lar gely une xamined, despite his considerable inuence and the huge number of te xtbooks and educational writings he produced (Schultz, “Re: John Frost”). Man y of those books, which co v ered subjects as di v erse as the United States Na vy the Me xican W ar and pictorial histories of American re v olutionaries, of fer e vidence of strong belief in the didactic po wer of ease. Of particular interest here is Easy Exer cises in Composition, which Schultz discusses at some length. Schultz outlines a “Pestalozzi-Mayo-Frost connection” ( Composer s 65–74) which of fers a path for tracing the inuence of British and Continental reforms in America dif ferent than that presented here. In some w ays, Frost is the pedagogue W alk er

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93 could ha v e been. He put the Lock ean frame w ork popularized by W atts into practice, esche wing a rule-based pedagogy and frequently using illustrations and simple models to encourage student writing. Frost desired ease for his students in se v eral w ays: rst, he w anted them to write with ease and grace (vi); second, lik e Lock e and W alk er he w anted their early e xperiences with education, especially writing, to be positi v e, e v en comfortable and enjo yable (10, 118); third, he called for the use of models and visuals, due to their ability to present ideas and content interestingly and transparently with little need for e xplanation or traditional rhetorical in v ention (66). In addition to atomization, bre vity and other methods for making easy proposed by Lock e, W atts, and Holmes, Frost belie v ed that writing in itself w as, to a lar ge e xtent, easy He e xtended Lock e' s desire for a form of instruction currently called “whole language” to writing, ar guing that “Written e xpression is so entirely similar to oral e xpression that the natural mode of instruction in each is essentially the same” (79). In other w ords, one could learn writing by doing it, by participating in written con v ersations with parents and adults, because it w as easy Indeed, Frost' s pedagogy often relied on letter -writing, which he considered “an easy form of composition” (76). Man y of the engra vings used in Easy Exer cises in Composition sho w students writing letters, and e x ercises throughout the te xt suggest composing letters to friends and f amily near and f ar But Frost' s books were a mix ed bag. Despite the liberal use of pictures and other changes which mo v e his w ork a w ay from the dif cult, arcane rhetorics of the time, Frost repeated man y contemporary practices. While the rst part of Easy Exer cises is lled with pictures, addresses the student reader directly and encourages an orientation to w ard writing which could be called “proto-process, ” the second part is a formal presentation of rhetorical principles clearly borro wed from Geor ge Campbell with little

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94 adaptation or editing. There is little ef fort to bridge the “easy” pedagogy of the rst half of the te xt with the more formalized rhetoric of the second half. Similarly another te xt, the Easy Reader presents a number of v ery short pieces which, while the y might be less dif cult to read than classical or Elizabethan w orks, and not “stif f monotonous reading” (i), often include f airly complicated narrati v es or present long, demanding quotations from the Bible or other sources. 3.4.3 Ca v eat F acilitor Existing scholarship questions the position of ease in writing pedagogy Glenn Carlson Hess ar gues that for rhetoric and composition te xtbooks published between 1784 and 1870, “[making] the study easy and interesting” w as “of minor importance” (31). Schultz muses, “I can' t imagine, for e xample, that mid-nineteenth-century univ ersity professors w ould ha v e turned to a book called Easy Exer cises in Composition for help with writing instruction” ( Composer s 154). She reminds us that although uni v ersity professors such as Richard Green P ark er and inuential writers lik e John Frost wer e producing books with “easy” in the title, and separating themselv es from Hugh Blair Campbell, Lindle y Murray and other popular writers of the time, man y of their te xtbooks were designed for high-school, not colle ge-le v el w ork. Certainly there are numerous instances where directions for de v eloping “easy style” or “ease of composition” appears in writing te xtbooks, and the appearance of the term does not al w ays indicate congruence with the meanings outlined in the rst and second chapter of this w ork. F or e xample, ease is one of the v e static abstractions Adams Sherman Hill names as goals of writing in The F oundations of Rhetoric. Hill' s “ease” signies a certain manner of w ord choice and style one might call “graceful” or “harmonious, ” and which Hill most often characterizes as “framed as to be agreeable to the ear” (201).

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95 Ambi v alence to w ard ease played a part in making it a repressed goal of composition books. During the eighteenth and nineteenth century ne gati v e meanings of ease were more po werful than today: ease retained a touch of the immoral, with its connotations of indolence, sloth, and idleness. While writers may ha v e had little problems making the case for “easy” pedagogy in grammar schools, writers w orking with more adv anced students may ha v e had to use other terminology though ideas in te xts labeled “easy” and those without the label are often quite similar Dif ferences in consideration of intellectual property also mak e inuences harder to trace—cop ying without attrib ution w as standard practice. A professor “borro wing” from W alk er or Frost could concei v ably do so without mentioning their names, perhaps breaking the connection to fore grounded easy method. The frame w ork for denition established in the rst chapter of this w ork can reduce the impact of these problems: the presence of “ease” will be established not only by name, b ut by searching for the v e qualities of comfort, transparenc y ef fortlessness, simplicity and pragmatism. As w orks closer to the turn of the twentieth century are considered, femininity e xpedienc y and pictorialism will also be noted, as well as strate gies commonly used to af fect ease, such as atomization or alliteration. 3.4.4 F our Assumptions About Ease and Writing F our assumptions about ease shape eighteenthand nineteenth-century te xtbooks and writing pedagogies: rst, students should nd writing easy and teachers should mak e it so. Second, students should write prose which is easy to read. Third, teaching writing is easy F ourth, writing is the gatek eeper to the “life of ease. ” These assumptions became more widespread in loosely chronological order and to some e xtent b uilt upon each other F or e xample, it made sense to claim teaching writing w ould be easy if student writing w as easy to read (minimizing time necessary for grading themes

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96 and essays), and if it w as assumed teachers could mak e writing easy This cumulati v e nature is reected in the structure of this chapter: the rst section, which co v ers the rst assumption presented here, is longer than the second, and so on. T echnology is often mobilized to reinforce assumptions about ease. F or Connors, technological progress shapes current-traditional rhetoric: “Composition-rhetoric is a modern rhetoric, quickly changing and adapting, dri v en by potent social and pedagogical needs, and running on the rails of an e v er cheaper e v er quick er and e v er more competiti v e printing technology” (7). Ne w technologies e xtend be yond the metaphor of steam-po wered iron horses in v ok ed by Connors—one must consider the adv ancements in printing machinery and technique, especially stereotyping and engra ving, which enabled the production of cheaper te xtbooks which included more pictures and illustrations. The de v elopment of steel pen nibs, pencils, and better inks reduced the skill required to produce a page free of ink-blots. P aper and book costs fell, modern transportation enabled dif ferent methods of distrib ution of printed books, and electronic forms of communication sped the transmission of information. The changes af fected by shifts in technology are substantial and must be considered carefully This w ork is guided by the assumption that technological change is ne v er simply instrumental, b ut is a comple x, recursi v ely articulated process in v olving institutional practices, ideological formations, with tremendous consequences for subject formation. Changes in technology shift the shape of educational institutions, the relation of indi viduals to those institutions, and the ideological articulation of technological pressures. Some historians ha v e ackno wledged the impact of the nineteenth century changes in colle ges and uni v ersities: as oratory' s role in American culture w as supplemented with written communication, man y colle ges changed from schools which produced only la wyers, ministers, and physicians, to become much more

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97 comprehensi v e. F or e xample, in ne w Midwestern state schools, writing w as much more important than in traditional eastern colle ges, and a uni v ersity education w as en visioned as preparation for a much wider v ariety of occupations (V e yse y passim ). Cro wle y' s The Methodical Memory sho ws that the connection of ease and writing w as f acilitated by assumptions typical of Enlightenment philosophy Throughout this chapter similar analyses will connect contemporary vie ws of technology writing, and ease. In some w ays, ease w as used as an interf ace for writing: it bridged the gap between the philosophical and ideological “reality” of writing, as practiced in churches, schools, and other educational systems, and the physical and technical skills needed to write. The remainder of this chapter will demonstrate the four assumptions demonstrated abo v e, with frequent reference to the connections of technology and ease one could consider a fth assumption. Optimally while in some w ays this w ork shall be “yet another history of the nineteenth century ” it will also pro vide an e xample of the benets of considering technological de v elopment through its articulation in institutions and ideologies as well as indi viduals. A historical account of the connections between ease and writing will better enable understanding of the relationships of current-traditional rhetoric and the rhetorical frame w orks which preceded it (Scottish and English “ne w rhetorics, ” common-sense realism, and the w ork of the Port-Ro yal grammarians), as well as twentieth-century rhetorical and pedagogical theories, some of which are consciously oppositional. 3.5 Students Should Find Writing Easy Books about rhetoric, rhetorical te xtbooks, and grammars published in the early nineteenth century reect the changing philosophies of education discussed abo v e. More and more often, writers recognized that belletristic rhetorics lik e Geor ge

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98 Campbell' s The Philosophy of Rhetoric were not ideal for children (and were dif cult e v en for man y teachers). Ne w books which sought to mak e writing easy became popular and curricular changes which underscored the assumption that writing w as easy soon follo wed. Man y of the te xtbooks e xamined here be gin with a pref ace which laments the current status of te xtbooks, trumpet the uniqueness of the present w ork, and brag of the care tak en to adopt it to younger less capable minds. Thomas W att blasted contemporary rhetorics as “a rapsody ( sic ) of confusion, and scarce intelligible to mortals” (i). Holmes ar gued that e xisting te xtbooks contained numerous deciencies his w ork remedied. Frost be gins Easy Exer cises in Composition in a typical f ashion: Ha ving recently resigned the general superintendance of a seminary [. .] I felt more sensibly than I had e v er done before, the w ant of an elementary book of instruction in Composition, suitable for be ginners. I could lay my hand on none e xactly suited to my purpose. Those which presented themselv es seemed liable to a v ariety of objections. Some were unintelligible to young pupils; others contained methods of procedure which I considered useless and e v en pernicious. (v) T e xtbook introductions contained this style of introduction well into the 1860s (Kitzhaber 206), in part because man y of the rst “easy” te xtbooks were easy in name only Man y attempts were abridgments of classical and contemporary w orks. An 1808 edition of Hugh Blair' s Lectur es on Rhetoric and Belles Lettr es included an adv ertisement for an abridged v ersion: “THE ( sic ) w ant of a system of Rhetoric upon a concise plan, and at an easy price, will, it is presumed, render this little v olume acceptable to the public” (qtd in Hess 137). Hess lists ele v en abridged editions of Blair' s w ork (though it is not clear if these editions reprinted the same te xt or were unique impressions). W alk er' s T eac her' s Assistant and Frost' s Easy Exer cises, as discussed earlier dif fered from the British rhetorics the y replaced, b ut retained much of

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99 the contemporary w ays of thinking about students and teaching. W alk er displayed little f aith in students' ability for in v ention. Frost' s books contain man y pictures and direct address to the student, b ut often include arcane rhetorical principles. These books should be vie wed as transitional w orks which be gan the long process of making writing easy Schultz summarizes some of the w ays these transitional books f ailed in their reform ef forts, and ended up being little more than slightly dif ferent presentations of e xisting material. While “these books were small in size and thus suited to a child' s holding them, the y used a v ery small type font, had long paragraphs and little white space, and fe w if an y illustrations” ( Composer s 26). Language w as also a huge problem. F or e xample, in the introduction to Rules for English Composition, and P articularly for Themes, John Rippingham promised that “Great care has been tak en to render this treatise suitable to the capacity of youthful intellect” (qtd in Schultz, Composer s 8). But his rst sentence is weighted with jar gon: A theme is only the miniature of a declamation, essay oration, or sermon. In each of these species of declamation a subject is proposed, an inference dra wn; and ar guments adduced to support and authorise that conclusion. (qtd in Schultz, Composer s 25) There is little doubt young children, high-school and colle ge-age students, and e v en those who taught them w ould ha v e trouble understanding the dif ferences between these forms of composition. The use of phrases lik e “an inference dra wn, ” the fty-cent w ords “species” and “adduced, ” and the comple xity of this sentence also seem less than easy Finally the number of abstract concepts introduced here (and in the hundreds of other juic y sentences lik e it) call to mind the dif culties of “static abstractions” proposed by Kitzhaber

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100 T e xtbooks in general also remained dif cult and e v en abstruse because of their e xtensi v e debt to classical curricula. Though Ramistic and Cartesian philosophy of fered e xcellent philosophical grounds for mo ving a w ay from the classical curriculum, and a method for de v eloping rhetorical authority without quoting Cicero, Aristotle, and their contemporaries, classical content and method survi v ed in man y w orks (Cro wle y 10, 19). Richard Whately' s Elements of Rhetoric tried to simplify classical systems, with v arying de grees of success. John W ard' s A System of Or atory w as a “detailed and elaborate restatement of classical theory for the adult” not a “distillation of classical theory for the child” (Moran 2). Pedagogies based on learning, reciting, and to some de gree applying systems of rules also appeared in “easy” books. Rules were often combined with continued belief in the po wer of imitation (which itself w as a remainder of classical approaches). 6 Geor ge Russell' s approach w as representati v e of man y nineteenth-century writers who used rule-based pedagogies and or ganized te xtbooks around rules. Russell sought to use ease to get students to mo v e from cop ying material and reading to writing one' s o wn compositions. Rules were to be memorized, applied to literature or other te xts, then used to guide composition. But as with man y writers, little justication is of fered for assertions of the po wer of rules such as these: The learner should be permitted rst to trace the application of the rules of rhetoric in the writings of others. This stage of practice he nds easy and interesting. It also serv es to prepare him for transferring to his o wn composition the rules which he has been applying to those of other writers. (Russell qtd in Schultz, Composer s 45) Schultz calls te xtbooks which were able to a v oid most of these pitf alls and of fer ne w models for an introduction to composition “First Books” ( Composer s 37). 6 The connection between imitation, mimesis, and ease is out of the scope of this w ork b ut denitely merits further in v estigation.

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101 These books, which appeared between 1838 and 1855, were designed for grammar and elementary schools and consequently are not considered in depth by Connors, Berlin, Kitzhaber and Cro wle y There are man y parallels between these books and colle ge-le v el te xts analyzed here for their mobilization of ease. 3.5.1 Early Exemplars T w o books by Isaac W atts and John Holmes, Lo gic k and Rhetoric Made Easy ha v e already been introduced. These w orks helped popularize Cartesian method and Lock e' s educational philosophies, and nearly one hundred years before Schultz' s First Books, introduced specic techniques for making writing easy which remain popular to the present day Man y of the techniques used by W atts and Holmes were made possible by typography consistent with Marshall McLuhan' s assertion that Elizabethan writers were highly conscious of choices made in that re gard. 3.5.1.1 The inuence of W atts' s Logic k The dif ferences of W atts' s w ork from that of his contemporaries, and his notable inuence in composition pedagogy ha v e already been considered. Because he took great care to put his theories of composition and method into practice in his o wn w ork, W atts' s Lo gic k demonstrates se v eral important techniques of ease, in addition to repeatedly v alorizing a “plain and easy” style of writing and teaching writing. W atts ar gues for the atomization of ideas being taught into small, teachable units. In the Lo gic k W atts himself di vides his theory of method into se v en rules, each subdi vided into sections which of fer careful e xplanation. This mak es his w ork hierarchical, predictable, and teachable—one need not determine the number of sub units needed to teach his method, b ut can simply repeat his careful outline. The process of atomization is often supported by signposting which pro vides the number of atoms in each section. Notably the relations between atoms are often spelled out

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102 in detail—as is the case with the e xplanations of the fourth and fth rules of method (359–60). This is consistent with Cro wle y' s description of the methodical memory: writers could enrich their te xts by relating the process by which the y established their frame w orks of ideas. T ypography is also used to mak e the Lo gic k easy While W atts uses italics much more often than modern writers, as w as common in contemporary printing, and his use is sometimes erratic, there are often denite patterns. F or e xample, when dening se v eral types of method, W atts structures his prose so terminology appears as the rst fe w w ords in each of a sequence of paragraphs, highlighted by italics. This emphasizes the denitions in a manner quite understandable by today' s readers. W atts also uses leading italics to mak e the briefest possible e xpression of an idea—a sentence or phrase—stand out from the te xt surrounding it. Indeed, calls for bre vity mark the Lo gic deeply Italicized rules positioned as topic sentences are supplemented with summaries—at the be ginnings of chapters or e v en for sections within chapters. Italic type often of fers the reader short v ersions of rules. W atts' s idea of bre vity is tied directly to se v eral virtues in writing which correspond to qualities of ease: the comple xity or dif culty of an ar gument (simplicity), a sense of the w ork it requires of the reader (ef fortlessness), and the reader' s interest in the te xt (comfort and enjo yment): This Fulness of Method does not require that e v ery thing should be said which can be said upon an y Subject; for this w ould mak e each single Science endless [. .]. As your Method must be full without Deciency so it must be short, or without Superuity The Fulness of a Discourse enlar ges our Kno wledge, and the well-concerted Br e vity sa v es our T ime. [. .] [It should] not waste the T ime tir e the Learner or ll the Mind with T ries and Impertinences. (359)

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103 Finally in a fe w instances W atts emplo ys footnotes to e xplain w ords which may not be understood by the reader such as “homogeneous” (353), and w ords with specic rhetorical connotations, lik e “analysis” (341). These footnotes bolster simplicity and ensure reader comfort with a high le v el of e xpedienc y and a v ery lo w risk of embarrassing the reader The use of smaller typef aces for the less important footnote te xt—a con v ention then not wholly established—is another w ay printing techniques ensure consistenc y between the form and content of W atts' s w ork. 3.5.1.2 Holmes' s Rhetoric Made Easy Holmes' s approach to his inno v ations is quite ob viously more forw ard than W atts. Perhaps seizing on the repeated use of “easy” in Lock e' s w ork, and bolstered by the gro wing number of “easy” titles appearing in rhetoric and other disciplines, Holmes prioritized ease not only in the title of his w ork b ut in its pref ace, though the term “easy” does not appear in his w ork as often as it does in W atts' s. 7 Lik e man y of his contemporaries, Holmes retains f aith in the didactic po wer of imitation, and includes man y e xamples in Rhetoric Made Easy with the hope that students will learn from them “The Height and Excellenc y of Good Writings” (ix). T o this end, the second half of the w ork is an annotated commentary on Longinus' s On The Sublime printed in both Latin and English. In f act, the book contains quite a bit of Latin and Greek—reecting the transitional status of Holmes' s w ork, and the v ariations between contemporary and current denitions of ease. Holmes uses his pref ace to fore ground man y of the inno v ations which mark the Rhetoric and alle gedly mak e it easy As noted in Chapter 2 abo v e, Holmes is ambi v alent to w ard students who “are e xpected to be led, sooth' d, and entic' d to their 7 Ease may gure in the dedication of Rhetoric Made Easy as well; ho we v er since Holmes wrote that portion of his w ork in Latin, comment on that material is not possible at this time.

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104 studies by the Easiness and Pleasure of the Practice, rather than by F orce or harsh Discipline dro v e” (iii). Ho we v er he hastens to note the adv antages created by his simplication of classical w orks and the strate gy of adapting ancient te xts by focusing on terms in contemporary use. English language e xamples are substituted for Latin and Greek, making the classical w ork more encouraging and alluring. Cartesian method marks Holmes' s easy approach. He ar gues that his w ork is a comprehensi v e treatment of rhetorical theory thus sa ving the student “ab undance more T rouble” (ii v) in compiling tropes and gures from other sources. These gures are illustrated by “more Examples [. .] than perhaps you' ll nd in all the Rhetoricians put together” (i v). But the Rhetoric is sa v ed from bloat by shorthand, since Holmes uses only chapter and v erse for Bible quotations instead of printing them in full (iii). And by bre vity: Holmes maintains that “The Chief T r opes, F igur es, and Repetitions, for the more easy attaining and longer retaining them in Memory are briey dened and comprized each in one V er se in this lar ge Character” (vi) (e. g printed in a lar ge typef ace). Holmes collects these chief gures and principles into a group, distinguishing them from the rest of his w ork by marking important passages with capital letters. Not surprisingly he uses the Cartesian term “distinction” and Lock e' s cate gorization of “ordinary” and “rare and e xtraordinary” content. This alphabetic system is also collated on a single page placed before the inde x. As W atts before him, Holmes mak es use of typography and ne w printing techniques, dif ferentiating less important material from items which must “be got by Heart” by using smaller tightly leaded type. Interestingly the dedication and pref ace to the Rhetoric appear in the lar gest typef ace, suggesting that their content—the fore grounding of Holmes' s easy method—is the most important part of the book. (Holmes mentions his communications with his printer in his

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105 pref ace.) The Rhetoric also includes an inde x Holmes ar gues can be used to nd tropes of lesser importance (which are not emphasized in his w ork). Holmes points readers to the inde x three times in the pref ace, encouraging its frequent use. Finally a list of questions for the student be gin each chapter The book concludes with a collation of the questions ask ed throughout it, including names of all tropes co v ered. Throughout his pref ace, Holmes' s method correlates with the qualities of ease: the student' s comfort is a constant concern; the w orkload of students (and teachers) is mitigated; se v eral methods for reducing comple xity and encouraging simplicity are emplo yed; and Holmes is pragmatic about the use of classical languages and the comprehensi v eness of his rhetorical theory Interestingly Holmes le v erages the best a v ailable technology—typography and printing—to mak e rhetoric easy Lik e the e v angelists of computer -assisted education who w ould follo w him years later Holmes belie v ed technology had this po wer Holmes' s decision to fore ground his easy method should also be noted: for teachers without e xtensi v e training, being encouraged to think that writing w as easy and the te xtbook before them designed to mak e it so, this could be quite comforting. 3.5.2 Strategies f or Making Writing Easy This re vie w of the w ork of W atts and Holmes enables me to construct a list of the methods by which writing w ould be made easy in the nineteenth century While the sophistication of easy techniques w ould increase, and techniques w ould be applied to a wider v ariety of material, man y of the strate gies used remain popular today Their eighteenthand nineteenth-century de v elopment is part of the rise of simplicity and pragmatism as qualities of ease, b ut certainly connections to older qualities—especially transparenc y—apparent. I will of fer some details about each de vice before discussing other w ays writing w as made easy

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106 3.5.2.1 Br e vity As noted earlier Lock e suggested bre vity w as a good strate gy for education, and that brief lessons were easier than long ones. W atts and Holmes follo w Lock e, maintaining a critical part of Lock e' s theory: that bre vity should not be attained at the e xpense of comprehensi v eness. Bre vity corresponds to a wide number of qualities of ease, especially simplicity and ef fortlessness, b ut also pragmatism and e xpedienc y (though as outlined in Chapter 1, these qualities were not widely connected to ease until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century). Methods for introducing bre vity into teaching writing ha v e already been discussed—W atts' s condensation of chapters into summaries; Holmes' s con v ersion of rhetorical theory into short, aphoristic sentences, and his summary of each chapter in catechetical (question-and-answer) format. Other methods include abridgments, popular in the nineteenth century as today (though no w called “concise editions”); the use of sets of rules for writing, rather than e xplanation in narrati v e form; e xpression of the qualities of good writing as single w ords, or static abstractions; and the use of short passages from literary w orks as a substitute for complete anthologizing. John Genung' s desire for his Outlines of Rhetoric w as typical: “W orded with the utmost bre vity and crispness that can be consistent with adequac y” (iii). 3.5.2.2 Simplication Simplication in v olv es judgment about rele v ance and necessity of details— though contemporary philosophy minimized need for discussion of the particulars. The demand for simplication increased throughout the nineteenth century as the popular strate gy of adding to the rhetorical systems of the late eighteenth century be gan to collapse under its o wn weight, and as the number of subjects taught in all le v els of education e xpanded. Kitzhaber considers Barrett W endell' s massi v ely popular English

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107 Composition a sort of w atershed: it mark ed the transition of composition books from massi v e, highly formal rhetorics to simple, direct te xts. It w as an easy-to-read book which matched the easy-to-read writing style gro wing more and more popular as well: The most prominent feature of the book is its comparati v e simplicity and informality Nearly all the ideas in it are dra wn from older rhetorical doctrine, b ut W endell' s po wer of synthesis reduces complicated theory to a fe w broad and simple generalizations e xpressed in an easy con v ersational tone that mak es them seem much less formidable than, say Genung' s or [Adams Sherman] Hill' s statements of the same principles. (68) T o put it another w ay it w as much easier for teachers to ar gue that writing w as easy and students were much more lik ely to belie v e them, if the composition book the y used presented writing in easy f ashion. T o that end, more and more often, te xtbook authors be gan to lea v e out details or subordinate ideas, ignore e xceptions to rules, and focus on specic directions for writing, instead of general theories. 3.5.2.3 Atomization and gradation Atomization, the process of breaking complicated or comple x things into smaller units for didactic purposes, and gradation, presenting those ideas follo wing the general pattern of simple to dif cult, are closely related to simplication. (Indeed, atomization and gradation sometimes in v olv e the process of simplication.) Cartesian method pro vided much of the theory of atomization mobilized in writing pedagogy and Cro wle y' s Methodical Memory demonstrates the connections made between atomization in philosophical in v estigation and teaching. It w as necessary for teaching since both analytic and synthetic method entailed mo v ement between general and specic, or simple and comple x (Cro wle y 42–50 passim ): teachers had to simplify comple x unities to help students mo v e from simple to comple x when writing analytically or in order to e v aluate the accurac y of students' synthetic w ork.

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108 As I note on page 85 abo v e, Lock e adv ocated gradation in teaching, and restatement of his ideas w as common. Frost ar gued that teachers should err on the side of presenting too little information, or too simple a lesson, rather than o v erwhelm the student with ab undant quantity or dif cult quality of instruction ( Easy Exer cises 118). A slo wer pace w ould ensure that students w ould master each lesson before going onto the ne xt, and allo w dif cult subjects to be tackled e v entually Man y writers utilized atomization and gradation which be gan with w ords and mo v ed through sentences to paragraphs and lar ger units of writing. T echnique v aried; some writers chose to be gin with lar ger units and mo v e “do wnw ard, ” though most thought be ginning with w ords and mo ving “up” w ork ed better The hierarchical, increasingly visual type of atomization which became v ery common after 1870 w as sometimes called the “pedagogy of le v els” (Connors 242). In f act, W alk er had connected atomization and gradation to up and do wn mo v ement much earlier Summarizing his technique' s ef fecti v eness, he declared, “Thus we ha v e descended to slo wness of parts as lo w as we can go. No descent can be too lo w if it raises the pupil from indolence to e x ertion, from backw ardness to f acility” ( T eac her' s Assistant 180). W alk er' s introduction, which echoes the technological language of economic progress then becoming f amiliar suggests the adv antage of gradation se v eral times, and ar gues that its lo w frequenc y of use is the “principal reason” why composition is so ne glected. Hess ar gues that despite support in Lock e and Cartesian philosophy W alk er' s contemporaries did not see it that w ay “Gradation of subject matter w as carefully discussed by only tw o authors of early te xtbooks. It apparently w as assumed that all students were interested in the same acti vities and possessed uniform abilities” (Hess 35–6). Ho we v er one of these tw o authors, Richard Green P ark er penned tw o graded

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109 popular books: Pr o gr essive Exer cises in Composition and the massi v ely inuential colle ge-le v el te xt Aids to English Composition. More study is needed to determine when gradation gained a foothold in the writing classroom. Re gardless of the date, most agree that once it caught on, it seemed unthinkable to teach in an y other w ay and from a current perspecti v e, using graded curricula seems natural or ob vious (Connors 242). Ho we v er atomizing the teaching of writing and ranking the dif culty of the chosen units assumes that language can be used to subdi vide without alteration. Handbooks today still suf fer from atomizations which, while no doubt carefully planned and meaningful to their authors, f ail to be understood by the reader 3.5.2.4 Alphabetization and alliteration The use of alphabetical systems of or ganization also made writing easy as demonstrated in Holmes' s Rhetoric Made Easy As is still the case today ar guments for the use of alphabetical lists cite its “natural” or “transparent” quality P ark er noted the utility of his alphabetized lists of common errors. Alphabetization really blossomed late in the nineteenth century as hierarchical systems creak ed under the weight of lists rhetorical terms and rules for writing. Or ganizing rhetorical theory in le xical f ashion seemed congruent with a shift to w ard a more rational, concrete, natural system: “ And besides all these indications of a complete reaction against the abstract rhetoric of former years, there were the alphabetical lists of disputed or f aulty diction that were designed for quick and easy reference by the student as he wrote or re vised” (Kitzhaber 215). F or e xample, Genung ended Outlines of Rhetoric with an alphabetical “glossary” of commonly misused w ords. Alliteration also made writing books easy Connors points out that the pioneering Holmes dened ele gance as “Purity Perspicuity and Politeness”—a memorable list

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110 borro wed by Joseph Campbell in The Philosophy of Rhetoric Blair adapted Holmes' s technique with a bit of rearrangement, dening perspicuity as purity propriety and precision. From there, this repeated P ascended to a position of po wer: “Here in Blair were the terms that were to become important stylistic dogmas for the Early American composition-rhetoric of the rst half of the nineteenth century” (Connors 258–9). 3.5.2.5 Inclusion of “teaching aids” Hess uses the term “teaching aids” for e xplanatory pref aces, tables of contents, inde x es, question and answer sheets, and other content added to te xtbooks to help teachers understand ho w a book could be used, and to mak e a book easier to use for students (154). Once again, from a current perspecti v e, these elements may seem tri vial, since the y are present in te xtbooks used at all le v els and in all subjects. In f act, their absence w ould mak e a te xtbook seem amateurish. But as an yone who has collated an inde x or a table of contents by hand kno ws, production of these aids is by no means easy Writers who included these items must ha v e considered the e xtra w ork in v olv ed quite carefully (Since the y were doubtless used by students as well as teachers, in the long run, a dif ferent name for these aids might be useful.) Hess' s analysis sho ws a gradual increase, o v er time, in the number of teaching aids which appear in composition te xtbooks, especially if ne w books, rather than reprints of older titles, are considered (154–80 passim ). This increase, and the increase in the use of other de vices mentioned abo v e, correlates to the general increase of the po wer of ease in composition. Ho we v er as will soon be discussed, as momentum for “teaching writing is easy” gre w in the last thirty years of the nineteenth century some teaching aids w ould be gin to disappear and composition instructors were forced to create their o wn—or do without.

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111 Through these specic strate gies and changes in content, te xtbooks and curricula generated from them increasingly reected the demand for ease. More comprehensi v e analytical w ork is needed: perhaps an e xtension of Hess' s in v entory of composition te xtbooks for atomization, teaching aids and the lik e needs to be completed, tab ulating the use of strate gies for making easy and better connecting them to philosophical antecedents. 3.5.3 Emotional Needs: Comf ort and F amiliarity Or ganizational de vices and techniques ackno wledged dif ferences in the intellectual abilities of adults and children. The desire to update rhetorical te xtbooks to create w orks interesting and not foreboding to young children w as supported by an increased a w areness of their emotional state. Much of this w as a reection of a more liberal approach to education and shifting ideas about childhood, which w as less often en visioned as a debased condition or disease, with children merely small adults in need of a cure (Schultz, Composer s 25). Lock e' s educational model, which generally f a v ored encouraging the learner culti v ating the desire to learn, and consideration of the student' s emotions, has already been discussed. Man y writers applied these ideas to composition, suggesting alternati v es to old models of learning by heart with enforcement by rod: a “bene v olent classroom en vironment and a pedagogy that mo v ed from the simple and concrete to the comple x and abstract” (Schultz, Composer s 75). In T eac her' s Assistant W alk er attack ed customary practices of teaching composition and suggested a proto-process method which considered the emotional state of the student w ould mak e more ef fecti v e composition pedagogy—and better writing. F or W alk er teachers should recognize the frustration writing w ould cause in students who had probably ne v er written before, and “not aim at too great correctness [or] per fection” (7). Rather the y should use an incremental approach in grading (e v aluation)

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112 and assignment design, with students preparing draft v ersions of assignments for later recop ying and correction. T eachers should tak e care not to frighten students with high e xpectations—at least not at rst. Y ears earlier Stirling had ar gued that Greek grammar should be “plain, easy and delightful. F or it is certainly a great Mistak e in Education, to v e x and torture the Minds of Y outh with dry insipid, gra v e, and perple xing T ries” (qtd in Moran 119). Frost w as similarly concerned with rele v ance and the w ay students felt while composing, and connected an easy natural feeling in the student to an easy natural, successful writing style. This long quote sho ws repeated directi v es to pay attention to the emotional state of a young learner and shape the curriculum accordingly: Abo v e all it is necessary in these initiatory e x ercises that he should write freely and boldly using such e xpressions as suit his o wn feelings, and his o wn understanding of the subject. Hereafter we shall endea v or to gi v e him some instruction in the art of correcting his o wn composition. But the rst and most important thing is to be able to originate observ ations on the subjects presented and to e xpress them in such language as his feelings prompt. If he feel a constant solicitude lest he should mak e a triing mistak e, this will chill his feelings and gi v e his writing an unpleasant air of stif fness and constraint. When he commences writing it is better that he should say whate v er comes into his head in a natural though inaccurate manner than that he should puzzle himself by hunting after w ords that do not come readily or by torturing the common place e xpressions of other people into ne w and articial forms. The most common w ords are the most forcible; and if the idea to be e xpressed is a good omen it will tell better in short e v ery day w ords than in holyday terms and w ords of “learned length, and thundering sound. ” ( Easy Exer cises 66) This mo v ement w ould be echoed by more and more rhetoricians. J. Scott Clark spok e out against “dreary platitudes” of e xpository writing (Kitzhaber 105). Gertrude Buck called for topics which engaged student emotion and interest (Berlin 83–4). Henry Day rejected the “drudgery” of writing according to the directions of his contemporaries, though his attempts to remedy it in v olv ed complicated systems of

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113 rhetoric which frustrated students and teachers alik e, lea ving him o v ershado wed and outsold by his competitors (Kitzhaber 97, Connors 221). V e yse y tracks another important reason for the increasing le gitimac y of considering student emotions in pedagogy In composition, the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century rhetorics of Blair Campbell, and Whately were supported by f aculty psychology and its model of the mind as a group of separate f aculties, similar to muscles which, lik e arms and le gs, required e x ercise for de v elopment (20–5 passim ). This w as a component of the highly inuential approach of “mental discipline, ” the curricular ef fects of which Kitzhaber describes in e xcellent detail: Educators, therefore, sa w their function as tw ofold: to discipline and strengthen these separate f aculties through drill and e x ercises [. .]. The best sort of education w as that which of fered the best opportunities for rigorous drill, and that which stressed generalizations thought to be uni v ersally useful. [. .] Instruction w as by recitation, a method calculated to strengthen the f aculty of memory: the student often memorized the pages of his te xtbook and repeated them to his teacher v erbatim. Questions from the student were not encouraged, since the teacher did not consider it a part of his responsibility to add an ything of his o wn to the lesson. (2) Mental discipline functioned as discipline in se v eral w ays: it pro vided support for a strictly go v erned classroom and demanding curriculum. It also serv ed as a guarantee: consistent with American economic ideology students who put in enough hard w ork w ould be re w arded with an e xpanded mind (V e yse y 142). As this model fell out of f a v or the pressure for discipline and drill decreased as well, since there w as less of an imperati v e to mak e education tough or rigorous. Concomitantly it became less dif cult to justify approaches which ackno wledged students' feelings, from gradation to more blatant appeals to student f anc y There were certainly some holdo v ers, such as the inclusion of Anglo-Saxon in the curriculum, which w as often studied because of

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114 its dif culty (Kitzhaber 37). And some other subjects, such as science, were delayed curricular inclusion because the y were “too easy and undemanding” (V e yse y 41). Mental discipline did not disappear quickly b ut remained po werful in man y schools and uni v ersities, especially conserv ati v e colle ges lik e Princeton and Y ale. In those schools, the electi v e system w as shunned because it w as belie v ed students w ould select courses based solely on dif culty and there are some indicators this is e xactly what happened (V e yse y 39, 224–7). But mental discipline left little room for student indi viduality and no room for feelings, thoughts, or input from student— an incompatibility with the increasingly popular ideas of Lock e and reformers lik e Comenius and Pestalozzi. Additionally the monolithic vie w of students it projected w as less tenable as, during the second half of the nineteenth century a wide range of students formerly e xcluded from most education be gan to enter classrooms. As the twentieth century neared, approaches which created discomfort in students were less and less viable, and signs of increased attention to students' comfort and enjo yment proliferated. Connors' s Composition-Rhetoric includes a much more contro v ersial ar gument about the role of emotion and student comfort in the nineteenth-century classroom. Building on W alter Ong' s analysis of orality and literac y he contends that as more w omen entered colle ges and secondary schools, and classical oratorical rhetorics of Aristotle and Cicero were supplemented with belletristic rhetorics of Campbell and Blair composition-rhetoric became a decidedly Irenic rhetoric. In comparison to the more agonistic rhetoric of eighteenth-century education or nineteenth-century political discourse, composition-rhetoric w as more cognizant of the emotional state of the listener more polite, and more feminine:

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115 Colle ge w as a man' s w orld, and it w as a w orld red in tooth and cla w [. .] [But] when w omen entered the educational equation in colle ge, the whole edice b uilt on ritual contest between teacher and student, and between student and student, came crashing do wn. [. .] From ha ving been arenas of contest, the lecture halls and recitation rooms became forums of irenic discussion. The atmosphere changed from one of boredom punctuated by anxiety and hostility to one much more decorous. [. .] The tone of public colle ge life both in and outside classrooms changed completely (48, 49) Ev en if Connors o v erstates the rhetorical ef fects of coeducation—in f act, there has been debate about the causal chain implied by his ar gument (Mountford 493) 8 —it is dif cult to refute his e vidence of a reduction in the competiti v e, agonistic character of classroom practices and an increase in discussion, lecture, and other learning techniques less lik ely to result in the public humiliation of a student. In other w ords, at least one form of student discomfort w as generally less frequent, as there w as “gradual change of student-teacher relationships in rhetoric/composition courses from challenging and adv ersarial to de v elopmental and personalized” (Connors 44) during the nineteenth century Connors asserts that the presence of w omen in classrooms introduced other aspects commonly associated with contemporary ideas of femininity: a less demanding, more nurturing en vironment, and more focus on the personal and pri v ate, rather than the public and political sphere. The second of these ef fects seems to ha v e been underw ay independent of gender inuences, as will be discussed belo w The rst is consistent with the equation of femininity and ease described on page 35 abo v e. Gi v en the lo w opinion of the female intellect and constitution common in the nineteenth century (Ferreia-Buckle y and Horner 204), the appearance of w omen in classrooms—as both teacher and student—could be used as justication for an easier curriculum and 8 See also Sharon Cro wle y' s re vie w of Composition-Rhetoric in Rhetoric Re vie w 16 (1998), 340–3.

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116 classroom atmosphere which could pro v e benecial to all students. Accounts of student reactions to coeducation in V e yse y' s research support this ar gument. 3.5.3.1 Write what y ou kno w Writing w as also made easy by a shift to writing about more f amiliar subject matter This occurred in three w ays, which I describe belo w Mo v ement to w ard the f amiliar w as, as Cro wle y ar gues in Methodical Memory bolstered by questions about student ability—e v en the most progressi v e writers doubted student' s capacity for original thought, and suggested methods of easing the b urden. (Current-traditional rhetoric ensured the canon of in v ention w as not a v ailable for assistance.) This f amiliarity w as often connected to comfort: Frost, who combined all three approaches, ar gued that shortly after starting to write by his method, a student w ould “feel some what at home in the use of his pen” (Frost Easy Exer cises 79–80). First, as Schultz demonstrates, educational techniques proposed by Johann Pestalozzi gained popularity Pestalozzian learning relied on a vision of the child as a seed which, gi v en the proper substance and upbringing, w ould reach its innate potential. The natural desires of children—curiosity creati vity and po wer of observ ation—could be harnessed for educational purposes. F or Pestalozzi, “the path of learning w as the path of nature; that is, learning proceeded from the near to the f ar from the kno wn to the unkno wn, from the simple to the comple x, and from the concrete to the abstract” (Schultz, Composer s 65). Pestalozzi belie v ed, lik e Lock e, that children learned best when the y enjo yed learning, and to that end he spok e against classical techniques (memorization and recitation) and encouraged direct e xperience such as eld trips and “object teaching, ” for which he is best kno wn. Object teaching in v olv ed the use of concrete objects as prompts for student inter est and creati vity W ith the object method, a student w ould be sho wn something lik e

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117 a piece of glass, allo wed to handle it, and be taught w ords associated with glass, such as “bright, ” “brittle, ” and “transparent, ” through observ ation and discussion (Schultz, Composer s 69). Generally speaking, the focus of instruction shifted a w ay from abstractions learned from books and traditional canons of kno wledge dened by the teacher to common objects a student w ould kno w from e v eryday e xperience. Composition teachers who adopted Pestalozzian ideas mobilized the idea of object learning in a v ariety of w ays, and often included “object” in book titles (Schultz, Composer s 74–6). Schultz' s “Pestalozzi-Mayo-Frost” connection, mentioned abo v e on page 92 charts Pestalozzian inuence to John Frost through Massachusetts kinder garten teacher and writer Elizabeth Mayo. In concert with Pestalozzi, Mayo sought to “bring education more into contact with the child' s o wn e xperience and observ ation, and to nd in him the rst link in the chain of his instruction” (Mayo qtd in Schultz, Composer s 68). Things a child already kne w w ould be used as starting points for learning. Frost w as one of the rst to adopt Mayo' s w ork to composition. F or him, objects led to better writing: “It occurred to me that by making a course of e x ercises on pictures and real objects the starting point, something might be done to w ards ( sic ) inculcating a natural and correct, as well as an easy and graceful style of composition” (Frost Easy Exer cises vi). Notably Richard Green P ark er and possibly Simon K erl and Ale xander Bain, were also inuenced by Pestalozzi through Mayo' s w ork (Schultz, Composer s 80) Increasingly so students could write and think with ease, composition mo v ed a w ay from abstract subjects to w ard more concrete and personal matters. Here is the second form of “write what you kno w”: focusing on immediate e xperience, one' s surroundings, perhaps readily a v ailable memories—often without the direct e xperience and decidedly humanitarian inuence of Pestalozzi. “[A]bstract topics

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118 were increasingly supplanted by subjects based in personal observ ation” as well as “by assignments more concrete and o v ertly personal in nature” (Connors 64). In its e xtreme, this resulted in a positi vist approach, encouraged by the gro wing scientism of education and American culture in general, and which directed the student to objecti v ely report, ne v er interpret or editorialize (Berlin 9, 62). Preference for the concrete w as often e xpressed through personalization of v enerable abstract assignments. F or e xample, “The V alue of Di v ersions” w ould become “My Summer V acation. ” A historical essay could include a student' s e xperience (e v en at times her feelings) and reference to recent historical e v ents, instead of focusing on doctrinal readings of history (Schultz, Composer s 123). Frost e xpressed this as “subjects which will readily suggest such ideas as may easily be e xpressed in a natural and unaf fected manner” ( Easy Exer cises 9). The moti v ations for shifting a w ay from abstract topics v aried, b ut were frequently connected to qualities of ease. Simon K erl emphatically connects abstraction to misunderstanding, boredom, and dif culty for the reader: “Unusually abstruse or abstract subjects should also be generally a v oided; because most people cannot easily understand what is said on such subjects, or the y care b ut little for what can be said” (363). Ernest W Huf fcutt v alorizes bre vity and simplicity important qualities of ease in write-what-you-kno w concreteness, saying of the subject for writing, “Let it be a subject about which [the student] kno ws something. Let it be specic, concrete, not too broad in its scope, and capable of simple and direct treatment” (qtd in Kitzhaber 105). Finally writers wrote what the y kno w by adopting ne w forms. As rhetoric became multimodal, letter -writing, personal narrati v e, e xperiential writing, and description were more often considered part of composition, augmenting the old standby ar gumentation (Connors 207–20 passim ). In man y cases, this shift w as at least in part

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119 because of the relati v e ease of these nontraditional forms. Again, we turn to Frost for an ar gument supporting letters as easy writing assignments, and see the reassertion of the po wer of the f amiliar: [Letters are] generally considered an easy form of composition, and it is that in which most persons mak e their rst attempt at e xpressing their thoughts and feelings in writing. The chief source of dif culty in this, as in e v ery other branch of the art, is too much solicitude about the language and style, and too little attention to the subject. When a person has some particular b usiness to be done—some real object to be ef fected by the writing of a letter it is generally e xpressed in perspicuous language, and in an easy natural style. But if the writer intends merely to compose what is called a “beautiful letter ” he is apt to run into some of the w orst f aults of style. ( Easy Exer cises 76) The length of this quotation sho ws an interesting hybrid v ariation of write-what-youkno w pedagogy: Frost assumes the young writer does not kno w “language and style” well enough to mak e a “beautiful letter ” Ho we v er if she w ould stick to her “particular b usiness, ” the use of the “easy form” of the letter and the “real object” in her mind (and not the high abstractions of belletristic theory), an “easy natural style” w ould be the happ y result. Here is another e xample of easy pedagogy moti v ated at least in part by mistrust of student ability Similarly P ark er w arned against teaching epistolary writing, ar guing that it w as one of, if not the, most dif cult form of composition, due to the pressing need to mak e letters “ele gant” (123). Notably John W alk er sho ws a considerable amount of indecision re garding the comparati v e ease of the v arious forms which he adv ocates in his T eac her s' Assistant. At rst, he ar gues in f a v or of the theme, which, “from the re gularity of its form, seems to be the easiest species of composition” (16). Ho we v er soon afterw ard, he suggests his o wn formula-based “easy essay” as an alternati v e (though the dif ference between themes and easy essays is some what unclear). At another time, he adv ocates narrati v e: “Nothing so easy to comprehend and retain as a story and therefore nothing so easy to

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120 write do wn from memory” (152). Re gardless of this inconsistenc y the trend is clear: W alk er' s advice re garding form, no w nearly tw o centuries old, w as hea vily inuenced by ease. As Hess summarizes, “The e vidence sho ws that the present-day idea of ha ving a child e v aluate his e xperiences and e xpress his opinions simply and naturally had its be ginning in te xtbooks more than a hundred years ago” (184). 3.5.4 It' s J ust That Easy While the idea that writing should be easy w as supported by ne w styles of te xtbooks and ne w teaching methodologies, there w as also a much simpler line of thinking: writing should be easy because it is just not that hard. Not all writers ar gued so—for e xample, consider W alk er' s frankness about the “dif cult and irksome” character of writing (10). The dif ferences of opinion reect the deeply paradoxical and contradictory treatment of ease in writing—consistent with the paradox es which surround ease in general. Cro wle y illuminates part of the philosophical basis for assuming that writing is easy: the modern vie w of language and the w orld inherited from Francis Bacon, who equated language with reasoning. Language, thought, and the w orld w ork ed in the same w ay and thus were practically equi v alent (Cro wle y 9). Similarly f aculty psychology and associationism presented a unproblematic vie w of the mind, and the task of philosophical in v estigation and related writing. This equation enabled the popular belief, still popular today that clear thinking and clear writing are connected. Some ar gued that English, as a non-inected language, w ould not present the dif culty common in more adv anced languages lik e Latin. In the e xtreme, those who ar gued this position contended that English did not ha v e a grammar and that such instruction w as superuous (Connors 117). Man y who follo wed the mental discipline model thought students' English w ould benet from learning Latin, Greek, or e v en

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121 Anglo-Saxon because those languages were more dif cult than English, and students with language muscles enlar ged from classical tongues w ould ha v e no problem with easy English (V e yse y 39). In a similar v ein, with implicit support from Lock e' s use of spok en language acquisition as a model for learning, and clear connection to the purpose of writing as dictated by philosophical in v estigation, John Genung w as one of man y who collapsed spok en and written English, ar guing that an yone who could speak could write: T o write an essay or an y formal kind of composition seems to most people, and doubtless is, a much more dif cult thing than to con v erse. But why should it be so? At bottom it is virtually the same thing, e xcept that it is done with a pen instead of with the v oice. The purpose too is the same, namely to mak e others see a subject as the author sees it; and it ought to be just as natural, just as spontaneous, just as characteristic of the man, to write his thoughts as to speak them. If we could al w ays bear this ob vious truth in mind, and feel perfectly at ease with a pen in our hand, composition w ould cease to be the b ugbear that it no w too often is. (1) The presence of ne w technological instruments for writing also bolstered assumptions that writing is easy by reducing much of the tedium of writing. Steel fountain pen nibs e xpedited writing by eliminating the frequent cleaning and mending necessary with quill pens. Automation of book and ne wspaper production lo wered the cost of paper and made books more a v ailable, so their a v ailability w as less of an e v ent (Wright and Halloran 226–7). Elizabeth Larson, among others, has considered the impacts of these technologies for writing. In a slightly dif ferent v ein, Ong reminds us that the printing press w as the rst assembly line (118), and though some ar gue that ideas from assembly-line style thinking and scientic management had little ef fect on nineteenth-century education (Callahan 10), it is possible the y af fected the numerous printers who wrote introductions, created abridgments, and e v en penned whole books.

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122 At an y rate, the outcome of consistently assuming that writing is just easy— especially when combined with other portions of the matrix of ease and writing presented abo v e—w as that students who had trouble writing, e xpressed frustration, or otherwise rejected the assumption that writing w as easy (or that their alphabetized, alliterati v e te xtbooks made it so) could be dismissed as decient, unteachable, lazy or all of the abo v e. 3.5.5 A Mixed Bag of Ease Of course, the lar gest problem with assuming that writing is easy is that for e v en the most talented, e xperienced writers, it can be quite dif cult. There w as denitely heated discussion about some of the curricular and pedagogical changes which reinforced the idea that writing is easy Those who recognized the dif culty of writing often reected it by ambi v alence or hedging of bets: the y w ould ar gue that certain kinds of writing were easy or certain subjects. Or the y w ould contend that writing could be easy with proper training. Genung pro vides an interesting e xample of this inconsistenc y Just a fe w pages after ar guing composition should be easy (see page 121 abo v e), he writes: What Composition r equir es. —There is a good reason [. .] why composition must [. .] be more dif cult than con v ersation. It is because in composing we ha v e to be more careful and painstaking. W e cannot, for one thing, be so of f-hand about the w ords we use and the manner in which we put them together; we must tak e thought for choice and arrangement, because what we write is intended for a permanent e xpression of our thought, and we ha v e no opportunity afterw ard to e xplain or correct our blunders. [. .] Further as our subject may be hard, or our reader slo w to grasp it, we must often study ho w to e xpress ourselv es with such emphasis or animation, such copiousness or pointedness, as most surely to engage his attention and gi v e our thought a lodgment in his mind. Man y such necessary things belong to the art of putting our ideas on paper and of course mak e composition a more studious and calculated w ork, and in this sense more dif cult, though in its real nature it remains the same as speaking. (2)

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123 What were students and teachers supposed to mak e of this paradox? Is composition just another species of speaking, and therefore easy or is it fundamentally dif ferent and more dif cult? Genung strays from the hard and f ast rules typical of his Outlines of Rhetoric in this passage. In f act, he shifts the goals of composition considerably: from enabling others to “see a subject as the author sees it” (consistent with philosophies on which current-traditional rhetoric is based) to engaging the attention and pro v oking the memory of the reader (more consistent with classical rhetoric). Ambiguities lik e this one mark quite a fe w of the w orks which represent writing as easy—and in most cases, as with Genung, the paradox itself is unackno wledged. P art of the reluctance to accept the notion of easy writing w as based on the assumption that easy writing w as a dif ferent sort of writing than non-easy writing (presumably literature or belles lettr es ). F or e xample, Lilienthal and Allyn separated the tw o styles of writing with a considerable gap in kno wledge: “W ithout a proper kno wledge of things, the pupil lacks the material out of which to b uild up the edice of ideas; without the systematic training which will prepare him to proceed, in writing, from easy to more dif cult themes, he will be unable to master his subject; and composition will al w ays remain a most irksome and dif cult task” (Lilienthal and Allyn 3 qtd in Hess 139). The techniques I present here, which alle gedly made writing easy were by no means uni v ersally accepted. Nathaniel Greene w as not reluctant to ar gue for the catechetical plan of instruction (learning based on question and answer), which w as “of great utility” because it “renders the attainment of this useful branch of learning e xtremely easy ” But he also recognized that man y w ould consider this method “too easy ” and took considerable pains to justify its use (Greene iii qtd in Hess 159, 161). The e xtensi v e pref aces and teaching aids Holmes, W alk er and Frost pro vided, and

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124 from which man y quotations are included abo v e, also indicate their understanding of the ambi v alence to w ard ease, and perhaps e v en admission of its paradoxical status. More w ork is needed to in v estigate the e xtent to which mainstream writers accepted the assertion that writing is easy and to de v elop a more specic chronology of the strength of ease through the eighteenth and nineteenth century 3.5.6 The Results While imperati v es to mak e writing easy strengthened, and writing pedagogy changed to support the claim that writing is easy composition curricula changed in notable w ays. Those changes should be cast in terms of qualities of ease I describe abo v e on page 46 : mo v ement from education centered around the presumably abstract, theoretical classical curriculum to a simpler more pr a gmatic, utilitarian curriculum better suited for creating an upw ardly mobile middle class, not only doctors, ministers, and la wyers; the rise of the pr a gmatic electi v e system, enabling courses to be selected with a student' s enjoyment and ef fortlessness in mind—in some w ays a “study what you kno w” paradigm; the de v elopment of composition techniques and styles, such as e xpository writing, which follo w simple e xpedient formula; and shifts in rhetoric which encouraged understanding the act of writing (and language itself) as a tr anspar ent, passive process. These and other changes occurred for man y reasons—not only because of the rise of ease. The relationships between composition, ease, and American and British culture need to be articulated more precisely than is possible in the limited space a v ailable here. The dri v e to mak e writing easy had tremendous ef fects on classroom practice, rhetoric, and nineteenth-century vie ws of technology—and in turn, on the style of writing which students were to produce in composition courses and e xtracurricular discourse.

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125 3.6 Students Should Write Easy-T o-Read Pr ose As current-traditional rhetoric became more po werful in American high school and colle ge classrooms, it be gan to shape writing style as it shaped the public image of writing. Current-traditional rhetoric ar gues that writing, especially student writing, should be easy to read—clear and transparent, brief, simple, concrete, and graceful. Not surprisingly man y of the de vices which were used to mak e writing te xtbooks, curricula, and the image of writing easy were also mobilized to shape writing style. Once again, Cro wle y pro vides a link between contemporary rhetorical theory and the practice of making writing style easy Among other things, she points out that classical systems of in v ention dealt e xtensi v ely with audience interaction and shaping one' s rhetoric to meet audience needs. During the nineteenth century this complication w as for the most part eliminated, and an y customization necessary compressed into the gure of “that ubiquitous military persona who stalks the pages of later composition te xtbooks—General Reader” (69). Gen. Reader is characterized by interest, and a desire for writing which is con v entional, natural, and easy to read. T o please the General, “[w]riters needed only to arrange their discourse [. .] in a f ashion that w ould ease the reading process—that w ould, in f act, reect the w ay an y reasonable person might ha v e written it, according to the natural dictates of the rational mind” (122). Unfortunately the directi v es to mak e writing easy to read were often either general orders supplemented by positi v e models (to be emulated) or ne gati v e models (to be a v oided). This w as consistent with much of current-traditional rhetoric: it w as assumed that the subject matter being taught w as based on simple, uni v ersal truth which needed little or no e xplanation. After all, writing w as easy! Le v eraging ease as a model for writing style considerably simplied the institution of composition as a whole—the same system could be used for thinking about

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126 the act of writing and the style of writing being produced. (Soon we' ll see triple and quadruple duty for the easy system of writing, as rules introduced abo v e are applied to teaching and the institution of composition, too.) As w as the case with the public image of writing, there were se v eral critical concepts which or ganized thinking on making writing style easy 3.6.1 Clarity Thomas Sprat, historian for the Ro yal Society penned a guide to writing still cited by writers today especially in scientic and technical writing. In a well-kno wn passage, he praised “a nati v e easiness” as one of the highest virtues in writing: The y ha v e therefore been most rigorous in putting in e x ecution, the only Remedy that can be found for this e xtr ava gance: and that has been, a constant Resolution, to reject all the amplications, digressions, and swellings of style: to return back to the primiti v e purity and shortness, when men deli v er' d so man y things, almost in an equal number of wor ds. The y ha v e e xacted from all their members, a close, nak ed, natural w ay of speaking; positi v e e xpressions; clear senses; a nati v e easiness: bringing all things as near the Mathematical plainness, as the y can: and preferring the language of Artizans, Countrymen, and Merchants, before that, of W its, or Scholars. (111) The basic message e xpressed here w as echoed in a lar ge number of the rhetoric and composition te xts of the nineteenth century This w as nothing ne w; clarity and transparenc y ha v e long considered a virtue in speech and writing, and man y e xamples of the v alorization of clarity or transparenc y are doubtless a v ailable to the reader Thus, in order to support the ar gument that the best writing style is easy current-traditional rhetoricians could rely on not only Sprat b ut Aristotle, the Bible, Samuel Johnson, Benjamin Franklin, and man y more writers in between. Campbell, Blair and Holmes, the rhetorical hea vyweights who w ould pro vide the foundation for most nineteenth-century rhetoric, all identied “perspicuity” as part of the denition of ele gance in writing. Connors points out that this term and others

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127 used by these men were at the time a well-kno wn synon yms for clarity (258). As the y mo v ed a w ay from the weighty in v entories of tropes and gures which dominated sixteenthand se v enteenth-century rhetoric, and from the more orid, descripti v e style which characterized the writing of the time, Campbell, Blair and Holmes answered Sprat' s call to dene a ne w style with clarity as one of its most important principles. Numerous writers who follo wed echoed the call for clarity or transparenc y— especially as the po wer of belletristic rhetoric declined and the rise of more “practical” te xtbooks became more popular Hugh Blair W illiam Russell, Richard Green P ark er Amos R. Phippen, Adams Sherman Hill, Geor ge Quack enbos, and Barrett W endell all identied clarity or clearness as a virtue of writing, though specic denitions v aried. By 1870, most dened e xcellence in e xpository writing by perspicuity clarity and unity (Connors 234). Most of these writers follo w Sprat' s lead, and re vie w of his denition of “clarity” touches most of theirs. Sprat' s model for clarity is closely connected to bre vity Not surprisingly this alliance is found throughout current-traditional rhetoric. It w as generally assumed that bre vity led to clarity Hill pro vides an e xcellent e xample of this oft-e xpressed commandment: one must “use as man y w ords as are needed to con v e y his meaning easily and fully b ut not one w ord more” (213). Edwin Abbott' s v ery popular How to Write Clearly one of the single-subject composition te xtbooks common after 1870, is di vided in tw o sections: clearness and force, and bre vity The ar gument for clarity also calls for rejecting style, which w as (and still is) considered an undesirable addition to writing—a lm which obscures pure and natural thinking. Frost' s ar gument for the ease of letter -writing, detailed abo v e on 119 sho ws similar associations: the “w orst f aults of style” occur when one tries to transform “easy natural” prose into a “beautiful letter” (Frost, Easy Exer cises 76). As noted

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128 abo v e, Cartesian method pro vided philosophical support for staying on the lo wer le v el of “mathematical plainness” and “clarity and distinction” so that one could mo v e to w ard truth without distraction. A conscious shift a w ay from style and to w ard plainer supposedly clearer language be gan with Blair and pick ed up speed as writers such as those mentioned abo v e fell in line (Connors 257–95 passim ). Clarity as dened by Sprat also refuses writing which pri vile ges e xpertise, both in his rejection of the language of wits and scholars, and his desire for “clear senses” and “primiti v e purity ” There is a slight echo of class distinction here perhaps not operant in Sprat' s situation b ut denitely part of the eighteenth-century American ur ge for clarity (Connors 120–1). Unfortunately the desire to k eep language closer to the language of the w orking class rather than the aristocrac y w as often complicated by the assertion that colloquialisms and pronunciations typical of the w orking class were unclear (Scott and Denne y 2, 12). Abbott felt that clearness (his term) w as the easiest of the virtues of writing, a “mere matter of adv erbs, conjunctions, prepositions, and auxiliary v erbs, placed and repeated according to denite rules” (6). His vision of writing admitted that forcible and ele gant writing were desirable, b ut secondary in importance and out of the reach of most students. Perhaps because of this, Abbott w as content to de v ote more than half of his 78 page book to e x ercises, lea ving a scant 26 pages to e xplain his v ersion of clarity 3.6.2 Br e vity and Conciseness In the pre vious section of this dissertation, I e xplained some of the techniques of bre vity used in te xtbooks to enforce the idea that writing is easy Much of the strength of these techniques relied on the common-sense, unspok en notion that shorter utterances are understood more easily than long ones. As noted for Hill abo v e, authors of rhetorical te xts from W atts forw ard encouraged students to be as brief as possible,

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129 and bre vity w as named one of the guiding principles for good writing time and time again. Man y writers encouraged students to achie v e bre vity through careful w ord choice. F our of Abbott' s thirteen rules for bre vity follo w suit: encouraging general terms instead of more specic lists, using participles, and omitting conjunctions (37–40). P ark er' s seminal Pr o gr essive Exer cises returned to bre vity quite frequently Franklin Scott' s 1928 re vision of the W oolle y Handbook named bre vity as a feature of the w ord, scarcely mentioning it in later discussions of sentence, paragraph, and composition (though he did address sentence and paragraph length using dif ferent terms). The connection between o v erall length and bre vity is weak er when sentences and paragraphs, not only phrases and clauses, are discussed (or while general guidelines for good writing are presented in introductions and pref aces). F or e xample, Abbott suggested that student writers could achie v e bre vity by combining simple sentences into compound or compound-comple x sentences (39). This w ould result in longer sentences, b ut w ould decrease the length of paragraphs. The assignments and e x ercises included in te xtbooks called for f airly short compositions—sometimes just a fe w paragraphs, sometimes e v en less. Recall W alk er and Frost' s position that student writing as short as one sentence w as acceptable, as long as it w as original and truly the w ork of the student. P ark er pick ed up W alk er' s “easy essay” and presented that form as a simpler shorter composition which bridged rst attempts at writing and full-blo wn themes ( Pr o gr essive Exer cises 112–3). Later in the century te xts which focused on the paragraph as the ideal assignment w ould become more popular T o be sure, these stipulations of length did not refer specically to techniques for achie ving bre vity in writing, b ut reinforced the v alorization of bre vity through in v ecti v e against no v els,

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130 suggestions for the length of compositions and speeches, and guidelines for writing letters. 3.6.2.1 Br e vity and the paradox of ease The paradox of ease is ackno wledged in considerable popular writing on bre vity The sentiment in Thoreau' s f amous line, “Not that the story need be long, b ut it will tak e a long while to mak e it short, ” (320) is echoed by numerous writers who came before and after him. Unfortunately fe w of the te xtbook writers considered here qualied their encouragement of bre vity similarly It w as assumed, or at least implied, that students could be brief as easily as the y could learn punctuation or paragraphing. W alk er w as one of fe w considered here who suggested that teachers should indulge the “luxuriance” of student writing and encourage a more process-oriented pedagogy with bre vity achie v ed after re vision (7). Comparisons between spok en and written language frequently encouraged students and teachers to belie v e both that writing w as easy and that an easy style of writing could be achie v ed naturally Fe w writers follo wed the e xample of Scott and Denne y who recognized that dif ferences between spok en and written grammar were natural, and that the appearance of con v ersational grammar in writing could be accidental, not indicati v e of laziness or stupidity Scott and Denne y recognized the e xtra ef fort needed to mo v e from the more v erbose, phatic, repetiti v e speech of con v ersation to concise, highly structured speech of written composition. Before mo ving past clarity and bre vity one point merits consideration: some writers' list of the virtues of writing concludes here. Clarity and bre vity when combined with adherence to con v entions of usage, pro vided a complete rhetoric for Hill' s F oundations (Cro wle y 142). (Ho w' s that for practicing what you preach?)

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131 Ho we v er most writers suggested other w ays writing style could be made easy e xplicitly or by e xample. 3.6.3 Simplicity Sprat' s directi v es included simplicity another virtue of easy writing desirable for man y rhetoricians. Denitions of simplicity often took the form of “plain language” or made a similar reference to an undressed form of writing similar to the writing without style commonly associated with clarity The goodness of simplicity w as often bolstered by the assumption that no vice writers (including students, b ut also most readers) could not handle dif cult or comple x thought and language, and were better informed by simple ideas simply e xpressed. Di visions between no vice and e xpert were increased by the demand to mak e writing simple enough to be understood by a wide readership. Ev en Fred Ne wton Scott echoed this sentiment: the stuf f out of which a great national language is created is the simple, homely e xpression of sincere feeling and sturdy thinking. [. .] If it is the v oice of high wisdom, of moderation, of human nature at its best, the w ords will tak e on that po wer and charm which is the test of a great national speech (Scott 9). Directions for simplicity most often focused on a v oidance of jar gon and technical language, using common w ords as often as possible, e v en the odd requirement that w ords of English origin, rather than Latin or Greek, were preferable. (Ho w students without access to etymological kno wledge could distinguish between these classes of w ords remains to be seen.) Hill e xtended this directi v e to a preference for general, rather than specic w ords, ar guing that the former were of more use, and responsible for the classication and storage of kno wledge (187). Ho we v er he also remark ed that general w ords could be used for sophistry and hedged his praise for them with w arnings about “second-rate sermons and school compositions” (188). J. Scott Clark

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132 follo wed the re v erse path, suggesting that particular w ords were more desirable than general, b ut lik e Hill, instructed students to a v oid technical terms. But simplicity w as more than w ord choice: it also in v olv ed making comple x subjects simple using method handed do wn from Descartes. Comple xity and dif culty were undesirable in and of themselv es, b ut could be presented if accompanied by e xplanations which sho wed a methodical mo v ement to w ard simplicity which could be follo wed by the reader Ob viously Cro wle y' s description of the de v elopment of the methodical memory is quite rele v ant in this re gard. Hill admitted achie v ement of simplicity might cost a writer accurac y and precision, b ut instructed writers to accept “the risk of being inaccurate. ” “ A writer has to content himself with gi ving an approximate idea of his meaning” (187). Similarly Phelps suggested details and “minute and e xact accurac y” w ould ha v e to be sacriced, in preference for concrete o v er abstract subjects. Students were encouraged to culti v ate simplicity by choosing subjects which did not require technical language or lengthy e xplanations—both of which might confused the presumably general readership. The directi v es for simplicity w ould also bolster the shift to more concrete subjects, as noted earlier Lists of suggested topics for student writers, lik e those at the end of P ark er' s Pr o gr essive Exer cises, demonstrate that simplicity and other f acts of easy writing style af fected not only ho w students wrote b ut what the y wrote as well. 3.7 T eaching Writing is Easy The notion that teaching writing is easy is a corollary to the rst tw o alliances of writing and ease: if writing is easy and the best writing style possible is easy shouldn' t teaching writing be easy as well? In this section, I will turn to nineteenth century teachers of writing and focus on the ease—or lack thereof—of their task, as

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133 reected in te xtbooks, institutional practices, and shape of the institutions of composition and English departments. In the nineteenth century rhetoric and composition ignored the trouble with simultaneously claiming that writing w as easy and that the best writing used an easy style. Thoreau' s w arning of the dif culty of writing w as echoed by Nathaniel Ha wthorne and Mark T w ain. Ha wthorne' s aphorism is especially memorable: “Easy reading is damned hard writing. ” Not surprisingly the paradox of ease could not be completely ignored by those char ged with teaching writing, though in man y w ays the institution of composition encouraged e xactly that. There are se v eral e xcellent reasons for the institution of composition to w ant to belie v e that teaching writing w as easy First, the w orkload of those teaching subjects in English—speech, grammar writing, literature—increased radically as written w ork became more important in schools and colle ges. T eaching by declamation, recitation, and oral e xamination declined; assigning numerical grades became more common, and enrollments sk yrock eted (Connors 140–1). If teachers could belie v e teaching writing w as easy the y might be more lik ely to tak e on the amount of w ork required. Second, teacher training w as sorely lacking. Until after 1850, pedagogical journals were virtually none xistent, there were fe w normal schools, and post-secondary training for teachers w as v ery limited (Hess 1–3). Schultz points out that man y teachers had trouble reading and writing on their o wn, much less teaching writing ( Composer s 24). In man y cases, te xtbooks were the only guide to writing teachers had. A se v ere teacher shortage e xacerbated these dif culties. T o be sure, administrators and others responsible for hiring writing teachers (for e xample, parents seeking pri v ate tutors) were able to ease their frustration and embarrassment if the y could justify poor teacher preparation or the hiring of ob viously underqualied indi viduals by ar guing that teaching writing is easy

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134 James Berlin of fers a third reason: with little or no disciplinary structure or identity composition teachers had no pedagogical mandate (60). Consequently the y often chose the path of least resistance, acti v ely seeking easy pedagogical techniques. T eachers often utilized a single model for se v eral dif ferent areas of composition (or in some cases, instruction in all subjects). F or e xample, the unity-mass-coherence triad w as moti v ated for sentence, paragraph, and entire compositions, in what Cro wle y calls a “nest of Chinese box es” (132). Of course, I ar gue that “ease” w as an ideal single model because its frame w ork could be used recursi v ely as rhetoric, pedagogy and to dene the institution. Finally as American uni v ersities changed in response to booming population, a desire to emulate the German research uni v ersity and other f actors, the y mirrored the increasingly stratied, hierarchical shape of American society (V e yse y passim ). A sort of class system in English departments w as established, with composition' s easy writing craft serving literature' s dif cult artistry Composition w as seen by man y as is still the case today as an apprenticeship program requiring little skill and tolerated in uni v ersities only because of the decienc y of American schools. The common thread in these four mo v ements is a food chain of dif culty which descends from institution and te xtbook, to professors and administrators, to instructors and teaching assistants, and nally to students. This pecking order w as often called on to mo v e blame for f ailures in writing do wnw ard onto students when it w as more accurate to blame institutional pressures for the sad conditions common in composition. Thus Harv ard administrators could simultaneously blame high schools for the “illiterac y of American bo ys, ” yet staf f composition courses with teaching assistants at the rate of one per hundred students (Kitzhaber 44). F or students, this created a Catch-22: elementary and high schools refused to teach certain subjects, styles of

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135 writing, or forms because the y were not easy enough. On the other hand, colle ges and uni v ersities rejected teaching spelling, grammar and usage, among other things, because the y were too easy There is little doubt students felt uneasy trapped by this chorus of “That' s not our job ” The trouble for students is apparent in te xtbooks with a surprisingly fore grounded “Student, teach thyself ” orientation. The Century Colle giate Handbook bragged: “The book thro ws upon the student the responsibility of teaching himself. [. .] Thus friendly counsel is back ed by discipline, and the instructor has the means of compelling the student to mak e rapid progress to w ard good English” (Century iii qtd in Connors 93). But Cro wle y reminds us that blaming composition teachers for this state of af f airs is unf air and unwise: with no disciplinary infrastructure, it w as dif cult, if not impossible, for w omen and men in such a lo w station to ef fecti v ely question institutional practices which pathologized students. In f act, teachers often reached out for ease only in self-defense, as the y struggled to cope with a lack of training, salary and institutional support. Criticism of easy educational practices is not criticism of teachers, b ut of the institution that mak es alternati v es to easy pedagogy appear untenable. 3.7.1 T extbooks and Other T ools Man y te xtbook authors recognized the plight of teachers—and thus the paradox of ease. Their books claimed to ease the teacher' s task, b ut at the same time maintained at least in part that it w as easy be gging the question: if teaching writing is easy why are te xtbooks needed to mak e it so? Edwin W oolle y' s inuential Handbook of Composition pro vides a typical mix ed message. On the one hand, it ackno wledges the dif culty of teaching: “the task—by no means easy–of telling the student just what to do is transferred from the teacher to the book. ” But on the other hand, its pref ace

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136 concludes with the (assumedly encouraging?) sendof f, “I hope that [teachers] will nd it not only possible b ut easy to help students in this w ay by means of the present book” (W oolle y v ix qtd in Connors 93, 98). Abbott' s How to Write Clearly demonstrated similar ambi v alence about the ease of teaching writing (note that the student' s job, simplied to learning clarity by rules, remains easy): Almost e v ery English bo y can be taught to write clearly so f ar at least as clearness depends on the arrangement of w ords. F orce, ele gance, and v ariety of style are more dif cult to teach, and f ar more dif cult to learn; b ut clear writing can be reduced to rules. T o teach the art of writing clearly is the main object of these Rules and Ex ercises. (5) Notably te xtbooks which were not easy often f ailed. Gertrude Buck' s pioneering research, which mobilized psychology to de v elop a rhetoric based on the creati v e use of metaphors, had little use for the de vices of easy pedagogy Her w ork w as lar gely ignored (Kitzhaber 183–6). Henry Day' s rst te xtbooks, printed in the 1850s, included classications intended to ease memorization of the weighty systems of rhetoric popular at the time. It w as not until Day simplied his w ork—and w as further simplied by others—that his inuence w as felt (Berlin 59–60). Connors' s Composition-Rhetoric includes se v eral more e xamples of v ery important te xtbooks designed and mark eted with the ease of the teacher in mind. Of Lindle y Murray Connors writes, “[he] w as tremendously popular as a grammarian because he w as simple and clear and because his book included man y easily taught e x ercises” (262). Richard Green P ark er also considered the ease of teachers' task in both his Pr o gr essive Exer cises and Aids to English Composition. Ov erall, gi v en the considerable pedagogical role of te xtbooks—in some cases the sole authority for composition style, correctness, and pedagogy (Hess 2)—it is not surprising that Connors concludes: Thus were the rst American rhetoric te xtbooks born: out of the deri v ati v e nature of most rhetorical material, out of the weaknesses of undertrained

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137 teachers, and out of the increasing po wer of a ne wly technologized publishing industry that w as quickly gaining the ability to control the content of te xtbooks by the e x ertion of mark et pressure. (78) The bonds between the classroom and the technologized te xtbook mark etplace were for ged in the second half of the nineteenth century as ne w technologies such as stereotyping lo wered the cost of printing. Impro v ed railroads and other infrastructure enabled centralized distrib ution of books—or plates ready to be locally printed—from lar ge northeastern publishing houses. In contrast to the rst half of the nineteenth century when printing w as almost solely the w ork of small b usinesses using handoperated machinery post-w ar te xtbook production w as increasingly industrialized (Schultz 50, Cro wle y 146). Not surprisingly publishers sought books with wide appeal, and the mobilization of ease as a selling point w as logical, since it w as already f amiliar to students and teachers thanks to its role in dening students' image of writing and the ideal writing style. 3.7.2 The Curriculum Berlin' s synopsis of the de v elopment of current-traditional rhetoric sho ws considerable inuence of ease. F or Berlin, Geor ge Campbell of fered a “managerial” style of in v ention which virtually ignored its traditional role of disco v ery (20). Whately lled this gap with an early v ersion of “write what you kno w ” suggesting that the student supply the subject for composition, with fe w qualications (30). Campbell and Whately were, through Hill, W endell and their contemporaries, simplied into a pedagogy of ease still f amiliar to composition today (21). Kitzhaber' s summary of the most important trends in current-traditional rhetoric e xhibits the imprint of ease repeatedly: e xpedienc y and simplication by deletion; pragmatism and rejection of the theoretical and abstract; simplifying the craft of writing to a single unit; and simplifying the grading of writing to obsession with mechanics:

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138 The rst solution proposed w as simple sur gery: cut a w ay the catalogs of emotions, the long lists of gures of speech, the disquisitions on the Sublime and the pathetic—features that no w seemed anachronistic—and thus reduce rhetorical theory to its essentials without disturbing its basic character [. .] Another solution w as to mak e rhetoric “practical, ” to insist that rhetorical principles were v aluable only as f ar as the y led to actual skill in writing. In its ultimate form, this attitude resulted in the “daily theme, ” constant practice and little or no theory [. .] Scott and Denne y proposed the paragraph as the central prose unit, mastery of which w ould lead to mastery of most other details of composition. [. .] Running beneath all these theories, ho we v er and stronger than an y of them, w as the doctrine of mechanical correctness. (222) As noted abo v e, the desire to mak e teaching writing easy for both teachers and students led to an o v ersimplied curriculum. Material dif cult to teach w as discarded or not included in lessons (though students were sometimes held responsible for it an yw ay). This pattern is visible in Abbott' s How to Write Clearly which simply skips co v erage of the tougher parts of writing (force and ele gance). On the other hand, neatly teachable material w as repeated in book after book, year after year Comparing composition te xts from 1830 with those from 1890 sho ws v ariations in structure and method of presentation, b ut man y of the lessons are the same. Kitzhaber claims that the push for mechanical correctness w as by f ar the most important part of the de v elopment of current-traditional rhetoric, and it is hard to disagree with him, gi v en its importance in composition today Though it w as one of the last de v elopments, chronologically speaking, of nineteenth-century rhetoric, v eneration of mechanical correctness abo v e all else had tremendous implications. F or teachers, it made teaching much easier by shifting the focus of instruction and grading to issues which could be satised with swift strok es in red ink and occasional reference to a rulebook. Ho we v er for students, it made composition more dif cult: not only were the y e xpected to memorize the rules of English grammar and their

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139 man y e xceptions, b ut if dif ferences arose in the interpretations of conicting rules and e xceptions, the y had to defer to the teacher' s authority Because the role of mechanical correctness in current-traditional rhetoric is co v ered in depth by Connors and other writers, I will discuss it in detail here. 9 Suf ce it to say that enshrining mechanical correctness as the most important criterion for measuring success eased the b urden of instruction in man y w ays—streamlining grading, reducing the amount of training needed for teachers, and minimizing the need to supplement handbooks with other materials. The use of rules w as critical for mechanical correctness, b ut made teaching easy in other w ays. In the same w ay rules transformed grammar usage, punctuation, and form into lists of simply articulated maxims, the y also pro vided “ e x cathedr a le gislation” (Kitzhaber 190) which shaped writing style, con v entionalized diction and w ord choice, narro wed the eld of suitable subjects, dictated acceptable paragraph structure, and dened the hosts of static abstractions which lled turn of the century te xtbooks. The number of choices go v erned by rules is astounding. Kitzhaber ar gues that composition w as ready for W oolle y' s Handbook years before it w as rst published in 1907, and welcomed its unapologetic stance to w ard rule-based pedagogy: The aim of the book is not scientic, b ut practical. The purpose is to mak e clear the rules in re gard to which man y people mak e mistak es. [. .] Some of the rules in this book, making no mention of e xceptions, modications, or allo w able alternati v es, may perhaps be char ged with being dogmatic. The y ar e dogmatic—purposely so. [. .] the erring composer of anarchic discourse can best be set right by concise and simple directions. (W oolle y iii-i v) 9 See also Connors (especially 112–70), Kitzhaber (especially 199–204), Edw ard Fine gan' s Attitudes T owar ds English Usa g e and Dennis Baron' s Gr ammar and Good T aste

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140 T eaching w as made easier by rules, b ut through less dogmatically stated means as well, such as preferences for concrete subjects, personal narrati v e, and e xpository writing. Again, we turn to Connors: [P]ersonal-e xperience writing is the easiest writing a teacher sees. Abstract topics produce writing that is cogniti v ely more demanding and therefore slo wer to read and grade. Criteria for judging narrati v es and simple descriptions are easy to set; paper content often suggests itself; and the essay' s or ganization is usually simple chronology or spatial reference. [. .] Adding to the attracti v eness of e xposition w as the f act that in the methods of e xposition teachers found a neatly packaged and easily taught pedagogical tool, of a sort no other mode of fered. (141, 238) Simplicity in either the model of Hill' s unity-coherence-emphasis for sentence, paragraph, and theme, or as Scott and Denne y' s model, where or ganizing all forms of writing follo wed the logic of the e xpository paragraph, denitely reduced the number of things students and teachers had to memorize, f acilitating teaching (Cro wle y 143, 103). Recall Kitzhaber' s ar gument about W endell' s English Composition (page 107 abo v e): simplicity made it w ork, e v en though it w as little more than old wine in ne w bottles. Fe w spok e out against the consequences of simplifying te xtbooks and the de v elopments of an easy curriculum—perhaps because the y were f ar greater for students than for teachers, for whom the y were all b ut survi v al tactics. Aside from occasional attacks on composition as a whole, and some criticism of rule-based grammars in the mid 1890s (Kitzhaber 196), it w as not until 1930, three decades be yond the time frame of this chapter that easy pedagogy came under re. Porter Perrin (who directed Kitzhaber' s doctoral research) attack ed e x ercises and drill books: “Why do we adopt them? W ell, the y' re easy to handle: lik e e v ery popular `adv ance' in pedagogical method, the y are ultimately easier for the teacher . . W e nd a

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141 comforting certainty in the most elementary con v entions of the language” (Perrin 384 qtd in Connors 149). 3.7.3 Composition and the Institution As with the rise of mechanical correctness, other scholars ha v e pointed out the dismal institutional position of composition in relation to other disciplines of English. T o put it bluntly rhetoric and composition has been the red-headed stepchild of the English department for quite some time—the pro vince of ne w professors, untenured instructors, and graduate teaching assistants. The lack of change in that position could be interpreted as justication for repeating the po werful ar guments of Berlin, Connors, Cro wle y P atricia Bizzell, John Brereton, Susan Miller and Edw ard M. White, among others. 10 Ho we v er in the interest of bre vity mention of that w ork must do here. When relati v e positions of composition and other disciplines of English are considered in terms of ease, the paradox of ease is apparent. On the one hand, the simpler shorter entry-le v el forms of composition seem “easy” in comparison to the comple x, lengthy adv anced w orks of literature, literary theory and cultural studies. But on the other hand, the dif culty (or at least the tedium) of teaching rst-year composition is ackno wledged by an institutional pecking order which distances tenured professors from such duties. The disciplinary structure of English has long ignored the contradictions of simultaneously deriding composition as an easy debased form of writing, saddling those teaching it with o v erw ork, a lack of institutional support, frustrated and bored students, and a dismal future. One turn of the century teaching assistant of fered this e xplanation: 10 F or a comprehensi v e list of sources in composition history see Rebecca Moore Ho w ard' s online bibliography (http://wrt-ho w ard.syr .edu/Bibs/history bib .h tml).

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142 It is my personal opinion that the comparati v e ease of the task of teaching literature, of arousing enthusiasm in re gard to w orks that ha v e a perennial charm, accounts as much as an ything for the great attraction this eld has for all young men entering upon the teaching of colle ge English. There is on the contrary no eld which so quickly searches out a man' s weakness [. .] as English composition. (Thomas qtd in Connors 340–1) Composition' s relati v e ease when compared to other curricular areas also serv ed as a “mud fence” insulating the better areas of English from the “unsupervised and uncontained spra wl” of rst-year composition (Cro wle y 53). Students required to pass alle gedly easy rst-year courses were discouraged from further progress by its dif culty and dullness. English majors and de v otees who kne w things got better in the upper di vision were allo wed to pass through to the “glorious liberty of literature. ” 3.7.3.1 The feminization of composition Thomas' s choice of the phrase “a man' s weakness” is ironic, considering that man y of those who taught composition were w omen. But weakness is prescient, because man y female composition instructors were doomed to “theme-w ork” because, as w omen, the y were thought unt for an ything else. Both Susan Miller and J. Elspeth Stuck e y ha v e penned essays titled “The Feminization of Composition. ” Miller' s essay ar gues that this feminization has had both positi v e and ne gati v e ef fects on the discipline, though she focuses on the latter Her analysis sho ws repeatedly that correlations between femininity and ease are po werful in composition, as in wider culture (and as I outline in the second and third chapters of this w ork). Miller' s essay conrms tw o other points made here. First, she ar gues that the feminization of composition is lar gely due to the nature of composition as it de v eloped in the nineteenth century—the time it became allied with ease. (It w as also the rst time w omen were present in colle ge classrooms in lar ge numbers.) This tripartite correlation (ease in composition, w omen in the uni v ersity w omen teaching

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143 composition) cannot be ignored. Second, the feminine character of composition w as strengthened considerably in the last half of the nineteenth century English as a whole had a reputation for femininity in comparison to the rest of the uni v ersity curriculum. By establishing composition as the girly weak ened partner of literature, the English professoriat w as able to establish a more masculine position in the uni v ersity increasing its po wer through, among other things, “manly associations with religious and nationalistic ideals” (Miller 42–4). This ensured not only that composition w ould not threaten literature, b ut w ould continue to pro vide economic support in the form of student credit hours. Discussion of the economic impact of ease for students will conclude this chapter 3.8 Writing as Gatek eeper to a “Life of Ease” The considerable time this w ork has spent discussing matters of transparenc y simplicity and similar v alences of ease may ha v e pushed the connection of ease and economics into the background. But ease often meant “ine xpensi v e, ” as w as indicated in an 1808 abridgment of Blair described as “rhetoric at an easy price” (Blair qtd in Hess 33). The notion of the easy w oman also connoted ready a v ailability and lo w cost. The colloquial “easy street” and “the life of ease” w ould strengthen this economic correlation as the y became more widespread in the last part of the nineteenth century As noted abo v e, the gatek eeping role of ease, the last of the four discussed here, w as also the last to de v elop. It can be subdi vided into three types. First, the equation of writing with the highest form of economic and moral achie v ement w as as old as the equation of clear writing and clear thinking. The inf amous establishment of the writing entrance e xam and mandatory rst-year writing course at Harv ard (in 1874 and 1890, respecti v ely) changed the general correlation of writing and economy to a

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144 hard requirement with a gatek eeping role. Students no w had to demonstrate writing ability in order to be admitted to Harv ard (and other colle ges) and earn the upper -class credentials it of fered (Kitzhaber 31–6, 43–7). But at certain institutions, especially Midwestern state uni v ersities, a second form emer ged: writing became the path on which the middle class could join the w orld of b usiness and bolster their edgling upw ard mobility This more e galitarian, open vie w of writing-as-gatek eeper w as championed by Scott and other progressi v e rhetoricians and educators—b ut it still le v eraged writing to e xclude the lo west classes. Finally there w as a third w ay that writing serv ed as gatek eeper: ne w professors in English departments often had to “serv e time” in composition before being admitted to the “literature” section of the department. Since the last of these gatek eeping roles w as mentioned in the pre vious section of this chapter my focus here will be on the rst tw o. The gatek eeper role of writing, in both its upper and middle class forms, w as a w ay of understanding one' s relationship to ne w technologies: w ould an indi vidual be better suited for the “mechanical arts, ” the ne w technologies of iron and steam, or the mechanical correctness of current-traditional rhetoric, and the ne w technologies of high-speed printing and electronic communication? Interestingly the no vice/e xpert split proposed by Sprat and echoed by Scott (see 126 and 131 abo v e) placed easy writing, as the goal of composition, on the no vice side of this binary opposition. But when composition w as used to k eep “illiterates” out of elite colle ges, easy writing lands on the e xpert side of the equation. This is another e xample of the contradictory denition of ease. These tw o dif ferent forms of ne w technology ha v e considerable dif ferences, and the methods of dealing with them are v ery dif ferent, thanks to adv ancements in writing technology Scribes and early printers who used hand-operated letterpress

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145 machinery and lead type e xpended considerable physical e x ertion in the course of a w orkday (McNeil 456). Benjamin Franklin' s discussions of the long hours he labored o v er his press, and the f ailure of his competitors to k eep up, serv ed as some of the ideological glue for an American ideal: the ine vitability of success gi v en hard w ork. In the mechanical arts, w ork ers maintained this high le v el of sweat and physical toil, e v en after industrialization. But for those who toiled in mechanical correctness, life w as much easier W orking with the technologies of paper pen, and ink became less labor -intensi v e as the twentieth century neared, and w as f ar less demanding then operating hea vy machinery Ev en the methods of communication required less and less human labor: type writers sped the process of writing, made reading much easier as well, and enabled ine xpensi v e duplication of prepared documents (McNeil 465–8). Instead of letters hand-carried o v er long distances, tele graph and telephone service of fered quick er less labor -intensi v e transfer of writing. All in all, it may ha v e been more dif cult to be mechanically correct—b ut those who could do so replaced physical toil and intensity with the ease of ef fortlessness and leisure. Both upper and middle class visions of writing and ease could be used to detect the ability of a student to w ork (and thus participate in the capitalist economy). Because learning to write w as easy as demonstrated abo v e, and required only grasping con v entions and culti v ating one' s innate ability through hard w ork, an yone could challenge the w ork ethic, and thus the tness for upw ard mobility of an y student who had trouble writing. And since teaching writing w as easy students were po werless to ar gue that decient teachers had caused the their do wnf all. F ailure to write suitably indicated not only a f ailure to think suitably b ut a f ailure to work suitably as well.

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146 3.8.1 Ease, V ulgarity and Gentility Before 1850 American colle ges were little more than nishing schools for the children of the American elite, not places where education led to betterment. The atmosphere w as forw ardly elitist. Anti-intellectualism w as po werful—it w as assumed that men could mak e names for themselv es without the need for schooling (Berlin 32). The life of ease to which these institutions serv ed as gatek eeper w as decidedly upper -class. Schultz points out reections of this lifestyle gap in Frost' s illustrated composition books: the children and adults portrayed in engra vings students were to write about appear in opulent settings, dressed v ery well. In one case, the students Frost addressed were ask ed to reect on “ your latest adv entures, in hoop-dri ving, and ball-playing. ” By contrast, an assignment about “the country bo y” spok e of the “life he leads” and “ [h]is fondness for school” (Frost qtd in Composer s 103, emphases added). This clearly indicated the dif ference between socioeconomic classes and the anticipated audience of Frost' s composition books. The economic station required to o wn books contrib uted to the association of reading and writing with the upper class: ro yalty respected statesmen, the gentry The highly moral content of composition books and readers reinforced this pattern, though to be sure the presence of moral instruction in education w as also related to the v ery sectarian nature of education. Schultz pro vides another e xample: opposite an engra ving of a v ery modest home which sho wed a w oman w ashing out front while tending to tw o barefoot children, a poem denouncing the e vils of rum w as printed (Metcalf and Bright 119 qtd in Composer s 106). Generally speaking, lo w moral character lo wer class, and lo w diction and usage were lumped together as the villain to be erased by composition, though education had little or no interest in helping the lo west classes become acti v e participants in American political life. Berlin of fers this synopsis of the w ay language

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147 remained a gatek eeper to the life of ease, and antebellum colle ges serv ed only the highest socioeconomic classes: Until after the Ci vil W ar colle ges were conserv ati v e institutions, run by Protestant cler gymen [. .]. In short, these schools were not democratic in spirit, despite the lip service the y paid to democrac y in order to survi v e. [. .] The language used w as to be the language of the educated, meaning the often stultifying diction and syntax of the educated cler gy and the classes the y serv ed. As [Frederick] Rudolph e xplains, “The choice . w as between adopting a course of study that appealed to all classes or adhering to a course that appealed to one class. ” Most colle ges selected the second alternati v e. (56) Ev en after the Ci vil W ar ended, elite Northeastern colle ges retained this linguistic and social elitism, perhaps unintentionally James Murphy writes of Harv ard' s institution of entrance e xams and rst-year composition graded lar gely on mechanical correctness: And by attempting to impose a “hyper -correct” dialect on the generally pri vile ged students at Harv ard and the other established liberal arts colle ges, [Adams Sherman] Hill and others may actually ha v e strengthened the linguistic obstacles to upw ard mobility ensuring that those students formally studying the dialect w ould o v ercome the obstacles while those informally studying it w ould not. (Murphy 231) Indeed, while it is con v enient to en vision the w ar as a separator between an e xtremely elitist vie w of gatek eeping the life of ease and a more e galitarian vie w Connors reminds us that the line is not so clear T racing the fortunes of grammar instruction, he demonstrates that as the United States became increasingly di vided by class, it became increasingly di vided linguistically as well (114–5, 120–1). Grammar instruction, a critical tool in this di vision, itself w ax ed and w aned, and methods v aried considerably Before the w ar Murray had applied the notion of correct and incorrect grammar to English—a simplication with huge ramications which need further study After the w ar corrosi v ely elitist linguistic bases for class distinctions continued to appear in the

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148 Alford/Moon/Gould debates, popular opinion about “vulgar” or “barbarous” language, and nonacademic guides to proper English (123–4). 3.8.2 Writing and Upward Mobility Between 1850 and 1880, lar ge state uni v ersities (Michigan, W isconsin, Illinois), and well-endo wed pri v ate uni v ersities (Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Clark) gre w rapidly competing with traditional northeastern colle ges (Harv ard, Y ale, Princeton, Columbia, and Penn). W ith mandates from state le gislators and philanthropic benef actors often openly stating goals of e galitarianism and betterment, these schools dened the “life of ease” much more broadly and their f aculty often sa w writing classes as critical tools in empo wering citizens to participate in democrac y—and to benet from the gro wing economy Again, Berlin: The ne w colle ge w as to serv e the middle class, w as to become an agent of upw ard social mobility It w as based on an educational psychology that abandoned mental discipline and the training of the f aculties in f a v or of a vie w emphasizing indi vidual dif ferences and the importance of the student' s pursuing his o wn natural talents. [. .] The ne w colle ge w as nonetheless a middle-class colle ge, committed to material success and progress in this w orld. [. .] Most schools, both pri v ate and public, be gan to vie w themselv es as serving the needs of b usiness and industry [. .] The ability to write ef fecti v ely—then as well as no w—w as one of the skills that all agreed w as essential to success. (60) F or the middle class, the path to the life of ease ran through b usiness, b uilt on educational opportunities pro vided by the ne w colle ges. It w as not surprising, then, that colle ges set aside mental discipline and strictly enforced classical curricula, embracing a more comfortable classroom en vironment and the electi v e system. This enabled students to select courses in areas the y already had e xpertise—study what you kno w— and to a v oid classes with a reputation for dif culty—as happened e v en at Harv ard (V e yse y 225, 240).

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149 At Johns Hopkins, the rst American uni v ersity modeled on the German research institution, betterment played a dif ferent, although still sizable, role. The goal of that institution w as disco v ering scientic truth and deli v ering it for national use in the pursuit of “human betterment and material progress” (Rudolph qtd in Berlin 59). F ollo wing a pattern which should no w be f amiliar American researchers simplied the German model, minimizing its contemplati v e, philosophical dimensions, and emphasizing specialization in the name of positi v e science. The uni v ersity en visioned by Humboldt and his contemporaries w as made easy: abstractions set aside in f a v or of concretion, and a deliberati v e approach esche wed in f a v or of e xpedienc y of research. The German model w as widely inuential and denitely shaped Midwestern uni v ersities and e v en northeastern colle ges who felt pressure to compete with Hopkins. At land-grant colle ges and state uni v ersities, German ideals e xtended the uni v ersity' s mission, complementing upw ard mobility for under graduates with service to the community and general economic return. 3.9 Conclusion During the eighteenth and nineteenth century strong bonds between ease and writing formed as the technology of writing, its economic importance, and its position in curricula be gan a period of intense change that quick ened in the twentieth century Ease played numerous roles in the institution of colle ge-le v el writing. The philosophical approach which enabled equation of clear thought and clear writing, or the application of concepts lik e “unity coherence, and emphasis” to sentences, paragraphs, and essays, bolstered the position of ease relati v e to writing style, writing pedagogy the teaching profession, and the relation of writing and society This typical multiplicity magnied the self-reinforcing nature of ease, enabling its incredibly rapid spread throughout the curriculum.

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150 The de v elopment of ne w media, electronic communication, ne w technologies, and adv ancements in writing and printing tools were critical for the spread of ease and its bond to writing. Because writing is a technology is impossible to separate “technological” concerns from the history of writing, though for man y composition studies researchers this is standard practice. The more inte grated approach used here demonstrates the strength and frequenc y of ease-writing connections. Ho we v er questions remain about the e v olution of the relationship of ease and technology Questions also surround the dynamics of contradiction often associated with ease. The four lar ge areas in which ease and writing are connected demonstrate dif ferent le v el of ackno wledging this contradiction. There is also a tremendous amount of v ariation between indi vidual authors—dif ferences not nearly as pronounced in patterns of relationships to technology Writers were more lik ely to admit the dif culty of writing prose which is easy to read than the dif culty of learning to write or teaching writing. Questioning the economic v alue of writing w as less common as the turn of the century neared (though it w as by no means a bygone conclusion). Contradictions of ease, lik e technologies of ease, need further study Finally the claims of success for easy writing pedagogies must be challenged. If, as Kitzhaber ar gues, the writing pedagogies of 1900 were “almost as unrelated to the realities of communication as the instruction had been fty years before” (220), and critiques mounted in the late 1890s are rele v ant more than a hundred years later what has easy pedagogy and rhetoric done besides increase the possibility that consumptionoriented, transactional models of ease will be used for writing pedagogy—and for culture as a whole? The f amiliarity of Perrin and Scott' s critiques is disturbing enough, b ut e v en more so when considered in light of the consequences of current institutional

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151 trends (lik e the rise in high-stak es testing) and the increasing po wer of ease (as I demonstrate in Chapter 1). In the 1950s, when composition studies be gan to tak e shape as a viable discipline, ne w pedagogical approaches, often described as mo v ements, recognized that current-traditional thought w as lackluster if not deeply troubling. Man y of these approaches were grounded in twentieth century rhetoric and consciously oriented to w ard reforming disciplinary structure and pedagogy But ease and writing w ould not be separated by these ne w ideas. In f act, when computers were introduced into writing classrooms, rst in the 1980s, then in quantity in the late 1990s, in man y w ays the role of ease w as e xpanded. Educators used easy methods lik e those I discuss here, supplemented with ideas from computer science and popular culture, to solv e problems which arose when these ne w media were used. I no w turn to those areas of composition studies.

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CHAPTER 4 BEY OND EASE 4.1 The Endurance of Ease The bond of ease and writing pedagogy for ged during the nineteenth century survi v ed the uphea v al in composition studies which be gan in the 1950s, when the limits of current-traditional pedagogy became apparent, and the v oices of critics lik e Porter Perrin and his prot eg e Albert Kitzhaber were nally heard. Indeed, important scholars date the disciplinary birth of composition studies from the early 1960s. Since that time, se v eral schools of pedagogical thought ha v e of fered tangible reforms of undesirable current-traditional practices. Though some of these pedagogies ackno wledge the paradoxical nature of ease, it has remained v ery po werful, and direct rejection of ease lik e Perrin' s (see page 140 ) has seldom occurred. I will summarize some of these trends to sho w the lasting po wer of ease in composition: First, the e xpressi vist theories of Peter Elbo w K en McCrorie, Ann Berthof f, and other writers, and closely related process-oriented pedagogy ackno wledge that writing is not easy Elbo w observ es that the o v ert attention to grammar in schools is lik ely because it is easy to teach and grade (138), and suggests mixing a “write what you kno w” approach with conscious def amiliarization and establishment of distance from one' s o wn writing (14). But qualities of ease lik e transparenc y remain v ery important. Writing of peer re vie w groups, Elbo w suggests that student writers mak e “mo vies of the mind” which enable others to access thoughts as if through a windo w were installed in the side of one' s head (92). Lik e man y other e xpressi vists, Elbo w resists 152

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153 o v ert theory separating the theoretical essay “The Doubting Game and the Belie ving Game” from the more pragmatic content of Writing W ithout T eac her s. Finally his w ork pri vile ges economy and bre vity: he contends that introductions and transitions are e vidence of poor structure, a w ordy “wrong order” (41). Second, technical communication is often derided for a pragmatic approach which beats the e xcitement out of writing, focusing instead production of con v entionally formatted te xts in “plain language. ” Notably as with nineteenth-century composition, this obsession with form can mak e grading easy While there are denitely technical communication programs and te xtbooks which tak e a broader approach, transparenc y pragmatism, and e xpedienc y—qualities of ease—dominate the eld. (Recall my discussion of the last of these on page 70 abo v e.) Indeed, man y technical communication te xtbooks follo w current-traditional rhetoric by using a single concept, such as usability as a complete rhetoric, rele gating other concerns—ethics, technology e v en grammar and usage—to sidebars or out of the main te xtual o w (Dobrin). Recently the concept of usability and Jak ob Nielsen' s ideas about writing for the W eb ha v e become massi v ely inuential in technical communication. “Ho w Users Read on the W eb” and “Concise, Scannable, and Objecti v e” (with John Mork es), based on a small number of studies of web readers, are frequently deplo yed as justication for “web” oriented writing: a style which combines the in v erted p yramid of journalism with formatting-intensi v e technical writing. Man y W eb writing guides cite Nielsen and Mork es in ar guments which imply that this style is simply the latest in a chain of natural e v olutions to w ard a state of pure information (see Henry or Petersen). Some usability adv ocates see a strong correlation between the de v elopment of computers and the Internet: both are optimized for high-speed, high-technology en vironments, in

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154 which an y content b ut necessary f acts is a distraction that slo ws the reader' s processing of the data at hand. Thirdly handbooks which might be called “updated current-traditional” still eagerly embrace ease, and though printers no w use four -color process, man y of the typographic techniques Holmes used in The Art of Rhetoric Made Easy appear today T itles such as Easy Writer and Easy Access are selling well. At CCCC 2003, Prentice Hall mark eted their Refer ence Guide to Gr ammar and Usa g e as “The easiest te xtbook for students to use”—a slogan printed on banners, bottled w ater and promotional literature. McGra w-Hill' s Writing F r om A to Z is subtitled “The Easy-T o-Use Reference Handbook” because its re v olutionary use of alphabetization “eliminat[es] students' need to crack the code of a con v entional writer' s handbook. ” Generally speaking, composition handbooks conform to the rst tw o standards of ease established in Chapter 4 abo v e (writing is easy the ideal writing style is easy), though there is considerable v ariation in the eld, and some handbooks are less depressingly current-traditional than others. Finally the discipline of Computers and Writing is, to be blunt, obsessed with ease. Early books suggested that teachers could w ork with programmers to design writing softw are or e v en create their o wn, and pedagogical theory w as frequently complemented with highly technical discussions of programming. 1 Ho we v er the eld has gradually shifted to the other e xtreme, and in v olv ement in softw are de v elopment is reserv ed for “techies” and “geeks, ” not e v eryday folks—or as Selfe notes, is dismissed as ancillary to the real b usiness of teaching writing (22). At the annual Computers and Writing conference, theoretical scholarship is less well recei v ed than 1 F or e xample, see Cynthia Selfe, Computer -Assisted Instruction in Composition, or Hugh Burns, “The Challenge for Computer -Assisted Rhetoric. ”

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155 empirical accounts of classroom practice based on anecdote or lore (Salv o), and ho wto w orkshops focusing on commodity softw are are common. F or man y instructors (and as required by man y institutions), easy-to-use course management systems lik e BlackBoard or W ebCT ha v e replaced home gro wn hypermedia “sylla webs. ” Student w ork centers around the production of essays and printed forms—with the justication that it is too dif cult to teach (or learn) ne w media such as hyperte xt and digital cinema. 2 T o summarize, the discipline' s use of computers follo ws established norms: w ord processing, W eb bro wsing, online research, and ready-made course web sites which resemble CNN and Y ahoo—with occasional chat or email discussion, added as supplements to the real b usiness of producing essays. The eld has settled into a comfortable literac y-oriented computer usage pattern not conduci v e to inno v ati v e classroom use of emer ging ne w media technologies. What will it tak e to address these problems? The rst three areas of composition studies I co v ered here—e xpressi vism, technical communication, and “updated current-traditional” pedagogy—predate the widespread appearance of computer technology in composition classrooms, though the y ha v e certainly been inuenced by it. The problems ease can generate in these elds can be addressed through the w ork of some of the composition studies scholars I outlined in Chapter 3. Additionally no vice/e xpert di visions e xacerbated by classrooms structured around teachers ha v e been addressed by student-centered practices such as collaborati v e learning. Pedagogy which suggests that writing is an indi vidualized process has ackno wledged importance dif ferences between student writers consistently smoothed o v er by old and ne w forms of current-traditional rhetoric. Some technical 2 See footnote 1 on page 2 re garding the specic use of this terminology

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156 communication books, such as Melody Bo wdon and Blak e Scott' s Service Learning in T ec hnical and Pr ofessional Communication, break from an easy instrumental vie w of writing to fore ground a rhetorical approach. Generally speaking, for these and most areas of composition studies, ackno wledging the paradox es of ease and problems which can occur when it is mobilized is a v ery positi v e step. Composition can moti v ate e xisting scholarship to reduce the ne gati v e impacts of ease noted in Chapter 3 of this w ork. But the problems with ease in Computers and Writing are a little dif ferent. Consider the bond of writing and ease I analyze in Chapter 4. Ease w as designed for and shaped by writing, and optimized for its ultimate form: the essay especially the v e-paragraph essay which Sharon Cro wle y identies as the Holy Grail of currenttraditional rhetoric (134–5). The essay and its pedagogy ease, are connected not only to the technology of writing, b ut to its cultural situation as well. Cro wle y repeatedly demonstrates her a w areness of this connection: During the late Renaissance, method w as a process of inquiry; think ers who were rebelling against scholasticism turned to it as a non-Aristotelian means of nding ne w kno wledge and of or ganizing recei v ed kno wledge. [. .] The v e paragraph theme w as the most thoroughgoing scheme for spatializing discourse that had appeared in rhetorical theory since Peter Ramus' method of dichotomizing di vision rendered all the w orld di visible by halv es. [. .] [M]odern attitudes to w ard kno wledge, which are encapsulated in the e xpository theme, are currently under re. Pirsig' s Zen and the Art of Motor cycle Maintenance (1974) is a readable attack on what Pirsig calls the “Church of Reason. ” Another sort of attack has come from persons inuenced by “postmodern” epistemological assumptions. (34, 135, 186f f) Cro wle y recognizes that methodical thought signied a shift in w orldvie w not just a change in technique: method w as appealing because it enabled rejection of all of the trappings of scholastic logic. The v e paragraph essay the ultimate “easy” form of current-traditional rhetoric, is b uilt on Enlightenment assumptions of correspondence

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157 between language, thought, and the rationality of the indi vidual—for which Ramus pro vided critical codications. 3 His simplication of rhetoric w as just the be ginning (and w ould, as Cro wle y notes, suf ce until w orldvie w w as altered again with the de v elopment of postmodern epistemology). The ease-writing connection w ork ed because it w as erected upon, correlated with, and shaped not only the technology of writing (in the form of the book and the essay), b ut the institutions where the technology w as mobilized (the nascent uni v ersity founded on scientic principles), and Enlightenment subjecti vity (rationalism and positi vism). Similarly the de v elopment of electronic forms of writing—the ne w essay— and electronic pedagogies—the ne w ease—will w ork best by follo wing an approach which respects the social dimensions of technology Apparatus theory pro vides such a frame w ork. Gre gory Ulmer describes the notion of the apparatus succinctly: “an interacti v e matrix of technology institutional practices, and ideological subject formation” ( Heur etics 17). The literate apparatus has been outlined; what mak es up the apparatus of electrac y? While it is impossible to answer deniti v ely Ulmer of fers a persuasi v e picture: the technology of ne w media (electrac y) shaped by the institution of entertainment, through a post-modern subjecti vity Ho w will the electrate apparatus emer ge? As I note on page 49 Langdon W inner observ es that the popular understanding of this incredibly comple x process follo ws the W estern ideal of technological progress: (1) a ne w technology comes along; (2) due to its e xcellence, that technology immediately gains acceptance, replacing e xisting 3 Cro wle y' s critique of the v e-paragraph form demonstrates that is a debased form of the academic ar gumentati v e essay—the culmination of the lamentable tendencies of ease. I ha v e ar gued that this strate gic undermining of student composition le v eraged the position of professional essay writers— who, lik e students, called on the pedagogical nature of ease. My mobilization of ease as a model rejects this no vice/e xpert separation and f allacious “ease mobility ” and attempts to establish learning techniques a v ailable for all electronic “writers. ”

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158 forms; (3) the obsolete technology is rele gated to use by Luddites and other holdouts. 4 Out with the old and in with the ne w Marshall McLuhan of fers a dif ferent model: the content of ne w media (technologies) are the forms of old media ( Media 9–12). The apparatus of literac y will not be rejected, b ut folded into the ne w apparatus, perhaps e v en rein vigorated by it: a supplementary phenomenon which W alter Ong called “secondary orality” (135). This e xplains the presence of ease in Computers and Writing, and re v eals an opportunity: during this transition period, ease can be reshaped to meet the needs of the ne w apparatus. It need not retain its present form—and perhaps some of the problems it causes could be addressed during this reformulation. (The quote from Cro wle y abo v e reminds us that Ramus willfully cr eated the writing practice which led to the de v elopment of ease as a pedagogy—a sentiment mobilized as a generational rhetoric by Ulmer in Heur etics. ) I ha v e already sho wed that Selfe and Robert Johnson both of fer v aluable critiques of transparenc y and e xpedienc y But though both forw ard emer ging computer technologies as one of their principal objects of study (Selfe 3–5, Johnson xi), re garding their w ork from the perspecti v e of apparatus theory re v eals closer concern with institutional practices of literac y Selfe' s book culminates in the de v elopment of a “critical technological literac y” designed to e xtend attention paid to technology to the cultural and political forces which are in v olv ed in it (148). Johnson' s “user -centered rhetorical comple x of technology” is an attempt to redene the terms by which technological systems and their users relate, using rhetorical principles. But both approaches mobilize the literate apparatus. There are limitations to such an approach: 4 Ev an W atkins persuasi v ely demonstrates the adaptation of this model to the e xploitation of the w orking class in the current service economy

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159 Our rst question in this essay: what ar e we lik ely to carry with us when we ask that our r elationships with all tec hnolo gies should be lik e that we have the the tec hnolo gy of printed wor ds? Our second question: what other possibilities might we use for e xpr essing our r elationship with and within tec hnolo gies? (Johnson-Eilola and W ysocki 349) Lik e Selfe and Johnson, Johnson-Eilola and W ysocki recognize technological decisions are not v alueless with respect to the e xtra-technological: b ut the y also insist that one can recall those v alues while looking ahead to dif ferent epistemological systems. I hope to answer their challenge, complementing Selfe and Johnson in tw o w ays: by focusing on the change in technologies—the nascent forms which will be the electrate supplement of the essay—and by e xtending consideration into the apparatus of electrac y Of course, my proposal must be incomplete: this discourse is situated in composition studies, and appeals to others in the discipline. Thus, the literate institutional frame w ork of the uni v ersity must be retained, at least in part. T o return to ease in the classroom: follo wing apparatus theory one can predict that the use of ease as it was de veloped for liter acy with computers w ould reproduce essay writing adapted to electronic form. The trends in Computers and Writing which I ha v e discussed throughout this dissertation bear out this assumption. While ease is certainly not the only force encouraging the use of computers follo wing the methods in v ented for paper -oriented communication, the lack of inno v ation in the pedagogical use of computers is hard to ignore. Also, one could predict a second possibility: that the deplo yment of ease as a strate gy for learning computers w ould be inef fecti v e, and w ould f ail to function as it did for the technology of writing (producing comfort, simplifying the comple x, and enabling learning). I belie v e the problems surrounding technological de vices described in “Ov erwhelmed by T ech” support this conclusion (see pages 15 – 19 abo v e).

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160 My long-term goal, as stated in Chapter 1, is de v elopment of writing en vironments and suitable pedagogies for their use in colle ge-le v el composition and rhetoric courses. I will outline the resources needed to accomplish that goal, taking the current transitional moment into account, and assuming that de v elopment of electrate forms will require a recursi v e process of articulation, re vision, and e xperimentation. T o that end, this chapter will be a starting point for future pedagogy—a “rst run. ” Analyzing the situation from the perspecti v e of apparatus theory indicates that in order to produce an electrate supplement to ease which will function pedagogically a transitional apparatus should be assembled. First, technology What will the electrate “essay” be, and what will be its “alphabet”—its technical characteristics? My primary source will be Le v Mano vich' s groundbreaking w ork The Langua g e of Ne w Media. This well-recei v ed te xt is intended to be a historical record of the current state of ne w media which enables more w ork in the eld: “It is my hope that the theory of ne w media de v eloped here can act not only as an aid to understanding the present, b ut as a grid for practical e xperimentation” (Mano vich 10). That seems ideal. Mano vich describes v e principles of ne w media— there is the “alphabet”—and his w ork repeatedly considers the established genre of hypermedia. I will consider this the ne w “essay ” Second, institutional practices. Because of the conte xt of my w ork in composition studies, I will retain some of the frame w ork of uni v ersity education. But a w ork which seeks models which supplement schooling is necessary Ulmer' s latest book, Internet In vention: F r om Liter acy to Electr acy pro vides an institutional model which synthesizes school and “entertainment. ” A strong parallel to Mano vich' s w ork emer ges here: both he and Ulmer consider the impact of the practices of cinema (and

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161 Hollyw ood-style studio cinema, especially) as one of the k e y elements shaping transitional hypermedia (follo wing McLuhan' s model of old-within-the-ne w). Ulmer also proposes the de v elopment of ne w institutions such as the “EmerAgenc y” to support the practice of electronic “writing. ” Third, subjecti vity Through the presentation of poststructural theory Ulmer' s Internet In vention ar gues that the electrate apparatus will reect the hybrid subjecti vity of postmodernism. Ulmer demonstrates its congruence with the associati v e logic of hypermedia, focusing on the w ay the logic of the image—what he calls conduction—is representati v e of lar ger trends in postmodern thought. Mano vich' s w ork also reects this belief, though in a much less fore grounded manner than Ulmer In the rest of this chapter I will present the transitional apparatus based on important components of these w orks, dra wing important connections between them and noting some trends with implication for my future w ork. T ab ulating this material will also pro vide me with a “ho w-to” guide for applying the transitional apparatus—the w ays Mano vich and Ulmer synthesize literate and electrate can serv e as models for this synthetic w ork. I will then call on the resultant apparatus to redene se v eral qualities of ease into concepts which form the be ginning of the electrate supplement to ease. W ith this w ork, I will be gin the process of applying well-de v eloped theories of ne w media to composition studies—where, re grettably the y ha v e been seldom used. 4.2 The T ransitional A pparatus The Langua g e of Ne w Media presents a thorough look at the state of ne w media at the be ginning of the twenty-rst century The e xamples Mano vich presents throughout his book sho w that hypermedia is his dominant concern. Mano vich calls upon an open-ended denition of hypermedia established by Halasz and Schw artz: objects that “pro vide their users with the ability to create, manipulate, and/or e xamine

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162 an netw ork of information-containing nodes interconnected by relational links” (qtd in Mano vich 40–1). The corpus of hypermedia Mano vich considers ranges from w orks designed for Apple' s HyperCard program, which brought scriptable hyperte xt with inte grated images to its Macintosh computers in 1987, to interacti v e computer games lik e Myst (1993), to W eb-based installations using a v ariety of ne w programming languages and standards. Notably media which are not necessarily digital b ut which could be considered hypermedia, such as installation art, are also considered. This broad approach is well-suited to the speculati v e w ork undertak en here. Mano vich' s w ork of fers f ar more to the reader than I present here, b ut today remains the only w ork which endea v ors to present the “alphabet” of ne w media needed for my analysis. 4.2.1 The Principles of New Media In the rst chapter of The Langua g e of Ne w Media Mano vich of fers v e characteristics of ne w media objects which dif ferentiate them from old media. The rst tw o principles, numerical representation and modularity are fundamental: the remaining three, automation, v ariability and transcoding, are deri v ed from the rst pair While Mano vich suggests that the principles “should be considered not as absolute la ws b ut rather as general tendencies of a culture under going computerization, ” (27), it seems unlik ely that an y ne w media forms w ould manifest fe wer than three of the characteristics mentioned here, and most e vidence all of them. Social and cultural ef fects shape Mano vich' s characteristics of ne w media, b ut the emphasis is technological. While he recognizes the congruence of twentieth-century economic de v elopments and the principles of ne w media, Mano vich is not v ery specic

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163 about what “cultural” forces af fect ne w media. 5 Also, though the y are not included here, Mano vich follo ws his principles with a brief e xplanation of “What Ne w Media Is Not, ” which contends that digitizing, multimedia, and random access do not dene ne w media or dif ferentiate it from print, tele vision, or other forms. This section deb unks some common myths about ne w media as well—the re v olutionary nature of “interacti vity ” and the notion that all digital media can be copied an innite number of times without loss of information, among others. The v e subsequent chapters of Mano vich' s book e xplore man y of the particular forms appearing in ne w media, such as interf aces, databases, image-instruments and lters. His w ork also in v entories and describes as particular concepts and entities (man y functional in the literate apparatus as well as in old electronic media) which will lik ely tak e on ne w importance as the ne w media de v elop: the screen, na vigable space, and a series of oppositions in v olving representation. 4.2.1.1 Numerical r epr esentation Mano vich points out loose usage of “digital” is confusing because a digital nature can include three components: analog to digital con v ersion, standardized encoding and quantitati v e systems, and numerical representation (52). The last of these is the greatest change. Ne w media objects created on computers are represented using the numerical systems of digital formatting. There are tw o critical consequences of this de v elopment, which “changes the identity of both media and the computer itself ” (25). Media can no w be described mathematically and manipulated with algorithms—o v er and o v er again, and re v ersibly “In short, media becomes pr o gr ammable ” (27). 5 Samples of Mano vich' s latest w ork Info-Aesthetics, in press at the time of this writing, ha v e been posted on his W eb site, and indicate that Mano vich may no w be addressing institutional and ideological formations more directly

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164 The numerically represented character of ne w media is often portrayed in terms of discreteness and continuity But man y forms, ne w and old alik e, are both: “each frame [of motion picture lm] is a continuous photograph, b ut time is brok en into a number of [discrete] samples (frames)” (28). Similarly the halftone screens in v olv ed in of fset printing are discrete dots, b ut the size and therefore the apparent intensity of the dots v ary continuously (28). Mano vich contends that the de v elopment of standardized and discrete properties for media such as lm and typesetting machines mirrors contemporary economy (the industrial logic of the f actory). Ne w media “runs ahead of ” both that economy and the “quite dif ferent logic of post-industrial society—that of indi vidual customization, rather than mass standardization” (30). Numerical representation presents a fundamental dif ference from photography writing, and other media. Though writing, lik e ne w media, is made of a restricti v e code (the alphabet), and units of writing of dif ferent sizes, meanings, and forms can be produced using that code, the code used for writing dif fers from that used for musical notation. F or ne w media, the underlying code of both a no v el and a symphon y— not to mention a photograph, a lm, or a design for a b uilding—shares a common structure, whether one is speaking of the te xt itself or an indi vidual iteration of that te xt. Identical lters, operations, and methods for storage and retrie v al function for ne w media objects which appear quite dif ferent. But binary he xidecimal, and e v en more outw ardly alphabetic forms of numerical representation are barely human-readable. Here is a portion of the he xidecimal code of an icon associated with the Uni v ersity of Florida' s web page:5089 474e 0a0d 0a1a 0000 0d00 4849 5244 0000 1000 0000 1000 0608 0000 1f00 fff3. 6 Man y other 6 An image of this icon appears at http://web .nwe.u.edu/dilger/etc/u con .p ng This numerical representation w as created with he xdump.

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165 ne w media objects are represented in e xactly the same f ashion. The arcane nature of numerical representation is one of the forces behind the creation of interf aces for computers and ne w media objects as well. Thus the interf ace is almost as fundamental to ne w media as numerical representation, and the tw o are closely link ed. 4.2.1.2 Modularity Ne w media ha v e a fractal structure: the y are collections of samples, algorithms, or other data which can be or ganized as samples, algorithms, or other data (30). Ne w media are often composed using an object-oriented model: units of ne w media, considered objecti v ely can be inte grated into other ne w media objects without losing autonomy F or e xample, digital representations of photographs can be embedded in a slide sho w presentation, and later e xtracted without modication. The logic of computer programming and the mak eup of ne w media objects reect this modularity; both are often made from independent units collected as needed, and reassembled each time the y are used. T o continue the use of the slide sho w e xample, changes made to an indi vidual photographic unit w ould be reected in the slide sho w as well. This objecti v e nature mak es the hierarchical structure common in old media less important, at least on a technical le v el: since objects can replace other objects, and an y ne w media object can be “sw allo wed” into another it is dif cult to assume that an y one object is most important. This “cut-and-paste” logic w as embedded from the start in early v ersions of the Mac OS. (Some ne w media objects retain hierarchical or ganization, and resist objecti v e structure, since the y are produced follo wing the linear atomistic logic of print.) Modular structure af fords the production of highly dynamic, customizable ne w media objects, since both the application programs used to produce ne w media and the objects follo w the objecti v e logic of modularity The implementation of layers of images in applications lik e Adobe Photoshop, or

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166 the functional objects and applets of programming languages such as C++ or Ja v a, f acilitate a modular approach by the user or programmer T ime and spatial (or semantic) or ganization are both impacted by modularity: the actions of a computer or its users can be treated as if the y were objects and played back, re v ersed, or reor ganized in a dif ferent manner (Again, Photoshop' s “ Actions” function demonstrates this principle.) Ho we v er there is a considerable ef fort to remo v e or disable the modularity of ne w media. The W indo ws operating system pre v ents capturing data being presented with the W indo ws Media Player through screenshots. Recording and lm industry corporations are pushing le gislation requiring Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems which w ould pre v ent altering the objecti v e structure of a ne w media object without proper authorization—or payment of a licensing fee. This neuters cut-and-paste functions in an ef fort to stop “pirac y”—often with blatant disre gard for the F air Use pro visions of the cop yright code. 4.2.1.3 A utomation The combination of numerical representation and modularity structure enables some remo v al of the presence of human agenc y from the production, manipulation, and e v aluation of ne w media objects. Some of the most common e xamples of automated ne w media content are W eb sites which customize their appearance for indi vidual users. These sites “automatically generate W eb pages on the y when the user reaches the site. The y assemble the information from databases and format it using generic templates and scripts” (32). But automation e xtends f ar deeper into ne w media: “articial intelligence” is the result of automation, the combination of logical systems programmed by humans repeatedly implemented through recursi v e e v aluation. Almost all the functions of computers can be automated.

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167 When automation is combined with the common representational code of ne w media and the computational capacity of digital computing, ne w possibilities for sorting, ltering, and searching arise where only hand scanning w as present. Automation of this process in real-time can produce ne w media objects in its o wn right, or nd patterns. Both collections of ne w media objects and ne w media representations of old media can be processed in this manner Automation of recording, processing, and e v aluation systems is also possible—raising the possibility that automated e xchange of ne w media objects will be used for surv eillance. Automated systems which search, lter or create ne w media objects are sometimes called softw are “agents, ” and there has been considerable debate o v er their de v elopment. In some w ays the de v elopment of automated media processing systems is a response to automation of media gathering: with data being produced all the time, there is no w ay human beings could inspect all of it (35). (Modularity and v ariability contrib ute as well, since all media can be processed, and dynamic character of media creates a need for continual re-e v aluation.) Not surprisingly a loss of human agenc y can result from the use of these systems, as Ste v en Johnson discusses at length in Interface Cultur e —if machines are collecting and processing the data, human agenc y is represented only in the design of the system—which, as I note on page 61 abo v e, is often mystied by system-centered design philosophy Mano vich is right to position these concerns as a crucial part of the character of ne w media, not an easily dismissible side ef fect. 4.2.1.4 V ariability “ A ne w media artif act is not something x ed once and for all, ” Mano vich states, “b ut something that can e xist in dif ferent, potentially innite v ersions. ” (36). This v ariability “is a basic condition of all ne w media” (42). I ha v e already outlined some

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168 of the implications of this property—the ability for embedded objects to change without af fecting the “parent” object, and the need for repeated e v aluation, o v er time, of the same ne w media object, to ensure it has not changed. Mano vich points out numerous additional consequences of this v ariability which will be consolidated here into a fe w properties. Once more, the logic of ne w media “corresponds to the postindustrial logic of `production on demand' and `just in time' deli v ery logics that were themselv es made possible by the use of computers and computer netw orks at all stages of manuf acturing and distrib ution” (36). Old media were mass media, circulating in identical copies. By contrast, ne w media are often customized to for indi vidual vie wers: Ev ery hyperte xt reader gets her o wn v ersion of the complete te xt by selecting a particular path through it. Similarly e v ery user of an interacti v e installation gets her o wn v ersion of the w ork. And so on. In this w ay ne w media technology acts as the most perfect realization of the utopia of an ideal society composed of unique indi viduals. Ne w media objects assure users that their choices—and therefore, their underlying thoughts and desires—are unique, rather than preprogrammed and shared with others. (42) Mano vich has fe w illusions about this alle ged utopia. He recognizes that the customization of fered by ne w media is e xtremely limited—the much o v erstated “freedom” of customization amounts to ideological multiple choice. Shifting decisions to the reader or user also shifts the w ork and responsibility of authorship. W atkins, too, observ es the strict limits and w orkload created by these ne wfound “freedoms”—the w ork of consumption as “eld constitution” (137). Mano vich proposes the production of “media databases, ” a form which “of fers a particular model of the w orld and of the human e xperience” which af fects its reception by the reader vie wer or user as a result of v ariability (37). The database is a “structured collection of data, ” and that structure is imposed on the items it contains,

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169 establishing relationships between them (218). Because “[i]n general, creating a w ork in ne w media can be understood as the construction of an interf ace to a database, ” and both the contents of the database, the structure of the database, and the interf ace itself are highly v ariable, the resultant meaning of a single database can also v ary considerably—perhaps without alteration of its content. Therefore, “[a] number of dif ferent interf aces can be created from the same data” (37). While true for print media technology as well—an e xperience can lead to a ballad, book, or brochure— with ne w media changes to the e xperience can be propagated into all subsequent forms. The creation of v ersions of interf aces can be automated. This is quite visible in emer ging rhetorics of hypermedia: the interacti v e structures of branching or hyperlink ed interacti vity harnesses v ariability to create a ne w type of media. The most ob vious form of v ariability is dynamism: the form of ne w media is much less static and permanent than old media. Because it is produced using numerically representable actions and operations, a ne w media object can be designed to appear in a slightly dif ferent f ashion each time it is produced or vie wed. Ne w media can be re vised repeatedly without a trace—while the idea of the “digital palimpsest” is common, strictly speaking, it is f allacious. Also, ne w media objects can be re vised e v en after the y are published, in much the same w ay early nineteenth century writers lik e W illiam Blak e repeatedly re vised their w ork. But v ariability “can also be seen as a consequence of the computer' s w ay of representing data—and modeling the w orld itself—as v ariables rather than constants” (43). This slightly dif ferent meaning is wellrepresented in computer programming practice, which separates algorithms (usually static) from data (usually dynamic) (41). Programming is not only v ariable, b ut for ged from v ariables.

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170 4.2.1.5 T ranscoding The nal property Mano vich outlines “is the most substantial consequence of the computerization of media” (45). T ranscoding has been dened in computer science in se v eral dif ferent w ays: as adapting content for a certain display or output format, or con v erting the numerical representation of digital information from one standard of encoding to another Mano vich stri v es to maintain this meaning, noting that the numerical representation in ne w media gi v es objects which appear radically dif ferent a common structure. W ith this last principle of ne w media, Mano vich ackno wledges the inuence of culture more intensely than in the pre vious four e xtending and adapting the computer -science understanding of transcoding by discussing the e xchange of human-recognizable forms and computer -oriented structures. Mano vich describes this separation as di vision into a “cultural” and “computer” layers. I pre viously observ ed that because of numerical representation, man y forms of media formerly distinct can be treated identically The surf ace structures f amiliar to humans (w ords, objects, surf aces, shots, frames, etc) are irrele v ant instrumentally speaking, where the y are rendered as pack ets, functions, v ariables, streams, les, or folders. Consequently e xchange between these forms is no w more possible than with old media—a ne w media object can be transcoded from one form to another much more readily than old media. In some cases, this process can be automated, with a single parent ne w media object producing se v eral child objects manifest in dif ferent forms. More importantly ho we v er transcoding means that human-oriented concepts can be applied to ne w media in pre viously impossible w ays. F or e xample, the playback interf ace common to compact discs has been applied for te xts by Adobe Acrobat (16). And vice v ersa: “database” is used to or ganize te xts or documents which might ha v e pre viously been called an anthology or collection.

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171 Assuming feedback between the cultural and computer layers of ne w media is not a huge leap for the humanities, b ut for certain perspecti v es from computer science (and commercial computing), that model is a radical departure. The “black box” model of computing, in which human-computer interaction is minimized, and cultural inuences on computing willfully e xcluded, remains po werful today (and threatens to reappear thanks to DRM). Robert Johnson notes this phenomenon is one of the trends k eeping computing system-centered (25, 28). Mano vich recognizes the dif ferences of ne w and old media ha v e tremendous signicance for the discipline of media studies, which pro vides an important, b ut insuf cient, perspecti v e for understanding ne w media. Ho we v er media studies “cannot address the most fundamental quality of ne w media that has no precedent— programmability Comparing ne w media to print, photography or tele vision will ne v er tell us the whole story ” (47) Concepts from computer science need to be inte grated into a ne w eld: Ne w media calls for a ne w stage in media theory whose be ginnings can be traced back to the re v olutionary w orks of Harold Innis in the 1950s and Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s. T o understand the logic of ne w media, we need to turn to computer science. It is there that we may e xpect to nd the ne w terms, cate gories, and operations that characterize media that became programmable. F r om media studies, we mo ve to something that can be called “softwar e studies”—fr om media theory to softwar e theory (47–8) “Softw are studies” should pro vide concepts which supplement the v e summarized here and enable further de v elopment of corresponding concepts designed to teach the production and understanding of ne w media forms based upon them. 4.2.2 Supplementing the essay I no w turn to Ulmer' s Internet In vention, taking in v entory of the material it presents which will be usable to my pedagogical e xperiment. In this book, mark eted

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172 as a “ne xt generation te xtbook, ” Ulmer outlines a comprehensi v e program for an Internet-based writing practice. Not surprisingly his scholarship shares man y of the goals of my research. Ho we v er he does not focus on the specics of technological implementation, instead, calling on the student and instructor to w ork out the specics of the “widesite” which mak es up the b ulk of the “w orkbook” portion of the te xt. The e xamples of student w ork on the companion web site for the te xt mak e clear that Ulmer' s conceptualization of that form is congruent with Mano vich' s broad denition of hypermedia. 7 (One of the ancillary functions of my de v elopment of this transitional apparatus is v erifying Ulmer' s assumptions about technology using Mano vich' s compact principles as a baseline for ne w media beha vior .) The semester -long assignment Ulmer outlines for students using Internet In vention is a v e-part form called the “widesite” en visioned as a v ersion of the medie v al practice of the memory palace (109). This assignment is designed to culminate in the production of the “image of wide scope, ” an emblematic form based on Gerald Holton' s idea of “themata, ” a set of concretions formed in childhood which, retrospecti v ely shape one' s relation to life w ork. Se v eral e xamples are pro vided; for e xample, a compass, which f ascinated Albert Einstein as a youth. What w as hidden behind the needle' s magic mo v ement to w ard north? Repeated consideration of emblematics (the icon, the star) enrich this concept. Ulmer surmises that grasping a v ersion of this “wide image” early in life w ould ha v e incredible potential—an electrate v ersion of the “Eureka. ” The widesite is generated in v e parts. The rst four parts be gin with the general instruction “Mak e a website documenting something. ” This calls to mind the notion 7 At the current time that site is athttp://web .nwe.u.edu/gu lmer/lo ng man /.

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173 of documentation, e xplained as “a curated display of details related to a disco v ery in v ention, and a gure responsible for it” (21–2)—b ut not necessarily an e xplanatory discourse (as in the typical use, computer documentation ). The logic of the widesite (and electrac y as a whole) is aesthetic: conduction (see belo w). Lik e Mano vich, Ulmer ar gues that ne w media will not necessarily follo w narrati v e structures, and he advises against imposing structure on the wide image before all the parts were assembled (92). The material for the four preliminary parts of the widesite, corresponds to the parts of Ulmer' s “popc ycle” (career f amily entertainment, and community), and is dra wn from the “database” of the Internet. W ork with the “popc ycle” is not only generati v e b ut intended to encourage students to consider the institutional situation and the w ay that af fects them. “The premise of the wide image is that nothing is created or in v ented in general, b ut only within the parameters and paradigms of the disciplines and professions that set the problems and determine the criteria for e v aluating proposed solutions” (24). This repeated articulation of institutional conte xt helps students understand the lar ger shift (from literac y to electrac y) that is the focus of the book. It also helps students understand the counter -intuiti v e nature of the widesite: it appears to challenge the “truth” of literac y Sho wing the w ay such truth is mediated through an institution recongures the practice as no longer necessarily oppositional. The de v elopment of the widesite and e v entual production of the image of wide scope is guided by the “pedagogical genre” of the mystory which recognizes Mano vich' s v ariability principle and the concomitant customization of ne w media. The mystory lends form to introspecti v e communication with oneself which supplements literate models, designed for communication with others (57, 155). This necessitates rethinking metaphors used to describe the “writing”—not te xt, from te xtile' s ordered

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174 w arp and w oof (signier and signied, sender and recei v er), b ut felt, from that tangle of interconnected bers. The pun of felt and “feeling” helps establish the increased rele v ance of mood in the practice of electrac y The mechanism for this assignment is congruent with Mano vich' s principles in se v eral w ays. First, the guide for producing the widesite follo ws the logic of modularity: the widesite components are not arrayed in a hierarchical structure. Indeed, the o v erall shape of the widesite is not specied, and Ulmer hints that Geor ges Bataille' s concept of informe (formless) will be usable as “a ne w dimension of v alue associated with electrac y [. .] literac y did not ha v e enough computing po wer to think formless” (40, 323). This assertion is v eried by the f act that in an initial iteration of this e xperiment which in v olv ed only the w ork of Mano vich, I projected “informality” as a tentati v e part of the electrate supplement to ease. Second, remarking on the sk epticism of some students f acing the apparent impracticality of the wide image (which mak es sense because electrate pedagogical practice does not necessarily require pragmatism, a quality of ease), Ulmer points out the mystory is designed to simulate the wide image (21). Mano vich' s theory illuminates this comment: in the transitional period of ne w media, simulation is opposed to both representation and visual illusionism. F or Mano vich, simulation “aim[s] to immerse the vie wer completely within a virtual uni v erse” and “[model] other aspects of reality be yond visual appearance” (16, 17). The practice of simulation mo v es imaging be yond the simply representati v e function of language (writing, which is unproblematic as dened by ease) as well as the illusionistic function of images (their realistic moti v ation, the in visible style of Hollyw ood cinema). Thirdly the centrality of the image and image schema in the assignment reects the increased role of the visual in ne w media and the blending of meanings of “image”

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175 from poetry and the visual arts. On the technical side, this blending is supported by Mano vich' s principles of numerical representation: an y component of ne w media can tak e on “imagistic” properties because there are no boundaries between images, te xt, and other forms. T o say a certain ne w media object has “image-lik e” properties or is “poetic” is redundant; all ne w media ha v e these properties. Finally Ulmer recognizes in se v eral w ays that ne w media in v olv es the foregrounding of “interf ace” much more than old media, as he describes the widesite. Interf aces are a part of all media, b ut literac y (through the operation of transparenc y) minimizes their impact on the reader First, Ulmer proposes that students use inter f aces as pedagogical de vices, suggesting the model of narrati v e to describe mo v ement through Internet In vention to wide image. Second, Ulmer e xtends the operation of “interf ace” in a manner generally congruent with Mano vich' s principles of v ariability and modularity encouraging the creation of multiple interf aces for the same “data, ” and recognizing that such interf aces af fect what the appearance and meaning (mood) of that data. Ov erall, Ulmer' s construction of the hypermedia widesite correlates with Mano vich' s placement of the fundamental quality of interf ace with ne w media, and its increased visibility (despite the myth of transparenc y discussed earlier). 4.2.2.1 Institutions The institutional setting Ulmer proposes is a hybrid form. In f act, much of Internet In vention is dedicated to understanding the process of institutional articulation through the mechanism of the popc ycle. F or the purposes of my e xperiment, this acti vity is analogous to Ulmer' s fore grounding of interf ace: it is necessary because the operations of literac y minimize the actions of institutions (truth is truth, not disciplinary consensus).

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176 The te xtbook-oriented focus of the w ork (the te xtbook interf ace) remains, and Ulmer e xplains the particulars of this approach (general language, specic specialized kno wledge, sanctioned by nationality which teaches acceptable history and ideological practices). Ulmer' s book be gins v ery tightly oriented around the institution of school and te xtbook, and gradually mo v es a w ay from it to w ard the institution of entertainment its forms—the celle (string, link), image, mood (v oice, funk). But remo v al from school is ne v er completed, as mentioned abo v e, nor shall it be for my de v elopment of transitional “ease”—at least not at the present time. Ulmer' s w ork with entertainment, especially lm, is mirrored by Mano vich' s debt to cinema, though Ulmer calls on popular music as well. Ulmer assumes that entertainment already follo ws the logic of image and moode, the logic of electrac y (127). Entertainment is the institution which “primarily hails one into commodity capitalism as a consumer” (25), discouraging the indi vidual production of image-te xts in f a v or of passi v e mass interpretation in the manner of spectatorship. This does not click with hypermedia, e v en on the most basic le v el, where user action is re gularly needed (though Mano vich rightly points out the limitations of considering “interacti vity” a liminal characteristic of hypermedia), and Ulmer spends considerable time e xtracting concepts from entertainment which can function rhetorically P articularly interesting is his idea of impersonation, tied to embodiment, which Ulmer deplo ys as an interf ace for learning the “icon of the [mo vie or rock] star”—the signs which con v e y her mood or image (133). From entertainment Ulmer also borro ws se v eral v ersions of the remak e, or performance of a standard with impro visational character (as in jazz). In this making and remaking one can see considerable echoes of Mano vich' s description of the principle of the programmable nature of ne w media: harnessing v ariability to generate

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177 a number of v ersions of a ne w media object using a ruleset, program, or algorithm, or other method. Ulmer deplo ys remaking in se v eral dif ferent w ays: to dictate form, to generate ne w content, and to nd patterns through juxtaposition. Again, this practice is supported by Mano vich' s description of transcoding in ne w media, in which a process can be recongured as a form or lter or applied to seemingly heterogeneous ne w media objects. The notion of “performance” is important, too; its analog in programmable ne w media w ould be an indi vidual program e x ecution. The EmerAgenc y which Ulmer describes as a hypothetical “consultanc y without portfolio” and “a hybrid selected from oral, literate, and electrate elements” (1, 156) is of fered as an institutional frame w ork which will supplement school and entertainment, supporting the w ork of “e gents” in the electrate apparatus. The EmerAgenc y “places the te xt-image forms of screen compositions within the global institutional setting of the Internet” (xiii). The task of the EmerAgenc y is problem solving, specically public polic y problems, for se v eral reasons. First, this pro vides a w ay for humanities education to re-establish its importance in the community (1). Secondly there is a connection between narrati v e (one of the principal forms of the humanities) and problems: e v ery narrati v e has a conict. Thirdly the form of the wide image indicates that the method of establishing solutions for personal problems can be amplied to address much lar ger ones. (21). This seems f airly outlandish, and Ulmer ackno wledges that some folks may simply dismiss the idea of the EmerAgenc y (28). But as Mano vich sho ws repeatedly practices v ery much lik e the EmerAgenc y already e xist on the Internet: the communities of Open Source or Free Softw are programmers. 8 A brief e xamination of this 8 The trAce writing community similar online writing collecti v es, and the v ery loosely knit community of weblog (blog) users who ha v e christened themselv es the “Blogosphere” also pro vide e xamples

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178 community sho ws that Ulmer' s proposal is less ction than virtual reality The model of intellectual property embraced by these programmers w ould not be possible without the modularity of ne w media (and computing in general)—the object-oriented approach to writing code which f acilitates decentralized sharing. Notably le v eraging the programmable character of media, these communities ha v e de v eloped tools which f acilitate a distrib uted, non-hierarchical structure. (Unlik e the EmerAgenc y free softw are projects do maintain portfolios of code libraries.) The slogan Ulmer proposes for the EmerAgenc y “Problems B Us, ” matches the moti v ation of free softw are de v elopment described by Eric S. Raymond: selecting a project based on “scratching an itch” or “addressing a problem. ” Notably man y free softw are de v elopers see the entire concept of free softw are as ci vically moti v ated, a response to irresponsible commercialization of the softw are industry The free softw are programmer lls a v oid, lik e the e gents of the EmerAgenc y One of the functions of the EmerAgenc y which could be considered secondary is quite consistent with Mano vich' s notion of “transcoding, ” which is b uilt on the principle of modularity Ulmer notes that pidgin has serv ed as a transitional form for the de v elopment of creoles, which are full-featured languages (157). Where pidgin establishes an ordinate (colonizing) and subordinate (colonized) language, and f a v ors the former creole preserv es the comple xity of the linguistic and cultural forces in v olv ed (158). Perhaps the pidgin-to-creole mo v ement is unnecessary and creole itself could serv e as a model for the electrate e xchange of icons and moods on a global scale (similarly Ulmer calls for prospecti v e, not retrospecti v e, location of the wide image). Here is the match with Mano vich: transcoding and the syncretism Ulmer en visions of virtual entities de v eloping institutional and subjecti v e forms based on the technology of netw ork ed ne w media, including some forms of consultation.

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179 (and e xplains in much greater detail than is presented here) function in v ery similar f ashion: both are agents for cultural e xchange and mo v ement between technological re gisters. 4.2.3 The Logic of Conduction One of the central assumptions of Internet In vention is the centrality of the visual and the image in electrac y This seems quite intuiti v e, gi v en the ability of ne w media to create, display and manipulate multiple kinds of images—raster and v ector data, still and mo ving pictures, hybrids, and ne w forms. As Mano vich demonstrates, the numerical representation of media means that as f ar as the computer is concerned, all kinds of te xt and image are handled in the same w ay Ulmer' s notion of “image” includes this v alence: “Electrac y is an image apparatus, k eeping in mind that `images' are made with w ords as well as pictures” (2). So “image” is not just a matter of increased pictorial or visual content, though that is certainly one part of electrac y b ut supplementing the logical system of literac y with ne w modes of inference. F ollo wing Mano vich' s terminology one can consider this electrate image-te xt a transcoded v ersion of the poetic image or metaphor Conduction supplements the established literate forms of logic (synthesis or analysis, or more specically abduction, induction, and deduction) with an associati v e, accreti v e mode of meaning-making. The Ramistic principle of ordered, hierarchical atomization (and the pedagogies of ease based upon it) are unnecessary for conduction. Emphasizing the concept' s critical importance, Ulmer e xplains it in se v eral w ays: using Roland Barthes' s idea of the third or obtuse meaning, and his illustration of it with haiku (43–9); through a po werful e xample of conducti v e reasoning deri v ed from a pre vious publication (114–21); and other e xamples which call on the notion of string ( celle ) as link. T o echo Ulmer' s e xplanation, mystory tunes the strings

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180 of this conducti v e process, which relies on the mobilization of personal memories. Conduction does not introduce a ne w mode of meaning, b ut merely establishes an electrate frame w ork for ackno wledging meaning “that has been at w ork all along” b ut with application greatly restricted by literac y (45). The technological allo w ances for conducti v e reasoning in electrac y are e xtensi v e. The cut-and-paste capability of the contemporary GUI epitomizes the qualities of v ariability (ne w media objects of all kinds can be cut-and-pasted), and modularity (the cut-and-paste process is iterable, and does not alter the character of child objects in v olv ed). Mano vich notes that programming applications designed for ne w media e xtend this conducti v e beha vior to the relationships between ne w media objects: selecting and manipulating computer programs, too, can follo w a graphical logic of cut-and-paste or its updated cousin, drag-and-drop (80, 135). Mood, v oice, and atmosphere are the basic units of conduction (Ulmer 59). All are part of normal e xperience, e x emplied in institution of entertainment, which has generated numerous forms to produce them, admittedly in sometimes o v erdetermined f ashion. By contrast—and Cro wle y' s critique of the v e paragraph essay is rele v ant here—ar gumentati v e writing e xcludes mood and atmosphere. That mood is appropriate for writing, b ut for certain kinds of writing, especially the writing in composition, the meanings it carries, which f all outside the pro vince of the rational, are irrele v ant (some w ould say threatening). All meanings, not just those semantically consistent with each other are rele v ant to conducti v e inference (Ulmer 157). Instead of reducing something to its essence (the literate ideal of the concept) through the process of atomization, in preparation for conducti v e w ork, a comprehensi v e list of meanings should be recorded. (This is the reason for the “documentation” directi v e which be gins the four parts of the widesite assignment.) Because conducti v e logic, lik e ne w media, is modular an act of

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181 juxtaposition could produce contact between man y groups of meanings, not just those analytically or synthetically justiable. The creole syncretism Ulmer en visions mirrors the “database logic” Mano vich outlines. As f ar as the computer is concerned, all media objects in a database are represented in the same manner and equally subject to access or manipulation. On the other hand, for the human user of the database, the relationships between forms arrayed by it are critical; changing the relationships between objects (which is not at all dif cult thanks to the principle of v ariability) does not necessarily af fect the objects themselv es. If Mano vich' s projection of the beha vior of ne w media databases is correct, the syncretic forms Ulmer en visions are quite possible. Conduction permits the re gistration of sensory perception all kinds, including touch (another v alence of “feeling” indicated in the “felt” metaphor related earlier). Computers already ha v e limited capabilities to ackno wledge the sense of touch, though such technology is still limited to horseless-carriage status (digital dra wing tablets or electronic pens). Mano vich (5) and Ulmer (170) both relate amusing anecdotes about the Nintendo DataGlo v e input de vice; one can only assume that its use will someday seem less whimsical. That' s certainly Ulmer' s opinion; in the future, he sees increased “capacity of the technology to read formulaic or clearly dened gestures or body mo v ements” (171), and anticipates electrac y will ackno wledge embodiment. Inter face may suf ce no w b ut inter body might be a more useful formulation (146–7). This syncretic logic corresponds to the syncretic subjecti vity of postmodernism: “Mystory is composed in the middle v oice. Electrac y in general shifts emphasis from the nearly e xclusi v e attention to communication within the `I-s/he' system, to attend more to the `I-I' system” (57). The specic operations of that I-I system are still emer ging, b ut undoubtedly ha v e a collecti v e dimension: hence the de v elopment of the

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182 wide image (the emblem of one' s “self ”) through understanding the articulation of social institutions. 4.2.3.1 T w o notes Of Mano vich' s v e principles of ne w media, automation is the least wellrepresented in Internet In vention. One consequence of this might be that concern o v er the displacement of human agenc y from computing practices, which Mano vich connects v ery closely to automation, is lacking in Ulmer' s w ork. There are a fe w mentions of “agents” which follo w Ste v en Johnson' s description of automated programmed ne w media objects presented in Interface Cultur e Gi v en the considerable ef fort Ulmer dedicates to the “e gent” (the supplement to agent) and the notion of “v oice” as a characteristic of conduction, it seems not a matter of absent agenc y b ut its manifestation with dif ferent terminology (and forms). T o be sure, for most computer users, the current le v el of programmability of ne w media has not yet reached the position from which Mano vich established his principles of ne w media. The relati v e absence of automation from Ulmer' s w ork reects the high le v el of user in v olv ement currently required in most ne w media production. At the present time, “documentation” has connotations in computing which clash with Ulmer' s usage. Ulmer en visions documentation as a practice which is not consciously e xplanatory b ut a form of recording. (Giselle Beiguelman' s notion of descripti v e rather than inscripti v e writing is useful here.) Ho we v er the most common functions of “documentation” on computer are e xplanatory Help, manuals, and ho w-to guides are often called “documentation. ” The comments included in programming which are designed for self or others to read, b ut not included in compiled code, could be considered solely e xplanatory since the y are seldom if e v er incorporated in a nished product.

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183 4.3 Supplementing Ease I will de v elop the rst prototypes of a pedagogy for this material by e xtending the qualities of ease in the direction of patterns which emer ge in the comparison of the w ork of Mano vich and Ulmer 9 The ideas I establish here will function in the same manner as ease, b ut with the transitional electrate apparatus in mind, and (hopefully) taking into account some of the dif culties with ease I reect on in Chapter 3. T eachers could use my ideas in one or more w ays: (1) by applying them to modify the material being taught, in the same w ay atomization and alphabetization functioned for ease; (2) encouraging students to culti v ate these properties in the material being learned, as ease shaped writing and students' relation to it; (3) seeking them in their o wn practices. This last assertion could be of f the mark; my questions about the monolithic character of writing pedagogy (ease for e v erything) are rele v ant here. Ho we v er for a pedagogical e xperiment—especially one guided by heuretic principles, which encourage embracing the method being in v ented along the w ay—e xtending this strate gy from the pre vious apparatus seems acceptable. 4.3.1 T ranslucence T ransparenc y is an important component of ease because it matches the unproblematic model of technology communication and sense of self which dominate literac y Good prose, and good technology are clear and easily understood. There is no need to highlight the operation of technology (or for that matter other components of the apparatus). But transparenc y is not as unproblematic as it seems (recall the ar guments of Selfe and Robert Johnson I summarize on pages 68 and 73 abo v e). Mano vich' s 9 I could also simply appropriate the pedagogical de vices Ulmer utilizes—fore grounding the idea of interf ace metaphor using and recommending concepts lik e the remak e and impersonation, and propagating his heuretic method into the transitional apparatus of ne w media.

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184 principles of ne w media add se v eral strong reasons for questioning the desirability of transparenc y in the electrate apparatus. The modular property of ne w media w ould best be harnessed if it were in some w ay detectable, especially gi v en the goal of encouraging students to produce, not only consume, ne w media. Students w orking with found ne w media objects as well as their o wn creations w ould not be able to e xploit modularity (and its cousin, v ariability) if the boundaries between assembled ne w media objects were transparent. 10 W ould the discouragement of critical thinking demonstrated in literac y be repeated in an apparatus which follo wed the logic of conduction? Consider Ulmer' s suggestion to look for patterns in all parts of a v ailable meaning: the literate process of focusing on one meaning to the e xclusion of all others follo ws the logic of transparenc y (allo wing one “point” or “concept” to stand out, and others to be in visible). If transparenc y w as able to function in this w ay for attempts to think conducti v ely it w ould reduce the possible number of connections between meanings be gin considered. W e can project that transparenc y w ould be detrimental to conducti v e logic as well—perhaps e v en more so than it is to inducti v e, deducti v e, or abducti v e reasoning. T ransparenc y is sometimes e xplained using the metaphor of signal-to-noise ratio: an y part of an utterance which calls attention to itself is considered “noise, ” and is not part of “the message. ” That noise can tak e dif ferent forms, and naturally what is and is not noise depends on who is listening. The ne w media principle of numerical representation echoes the logic of conduction, putting pressure on this denition: there is little dif ference between signal and noise as f ar as computers are concerned; really there are merely signals of dif ferent kinds. 10 My e xplanation is a bit metaphorical; students do not necessarily ha v e to nd the boundaries of data in a lesystem or computer code, b ut should be able to understand ho w the y might disassemble and reassemble compound ne w media objects.

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185 The outline of an electrate “writing” proposed by Ulmer connects the practice of language to images, echoing the visual metaphors with which transparenc y is often discussed, and suggesting an electrate v ersion of it should, similarly conduct the image. The notion of tr anslucence pro vides this connotation, and I consider it a w orkable supplement to transparenc y for se v eral other reasons. T ranslucence retains some of the in visibility and passi vity of transparenc y b ut calls to mind syncretism and hybridity T ranslucence w ould allo w the character of ne w media objects to be modied through interaction with other objects—yet, thanks to the principle of modularity to bear no lingering ef fects. Lik e Ulmer' s vision of creole, the properties of indi vidual cultures and languages (objects) w ould remain intact. F or pedagogical purposes, alterations in the structure of the hybrid could highlight the characteristics of indi vidual components—analogous to comparati v e analysis, b ut without the reduction of simplication. Ho we v er the operation of transparenc y need not be strictly imagistic. Because ne w media are represented numerically man y kinds of “lters” could be used to create v arying le v els of transparenc y or opacity—the ef fect need not only be that of blurring a photograph by looking at it through a sheet of tissue paper Another w ay to dene translucence w ould be quite f amiliar: the de gree of a ne w media object' s presentation of its technological status, its status as media. Designers of ne w media already w ork with this property when the y decide where to place the b uttons, dialog box es, and other controls commonly used for interacting with ne w media objects. The artistic w ork highlighted by Mano vich pro vides numerous e xamples of systems which call attention to their boundaries by manipulating them. T ranslucence w ould also ha v e the benet of de gree: an object could be nearly transparent—present or visible in a small amount—or nearly opaque. Dif ferent kinds

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186 of translucence could be superimposed additi v ely V ariation of the le v el of translucence could occur in real-time (consider the pedagogical v alue of being able to manipulate the technological forw ardness of one component of an image-te xt in relation to others)—perhaps an update for the literate model of “gradation. ” Unlik e transparenc y which is all-or -nothing game, association of ne w media objects with v arying le v els of translucence w ould still be translucent; a single opaque component object or lter w ould not result in an opaque result. T ranslucence, then, could support the second-nature character of transparent interf aces and clear language, b ut need not be restricted by it, as is currently the case with the po werful imperati v e to mak e technology disappear Pri vile ging translucence in the model of technology and language, and in the pr oduction of technology and language, is congruent with the increased contact presence of technology in Ulmer' s w ork—the shift from interf ace to interbody 4.3.2 The Complex The preference of ease for simplicity and dif culty rather than comple xity is manifest in man y dif ferent w ays. Outright rejection of comple x and dif cult objects, systems, or practices is the most commonly discussed consequence, b ut the desire for pragmatism and e xpedienc y also reects v alorization of simplicity Writing, when well-crafted, has only one possible meaning, and can e xpress an y idea, e v en something complicated or multif aceted, in a simple manner Cro wle y points out the connection between Ramistic dichotomization and simplication as it w as manifest in the nineteenth century F ollo wing Ulmer' s principle of considering all of the meanings of a w ork points to the idea of “the comple x, ” a group or association of objects or constructions. The appearance of this formation in tw o of the critiques mentioned here backs this

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187 assertion. First, precedent appears in Ulmer' s w ork: the emblematic image of wide scope which is the goal of the widesite tak es the form of a comple x: “e v ery person possesses a wide or guiding image (actually an interrelated set of four or v e primary images)” (18). Secondly Robert Johnson proposes the “user -centered rhetorical comple x” to rehabilitate the model of technology borro wed from literac y and applied to computing, by recognizing the situation of technology users in relation to disciplines, institutions, and communities (38). The notion of “the comple x” I forw ard here w ould mer ge these tw o denitions, forming a collection of conducti v ely related ne w media objects. Johnson pro vides V enn-diagram-lik e visualizations for his user -centered rhetorical comple x, b uilding on James Kinnea v e y' s rhetorical triangle (30, 39). W ould the comple x proposed here follo w the model of translucence in taking an imagistic character? Perhaps, with a w ord of caution: mapping the comple x according to the hierarchical visual paradigms of or ganizing information which support literac y (e.g. Edw ard T ufte' s theories of quantifying and visualizing information) w ould restrict its usefulness. The architectural, spatial, or visual component of the comple x w ould ha v e to follo w the rules of ne w media, especially that of v ariability Using the comple x as a model for composition—as both nal product and w orks intended only as e x ercises—w ould enable the response to dif culty or comple xity to follo w the conducti v e model Ulmer proposes as the logic of hypermedia, not the analytic model which is the def ault of print literac y In f act, this is the process Ulmer proposes for the mystorical articulation of the image of wide scope—instead of in v estigating the institutions which ha v e an impact on an indi vidual, di vining the sum of that ef fect (simplication), and then selecting the most important or logical relation between epitomized qualities, Ulmer asks students to b uild a comple x of

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188 meanings with the widesite. The comple x also includes ample possibilities for the syncretism reected in Ulmer' s vie w of electrac y and implied by Mano vich' s principles of modularity v ariability and transcoding. As noted earlier his “media database” (one w ay of thinking Ulmer' s widesite and the comple x) e xhibits strong syncretic properties. Modeling the comple x after the syncreticism of creole culture w ould also pro vide strong support for the component of cultural e xchange e xpressed in Mano vich' s transcoding, emphasizing the possibility of forming comple x es from human and machine components, and embedding an ar guably progressi v e model of po wer relations. Ulmer reminds us that one of the original goals of the outline w as generati v e. It w as used to pair concepts, mapping oppositions in an manner which f acilitated the completion of an ar gument. This usage w as set aside by current-traditional fetishization of the graphical character of the outline and its v alue for arranging prose (Cro wle y 82). Learning from this lesson, the notion of the comple x w ould not f a v or or ganizational o v er in v enti v e character As Johnson ends the discussion of his idea of the comple x: In conclusion, the comple x serv es a number of purposes. It can be a heuristic for analyzing technological artif acts or processes. It also can be a mode for e xploring the people who use, mak e, and/or e v en destro y technology It can help tell the tales of people as the y struggle with, become enamored of, or just get plain bored by technology (40) While the comple x w ould of fer a pedagogically useful or ganizational concept to students learning the apparatus of electrac y it w ould ha v e to be presented k eeping the v ariable, programmable nature of ne w media in mind. 4.3.3 Repetition and Iteration The last practice for the electrate supplement to ease I propose continues the confrontation with pragmatism and e xpedienc y e xpressed in the comple x, and focuses

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189 it to w ard de v eloping a ne w method for considering the act of creation, what is often called “writing process. ” My assumption is that if Mano vich is right and the fundamental dif ference between ne w and old media is that “Media becomes programmable, ” then in order to best realize its potential, those who wish to produce ne w media should consider the methods of programming Mano vich alludes to frequently in his w ork. Mano vich considers the loop e xtensi v ely considering its ef fect as a narrati v e de vice and connecting the use of loops in the mo ving pictures which preceded cinema (314–22). That discussion is anticipated in his discussion of the automation and v ariability principles. The de vice of the loop is less important here than the practices it represents: repetition and iteration. Ulmer' s method for constructing the wide image can be considered an iterati v e loop: students perform the same function (documentation) on a set of v ariables (Career F amily Entertainment, Community) in order to produce data (the widesite) designed for e v aluation by a future program (which will produce the image of wide scope). 11 If the method which Ulmer has selected is not particular to the production of the wide image, b ut a reasonable method of in ventio tailored for conducti v e logic, a pedagogy that helped students understand ho w to iterate w ould be as usable for electrac y as the pedagogy of ease, which inculcated the act of atomization and alphabetization. My goal is not creating programmers, b ut as Johnson ar gued, disrupting the assumption—perhaps ingrained in literate subjecti vity?—that there are those who can write (or program), and those who cannot. In f act, the redenition of writing will lik ely change the status of what is considered “programming” and what is not. T o continue thinking analogically this has already occurred as it pertains to the visual 11 That action could easily be e xpressed in Perl pseudocode, though writing a subroutine which performs the “documentation” function will be left for another researcher

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190 component of document production. Writers using desktop publishing softw are— or e v en a common w ord processor —can mak e decisions pre viously restricted to “designers. ” Similarly as the programmable nature of ne w media becomes more part of e xpression, and more tools for programming are in v ented, methodologies which support programming will become a v ailable for transcoding, and will af fect the formation of other practices of writing. Composition studies scholars who ha v e theorized the writing process of fer a relay for bringing iteration into the classroom. Ho we v er the concept of iteration en visioned here dif fers considerably from the w ork of research, pre writing, drafting, and re vising essays: it does not necessarily shape the nal artif act, b ut produces material and methodologies which support it. Whereas from the “drafting” stage forw ard, students w ork on their nal utterance in some form, iterati v e de v elopment can focus on b uilding a procedure for a computer to generate the nal product. Iteration is one w ay to le v erage the processing po wer of computing and the characteristics of ne w media to construct dif ferent interf aces for the same data, one possibility Mano vich of fers. One might consider this the dif ference between thinking of “writing processes” and “processing writing. ” Iterati v e de v elopment w ould tak e process pedagogy' s attempt to reduce the focus on nal product (to the e xclusion of de v elopment of methodology or creati v e e xploration) one step further Automation also tak es on a ne w character if repetition is considered. Sampling based on repetiti v e frequenc y is the basis for analog and digital recording of auditory and visual signals. The form of the loop and sample, already being used e xtensi v ely in popular music, points to Ulmer' s reliance on some musical forms, particularly the notion of the jazz standard as a frame w ork for e xperimentation (analogous to the function of rhetorical topics). Programming, too, relies on the standard: in the

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191 form of the Request F or Comments (RFC), documents used to establish standards for netw ork protocols and other technologies which ha v e guided the de v elopment of the Internet. 12 These documents serv e as guidelines for programmers, yet the y are not static; usage of the RFCs indicates w ays in which the y should be re vised, and indicates where de v elopment of ne w standards might be benecial. The standard, as practiced by both Internet programmers and jamming musicians, is performed repeatedly In f act, it is used precisely as Mano vich hoped The Langua g e of Ne w Media w ould function: “not only as an aid to understanding the present, b ut also as a grid for future e xperimentation” (10). 12 F or more information about this form, used by the Internet Engineering T ask F orce (IETF) and other international or ganizations, seehttp://www .f aqs.or g/rfcs/.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Bradle y Dilger has li v ed in Florida all his life and, with the successful defense of this dissertation, possesses three de grees in English from its agship uni v ersity He gre w up in P alm City frequenting the St. Lucie Ri v er and the citrus trees which gre w throughout his neighborhood. During his senior year of high school, Bradle y serv ed as an elementary school aide in lieu of attending morning classes. As an under graduate at the Uni v ersity of Florida, Bradle y nished most of a pre-medicine sequence before realizing ho w much happier he had been teaching kinder gartners. A quick change in focus led to studying nineteenth-century American literature, especially Melville, and a Bachelor of Arts in English. F ollo wing se v eral years in the adv ertising and publishing b usiness, during which time he married the lo v ely talented, and patient Erin Easterling, Bradle y returned to graduate school to study English once again, focusing on composition studies, especially teaching in electronic en vironments. From 1996 through the time of this writing (August 2003), Bradle y w as a graduate student in the Department of English. He held a di v erse assortment of Uni v ersity positions—teaching rst-year composition and media studies, serving as a research assistant for the Department of English, w orking as a technical writer for the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and serving as Information T echnology Specialist in the Netw ork ed Writing En vironment. Since January 2002, he has suspended these di v ersions to focus on the present w ork. 199

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200 Bradle y has accepted the position of Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Journalism at W estern Illinois Uni v ersity Upon commencement of his professorship, he will be the se v enth teacher in his f amily joining his brother sister in-la w mother mother -in-la w grandmother and great-grandmother Bradle y and Erin ha v e recently sold their little yello w house (which the y will miss v ery much), box ed up Lumper and The Big Kitty and relocated to Macomb

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I certify that I ha v e read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality as a dissertation for the de gree of Doctor of Philosophy. Gre gory L. Ulmer Chair Professor of English I certify that I ha v e read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality as a dissertation for the de gree of Doctor of Philosophy. Stephanie A. Smith Associate Professor of English I certify that I ha v e read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality as a dissertation for the de gree of Doctor of Philosophy. Joseph V W ilson Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering I certify that I ha v e read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality as a dissertation for the de gree of Doctor of Philosophy. J. Blak e Scott Assistant Professor of English This dissertation w as submitted to the Graduate F aculty of the Department of English in the Liberal Arts and Sciences and to the Graduate School and w as accepted as partial fulllment of the requirements for the de gree of Doctor of Philosophy. August 2003 Dean, Graduate School

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EASE IN COMPOSITION STUDIES C Bradle y Dilger 352-378-5649 Department of English Chair: Gre gory L. Ulmer De gree: Doctor of Philosophy Graduation Date: August 2003 F or man y Americans, “ease” shapes understanding of comple xity and dif culty Though most consider `ease of use' a twentieth-century phenomenon associated with personal computers, its origins date from the se v enteenth century “Ease in Composition Studies” in v estigates the history of ease, especially its role in American colle ge-le v el writing. Chapter One introduces the dissertation and long-term research goals. Chapter T w o pro vides an introduction to ease, including denition, historical re vie w and synon yms for ease: comfort, transparenc y ef fortlessness, simplicity pragmatism, femininity e xpedienc y and pictorialism. Chapter Three in v estigates the dangers and benets of ease and its inuence on American culture as “the ideology of ease. ” Chapter F our documents the role ease played in the de v elopment of nineteenthcentury colle ge-le v el writing. Chapter Fi v e proposes a supplement to ease which functions similarly b ut is tailored to the character of electronic communication (electrac y), unlik e ease, which w as de v eloped in and for use with print literac y