Date of Award

8-2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

Professional Communication

Advisor

Haynes, Cynthia

Committee Member

Vitanza , Victor J.

Committee Member

Holmevik , Jan

Abstract

Modern college students traverse the boundaries of traditional literacy daily. Maturing alongside Web 2.0 and multimodal social networking, these young people tweet, blog, email, film, photograph, illustrate, hyperlink, and compose their lives regardless of formal instruction. Therefore rhetorically analyzing a student's recreational play with image, video, audio, and oral mediums often proves helpful for writing instructors who wish to better mentor and engage the communicative capacities of those born in the late 20th century and after. Yet few educators have actively pursued this line of inquiry over the last couple of decades. Many continue to favor traditional pairing of academic discourse with alphabetic literacy, logic, and media. Unfortunately, this means academic writing in general, and composition studies in particular, grow increasingly obsolete when facing a generation of young people whose nearly native relationship with new media encourages them to transcend the computer screen and channel their digital fluencies toward (re)composing physical reality. Few incidents illustrate the stakes and values of such conditions more clearly than the recent case of the Barefoot Bandit-a seemingly average teenager from Washington State, who made international headlines for his two-year joyride with reality: stealing vehicles, flying planes, evading police, robbing businesses, and hijacking the hearts of his peers.
Armed with little more than an Apple laptop and iPod, Internet access allegedly sponsored the Barefoot Bandit's specialized education in breaking the law. Not wishing to validate his unlawful behavior, my research awards importance rather to the hardly exceptional nature of his personal technologies, literacies, and motivations. In an age where any given American teenager may access the same technological resources, the lasting influence of formal education seems questionable when facing a digitally literate generation of perpetual bandits. By rhetorically analyzing the discursive conditions instigating young people to (re)compose their own educations, the following study elucidates and tests a new interpretive model for educators to use in assessing and challenging the abilities of a generation whose multifaceted literacies seem best nourished by banditry. For writing education to retain relevancy, composition pedagogues must look to the fringes of modern composing practices-where students (at least digitally) know and compose valuable non-institutional texts for diverse audiences.

Included in

Communication Commons

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