Logging On

Jennifer Haley-Brown, Ashley J. Holmes, and Amy C. Kimme Hea, Guest Editors

Spatial Praxes: Theories of Space, Place, and Pedagogy


We started this issue with a simple premise: that space and praxes matter. For us, space and place have been intimately connected with our teaching and our research. In fact, we were moved to propose this special issue because of our shared work in a graduate seminar in 2008 entitled English 696e: Spatial and Visual Rhetorics, but this issue represents an even deeper and more thoughtful engagement from scholars across the field on spatial relations.

We want to offer a bit more about the exigency of this issue as well as insights into its particular webtexts. In this regard, we draw from Michel Foucault's 1976 often-cited, often-anthologized interview with the editors of Hérodote:

I have enjoyed this discussion with you because I've changed my mind since we started. I must admit I thought you were demanding a place for geography like those teachers who protest when an education reform is proposed, because the number of hours of natural science or music is being cut. So I thought, 'It's nice of them to ask me to do their archaeology, but after all why can't they do it themselves?' I didn't see the point of your objection. Now I can see that the problems you put to me about geography are crucial ones for me. Geography acted as the support, the condition of possibility for the passage between a series of factors I tried to relate. Where geography itself was concerned, I either left the question hanging or established a series of arbitrary connections. (Foucault, 1976, p. 77)

In this interview Foucault comes to the conclusion that his work is inherently related to geography, to the study of space. Indeed, Foucault articulates the ways he has overlooked bringing a conscious, systematic understanding of space to bear on his work. In the unfolding of the interview, Foucault has a "becoming moment" where he thinks of the study of space as a dominant force in relations of power, one that must be researched, interrogated, and theorized. In Foucault's (1984) equally well-known follow-up interview, "Space, Knowledge and Power," with Paul Rabinow, he formally acknowledges that space and place are intimately connected to his project, and he argues for a technics of space. Foucault suggests that space constructs and is constructed by discourses and practices (pp. 245-46), it is not fundamental or monolithic (p. 247), and it is always connected to communities and power (p. 252). Much more could be said about Foucault's theories on space, but these interviews together teach us about the significance of a "becoming moment" for scholarly work. It is our hope that this special issue on spatial praxes, then, invites composition and rhetoric scholars to participate in a "becoming moment" of their own as they consider the metaphorically and materially spatialized performances discussed here.

Writing about thirdspace twenty years after Foucault's interview, Edward Soja (1996) reminds us that our explorations "must be additionally guided by some form of potentially emancipatory praxis, the translation of knowledge into action in a conscious—and consciously spatial—effort to improve the world in some significant way" (p. 22). As composition and rhetoric teachers, our pedagogies frequently challenge us to translate our knowledge into classroom practice and, reflexively, to reinterpret those classroom practices into knowledge-as-praxis. These pedagogies, which often include new media literacies, public projects, service learning, hybrid classrooms, and even distance education, require thoughtful attention to spatial rhetorical practices. In fact, we would argue that as educators, composition and rhetoric teachers daily confront spatial relationships that inform, and arguably even infuse, every aspect of our pedagogies. Thus, we must consciously, critically consider the ways spatial relationships are invested in power relations among all stakeholders, students, teachers, administrators, and community members.

We approached this special issue with the belief that our discipline has reached a critical stage in the development of pedagogical praxes as a result of the rapidly increasing media in which we teach and research. As active participants in this "becoming moment" of spatial pedagogies on composition and rhetoric, we must reflect on the ways in which spatial rhetorics are imbricated in nearly every aspect of teaching and learning. To this end, our contributors move us to a deeper understanding of spatial praxes--and by praxes we mean the conscious, willed actions by which theory is transformed into practical activities. The research and reflections—the explorations in praxes—included in this webtext contribute to our field's development in pedagogical praxes by extending important scholarly work to understand the relationship of practice and theory in the realm of the spatial rhetorics; making public the range of spatial rhetorical teaching and its impacts on stakeholders; and providing new approaches to theorizing practice and practicing theory. The practical activities examined in this issue's topoi, praxis, and review pieces construct teaching and learning as both transformed by and transformative of space, place, and non-place.


In "Polymorphous Perversity in Texts," Johndan Johnson-Eilola explores what happens when we diminish the physical separation we have from our texts on the shelf or screen and instead take polymorphously perverse pleasure in our texts. He argues that polymorphously perverse texts act and require our participation to operate; they breach the virtual/physical membrane and deterritorialize and reterritorialize. Johnson-Eilola offers his hypertext as a "border skirmish or box of curious, conceptual objects" that investigates what it means to "treat texts less as objects out there and more as objects that we—literally—transgress the boundaries of, fragment, unmake, and remake."

In his "Psychogeographies of Writing: Ma(r)king Space at the Limits of Representation," Scot Barnett asserts that there is much more at stake in our field's conversation and applications of spatial rhetorics and pedagogies than current critical spatial theory and its methodologies of critique and representation have prepared us to address. Drawing on Cathy Caruth's (1996) "unclaimed experiences," he asks us to imagine such unclaimed experiences "as not simply the experiential resources that we or our students might draw upon to critique or represent spatial production, but also as the productive starting points for new conversations, in both our theories and classrooms." Ever-mindful, Barnett addresses the limits of representation that come from composing space.

In "A Geographical History of Online Rhetoric and Composition Journals," Jeremy Tirrell employs a quantitative, visual methodology to present and interpret data from interactive digital maps charting over a decade's worth of geographic data from online journals in rhetoric and composition. Tirrell argues that the maps "reveal coherent patterns suggesting localized disciplinary intellectual trends and progressive concept movements." After exploring two specific patterns demonstrated in the maps, Tirrell invites readers to read and reinterpret the maps presented in the webtext to further "explore and present the geographical aspects of our shared discipline."


Drawing on postmodern architect Bernard Tschumi's (1976) iconoclastic approach to theorizing architecture to complicate the notion of reflection, Amy C. Kimme Hea offers the grounding for a collection of eight "movements" from the co-authors of "Space | Event | Movement: Reflections on a Spatial & Visual Rhetorics Graduate Course." Through these movements, each author offers her perspective on the ways in which her participation in the English 696e: Spatial and Visual Rhetorics graduate course shaped her understanding of spatial praxes not as monolithic but rather as contradictory, heterogeneous, complex, and dynamic.

In "Visualizing Writing Space: A Reflection," Adrienne Crump & Elise Verzosa reflect on their experiences in teaching visual and spatial rhetorics. They advocate for a continued engagement with visual and spatial materials when teaching composition in first-year writing courses. In addition to reflecting on their own praxis, they provide visual and spatial rhetoric curricula, assessment tools, and student examples

In "Thrown Into Theory, Or How I Learned To Love Spatial Rhetoric," Crystal N. Fodrey uses the controlling metaphor of a rock being thrown into a pond as a way to illustrate both her state of mind after deciding to throw herself into spatial theory as a graduate student and first-year composition students' experiences after she "threw" spatial theory at them in her course. She mirrors the ways she makes meaning in teaching and learning spaces and the ways she asked students to make meaning in the course. She invites readers to join her by simulating a constant state of invention, an on-going narrative, striving to envision the potentialities of a space, and composing about and within that space.

Anita Furtner Archer's "From Sound to Crisis: Strategic Mapping in the Classroom and Workplace" examines the ways in which visual and spatial practices can be used in first-year writing classrooms and workplace settings to aid both students and organizational response and recovery teams to visually organize their messages and arguments. Her webtext discusses two assignments that provide the space for students and responders to consider delivery, audience, agency, and ordering with a focus on information flow.

In "Risky Writing in Unsafe Spaces," Jennifer Haley-Brown argues that online writing in general, and writing for Wikipedia in particular, complicates the writing process for first-year writing students. Drawing from specific classroom experiences, her webtext considers the ways that writing for Wikipedia challenges students' and instructors' understandings of authorship and revision in public digital spaces.

In her piece, "The Essence of the Path: A Traveler's Tale of Finding Place," Ashley J. Holmes locates the evolution of a multi-genre research assignment and reflects on how the places she inhabited impacted her teaching of the project. Documenting her personal and academic journey in this webtext, she complicates Paul Virilio's (1997) claim that accelerating technologies, such as the Web, necessarily lead to a dromospheric pollution that renders the journey needless. Ultimately, she argues that positioning our teaching and scholarship within the local places in which we live and work may slow the acceleration of our vanishing spaces.

In a "Visual-Spatial Approach to Spontaneous Composing in First-Year Composition," Marissa M. Juarez rearticulates Jack Kerouac's (1957) method of spontaneous composing as a form of place-based composing. In so doing, she establishes a rhetorical context that is writer-focused, place-based, new media oriented, and engaged with everyday spaces and interactions.

Londie T. Martin's "Thirdspacing the University: Performing Spatial and Visual Literacies" calls on Gary A. Olson's (1999) "rhetoric of assertion" to inform her non-linear critique of linearity. She explores and complicates academic/personal growth and progress from the perspective of her own lived experience and through episodic prose pieces modeled on the distinction Lev Manovich made between database logic and narrative logic and on Doreen Massey's (2005) re-imagining of space as "stories-so-far."

Jenna Vinson's "Spatial Shock: Place, Space, and the Politics of Representation" is an examination of her own movement as a service-learning coordinator through theories of space, place, and the politics of representation. She brings together photography, personal narratives, and theories of space/place to think critically about stagnant representations and moments she calls "spatial shock," offering the spatial rhetorical practice of strategically social strolling as a way to productively prolong moments of spatial shock by engaging the dynamic nature of space.

Aaron Knochel & Dickie Selfe's "Spaces of the Hilltop: A Case Study of Community/Academic Interaction" documents an ongoing digital storytelling project located in the Hilltop community of Columbus, Ohio. By pairing space/place theory with the theoretical frameworks of ethnography and community literacy studies, Knochel and Selfe explore some ethical and effective practices of engaging community members in digital storytelling.


Nathalie Singh-Corcoran & Amin Emika trace historical and contemporary conversations about writing center spaces in their webtext "Inhabiting the Writing Center: A Critical Review." Their review moves from the "material, tangible, physical writing center to the more ethereal, digital space" as they summarize key texts in writing center scholarship and offer new insights that theorize the space and place of writing centers.


We would like to offer special thanks to all of our blind reviewers on this project. Their generous engagement provided all of us with opportunities to re-envision our works-in-progress, and we are grateful for their collegiality and support: Kristin Arola, Michael Day, Gail E. Hawisher, Erin Karper, Ken McAllister, Heidi A. McKee, Joseph Moxley, P. Darin Payne, Tim Peeples, James E. Porter, Jim Purdy, Julia Romberger-Depew, Kevin E. Romberger-Depew, Michelle Sidler, Jason Swarts, Stephanie Vie, and Bob Whipple. We also want to extend our gratitude to the Kairos editing and production team. Cheryl Ball and Doug Eyman have provided extensive support throughout this process.