Electracy in Praxis: Pedagogical Relays for an Undergraduate Writing Curriculum

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The paradigm shift from traditional print literacy to the postmodern fragmentation, nonlinearity, and multimodality of writing for the Internet is realized in Gregory L. Ulmer’s electracy theory. Ulmer’s open invitation to continually invent the theory has resulted in the proliferation of relays, or weak models, by electracy advocates for understanding and applying the theory. Most relays, however, remain theoretical rather than practical for the writing classroom, and electracy instruction remains rare, potentially hindering the theory’s development. In this dissertation, I address the gap in electracy praxis by adapting, developing, and remixing relays for a functional electracy curriculum with first-year writing students in the Virginia Community College System as the target audience.

I review existing electracy relays, pedagogical applications, and assessment practices – Ulmer’s and those of electracy advocates – before introducing my own relays, which take the form of modules. My proposed relay modules are designed for adaptability with the goals of introducing digital natives to the logic of new media and guiding instructors to possible implementations of electracy. Each module contains a justification, core competencies and learning outcomes, optional readings, an assignment with supplemental exercises, and assessment criteria. My Playlist, Transduction, and (Sim)ulation relays follow sound backward curricular design principles and emphasize core hallmarks of electracy as juxtaposed alongside literacy. This dissertation encourages the instruction of new media in Ulmer’s postmodern apparatus in which student invention via the articulation of fragments from various semiotic modes stems from and results in new methodologies for and understandings of digital communication.