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Conference papers

Situating writing expertise through indexicality: French information designers writing across borders.

Abstract : Learning to adapt one's writing strategies to new communities of practice has long attracted attention from the broader writing research community. Today, researchers and practitioners from a variety of related fields overwhelmingly acknowledge that knowledge about just discoursal forms and specialized genres is insufficient to become a proficient writer in one’s field (Beaufort 1999; Ivanič 1998; Prior 1998; Swales 2004; Schriver 2011; Tardy 2009). Writers are also learning about how different forms of communication display their community's practices, "creating cognitive structures and relational networks among people through shared content (using words, pictures, sounds or symbols)" (Schriver 2012: 277). Clearly such knowledge can only be acquired through prolonged participation (Lave & Wenger 1991) in the specific milieu in which it exists (Artemeva 2005, 2009; Dressen-Hammouda 2013a; Freedman & Medway 1994; Spack 1997; Spilka 1993; Winsor 2003). Moreover, what makes a writer 'expert' does not consist of "a set of neatly isolated and easily teachable skills [but rather] a dynamic and mutually constitutive constellation of forces and processes that enable (and sometimes disable) the development of expertise" (Schriver 2012: 284). However, many studies today continue to focus on ‘surface-level’ analyses of the construction of expertise, limited to describing either what is explicit in discourse/text or to describing the context alongside the text, where context is treated as though it were “talk around text” (Lillis 2008). Such studies, while seeming to ‘get at’ social context, in truth remain on the outside of meaning, failing to bridge the gap between text and context by not examining more closely “how discourse and text index social structure” (Starfield 2011: 176, Lillis 2008), social identity and practice. Situated at the crossroads of several overlapping fields – EAP, ESP, rhetorical genre analysis, L2 writing research, writing for the professions and intercultural communication – the research presented builds on previous work on how a community of practice’s indexicality is created, learned and maintained (Dressen-Hammouda 2008, 2013a, 2013b). Indexes, as markers of group belonging (Bucholtz & Hall 2005), reveal social identity and indicate one’s level of participation (‘expertise’) in that social group. Indexes in writing emerge as one’s legitimate participation increases. The current study examines the emergence of writing expertise in information designers, via mastery of their profession’s system of indexicality. On one hand, the indexes operating in information design practice will be explored through in-depth interviews with 4 professional information designers. On the other, an ethnography of learning will examine how students acquire relevant indexicality in the context of a bilingual, Information Design master's program located at a mid-size university in France. Data collected over a four-year period include two-year reflection journals, the effects of ‘Protocol-assisted audience modeling’ (Schriver 1997), in-depth interviews with students and their company mentors, in- situ observations, and written artifacts (university and workplace writings). In addition, the students enrolled in the program, largely native French speakers, must truly learn to be 'writers across borders' given the international and intercultural nature of their future work, posing additional challenges to the construction of their professional identity. Preliminary investigations confirm the difficulties involved in learning to anticipate the mental representations and expectations of their various audiences.
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Contributor : Dacia Dressen-Hammouda Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Monday, March 9, 2015 - 5:36:16 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, December 8, 2021 - 11:40:02 AM


  • HAL Id : hal-01128478, version 1



Dacia Dressen-Hammouda. Situating writing expertise through indexicality: French information designers writing across borders.. Writing Research Across Borders III Conference, Feb 2014, Paris, France. ⟨hal-01128478⟩



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