• Doreen Starke-Meyerring Doreen Starke-Meyerring

Writing, discourse, and the politics of technology in digital environments

Digital technologies interact with established writing practices in complex ways; provide new environments for new forms of writing; and present new challenges for writing pedagogies as much media attention to issues of copyright, plagiarism, the use of Wikipedia in writing assignments, and more attests. This research project, therefore, examines how writing changes in digital environments, how divergent interests in these changes are negotiated, and what consequences these changes have for the socio-economic materialities of writing—for how writing organizes human activity and how writing as a social practice is regulated. This work has focused on larger issues of changing materialities, issues of privacy and surveillance, and questions about how competing interests in writing as a knowledge-making practice are negotiated in digital environments, especially in peer production software.

Articles, Chapters, and Papers

Starke-Meyerring, D. (2009). The contested materialities of writing in digital environments: Implications for writing development. In R. Beard, D. Myhill, M. Nystrand, and J. Riley (Eds.), Handbook of writing development (pp. 506-526). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. [Pre-Print Version]

This chapter examines how the materialities of writing change in digital environments, how divergent interests in these changes are negotiated, and what implications these changes have for writing development. Drawing on critical theories of discourse and technology, the chapter conceptualizes digital writing spaces as spaces whose materialities, most notably their technological designs, often remain “hidden in plain view,” but are highly political and therefore contested scenes of social struggle. The chapter examines three interrelated struggles that permeate all digital writing spaces: The struggle over equal access as a precondition to writing in digital environments; the struggle over the ownership and sharing of files as vital to the ability of writers to draw on, critique, and share other’s work to create new knowledge; and the struggle over privacy and surveillance as a struggle with deep consequences for the voicing of public dissent and robust democratic deliberation.

In reviewing current scholarship examining these struggles, the chapter illustrates the extent to which incumbent industries have attempted to reshape or regulate digital technologies in ways that maintain and expand established print-based business models. The chapter concludes with implications for writing development, specifically for the critical engagement of students, teachers, and researchers of writing in these struggles over the digital technologies that constitute the architecture of digital writing spaces—struggles whose outcomes have significant consequences not only for individual writers, but also for the institutions, communities, and societies we will inhabit.

Starke-Meyerring, D. (2010). Between peer review and peer production: Genre, wikis, and the politics of digital code in academe. In C. Bazerman, R. Krut, K. Lunsford, S. McLeod, S. Null, P. Rogers, & A. Stansell (Eds.), Traditions of writing research: Traditions, trends, and trajectories. (pp. 339-350). New York: Routledge.


Starke-Meyerring, D. (2008). Genre, knowledge, and digital code in web-based communities: An integrated theoretical framework for shaping digital discursive spaces. International Journal of Web-Based Communities 4(4), 398-417.

Emerging digital discursive spaces, such as wikis, offer new opportunities for knowledge communication. However, participants join such spaces through the lenses of their established discursive practices. These practices, however, interact with the code—the technological design—of these spaces, which can reproduce, question, or undermine them, and present alternative opportunities and visions for knowledge communication. Participants, therefore, ultimately face questions about the ways in which tensions between established (genred) practices and alternative practices enabled by code are to be negotiated. Drawing on theories of rhetoric and technology, this paper offers an integrated theoretical framework that allows developers of online communities to examine the established rhetorical practices of participants and the ways in which the code of the discursive space may question or facilitate these practices. The paper then illustrates how this framework may be applied to facilitating academic knowledge communication in a wiki space and concludes with implications for decision making in shaping digital discursive spaces for knowledge communication.

Starke-Meyerring, D. (2008). Education and the Politics of Technology: Pedagogies for Critical Engagement in Digital Environments. Keynote address at the Pedagogical Day of Vanier College, Montreal, Canada, March 11.

We are all familiar with the endless calls on educators to use technology effectively in their classrooms and to reach their students, who—as so-called “digital natives”—inhabit a dizzying array of technological environments, ranging from Youtube and Wikipedia to Second Life and Facebook. In this presentation, I will step back from these familiar exhortations and concerns about sufficient or effective use of technologies in the classroom to examine the consequences of technologies—their design, use, and regulation—for individuals, including students and teachers, and society as a whole.

Rather than neutral tools, technologies are highly political artifacts, which are deeply implicated in reproducing, challenging, or reshaping existing social order, practices, and processes. And yet, rarely do students ask critical questions about their use of technologies, such as whose interests are being served and how; who benefits; and what the consequences of particular technology designs are for individuals and society. This presentation, therefore, illustrates the vital role we as teachers play in helping students learn how to engage critically in the technological environments in which they participate—not as docile users, but rather as citizens who participate in the deliberation, contestation, and shaping of technology design, use, and regulation.


Starke-Meyerring, D. (2007). The implications of blogs for professional writing: Speed, reach, engagement, and the art of the self in the participatory web. In D. Alamargot, P. Terrier, & J.-M. Cellier (Eds.). Written documents in the workplace (pp. 125-138). Paris, France: Elsevier.

This chapter examines blogs as a growing and contested space for professional writing and situates blogs in the context of recent shifts toward a participatory, collaborative “read-and-write” Web, commonly referred to as Web 2.0. Drawing on widely reported cases of blogs written by managers, employees, and customers in the workplace, the chapter examines the impact of blogs on businesses and consequently on workplace writing. Using Gurak’s (2001) framework for internet communication, the chapter shows that blogs represent a critical shift in workplace writing that intensifies the speed and reach of communication. More importantly, as open genres that allow for the co-creation of discourse, they emphasize participation and ongoing conversation over publication, thus blurring the distinctions between readers and writers and demanding engagement with others. In this way, blogs contribute to a new transparency (Tapscott & Ticoll, 2003) that alters how professionals in the workplace communicate with and engage customers, investors, and other stakeholders. Specifically, the personal, independent, spontaneous ethos of blogs is bound to clash with traditional, highly controlled institutional discourse. The chapter argues that companies will need to understand the shift in communication the blogosphere represents and that they will need to design communication policies that are conducive to the spontaneous, open, personal, participatory, and independent ethos of the blogosphere. Moreover, because the influence of professionals in the blogosphere depends considerably on discursive sophistication, or “powerful writing” (Lankshear and Knobel, 2006), blogs also issue a renewed call for the study and teaching of professional writing.

[Pre-Print Version]


Starke-Meyerring, D., & Gurak, L. (2007). The internet. In W. G. Staples (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Privacy (pp. 297-310) . Westport, CT: Greenwood.

This encyclopedia article provides an overview of how privacy is being redefined in the context of the Internet and how different stakeholder interests in control over personal information are being renegotiated. For this purpose, the article covers a range of privacy issues related to internet use, including Internet Service Provider records, phishing, pharming, search engines, cookies, clickstream, cache, Domain Name Registrars, packet networks and sniffers, spyware, web bugs, and the WHOIS Database. The article also outlines the significant implications of internet technologies and policies for privacy and thus for a person’s right to self-determination.

[Pre-Print Version]


Starke-Meyerring, D. (2007). The EU Data Protection Directive. In W. G. Staples (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Privacy (pp. 207-210). Westport, CT: Greenwood.

This encyclopedia entry provides an overview of the EU Data Protection Directive, which regulates privacy rights in the European Union in the changed policy context of the Internet.


Starke-Meyerring, D. (2007). Safe Harbor Principles. In W. G. Staples (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Privacy (pp. 475-476). Westport, CT: Greenwood.

This encyclopedia entry provides an overview of the Safe Harbor Principle, a voluntary, self-regulatory, privacy policy framework for U.S. companies, which was developed by the U.S. Department of Commerce in response to the European Data Protection Directive.


Starke-Meyerring, D., Burk, D., & Gurak, L. (2004). Americans and internet privacy: A Safe Harbor of their own? In P. E. N. Howard & S. Jones (Eds.), Society online: The internet in context. (pp. 275-293). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Drawing on data from the Pew Internet and American Life Project (2000) report, Trust and Privacy Online: Why Americans Want to Rewrite the Rules, this chapter examines how American Internet users may relate to the two currently predominant models of balancing privacy interests: the European Union (EU) model of comprehensive government regulation embodied in the EU Data Protection Directive, which guarantees control over personal information as a governmentally enforced right, and the U.S. model of corporate self-regulation, which views personal information as a private sector concern. The chapter first provides an overview of the stakes involved in online privacy, then discusses each model and its approach to balancing stakeholder interests, and finally discusses what, based on the Pew report, may emerge as a possible alternative model—one of direct citizen control.


Starke-Meyerring, D. (2005). Zur Rolle der rhetorischen Theorie in der Übersetzung: das Beispiel der Übertragung von "Ethos" in einem multilingualen Internetportal (The role of rhetorical theory in translation: Translating ethos in a multilingual Internert portal). In H. Salevsky (Ed.). Kultur, Interpretation, Translation: Ausgewählte Beiträge aus 15 Jahren Forschungsseminar (Culture, interpretation, translation: Selected essays from fifteen years of interdisciplinary research seminars in professional communication and translation studies (pp. 75-92). New York: Peter Lang.

This chapter analyzes the rhetorical construction of ethos in an English translation of a text in a multilingual Internet portal designed by the German government to attract international scholars to Germany in order to stop a perceived “brain drain.” As the analysis shows, although the source text with its heavy focus on German national interests may well appear credible to a German audience, the translation fails to create a credible persona for its international target audience. In fact, from a rhetorical perspective, the translation is ethically problematic for its failure to consider the interests of its target audience and to project goodwill (eunoia).


Starke-Meyerring, D. (2004). An den Schnittstellen von Kultur, Kommunikation und Technologie: Zur Rolle von Kulturexperten in der Überwindung der digitalen Spaltung zwischen Ost und West. (At the intersections of culture, communication, and technology: The role of cultural experts in overcoming the digital divide between East and West). In I. Müller (Ed.). Und sie bewegt sich doch.... Translationswissenschaft in Ost und West: Papers in honor of Professor Heidemarie Salevsky (pp. 345-359). Frankfurt and New York: Peter Lang.

This chapter presents a case study of a nonprofit project designed to decrease the digital divide by disseminating medical information technologies in medical institutions in Central and Eastern Europe as well as Newly Independent States. As the case study shows, technical communicators and the professionals they work with need to overcome not only barriers of lacking infrastructure and technological know-how, but also of culturally situated literacy practices and assumptions reflected in their own cultural contexts as well as those reflected in the design of technologies. In order to participate ethically and responsibly in such diffusion projects, then, technical communicators need to conceptualize the technology diffusion process as an intercultural one.

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Research Areas

Globalization, higher education, and writing development in globally networked learning environments   Writing, discourse, and the politics of technology in digital environments   Writing as an epistemic practice in knowledge-intensive settings
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