Special issue (10, 3): Writing infrastructures

Issue 10 (3) of CDQ (download a full PDF of the issue here) is the second of two special issues devoted to the theorization and analysis of the infrastructural role writing and design play within larger systems. You can download a PDF of issue 10 (2) here. Below you can find the titles, authors, and abstracts for each article in the issue.

Special issue introduction (volume 10, issue 3): Writing infrastructure

by Sarah Read and Jordan Frith

Abstract: This article is the introduction to the second of two Communication and Design Quarterly special issues focused on conceptualizations of infrastructure. While there are more continuities than differences between the themes and methodologies of articles in the first and second issues, this second issue leans towards articles that have taken up infrastructure as it pertains to writing and rhetoric. This introduction frames the value of infrastructure as a metaphor for making visible how writing and rhetoric structure and enact much of our world, especially for writing pedagogy. In addition, this article concludes by introducing the six contributions in this issue.

Citational Practices as a site of resistance and radical pedagogy:  Positioning the Multiply Marginalized and Underrepresented (MMU) Scholar Database as an infrastructural intervention

by Cana Uluak Itchuaqiyaq and Jordan Frith

Abstract: Discursive infrastructures are forms of writing that remain mostly invisible but shape higher-level practices built upon their base. This article argues that citational practices are a form of discursive infrastructure that are bases that shape our work. Most importantly, we argue that the infrastructural base built through citation practices is in a moment of breakdown as increasing amounts of people call for more just citational practices that surface multiply marginalized and underrepresented (MMU) scholar voices. Consequently, this article both theorizes citations as infrastructure while also focusing on a case study of the MMU scholar database to help build a more equitable and socially just disciplinary infrastructure

The text-privileging infrastructures of academic journals

by Carrie Gilbert

Abstract: There is a gap in the academic literature examining how visual elements enhance verbal communication. We intuitively know that a well-placed graph or diagram can help get a complex point across, but the “how”s and “why”s remain more art than science. When you look at the average academic journal, this shortage of visual research is not so surprising. Despite all the urgent dialog in recent years about multimodalities and visual literacy, the publishing process makes it very difficult to challenge this “text first” status quo.

“It must be a system thing:” Information infrastructure genres as sites of inequity

by Dana Comi

Abstract: Drawing on qualitative data collected from program participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), I show how federal government assistance information infrastructure often does not remediate, and instead exacerbates, existent inequalities. I use the example of WIC’s Approved Product List (APL) to show how the APL, as a genre that’s part of WIC’s information infrastructure, contributes to a hyper-standardized benefit redemption process that increases visibility and vulnerability for program participants. This article argues that increased attention to the genres that make up information infrastructures may help to better locate sites of inequity like the APL, and better understand how systemic/structural problems perpetuate infrastructurally.

Making infrastructure into nature: How documents embed themselves into the bodies of oysters

by Ryan Weber

Abstract: This article contributes to a growing research area in writing studies that examines how documents perform infrastructure functions. The article uses document analysis and interviews to examine the ecology of documents necessary to establish oyster aquaculture in the state of Alabama. The results show that performative infrastructural documents exist in a larger ecology of documents and that they can embed themselves in natural environments and living creatures. This analysis extends the analytical framework of infrastructure-based writing study by connecting writing and infrastructure with the natural world.

A theory of infrastructural rhetoric

by Jonathan Adams

Abstract: This article theorizes infrastructures and their components as rhetorical objects for analysis and persuasive use. Though the term infrastructure has been applied broadly to several studies in the social sciences, writing, technical communication, and technology studies, infrastructures have yet to be systematically theorized as an active persuasive consideration for those engaging in communicative practice. This article makes a case for a taxonomic theoretical understanding and conceptualization of infrastructure that may lead to new methodological developments in future research. This theory builds from theories of infrastructures as relational networks of social interaction around objects. The article aims to assist the persuasive endeavors of those engaged in communicative practice in infrastructural settings.

Using situational analysis to reimagine infrastructure

by Mary LeRouge, Clancy Ratliff, and Donnie Johnson Sackey

Abstract: In this article, we ask what it means to think of infrastructure discursively through situational analysis. First, we consider how policymakers have historically used writing and rhetoric to redefine, reframe, and resituate what infrastructure can be in technical documents. Second, we address the impact of policymakers’ discursive practices on the spaces and material realities of communities. We view the infrastructural function of writing “as a conceptual foundation for revealing structures and foundations of organizations that affect people” (Read, 2019, p. 237). We use three texts as the space of our discourse mapping: President Franklin Roosevelt’s “Fireside Chat on the Recovery Program,” the Green New Deal, and President Joseph Biden’s recently proposed American Jobs Plan. Through these three cases, we argue that infrastructure has always been defined in relation to environment. Any definition of infrastructure is rooted in environment or seeks to change environment. These shifts in definition have been used strategically to bring more visibility to marginalized communities and make their concerns central to the concerns of the United States’ socio-economic agenda. We close with implications for both communities and policymakers.