This project considers how composition might benefit from and contribute to the maker movement: “a contemporary culture or subculture representing a technology-based extension of DIY culture” that “stresses new and unique applications of technologies, and encourages invention and prototyping” (“Maker Culture“). This project is not the first to envision a pedagogical intersection between the maker movement and composition. In “Composing the Carpenter’s Workshop,” James J. Brown and Nathaniel Rivers envision an object-oriented future for composition studies, one where students compose objects like puzzles and glass sculptures with ads and packaging for their objects. The future Brown and Rivers imagine is partially an extension of Jody Shipka‘s multimodal composition theory and partially an enactment of Ian Bogost‘s call to include *all matter* and not just “written matter” in humanities scholarship. In Brown and Rivers’ vision of students as makers, students create objects in order to learn about and communicate the reality that nonhumans have rhetorical agency.

Like Brown and Rivers’ vision, this project assumes that the maker movement can influence rhetoric and composition in ways that are positive in terms of the maker movement’s philosophies and pedagogies — not just the movement’s technologies. But where Brown and Rivers consider how the maker movement emphasizes the rhetorical agency of nonhuman actors, I consider how the maker movement connects people through making and through the reception of made objects. The goal of this text is to glean lessons from the maker movement in order to begin developing a composition pedagogy that emphasizes the power of composing as a medium for connecting to others. Maker culture, I observe, does this quite well while English Studies still carries some of the cultural freight of the lone writer.

This project comes in two parts. In part one, I define the maker movement and suggest a common value shared by composition’s teacher-scholars and the maker movement’s makers: the impulse to connect and interact with others through both processes and products. Then in part two, I provide examples of two pedagogical practices that rhetoric and composition might glean from the maker movement . The first is the group tutorial, a “tinker-centric” pedagogy that includes collaboration and “kinesthetic speculation” — a kind of trial and error governed by tactile interaction (Sayers 282). The second practice is prototyping: the practice of developing a version of an object. In maker culture, makers construct prototypes through a tools like the desktop 3D printer (pictured below).

A 3D printer called the Makerbot Replicator 2. More information available here:

Both practices — tinkering and prototyping — assume that there is a goal underlies an act of composing: the desire to connect with others through textmaking and through the reception of texts. The first practice, tinkering, emphasizes connection to others through textmaking. And prototyping emphasizes reader’s experiences with texts and the composer’s connection to others through textual reception.