Online Education, Circulation, and Information Economies of the Future

2019-08-02T18:27:50Z (GMT) by Patrick S Love
Circulation studies, as the theory of ecological spread of information, impacts public perception of knowledge-making, and digital circulation (i.e. online information sharing) impacts what people expect online knowledge-making and online education is or should be. Online education is becoming a new norm for students and universities at a time when economic pressure is pushing both to be more austere and expedient; at the same time, circulation collapses together the complex ways we communicate, making them harder to differentiate. This dissertation responds to these conditions by focusing on the labor behind circulation and Online Writing Instruction (OWI) in order to study knowledge-making online. Through focus groups with instructors, case studies, and surveys of students in online classes, this dissertation identifies strategies that benefit both teachers and students and improve Online Writing Classes. This work intersects with recent considerations of how mis- and dis-information spread online, the impact of Data Science and Information Theory on communication and knowledge-making, and how to make universities accessible to more people.

Chapter 1 overviews the history of Distance Education (DE) and Online Education (OE) as well as the relevant disciplinary distinctions OWI makes for itself. Chapter 1 also identifies theoretical and practical challenges OE finds for itself and overviews recent shifts in OE student populations. Chapter 2 contextualizes the challenges OE and OWI face in a larger ecology of Information Theory, Rhetoric and Composition theory and practice, Technical Communication theory and practice, and Neoliberal economics, positing ecological links between modern data science, digital circulation, and economics. In doing so, Chapter 2 offers a rhetorical interpretation of the DIKW pyramid and definitions of data, information, knowledge, and wisdom (D, I, W, and W respectively) for rhetorical practitioners. Chapter 3 follows up on Chapter 2’s arguments to respond with research on teacher and student labor in online classes with methods for such inquiry, through focus groups, case studies, and surveys. Chapter 4 presents data from all stages of that inquiry, and Chapter 5 connects together observations from the data with theory from Chapters 1 and 2 to draw more concrete conclusions.