I’m very excited to say that my field’s flagship journal, College Composition and Communication, has just published an article by my mentor and advisor at my MA institution, Robert Schwegler. Coauthored with his frequent collaborator Chris Anson, the article describes exciting research into eye tracking technology and suggests possible applications in pedagogy. I truly believe that the future will bring more and more opportunity for those who want to expand our research beyond rigid disciplinary boundaries. Not everyone, of course, will want to undertake such research, and no one should feel pressure to partake in it. But ours is a dappled discipline, and more and different ways of knowing are all to our good.
Here’s a taste:
At this moment, you’re engaged in astonishingly complex processes as you read this text—processes that include everything from recognizing minute aspects of letter fonts to applying discursive, disciplinary, and world knowledge to construct meaning. What you feel (or have been taught to feel) is a sort of flow, one word yielding to the next, sentences building on each other, understanding emerging from broad sweeps of your eyes from left to right and back again. In reality, the process is anything but smooth: a series of jerky, erratic movements filled with pauses, false starts, backtrackings, and a lot of guesswork. If we could capture the movements of your eyes across this text, we’d see something more like a subway map than a neat zigzag. The result would suggest not that the text is smoothly offering up its meaning but that you’re doing most of the work, actively constructing meaning from the words to create a coherent mental representation.
I’m pleased to say that the NCTE is offering free access to the article, available here as a PDF. (Someday, and perhaps not so far in the future, free and open access will be the norm, as it should be.)