Pigg et al, “Ubiquitous Writing, Technologies, and the Social Practice of Literacies of Coordination”

Pigg et al developed a research project that is designed to respond to a set of descriptive questions: “what are today’s college student’s writing? What kinds of writing do they value? Such descriptive questions are useful for framing research that concretely (yet temporarily) grounds an understanding of writing’s everyday emerging forms and values during times when shifts in communication technologies can be felt strongly, such as the present moment” (92-3). More specifically, they offer three research questions that gauge their intersts in what college students were writing, why, and what they valued about their writing:

  1. What kinds of writing do students understand themselves to practice most frequently?
  2. What writing practices do students value and why?
  3. How do students understand their most frequent and valued writing practices to function within the broader contexts of their goals, roles, and interests?

Specifically, the authors consider the way that college student writing functions and is valued as coordination, “the role texts play in bringing people and organizations into alignment” (101). Drawing on the work of Ling and Yttri (2002), the authors describe two kinds of coordination that speak to the kinds of writing the students were employing and valuing: micro-coordination “emphasize the instrumental ways writing brings together individuals through the ongoing act of making arrangements (i.e., scheduling meetings) that are rearely set in stone and adjusted continually as allowed by the contact of mobile media” (Ling & Yttri 140 qtd in Pigg et al 102). Hyper-coordination “includes this instrumental work but enhances it, as keeping ongoing connections not only encourages planning discrete events but also grounds social group formation” (102-3). “The ongoing, expressive discursive exchange of texting created and reinforced social norms, including appropriate ways of communicating and presenting oneself within a peer group” (103).

Their method of exploring these coordination practices was outlined in three phases:

  1. Survey: “survey presented participants with a list of writing practices ranging from lists to research papers to texting to multimedia compositions” (96). Participants are asked to both rank the most frequent practices as well as the most valued. “for each type of writing either most frequent or valued, participants were asked to detail why, where, with whom, and with what technologies they typically write in order to account for contexts associated with these practices” (96)
  2. Diary: occurred in two tests:
    1. first, “prompted them to share what they were writing as specific times during each day. …we conceived the diary as a memory prompt that would provide participants with specific acts of writing on which to reflect during later interviews. In order to facilitate that process across several days of data collection, we developed a system that sent SMS text messages to students via their phones at programmed intervals (9 a.m., 12 noon, 3pm, 6pm, and 9pm daily during the collection period). These texts prompted participants to respond (also via SMS text message) by telling us what they were writing at the time that they received the text or immediately prior to receiving the text” (96).
    2. Second, “the final prompt of the day directed participants to an online diary form where they could look back over their responses for the day. In order to further stimulate memory, the diary form prompted participants to provide additional detailed information about three specific writing acts from that day that indicated information about local contexts in which the writing was conducted (i.e. audience, purpose, place, collaborators, technologies used).
  3. Interview: “explored questions of frequency and value tailored to each participant based on survey and diary results”

In their findings, the authors found that SMS text messaging was often more highly frequently used yet not as valued as projects or school notes. Turning to a set of case studies, it was often found that SMS text messaging was used to create contact among distant, distributed friends and family. Distance or mobility seems to be exigence for creating mundane, phatic communication via SMS. Two notable instances: Sarah texted her boyfriend throughout the day: “about what he’s doing and plans for when we’re gonna see each other” (104). She adds, “Since I don’t have a car I can’t just go and see people and friends from high school or anything. People that went all over the United States, I can’t just go and see them. So it’s easier to keep up with them over text messaging. I think that’s important to keep that connection for people that are far away from me, and keep those relationships” (104). Second, Alicia writes “since I’m in class so much and I’m at work so much, everyone texts me. They…my job [café name]…I don’t know how they learned to text from their phones, [laughs], but they text now” (107).


Research on writing as a spatially and temporally enduring presence across lifespheres:

Buck, A. (2012). Tracing literate activity on social network sites. Research in the Teaching of English, 47, 9-38

Roozen, K. (2009). “Fan-fic-ing” English studies: A case study exploring the interplay of vernacular literacies and disciplinary engagement. Research in the Teaching of English, 44(2), 136-169.


Research on ecological framework:

Barton, D. (1994). Literacy: An introduction to the ecology of written language. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Barton, D., & Hamilton, M. (1998). Local literacies: Reading and writing in one community. London, UK: Routledge.



Ling, R., & Yttri, B. (2002). Hyper-coordination via mobile phones in Norway. In J. Katz & M. Aakhus (Eds.), Perpetual contact: Mobile communication, private talk, public performance (pp. 139-169). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


Time use diaries:

Tomlinson, B. (1984). Talking about the composing process: The limitations of retrospective accounts. Written Communication, 1, 429-445.

Hart-Davidson, W. (2007). Studying the mediated action of composing with timeuse diaries. In H. McKee & D. N. DeVoss (Eds.), Digital writing research: Technologies, methodologies, and ethical issues (pp. 153-170). Cresskill, NJ:Hampton Press.




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