Just Writing Center Work in the Digital Age: De Facto Multiliteracy Centers in Dialogue with Questions of Social Justice
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Multiliteracy, new media writing, and multimodality: in some form or another, the kind of sleek, technological world these terms conjure emerges as a subject of conversation in current writing center work. When I began teaching a writing center theory course at the University of Michigan’s Sweetland Center for Writing, I scheduled about three-days worth of formal space for the stuff of multiliteracy. Among other essays, students read David Sheridan’s “Words, Images, Sounds: Writing Centers as Multiliteracy Centers,” a piece about how Sheridan helped start a “technology-rich” multiliteracy center staffed by tech- and multimodal-rhetoric-savvy consultants at the University of Michigan (“Words, Images, Sounds” 341). I was met with what I soon learned was a typical response to the essay: “So, where is it? Where’s the multiliteracy center?” “Gone,” was my answer, and in an official sense, it was: it dissipated after only a few years,1 and, what remains, among other Sweetland services, is the Peer Tutoring Center, an apparently far cry from the futuristic spaces that visions like Sheridan’s evoke. With computers too old and too few in number, our windowless, underground tutoring space looks like days of writing center past, not writing center future. And despite an understanding of our own institutional privilege, our collective affect resembles that of colleagues at less privileged institutions: many of us still feel like we are a long way off from the kind of cutting-edge multiliteracy center that Sheridan describes.