Composing the Center: History, Networks, Design, and Writing Center Work

De Herder, William
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Writing center history, design, and pedagogy are often connected and have significant influence over how writing centers work with students. As technologies change, physical locations are altered, pedagogies evolve, and social projects grow, it may become necessary for centers to critically reflect on the history, design, and pedagogical connections within their own workplaces to address misaligned behaviors and designs. This article illustrates how the Michigan Technological University (MTU) writing centers have changed over time and what effects those changes have had on their work. The history was assembled through recovered historical documents and interviews with past center administrators. This evidence is used as a platform for exploring writing center design, drawing from actor network theory, ambient rhetoric, usability design, and multiliteracies theory. The article concludes with an exploration of how other centers might develop flexible writing center designs that may enhance the effectiveness of time with writers and encourage resiliency, resourcefulness, and creativity in center staff. This is accomplished through investigating concepts such as interstitial space, affordances, mapping, and social objects and their influence on work culture.