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Institutional Literacies

Engaging Academic IT Contexts for Writing and Communication

Information technologies have become an integral part of writing and communication courses, shaping the ways students and teachers think about and do their work. But, too often, teachers and other educational stakeholders take a passive or simply reactive role in institutional approaches to technologies, and this means they are missing out on the chance to make positive changes in their departments and on campus.

Institutional Literacies argues that writing and communication teachers and program directors should collaborate more closely and engage more deeply with IT staff as technology projects are planned, implemented, and expanded. Teachers need to both analyze how their institutions approach information technologies and intervene in productive ways as active university citizens with relevant expertise. To help them do so, the book offers a three-part heuristic, reflecting the reality that academic IT units are complex and multilayered, with historical, spatial, and textual dimensions. It discusses six ways teachers can intervene in the academic IT work of their own institutions: maintaining awareness, using systems and services, mediating for audiences, participating as user advocates, working as designers, and partnering as researchers. With these strategies in hand, educators can be proactive in helping institutional IT approaches align with the professional values and practices of writing and communication programs.

Author Information

Stuart A. Selber is associate professor in the Department of English at Pennsylvania State University, where he works as director of digital education and director of the Penn State Digital English Studio. His many books include Multiliteracies for a Digital Age and Solving Problems in Technical Communication, the latter also published by the University of Chicago Press.


“This book will inform a diverse array of readers and stakeholders on university campuses about the need to develop a set of literate practices to better understand the impact of technology on teaching and learning. Altogether, it is a phenomenal contribution to conversations in rhetoric and composition and beyond that, like so much of Selber’s work, will become canonical in a range of disciplines.”
— Kristine L. Blair, Duquesne University

Audience: Professional and scholarly;