"Wayfinding: The Development of an Approach to Lifespan Writing." Improvisations: Methods and Methodologies for Lifespan Writing Research. Edited by Talinn Phillips. and Ryan Dippre. WAC Clearinghouse/University Press of Colorado. Forthcoming.

In this chapter, we describe how wayfinding has evolved from a metaphor to a research methodology in our studies of UC alumni 3-10 years after graduation. As a metaphor, wayfinding captures both the intentional and serendipitous character of alumni’s writing experiences. As a framework, wayfinding directs our attention toward describing writers’ agency as they navigate, orient themselves within, and create multifaceted, protean writing contexts. The chapter concludes by illustrating five research questions that represent different dimensions of wayfinding. These research questions are operationalized into a survey design that, when combined with focus group responses, will elicit large-scale data on alumni’s writing lives.

"Slipping into the World: Platforms, Scale, and Branding in Alumni’s Social Media Writing." Computers & Composition, 67.

In this article, we draw on focus group interviews collected for the Wayfinding Project to explore how university alumni orient themselves as writers while participating in social media after graduation. By looking at a granular level at the descriptions of alumni’s writing processes across public networks, we are able to trace pathways that recognize the rhetorical and communicative intentions of users, while also acknowledging the roles that serendipity, creativity, and the unexpected play in shaping these literate practices. Specifically, we point to how these alumni describe their experiences as they adapt to addressing audiences across different platforms and confront the “reach” of those platforms for engaging unexpected audiences. Several focus group participants use the term “branding” as a way to describe how they conceive of their writing across multiple social networks. These participants describe their public, networked writing as a form of managing their identities at the same time that they are “branding” themselves to manage the expectations of multiple audiences. In sum, our research shows us how the unexpected audiences generated through social media participation operate in tension with writers’ deliberate shaping of their messages and their self-presentation.

"Collaboration as Wayfinding in Alumni’s Post-graduate Writing Experiences." In Julia Bleakney, Jessie L. Moore, and Paula Rosinski (Eds.), Writing Beyond the University: Preparing Lifelong Learners for Lifewide Writing (pp. 24-37). Elon, NC: Elon University Center for Engaged Learning.  Or

In this chapter we draw upon a pilot study of twenty-two University of California alumni from our three different campuses to consider how post-collegiates orient themselves to different forms of collaboration, both intentionally and serendipitously. In particular, following Ken Bruffee’s famous assertion that “collaborative learning models how knowledge is generated” (1984, 647), we examine the learning about their own writing development these participants engage in as they work with others in and across professional, personal, and civic contexts after graduation. We have in mind Xiqiao Wang’s (2019) attention to the ways in which the failure to meet particular goals opens up opportunities for improvisation. Similarly, Clay Spinuzzi’s (2015) research examines how contingent, ever-changing forms of teamwork open up more fluid ways for writers to learn from one another. In this account, we likewise foreground the exploratory, unanticipated, and often contingent forms of collaborative writing our participants engage in as they--and those they collaborate with--imagine, define, and create goals for shared writing that are grounded in reflections on their own practice. 

“When Things Collide: Wayfinding in Professional Writers' Early Career Development.”  Literacy in Composition Studies. Vol. 9.1 (2022)

In this article, we explore how the concept of wayfinding allows us an opportunity to map post-collegiate writers’ complex and recursive movement in and out of different territories, realms, spaces, and spheres of writing ecologies. Focusing specifically on accounts from seven alumni who participated in focus group interviews during 2018-19, we offer stories of writers’ navigating the transition from college to workforce. Using wayfinding as our theoretical lens, we pay attention to the ways in which writers trace the idiosyncratic paths they follow as they draw on knowledge and abilities from different and multiple writing ecologies, not just school-based learning. Moreover, focusing on writers’ articulated sense of wayfinding honors the knowledges they are building about writing. Such examples show us how alumni “find their way,” and introduce three emergent themes in our ongoing analysis of wayfinding. Our participants describe their ongoing and developing journeys as writers: (1) encountering the unexpected, (2) navigating career plans and paths, and (3) seeing beyond the boundaries of writing contexts. In each case, we narrate how wayfinding helps us illuminate the complex dynamics at play as these writers continue to explore how writing is meaningful in their lives.

"Affect and Wayfinding in Writing after College." College English. Vol. 82.6 (July 2020). (563-590)

This article explores the emergence of emotion and affect as important dimensions of how, approximately three to ten years after graduation, writers with bachelor’s degrees engage in composing activity professionally and personally. Specifically, this article looks at how emotion about writing projects can serve as signposting, allowing writers to connect to their work and compose in ways that have an emotional impact on readers. More compellingly, emotions can also orient—and re-orient—writers toward a better understanding of what they need, and want, that writing to do. This emotional engagement builds their self-definition and identity as writers. After reviewing relevant scholarly literature in the field, the authors turn attention to an examination of survey and focus group data that demonstrate how emotion and affect, sometimes unexpectedly, are powerful resources that individuals engage with in developing their own senses of themselves as writers.

“Toward Wayfinding: A Metaphor for Understanding Writing Experiences.” Written Communication, Vol. 37.1 (2020). (104–131)

In this essay, we map out four major approaches to the study of writing experiences: (a) worlds apart, (b) literacy in the wild, (c) ecologies and networks, and (d) transfer. We examine how the primary metaphors used in each approach have contributed to our field’s understanding of writing. In focusing on specific dimensions of writing, each framework privileges a different aspect of the writing process, writing development, and/or writers’ context(s). Building on these approaches, we propose the concept of wayfinding to emphasize how writers navigate their own writing development, skills acquisition, and changing knowledge about writing over time. Wayfinding offers a metaphor that resonates with recent work on lifelong learning and meaningful writing. Among other characteristics, wayfinding emphasizes how writers encounter a continuous potentiality in writing and how they navigate unanticipated challenges and opportunities.


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Lindsey Harding, Robby Nadler, Paula Rawlins, Elizabeth Day, Kristen Miller, and Kimberly Martin.  "Revising a Scientific Writing Curriculum: Wayfinding Successful Collaborations with Interdisciplinary Expertise."  College Composition and Communication 72:2 (December 2020).  (333-368)

Interdisciplinary collaborations to help students compose for discipline-specific contexts draw on multiple expertise. Science, technology, education, and mathemat-ics (STEM) programs particularly rely on their writing colleagues because 1) their academic expertise is often not writing and 2) teaching writing often necessitates a redesigning of existing instructional materials. While many writing studies schol-ars have the expertise to assist their STEM colleagues with such tasks, how to do so—and, more fundamentally, how to begin such efforts—is not commonly focused on in the literature stemming from these collaborations. Our article addresses this gap by detailing an interdisciplinary Writing in the Disciplines (WID) collaboration at a large, public R1 university between STEM and writing experts to redesign the university’s introductory biology writing curriculum. The collaborative curriculum design process detailed here is presented through the lens of wayfinding, which concerns orientation, trailblazing, and moving through uncertain landscapes ac-cording to cues. Within this account, a critical focus on language—what we talk about when we talk about writing—emerges, driving both the collaboration itself and resultant curricular revisions. Our work reveals how collaborators can wayfind through interdisciplinary partnerships and writing curriculum development by transforming differences in discipline-specific expertise into a new path forward.