Although it may not have sounded like it in class, I do like Nardi & O’Day’s approach to the idea of information ecologies. And as I mentioned, their explanation of an ecology sounds like a more dynamic conception (a 3-D version, if you will) of the rhetorical situation. I’m still wary of their “we are not cogs” position in the following comment, but I do really like the way they talk about what the ecology allows for, in the third sentence: “In an ecology, we are not cogs in sweeping sociological processes. Instead, we are individuals with real relationships to other individuals. The scale of an ecology allows us to find individual points of leverage, ways into the system, and avenues of intervention.”
Isn’t that one of the central lesson we hope our students will take from whatever writing class we are teaching? We want them to find a way in, a place to land—whatever metaphor/cliché you prefer. So I like what the idea of information ecologies could bring to a professional writing classroom.
As far as assignment ideas go, I’m having a hard time moving beyond the find-an-ecology-and-write-something-about-it stage. The Wolff idea that Christian posted looks interesting so I’m going to take a closer look at it. And I like Matt’s ideas about keystone texts.
Perhaps a good place to start would be with the concept of “diversity,” as explained by Nardi & O’Day. While they speak of diversity in people/knowledge/skills as well as tools/texts, I think I would focus this assignment on the tools/texts. There would be great value, I think, in students’ learning about all of the different kinds of informational and persuasive texts the populate any given information/workplace ecology. So that would be the starting point for the assignment: I would ask students, after they’ve read about this idea, to identify such an ecology and the texts that circulate through it. From there, they could engage in classification, explanation, analysis, and other kinds of writing exercises. (Clearly, I’m still thinking about this one …)