Made-to-measure rhetorical acts from James P. Beasley

RSA Conference Paper 2014: "Object-Oriented Ontology and Assessment" Intro

“Object-Oriented Ontology and the Material Borders of Invisible Red Ink”

            Hello. I’d like to thank Ehren and Nathan for their participation and important contributions to our panel, particularly in their attenuation to the notion of symbolicity. I’m James Beasley from the University of North Florida, and my contribution for our panel considers the [quote] material borders of invisible red ink [unquote]. Most of us know that the Latin term for “red ink” is the word from which our word “rubric” comes from. Therefore, my contribution to this panel will discuss the implications of rubrics as material beings and the consequences of the failure to understand assessment in these particular terms.

I’d like to preface my remarks by stating that I am not an object-oriented ontology theorist. Both my colleagues on this panel and others in this room have written much more extensively on the subject than I have or will in the foreseeable future. However, my research in the history of composition assessment and its corresponding cannibalism of writing pedagogy forces me to consider Object Oriented Ontology as a viable response to the contemporary assessment situation. By utilizing Levi Bryant’s conception of ontological materiality, this paper will define the borders between “bright objects,” or, according to Bryant, “objects that strongly manifest themselves and heavily impact other objects” and “dark objects,” which are, according to Bryant, “objects that are so completely withdrawn that they produce no local manifestations and do not affect any other objects.” Perhaps the proliferation of trait-specific rubrics in writing assessment is not the result of an increased commitment to assessment, but perhaps assessment is the result of an increased commitment to material “brightness” as a construct. If this is the case, then an examination of the materiality of these borders utilizing object-oriented ontology is not only essential to an understanding of the assessment culture, but it is also necessary in order to diminish the influence that the assessment culture has had on writing pedagogies.