Ametros: A Technogenetic Simulation Game for Professional Communication Coursework
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This dissertation develops a pedagogy of professional communication for online education that provides a degree of feedback higher than that of a classroom setting. In order to construct such pedagogy, I examine professional communication from three perspectives: cognitive, technological, and rhetorical. Cognition and technology are becoming, in many senses, indistinguishable. Technology is extending and augmenting cognitive processes such as memory through databases, spatial awareness through various global positioning technologies, and especially the greater cognitive attention system via the sheer magnitude of media channels. Much of this extension and augmentation is happening beneath, or at least outside of consciousness; in most cases, we are not consciously aware of the cognitive effects of technologies such as SIM cards or databases. They are ubiquitous, deeply embedded, and routine. Katherine Hayles and Nigel Thrift designate this effect of technology on cognition as the “technological unconscious”. I term this increasingly unconscious relationship of cognition and technology as technogenetic. Following Niklas Luhmann, I argue that the autopoietic operationally closed nature of the human biological system forecloses purity; as Luhmann expresses it, “only communication communicates,” not communicators. While machines experience the pure communication of digital code, human beings must rely on cognitive processes, constrained and afforded by mental affinities. This dissertation explores research in a number of disciplines from the work of Sperber and Mercier in cognitive psychology on the argumentative nature of human reasoning to the work of Jeanne Fahnestock, Randy Allen Harris, and others on cognitive rhetoric and figural logic to conclude that argumentation in its many facets is the key rhetorical skill necessary to navigate a technogenetic world. A technogenetic rhetoric engages writing as argumentation within the extra-discursive factors created by the technological unconscious. Technogenetic rhetoric also assumes the visuospatial aspects of technologically enframed communication. As a pedagogy, technogenetic rhetoric follows a constructivist model; in this dissertation, realized by a contextually authentic online simulation game that I call Ametros: A Professional Communication Simulation Game. Ametros is a Greek word that means “without measure” that I use to represent the complexity of contemporary technogenetic systems of communication. Ametros organizes and deploys the elements of discursive, extra-discursive, and visuospatial rhetoric in a ludic environment that provides a combination of human and artificial intelligence driven feedback superior to both existing online solutions and most large classroom settings. The artificial intelligence, in turn, develops recursively through the creation and of corpora of student communication using an annotation interface based on ontologies of argumentation and figuration. These annotations will engage natural language processing algorithms that will, over time, allow the machine to provide real-time feedback on communication skills of the student. Ametros provides an experiential and ludic environment that moves pedagogy of composition, in all of its forms from one of delimited process to a procedural logic of iteration better able to navigate complex systems where audiences as assemblages of human and technological actors determine and are determined by, interactions of cognition and technology.