My current research showcases case studies of intersectional feminist college students’ experiences with writing across digital extracurricular and academic domains. These case studies were selected from an ongoing longitudinal study of eight students’ experiences that is in its third year of data collection. In response to ongoing questions about writing knowledge transfer generally and transfer between online and academic contexts more specifically, this study was designed to explore whether and how these writers made connections between digital extracurricular and academic contexts of writing. To date, data collection has consisted of four interviews with eight participants over the course of two years and the ongoing collection of academic and online writing samples.
Through these micro-case studies, I shed light on two previously under-explored types of writing knowledge transfer across these domains, moving in both directions: the transfer (and transformation) of genre knowledge from academic contexts into digital extracurricular contexts, and the transfer of content knowledge forged through online reading into academic writing assignments.
Participants in this study tended to confirm previous research suggesting that students generally compartmentalize their writing knowledge across these two domains. I illustrate this trend through a case study of a particularly salient example of such compartmentalization provided by the experiences of one participant, Nora. However, there were two main exceptions to the compartmentalization trend. For example, in response to unprecedented online rhetorical situations, three participants in this study reported selecting and transforming prior academic genre knowledge by infusing it with multimodal elements to meet the demands of the new rhetorical situation. This cluster of findings suggests a previously unexplored relationship between antecedent genre uptake as articulated by Angela Rounsaville (2012), and what Kara Poe Alexander, Michael-John DePalma, and Jeffrey Ringer (2016) term “adaptive remediation,” thus putting in conversation two previously separate theories of writing knowledge transfer. Additionally, when faced with open-ended writing assignments in unfamiliar disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, all participants reported drawing on their expertise in intersectional feminism, forged in the digital extracurriculum, as a means of locating topics for academic writing assignments. Through two micro-case studies of writers enacting this strategy, I explore the relationship between reading, content knowledge, and writing knowledge transfer, an area that is as yet under-explored in the writing knowledge transfer literature.
Together, these two sets of findings suggest that in some cases undergraduate writers may transfer writing knowledge across online and academic domains, and that they can demonstrate considerable resourcefulness when doing so: when faced with an unprecedented, unfamiliar, or ill-defined rhetorical situation in one domain, participants in this study drew on resources from another domain (e.g., academic genre knowledge; extracurricular content knowledge) in order to support their performance. These participants’ experiences reinforce models of writing knowledge transfer that emphasize adaptation, transformation, or integration, and they also suggest that more sustained attention should be paid to the roles of digital extracurricular writing, multimodal composition, and reading in future transfer research.