Marylin Cooper develops a new model for understanding the process of writing in The Ecology of Writing. The current model that poses writing as a cognitive process is illustrated by a solitary author who develops his or her writing in privacy away from the external influences of the world. The issue with this model as Cooper points out is that it assumes an isolated system away from the source of information as well as potential audiences. I fully agree with this issue as a solitary author would be impossible to achieve. However, I do believe there is merit to the cognitive process used to describe writing that is used by the solitary author, only this is done in conjunction with other writers in a larger system. This is expanded on by Cooper which leads into a full model of ecology for writing that describes writing as a system rather than a process. The latter portion of the article discusses an important element in writing, especially in relation to professional writing: audience.
While there are many tools and paradigms developed in writing, it is the specific set of readers that make up the audience that best dictate which should be used. What I find fascinating is the fact that structure and rules actually better free up the use of a writer’s mind to best convey their message. It is shown in many other instance, project management particularly, that have structure to the process or reports allows for greater freedom and flexibility in achieving a goal (Project Management: The Managerial Process with MS Project by Larson & Gray). That can be applied to many other tasks including that of writing. When a specific audience is expecting a certain format it also implies that there is to be certain information pertained in a particular portion of the writing, this helps guide the writer in organization. The type of audience also can dictate the form of rhetoric used, enabling the writer to narrow in the vocabulary in which to convey the information. This and many other tools are only available and applicable by the system provided when writing.
A system is a collection of entities that are continuously interacting with other entities within an environment. Cooper dictates these writing entities in the system as “engaged writers” who are constantly in contact with not only one another via written word, but the world in which their subject matter exist, the potential audience in which they wish to reach, and other extraneous entities with opinions or contributions on the topic or its method of conveyance. Not only does the engaged writer become influenced by its interaction with these other entities, the engaged writer also influences the rest of the entities in the environment either directly or indirectly. Cooper expands on this with the example of a college president sending a holiday email to the faculty. This would then affect the structure in which the faculty communicates within the university, perhaps trickling down to the students.
While I support Cooper’s model and understand that the article was meant to encompass all forms of writing, I believe the importance and helpfulness of the paradigms enabled by the social nature of writing expressed throughout the article should be emphasized. These paradigms allow writers to focus more on the content rather than be concerned with the best methods in which to convey the content. The model of ecology best explains the development of these important paradigms and tools.