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Towards a Linguistic “Glocalization”: A Geographic Approach to Writing Center Theory. April 5, 2012

In 1997, geographer Erik Swyngedouw challenged the way that scholars viewed globalization with the publication of “Neither Global nor Local: ‘Glocalization’ and the Politics of Scale.” The idea of the “glocal” continues to impact geographers’ perceptions of how scale operates, but how might this phenomena, which acknowledges the way that local and global landscapes impact and inform one another, help shape Peer Writing Tutors’ perceptions of global and local writing elements? I facilitated an interactive Round Robin Session at this years Chicagoland Writing Centers Association’s “Winter Gathering” conference to explore how we as Peer Writing Tutors might glocalize our approach to language, and the responses I received from the session were phenomenal!

The Round Robins at the CWCA Conference gave Writing Center tutors, administrators, and staff the chance to critically consider our ideas of “global,” or “higher,” and “local,” or “lower” writing during two 15-minute sessions. When I asked about classic Writing Center conceptions of global and local, many respondents eagerly explained that the Writing Center discourse typically tends to associate sentence level writing concerns—like grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.—with the local and more structural or conceptual concerns—like organization, thesis statements, etc.—with the global. However, as one participant pointed out, in language theory, “global” and “local” are defined differently: global referring to writing changes that impact meaning and local referring to changes that do not. This perspective lead us to question why the Writing Center community creates the hierarchies that we do.

As a part of the excercise, participants were asked to write down the writing elements that they consider to be “global” or “local” on a poster separated by these two terms. Immediately, participants began bending the structure of the exercise by writing down terms like “clarity” in between “global” and “local” or writing down terms like “organization” in each location. However, there were certainly some clear trends. For example, both groups agreed that “grammar” and “spelling” fell under the “local” side of the poster while elements of writing like “thesis statement” and “topic sentences” fell under the “global.”

In part two of this exercise, we observed the colorful list of writing elements and asked one simple question: why? Why can’t grammar be global? Why can’t topic sentences be local? Why can’t spelling be simultaneously global and local?

Enter Swyngedouw. “The ‘local’ and the ‘global’ are deeply intertwined . . . local actions shape global money flows, while global processes, in turn, affect local actions” (Swyngedouw, 140). Swyngedouw may be speaking about the globalized market, but we could just as easily replace “money flows” with “understanding.” Upon reflecting on this point and interrogating the construction of these terms, I asked everyone at the table to look back at the poster, pick up their markers, and start moving, revising, and drawing connections between ideas we commonly associate with the global and those we associate with the local. Soon enough, the list became a mosaic, breaking and blurring the boundaries that once ignored “the dynamic, processed-based manner” that writing operates (14o).

So what do you think of the “glocal”? Do you feel you’ve already been practicing a “glocal” tutoring approach to writing? Or do you want to argue to maintain higher/lower and global/local approaches to the writing process?

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2 Responses to “Towards a Linguistic “Glocalization”: A Geographic Approach to Writing Center Theory.”

  1. Joe O. Says:

    Very interesting post, Mia. Certainly “local” concerns like grammar and syntax have “global” effects on the reader’s understanding of the text. The takeaway for me is that, if possible, both concerns should be addressed in a tutorial, because both play essential roles in the readability of any text.

    • Mia Amélie Says:

      Martina M. and I frequently talk about this and generally feel that flexibility is key, both in how we address these concerns and how we view them! A part of Swyngedouw’s argument that perhaps needed to be more evident in this post: I love how events occurring on small scales can still be global, rather than simply having global impact! An example I gave in my session was from a paper I wrote for a geography conference where the thing that I struggled with the most was one word: should I say “Mapping for the community,” “with the community” or “from the community”? To me, this preposition doesn’t simply have a global impact, it is a global concern. Another participant pointed to the Gettysburg Address as another example of global prepositions; after all, doesn’t Lincoln’s “of the people, by the people, for the people” still echo through the political discourse of today? I suppose my main concern is that as tutors we often feel like working on the sentence level is unorthodox, so I wonder if it might be best to revolutionize our idea of the global and local into the glocal so that we can get more in depth with meaning and the full writing process. Hrmm… :)


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