A review resembles a pause in a journey; it gives us an opportunity to take a measure of the surroundings and chart our itinerary. Such is my goal in discussing computer-aided publishing and the ways our students can use it to produce published-quality documents in electronic classrooms. How does the classification of software change as the key terms shift--as text becomes document, as writing becomes composing or producing, or as manuscript page becomes published page? How, too, does our understanding of publishing shift as its functions are integrated more fully into all our writing tools, even our word-processing programs? In measuring the surroundings, I explore the ways that computer-aided publishing has been and can be fit into various composition courses. Although a focus on documents could accommodate much of the commercial software found in writing classes, this review focuses on software intended to aid a person or group in producing a printed document--what is commonly called word or desktop publishing.
My goal is to chart the landscape of computer-aided publishing
and to relate the part of that landscape dealing with print documents
to the teaching of writing. I do not review specific products;
rather I classify types of products, relate them to teaching situations,
and refer to specific resources as needed. My aim is to comment
on this process using two voices--that of the composition theorist
trying to understand electronic writing and that of the composition
teacher trying to improve the electronic writing classroom. The
theorist gives voice to questions of categorization, asking what
publishing means today and what it might mean in the future. The
composition teacher asks how to use publishing in a writing class
and why we might want to use publishing in our writing classes.
In our journey to incorporate computers in composition teaching
and learning, do we take the interstates or the blue highways?
As usual, our goals, values, time, money, and interests help us
The computers and composition literature has been built around themes of "text," "technology," and "writing," with "critical reading" and "literacy" as prominent subthemes. Although we have paid some attention to visual-verbal connections, we need to pay more theoretical and pedagogical attention to those relationships. One point of this review is easily stated: Literature does not focus on how the visual and verbal interact in the making of meaning or in the interpreting of meanings. This is a point that those of us who teach publishing can build a fund of experience to correct. Our experience with integrating visual and verbal into a published document prepares us to address meanings that are other than verbal.
It is also true that the software we use to teach publishing is developed for business purposes. When we talk about using desktop publishing or electronic publishing software in our classes, we are talking about using commercial software developed to streamline the production of newsletters, menus, tabloid ads, brochures, and the like. Thus, we have to understand these programs' commercial intents, match them with our purposes, and negotiate the problematic gaps. Such an activity is not new to us; we dealt with it when we first argued that word-processing programs could be used in teaching writing. At that time opponents charged that teaching word-processing programs was tantamount to teaching high school typing or other vocational arts; we had to bend the programs to our instructional needs. Publishing software offers a similar challenge; we must mold its capabilities to our instructional needs.
In the mid 1980s, low-cost laser printers and page description languages combined to spark development of programs that transformed the look of all texts in business, created a large horizontal market called desktop publishing, and changed the jobs and job titles of many writers in industry. Computers and composition participated in that enthusiasm in only modest ways. Most of us began to introduce desktop publishing into our own work, as Wahlstrom (1989) relates. Our conference handouts, our grant proposals, our résumés, and our syllabi gained visual distinction; we could produce camera-ready copy for conference proceedings; our writing majors' portfolios turned irrevocably toward a professionally published look. We were nervous, though, about the potential importance of "look," entertaining the possibility that improved appearance might lead to praise for poor writing (Wahlstrom, 1989). A literature colleague who gains summer salary by writing technical manuals complained to me that the desktop publishing made everything so easy and inviting that it allowed users to skip the reading, that it encouraged illiteracy. But we also said little publicly about the ways in which desktop publishing allowed political and social groups to produce alternatives to the dominant culture.
Pedagogically, we saw some of the possibilities for creativity unleashed by the increased graphics capability enabled by the page description languages. Fortune (1989), for example, described the ways in which drawing programs can be used creatively in the teaching of writing. Sullivan (1988a) related the use of desktop publishing in an advanced composition class but also described some of the problems encountered by those students (Sullivan, 1988b).
As the range of desktop publishing programs more closely linked the visual and verbal in documents, we began to consider the graphic dimensions of meaning. Bernhardt (1986) talked of the rhetoric of the page and of our need to develop a rhetorical vocabulary for dealing with the visual dimensions of the page. Fortune (1989) argued that drawing in concert with writing helps students to extend their critical thinking and verbal abilities, that the two interact. Ruszkiewicz (1988) focused on how the introduction of graphic-based word-processing software potentially challenged our text-based view of writing. Sullivan (1991) argued that a redefinition of publishing roles in the software invited us to take control of the entire page, but that act of controlling visual and verbal meaning changes the definition of writing and potentially challenges theories of composing. Hawisher (1992) argues that, although the visual actually plays an increasingly important role in computers and literacy, the classifications of instructional software and literacy do not include the graphic dimensions.
The challenge to include the visual and verbal in our conception of writing still remains for us, as does the challenge to extend the meaning of writing process to include publishing. This is true even though, as Hawisher (1992) points out, our theories of writing instruction do not handle the graphic image very well. It may be that the image challenges the verbal. It may be that most of us are uncertain about judging the quality of the visual; it is certainly true that graphic artists do not judge the quality of the text in an ad, only the quality of its typography. Even though the desktop publishing era gives us opportunity to discuss these issues, they remain peripheral to theoretical discussions in computers and writing. Perhaps desktop publishing reminds us of delivery, that out-of-date rhetorical canon, or smacks of a focus on product rather than on process, or conjures advertising and book-making. Nothing new and exciting. Just new ways of producing the old; just fancier new versions of the old.
Certainly we are not educated to the visual as thoroughly as we are educated to the verbal. Recently a teacher responded with genuine dismay to an e-board discussion of the use of visual meaning in teaching writing. Claiming not to be a visual person (i.e., a person who could master writing instruction that included attention to the published look of a page), the teacher asked how that would fit into an already overcrowded syllabus. The discussants let the discussion die, unable to talk to the person about how to get started with the process other than to proclaim that they, too, considered themselves untalented with visuals. I vowed to let an article such as this one be my response. It is a serious problem, and one not to be taken lightly, that teachers do not feel as comfortable teaching about and dealing with a published page as they do teaching students to produce a manuscript page.
We could avoid the problem by saying that writing instruction focuses on the process of building a quality text and that graphics are the province of graphic artists. Developments in technology make that position less and less defensible. After all, the current version of Microsoft WORD (just to take an example of a popular word-processing program) has a drawing program embedded into its structure and column options present on its pull-down menu. Soon, even teachers who do not use desktop publishing will see their students trying to link images and texts. A more reasonable path may be to involve publishing in a writing course and observe the results.
Matters are, of course, more complicated every day, and more simple.
Technological change first exposes the differences and then repaves
them. In commercial software, applications will automate particular
office tasks. At some point, it becomes clear that some new program
can handle these tasks and they become incorporated into that
program. Programs that chart data trends developed that way in
business and then were incorporated into spreadsheet programs.
New users will not be aware of the numbers of programs the earlier
users had to learn during the development; they will only experience
the repaved route. Take word-processing programs as an example
of this phenomenon. Originally they imitated the typewriter, and
conceptually they still do. But much has changed through their
development. When desktop publishing became a phenomenon, users
wanted more control over the look of a page and an easier integration
of graphics into a word-processed document. The word-processing
programs had to adjust or be abandoned.
The Publishing Media:
Producing Documents for Print, On-Line, and Projection
Consideration of definitions is in order, using a broad lens (see
Figure 1). This lens loosely defines publishing as the production
of a document that is shared and computer-aided publishing as
the use of computers in the service of publishing. If we view
the tasks of creating documents from this perspective, then a
variety of software is routinely employed to aid in publishing
a range of documents in various media: The composer can produce
print documents, on-line documents, or projected documents. Computer-aided
publishing is the use of computers to produce an all-electronic
file or program containing a paper document (desktop publishing)
or an on-line document (hypertext, hypermedia, or multimedia),
or a projected document (presentation media). That file or program
will contain text, images (static drawings and photos or dynamic
animation), and layout; it may be in color; it may call other
programs (say to run a video clip); it may include sound. Typically,
when we think of computer-aided publishing we think of print documents,
i.e., documents developed on-line but intended for print. We connect
word publishing with high-end word-processing programs, e.g.,
WORDPERFECT and Microsoft WORD, and we connect page publishing
with mid-size page layout programs, e.g., Aldus PAGEMAKER and
QUARKXPRESS. Desktop publishing, the more commercial term, focuses
on the production of documents intended to be printed; its current
technological problem is on the integration of color into the
electronic publishing process.
Figure 1. Computer-aided Publishing from a Document Perspective.
Hypertext, hypermedia, and multimedia result in documents that
are developed for on-line environments and are not intended for
paper publication. These on-line documents come in a wide variety
of purposes, forms, and uses. Hypermedia documents, which may
share many concerns with print documents but are dynamic in their
use and may include sound or animation, are usually produced with
authoring programs, e.g., HYPERCARD, GUIDE, STORYSPACE, or TOOLBOOK.
Multimedia involves video into the hypermedia process. Computer-mediated
communication uses a variety of platforms to produce a wide range
of texts for remote sharing, from e-mail to electronic journals.
Presentation documents are developed to be projected (via computer
or overhead projection) to aid a speaker who is presenting complex
ideas to an audience. These projected documents, elaborate overheads
that are usually developed and stored on-line, are usually produced
in presentation graphics programs, e.g., Aldus PERSUASION or Microsoft
These definitions may be clarified for our purposes through analogies.
If we considered these types of documents from the perspective
of publishing, we might name them as described in Table 1 below.
The manuscript page, even when it has bolded text and a second
font for titles and headings, reminds us metaphorically of its
antecedent, the typewritten page. But the published page, with
its opportunity for columns, headlines, images, boxes, and shadings,
reminds us more of newsstands and bookstores. Only those of us
who edited newspapers or literary journals are likely to have
had experience with the painstaking process of layout which metaphorically
drives desktop publishing programs. I learned from Vince, the
printer at the Gravois Print Shop where we put together the University
News for St. Louis University. It was the era of hot-lead
composition: The forms were empty until the spaces were made for
the ads; then they took slugs to mark the space for heads, then
lines of type were laid down--upside down and backwards. Vince
would guide you through the session, helping you put down the
right weights to balance the page, helping you judge lengths so
that you did not have to jump too many stories, and helping you
avoid rivers and the like. It took me a year to learn, but gave
me a lifetime of fascination with print and graphics.
|TYPE OF||ANALOGY||SOFTWARE TYPE|
|Word focused||Typewriter Page||Word-processing and integrated packages|
|Image focused||Painting||Drawing/painting programs|
|Page focused||Magazine Page||Page layout programs|
|Screen focused||Interactive TV||Hypermedia and Multimedia programs|
|Presentation focused||Movie Theatre Screen||Presentation Graphics programs|
How can we expect that teacher from the e-board to integrate that
understanding of a page as an empty form that is built into a
balanced visual composition--one that looks and feels right? The
work is complex and requires both experience with publishing and
study in graphic design (see Appendix for resources). Teachers
and students who take on the challenge of page publishing (normally
termed desktop publishing) in the era of computer-aided
publishing pull together a number of publishing specialties and
combine words and images into published documents.
Needs, Complications, Resources, and Situations of Use
Focusing on documents could be interpreted as focusing on editing or on delivery, and thus be thought of as fostering a very traditional class. But emphasizing the published quality of a document need not mean a product-centered class. Publishing is a process, a group process, that both involves and results in the blending of visual and verbal in a space. It extends writing beyond the production of a manuscript page to the publishing of a document, adding graphic choices and production activities to the scope of writing.
It is plausible to use publishing to teach the following concepts:
The use of publishing is tied to the type of class and to the teacher's conception of how it contributes to the class. It is more obvious how publishing fits into an advanced writing class that is aimed at disciplinary or workplace writing. In that setting publishing seems natural and practical. Because students learn how to develop the kinds of documents they will write in their jobs, the documents produced can practically integrate visual and verbal. Possible assignments can include visuals for reports, instructional brochures, articles and books, or communication campaigns. It is in the first-year class that a focus of publishing can seem contrived. There the focus on producing the text of manuscript pages is so strong that teachers, like the one mentioned previously usually think of publishing as another exercise to add or as an activity intended to spark motivation.
If first-year teachers see a consideration of publishing as an
exercise, at best they are likely to teach students to pay attention
to typography, text layout, and headings (Duin & Gorak, 1991),
or to use a drawing program to develop pictures appropriate for
thinking through the writing situation (Fortune, 1989) or for
illustrating the text. If they see it as motivational, these teachers
are likely to teach desktop publishing for newsletters, flyers,
party invitations, games, or books (Sullivan, 1988b), but they
may also give students the impression that publishing is a hobby.
These uses are appropriate, but they also do not necessarily confront
the impact of making the visual important to the writing and to
the reading. For documents to be in focus, publishing has to be
part of the fabric of the class.
The use of publishing in a writing class is also tied to the computer-aided publishing resources available. What you might want to accomplish in a particular writing class may be one need in many that are competing for computing resources; most computing centers try to limit their purchases to a few basic packages and tell departments to fund their own "special" needs. Thus, you might have to recruit other classes or departments in order to make a case for page layout software (see Arcellana, 1988), and the more people you involve the more likely that you will choose a mainstream program (e.g., PAGEMAKER, VENTURA PUBLISHER, or QUARKXPRESS rather than an entry-level program (e.g., Aldus PRESONAL PRESS, Timeworks PUBLISH IT EASY, or Microsoft PUBLISHER)--unless someone offers a volume discount. Cost and popularity often outspeak a careful analysis of what program exactly fits our needs, in part because needs change so quickly and purchasing departments find popular programs cheaper to upgrade.
Take the task of assembling resources for an entry-level approach to publishing as an example of the web of decisions facing you should you either be able or forced to approach the matter simply. The entry-level solutions (see Heid, 1992) are to acquire a word-processing package that has a simple drawing package embedded into it (e.g., Microsoft WORD), or one of the new versions of integrated software packages in which you can be working in the document and click on drawing tools to bring up the drawing program (e.g., CLARISWORKS), or an entry-level desktop publishing program designed for novices (e.g., PRESONAL PRESS, PUBLISH IT EASY, or PUBLISHER). If the facilities used are limited to older machines, the word-processing package including publishing may not load or work quickly enough; in those cases the integrated packages will give you both word-processing and drawing but limited layout, and the entry-level publishing packages will give you good layout choices but limited (and usually clumsy and slow) word-processing features.
These decisions can be complicated by the ways in which the programs work. Microsoft PUBLISHER (for Windows) is intended to be used by people who want to complete simple publishing tasks and includes a device called "Page Wizards," which asks you to answer questions about the document you want to produce and then constructs the layout while you watch. The "Page Wizards" option appears anytime you start the program and invites you to try it. As an approach to tutorials, "Page Wizards" are exciting; they allow a first-year class to go into a lab and create a newsletter without an investment of software training and provide help for teachers who like the idea of including publishing but feel ill-prepared to teach it. But the program also requires that your machine have Microsoft WINDOWS (and all the computing power required to run it). It also can endanger the learning of visual-verbal integration. If the students hand the visual decisions over to the computer, are they learning about publishing documents?
The decisions are also complicated by the equipment available for dealing with images and for printing. Publishing is much easier for beginners if they can scan images into files and use them in the documents (rather than have to draw them) or if they can gather clip art for use in the documents. A scanner is needed for digitizing their own images; clip art software for using the art of others. The image production end of publishing is too difficult for nonartists without the help of premade images. Furthermore, although the quality of a printed document is best when a postscript printer is used, a laser printer of some type is needed for documents that look published. My point is that the decision to focus on publishing involves equipment as well as software, and often involves more than one type of software.
Sensible questions to pose about the commercial software you are
considering include the following:
Many commercial programs can be made to do what you need done,
but it may be tricky. The commercial magazines offer information
about the new programs but speak primarily to business people
who are purchasing software for work, and they often do not address
low-cost alternatives. The best sources of advice are other writing
teachers who have used the programs you are interested in, other
teachers in your school, and the student computer consultants
in your school's public lab. I find out the most about what programs
can do and about what questions students typically ask about them
from those students who monitor the labs. Many of the consultants
spend their time experimenting with programs.
Situations of Use
How we might use publishing in our writing classes drives the complex software decisions we make. Let me suggest two intensities of involvement that suggest different types of software--a general concern with the look of a document and a course focused on publishing. The first might be only superficially involved with publishing concerns, using an entry-level software platform; the second might be focused on making the students independent publishers, using mainstream page layout, drawing, word-processing, and paint programs. The two classes can share discussion of the visual aspects of documents, but they will probably differ in difficulty of the software they use (in part figured by the functions possible and in part figured by the number of types of software they use). Both classes may work in groups to accomplish the more complicated publishing assignments, and both may even produce a newsletter. But the amount of class attention given to publishing should vary substantially, as should the amount of control the students gain over the software. Furthermore, the entry-level class may focus on publishing projects that are smaller in scope--say, worksheets for an ecology lesson for third graders rather than a magazine for English majors. The differing purposes might well be that the entry-level students are gaining a better understanding of what makes a quality published page while the advanced students are becoming publishers.
The focus on publishing shifts some students' relationships with computers and their language in class. They are less likely to see computers as typewriters than those students whose experience is with word-processing tasks; they are more likely to ask for opinions about work in progress. The students who focus on documents may also seem to talk differently about the text--"I need two columns on X" or "Take five words out of paragraph two," which may strike us as at odds with creative expression. Yet such students also say "This text has to be more powerful to counteract the weight of the photo." Their views become increasingly more spatial. As they become creative spatially, they violate margins, slant the type, and gain a balance between wild behavior and stodginess.
This is often a group process because publishing is a group process.
It is an illusion that desktop publishing allows one person to
do the work done in the past by three or four. Even though a page
layout program may look simple when it is demonstrated, the process
of getting all the pre-press work done for a document usually
takes a number of people because they specialize on handling particular
technical difficulties--different people may do color scanning,
layout, video digitizing, development of charts in a spreadsheet
program, or drawings.
Prospects for Computer-Aided Publishing
A focus on the shared document is in keeping with some current approaches to information being developed in computer science. Warnock (1992) has recently discussed the merging of publishing and other on-line communication using "document" as the central currency for information. He argues that ASCII, our default for shipping data electronically, has focused our electronic communication not on information or documents but on bits. A replacement for ASCII needs to exchange information in ways that preserve the original look of on-line and print documents. It is clear from Warnock's remarks that his company (Adobe), which developed the first page description language, is researching ways to program a document description language and interpreter--a hot topic in technology (Tesler, 1991).
As more efficient electronic exchange of documents becomes a reality
later in this decade, those technological developments will destabilize
current categories in the area of electronic document production.
The easier it becomes to move text from a file intended to be
printed into a file intended to stay on-line or into a file intended
to be projected, the more complicated it may become to conceptualize
the text. Poster (1990), for example, writes from the viewpoint
that electronic text is not a development in line with oral, written,
and printed texts (Ong's view), but instead is a radical departure.
If Warnock's (1992) vision of document exchange is achieved, some
of the radical difference Poster (1990) currently can see between
the "wrapping" of printed information and that of electronic
text will demure. His categories will destabilize and our understandings
of publishing will again need adjustment. A journey such as ours
requires multiple reviews and chartings of the landscape.
Pat Sullivan is an Associate Professor of English
at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana.
Arcellana, J. E. (1988, October). Is desktop publishing worth it? Macworld, 5, 107-115.
Bernhardt, S. (1986). Seeing the text. College Composition and Communication, 37, 66-78.
Duin, A. H., & Gorak, K. S. (1991). Writing with the Macintosh using Microsoft Word. Cambridge, MA: Course Technology.
Fortune, R. (1989). Visual and verbal thinking: Drawing and word-processing software in writing instruction. In G. E. Hawisher and C. L. Selfe (Eds.), Critical erspectives on computers and composition instruction (p. 145-161). New York: Teachers College Press.
Hawisher, G. E. (1992). Blinding insights: Classification schemes and software for literacy instruction. In P. LeBlanc and G. E. Hawisher (Eds.), Reimagining computers and composition: Teaching and research in the virtual age. (p. 81-102). Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook-Heinemann
Heid, J. (1992, February). Desktop publishing diversifies. Macworld, 9, 208-213.
Parker, R. (1990). Looking good in print: A guide to basic design for desktop publishing. 2nd ed. Chapel Hill, NC: Ventana Press.
Poster, M. (1990). The mode of information. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Ruszkiewicz, J. (1988). WORDand image: The next revolution. Computers and Composition, 5 (3), 9-16.
Sullivan, P. (1988a). Desktop publishing: A powerful tool for advanced writing classes. College Composition and Communication, 39, 344-347.
Sullivan, P. (1988b). Writers as total desktop publishers: Developing a conceptual approach to training. In E. Barrett (Ed.), Text, context. and hypertext: Writing with and for the computer (p. 265-278). Cambridge, MA: Massachusettes Institute of Technology Press.
Sullivan, P. (1991). Taking control of the page: Electronic writing and WORDpublishing. In G. E. Hawisher and C. L. Selfe (Eds.), Evolving perspectives on computers and composition studies: Questions for the 1990s (p. 43-64). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Sushan, R., & Wright, D. (1991). Desktop publishing by design. 2nd ed. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Press.
Tesler, L. G. (1991, September). Networked computing in the 1990s. Scientific American, 265, 86-93.
Wahlstrom, B. J. (1989). Desktop publishing: Perspectives, potentials, and politics. In G. E. Hawisher and C. L. Selfe (Eds.), Critical perspectives on computers and composition instruction (p. 162-186). New York: Teachers College Press.
Warnock, J. E. (1992, June). The new age of documents. Byte,
The popular computer magazines, particularly those aimed at Macintosh users, carry considerable press about the new technology of publishing. By reading through two years of Macuser, Macworld, Macweek, Infoworld, PC, and Byte, you should encounter all the terminology and issues.
Computer-Aided Publishing Magazines
Graphic Design Magazines of Interest
Design and Typography (not about computers)
Mix of Design and Computer-aided Publishing
Sources of How-To Books on Graphics and Publishing
The major third-party documentation houses (Que, Howard Sams, Microsoft, and Sybex) occasionally publish books about specific programs--particularly the high-end word-processing programs and the mid-range page layout programs. These books will often have step-by-step guides to particular projects.
Two small graphics presses work in this area as well: