Procedural literacy typically involves a critical attention to the computational processes at work in digital artifacts. Our understanding of a web page shifts if we consider it not only as a multimedia and hyperlinked text but also as a rendering of code that normally remains hidden from us. Ian Bogost argues that procedural literacy need not be limited to computational processes, that this mode of literacy encourages a more general capacity for mapping and reconfiguring systems of processes, logics, and rules. This expansive sense of procedural literacy resonates with James Paul Gee’s investment in “active learning,” an approach to education that emphasizes social practices rather than content as a static entity. Both procedural literacy and active learning highlight the importance of engaging texts (broadly defined) as embodiments of dynamic processes and configurations. Procedural rhetoric more specifically refers to the way that a text can be expressive and persuasive with reference to the procedures it embodies (Bogost privileges video games as examples of procedural rhetorics).
I would be interested in a session that considers the possibilities for teaching procedural literacy and procedural rhetorics as well as incorporating them into scholarly work. Areas of inquiry like critical code studies and video game studies would be one possible focus, but I imagine that the session could be more inclusive and expansive. For example, “digging into data” projects seem to require procedural literacy to establish algorithms through which to read texts. An algorithm functions as a sort of procedural argument: “this is a valid and helpful way to reconfigure these texts.” A recent article argued for reading David Simon’s The Wire as a sort of video game, a show deeply invested in attending to the logics and processes defining Baltimore’s drug trade and various institutional responses to it. In this sense, procedurality might be a useful concept for areas of inquiry that take us outside of the digital humanities proper.
My own interests have led me to focus on the intersection of rhetoric and video games (see the Digital Writing and Research Lab’s Rhetorical Peaks project), but I would be very interested to hear how others incorporate notions of procedurality, procedural literacy, and procedural rhetoric into their research and pedagogy.