Web 2.0 Wavelengths: Examining Spaces Created Within Electronic Discourse – CCCC 2009 – N13

[I came in about 10 minutes late so I didn’t catch the beginning. These are my rough notes, lightly edited.]

Johnathan Bartels
Wikis. Bartels examines how students in a small rural environment, many of whom knew each other since kindergarten, interacted online in a classroom website. “Wet Paint” was the name of the service. The website and the classroom were not one; the students decided they were two different things. “They didn’t see it as a school thing.” Students felt ownership of a server, the county expressed taking over ownership of the server.
Jennifer Buckner, microblogging.
Explores the idea of figured worlds in microblog discourse. Identity Agency and Cultured Worlds. A historically contigent, socially enacted, and culturally constructed world. Figuring this world thorough avatar posts and posts in the microblog discourse. Struggle with traditionally situation classrooms with teacher dominant and students powerless; social media presents an alternate method that she prefers.
“Rhetoric of Technology and the Electronic Writing Class.” Hawisher and Selfe.
Traditional discussion forums – very top down. The teacher’s post is larger, in the most dominant position, student replies are subservient. Students can’t always initiate the posts, student comments are often truncated. Started in Twitter, gravitated to Pownce within a couple months. Chose to use Pownce for her classroom discourse that took place outside of the class. Two “developmental writing” courses (Buckner questions the turn). Pownce architecture – students see their own avatar when logged in; students had agency over who they communicated with. Teacher can’t really learn who’s friends with whom. Builds on the “membershipping notion” that confers some agency on students. Multimodal – includes music and video files. (Only the teacher took advantage of the video/audio). Students had agency over who could read the post.
Wanted to get away from student writes, submits to teacher, teacher reads, submits grade. Doubled teacher-student conferences, adopted writing group with much more student discourse; how to make what we’re doing in the writing really conversational? Incorporated video responses. Didn’t put a grade into the video response because it would put the video response into a position of power. But most students wouldn’t be able to respond with video. Some students thought the video response was cool, others said they didn’t like seeing her face when she responded to their readings. When a student made a statement that Bruckner interpreted as a potentially inappropriate revelation, it might have been a prank. To what extent is the online environment appropriate for such revelations? To Bruckner, the students should use their online space to say the kinds of things that would be appropriate in class. [But doesn’t it make sense to let students use the different spaces in different ways?] When a student suggested writing two thesis statements, Bruckner wrote “let me have them”, and is now horrified to see the ownership implied in that language. When introducing an informal response from the teacher, attempting to treat the students as equals, Buckner found herself falling into her teacher role, reminding students of class procedures. Noticed that she made herself vulnerable, trying to make up for playing authority figure, by sharing a revelation designed to make her feel vulnerable? A personal statement sharing that her dog died prompted some responses from students. The only note in the whole class that used Pownce’s ratings feature. Presented and analyzed a series of avatars she had used in the Pownce environment.
Deanya Lattimore
Weblogs Meet the Academic Argument Essay
What happens when students are asked to revise an essay into weblogs? New title: “How I Killed the Weblog”
Reacing to Norbert Elliot’s podcast, “The End of the Essay.” What would happen if the essay were abolished? Lattimore notes “essay” means “to put to the test” or to “experiment” – uses the term as a transitive verb – to “essay” something, especially an initial, tentative effort. This term describes the kind of writing she’d like students to do. Elliot wants us to challenge our beliefs about what an essay is good for. Wants us to ask ourself whether other forms might better serve the rhetorical and cognitive structures. Can our students rise to the challenge of creating hypertext essays? Use student’s existing research to make a persuasive online argument. Jeff White’s “hypersuasions” that use the term pejoratively for essays that take the medium to an extreme.
Students wondered how to take research writing and make it accessible to online readings. Some students adapted academic arguments into multiple posts. One student writing on end-of-life issues adopted a professional style, with the essay broken up into chunks. “But you might ask, where’s the blog?” The citations link to the internal bibliography only, rather than out to external sites. There are no comments on these student blogs, not even Lattimore’s comments (she gave her feedback elsewhere). The same student posted song lyrics and reflected on how they helped her make sense of the research she was doing. She called it “ramblings” vs all other posts categorized as “schoolwork”. All the “schoolwork” posts were completed within a few minutes of each other. The student’s ramblings category is much better for thinking things through, working things out. Student presented a personal reflection that explains her personal interest in the end-of-life issue – a slowly dying relative. [I don’t think it’s quite true that it’s impossible to include personal reflections in an academic essay – the feminist tradition is full of examples of academic papers that intersect with personal experiences.]
Notes that by asking students to “essay” they were scared away from links. Students appreciated the ability to persuade rather than argue. One student is trying to convince her father to quit smoking, and uses graphics and videos in order to support her claim. She incorporated interviews with her father. The student reaches out of the genre of the traditional essay.
A student writing on “Can Video Games Teach?!?!?!” used the blog as a great thinking space; wrote a narrative about his learning. A student recorded his development of the issue of how you determine the criteria for violence in video games. Selfe and Hawisher caution us to be critical of ways our technology perpetuates the dominant discourse.
Next time, would start with the weblog as a genre, would treat the blog space as a portfolio, the posts as process think writing, and the pages as product essays. “And I might let the academic essay rest in peace.”
Todd Finley: Early adopters are pretty comfortable at failing a lot.
Microblogging as a professional development tool. MB is an excellent tool “Yammer in particular” for organic professional development. Albert Wallace was coming up with the theory of evolution just about the time as Darwin; Wallace came up with his theory “during a fever dream.” Speaks to a space that has incredible value, heightened emotional space, that we tend to marginalize.
Defining moments: Self-conscious group of 21 academics sharing a network space – first on Pownce, then moving to Yammer. Group members tested out the space by swearing in it. Finley recalls crying over the death of a dog he had never met, owned by a person he had spent 3 hours with face-to-face. Buckner’s student who seemed suicidal; Finley was careful about appearing to show off by helping out another colleague in a public space; admitted to the group that he didn’t understand when people used the acronym CDA [Don’t feel bad, Todd, I wasn’t able to place it either. Gee’s c___ discourse analysis].
[My thought so far… I’m not sure I see anything particularly new about this space that hasn’t already been explored in listservs or MUDs.]
Anxiety is related to professional productivity, which also relates to status. Finley Googled for a blog on napping, says he will start one. It shows status to say you’re exhausted but still working, and that relates to status. People who got too “braggy” didn’t get responses. If you advertise yourself as a neophyte who got something published, and you’re really excited about it, there’s a celebration. The group doesn’t spend that much time talking about spouse, or sexuality. Outside intimacies are a threat to the inside intimacies. Senior men can establish themselves as not interested in hitting on the younger females if they occasionally mention their wife, but too much of that becomes problematic. Alliances are not discussed. Cerebral academic conflicts are fine, affirmed on the surface, but any conflict involving emotions does not happen. “How much trust is there in this group?” Religion is not discussed; easier for some to make revelations in public. [But is that because most of us intellectually came into our own in realspace?]