Beth's text was written as a book. She has complicated matters rather nicely by prying open conventional academic book form and making it accept conversation within its covers--not as subordinate material but as substantial and primary content. Not an easy task. Oh, typographically it's easy enough, but it goes against the grain of the scholarly domain of print culture and therefore is a bit of swimming against the current.
Yet, it is still in some fundamental way, a book. It won't let us forget that completely. Notice that even as we've slung the words onto the web, they remain, bookishly, silent and inert. The voices we see and hear are mental echoes in our heads, as are our responses, which have no where else to go and are left to bounce around in our individual craniums. Since RhetNet is, at heart, an interactive publication, our job is not yet done. Putting Beth & Co.'s terrific conversations in public is, in this case, only the first step in the publication process.
The question is (and this is a question for everyone who reads and talks in RhetNetland), What next? How do we adapt this work to the web from its current form? Or, not to devalue its current form too much (it's a good read, as is), how do we make good use of it as it sits? How do we make it come alive and continue to thrive as a conversation rather than only as a written record of conversation? Should the text be "mined" for bits that would serve well as snapshots? Should particular sections or chapters be the catalysts for discussions on Rhetnt-L (or other lists) and RhetNet Cafe or Tuesday Cafe moo sessions (destined for publication as Net/Texts)? Might this serve as a central text around which a special 'issue' of RhetNet could be built, with extensive articles/essays solicited to respond to the ideas portrayed here? What web tools or mechanisms can we use to make building and navigating this text and its progeny more productive?
It seems to me the possibilities are numerous, and any of them might be productive directions to pursue. I'm interested in trying to head down most any direction that anyone wants to try.
Please send your suggestions! Vote for one or more of the ideas above or suggest alternatives that haven't been mentioned. Ideas will be put on their own pages and linked from here, so we can begin responding to new ones as they come forth.
This should be fun!
RhetNet Editor and Chief Instigator
Conversations, in its disseration form, was one of four finalists in the 1997 James Berlin Memorial Dissertation Award, given annually by the Conference on College Composition and Communication. Congratulations to Beth!
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Last updated: 08 July 1997