Re: Re[8]: Reassessing our practices

Tom Allbaugh (allbaugh@SIU.EDU)
Thu, 15 Feb 1996 10:38:36 -0600

> Beth, Tricia, Steve, Gentleman from SD, List,
> I find this discussion fascinating in a number of ways. I also appreciate
> the critiques of my thoughts. "Real" dialogue at last!
> One of the things I find most interesting about this is the ability to
> dialogue in a way so vastly different than traditional publication. I am
> calling it "Alternative Publishing." I have always been frustrated by the
> politics of publishing for the academy. And of course its association
> with getting full-time work, tenure, etc. As some have suggested is the
> trad. publication route really a dialogue or more of a monologue? (I'm
> going to connect this to practice and the classroom in a minute.) I also
> wonder about the idea that in the 21st century we will get "'credit' for
> yakking on the Internet." You think? Nah. Those with the cultural
> capital and an investment in the current power structure will not allow
> that kind of participation by us unwashed masses.(Recognizing that some of
> you are quite "clean" and part of that structure - **IT IS NOT MY INTENT
> TO OFFEND ANY OF YOU IN THAT STRUCTURE** Critique of current practice is
> ok isn't it?)
> So I wonder what you all think about this idea of "alternative

Mike; because these online conversations "feel" to me like a cross
between a phone call and a letter, in that I am situating my remarks in
another's context at the same time that I am free to "monologue" to my
heart's content until I have "fully" articulated a notion (very much in a
spirit of freewriting or what happens in the best of conversations), I want
to suggest that this form of "publishing" more closely resembles
communicating at the discovery phase than it does communicating at the
"publishing" stage. And I value this. I'm intrigued, because I find that I
want to analyze the rhetoric of conversations, to come in from right field.
For example, in a published essay (or in a television spot) the
writer/director will literally "lift" the thoughts of another and put it in
her own essay framing, thereby giving it a new interpretation simply by
virtue of its having a new context. In online conversation, on the other
hand (I hope I'm not belaboring the obvious here. "I come to this
conversation late..." I may have missed something) when I choose the
"Reply" command on my menu, my remarks become situated in those that I wish
to respond to. In a very real sense, I am not appropriating as much as
showing how I would like to appropriate... In light of this, I think,
"yaking on the internet" then becomes a place where contexts are made
explicit -- IF I CHOOSE THE 'REPLY' THINGY ON MY MENU. This is conversation
par potentially extraordinaire...This is why I think of it as a place for
really developing ideas -- it's discovery, invention, but to what end?
Maybe we don't need to know, but it seems that I am still aiming at final
"products," still showing residual elements of a print based culture. In
the spirit of Walter Ong (I can only get away with this on the internet. In
an academic essay, "In the spirit of..." would be grounds for rejection)
perhaps as we move the 21st century and become predominantly a culture of
internet dialogues, the residual elements will remain. Maybe Walter Ong
would say this, but I don't know what Aristotle would think....Maybe the
published essay will go the way of the epic poem...>
Now for the classroom. I am quite intrigued with the idea of giving up
> the monological essay for a "real" on-line dialogue in a comp classroom.
> Just think of the implications for "distance learning", which is a
real hot
> topic right now. You could have a comp class with students all over the
> world in a system like this!! Just think of the polyvocality of that!!!!
> What a concept!

Because of what I've said above, I think that I would really love
bringing the internet into the classroom. I already have a few students who
write on the internet, and they seem to get a lot out of it. Yet I would
(trepidatious pedagogue that I am) want to bring in the internet dialogue as
just part of the class. I would still incorporate essays. I would think of
the internet part of the course as a place to develop, invent, in the fairly
informal market setting of online conversing. I might note that when this
student of mine wrote in his writing self-analysis about writing on the
internet, his prose style became very smooth, lively, and expressive, a
sudden break from the rigid style he was trapped in when writing about his
10th grade Engfish class.

At the same time, I want to ask, again coming from right field,
about the technology at use here. Walter Ong thinks of print culture as a
culture where most of the "important" cultural information is "stored" in
"repositories" of print. This is a far cry from thinking of the essay as
art. I think that we might, as we bring the internet into our classrooms
(as funding allows, of course) ask our students to reflect on the
differences between print essays and writing in dialogue on the internet.
If we can do such an Ongian thing as look at published works as repositories
rather than as finished works of art, then our students might be more
willing to do both. I don't know. It seems that there is room for both...
> This seems connected to the gentleman in SD who has been asked to
develop a
> distance comp class.
> This also seems a way to move from the monologic essay and toward real
> rhetorical practice and dialogue. Maybe this is the answer to "what do we
> replace the essay with?" However, I wonder how this will be received by
> those other departments who already suspect us of not really teaching
> students to write?
> Comments? Thoughts? I'd be interested in hearing from the gentleman who
> said yesterday that he had given up the traditional essay for an on-line
> dialogue. I assume you or the class pose questions or present topics and
> have the class "go at it?"
> Mike Hamende