The 11th Computers and Writing conference approaches as discussions on our e-mail lists and in our MOO meetings have turned to such topics as how we will use the World Wide Web in our teaching; how our talents with pedagogy and technology should be defined and rewarded by our departments; the future of our field; the relationship of graduate students to the field and the professional life; and what we teach in a first year writing course. We've been learning about new tools, reflecting on current practice, and thinking about the future.
We find these electronic threads emerging at a fortuitous time for this symposium. For each of the discussions mentioned above has somewhere in them references to our past--where we came from as a field; where participants have come from as teachers and scholars; and how attitudes and thinking about computers and writing is evolving (slower in some places than in others to be sure) in our varied institutions.
With that in mind, Rhetnet, A Cyberjournal of Rhetoric and Writing, and The Netoric Project are pleased to invite you to special Electric Symposium with Gail Hawisher, Paul LeBlanc, Charles Moran, and Cynthia Selfe, authors of the forth coming book:
Computers and the Teaching of Writing in American Postsecondary Education, 1979-1994: A History.
The symposium will use both e-mail and MOO discussions to consider "snapshots" each author has prepared. Snapshots, a term coined by Fred Kemp, are short e-mail essays which offer a look at some aspect or issue in composition and rhetoric.
The symposium will begin May 1 and will run for four consecutive weeks in e-mail. A snapshot a week will be sent to participants as a way to begin that week's discussion. At the end of the fourth week, we will host a MOO session in the Netoric Project's Netoric Headquarters.
When I began this project, the task of documenting the history of computers and composition studies, seemed relatively straightforward and nicely focused a small field, with many familiar landmarks and inhabitants, less that fifteen years old. I believed that gathering historical information would provide a relief from the analyses I usually engaged in studies of current issues that changed their shape so rapidly they made me dizzy most of the time. History seemed somehow more stable and less tricky, better documented and less subjective, more accessible and less volatile than the kind of work computers and composition specialists generally engaged in.
But history, I soon learned, was also maddeningly elusive.
Teaching is where we all began. Our work with computers was part of our work as teachers. More remarkable, it was part of our work as _writing_ teachers. I worry that our field's connection with computers was a way of dignifying the teaching of writing, hitching this low-prestige wagon to the glamorous engines of emerging technologies. Did we connect with computers because we were ashamed of being "just" writing teachers? I hope not. If we did, then I'd expect us to move away from teaching as quickly as we were able, following our parent organizations, MLA and CCCC. We'll delegate our teaching badly-paid TA's and part-timers, and go off in what seem to us more prestigious directions.
My sense is that technological change in the culture at large and in academic institutions has filtered into English departments and driven much more of the move towards the integration of technology than the work of our field. Technology as a theme for the most recent 4-Cs worked because the whole of the culture is grappling with technological change, not because we have some how cleared a hurdle as a sub-field of composition. I must be careful here -- it's not that I hold my work or the work of others in C&W in less esteem; the research and critical analysis that we as a group have conducted and continue to perform is valuable. That said, my sense is that an English department is more likely to turn to us for advice on what kind of lab to install, what kind of software to buy, and for training than for our research.
As you all know, Paul is a terrific interviewer. So, in the early years of our book writing, he did wonderful face-to-face and sometimes telephone interviews with Lisa Gerrard, Hugh Burns, Lilly Bridwell-Bowles, Pat Sullivan, and Michael Joyce, to mention a few of the interviewees. These interviews are some of the finest moments in the book, and we treasure them. But somewhere along the way we turned to e-mail interviews.
When the e-mail interview with Myron Tuman was completed, we all marveled at how Myron's words came to life through e-mail. Then we decided that the new young scholars of the field needed to be heard as well, and we asked Becky Rickly, Johndan Johnson-Eilola, Nick Carbone, Mary Hocks, Locke Carter, Michael Day, Eric Crump, and Pam Takayoshi to participate. But this time there were no face-to-face encounters, no telephone interviews, no e-mail queries--there was only the MOO. And we all stood back in awe.
The closing MOO session will provide an opportunity for final thoughts and observations. Gail, Charlie, Cindy, and Paul will be on hand to answer questions, talk about the history, and talk about the discussion. Signs and posters in the different conference rooms of Netoric will have highlights from the discussions, and participants will be able to access the snapshots and discussion archives from Rhetnet's Web and Gopher sights.
The MOO discussion will be available from both the Rhetnet home page as well as the Netoric Project's home page and gopher (directions on reaching those given below).
To participate all you have to do is subscribe to Rhetnet's discussion list, Rhetnt-L and come to the Netoric Headquarters for the final MOO session. By holding the symposium in an e-mail forum we hope to provide a flexible structure that allows for participants varied schedules and responsibilities.
Among these we know will be attendance at the Computers and Writing Conference in El Paso. One of the benefits of the technology is that it allows the flexibility which lets you schmooze in the west Texas town of El Paso and still get on e-mail to send a message or catch up on the commentary. The conference will also offer a chance for meeting some of the authors face to face.
To subscribe to Rhetnt-L do the following:
Address e-mail to:
email@example.comLeave the subject line blank.
In the e-mail message write:
subscribe rhetnt-l Yourfirstname Yourlastname
Telnet to MediaMOO at purple-crayon.media.mit.edu 8888 connect guest OR connect your character if you have one @go Netoric OR @join Tari or @join GregSIf you're new to Netoric and/or MOOing, Netoric's Information and MOOhelpsheet is available through Netoric's web page.
OR get the info from the Netoric gopher site:
Select "Alliance for Computers and Writing"
Then select "NETORIC"
Finally, select Netoric.guide, and use the help selections for your gopher client to find out how to e-mail the guide (helpsheet) to yourself.
If you don't have access to gopher or the WWW, write to Tari or Greg, addresses below, to have the helpsheet e-mailed to you.
| Tari Fanderclai | Greg Siering |
| firstname.lastname@example.org | Ball State University |
| email@example.com | firstname.lastname@example.org |
If you have any other questions, please feel free to e-mail Nick Carbone at email@example.com.