Re: Shop Talk

Mark Gellis (mgellis@SILVER.SDSMT.EDU)
Sun, 21 Jul 1996 23:52:45 -0600

I think my own recent experiences with Rhetnt-l is proof of how valuable
e-mail is as a research tool. I have received far more feedback, far more
quickly, on drafts of papers or articles by posting them to a listserv
than by simply sending them out to a journal and waiting to see what the
review board thought of it or even tackling a friend in the hall (okay,
okay, I didn't really tackle them...I put them in a very painful wrist get so much more cooperation that way...) At a rough guess,
the average amount of feedback in written comments is an order of
magnitude greater and the speed is roughly two orders of magnitude. The
latter is perhaps even more important, as it allows the writing process to
be just that, a single process rather than two or three divided by months
or years. (I think we all know what it is like trying to pick up an
article we have not looked at for a year after being told the review board
likes it but they would like a few this time, most of us have
already moved on to other projects; for me, trying to switch gears this
way is simply not very easy).

In effect, the ability to survey and/or interview several people who are
a) highly intelligent and well-read in my discipline and b) likely
audiences for the paper or article when it is finally presented or
published, represents one of the most powerful tools any scholar could
wish for.

Combine this with some of the other services provided by the Internet
(computerized library searches and, in some cases, inter-library loan
paperwork, access to ERIC bibliographies, on-line phone directories,
etc.) and the "networked researcher" is at an incredible advantage
compared to the traditional one.

If I may switch gears for a second, I would like to add my thoughts on a
related issue. There has been some discussion as to whether or not
on-line publications are as valuable as printed ones, with many older,
more traditional scholars being highly unwilling to accept the new medium.
The question may soon be moot. Why?

Although Sturgeon's law (90% of everything is crap) applies to what we do
here as much as it does to anything, if my experience as a "networked
researcher" is in any way representative, the traditional scholars are in
for some serious competition. I have, in my opinion, produced more and
better scholarship as a networked scholar than I would have using only
traditional methods. I suspect that people using e-mail and other
Internet tools for research are going to have both tools and collaborative
communities that will allow them, without even desiring it, to completely
overwhelm the majority of scholars who refuse to get networked, not only
in quantity but also in quality. Plenty of good scholarship will still be
done by people who sit in an office by themselves, type their articles on
a typewriter (or writing it long hand and giving it to a secretary to type
up), and mail it out and start writing something else while they wait, but
I firmly believe that such scholars will be at a serious disadvantage not
only as professionals belonging to a professional (and therefore social
and rhetorical) community but also as scholars because they will be
missing out on so many useful tools. And, of course, since the networked
scholars who will come to dominate the field will see little wrong with
on-line journals, the paradigm shift is, in my opinion, not a matter of
"if" but "when."


On Sun, 21 Jul 1996, Bill Hart-Davidson wrote:
> Alice, Eric, and Karl,
> Count me among those who are using (and theorizing) e-mail as a valuable
> research tool. I share Karl's feelings about the benefits of e-mail as
> an as yet underdeveloped medium for qualitative research. I've been
> working with two methodological concepts which take advantage of e-mail
> for my dissertation is the asynchronous interview and the
> other is the participatory data collection possible on discussion lists.
> The most exciting feature of e-research methods is that they are, as Karl
> points out, action-oriented, political, interventionist, etc.
> transcending the traditional "nuetral observation" of naturalistic
> research. I'd be interested in hearing more about the kinds of
> approaches to qualitative research people are developing for e-mail and
> the CCCC proposal for Phoenix was about this too.
> -Bill
> On Sun, 21 Jul 1996, karl soetebier wrote:
> > Alice & Eric,
> >
> > I am a grad student in the professional writing program at Kennesaw State
> > Universisty
> > and I am currently engaged in developing a writing unit in hypertext for a
> > Composition
> > Pedagogy course.
> >
> > I am working collaboratively with another student on this project, but due
> > geographical distance, the whole of the project must accomplished online via
> > e-mail. It
> > is my intent to maintain complete records of all of our e-mail discussions.
> > can see
> > the real possibilites of ethnographic-type research being conducted using
> e-mail
> > as a
> > primary instrument. In this case e-mail will not only serve as the means for
> > accomplishing the project, but also as an efficent way to identify and
> > on the
> > assumptions, philosophies, and pedagogical theory that will shape the final
> > product. In
> > addition it may shed some light on the mentoring process between two
> > as it is
> > that I have had greater experience with hypertext as a medium and my
> > has had
> > greater experience in the design and implementation of writing units.
> >
> > I think that the inclusion of such e-mail discussions in a dissertation or
> > thesis would
> > be an effective way to inform the reviewers and readers of the work about
> > processes
> > involved in creating the work, which would then help to inform the work
> itself.
> > Of
> > course, some might say that this would be like including all of your notes,
> > however
> > unpolished and unstructured they might be, as an apendix. I would argue
> > one
> > fundamental difference between notes and e-mail is that e-mail usually
> > an
> > audience other than the self (although I have e-mailed some notes to myself
> > the past;
> > sort of a virtual talking to yourself if you will)and therefore the
> > value of
> > such a disscussion is elevated. In essence it is a partial, but tangible,
> record
> > of some
> > of the socially constructed elements of the creation act. The purpose of its
> > inclusion,
> > in my view, would be to enlarge the scope of the work beyond what is
> by
> > the
> > text of the finished work.
> >
> > The question for me is: How much of our process do we really want those who
> > judge the
> > work to know? - it could easily work both ways.
> >
> >
> > Alice Trupe wrote:
> > >
> > > Eric,
> > >
> > > You bet I have (thought of adding the email stuff in the appendix).
> Actually,
> > > I've planned a section I haven't written yet on becoming a researcher
> > > (tentatively titled "More Participant than Observer"). My process of
> thinking
> > > this diss. through has been a very social one, and my email is like a
> > > think-aloud protocol from time to time. I cc'd every one of those
> > and
> > > scrolled back through them as I started outlining my chapter that
> > the
> > > study (of a basic writing class composed entirely of reentry women
> in
> > a
> > > Daedalus classroom). I think that explaining and accounting for what I
> > > seeing for the specific recipients of my messages propelled me into the
> "real"
> > > writing process of turning out a linear text.
> > >
> > > Now my only problem is that I'd really rather produce the dissertation in
> > > form that reflects the creatively chaotic workshop class I observed and
> > > participated in than in a traditional dissertation. But I don't think I
> want
> > > to argue my case through the grad school right now--I just want to get
> > > finished!
> > >
> > > Alice
> >
> |o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|o|
> Bill Hart-Davidson
> Purdue University
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