I'd like to introduce you to RhetNet, a cyberjournal for rhetoric and writing.


We're trying to be trendy, right? Get on the add-'cyber'-to-anything-made-of-bits movement, right?

Right! (sort of)

On the one hand, trends are OK. They are just temporary spurts of energy that organize themselves around novelty and stand out against a background of turbulence and stability in the social flow; they are patterns of momentum! We ride that energy and gladly risk the disdain of those who prefer the august and ponderous respectability of stability.

RhetNet is defined, in part, as experimental. Not experimental as in controlled scientific testing of hypotheses, but as in "let's try whatever we can think of and see what happens." Which means that experimentation is not intended to narrow our choices and arrive at some truth or other. It's an operating principle, a name for the process. The logo probably ought to be a question mark, since we stumble forward with eyes open, in a perpetual state of wonder and wondering. The main question is: How can the functions of inquiry, of scholarly conversation and publication, be integrated with new technologies? How do those functions persist as conventions transform? RhetNet logo2

Riding waves of trend seems prudent, in an imprudent sort of way.

And on the other hand, using "cyber" in the name of the journal also reflects adherence to older meanings of the word. What we use as a cool prefix is rooted in Greek terms for controlling, steering, governing. I like the implications of the term as traced in Stuart Moultrop's discussion of the differences between William Gibson's cyberspace and Ted Nelson's docuverse:

Cyberspace as Gibson and others define it is a Cartesian territory where scientists of control define boundaries and power lines. The Xanadu model lets us conceive instead a decentered space of literacy and empowerment where each subject acts as kybernos,   steering her way across the intertextual sea.

Nelson's visions of the future differ crucially from Gibson's. In Xanadu we find not consensual illusion but genuine, negotiated consensus. The pathways and connections among texts would be created on demand.

Think of RhetNet as a small-scale, collaborative, community-supported instance of Xanadu. It's a mechanism for a community of teachers and scholars to exert some control over the gush of discourse it produces. That's why I like to portray the project as simultaneously radical and conservative. RhetNet is designed to provide rhetoric and Internet students and scholars with the means of capturing, contextualizing, searching, and retrieving some of the intriguing and valuable conversations that occur on various parts of the Net, but which too often lie scattered and forgotten in dusty corners of the virtual world. It provides a repository of netscholarship on rhetoric and writing as generated on the net.

We envision it as a decentered, organic repository for all the stuff of the Net that is of interest to the rhetoric and writing community, while also including space for various traditional types of scholarly discourse (though to be honest, I don't expect those forms to flourish on RhetNet, and if they appear, they will not appear unscathed).

RhetNet's Purpose:

  1. To act as an archive for Net conversations relating to rhetoric and writing. Few existing places of discourse (mailing lists, newsgroups, chat systems, MU*s), make an effort to capture those conversations in a form that would allow them to be reviewed reflectively and commented upon in the future. They lack the archival intent that RhetNet provides.
  2. To offer a place for original publication of articles and essays. We're interested in retaining some aspects of traditional scholarly publishing, or at least exploring the possibilities for the co-existence of network and print-oriented forms and sensibilities. The print-type essay form may not be natural to the net, but it might be reborn there, mutated a bit, but still useful.
  3. To offer opportunities for community participation in new forms of old functions (like peer review, editing, production, etc.).
  4. To serve as an opportunity to try out ideas for new forms of publishing the academic conversations of the rhetoric and writing community.
RhetNet logo5

The editorial management group includes an editorial board, but its composition is determined by interest. Anyone who is interested in being *actively* involved in the editorial or technological aspects of the journal is invited to join the editorial management group. Like the various scholarly communities on the Net, the main qualification for joining this effort is interest in writing, rhetoric, poetics, composition and critical theory, pedagogy, and online publication. Institutional credentials are not relevant. In a sense, anyone who subscribes to and posts to RHETNT-L@mizzou1.missouri.edu, the journal's open discussion list, is a member of the editorial team.

To subscribe, send email to listserv@mizzou1.missouri.edu, leave the subject line blank, and in the first line of the note, put: subscribe rhetnt-l yourfirstname yourlastname RhetNet