Nick Carbone
The University of Massachusetts, Amherst

As a teacher what I like about recommending Internet-based CMC to students is that it offers them an audience for their writing, even if they come to not think of the messages they send as writing. What I'm concerned about is that the advice and prescriptions about message tone, length and style in the guides might take hold and that the Internet ceases to be a place where people can take chances and make mistakes. E-mail and CMC fosters greater adventure in thinking.

The Rhetorical Dimensions of Cyberspace
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In a recent discussion about computers and composition, I wrote a message which speculated on why, as a branch of English departments and Composition studies, we still use the "computers and " tag in our description. I stated, falsely it turned out, as a point of comparison, that the name and issue isn't as divisive in music. After some remarks which pointed out the error in my suppositions, I wrote the following and include it here, unedited, by way of a closing.


Yours is the second post that called me on that. I had a feeling when I was writing that part that it didn't make sense. But I wrote it and posted it anyway. It sounded good enough at the time to override my instincts.

I'm glad for the corrections. I'm also glad I made the mistake. My habit is to sometimes use lists like this for thinking outloud, trying something, even if I'm pretty sure I'm wrong or not quite getting things straight. I do not think I would do this if we were all sitting around a conference table somewhere.

So much of what we do, at least as I experience, is spent under strictures which require a minimum of error. Some of that's good--it goes to accountability, professionalism, and fidelity to, if not the truth, then the careful use and consideration of sources. Too much of that, however, shuts ideas down before they can get started, much the way a student over using an internal editor on a first draft, where they are trying to get each sentence perfect before they know how all the sentences they are going to write are even related.

This is part of what I meant as a different kind of peer review. Now there's nothing really *inherent* in the technology that makes the reception of wrong ideas as considerate as the comments here have been. It's more a matter of how the people using it react. But part of that reaction is tempered by the technology, whether it's in the time between reading and composing a reply, the context of the prior messages in the discussion and the tone of all those, and the oral/written nature of e-mail discourse with its more colloquial and informal presentations--its chattieristness, to name a few.

I know something as obviously (car)bone-headed as what I wrote most likely would not have been read by as many who bothered to read it if it were presented as an essay in say a print journal, because as a one draft response to comment done at the spur of the moment, I wouldn't consider submitting it. Time and research would have nullified the supposition. If it didn't, peer reviewers would have probably flagged it. So while the incident wasn't determined by the technology, my perception of what kind of community the technology has given me access to, along with my habits of composing e-mail on line using a reply command when writing in lists, definitely made it the whole exchange possible.

This is what I like about this stuff. It allows for ventures in thought our more traditional avenues of discourse do not.

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