This is a bit of a long ramble. I’ll offer my notes here on two panels, because I think their differing perspectives — one pedagogical, one professional — intersect in interesting ways: “Writing in Electronic Spaces: Blogs and the Writing Classroom,” with Quinn Warnick, Margaret Ervin, and Fred Johnson; and “What Does Blogging Do? Weblogs, Change, and Middle Spaces,” with Clancy Ratliff and Jonathan Goodwin. Collin Brooke has talked about some of the ways in which our pedagogy does or doesn’t remediate (in Bolter and Grusin’s sense of the term) our professional practice, and vice versa, and he’s pointed out that academic blogging enacts many of the notions of knowledge as processual, embodied, and constructed that we privilege in our scholarship. I’m sure there are some folks who would argue that such a circumstance reflects just as much wanton and silly self-indulgence as did Landow’s Hypertext: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology fourteen years ago, but I think the talk about blogging — at least in our field — has remained usefully grounded and focused (and so avoided some of Landow’s high-flown excesses), and I’d also argue that some of the criticisms of Landow are themselves overblown. But I’m already wandering off-topic here, so I’ll just say: I’m curious if other people saw interesting or productive connections between the pedagogical and the professional perspectives (with all due disclaimers, yes, about spurious binaries and how the pedagogical is professional, thank you) offered by the two panels.
The first panel, on “Blogs and the Writing Classroom,” featured Quinn Warnick, Margaret Ervin, and Fred Johnson. Quinn began with a reference to Taxi Driver in his title: “Are You Talking to Me? How Academic Weblogs Remediate Human Conversation in the Composition Classroom.” Bloggers build community by inviting discussion in the form of comments, and with the repurposing of weblogs (which I know some folks worry about; the idea that we may be overly domesticating the first genuinely native online genre for school purposes) as they move into academia, how might we use them to improve classroom discussion? Weblogs facilitate the teaching of visual rhetoric, and certainly help as well with many of the goals and strategies outlines in the CCCC Position Statement on Teaching, Learning, and Assessing Writing in Digital Environments” — but we really need to get a better idea of their value in terms of classroom outcomes, argued Warnick. (Mike’s editorializing: well, Quinn, there’s that project that the CCCC Blogging SIG is trying to put together, if you’re interested… ;-)) Successful blogging involves understanding how the presentation of online and real-life identities differs (I understand Warnick’s point, but I wonder if there’s a decreasing of the distance between OL and RL identity as the use of social networking software proliferates), with the implication being that blogging can help students develop their skills at analyzing audience and projecting an ethos appropriate to situation and genre. Composing a notebook-type blog is a different rhetorical task from composing a journal-type blog or a filter-type blog, and Warnick expressed a desire for a fourth genre, a forum-type blog, where students can “just talk.” (Interesting: could one muddle Britton with Aristotle and characterize journal blogs as expressive, notebook and filter blogs as transactional, and forum blogs as epideictic, writing located squarely in the present and for its own sake?) And of course, these differing rhetorical tasks are meant for widely varying rhetorical ends: to return to the outcomes question, Warnick wondered, what is it that weblogs actually do?