I began writing this description of the hypertext collage assignment as my students were starting their freewriting activities (described below), and I have included a small part of it here. I appropriated the assignment, as I mention below, from the second edition of Elbow and Belanoff's A Community of Writers (1995) because the nature of the collage, as they describe it, seemed much like the nature of hypertext--the assignment is essentially to write short, loosely interconnected texts and arrange them in an aesthetically pleasing manner. As I studied the collage assignment, I began to think of ways to move my students from a more personal, expressivist form of writing toward a social-epistemic rhetoric of writing; I felt that asking my students to connect their experiences of writing by hypertetually linking similar and dissimilar experience together would simultaneously allow them to see the act of writing as part of a larger social context, and allow them to appropriate (and perhaps even empathize) with the voice of the "other."
The following description was written in class while my students began writing their own collages:
The assignment that I am putting together comes from Peter Elbow and Pat Belanoff's A Community of Writers: my students are creating a collage (p. 18) based on eleven short pieces of writing presented as "A Spectrum of Writing Tasks" on pages 12-17. The collage will go through a process of revision and refinement, gradually moving from a personal piece of writing to a more public piece of writing. In addition to the collage, students will incorporate the dialogue exercise described on pages 64-65; the dialogue will be focused on the experience of writing the collage. Ultimately, my students will rewrite these collages and dialogues as hypertext documents, making connections between their shared experience of writing, and seeing the differences between the various personal processes that each person uses when engaging in composition.
I have decided to describe this assignment in the form of a collage--in fact, I have decided to write my own collage along with my students. The "Spectrum of Writing Tasks" suggested by Elbow and Belanoff include freewriting, focused-freewriting, public informal writing, letter-writing, collaborative writing, evaluated writing, revising, process writing and the writing of a cover letter. Since I am the teacher in this class, I may find it difficult to engage in (self) evaluated writing, but I will try my hand at the other types. I have instructed my students to form a collage which is a new and different piece of writing--that is, one which is not tied to the original eleven pieces; however, since I am writing about the assignment of writing the collage, I will need to explicitly incorporate the directives for those texts, rather than appropriating them in the manner that I hope my students will.
Here is a sample of invisible writing (writing without being able to see the text as you write it, in this case achieved by turning off the computer monitor while I composed), unrevised. The results of invisible writing are much more amusing when the writer is not a particularly good typist. The suggested topic is to "write about the physical conditions for your writing" (p. 14), describing the environment, tools, and habits of writing that you engage in.
Public informal writing is a piece of writing to share with others but which will not be evaluated. Elbow and Belanoff suggest that students introduce themselves as writers, describing strengths and weaknesses, and also introducing themselves as people--telling only as much as they feel comfortable revealing about themselves.
There are a variety of ways in which students may use their individual collage writing pieces to create hypertexts; one of the most interesting parts of the assignment is discovering the different ways that students find to make connections. When the assignment was "done," I asked students to follow up with an analysis and evaluation (which was then also connected to the hypertext).
Because working with multiple authors can be difficult, I recommend having groups no larger than five individuals work on hypertexts together, rather than attempting to engage the whole class in the writing of a single hypertext.