This Place Is Y/our Space;
This Space is Y/our Place


Jane Lasarenko, Dene Grigar, and Alan Rea

On July 11, 1996 Michael Spooner forwarded to WebRights-L [] the following year-old message that originated from the Association of American University Presses (AAUP):
The members of the AAUP aver that the established principles of selection, peer-review, and editorial refinement will be applied to university press publications via electronic media no less than to conventional print products. These are among the steps that distinguish publication from the service activity of transmission. Adherence to these procedures is a condition of Association membership.

Academic authorities looking to the scholarly production of faculty members for guidance in tenure, promotion, and salary review may rely on the university press imprimatur in respect to their electronic publications.

That publishers are beginning to recognize the potential that electronic media holds for their industry suggests a shift in thinking toward cyberspace and the writing that occurs t/here. However, those of us who have been using the Internet for communicating and sharing ideas and information during the last decade would contend that the AAUP's stance sets a dangerous precedent for other kinds of electronic enterprises, like developing MOOspaces and creating Websites. As Corey Wick suggests, the work we do in MOOs "is growing more and more marginalized. While clearly defined statements are lagging for those of us [working] in online realms, it seems that MUDs [and] MOOs, whether as professional meeting places or student learning environments, are lagging even more...they seem even more trivialized than online publishing."

Academic authorities often rely on publishing efforts for guidance in tenure, promotion, and salary reviews. Despite fears that the World Wide Web is quickly becoming the World Wide Mall, many of us seeking tenure want recognition for the work we do on the Internet. For many tenure-track faculty, publishing on the Internet is a luxury, something one does in addition to  or after  the "more valuable" work one does for print-based journals. Until we succeed in educating our administrations, fellow colleagues, and publishers about the value of writing for the Internet, it will remain just that--a luxury that perhaps fewer and fewer of us will be able to afford.

Many of us are already addressing this issue. Jeff Galin's WebRights-L [] and WWWPub-L [] offer forums for scholars to express concerns and discuss ways to solve these issues. Last year, the Computers in Composition Committee of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, along with the Information Technology Committee of the National Council of Teachers of English, began to take a closer look at the promotion and tenure situation of those of us who work with technology.

More recently, several of us met for a C-FEST session, held at LinguaMOO, to plan strategies for change (view some of the edited MOO logs). Likewise, Eric Crump has provided MOO logs and space in Rhetnet  pertaining to peer review issues, and Alan Rea designed a page to gather our ideas as well (see "Web Survey" below). Kairos  has also indicated its willingness to establish a hypernews forum for the ongoing discussion of these concerns.

But other issues are at stake besides credibility and tenure, and, to be honest, the solutions are not so clear-cut. Even among ourselves, we debate goals and strategies as demonstrated by the responses garnered from our ongoing Web Survey. Some respondents argue that establishing guidelines in this unrestricted environment is inherently a suspicious activity and wish for the Web to remain anarchical in nature.

Eugene Ortiz of Texas Tech, for example, believes that "trying to set up standards to satisfy those who know nothing of the medium strikes me as a profoundly bad idea." For many of our respondents, however, the establishment of guidelines is a necessary concomitant to academic recognition. Claudine Keenan of Penn State-Allentown, meanwhile, points out that "technorhetoricians definitely should establish guidelines for Web Publishing," noting, at the same time, that we should take steps to avoid accusations of setting up guidelines in our own favor.

Whatever we establish, the University of South Florida's Janice Walker suggests the guidelines should be temporary since the Web is still developing. Establishing guidelines of some sort, however, seems important to most of the respondents, although Clark College's Gerard Donnelly-Smith expresses the concerns held by many of us that guidelines will "evolve into the same rules for print-based publishing" and, thus, infringe on the freedom of the electronic space.

With this webtext, then, we are trying to offer a space for scholars to report on their efforts in addressing these issues as well as a place for us to carry on further debate. We hope to bring people together in a fruitful exchange of ideas and efforts to balance academic credibility with the innovative nature of the medium.

There is a precedent for this type of approach. Other disciplines have already taken steps in this direction, particularly in the sciences and social sciences. Library professionals, for example, have been quite concerned and active in this area. Linda Cooperstock points out that organizations such as the Missouri Integrated Advanced Information Management System (MIAMS), which she coordinates, have specific workgroups concentrating on establishing guidelines.

In "Scholarly Electronic Publishing on the Internet, the NREN, and the NII: Charting Possible Futures", Charles W. Bailey reviews a significant number of efforts and models for scholarly network-based electronic publishing acquisition and dissemination. Most of these models involve the creation of massive databases of scholarly work funded by the government and university communities.

Some have proposed the creation of corporations to perform these functions: Peter Young, for example, "has suggested the establishment of a Corporation for Scholarly Publishing (CSP), which would be modeled on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)." While all of the models he suggests and reviews are not without their problems, Bailey's stated goals for any scholarly electronic publishing system include many analogous to our own. Several such goals include

Now it is time for us -- teachers of writing in and across the various humanities -- to unite. We need to keep up the debate, but, ultimately, we need to develop and publish our own statements about scholarly guidelines. We can all determine the future of academic publishing on the World Wide Web if we take action now while the opportunity to effect change still exists. The following are a few ideas we came up with to further this effort; however, we need your suggestions as well. We might consider

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KAIROS Kairos: A Journal for Teachers of Writing in Webbed Environments.
Vol. 1 No. 3 Autumn 1996