"Just" Professing:
A Call for the Valuation of Prototypical Electronic Scholarship

In taking a view that sees scholarship as collaborative inquiry interested in both means and ends, as opposed to a view of scholarship that supports notions of the individual transcendent writer publishing in print-bound publications -- I use Todd Taylor and David Erben's notion of "prototype": "defined by its lack of closure and by the way it disrupts geographical, hierarchical, disciplinary, and even temporal boundaries. ... It is more an uncontainer -- an eruption of the boundaries of intellectual property[,]" a forum exemplified by "the rather complicated blurring of the individual and the communal" (112). I subsequently argue that "prototypical" electronic publishing/scholarship (e.g., that seen in forums such as The PreText Conversations: REINVW and Kairos' CoverWeb) can perform, through their cyclical dialogue, the theories of "writing as process" and "social construction of knowledge" that inform current pedagogical practices.

True, we owe much to printed texts, for as Walter Ong points out, without them (or more generally, without writing), "the literate mind would not and could not think as it does, not only when engaged in writing but normally even when it is composing its thoughts in oral form" (78). I couldn't be doing what I'm right now engaged in if not for the literacy gained through my decoding and encoding printed texts. But as Anthony Pare reminds us, "discourse conventions [a.k.a. Foucault's "regimes of truth"] are more than mere etiquette or tradition, and they affect more than text production; they also determine the way the group and its individual members think. The pervasive influence of genre regularizes meaning by replicating, as closely as possible, the processes of composition and interpretation. ... What cannot be said [seen?] cannot be known" (113). The discourse conventions of printed texts are therefore not only enabling but also constraining. It's these theories of "writing as process" and "social construction of knowledge" that print-bound publications (and even some electronic ones) hide and so, in a way, deny -- based, as they seem to be, on the introspective theory of invention that informs current-traditional (CT) "rhetoric."

I'll therefore be urging throughout my contribution to this CoverWeb that we not limit our view of "what counts" as electronic publishing to online journals that merely replicate print conventions but enlarge it to include other, even yet-to-be-developed forms of electronic publishing -- experimental, innovative forms -- forms seen as academically/professionally viable alternatives to traditional notions of publishing. Through such an enlarging, we can better meet Ernest Boyer's call for a redefined and broadened sense of scholarship, one that doesn't discourage but encourages experimentation and innovation, activities crucial to the ongoing activity of knowledge construction.

Opening | Prototypes Exploring Possibilities | Prototypes Illustrating Writing Process |
Prototypes Illustrating Social Construction | Prototypes Illustrating Praxis | Conclusion (?) | Works Cited


Last updated: February 1997