A Call for Prototypes that Illustrate "Social Construction of Knowledge"

E-publishing forums such as The PreText Conversations: REINVW and Kairos' CoverWeb better illustrate the theory of social construction of knowledge. In collaborative e-publishing, the focus is taken off of the notion of the individual transcendent writer bent on discovering the Truth (which is situated outside of the discursive situation) and proclaiming that Truth in what Bakhtin calls, in "Discourse in the Novel," the "authoritative," monologic word. Instead, dialogue occurs.

As J. Quaintance and I argued in our 1996 CCCC presentation, "Shifting Capital: Electronic Publishing on Bourdieu's Linguistic Market," it's this kind of dialogue that's exemplified by The PreText Conversation: REINVW with Geoffrey Sirc and his PreText 14.1-2 article "Writing Classroom as A & P Parking Lot"). This focused discussion on the PreText electronic discussion list is informal and conversational: people take chances with what they say and are silly, creative, and spontaneous (e.g., "tricky enuf," "I can't imagine teaching a class in 1994 without Snoop Doggy Dogg," "Geoff, why don't we forget the questions?!"), meandering far from the original text at times and yet always cycling back to it for grounding (e.g., "Back to my question," "Geoff, I really dig this sentence ..."). The asynchronous nature of the REINVW also allows participants to read and reflect on previous postings and to even revise their responses as they write them; these postings are therefore not merely "shot from the hip" -- a charge sometimes made by those skeptical of such conversations' scholarly worth. Finally, the conversational nature of the REINVW allows participants to revise what they had previously posted, in light of what others have posted. Meaning in the REINVW is thus made collectively, the discussion moving conversationally from one participant to another, the utterances of all participants contributing to the meaning of the discourse. In short, the focus is not on who is saying something but on what is being said.

It's this kind of dialogue that I also sensed in CoverWeb Editor Douglas Eyman's "Kairos Call for CoverWeb Submissions," in which he described the CoverWeb project as a "multi-vocal, multi-linear hypertext collaboratively written and reviewed for each issue of the journal." Given my penchant for practicing in my professional life what I preach to my students, as well as my interest in this issue's topic of "Tenure, Promotion, and Technology," I sent in a proposal, for I very much wanted to enter the conversation on this topic. I've looked forward to getting feedback from my fellow CoverWebbers and from the reviewers, to acting upon their comments and suggestions, entering into a dialogue with them, which is precisely what has happened in this CoverWeb's HyperNews Forum -- in short, to practice in my own professional work what I tell my students.

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


Last updated: February 1997