Collaborative Spaces and Education
The Web

WWW and MU* Intersections: Rhetorical and Cultural Analysis

Once the MU* classroom is used to create objects, narrative, or any sort of text, as from roleplaying, the WWW can then be used to analyze the conversation using principles of rhetoric and composition. Indeed, the resulting dialogue can also lead to literary discussions about character and social/cultural contexts in literature.

Students can take their roleplaying and examine how they successfully or not examined a character's relationship to a text, how they accurately set themselves into the culture as they know it, and even more interestingly, how *others* accomplished the same feat. Students often commented on whether or not they found someone's roleplaying inspired or off the mark. Most, when dealing with their peers in class who were having trouble roleplaying, would ask "Did you read your parts well?" or "Look back at what you (the character) said in Act II on that."

Sometimes students not only attempted to represent character's positions, motivations and understanding of their universes, but also went so far as to mimic character's textual speech patterns...say like Fluellen of Henry V, or the convoluted speech of The Archbishop of Henry V. Even God in Paradise Lost was mimicked.
During the semester, we did roleplaying for Gawain and the Green Knight, Henry IV, Henry V, and Paradise Lost. A sample assignment from Henry V demonstrates how each session was set up. We used both an interview format where some students were not characters, but visitors to a past time to ask questions of other character-students; another time, all students were characters who discussed their problem among themselves. I felt that I should stay out of the character playing as that would bring in my text as somehow more 'authoratative' than their own. All of the roleplaying is on the class' Roleplaying page.

Allowing the students to be 'authors' of a dialogue gave them the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding and analysis of the text. Additionally, OOC (out-of-character) examination let us discuss creating ethos and using pathos in rhetorical situations.

In the end, posting to the WWW continues the ownership/authorship power of students. By posting their interactions in forums continuously, by leaving artifacts on publicly accessible MU*s, and by putting their discussions and roleplaying on the WWW, students begin to feel a responsibility to and for their work. This new level of investment can be nothing but positive...and it gets the students to read and analyze at deeper levels, since their names will be splashed across the work. Most take a certain pride at seeing their forum posts publicly and deemed worthy of further discussion by others. Most look at their final projects being impressed at how far they had advanced from day one. The WWW is a powerful classroom tool and a powerful student the same time being a creative outlet.

Opening Teaching Theory The Web MU*S Conversation

Daniel Anderson
Joi Lynne Chevalier