an overview of my research on online journals

Toward a New Rhetorical Literacy:

The Peculiar Posturing of Online Journals on the WWW

Project links include: 

An Overview

(you are here)

Review of Journals

Three of my journal favorites, plus 

some personal directories of others

The Survey

Taken by Willa's Readers

Comments & Questions

I would like to hear from you


Aspects in Development: 

A Dialog: Online Journals

Willa and Lisa discuss

the art of online journals

Audience Analysis

A study of misunderstandings in 



For composition classes


of online teaching, of power 

relationships in cyberclasses

I sat in the elementary school library, turning the pages of thickly bound books and hearing other lives in the smell of the glue of their spines. Years later, the transference became digital, and I connected with stories in cyberspace. A new reader, I wondered at word and image juxtaposed. The presentation. Much like my fingers traced the outline of letters, this time I mentally asked myself how was I to interpret these stories, these personal journals postured in such a peculiar fashion?

The answers this project eventually generated stem from that first wonder-filled experience: a new encounter with literacy. My curiosity about one journal--Willa's Journal--led from personal e-mail with the author to a multi-faceted research project--one that is far from complete, I admit. Sections of the study are available online if they are displayed as links in the list to the left. 

This study originally included three elements: an interview with Cline about the history of her journal and her motivation for keeping it online, a survey of her readership, and a paper delivered at Computers and Writing 1998. The study lent itself well to audience analysis; the journals I began reading often mentioned readers' feedback, especially if there had been what the journalist would describe later as miscommunication. As the number of online journals (and the ones I read) grew, so has the study, and later I incorporated a review of several journals to broaden the scope, as well as a discussion of them with Willa. Although I am a neophyte at the art of online teaching--the University of Central Arkansas held its first composition class in a computer/seminar room this fall--I chose to explore classroom uses of these sites last fall in an "offline" classroom. I had to overcome the difficulty of talking with my students about using the computer without having one in class; it became a kind of literacy exercise that I hadn't imagined. 

Later, theoretical readings prompted me toward conclusions about the relationship between gender, power and online technologies. I found that my assignment to "review and evaluate" an internet site empowered some students, but, finally, I concluded that technology-based learning did not uniformly enhance or limit student learning and performance. In some cases it changed classroom dynamics, and students who could (or did, since all students at UCA do have an e-mail account) contact me online tended to report being more satisfied with this particular assignment and the course--not exactly conclusive findings, I'd say. However, I did learn that a course taught with the assistance of technology can enhance the classroom if an instructor continually addresses pedagogical concerns while designing the course, planning assignments, and explaining expected outcomes. A course "assisted" by technology requires an initial investment of the instructor--not just to learn equipment and software, but to also philosophically bridge traditional classroom practice to the electronic environment. While I continue to strive toward this goal, I know that even at my university, where many students come from privileged backgrounds, the introduction of technology can increase boundaries rather than create an egalitarian utopia. Do I believe the ideal is worth striving toward? Absolutely. 

Again, I hope that this overview assists you in forming questions and testing answers of your own about the art of reading and teaching online. 

I welcome your comments and questions about my project , internet-based assignments, or research you are currently conducting.