Presentation Abstract

Rhetorical Awareness in a Global Community: A Teacher's Perspective

For several years my scholarship has focused on the ways communities transcend geographic boundaries. I began by exploring non-electronic forms of networking, but have recently examined how electronic communications technologies change peoples’ conceptions of themselves as boundaried individuals, whether through work-related networking, interest-group or hobby-related chat, or aimless wandering through electronic byways. The result of this research has been an increasing awareness that it is through connection with others that one’s sense of self shifts. Contemporary theory has quite thoroughly taught us that the presence of others intercedes in the creation of the self, but communications technologies highlight the specific ways that *writing* affects this process. It is, most crucially, through writing with others (rather than just reading the texts of others) that real connection is built and community boundaries shift. Interactivity affects investment, and it is what ultimately effects substantive shifts in subject positions. Communications technologies in general and the Internet in particular provide avenues for becoming-through-writing. Both synchronous and asynchronous communications over the Internet present writers with a sense of a present Other, and the interactions with this Other, either via conversation/narrative in a M* environment or threaded discussion within a listserv or newsgroup, are recursive exchanges that affect subject construction.

This paper explores how such research has informed my teaching generally and a collection of teaching materials specifically. In particular, the paper addresses how research-based inquiry has transformed classroom practice by envisioning the computer-based classroom as an opportunity to build new formations of community. Assignments such as cross-disciplinary collaborations, geographically-dispersed critique groups, and non-academically focused writing projects are all ways of encouraging student writers to see themselves as part of a global community with social and political power. Additionally, such assignments enable student writers to see themselves as embedded in a larger discourse community that can be tangibly transformed by their contributions--whether those contributions are a room in a MOO, a post to a list, or web site. The ability of the Internet to bring into the classroom writing environments where individual contributions so visibly affect a larger text is perhaps one of its most powerful contributions to contemporary education.

Author: Beth Kolko


Target Audience: Advanced

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