Teacher, Researcher, Scholar, Essayist: A Web Text with Some Assembly Required

by Jean-Paul Shovczon 





















The Abstract

            Interested in the potential of wikis for collaborative writing and fueled by the implications of Myka Vielstimmig’s “Petals on a Wet, Black Bough,” Paul and I conducted research in our advanced composition classes last year. Specifically, we designed a group writing project in which collaboration took place through a wiki and through other various electronic means, for example, Ohio University’s Bobkatz MOO. We were studying interactions between students’ individual writing and the group writing assignment. In particular, we were interested in discovering if and how each different kind of writing, along with the differing technologies employed, might inform the other. We jointly presented our results at the Computers and Writing Conference 2006 in Lubbock, Texas, last spring.


            Our Web text uses a sort of branching story device (which we’ve been alternately conceptualizing via the metaphor of a journey on a train or the choices one might make through a DVD launching screen)  to explore 17 snippets of prose culled from those conference papers. While the 17 snippets offer a linear, albeit fragmented, view of the project, we’ve included a choice in terms of transitions from snippet to snippet. Readers expecting a more traditional, linear read may choose to skip the transitions and move from one snippet to the next (and grumble about the fragments of our rationality). Other readers, open to a wilder ride, will choose to explore our multi-modal transitions that offer a behind the scenes look of an initially IRB driven research project, or a view of the researchers as they respond to each other’s snippets, or our postmodern riff commentary, or select the bonus feature, in which they may hang out and explore before embarking on to the next snippet.


           Along the way, we hope to poke at the IRB model and positivist presentations of research as they applied to our project. During the process and writing of our research, it became clear that issues regarding that positivist view foregrounded the content itself. Our Web text, then, offers a more contemporary, postmodern, and explosive view of the body of knowledge that swirls around our initial questions about wikis and collaborative writing, which became submerged in the traditional print-text paper presentation. Thus, the Web text fits into the Computer and Composition Online categories of Theory into Practice (as we explore the implications of the IRB model and practice a different presentation of research affordable through a Web text form) and The Virtual Classroom (as we chronicle the initial collaborative writing project and its technological components, for example: the wiki, the MOO, and our project description Web site aka The Green Monstrosity).