Where we stand: Week 7 #560wr

I’m big on shitty first drafts and writing-to-learn activities. In my view, shitty first drafts are one of the goals of this #560WR collaborative authoring project, if only so that we have something tangible to work with should we decide to go beyond semester’s end. Something tangible sits now on my desk, a hard-copy draft of each of the seven chapters for the Book. 

It’s quite clear to me that all students are quite capable in introducing and integrating secondary source material. That all were able to draw and apply so much from the research pool is a clear, positive aspect of the project overall. The wealth of block quotes and summary provided in these drafts, though, are unnecessary for a Book and instead give the appearance of a lengthy literature review. Furthermore, when aiming for a Book as the end product, I think there needs to be integration and uniformity in the content produced. There can’t be sole reliance on writers writing independently of each other followed by slapping together their 10-page offerings with the expectation it will all work.

Perhaps JS was right all along to suggest something other than a Book (SOTAB) during Week 2. That’s not to imply we’d get away with doing less via a group blog or a wiki, only that maybe we’d be better served by SOTAB. Different forms of scholarly communication have different demands and, based on the apparent reluctance of certain chapter drafts to make arguments, some kind of digital reference or repository might have worked better. I’m not writing now to gauge the depth of my hindsight, though; that’s for after I’ve locked in final grades. I will offer this teaser: Writing a Book is a noble endeavor, but perhaps an unrealistic venture for eight weeks with 14 graduate students. 

I offer that because some chapters revealed writers’ interest in writing what they wanted rather than committing and contributing in a more collaborative way to the project itself. Of course, this may also be related to the frustration and hesitation mentioned earlier. I know that if I’m more comfortable writing about X instead of Y, I’ll do just that even if Y is the main focus of what I’m writing. So, I don’t fault anyone for the chapters drafted. To be honest, I’m impressed we made it this far. 

I provided all feedback to students with the understanding that we are still in pursuit of a Book as the end result of the project. This admission as well as last week’s entry may hinder or even sabotage the revision work of some researcher/writer pairs, but I’m hopeful that a majority will engage, if not humor me. Perhaps their revisions will reveal their own ideas and opinions about the future of this collaborative authoring project. There’s a lot still to be done with the content produced, and I look forward to discussing with #560WR students their ideas and opinions about the project’s future on Thursday, June 30, 2011, from 4:15PM to 6:45PM.

Where we stand: Week 6 #560wr

The second scheduled in-class writing session was marked by artificial lighting. Having found the Torch bountiful in distraction and noise, we retreated to our classroom. This change was welcomed by some, but not by others. As last week's location wasn't conducive for all, I observed much the same this week.

While lacking the distractions and noise of the Torch, the classroom also lacks fresh air and windows, either of which may have been an unfortunate influence on the productivity of some researcher/writer pairs. Furthermore, less potential distraction made for greater focus, but also greater possibility for burnout. As the session wore on, there were more than a few audible sighs and rubbing of the eyes, both of which may have led to pleading by some for a break in the monotony. I had nothing to offer beyond declaring a 10-minute break up and away from our computer screens.

However, many researcher/writer pairs were in full-on writing mode for much of the session. Some pairs took to further brainstorming, but all had their game faces on and appeared serious about getting ideas down. I also appreciated those who worked within Google Docs as this enabled me to see their writing in action. At this point, I have no concerns about the seven 20-page chapter drafts due next week.

Given this lack, I want to look ahead and entertain some possible futures for this collaborative writing project. Week 7 will be our first and perhaps only editing and proofreading session. Each researcher/writer pair will bring two hard copies of their completed, 20-page chapter draft for peer review. My expectation is that each pair will provide substantive feedback on two chapter drafts. My suggestion is that each pair will do this for the chapter before and the chapter after their own, i.e., the Chapter 3 pair will read and respond to Chapter 2 and Chapter 4.

With differences of opinion about the location most conducive to writing work, researcher/writer pairs will be free to go wherever they wish at 6PM. For that first half hour, though, we will meet in our classroom and discuss particular approaches to peer review. Come 730PM, we will reconvene in the classroom for further discussion.

I anticipate at least some of that discussion will be about the future of the project. While this depends in part on the status of each chapter, I want to think beyond the end of the semester. Right now, I see at last three possibilities:

  1. Students decide to go their own way, continuing written work divorced from the collaborative writing project. I remain available for feedback and guidance, but the project itself ends with the semester.
  2. Students decide to continue the project, either toward a print publication or something else. Perhaps there is a fruitful, realistic discussion about what's attainable vs. what's desired, ending in the construction of a blog or a wiki as well as the transformation of current project content.
  3. Students decide to leave the project in my hands, allowing me as executive editor to do as thou wilt or with email notifications of changes to and updates on the project.

As #560WR remains an experiment, I'm unsure if any one of these possible futures could be indicative of failure or success.

Where we stand: Week 5 #560wr

I think this writing session happened at the right time. Given comments on last week's entry about lack of communication and direction, meeting face-to-face with the expressed purpose of writing appeared to be just what we needed. To be honest, I'm unsure now about addressing concerns voiced there as the Torch writing session appears to have taken care of most/all of them. 

Among the most productive were those researcher/writer pairs sitting across from other researcher/writer pairs. I often observed them talking over their laptops to each other about their respective work. These cross-pair conversations were almost more helpful than those in-pair discussions. 

However, the bar environment wasn't conducive for all. The noise level was about what I expected, but I know not everyone is able to work under such conditions. Space was an additional, related issue as we all had to fit our food and drinks alongside bulky laptops and piles of articles and books. We'll be meeting in our regular classroom on the UM-Flint campus next week, so I expect both noise and space will be non-issues.

This is a rather short entry, though, because I want to direct audience attention to reflective entries by MBr and RA. Neither entry was required, but both are quite helpful in gleaning additional perspectives on this collaborative authoring project.


It's hard to write about a role that you have very little, or no experience with. The social role of the teacher, for example, is one that some may have first-hand experience with, or may only have knowledge about from scholarly articles. Either way, it isn't something you cannot write about, even if you have never been in that role. I know for some, writing about a role they've never stepped foot in makes them feel unsure, but I know from my own experience, it can be done.


What this class is is an exercise in the basest components of research with an eye toward contributing to a larger discussion. We are originating, researching, and synthesizing new discussion for outside consumption. *: The word "book" has attracted far too much angst in the past 4 weeks. I don't care if this is a book, a wiki, a novella, an ebook, or if these topics end up lacking the cohesion to justify a collection and we all take our pieces and look elsewhere for contribution (although I sincerely doubt the last scenario will happen). What we are trying to do here is to fit our research and writing into a larger assemblage which is itself joining a larger discussion. I knew from the beginning that the most attractive elements of a true TextDash would have difficulty integrating: in-person back-and-forth brainstorming, immersion with many like-minded writers, and developing a well-honed topic/subtopic relationship were all bound to diminish where the participants meet 2.5 hours per week over 8 weeks and necessarily had to do their work away from each other amidst the rest of regular life.


What I submitted to 'Shit My Students Write'

From Bartholomae's "The Study of Error" 

"Errors, then, are stylistic features, information about this writer and this language; they are not necessarily 'noise' in the system, accidents of composing, or malfunctions in the language process" (257).

"When a basic writer violates our expectations, however, there is a tendency to dismiss the text as non-writing, as meaningless or imperfect writing" (254).

We need to “treat the language of basic writing as language and assume, as we do when writers violate our expectations in more conventional ways, that the unconventional features in the writing are evidence of intention and that they are, therefore, meaningful, then we can chart systematic choices, individual strategies, and characteristic processes of thought" (255).

The above page numbers correspond to College Composition and Communication 31.3 (October 1980).


From Bartholomae's "Inventing the University" 

"(the student) has to invent the university by assembling and mimicking its language while finding some compromise between idiosyncrasy, a personal history, on the one hand, and the requirements of convention, the history of a discipline, on the other" (135).

"He is trying on the discourse even though he doesn't have the knowledge that would make the discourse more than a routine, a set of conventional rituals and gestures. And he is doing this, I think, even though eh knows he doesn't have the knowledge that would make the discourse more than a routine" (136).

"This is one of the most characteristic slips of basic writers. … It is very hard for them to take on the role – the voice, the persona – of an authority whose authority is rooted in scholarship, analysis, or research" (136).

A struggling writer may not be working from a writer-based model and "is not so much trapped in a private language as he is shut out from one of the privileged languages of public life, a language he is aware of but cannot control" (139).

"A writer does not write … but is, himself, written by the languages available to him" (143).

"What our beginning students need to learn is to extend themselves, by successive approximations, into the commonplaces, set phases, rituals and gestures, habits of mind, tricks of persuasion, obligatory conclusions and necessary connections that determine the 'what might be said' and constitute knowledge within the various branches of our academic community" (146).

"…the university, however, is the place where 'common' wisdom is only of negative values – it is something to work against" (156).

The above page numbers correspond to When a Writer Can't Write: Studies in Writer's Block and Other Composing-Process Problems, edited by Mike Rose.


I also copy/pasted the entire "CCCC Guidelines for the Ethical Conduct of Research in Composition Studies" document. It's available here: http://www.ncte.org/cccc/resources/positions/ethicalconduct

Where we stand: Week 4 #560wr

We are beyond whiteboard shots. We are also soon to be beyond research mode as all initial sources will be compiled by Friday, June 3, 2011, at midnight.

The second round of research presentations were more polished and much tighter. With technical difficulties at a minimum, we breezed through all scheduled student presentations, many of which offered various and sundry social roles of writing teachers. Here's a quick sample:

  • DJ
  • tech proselytizer
  • manipulator
  • activist
  • indoctrinator
  • Nostradamus
  • model composer
  • historian
  • master/apprentice
  • parent
  • mentor
  • listener
  • humorist
  • architect
  • other
  • body
  • stranger
  • whatever

If/where any of these social roles appear in our book is up to each researcher/writer pair, who will also need to come up with chapter titles. Among the potential chapter titles drafted in my presentation notes, two stand out: "The Pedagogical is Political" and "Those Who Can't..." The researcher/writer pairs focusing respectively on special considersations and how others determine the social role of writing teachers are welcome to use. 

I sabotaged my own presentations by forgetting my USB, but this was an actual benefit as it allowed for more discussion about potential writing locations. Meet on campus? Our assigned room? The library? Computer writing classroom? Or meet downtown? Bar? Coffeeshop? With a tentative agreement to converge on the Torch at 530PM, the Week 4 session ended. However, at least three researcher/writer pairs stayed more than 10 minutes after being dismissed to brainstorm aloud about their chapters. 

Prior to this week's session was some discussion on Twitter about the lack of conversation about the collaborative authoring project. Although 2/3 of the class are on Twitter, only a couple students discussed the course and/or used the #560wr hashtag. While some (myself included) may have been too impatient about this and/or too quick to disappointment, I'm concerned about the lack of a work record. As observed by one student, there really hasn't been much discussion about anything project-related outside of the weekly face-to-face meetings. Perhaps the biggest benefit so far in using Google Docs is its revision history. This allowed me to restore significant parts of the research pool that had been deleted by accident, but the revision history also provides a kind of record of when contributors did their work. If/when I conduct a collaborative authoring project again, I'll see about setting up a workstreaming service. 

Both the research pool blog and GooDoc are kind of a mess right now, each revealing an unfortunate assumption or expectation I once held. With the blog, I assumed tags pertinent to our agreed-upon chapters would arise in a natural way. With the GooDoc, I expected the color-coded order I attempted to impose would be enough as a guiding principle of organization. As neither of these proved true, some housekeeping is in order. Also, given technology issues some students have had in working with Google Docs, the research pool probably should have developed in a blog setting first. Having all source information in one place was a good idea; having it all in just one GooDoc was not a good idea. 

My time in Ann Arbor #cwcon

Unlike my time in Atlanta, I attended as many sessions as I could. I also made a conscious effort to attend sessions beyond present research interests. As a result, concurrent sessions G and H made for some very tough attending decisions.

Conference session summaries and commentary, which may be inaccurate and/or inconsequential, follow. Speakers are identified by their Twitter accounts when possible.


A07 - Traversing Multimodality: Temporal, Spatial & Embodied Approaches to Researching & Theorizing Complex Writing Acts

Jennifer Sano-Franchini (@jennyploop) discussed time as a rhetorical construct and mixtapes as evidence of the decision-making process involved in multimodal composing. Using think-aloud protocols to acquire data, Sano-Franchini summarized findings, such as how one's composing purpose relies on spatiotemporality and emotion, and related, choice quotes, such as "happy songs are for summer." There's an element of active reflection during this kind of writing act, too, according to Sano-Franchini, who concluded with thoughts on the legal implications of her study as well as its future.

Stacey Pigg (@pidoubleg) introduced an idea of how movement through time spent writing is itself a multimodal text. In looking at past and future writing experiences and situations, we see evidence of rhetorical habits and thereby how systems are enacted. There's an interplay between "getting things done" and "being stuck" and she walked through a specific process in which a student was "drawing out what I want to write." Pigg also touched on how persistent is the view of only writing when we're putting words down on the page or screen.


B02 - Networked Publics

Jim Brown (@jamesjbrownjr) talked about how writing moves and circulates via examples of digital poetry. Brown noted historical precursors to digital poetry and how machine- and self-imposed constraints and thus the available moves an author could make were often hidden from readers. From this, he gathered that codes + constraints = publics and nodded to Annette Vee's notion of proceduracy and the importance of becoming procedurate. Brown also observed how often it is now that we are reading and writing now with machines alongside us and ruminated on the subject of procedural authorship.

Byron Hawk discussed how a public forms through digital media with evidence gathered from music culture. Hawk drew on Fuller's inventory of parts and Brooke's levels of scale to put forth an idea of culture before narrowing his focus to Ned Durrett and Reverb Nation as examples of publics formation. 

Geoffrey V. Carter and Cortney Smethurst closed by offering both definition and examples of a meme, further explaining it as a sort of performative method for overcoming compassion fatigue, a way to engage, and an illustrative example of how to embody critique. Their accompanying 6-minute video, which was a compilation of past and present memes, worked well as a refresher in meme education.


C03 - Private/Public Tweets

Manuel Senna, Amber Buck, and Carl Whithaus (@carl_whithaus) all presented on Twitter, but each was guided by a different area of interest or concern. For Senna, Twitter was an opportunity for ESL students to not only practice a kind of writing not done in academia but to also share cultural knowledge about being ESL. For Buck, Twitter was a way to see how, if, and when graduate students represented themselves via social media. For Whithaus, Twitter provided comparisons of official corporate and keyword tweets, showing in part the futility of trying to control a corporate image via social media. Throughout each talk, there was discussion of the importance of evidence of actual use of Twitter (@'s, RT's, etc.) as well as the idea that one tweet is a single utterance but also part of a chain. 


D02 - Digital mission-making: An exploration of privacy, posthumanism, and embodiment

Christa Teston, Amanda Hurch, and Drew Kopp all presented on developing their writing department's web presence and the resistances they encountered. Their dominant focus concerned faculty reactions and reservations to being digitally recorded for the web presence. Because we are "seamlessly articulating with machines" in recorded audio and video, these are iterations of ourselves over wich we have very little control, though one's acuity and familiarity with technology tends to correlate with their degree of discomfort regarding digital recording.


E13 - Is Blogging Dead? Yes, No, Other

Bradley Dilger, one of the roundtable's speakers, posted a solid summary of what I thought was the most interesting and lively session at #cwcon. I'll just include my tweets during the session and leave it at that.


TH-02 - Town Hall II - Are You a Digital Humanist?

"The most durable thing about #cwcon is a t-shirt, and I love that." - Alex Reid (@digitaldigs)


G06 - Workstreaming: Building work histories by observing writing behavior

Bill Hart-Davidson, Michael McLeod, Marilee Brooks-Gillies, and others presented on workstreaming as a research platform focused on the ambient data often produced when people are working/writing. The writing itself is not the focal activity in this regard, more the activities that happen around the writing, and the collection of written discourse that indexes social action. The end goal is to increase situational awareness among participants about their work. A demonstration of Ridestream provided a working example. The implications of workstreaming could be huge and do much to shape the future focus of computers and writing studies.


H10 - Gaming the Classroom

Alex Reid (@digitaldigs) discussed object-oriented rhetoric in relation to gaming composition, voicing his reservations about gamification as it focuses on extrinsic rather than intrinsic motivation. As Reid has since posted the full text of his talk on his blog, I'll let him speak for himself.

Richard Parent and Anastasia Salter both had more positive views of gamification in the composition classroom, with Parent stating that "there's something in us that wants to play" and stressing movement toward a dynamic of playfulness and Salter extolling the possibility of "superherofication" in education.


I furrowed my brow and grumbled a lot during this session, but remained silent. Roger Austin (@Roger_Austin), one of two MA in English students attending #cwcon (Jensie Simkins (@derbybeaver) being the other), noticed this and later inquired about my reservations, so I'll attempt a recall here: I'm still waiting on a good example of gamification. With gamification apologists and defenders aplenty, I'm often reminded of undergrad discussions about the virtues of communism and how the USSR and China aren't/weren't real communism. I'm also just not optimistic about what I see as a deceptive, manipulative strategy hawked most by gurus and marketers. And why make for ourselves another questionable reward system when we already have grades? Furthermore, why do we need to be superheroes when we have service learning? All this time and attention paid to gamification would be better spent on service-learning pedagogy. I say this because gamification appears to both cloud and oversimplify reality. First-year composition is not Chore Wars. Just because gamification might work for simple tasks reveals next to nothing about how it might work for the actual complexities involved with writing.


K13 - The Promises and Challenges of Creating TechnoPedagogic Community in an Age of CMS Ubiquity

Nick Carbone and Michael Salvo discussed the possibility of a CMS as a complementary writing pedagogy, as an intermediary for both computers and writing vanguards and those just now starting out with discussion boards. Carbone shared some early results of a writing teacher survey he conducted (a white paper should be available late summer/early fall) and Salvo provided a demonstration of the CMS, "Writing @ Purdue." 


TH 03 - Town Hall III - The Future(s) of Computers and Writing

A number of futures were offered here, including how we should "behave as if the law were sensible" in relation to copyright, how information architecture shouldn't be left to readymade algorithms, how peer review in academic publishing should be seen and valued as real work, how the coming ubiquity of music will lead to Departments of Sound, how movement away from human-centered research reveals our object-oriented relationships, how we might value difference more, how we might get more students talking for themselves, how we need more discussion of teaching writing via online/distance, and how libraries are our allies and deserve our attention and recognition. 


Who I met, re-met, or at least shook hands with: (@phredchicago), Dennis Jerz (@DennisJerz), Derek Mueller (@derekmueller), Brian McNely (@bmcnely), Alex Reid (@digitaldigs), Quinn Warnick (@warnick), Ryan Trauman (@trauman), Mark Crane (@craniac), Casey McCardle (@crmcardle), Tim Lockridge (@timlockridge), Jenn Stewart (@JennLStewart) Christa Teston (@christateston), Julie Platt (@plattitude), Michael Faris (@sisypheantask), Jentery Sayers (@jenterysayers), Doug Eyman (@eymand), Harley Ferris (@harleyferris), Jim Brown (@jamesjbrownjr), Annette Vee (@anetv)

And it was great to have my first Five Guys burger with Quinn Warnick, Ryan Trauman, Daniel Anderson, Tim Lockridge, Harley Ferris, and Casey McCardle (who has a spot-on Walken impression). It was also great to have lunch with Jim Brown, Annette Vee, and Quinn Warnick the next day.

Beer recommendation: Arbor Brewing Company's Brasserie Blonde
Food recommendation: Frita Batidos

ENG 560, Spring 2011: revised syllabus #560wr

Given the fluid nature of this course/project, I think it important to be able to revise our syllabus as necessary. 


While we may all be in this together, our academic efforts do not very often reveal this. Such an observation is often as true of academia in general as graduate school. Many graduate-level courses conclude with a collection of essays related to the overall focus of the course. Though purposeful, such a collection often lacks larger cohesion. The idea of a booksprint, collaborative authoring over a short time with the express goal of publishing a book, provides an opportunity to be in this together.  



This is an eight-week collaborative writing project. The focus will be a topic within rhetoric and writing studies identified and decided upon by students and the instructor. Students will research, write, and edit a cohesive, if not comprehensive, codex. 



Upon completion of ENG 560, you will be able to:

write with success in a collaborative environment

recognize rhetoric and writing studies as encompassing a diverse body of work

develop a working knowledge of a topic in rhetoric and writing studies

assess yourself and peers as rhetoric and writing studies scholars



Each chapter of the book will have two primary researcher/writers.
Research: Each student will be responsible for presenting 10 strong, academic sources relevant to the book’s scope. Each student's 2 presentations will be 5 minutes in length and focus on 5 sources.
Write: Each student will be responsible for writing at least 10 pages of their chapter. Each student will also be responsible for editing and reviewing at least one chapter other than their own.


On technology usage

To facilitate this collaborative writing project, we need to use an appropriate technology. Google Docs is my recommendation, but I invite Week 1 discussion of other possibilities. No prior skill is needed, only a willingness to engage and learn. If we need to take extra time, ask.

Although technology makes life easier, it can also be difficult. So, plan accordingly. "The computer ate my homework" or "the Internet was down" are not reasons to forgo the work assigned. It is in your best interest to leave extra time to ensure that technology does not get in the way of your contributions.



 Week 1, May 10 --  Introducing & brainstorming

Week 2, May 17 -- Delegating & researching

Week 3, May 24 -- Researching

Week 4, May 31 -- Researching

Week 5, June 7 -- Writing

Week 6, June 14 -- Writing

Week 7, June 21 -- Editing

Week 8, June 30 (@ 415PM) -- Finishing


Grade breakdown

10 sources  +  10 pages  +  2 weeks of edits  =  A for ENG 560

Where we stand: Week 3 #560wr

Above is no whiteboard shot because of a shift in focus this week. In keeping with the initial syllabus (a revision of which I'll post tomorrow), we are now in research mode. We have a GooDoc devoted to bibliographic information about strong academic sources we might use for our collaborative writing project. Most of last night's session was devoted to presenting those sources.

Prior to the research presentations, I wanted to take some time to discuss last week's reflections. However, there wasn't much discussion to be had. Beyond a couple persistent concerns that I hope will be addressed as our research and writing progress, a clear majority of students were uninterested in talking about changing/switching roles/responsibilities. Instead, they just wanted to get to work. I acknowledge and appreciate this collective desire and drive, though I would have liked to see more evidence in the research presentations that followed.

To write that some presentations last night were rough is perhaps a kind understatement. And while helpful on an individual basis, e.g., preparing a presentation forces us to read articles and gather important points for the purposes of talking about them, I'm unsure of how helpful last night's presentations were to the project overall. Due to the roughness, there wasn't much time or opportunity for discussing the sources presented. 

In light of this, I assigned some additional work this week, work that should serve both research and writing progress. In addition to the bibliographic information already provided in the GooDoc, I'm asking for a 3-5 sentence summary, 3-5 pertinent quotes, and 3-5 chapter-related tags per source. This supplemental information should help us in considering not only which sources might work best with a given chapter but also in the interest of time as we may be unable to read for ourselves each source in the research pool.

With the GooDoc not all that conducive to finding one source over another, I was glad that JS volunteered to create an online space that should better facilitate our research and writing: http://researchpool.wordpress.com/ I anticipate the tags to be the most helpful at this point as we're just now seeing what's available for chapter integration. 

For next week's presentations, I'm also placing some more stringent requirements: no words on the slides, only images. Given last night's roughness, I'm also expecting more polished, practiced presentations, but we shall see.

Where we stand: Week 2 #560wr

Context for those who may need it

Above is a shot of the whiteboard at the conclusion of the second session of ENG 560, spring semester. The session began by addressing a couple burning questions, 1) to book or not to book and 2) the role and responsibilities of Student #15. I wanted to address the book question because I think it was shrugged off in the first session. I wanted to make sure we gave some time to thinking more about the intended result of our work. Those who brought up the idea of something other than a book (SOTAB) outed themselves as troublemakers, but I think the discussion was fruitful and helpful. In putting forth an argument for SOTAB, JS declared, "I want what I write to be read," thereby invoking questions of both access and recognition. However, RA expressed a preference for a "fixed ending" and the idea that a book, perhaps more than any other written form, implies a conclusion to work. RW identified SOTAB as "shooting below the target," given both the initial idea for the course as well as their own expectations. A number of other students admitted that much of their interest in ENG 560 was the potential end result, i.e., a Book.

My initial approach to the course concerned such a result. While it may be on the way out, a book is still probably what students in UM-Flint's MA in English Language and Literature program are most familiar with. Going for SOTAB opens up the need to navigate many different avenues, from knowledge and objective to outcome and skill. Of course, all of these are wrapped up in the question of time. While there are simple tools available to put together SOTAB, I feel that we would need more than 8 weeks to anywhere near completion. Given these concerns, I was somewhat relieved that ENG 560 agreed to stick with the original plan of writing a book.

However, what #560wr decided for Student #15 is now rather moot because a student withdrew from the course this morning due to impending scheduling conflicts. With no more Student #15, we are without an assistant editor, one responsible for greater proofreading duties as well as crafting the 5-page introduction and 5-page conclusion to the book we're writing. With an even number of 14 students now enrolled, roles and responsibilities are pretty standard; we just need to figure out any possible jostling of positions regarding who will be contributing to the writing of which chapter. 

Then again, we are early enough in this process to perhaps consider still having an assistant editor and/or someone whose role and responsibilities align with the following comment:

I was thinking what about someone to serve as an laborer to set the type for the reference page(s)/table of contents (?)/ someone to write an intro or summary or something. a 15th person could serve well as an editorial type (like copy editing and all that) because I can well imagine any of us getting really attached to our respective sections and kind of needing an objective eye to help with things. I don't know if I like the term "editor" because that implies that the 15th person is somehow above the process or higher on the pecking order than anyone else. Maybe a text custodian or something.

I think a course documentarian could be another possibility, either in addition to or instead of an assistant editor. While I'm working here to document our process, I know I can't give the fullest view. Having another perspective could be quite helpful. Given some of the later rumblings about the initial scope of this collaborative writing project, perhaps a few students will appreciate having alternatives.

These early discussions about SOTAB and Student #15, though, introduced other areas of concern, including initial scope, target audience, potential chapters, etc. The more conversation about how and what and why we wanted to write the book, the more students began shutting down and/or pledging allegiance to apathy. I think it was to the great relief of many that I read direct from last week's entry regarding scope, audience, and chapters. It appeared that the entire class was all too willing to pursue my perspective and understanding of last week's session as opposed to their own. MG even went so far as to assume control over the whiteboard while some suffered quiet Type A freakouts and others joked about how to make this book turn a profit (sell for $.99 on Amazon and have interstitial chapters about vampires in jeggings). 

That's not to write that no valid concerns were raised, though. A perceived lack of originality (common in academic writing, I think) in our initial scope may be evident, but it's difficult to say with confidence until after further research. SA explained how we might adopt some of Peter Elbow's language in "Embracing Contraries" for our own purposes. JD put forth the helpful phrase "social role in relation to..." as a possible guiding light for our collective work.

Speaking of which, here is where I think we stand now:

  1. AA and MBr will be writing Chapter 1, which will focus on how we define "social role."
  2. BW and JW will be writing Chapter 2, which will focus on the history of the social role of the writing teacher
  3. RA and SA will be writing Chapter 3, which will focus on how writing teachers determine their social role
  4. SL and MG will be writing Chapter 4, which will focus on how others determine the social role of the writing teacher
  5. JS and MBo will be writing Chapter 5, which will focus on special considerations of the social role of the writing teacher
  6. KC and JD will be writing Chapter 6, which will focus on the social role of the writing teacher in relation to pedagogy
  7. JB and KM will be writing Chapter 7, which will focus on possible counters to the social role of the writing teacher

I do not expect us to stand here for very long, given the loss of Student #15. Though we have plans for the next two weeks, there should be time sufficient to discuss the necessity of an assistant editor and/or alternatives.

The second session of ENG 560, spring semester, concluded with some comments from me about the next two weeks. Having agreed to an initial scope, target audience, and potential chapters, research should begin. So, for the next two weeks, we will present strong academic work in relation to the initial scope of our collaborative writing project. These presentations will be 5 minutes in length with a timing set for 20 seconds per slide. As each student is required to bring 10 total sources to the project, I expect each presentation to include 5 sources. This will mean 15 slides in all for one presentation with a full minute spent on each source introduced. During each minute, there should be justification of interest, summary, and suitability. I'm also hoping for no huge block quotes on slides as that much text will be impossible to read.