Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Back on the horse

I scared myself off the blog because my last entry--a reflection on a paper I am working on--lead me to mess up the paper, rather than clarify and finish the paper. Darn blog--it is supposed to be infallible!

That said, I am here to try again, reflecing on some reader comments for the trivium project I have written about a few times. Let me start by saying that I really like the way people in the field of rhetoric and composition respond to other people's scholarship. The reviewers of the trivium project were quick to respond, supportive, but also very careful and smart critics of our project. I didn't get the sense that any of them wanted to force their agenda on our work. When I occasionally submit to other fields / subdisciplines, the readers are often very slow, very dogmatic, and not particularly supportive (even if they accept the piece!).

Okay, the point that got me here was a observation that our trivium project was a traditional, locked down essay with open wikipieces building off that essay structure. One reviewer pointed out that our wiki projects have a grammatical bias: the collecting and sorting of information. We were aware of this bias, and I think we even discussed, then dismissed other options. But as I read this comment, I began to think--how does the web massage rhetoric, dialectic, and grammar? Or where do these categories show up. Wiki building (wikipedia most obviously), retrieves the grammatical impulse to collect, sort, organize knowledge. I would even be willing to say the web as medium supports this function better than the other two functions. Dialectic, as philosophy, as critique, as questioning shows up in filter-blogging and discussion boards. K-logging might combine the grammatical and the dialectical, as bloggers gather and sort relevant information, but also offer commentary and critique of that information. Rhetoric, as the application of grammatical knowledge to practical political problems, might be most fully embodied in activist or political websites that show a broad understanding of an issue / issues (the grammatical function), while employing the crafts and strategies of persuasive new media discourse to prompt action and production, not just consumption.

Suppose I should just go work on the project, not blog it.


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