Sunday, April 30, 2006

Chapter one draft is done!

Well, it's a start. I'm letting a couple of people read it over before I send it on to the committee, but I think I'm at the point where I need advice from the advisor anyway. I also still need to put the works cited list in, which I'm having to do by hand--ugh.

Here's a pdf of the draft, if you're so inclined.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Tomorrow's work

Got about 5 pages written today, which brings me close to 20 pages for this chapter so far. I'm not sure how many pages are left but for tomorrow, I will be writing up the following:
  • Finish up a summary and discussion of approaches others have taken in terms of audience and blogging
  • Shift to research on blogging from computer science that deals specifically with audience--I think this is going to be interesting and important to consider
  • Transitional paragraph or two to next chapter.
Yay! Almost done!!!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Pockets of disciplinarity

As I continue my reading and research on audience, I have noticed the way that disciplines are often unaware of each other. And not only are they unaware of each other, they are decidedly unwilling to become aware of each other (in some cases). I've always thought of composition and rhetoric as a discipline that has always taken other disciplines into account--cognitive psychology, education, to name a few. It seems, though, that as comp/rhet becomes more established, it has drawn from other disciplines even less. Even worse, is the complete ignorance other disciplines have of comp/rhet. For example, I can read an article from computer science on blogging and audience that I find perfectly interesting, but which is not situated at all within an academic understanding of audience. For that reason, perhaps, comp/rhet folks will ignore that article. And yet, it offers an interesting quantitative and qualitative analysis of bloggers and their audiences which might be useful to us in thinking about approaching blogging as a pedagogical tool.

There are good reasons, of course, for these disciplinary distinctions. As a discipline grows, it's difficult enough to remain well read in one's own discipline, much less with other disciplines that may overlap with one's own. There are also the inevitable misunderstandings and misinterpretations of another discipline when one is not studied in that discipline. I've seen this happen in reading comp/rhet articles that have attempted to incorporate research from disciplines I happen to have more than a passing familiarity with because I'm married to a researcher in Artificial Intelligence whose also deeply interested in cognition and learning. For example, I read an article that attempted to incorporate emergence into their work and I dismissed it because they relied on a single researcher in that field from 20 years ago. I happen to be familiar with many other researchers from more recent years. I've also seen, in my participation in an emergence research group which consists of researchers from economics, literature, biology, social work, computer science, history, and other areas, people misinterpret and misunderstand each other's disciplines.

These misunderstandings and gaps and deliberate ignorance of other disciplines seem to be a direct call for multidisciplinary work. True multidisciplinary work. I think I'm attempting to accomplish that somewhat, except that I'm aware that comp/rhet is the lens through which I'm viewing educational technology and network theory, etc. Or is it the other way around! It's far more interesting to be thinking in these ways, though I'm finding myself having to be constantly vigilant for those missteps that might cause someone from the other side of the fence to dismiss my work.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A bit of reflection

It's been interesting the last few days as I've dived into writing the chapter on audience. I really feel the importance of audience, both for myself and for student writers. I feel much more compelled to write when I think someone might read it. I'm not entirely sure students feel the same way, but based on the class, I think this is true. What's interesting to me, in the research, is the way that teachers have attempted to replicate a real audience through publication, peer review, having students follow a detailed heuristic, or writing up their own description of audience. To me, this is no substitute for having people react to their writing in realistic ways, by saying, "Hey, this is interesting" or "Hey, I don't really understand." Even though I may say the same things to them, it comes across differently when it's a stranger from the outside.

I've been thinking about this too in my own use of the blog here and in other areas of my life. Even though much of my writing has been reflective, it's not without the expectation that someone might respond to it. I suspect that causes to me to modify somewhat my own writing. I know I write things in my reflection that are helpful to me in thinking through whatever issues I might be dealing with, but I also consider what might be helpful to others. I've gained a lot from reading other blogs by people working on their disseration. I've especially appreciated reading specific steps they've taken on any given day. Watching that process unfold is quite helpful and watching it unfold in different ways for different people is also helpful. There is no one right way to do this. Even I have modified my approach, based on my own work rhythms, most recently deciding to write first thing in the morning rather than at night.

While I think many people, when they hear the term audience, think of the mass crowd of unknowable faces, I have come to think of it also as a community of people sharing similar experiences to myself. That doesn't mean I see them as entirely like myself. I can see that in their own writing in the form of comments or their blogs. But this attempt at understanding each other, trying to communicate something to someone is key. Communicating with the air or just with the blank computer screen is no fun. This is really hard work, but when it succeeds, so fulfilling.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Audience chapter parts

Here are some thoughts about how to organize this chapter. (No, I haven't started actually writing yet; I'm thinking.)

What is a "real" audience?
  • classical rhetorical view of audience and what current practicioners think of that
  • the invoked or fictionalized audience--how real is that? how does it fit with a real audience?
Teaching with an audience
  • why some teachers think a "real" audience is important
    • cognitive research about audience construction
  • ways teachers have tried to get a "real" audience
The web and audience
  • in what ways is a web audience "real"
  • issues with a web audience
  • audience vs. community
Possibly some examples from the blog

I think it's shaping up.