So I’ve been thinking more about the whole “connective writing” idea and its potential importance as a unique genre of writing in this “new” Web environment. They way it’s framed in my brain, it’s a type of writing that is inspired by reading and is therefore a response to an idea or a set of ideas or conversations. It is writing that synthesizes those ideas and remixes them in some way to make them our own and is published to potentially wide audiences. Because it is published, it is writing that then becomes a part of a larger negotiation of a truth or knowledge that is evolving in the larger network. And finally, it is writing that is written with the expectiation that it too will be taken and remixed by others into their own truths by this continuous process of reading, thinking, writing (and linking), publishing and reading some more.
As I’ve thought about this, one of the key ingredients has been David Weinberger’s idea that texts no longer have value based on what they contain but on what they connect to. So, now that we can publish easily, now that markets or schools or (your plural noun here) are conversations, now that paper is becoming more and more irrelevant as a communication platform, we need to repurpose our texts (in whatever medium) from being simple containers of ideas into being complex connectors of ideas. To me, that represents a very significant shift.
In the last couple of days, a number of people have pointed to a great article at Kairos titled “Why Teach Digital Writing?” that begins to get to this idea of connective writing:
Computer technologies allow writers with access to a computer network to become publishers and distributors of their writing. And chances are they will get feedback, sometimes immediately. Therefore, audiences and writers are related to each other more interactively in time and space. Writers can easily integrate the work of others into new meanings via new media and rescripting of old media—text, image, sound, and video—with a power and speed impossible before computer technologies. The depth and breadth of this type of collaboration—both implicit (“borrowing” from others) and complicit (communities of writers)—may be one of the most significant impacts of computer technologies on the contexts and practices of writing. This context presses up against larger issues of intellectual property, plagiarism, access, credibility of sources, and dissemination of information
At some point, we’re all going to have to shift our thinking about some of the ideas in that last sentence. (Talk about a disruption.) But on the current topic, here’s the money quote:
When we put it all together, the ability to compose documents with multiple media, to publish this writing quickly, to distribute it to mass audiences, and to allow audiences to interact with this writing (and with writers) challenges many of the traditional principles and practices of composition, which are based (implicitly) on a print view of writing. The changing nature and contexts of composing impacts meaning making at every turn. [Emphasis mine.]
There’s more here too, much more, that I will get to at some point. But I’m thinking about how we begin to move our students, young students even, away from container texts to connector texts, about how we start to prepare them for a world of conversations (as David Warlick implores) and negotiations and meaning making instead of meaning taking.
And, almost more importantly, I’m wondering how we move our teachers to doing this as well.
Tom Hoffman says
This whole thread just illuminates the limits of this approach. You’re writing about making connections, but you’re only making connections to other bloggers and what they’re writing today. You aren’t making any connections to the rather immense body of literature on teaching reading and writing. Sure our converations seem brilliant and original if you ignore everything that you can’t bookmark in del.icio.us and refer only to the “traditional practices and principles of composition” which is seems to mean “best practices from more than forty years ago.”
Will R. says
Wait! Where does it say this is only about bloggers? Who says we can’t read paper texts and still connect them with other ideas we find on the Web? I’m not saying we ignore any of those traditional resources in this process. I’m just saying when we write about them now, we can write about them differently, with different and potentially more relevant and powerful purposes. And who is saying this is the only type of writing and reading that we should teach? Did I say ignore other genres?
Tadge O'Brien says
I have to agree and disagree in someway. The idea “that texts no longer have value based on what they contain but on what they connect to” is something that is as citations in journal. A lot of people would say that articles that have good citations or connect to relevant research has more value than a romance novel that you can pick up. In this sense it seems to me that blogging like the Google’s page rank allows someone to see the backing that a blogger is using.
I do however believe blogging does allow for other ideas within print or primary sources to be linked. In the sense that you can still site these things allows for the reader of the blog to venture on their own learning quest to discover the meaning of a document. It seems that people see things that are digital as unreliable or untrue. Then why is it that I am more likely to learn the newest ideas out there on computers and other subjects that contain time sensitive information from a Google search as opposed to going to my local library?
Case in point Podcasting. Not that this is a new idea, but the fact that I had to go out and purchase a book on it since the two copies that existed in my local library community were unavailable shows that information isn’t always accessible. Secondly after purchasing the book I found that there was an error in the text. Sending a note to the publisher via email helped not only the publisher but others who bought the book.
So to sum up my thoughts I agree that blogging and digital information as reliable as print, thought we need to look at the source of our digital information more. I have to disagree that it is a new idea that text on the net has created an idea of connected writing. Just my thoughts.
Interesting Digital Social Documents