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.