After #twittergate. The Value of New Media Scholarship: a #digped Discussion

The conversation curated and archived via Storify.

This Friday, October 5 from 1:00 – 2:00pm Eastern (10:00 – 11:00am Pacific), Hybrid Pedagogy will host a Twitter discussion under the #digped hashtag to explore how our writing in online, multimodal, and social media environments might inform our definitions of “scholarship.” The old models of writing are changing and new models are emerging in the online environment. In “Show Not Tell: The Value of New Media Scholarship” Cheryl Ball writes, “most authors who do publish online in scholarly, peer-reviewed journals publish texts that do not break print-bound conventions and rarely travel into an apparent experimental realm of scholarship.” Most people have not been trained to view online forums as scholarly. We are encouraged to read and write, in any and every way, but “new media scholarship may be dismissed as having an unnecessarily fussy ‘advertising aesthetic’… making it unworthy as a scholarly text in the eyes of the reader.” Increasingly though, we are collaborating on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, and asking how communication in these forums fit into the bigger picture of scholarly writing.

This is not to say all digital publication is worthy of the title ‘scholarship’ just because scholars produce it. Amidst all the discussion about what social media and online journals (like this one) can do for us, it is increasingly important to think critically about the potential dangers. If we are going to embrace the composing pedagogues, students, and scholars who are going online without any goading, how do we decide the value of texts produced in non-traditional platforms? Can a series of Tumblr posts create an argument as valuable as a traditional print-style journal article?

Web texts like those featured in Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric Technology and Pedagogy remind us of how scholarly experimentation can contribute to disciplinary knowledge. The struggle lies in the ability to mesh experimental media with a concrete message a reader doesn’t need any special cues to get. What new reading strategies do we need for compositions where the argument is not as clear-cut as a traditional thesis statement? And if we can’t find the argument right away, does this undermine the quality of the piece? If we don’t value online composition, multimodal articles, and the conversations that happen during Twitter-chats like #digped, are we discarding rich disciplinary resources?

When Cheryl Ball’s article was published, Google was only a two year old company, and twitter wasn’t even a wisp of an idea. People were just beginning to discuss the havoc text messaging would supposedly wreak on the grammar of young people. In “The Twitter Essay,” Jesse refutes the notion that “our language is being perverted by the shortcuts (and concision nearly to the point of indifference) we’ve become accustomed to writing and reading in text messages and tweets.” He suggests, instead, that “composing a text-message or tweet is … a literate (and sometimes even literary) act.” This is not a new conversation. With the emergence of ‘prosumerism’, one person with access to a terminal and an internet connection can now instantaneously publish for a wider audience than Gutenberg’s printing press ever reached.

Perhaps ironically, this Friday, we will use #digped to discuss the value of online text(s) to the scholarly world, critiquing both medium, message, and the term ‘scholarly’ itself.

Here are some questions to consider in advance of the #digped conversation:

  • How has the notion of a ‘scholarly’ text changed since the advent of the internet?
  • What value do we currently place on texts produced in social media platforms? Do they have the potential to be considered scholarly? If so, how, and why?
  • What effect does online writing have on our classrooms? Is the ability to produce ubiquitous casual content on the internet hurting the way our students compose?
  • What role do multimodal compositions play in tenure-track jobs? Will the print tradition, even if it’s in PDF form, continue to be favored?

If you are interested in these and related questions, join us on October 5, at 1:00pm EST (10:00am PST). For those unable to join the conversation this week, Hybrid Pedagogy’s #digped has shifted to a once-a-month format, on the first Friday of every month. So our next #digped conversation will occur on Friday, November 2, same time, same place. If you have suggestions for future topics, feel free to add them to the comments on this entry or tweet them to@slamteacher.

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