Across the country, blog writing has become a basic requirement in everything from M.B.A. to literature courses. On its face, who could disagree with the transformation? Why not replace a staid writing exercise with a medium that gives the writer the immediacy of an audience, a feeling of relevancy, instant feedback from classmates or readers, and a practical connection to contemporary communications? Pointedly, why punish with a paper when a blog is, relatively, fun?That's a bogus complaint. Just require the blog posts to be well-written! Davidson has her students "regularly publish 500- to 1,500-word entries on an internal class blog." These are as long as the essays law students write on the exams that often constitute the entire basis for their grade in a semester long course. These entries are essays, and they are no more "personally expressive" (read: indulgent) than a term paper if the teacher states that the assignment is to write something structured/neutral/scholarly (or whatever the directions for a term paper are).
Because, say defenders of rigorous writing, the brief, sometimes personally expressive blog post fails sorely to teach key aspects of thinking and writing. They argue that the old format was less about how Sherman got to the sea and more about how the writer organized the points, fashioned an argument, showed grasp of substance and proof of its origin. Its rigidity wasn’t punishment but pedagogy.
The debate about academic writing has given rise to new terminology: “old literacy” refers to more traditional forms of discourse and training; “new literacy” stretches from the blog and tweet to multimedia presentation with PowerPoint and audio essay.These are just different ways of publishing. It's the content that matters. But, obviously, different technologies promote different kinds of thinking and writing. For example, when we used typewriters, we didn't do as much redrafting as we do with computers, and when we publish on line, we tend to go public faster.
Andrea A. Lunsford, a professor of English at Stanford, says "that students feel much more impassioned by the new literacy. They love writing for an audience, engaging with it. They feel as if they’re actually producing something personally rewarding and valuable, whereas when they write a term paper, they feel as if they do so only to produce a grade."
There's a certain sort of teacher who's always imagining stimulating the students to new levels of passion. I suspect students can find this quite annoying and burdensome. Not only does the student have to write a lot, he's supposed to be all excited about it. Because teacher says blogging is exciting. But the blog can be a slog. It's not a slog for me, because I'm motivated from within. I make my own projects and do what I want. The intrinsic reward is fantastic. But I don't imagine that I could make students feel the same thing if they have to write when and where I tell them to and submit to my judgment for a grade.
Here's Davidson's book —
On the drive home from Austin to Madison, as the passenger, I read the entire old book out loud. It's full of effusions about how are brains have changed because of "the high speeds of electric communication." McLuhan and Fiore were talking about television.
Our electrically-configured world has forced us to move from the habit of data classification to the mode of pattern recognition. We can no longer build serially, block-by-block, step-by-step, because instant communication insures that all factors in the environment and of experience coexist in a state of active interplay.That was in 1967! If what they're saying were true when they wrote it, by now — with the internet and mobile devices — we'd all be crazy.
(Yes, yes, maybe we are crazy now. How would we know? By looking at election results?)
IN THE COMMENTS: FedkaTheConvict said:
Duke's Group of 88 Cathy Davidson?Oh, my... The internet comes back to bite a pundit of internetology.