Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Post That Time Forgot (10/10 readings post)

Allow me to be completely honest. I had a great idea for this post. I mean, we're talking the "woke me up in the middle of the night with its shining brilliance" kind of great idea. The problem, of course, is that I didn't get my lazy butt out of bed to write the idea down; instead, I went back to sleep and (of course) woke up in the morning with no coherent memory of what that idea was. I've been hoping ever since that it would come hasn't, so I need to just buck up and write a frickin' response. Grr, grr, grr.

Two issues, separate but interrelated, stood out to me in these readings. The first is the question of what types of genre and methods of work we value in publication and research, and why. The second is Inman's view of little narratives as defining specific research and publication goals. I'll explore each of them in separate chunks.

As a young scholar, I'm trying to get a handle on the specific types of work that are valued within the field. One thing that already disturbs me is the implication of lesser "worth" in hiring and tenure decisions that is sometimes put on collaborative work. This is tangentially dealt with in our readings for this week, but it's such a related issue (particularly considering the high degree of collaboration we've seen within our course readings so far) that I want to address it. Why might collaboration be looked down upon? Well, some might say that individual authors don't do as much work, and collaborative work should therefore not be valued as highly as works with individual authorship. I admit, some of my objection to this is motivated by self-interest, as I'm engaged in a variety of collaborative work right now, but this just doesn't make sense to me, particularly as many of the people making this assertion also teach writing. Is the total word count from someone what counts, or is it the ideas? Don't we often encourage students to work with one another to varying degrees? If many of us are all about peers working together in the classroom, what does it mean that many aren't as enthusiastic about the same thing in the professional realm?

Issues of genre: along with issues of collaboration, it also boggles my mind that websites or other virtual publications are not as valued as traditional forms of publication. Maybe I just spend too much time online, but I'm very aware of how much work goes into web-based documents, as well as how many people can see them. If someone puts a really interesting bit of scholarship up on a website, where people can easily dialogue with them, growing the conversation, isn't that at least as valuable as putting it into a journal with a limited subscriber base? If someone maintains a blog that dialogues with others in the field, isn't that at least as important as giving a one-time conference presentation that few people attend?

This is where Inman can come in...after all, if we have these separate little narratives going on within the field, communication between those involved in those narratives is vital in order to grow them. Additionally, the communication between narratives is deeply important, in order for all of us to have some idea of what's going on in the field. Wouldn't the web be one of the best ways to do this?

This may not be as coherent as I'd like it to be, but sometimes I'm just confused by things.

One additional note...I have an additional theorycrush on Inman, just for putting that little narratives idea into his piece. It is fabulously geeky, in the best sense: one that understands that the wider picture can only grow when specialists focus on their own areas, instead of entirely diluting their efforts. It makes me feel much better about my work...occasionally I freak out that I need to be developing a grand unified theory for EVERYTHING rhetorical in order for my work to matter. Inman provides excellent reasons why this is not the case, and I kinda lurve him for that.

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