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Writing with/without Networks

Written by Erin Wilkey Oh
July 20, 2012

John Jones, assistant professor of professional writing and editing at West Virginia University, presents some fascinating thoughts about the changing nature of writing in his summer blog posts at DMLcentral.

In “The Challenge of Teaching Networked Writing,” Jones argues that the daily writing practices of students should have a place in the writing classroom. He refers to this writing as networked writing, which includes many of the practices we discuss here on Digital Is, such as blogging or short forms. He notes that some of the opponents of embracing networked writing in the classroom may feel discomfort with the open-ended nature of these forms, as they are less about end product and more about interaction. However, he argues that the inclusion of these forms will better prepare students for the new writing landscape.  

The challenge facing writing instruction is how to teach students to write — ethically, effectively — in the network environments that they face, both now and in the future. A Twitter conversation will never be an op-ed in The New York Times. But the reverse is also true. I am not advocating that we should abandon teaching traditional writing genres to our students, but teaching students different techniques for writing in different genres will make them better writers, with more tools at their disposal for addressing unique writing situations.

Jones continues to develop his thoughts about networked writing in “Writing Without Networks.” In his earlier post, he seemed to speak of networked writing forms as somewhat separate from traditional genres. But in this piece, he considers the possibility that networks could, in fact, impact other genres of writing.

Some might say that, as teachers of traditional genres—the argumentative essay, the report—such writing [networked writing] does not intrude on their subject matter. Yet as so much writing is conducted in the kinds of network environments typified by texting, blogging, and other forms of generative, interactive exchange, we cannot assume that this writing will not intrude on our current practices.

He discusses a book, Digital Detroit by Jeff Rice, as an example of a traditional piece of writing that embraces the “learning and expression made possible” by networks. 

We might even begin to call this writing-apart-from networks something new, instead of the networked writing that characterized writing on networks, a network writing that embraces the role of networks in shaping and communicating ideas no matter what final form it takes.

I’d be interested to hear what the Digital Is community thinks of these recent blog posts. What do you think about his idea of network writing? Do you have other examples of traditional writing that embraces the role of networks? Do you agree that networked writing needs to have a place in the writing classroom?

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