In the Mirror of Genre:  Students Write this World
 
In Lieu of a Conclusion

If I live long enough to analyze those many pages of transcript, the texts my students have produced, and a reasonable sample of the bargeloads of text on the web, perhaps I'll be in a better position to pretend I have a conclusion.  In the meantime, I offer the following observations based on what I have looked at so far.

Students are expert at intuiting the forms "proper" to web space.  No surprise there.  However, they seem to perceive web space as

In other words, they intuitively work within a cluster of genres that I call "web encyclopedia" genres, geared to the rhetorical purpose of gathering up and making available information that is already there.   This is not what I think we mean by a "writing space."

The only alternative seems to be the more-or-less linear essay reproduced on the web.  This should not be surprising in view of the fact that most of the on-line academic journals reproduce this form.  For instance, take a look at a recent issue of the American Communication Journal on the discourse surrounding the recent Zippergate affair.  This issue clearly takes advantage of the multimedia features of the web, not only merging text and graphics but also allowing readers to access streamed video version of Clinton's famous apologia courtesy of C-Span.  But scratch the surface--that is, actually read one of the essays--and you'll find dressed-up linear text.

Not that there's anything essentially wrong with dressed-up linear text.  But it does not provide an opportunity for students to see the glorious riches of Kolbian multi-voiced postmodenrist philosophical hypertext at work.

I am not at this point quite sure what this means.  Maybe it means that the hypertext gurus are too optimistic, or maybe it means that we are still at the stage print was in when it tried to look as much as possible like an illuminated manuscript.  Maybe it means that, if we truly think that multi-voiced polylog is a useful genre, we will have to provide more opportunities for students to read and write it.

Maybe before students can write this world, we will have to.
 
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