Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine / Volume 2, Number 1/ January 1, 1995

The `Academicality' (or Not) of CREWRT-L

Date: Fri, 25 Nov 1994 17:21:46
Sender: Creative Writing in Education for Teachers and Students
From: Corina Schmelkes (CIDET100@BESTIT.DGIT.SEIT.MX)
Subject:      Re: content

I fully agree. This discussion group should be more 

academic.  corina

To which Eric replied . . .

Date:         Sun, 27 Nov 1994 10:37:02 -0500
Sender: Creative Writing in Education for Teachers and Students
From: Eric Crump (
Thanks for the suggestion, Corina.

There are things to be learned here about the ways in which communities form with the aid of different media. The differences between print and net. There are things to be learned about changing cultural conditions and how media affect them: academic traditions and how they are being complicated, even rewritten, in netland. For instance, I thought Liz did as good a job as possibly could be done capturing the spirit of this list, its functions, its flavor. Yet a number of people who subscribed based on her description have expressed disappointment. The expectations they formed based on a print description could not match the real thing. Liz, whether she knew it or not, was engaged in an impossible task. When the Chronicle committed her words to print they froze in time. CREWRT-L, though, was a moving target. It kept moving as she wrote. It kept moving as the presses rolled. It keeps moving now, putting ever more distance between the snapshot in print and the ever-evolving conversation here. The article was obsolete before she finished it, and it gets more obsolete every minute. But that's not her fault. It's a function of the relationship between two very different media. And it's a function of the effect of the article itself, which was a rock thrown into this little pond, causing ripples of unpredictable amplitude. An impossible job. Just try describing something accurately that is going to be changed by the description itself. Wheee! Perhaps she should have placed a warning at the end of the piece: Anyone who uses a print source to launch themselves into cyberspace should expect to have their expectations violated. Go forth with eyes and hearts open. Be prepared to be nimble. Be prepared to be disappointed and surprised. Joy and anguish await you. It's a lot like life, eh? The cultural tension at work here is mighty interesting, too. As Brian suggests: What is academic? Which 'academic' are we talking about? The article that attracted so many new people was printed in a publication that serves as a part of the traditional print-based academic culture's infrastructure. What the Chronicle readers assume to be academic is one thing, a fairly particular definition of the word, referring to the academic tradition based on the 19th century model of scholarship that still clings tenaciously to cultural dominance (in spite of the fact that the world has gone and changed radically around it). This list started as an academic venture rooted in the same basic humanistic tradition. It was supposed to be a place where teachers and students who care about creative writing as an academic endeavor could discuss the shape and future of its pedagogy, to make connections with pedagogical practices of other disciplines (particularly composition and rhetoric) and to develop specific new practices and ideas that could be applied in classrooms. We stuck to that topic for about a month, I think. We've learned quite a bit about what 'academic' means in cyberspace by hanging out here. I don't think CREWRT-L is any less academic than it was at the start. It is differently academic, but academic nevertheless. If nothing else, it remains and will remain academic as long as the great majority of its participants are academics, engaged in academic pursuits and ensconced in academic institutions. Gee, maybe if I say the word enough, people will start believing it :) The main thing we introduce here that cannot find space in traditional academic venues is play. It's the one thing that is missing from the print academic world that we all desperately need if we want to be productive and creative in our work. The net is reputed to be a liberatory space, a place where democracy can flourish anew, etc. etc. blah blah blah. I dunno about all the idealistic stuff, but I do know that the most liberating aspect of this list (and others) is the fact that they provide space for us to explore the intertwingling of seriousness and play, for the benefit of both. For the benefit of us. I don't need to list examples. You see dozens every day on this list. And if you look closely, you'll notice that the parodies, the verse, the personal notes, the gossip, the political arguments, are all interspersed with serious business. Richard Lanham has said that "interactivity compromises solemnity" Yes! and all that Stuff we see here does a lovely job taking the deadly seriousness out of academic issues and concerns, lets us absorb them into our lives (as opposed to segregating them as 'work' rather than 'leisure'). You might say (ok, I will say) that the new playful semi-irreverent banter found on this list will save academia from its own ponderous weight. Without the net, without lists like this, the academy will sink into oblivion. Soon. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Eric Crump * *and* * "We have come to regard print as so inevitable that we have * ceased to notice its extraordinary stylization. Print, after * all, is a trickery, too, not a historical inevitability." * --Richard Lanham

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