Moxley, Joseph.  “Datagogies, Writing Spaces, and the Age of Peer Production”  Computers and Composition 25 (2008) 182 – 202.


This essay investigates how teachers and Writing Program Administrators (WPAs) can use commons based peer-to-peer technologies to change their roles, to alter writing instruction and literacy genres, and to transform our processes of learning, writing, and collaborating. The essay introduces the term “datagogy” to theorize about the synergy that takes place when “crowds” [Surowiecki] of teachers employ technologies to construct and debate shared pedagogies. The essay juxtaposes the values and ideologies of two metaphorical communities, the Community of Power and the Community of Learning, explores how these communities use and design online learning communities, and  concludes that datagogies are unique interfaces that emphasize the values of the Community of Learning as opposed to the values of the Community of Power. Finally, the essay argues that English studies will concede the central

pedagogical stage of the 21st century unless we develop datagogies that engage the creative power of individuals working collaboratively in a climate that respects diversity and independent thinking.

  • M. calls “datagogies” the new kind of teaching and learning that occurs in collaborative, commons-based endeavors mediated by peer-to-peer technologies (182).
  • M. notes that datagogies rely on the wisdom of crowds – not individuals – to be successful/wise.  Datagogies are characterized by real-time practice, dialogical (rather than presentational) learning, and massive participation.
  • M. uses metaphors of “Community of Power” and “Community of Learning” (Blake 1995) to characterize the values and ideologies that tend to characterize writing programs.  These terms are fairly straight forward – CoP are top down, consolidated systems wherein few users have power.  CoL are more even – or flat – and provide more “democratic” means of authorship and ownership of ideas (183) (“democratic” is shorthand for flattened social relations – one is heartened by this idea but also a bit suspicious of the forms of argumentation that might be most preferred).
  • M. provides a nice literature rundown on the connection between the wisdom of crowds and composition’s own predilection for collaborative work on 186.
  • CoP – Those who seek to secure power, who are driven by self interest, winning, and academic prestige, and who are concerned with claiming academic territory and copyright (186).  Often when WPAs take this attitude, they do so because they (at least implicitly) believe that grad students and most non-TT instructors don’t have the ethos/experience to make decisions regarding curriculum and assessment.
  • CoL – Those who seek to engage learners, who value the pursuit of truth and understanding, who are more committed to free culture than copyright, and who see all learning as an interconnected, collaborative act( 186).
  • M. characterizes interfaces such as Blackboard and WebCT as reflecting CoP values/ideologies.
  • M. engages the copyright question in this piece, noting that CoL tend toward commons-based IP licensing systems rather than any copyright (193).
  • M. notes that wiki have the potential to become “inherently subversive”, creating a space wherein the power of crowds overpowers the power of expertise.  In some senses, this is the same anxiety generated by the strong defense of rhetoric.
  • M. notes that one way to get at the ideological nature of interfaces is to evaluate whether they facilitate CoL or CoP (195).
  • M. closes the piece by noting that the individual still plays an important role in developing pedagogies for New Media/multimodality as well as in research.  He goes on to note that as English Studies moves forward in the 21st century, it will be important to harness the dialogic, collaborative power of datagogies – especially in transformational shifts in compositional technologies.

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