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Eyman, Douglas, Stephanie Sheffield, and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss. “Developing Sustainable Research Networks in Graduate Education.” Computers and Composition 26 1 (2009): 49-57. Print.

This article argues that because of the rapid changes in knowledge production and circulation in academia from a top-down, print culture (journal) to distributed, bottom up systems of the web the format, curricula and research networks developed at the graduate education level must be changed.  As such, the article lays out a way to combine the power of digital networking and collaboration through “communities of practice.”

Interestingly enough, the graduate education is marked by individual milestones and collaboration on other works.  In other words, the originary author is still the gate keeping/assessment measurement for graduate school work in rhet/comp
Some definitional work for networks in this article include:

  • A set of actors connected by a set of ties
  • Actors as people, teams, organizations, concepts, etc.
  • Communities of practice definition:  groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly (Wenger 2005).
  • Difference between “networks” and “communities of practice”:
    • Communities of practice lead to an improvement in activity for the individual but are conceived of in terms of the group.
    • Networks lead to an improvement or an accrual of social capital for the group
    • Networks are facilitative while CoP are supportive
    • A combination of the two leads to a research network.
  • After laying out the composition of a research network, the authors demonstrate how DigiRhet.net – a digital research network that arose from a class in digital rhetoric at MSU – defined itself and operated as more than just a research network (a teaching/collaboration network as well)
  • For a research network to be able to sustain itself, Eyman et.al. claim that it needs a three-fold framework:  community (community of practice), critical engagement, and applicatio
  • Community – the core requirement.
  • Develop community outside, inside, beyond the classroom
  • Explore and understand the research network as a community support mechanism
  • Encourage open debate and dialogue
  • Examine what technologies are supportive or suppressive of community building activities
  • Create digital compositions that enact or support community building
  • Engaging critically – This is a really difficult thing to ask because it presumes that research network members will be willing to attend to the methods and approaches that have already been used as well as considering the implications for the methods and approaches being explored.  This is really a serious question about how thoroughly the entire research network takes up the question of method.
  • For collaborative research, a practical understanding of the different methods, tools, and resources available must be considered by all members participating in the research project.
  • Much of the work toward graduate research networks results from a desire to reflect the collaborative efforts of the field in the disciplining process

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