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Just before plunging back into my chapter this morning, I took my usual tour of the RSS feeds, and discovered DR’s post about collaborative authorship and its benefits. And just in the nick of time: the section of the chapter that I’m working on today is about the benefits of collaboration and other forms of socially-situated scholarly writing.

Most of the time, when scholars (outside rhet-comp, at least) discuss the benefits of collaboration, the first claim that gets made for it is “increased productivity,” a phrase that cannot help but raise specters for me, on the one hand, of some old forgotten joke about the new tractor and the Soviet five-year plan, and on the other, of Bill Readings’s assessment of the Fordist enterprise that higher education has become: “Produce what knowledge you like, only produce more of it, so that the system can speculate on knowledge differentials, can profit from the accumulation of intellectual capital” (164).

So I resist thinking about collaboration as a means of getting more work done. What I’m interested in is the ways that collaboration and other social modes of writing, and particularly those enabled by digital networks, might allow us to get better work done. (I say “other social modes of writing” because I want to include in the category that I’m thinking about not just literal co-authorship but also electronic extensions of phenomena like writing groups, in which the input of respondents can become as important to the process as the work one does in solitude.)

I’d really like to hear about your experiences: if you’ve worked in such a collaborative environment, how did it improve your work, either on the level of process or of product? What were the benefits of working, as DR describes, in a conversational framework? What, if any, were the drawbacks?

(And if there’s particular stuff in the literature about collaborative writing that you would feel a section of a chapter on digital authorship to be incomplete without referencing, I’d really love to hear about them…)


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