“You are free…to perform the work”

10.  As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.

creative commons deed

I purposely misread yesterday’s thesis to make a turn of point, of analysis. Today’s thesis will have me directly discuss what I think the writers of The Cluetrain Manifesto are trying to do.

With a little bit of sonorous emphasis, the authors are trying to hit a point home.

We are only on thesis 10, however, and I don’t want to spoil the point they will make, nor the one I will make by the end of this venture.

Instead, why don’t we just go along for now, and question along the way?

We have argued that markets are comprised of humans, and human interaction. Therefore, it is no large leap to assert that we are “getting smarter, more informed, more organized”. Our connection to one another brings this about.

And what brings this about is conversation.

I operate within the market of teaching composition (among quite a few others). In my field, our entire everything surrounds conversation. We don’t do anything, teach anything, or learn anything without first having a conversation about it. We make conversation our art; it’s all we do.

Coming into composition has its own breadth of initiation. Normally, we american graduate students don’t just have this knowledge of what conversation about conversation is. We have to learn it. And the only way to learn it is to start conversing.

So our classes are all just conversations about conversations.

At some point, we become meta-cognitively aware of this conversation thing to the point where it no longer feels like this thing we have to do, but has become natural. We are just chit-chatting. This is not to disregard the fact that most of our conversations are about vastly significant social issues.

In fact, that is the point I want to make here and now: that the true art of conversation is about what matters.

Whatever that happens to be at the moment. However, our pedagogy and curriculum reflect a form of praxis (that is the embodiment of theory into action). Yep, we compies know how to fix the whole philosophy problematic of too-much-talk-not-enough-do.

It’s called seeing our students less as students, and more as humans (also not that difficult once you dive right in).

Just yesterday, I began teaching my second class of the quarter. We assessed our university’s rules and standards regarding plagiarism and cheating. We collectively conversed about the practices we have embodied as students to learn that everyone has committed some form of “cheating” if we really analyzed it.

I’m not saying my students are cheaters—far from it! What I am saying is that cheating is a cultural phenomenon situated differently between each discourse community. I used the example of two different classrooms.

In a math class, it would be entirely illegal to whisper to a friend on a test, “pst, hey, I got this answer for this equation. Does yours look similar?” But it would be entirely legal—and actually encouraged—in my composition classroom to say, “pst, hey, I think the “self” is _______. What do you think?” Same scenario, different cultural responses.

That is because my field values collective knowledge-acquisition, and those math people are still stuck in the capitalist, fordist ideology that the individual is the center of all knowledge-making.

Trolling the modernists completely included: what does it mean that many discourse communities still rely upon modes of intellectual pursuit as individual, commodified even, when we are starting to see the power of conversation as making people smarter?

I’ll try to answer this as I move on. For now, I’ll leave  you all with an essay on conversation, collaboration, etc. by Kenneth Bruffee. Read if you would like. Sharing is love.

Bruffee–Peer Tutoring and Convers of Mankind


One thought on ““You are free…to perform the work”

  1. Great thoughts. Especially “[W]hat does it mean that many discourse communities still rely upon modes of intellectual pursuit as individual, commodified even, when we are starting to see the power of conversation as making people smarter?”

    I think it’s an indicator there’s work yet to be done.

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