Skip to content


2009 May 14
by Anne Dalke

I’ve just finished listening to the live-feed of the plenary session that Laura led @ “The (Un)Common University,” a Faculty Academy being offered this week @ The University of Mary Washington. Lots of good stuff there (some of it very well fed by this class!). I was especially intrigued by Laura’s description of a prof who invites students to edit his class notes (and by the counter-story offered by an attender, who has several students take notes simultaneously, and then solicits feedback from others).

I was also intrigued by the implication of such innovations that a co-written project is always going to be stronger than one crafted by an individual. As a long-time and inveterate collaborator (in teaching, in writing, in thinking…) I am wondering about this. I was speaking yesterday w/ a colleague who works in theater, and participates in (among other things) an experimental program in which three choreographers have worked together on projects for over a decade. Recently advised that their collaboration was actually keeping them from being as creative as they might, they’re experimenting this year w/ “unbraiding”–that is, each of them is pursuing an independent course, an independent project–before coming together again to “re-braid.”  So my question is: what exactly might enable collaborative work to be more creative, and what dimensions of collaborative work might have precisely the opposite effect: more limiting, more “damping-down,” more “middle-marching”?

I was also particularly struck by the description, during discussion after Laura’s talk, of “peer review as its own network,” and by the characterization of peer-reviewed journals as entities that “want to stay closed, to stay protected.” How to deal with these effects, that peer review–because gated, guarded–may perhaps not be inviting the most interesting or exploratory or edgy work? In Natural-Born Cyborgs, Andy Clark draws on the work of James O’Donnell to propose separating the idea of validation from that of prepackaging: “In the electronic world, major journals might instead add (after the usual kinds of peer-reviewing process) a kind of seal of approval to certain articles. A single article could carry the seal of multiple major journals, encouraging consumption by a wider audience” (this would help Clark, who himself is often dismayed in having to choose between publishing a certain paper in a philosophy journal, vs. one on artificial intelligence, when it might well appeal to the audiences of both). And it might help all of us, to have a more open network, w/ intersections among the various “silos” in which we all operate.

Comments are closed.