ERIC Number: ED410563
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1997-Mar
Splicing Ourselves into the Machine: Electronic Communities, Systems Theory, and Composition Studies.
Computer mediated communication (CMC) tends to erase power structures because such communication somehow undermines or escapes discursive limits. Online discussions seem to promote rhetorical experimentation on the part of the participants. Finding a way to explain disparities between electronic discussion and oral discussion has proven difficult. Those in composition studies have tried to theorize CMC by reference to postmodern theory, but another form of theory that might help in the investigation of the nature of online communities derives from cybernetics and from information theory. Cybernetics' wider implications have led to the advent of a second-order cybernetics or systems theory--self-organizing, self-making, or autopoietic. Reflexivity provides an implicit reason for the difficulty of controlling electronic class discussion. Third wave cybernetics can be used in conjunction with social applications of systems theory to think about what happens when machines, teachers, and students are all "spliced" into one grand system. It seems that traditional approaches to class discussion with the instructor controlling the flow and order make it natural for teachers to view electronic communities as the early cyberneticists did, as allopoietic mechanisms whose goals can be set and observed. Though control of a system with multiple, dynamic elements may be somewhat difficult, a lack of control does not, in terms of systems theory, preclude an instructor's valuable involvement in an online community. (Includes 5 notes; contains 15 references.) (CR)
Descriptors: Computer Assisted Instruction, Computer Attitudes, Computer Mediated Communication, Computer Uses in Education, Cybernetics, Discourse Communities, Discussion (Teaching Technique), Electronic Classrooms, Higher Education, Man Machine Systems, Online Systems, Postmodernism, Systems Approach, Teacher Student Relationship, Writing (Composition), Writing Instruction
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Revised version of a paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (48th, Phoenix, AZ, March 12-15, 1997).