The New Work of Composing

Scholarship on the Move:
A Rhetorical Analysis of Scholarly Activity in Digital Spaces

Our analysis of these different spaces points to three significant conclusions:

The first is that the rhetorical moves that we conceive of as characteristic of traditional scholarship also happen in recognizable ways in digital forms, most evidently in webtexts, but in all the forms we studied. Thus, we argue that our analysis provides concrete evidence that the kinds of moves that define traditional scholarship can also define digital scholarship.

Second, scholarly activity happens in new ways in these digital spaces. Digital forms not only allow for some of the same moves that define the scholarly productions long valued in English studies, they allow for extending our definitions of the “scholarly” and provide new outlets for productive knowledge-building work.

Finally, our analysis illustrates how spaces like Twitter, Techrhet, and blogs can serve as a direct outlet to most formal scholarly productions. That is, ideas explored and developed in these spaces frequently find their way into other scholarship and play a role in the development of ideas and productive knowledge.

Our analysis presents some significant challenges for those interested in promoting the value of digital scholarly work. First, the range of scholarly activities present in these spaces points to the need to think about ways to formally recognize different forms of scholarly work. To do this, we will need to develop expanded categories of scholarly activity (perhaps including those we’ve developed here), so that these non-traditional activities might be identified and valued. We’ll also need to develop ways to assess faculty contributions that take into account both the content of these productions and the influence these texts are having on scholars in the field.

Further, our analysis highlights inadequacies in the way we assess scholarly work, such as our primary focus on print venues and our reliance on limiting factors such as peer review or the venue’s scarcity as indicators of success. The alternative frameworks for assessing value that we propose here are at odds with the print-based models upon which we have come to rely. In a final note, we discuss the perils of ignoring the kinds of alternative scholarly productions that we have identified through our analysis.

The Prezi below offers our conclusions regarding these various digital spaces and the implications of our work forhow we define and assess scholarly activity.