CFP: [Rhetoric-Composition] Computers & Writing 2008

full name / name of organization: 
Anita DeRouen
contact email: 

Computers & Writing 2008: Open Source as Technology and Concept
Location: University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Date: May 21-25, 2008
Abstracts accepted December 3, 2007-January 10, 2008 (see below for more

In 2006, Blackboard purchased WebCT, its closest competitor in the Learning
Management System (LMS) market, and also filed a suit against rival Desire
2Learn, Inc. on a controversial claim of patent infringement. In response,
at its October meeting Educause issued an open letter urging Blackboard to
abandon its suit on the grounds that the suit will stifle collaboration and
innovation. Blackboard of course, is not the only closed source LMS out
there. D2L, Angel,, E-College, Criterion, and all kinds of
other products populate the educational technology landscape. However,
Blackboard's lawsuit and its claims outraged technologists, and more
importantly for many of us, heads of campus instructional technology units;
that outrage sharply increased interest in the role that can be played by
open source technologies and communities in the development of educational

The concurrent growth of open source Learning Management Systems (LMS's)
such as Sakai, Moodle, and Open Source Portfolio will not, in and of
themselves, necessarily replace or change the reigning corporate and/or
campus bureaucratic models for educational technology exemplified by
Blackboard purchasing and support. Because something is open source doesn't
mean that the open source process and models will automatically promote and
enhance the values important to the Computers and Writing community and to
composition pedagogy in general.
Ideally, open source development, as both a technology and a concept, is
grounded in values of collaboration, interaction, and respect for the user;
these same values have also informed writing pedagogy of the process and
post-process eras. There is, therefore, an important and enduring
connection between the values that inform open-source technology and
composition pedagogy. That connection, nonetheless, doesn't matter if it
isn't enacted. For our values to find a place, we need to define them,
assert them, and to ask for them to be designed into the architectures,
interfaces, and features of both open and closed source products. We need
in short to be users, designers, critics, and philosophers of online
learning systems, both open and closed.

We invite papers that go beyond the easy claim that because open source is
open, it is necessarily good and better, or automatically in-line with
writing practice and pedagogy. Instead, we hope to look at what we must do
to make the open source possibility a reality in light of our
understandings on the philosophy, ethics, and politics of using writing
technologies within the academy and other workplaces. We encourage
participants to range beyond the narrowest definition of "open source" to
explore the values and practices collaborative ventures can promote when we
also work with or influence developers of closed source systems. In other
words, what can we learn and use from open source possibilities and
practices to change our relationship to, and the design and implementation
of, closed source and for profit systems.

Papers may consider one or more of the following topics:

--What are the differences in how we can use open source technologies to
influence pedagogy as compared to how we might use proprietary technologies
to do the same?

--We know that open source models open up new spaces for writing and
collaboration, but how do these models work on an institutional level or
programmatic level? What are best open source practices? How are decisions
made? How are things made?

--How have open source technologies changed, maintained, and/or complicated
our understanding of the relationship between ownership and authorship?

--What do you do if you do no not have the resources, time, access or means
to use open source technologies instead of proprietary technologies on your
campus? How do you make what you have to use, work for you?

--What has been the influence of such powerful proprietary technologies as
Blackboard on Rhetoric and Composition as a discipline?

--Considering the trend toward portfolio-based evaluation in composition
pedagogy, is the widespread adoption of Course Management Systems inevitable?

--Not all proprietary vendors and designers are the same. Many, for
example, will adapt innovations created by open source projects into their
own systems. Others will customize their product to meet particular
department or institutional needs, often in a process that is as
collaborative on some levels as one might find in the open source model.
Given that, what influence can open source have on closed source?

--What are the virtues of pedagogical bricolage, using the systems and
materials at hand in any given institution?

--What are some best practices for incorporating open source technologies
in the classroom? Which open source technologies might be/have been
appropriated for classroom use? How well do they work?

--What are the practical and political implications of adopting open source
at the programmatic or institutional level?

--How do the philosophies behind open source technologies, as well the
technologies themselves, encourage process-oriented writing practices?

--What do Learning Management Systems offer that more traditional teaching
tools do not? What are the limitations of these systems?

--What opportunities does open source offer for putting development into
the hands of educators, enabling writing pedagogies to drive development?

In keeping with this year's theme, the University of Georgia and the
organizers of Computers and Writing 2008 have made a commitment to support
open source technology. Towards that end, and in order to streamline the
submission process, we will be using the <emma> open-source writing
environment to collect proposals and disseminate information about the
conference. In addition to accepting electronic submissions in more
traditional proprietary formats such as Microsoft Word (.doc) and Adobe
Portable Document Format, we are encouraging all potential conference
participants to consider using OpenOffice (Windows) or NeoOffice (MacOSX)
and to submit proposals as Open Document Text (.odt) files.

We will be accepting proposals beginning December 3, 2007; the deadline for
submissions is January 10, 2008 at 11: 59 pm EST.

Further information about the submission process can be found at

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Received on Mon Nov 26 2007 - 21:59:37 EST