Through the Looking Monitor: Alice in Wikiland
For the composition community, two forces have driven the research behind technology integration. The first is a penchant for theory and the second that of praxis. This pendulum can be seen through the logic of induction and deduction. The idea of taking classroom applications and developing theories from which these applications take on added meaning is straight out of the inductive method (something we get from our social science background). On the other hand, starting with a theory and developing applications for our practice owes a large debt to our humanities background (deductive method).
This article will focus on the second, or deductive, method. I shall begin with rhetorical theory of audience and apply it to the technology of wikis, a Web 2.0 technology, in the teaching of writing. In order to do so, an examination of how the rhetorical concept of audience plays a unique role in the development of a community with shared goals, which in turn emerge around a shared and communally constructed knowledge base is explored. In some instances, a wiki community may be compared to Thomas Farrell's idea of a forum, yet it seems to construct specific constraints on that system. In order to understand these constraints, I shall trace Alice, a typical first year composition student (though fictional), through the looking glass (the computer monitor), and into Wikiland in order to understand how the wiki challenges the rhetorical concept of audience in its conceptions as a single, limited, and multiple audience; determine how audience is constructed by the community and knowledge base through the forum; and ask how this digital media technology affects the assessment of student writing within this new conception of audience. It is my hope that this work will challenge researchers and scholars to offer “practicalities involved in designing a computer-mediated writing classroom” that will enable teachers to utilize wiki technology effectively (Takayoshi & Huot, 2003, p. 57).