Daniel Anderson (UNC Chapel Hill), an ever-insightful voice in the wise crowd around the Institute, just announced an exciting english composition textbook project that he’s about to begin developing with Prentice Hall. He calls it “Write Now.” Already the author of two literature textbooks, Dan has been talking with college publishers across the industry about the need to rethink both their process and their product, and has been pleasantly surprised to find a lot of open minds and ears:
…publishers are ready to push technology and social writing both in the production and distribution of their products and in the content of the texts. I proposed playlist, podcast, photo essay, collage, video collage, online profile, and dozens of other technology-based assignments for Write Now. Everyone I talked to welcomed those projects and wanted to keep the media and technology focus of the books. And, not one publisher balked at the notion of shifting the production model of the book to one consistent with the second Web. I proposed adding a public dimension to the writing through social software. I suggested participation from a broad community, and asked that publishers fund and facilitate that participation. I asked that some of the materials be released for the community to use and modify. We all had questions about logistics and boundaries, but every publisher was eager to implement these processes in the development of the books.
In fact, my eventual selection of Prentice Hall as a home for the project was based mainly on their eagerness to figure out together how we might transform the development process by opening it up. I started with an admission that I felt like I was straddling two worlds: one the open source, communal knowledge sphere I admire and participate with online, and two the world where I wanted to publish textbooks that challenge the state of writing but reach mainstream writing classes. We sat down and started brainstorming about how that might happen. The results will evolve over the next several years, but I wouldn’t have committed to the process if I didn’t believe it would offer opportunities for future students, for publishers, and for me to push writing.
As is implied above, Write Now will constitute a blend of the cathedral and the bazaar modes of authorship — Dan will be principal architect, but will also function as a moderator and coordinator of contributions from around the social web. Very exciting.
He also points to another fledgeling networked book project in the rhet/comp field, Rhetworks: An Introduction to the Study of Discursive Networks. I’m going to take some time to look this over.