With the recent collaborative go-round, I started thinking again about a
distributed authoring experiment CGB mentioned in passing a time or two before.
Imagine dialing up collaboration in such a way that a group of 6-8 scholars
would team-write articles on a series of issues (extraordinarily wide open,
this). A scholarship-producing cousin of the think tank. This author-organism
would set out with well-defined goals, structural principles, and so on.
It would meet occasionally as a collective to discuss the experiment, to
consider rules and roles, but it would also be receptive to redirection,
accidents, and abandonment. That is, a fair amount of the work might go to
waste, chopping room floor, etc. And in practice it would involve a lot of
chipping away at various aspects of the projects, inevitable redundancies and
microdebates, also a platform or apparatus for carrying out the work. Obviously
it’d need to be the right group of people; they would have to be smart,
agreeable, mature, invested, and flexible, among other things. But if it
succeeded, it might productively jostle the default scales of authorship. And if
it failed, perhaps it would be equally rewarding to pick through the rubble.
I haven’t given a whole lot of thought to who might participate or what such
a group might produce initially. And by now you are no doubt thinking that this model
is an old, long-ridden horse in the sciences, in information studies and tech comm, too.
If there has been much of it in rhet-comp, I’d be hard pressed to identify it
beyond the well-known tandems (e.g., Flower-Hayes, Lunsford-Ede, Selfe-Hawisher)
and the surprisingly high proportion of Braddock winners with multiple authors
(something like 14+ since 1985 have been co-written?). Yet these are not
quite fitting with the larger-group experiment.