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2007: Currents in Social Software

As the horrific tragedy at Virginia Tech unfolded on April 16, information was scarce and speculative. With university buildings locked down and cell phone service overloaded, friends and family desperately sought assurance that those they cared about were safe, often turning to online networks like Facebook to communicate not only with fellow students around campus, but also around the world. Online forums and communities quickly sprouted to provide a virtual space for the community to find information, but also to memorialize and celebrate. Nearly every major news outlet devoted at least one journalist to monitoring the online sites for reactions as well as for pictures of the victims and killer, re-emphasizing the public openness of the personal pages.

Social networking websites and software have transformed our culture and models for business, and are quickly impacting our universities and academic practices. In this issue of Currents, our first as a strictly review publication, we examine a number of social networking software and websites and how they may be applied to the classroom and academic research. Instructors across the curriculum have discovered innovative and useful ways of integrating these tools, largely already familiar to many students, into collaborative learning experiences.

James J. Brown, Jr. and Lacey Donahue explain how they have successfully incorporated Myspace into their literature classrooms, while instructors like Clay Spinuzzi and Kristen Abbey explore the collaborative writing environment of Google Docs (formerly known as Writely). In addition, online gaming software has become an increasingly interesting field for Rhetoric and English studies, as Jerome Bump outlines with his evaluation of students’ interaction with Second Life. The relatively new capabilities of Podcasting have also proven indispensable in the music-related courses taught by Justin Tremel and Jamie Jesson. Finally, Nate Kreuter offers a review of Richard Lanham’s The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information.

In addition, Randall McClure and Lee Tesdell have compiled an overview of the Tenth Annual Meeting of the Great Plains Alliance for Computers and Writing held in November of 2006. The theme of the conference was "Online Pedagogies: Making Space for Social Networks," and we are excited to include here reviews of twelve panels that speak directly to our topic for this issue, ranging from blogging to the D2L management system, as well as general discussions of incorporating new collaborative technologies into the classroom.

Finally, in this issue of Currents, we are excited to feature a spotlight profile on the Writing in Digital Environments Center, part of the Rhetoric and Writing Graduate Program begun in 2003 at Michigan State University. The program has set an impressive example for graduate studies in rhetoric and the WIDE Center continues to progressively expand the possibilities and role of technology in their classrooms.

Program Profile

A Net-working Community: WIDE and the Rhetoric and Writing Graduate Program at Michigan State University
by Angela Haas, Qwo-Li Driskill, Douglas Eyman, Bill Hart-Davidson

Software Reviews

Podcasting in the Rhetoric Classroom
by Justin Tremel and Jamie Jesson

Teaching English in Second Life
by Jerome Bump

Review of Google Docs
by Kristen Abbey

Collaboration for Keiretsu: A Review of Google Docs
by Clay Spinuzzi

Website/Blog Reviews

In Between Lauding and Deriding: A Pedagogical Review of MySpace
by James J. Brown, Jr. and Lacey Donohue

Literature/Conference Reviews

Making Space: A Review of the Tenth Annual Meeting of the Great Plains Alliance for Computers and Writing
Randall McClure and Lee Tesdell, Editors

A Review of The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information by Richard A. Lanham
by Nate Kreuter

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