The Poobahs of Writing or the Center of Debate?

Our center changed from using a traditional website to a blog based website last fall. We hoped that blogging on behalf of the Center for Writing might put into text some of the fascinating conversations about writing and teaching and learning that happen all over the college. These discussions rejuvenate our practices, but they tend to be ephemeral.

So instead of being the place to find definitive how-to handouts, we wondered if our new site could initiate meaningful discussion. Contention even. Not How-to-Signal-a-Quote but instead (or in addition) A-Signaling-and-Citing Debate. We seek multiple perspectives on interesting writing and teaching issues, not some disembodied voice of authority eminating from the Center for Writing as if we were the poobahs of academic writing.

But it’s been very hard to get away from a traditional content delivery model despite the potential interactivity blogging invites.

Partly this is because I want the Center’s website to be rich with resources. I love much of the UNC Writing Center’s wealth of handouts for faculty and students and have tried to incorporate some of that cornucopia feel in our site. But perhaps having a lot to offer seems unidirectional instead of interactive.

The dialog I had so hoped for was dormant for all of the fall. Just nothing. Comments have been slow to come in our second semester of blogging, too, and substantive comments that offer valuable content in and of themselves have been nonexistent.

Until today.

Maybe it’s just patience paying off. I started a semi-regular Ask the Center Staff column with questions usually paraphrased from comments overheard in our reception area or mentioned during a meeting. This week, a faculty member actually posted a question directly (see my joy!) and now there’s even some comment activity happening on the new post.

It’s a start. I’m crossing my fingers that this won’t be an isolated moment.

I’d love to hear from other writing center folks about ways – technologically mediated and otherwise – you have enlivened or tapped into campus discussions about writing and teaching. Is it possible to serve both as a reliable resource and as a center where the answers are multiple?

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