Dear Inkshed participants from Canmore,
This is a longish "monologic" post (from Peter Elbow) to the list because I'm composing it before getting myself subscribed--and while I have some thoughts in mind. Since you invited me to begin the conference with a sustained train of thought, I'll beg the privilege of composing a train of thought afterwards.
First, I want to say how much I enjoyed the conference. There were so many things I enjoyed: the chance to learn more about inkshedding; and the pleasure of seeing a conference with such a strong ambiance of cordiality and community--and a strong dialogic tradition. (Also the chance to meet Russ after long knowing his work somewhat.) I've found it very helpful to think about inkshedding the relation between it and freewriting (or private freewriting)--and would like to keep doing so. Things kept ticking over in my mind during the conference and afterwards.
In a sense, this is a PS for my paper--and proof, I think, that I really don't see inkshedding in competition with private freewriting. These comments are, in a sense, critical, but I don't want to sound ungrateful--or indeed even to be misunderstood. To summarize crudely, here's what I'm saying in a nutshell: "The Inkshed conference was the most dialogic conference situation I've ever been in; yet I want to complain that it wasn't dialogic enough!" So--in the tradition of all teachers--let me leave the praise brief and global and spend more time on the complaint.
What I value most about inkshedding is the dialogic process of it--as contrasted to the "monologic" process of conventional conventions (!) like CCCC. (I want to avoid fuzziness or mysticism about these two terms, mono- and dialogical. I use them crudely simply to highlight the difference between two opposite set-ups: (a) mostly single persons speaking and others listening, vs. (b) mostly interchange between folks--maximum mingling and "interpenetration" of each others' minds.
As I say, I felt the pervasive dialogic tradition throughout. But still, I was surprised to feel that the actual process had drifted inappropriately far toward the conventional monologic process. There seemed to be an ongoing shaving of the TIME for writing. (Sometimes people couldn't keep from starting a discussion while others were writing.) And the time for sharing inksheds among participants right after they were written often went down to zero.
From my limited experience, it is at THIS point (after inkshedding and immediate sharing) that discussion is most fruitful. That is, even though discussion lets only one mouth speak at a time--there is an increased dialogic quality to discussion when everyone has written and then read at least 5 to 10 inksheds. I found that the publication of bits of inkshed the next morning--while terrific--was not a substitute for the more immediately interactive process I just described. The published bits are such tiny snippets--and there's little processing of them after they are distributed. I heard some people saying that the inkshedding felt boring. I think this is a function of it's not being processed more. (However, I would explore some experiments with private freewriting. A number of people [including Russ] said that they found things to write in private freewriting that they wouldn't have found in inkshedding; and voices too. Inkshedding makes you play it safe.)
I fear this sounds ungrateful or not understanding. For of course I understand perfectly well the cause of this situation. I often saw Doug TRYING for more inkshedding--and apologizing and being uncomfortable at not having more time for it and for sharing. And of course the lack of time came from what might be called a deeply "inksheddish" and "dialogic" tradition at your conferences: the tradition (I gather) of accepting ALL proposals and avoiding concurrent sessions. Doug (and the agenda planners) had no choice but to push us relentlessly from presentation to presentation.
But do you really want things to drift this way? It makes me sad. It seems to me that you can't have the real dialogic inkshed process if you accept too many proposals. And there's no way to keep this tradition inviolate: what if there had been 4 more proposals: you'd have had to refuse some or skip eating! I can't help thinking that there is an inevitable conflict between taking time for the INKSHEDDING PROCESS for a limited number of presentations vs. having the maximum number of presentations. CCCC has gone the latter route. Possibly it's appropriate there (though it seems sad to me), but surely not at Inkshed.
Besides, Russ suggested in conversation with me that you actually COULD accept all proposals if you decided that some of them would be "presentations" only on paper. This would still let people accurately tell their universities that they were presenting at the conference. Presentation on paper--with some time for response--is a hallowed and in some ways preferable form of presentation.
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