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CFWT: Fall 2010 Computers and Composition Online

Call for Webtexts
Open Source: Purpose, Practice, and Priorities
Computers and Composition Online, Fall 2010 

As shown in the Fall 2009 Computers and Composition Online special issue on Web 2.0, open source projects are a significant part of social media, especially media intended for education. Although some of Web 2.0 is open source, that overlap barely begins to cover the purpose, practice, and priorities that comprise open source in academia, especially for those who teach and research in composition studies. This special issue invites submissions centering on open source as it connects to writing and the teaching of writing.

Even now, five years since Computers and Composition Online published Laurie Taylor and Brendan Riley’s Open Source and Academia (Spring 2004), the open source movement grows in importance while at the same time remaining an under-the-radar stance, despite the significant inroads open source has made into writing pedagogy. At the heart of this lack of transparency is definition. What is or isn’t open source remains slippery. Scholars may see open source in academia as primarily an intellectual property issue and advocate Creative Commons use and more openness in scholarly publication. Others may see it as a software accessibility issue and support alternatives to proprietary software used in teaching, i.e., using Moodle instead of Blackboard or Open Office over Microsoft Word. Still others look to the rhetoric beneath the stance and and see open source as a continuation of the fundamental idea of academic freedom: in order to have freedom of expression, academics need to also control the ways their works are expressed, not outsource intellectual work to for-profit corporations that usually have different agendas than academics.

In this special issue of Computers and Composition Online, editors Lanette Cadle and Kristine Blair with guest editor Joe Erickson ask for webtexts that investigate the purpose, practice, or priorities needed for an open source  connection with writing theory or pedagogy. For the purposes of this issue, we will be using the most inclusive definition of open source possible and will consider, especially in the Virtual Classroom section, webtexts depicting assignments using free software that may not be purely open source, such as Google Wave, which is part of Google, but has opened the code for independent developers to use. Here are a few suggestions divided by sections:

Theory into Practice

This is where purpose will be examined, a place to ask—and answer—the why questions.

  • Open source and academic freedom
  • Defining open source
  • An answer to the question, why would anyone give away software/code (why non-proprietary exists)
  • Copyright, copyleft, or no copy: when copyright limits academic accessibility
  • Collaborative programming as composition
  • When is free truly free? The dilemma of free yet proprietary software

Virtual Classroom

Clearly, this is where case studies or how-to webtexts based on classroom practice will fit.

  • Using an open source CMS (content management system)
  • English Education majors and open source use
  • When the classroom default is open source (Open Office vs. Microsoft Word, etc.)
  • Assignments using FOSS (free OR open source software)

Professional Development

Open source is a huge issue for those interested in the larger issues of publication, ownership, and collaboration. Setting priorities and advocating priorities, including calls for action, would be a good fit here.

  • Why are there no open source plagiarism detectors? Open source as a measure of usability in education.
  • The open source university. What happens when a university consciously prefers open source


Although book reviews are always welcome, this issue will be a very good place for software reviews. For examples of how this has been done in the past, see the Web 2.0 issue reviews of Open Office and Moodle. Suggested reviews include DrupalEd,  Sakai, Google Wave (highlight open source aspects of this project), Gimp, Zotero or any other software or social media that is open source (not proprietary) would be welcome. Please send a query.

Queries and submissions should be sent to Lanette Cadle at lanette.cadle@gmail.com, Kristine Blair at  kblair@bgnet.bgsu.edu or Joe Erickson at jericks8@gmail.com. Webtexts only—no word processor documents. Also, webtexts need to be produced using web authoring software such as Dreamweaver or Frontpage rather than created on a site such as Google Sites. Submissions need to be received by Friday, February 5, 2010 in order to allow time for peer review. Revisions due by Friday, May 7,  2010.

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