Principles for Exploring Virtual Collaborative Writing

Principles for Exploring Virtual Collaborative Writing

Beth L. Hewett (University of Maryland University College, USA), Charlotte Robidoux (Hewlett-Packard Company, USA) and Dirk Remley (Kent State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-994-6.ch001
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Abstract

This chapter defines collaboration in some of its many variations and settings, and then it locates collaboration in the virtual world of contemporary writers connected through digital technology. In this way, it offers a snapshot of the kinds of collaboration about which this book’s writers write in Sections 2 – 7, while it also uses that collaboration in its own development. In other words, the understandings reflected in this chapter are the product of intense collaboration among this book’s writers, who have brought to it their own expertise in this subject matter. This chapter addresses (1) the literature of collaboration and collaborative writing in general, (2) the move from traditional collaborative writing efforts into that of virtual collaborative writing, and (3) six principles inherent to virtual collaborative writing. Taken together, they help us to develop the definitions on which we have based this book’s approaches to virtual collaborative writing.
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Introduction

Collaboration is a slippery concept. Ask 10 people what it is, and 10 different definitions will emerge. Ask ten people to collaborate on a writing project, and the result often will be like herding cats or lassoing fish. People tend to have strong feelings about their writing, and while they may claim to want to collaborate, they can hold onto their own words with a tight fist, fighting valiantly to save them from a subject matter expert’s (SME) correction, an editor’s cut, or a colleague’s revision. Yet collaborate they must. The world of workplace writing—whether corporate, academic, government, public, or private—increasingly calls for collaboration among writers to develop and produce complex documents and to do so efficiently and effectively. Information products have changed as single sourcing and metadata (labels assigned to content) lead to content reuse in multiple—often unforeseen—ways. That is, writers may use metadata to search for content in a database and locate material that they can reuse, even though it was never written to be included in a particular information product. But it can be included because the content relates to a subject or product discussed elsewhere. The paradigm of the single owner of a document necessarily is giving way to writing content chunks or information that will be reused in various documents and distributed in multiple settings.

This chapter defines collaboration in some of its many variations and settings, and then it locates collaboration in the virtual world of contemporary writers connected through digital technology. In this way, Chapter 1 offers a snapshot of the kinds of collaboration about which this book’s writers discuss in Parts II – VII, while it also uses that collaboration in its own development. In other words, the understandings reflected in this chapter are the product of intense collaboration among this book’s writers, who have brought to it their own expertise in this subject matter. This chapter addresses (1) the literature of collaboration and collaborative writing in general, (2) the move from traditional collaborative writing efforts into that of virtual collaborative writing, and (3) six principles inherent to virtual collaborative writing. Taken together, they help us to develop the definitions on which we have based this book’s approaches to virtual collaborative writing.

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