A little pre-writing on a C&W presentation on mentorship

I’m going to do two presentations at the Computers and Writing conference at Purdue and one of them is called “Virtual Mentorship.” It was a panel cooked up by Derek for a variety of reasons, and I suppose one of the reasons why I’m involved is because I am his officially designated mentor.  And it occurs to me that I ought to start thinking about this….

A few pre-writing thoughts this morning:

  • I have to somehow work into this the “mentor” I had at Southern Oregon University when I started my first job way back when.  I can’t remember this guy’s name (and I should say I don’t exactly blame him for his approach to “mentoring”), but the main thing he wanted to talk about was his retirement plan, not exactly the kind of thing that was on my mind as a starting professor.
  • In my estimation and research about blogging, I think that the best metaphor for community is “parallel play,” which is a common and easily observed practice among toddlers where they don’t so much play together as they play next to each other.  Most bloggers, it seems to me, are interacting next to each other rather than directly with each other, meaning that what counts as “community” is a little more loosely formed.
  • Unlike my institutionally assigned relationship at SOU, mentorship in/through blogs comes indirectly and often anonymously.  I think that the late John Lovas was very much a blogging mentor to me and many others in my cohort of bloggers, though I only met him once and I don’t know to what extent he was aware of his mentoring role.
  • Along these lines: it seems to me that a lot of academic types who I used to follow as bloggers have either stopped entirely and often publicly, or have slowed down so much that they might as well have stopped.  Maybe it’s because they have matured out of toddler-hood and no longer are interested in the side-by-side play that is the blogosphere; maybe, as is usually the case with rhetorical situations, the situation itself has “degraded” and/or reached a point of closure.  Maybe they just got bored.  At first, my reaction to this was “oh, people just don’t blog anymore.”  But really, I think what is happening is that a new generation/cohort of academic and/or comp/rhet bloggers is emerging for me, including Ryan Truman and Brian McNely, not to mention a ton of people I came across/learned about through the Twitter feed for the CCCCs.
  • So really, even though I am a “designated mentor” for Derek and I have served in that function by showing him some of the ropes at the institution and with the main undergraduate class we both teach, it seems to mentorship is a two-way street.  I’m getting as much from him and these other “younger guys” than I’m giving, probably more.

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