Writing collaboration

a ‘work in progress’

3d. a mash-up…

with 3 comments

In 2006, I was invited to join the Geographical Association’s ‘Citizenship Working Group’. It aims to promote citizenship as a core geographic issue within and beyond schools in the UK. One of our first projects was to invite a number of academic geographers to answer a question: what is geography’s contribution to making citizens? Each author was asked to submit their own ‘position piece’, and someone in the group would compile them into a single paper to be published in the GA‘s flagship Geography journal, for its relaunch in 2007. Not being an expert on citizenship, I volunteered to make a new paper out of these separate parts; to do the ‘mash up’. So, again, I coded like interviews and ended up with answers to a series of questions. I cut and pasted relevant sentences and passages from them and tried to edit them into seamless arguments. We needed a single unified voice here. The draft was then returned to the authors, reviewed, revised and submitted (see Anderson et al 2008). The authors found it difficult to find themselves or the joins. But we made sure to discuss the co-authoring process in the paper, and to make available online the original position pieces for interested readers.


Written by Ian Cook et al

September 2, 2008 at 11:29 am

3 Responses

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  1. The CWG wanted to provide a resource for geography teachers and geography educators to help them think through the intersections between geography and citizenship education – without taking either for granted. But there was clearly no one definitive answer to the question of ‘what is geography’s contribution to making citizens’, because there didn’t seem to be one definitive geography. Although we knew we would find it hard to define a singular geography and its contribution, we also knew that geographers tackled these questions in their work all the time, so we asked a range of geographers to help us with the task. Although we needed a single unified voice, as Ian suggests, to make it readable for busy teachers, we thought that 17 heads were better than 1, giving a fuller and more complex picture of possible perspectives on this question. Using a ‘question and answer’ format helped preserve these multiple perspectives through a single voice. At the time, I hadn’t realised just how much Ian was into ‘mashing’ things up. I’m glad he is. Less ‘knowledge production’ and more ‘making sense’ through the mash up.

    Jessica Pykett

    September 15, 2008 at 11:53 am

  2. hmmm,
    just been reading and thinking about the differences between collaborating and contributing on another thread on this blog … and pondering the irony of all this stuff given the current Orange (other mobile phone service providers are available!)advertising campaign “I am all the people I’ve ever met” type of message…
    I agree with that line of thought regarding how I am influenced, get ‘my’ ideas, learn, research, write, teach etc through many many other individuals, contexts and experiences. The already-collective, fragmented, performative academic self. This makes making a comment here very messy because there are lots of complicated issues caught up here and a range of things I could address. For a start, I believe that we have to take responsibility for our own contibutions/how we collaborate, but blurred lines in collaborative writing create some very grey areas!!

    The experience of being involved in said mash-up was – surprising more than anything else! Duncan (Fuller who I work with) forwarded some e-mail asking for peoples’ takes on geography and citizenship, I walked down the corridor and we had a quick chat about it, I put a written response together (short), Duncan added some bits/changed it a little, it went forwards and back … we sent it off and the next thing I saw the draft from Ian for comments – but I hadn’t realised that a paper had been a planned outcome, I thought the exercise was … actually I hadn’t really paid much attention to what the outcome was going to be, I just wrote because the topic was interesting and important to me!!
    And maybe that’s where I’m at with writing generally: less planned, more as process, more exploring my thoughts and feelings … and doing so with/around others adds to the exploration and stimulation and idea formation. BUT AT THE SAME TIME writing is political, it’s a strategy, a tactic, and the collaborations and mash-ups and conversations challenge status quos, which in my mind is a good thing. Why does academic writing have to be a certain way, a certain style a certain structure? Who says so?? Being rigorous and relevant and theoretical etc aren’t necessarily lost in collaborative writing/experimental writing … as a geographer I’m interested in inclusion – in all spheres. Given new technologies and new ways of communicating in this century, surely more collaborative – or we could say participatory or inclusive – writing (and other forms of output) will emerge. We’ll all be et al. collectives recognising not only colleagues within but also without the universities who collaborate with and contribute to ‘our’ work … moreover, we’ll question just who is benefitting from ‘our’ writing (and other outputs) – what and who are we writing for?? (And I’m not being didactic here, Ian, there are many ways to attempt social change…) As some people have been doing so brilliantly for some time, of course.

    Of course, I can’t (literally) afford to be quite so naive. Let’s remember that we work and write within structures of academia and other institutions.
    I’m not bothered about publications, authorship, RAE and citation index etc etc in terms of promotion or prestige or ‘career’ – but I DO want to be able to research and that means getting funding and, writing my first grant proposal at the moment, suddenly I’ve become acutely aware that I’m not going to be very successful unless I play the (unmashed up) game at least a little …


    September 23, 2008 at 11:56 am

  3. An update. I’ve coordinated another mash-up collaboration for a cultural geographies of food book chapter, published in 2013. This one was written from a blog conversation, where now it’s possible to see and to contribute to the conversations behind the chapter, and to read the final chapter, here http://foodculturalgeographies.wordpress.com/

    Ian Cook et al

    February 3, 2013 at 12:26 pm

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