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Introductory Tour of the Dear Habermas Site

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: December 27, 1998
Faculty on the Site.

Constructing the Tour(s) - Join Us
Goals of the Site
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Just Jeanne.

  1. The site offers a forum for public discourse on issues of major import to faculty, students, and those who would contribute to the frontiers of knowledge, be they formal members of the academic community or not.
  2. The site offers intertextual readings and provides numerous sources, both on-line and hard copy, to provide theoretical background on the issues discussed.
  3. The site provides supplementary materials to texts we use in the many aspects of public discourse, and the texts we treat are not limited to those in our own classes.
  4. The site, always with public discourse as a goal, provides definitions and examples of the basic concepts that every sociologist should know. Find links to each in the Site Index.
  5. The site provides a forum for publication for students, as well as faculty and community members.
  6. The site creates a publication option for collaborative pieces at the very early stages of development.
  7. The site provides a forum for creating Habermasian discourse.

According to your goals in using the site, we will offer different tours.

Goals of the Site

Welcome to the Dear Habermas Site. Our main goal is to provide a forum in which the products of teaching and learning are available to authors for intertextual readings. We find that we, as teachers, gather and disseminate information to our students that might be of use to others also in interpreting the texts of our field. We find that our students gather and share information with us that needs also to be disseminated to others. In the hectic world of today's urban university, most of us try desperately to "have a life" in the interstitial moments between classes, work, family. Most of the time our great ideas and wonderful papers make an exciting splash in the classroom, only to be forgotten, laid aside, and one day "trashed" in a frenzy of clearing the slate to start new projects.

Nicholas Fox's article, Intertextuality and the Writing of Social Research External Site, first alerted us to the possibility of student and teacher contributions to the writing of social research. How often have you wished that an author had referred to an additional source, given an additional side to his/her argument, understood a little better a perspective you consider important but the author overlooked?

Most of us respond to these frustrations by adding our information to a lecture, by adding our perception to a term paper, or to sharing in class discussions. But these communications are often just filed and forgotten after our sharing, for want of a forum, for want of access to others who share these many sources and perspectives. Like Fox's field notes, they get left out of any work we do publish, for there is never enough room to cover everything. We must choose what will fit into the page limitations provided by editors. There are always more people clammering and needing to publish than there are forums and journals available. So faculty must aggressively seek publication slots. And students are offered hardly any opportunity to put their work into a forum where it can be accessed by more than their classmates.

Dear Habermas offers an alternative to losing our work into an inaccessible void. More and more, as students represent a mix of ages, life experiences, and commitment to general learning, there needs to be a forum for works in process. And there needs to be permission for a work of intellectual significance to find a forum, enter the collection of all those works which can contribute through intertextuality to our texts, and stay there, to be granted respect for its academic production at that stage, without requiring the imprimatur of "publication." Alfie Kohn would say we have to rely on the intrinsic satisfaction of passing on the flame of knowledge and not count so much on the "gold star" of someone else awarding our work acceptance in their forum, which is overcrowded to start with. We have assumed for too long that no work is of significance without the imprimatur of a major journal or publisher. But "publishing" is a whole infrastructure unto itself, which does not bear a one-on-one relationship to the importance of the intellectual contribution of the piece. Just read some of what's out there.

Publishing has long been the primary means of providing peer-review. But the idea that peer-review stamps significance upon all published works is not defensible. Peer-review is essential, and a cosmopolitan flavor to that review (going beyond the local university or association) is equally important to guaranteeing that a forum is disciplined in its search for text, thorough in its coverage of material, and provides access beyond narrow local confines. But such review is not limited to publishing. We can reconstruct the teacher's reactions to the student's writing as review, and the students' and teachers' reactions to each others' writings as review, and open the process to a broader, more cosmopolitan sector, by making those writings and reactions available to other teachers, other students, across distance. And when the work is good, colleagues come to share, and peer review becomes an integral part of these process texts.

Over the course of the last year Dear Habermas has developed the site with the goal of establishing new and respected forum that will meet the needs of the academic community of the 21st Century. The site began with works that had been collected in hard copy. They were the stimulus. Once these pieces were up and accessible as Dear Habermas we recognized the concept of process text, and encouraged students and colleagues alike to share in the site. A grant permitted us to add our own server and WebBoard access to the site in August 1998. By October 1998 we had discovered that chat groups over the WebBoard permitted us to have extensive discussions without the loss of hours in driving time to the campus. The chat discussions led to postings on our web board, and those discussions led to beginning process texts on Dear Habermas. That's a forum. A little practice, a little rule making when we discover the need to set parameters, and we'll be ready to go out and tell the rest of the world we're here.

Process texts are different from ones we send off for publication. Process texts are thinking texts, often on topics we plan to take towards publication. They are works responding to published texts with our own ideas, our own perceptions of how the text fits in our lives, our thought, our work. Sometimes they are responding to texts that are not there but should be. Process texts represent the formative stage of our ideas, and they perforce appear before without exhaustive review of all related literature. They are meant to serve as intertextual readings with published texts and existing forums. Process texts simply provide a legitimizing forum for work at an earlier stage, work that may or may not go on to full publication, but work that holds promise for giving greater depth of meaning to texts in the field. Hopefully, they will fit into the coming world of publishing, in which ideas will be shared electronically at much earlier stages of development. Process texts may herald a collaborative world of scholarship. We hope they do.