Scholarly skywriting

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Scholarly skywriting is a term coined by cognitive scientist Stevan Harnad describing the combination of multiple email and a topic threaded web archive such as a newsgroup, electronic mailing list, hypermail, netnews or Internet forum, linked and sortable by date, author, or subject-heading threads. The name derives from the idea that texts can be written in the "sky" (via multiple email and a web archive) for all to see ("skyreading") and all to add their own comments to ("skywriting").

After the property of being online and read/writable by all, the most important property of Scholarly Skywriting is "quote/commentary": cut and pasting the target passages of a text followed by a commentary focussed specifically on the excerpt. The quote/commentary can be multiply embedded, providing a new dimension to hyperlinking.

Harnad suggests that scholarly skywriting with quote/commentary has revived the oral tradition in the online age, making it possible to have a conversation-like dialogue with a text (even a text with a deceased author) that fully utilizes the interactive cognitive capacities of the brain that evolved with language. In his view, writing systems provided permanent records missing from oral exchanges at the price of slowing the cognitive interaction to a tempo that is out of phase with the potential speed and power of interdigitating thought to which the brain is specifically adapted. Harnad claims scholarly skywriting is significant because it combines the advantages of oral and written communication, restoring the synchronous, bilateral and interactive nature of the oral tradition with the permanence of the written tradition.

Student skywriting is scholarly skywriting done in a teaching/learning context.

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