SWS Online - is it really so similar?
While there were several interesting readings and discussions during last week's class, I found myself most compelled by Linda's visit to talk about the work-in-progress component of the writing center, SWS online. Members of the class brought up interesting points about how this service is inherently different than a face-to-face consultation: the emotionless, anonymous text, the struggle to make an online conversation "flow," even faulty technology itself. I found myself (as usual) playing the devil's advocate, trying to figure out how the cyber version of a consultation really wasn't so different after all. There was still one piece of writing involved, the chance to look it over and talk about it, the same rules about editing, and the notion that we are to help writers with long lasting ways to improve the skill instead of being a quick fix. I thought that some of these components of a good consultation were even improved by distance: the physical distance between consultee and consultant that might put both at ease in their personal surroundings, and the distance of time between when the paper was read by the consultant and the conversation about the work. All that said, I forgot to account for the distance between typed words and those that are spoken.
I still stand by my idea that a consultant might strongly benefit from reading the students work prior to a consultation, to have some distance from the words on the page in order to see a bigger picture and target the best tools to give the individual client. However, the more I reflected on my own personal AIM conversations and emails, I began to agree that the tone of the online conversation truly must lack the potential warmth of a face-to-face meeting. Phrases, ideas, and suggestions are difficult to fit into a concise, neat-looking sentence, and I wouldn't be surprised if a friendly push to expand a thesis might come across as an insult without an accompanying expression or tone of voice - because these are the same unintentional things that have happened to me with close friends over the internet.
Ultimately, along with my feelings about Appleby and Nicholson, walk-in and appointment based consulations ( which will show up in my glorious research paper...), I think that the choice to log-in is the same as the choice to schedule an appointment or hope that someone is available at a walk in. The similarity is that these three choices appeal to three different kinds of clients, and one meets their set of criteria more closely than the other two. I think I would thoroughly enjoy the anonymity and the clear, recorded feedback that SWS online offers - but that has a lot to do with my independent personality. Others might feel completely unsatisfied without a smile and an idea of what their consultant looked like while pouring over the pages of their work. As the world gets more and more complicated, I think that each of these components of the writing center exist to make us more accesible to students who have an array of needs, and an array of delivery methods that they are operating on.