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Evans 1 Sarah Evans CCR:655 Patrick Berry 21 February 2013 The Key: Collaboration by Difference As a first generation college

student doing advanced studies, Ive often felt like one of the Strangers in Paradise described in Jake Ryan and Charles Sackreys eponymous book. Because Ive had theoretically less rigorous or just different training Ive had to use my own personal experiences as a primary source of knowledge, to help me ground concepts and assimilate them into my knowledge base. Ive felt less than worthy sometimes because the background of my knowledge is typically very different from that of many of my peers in academia and I often rely on personal experience to guide my learning in school. However, it is people like James Paul Gee and Cathy Davidson who make me feel like my different background can actually be beneficial, both to me, other academics, and the general public. Since the rise of science, personal experience has been considered a less reliable source of knowledge, as Gee points out: Science took away a good deal of meaning and authority from everyday peoples observations of the secular world. The secular world became the preserve of experts whom everyday people had to trust (53). So, not only did science help squash the legitimacy of peoples everyday experiences, but it indeed took away some of their agency to learn holistically. Students are often punished for mak[ing] inferences about the text[s] based on their experiences in the world such as on standardized tests like the SATs (Gee 68).When peoples own experiences are continually destabilized by the word of experts, I could

Evans 2 understand why some people hate formal schooling and resist literacy in general. Who wants to be told they are interpreting their own world wrong? Davidson and Gee both underscore the importance of understanding personal experience as legitimate knowledge to encourage different types of learning and disseminate the wisdom of the crowd (Gee 45). Gee notes the rise of passionate affinity spaces where people are selfmotivated to go learn about subjects or skills they want to learn. These spaces are more prominent in our digital world, but exist offline as well. In these spaces knowledge is distributed (70), meaning people share knowledge with others based on their own diverse experiences and knowledge bases. Though people can try (by citing their credentials), experts tend not to exist in these spaces. People can become experts within the space through building their knowledge, skills, and reputation and then move out of the space to test their newly gained knowledge in the real world. Gee proves this by providing the examples of Jade and Jesse and their experiences in the video games Sims and Second-Life. I have a personal example in that I accidentally became involved in freelance voice acting and needed to refine my speaking aloud skills, learn how to record and edit audio (a large feat in itself), and do public relations for myself, among other skills. I learned nearly all of these things through youtube tutorials, blogs, forums, and reading the narratives of other voice actors. I used the internet to learn a whole new skillset that I would have been hard-pressed to easily find within my own social network. I think my experience illuminates Davidsons assertion: Collaboration by difference respects and rewards different forms and levels of expertise, perspective, culture, age, ability, and insight, treating difference not as a deficit but as a point of distinction (Davidson 5). When I was learning from the crowd-sourced knowledge on the internet, I was able to learn better how I could make things work for myself by having the

Evans 3 diversity of opinions and experiences to consider. Further, the tertiary skills I learned about how words sound in sequence, and how to edit words together (and apart) aided my language and comprehension skills.