This episode is based on Dear CWCAB, February 2023: Thoughts on ChatGPT.

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[00:00:00] Graham: I asked ChatGPT to summarize some of the things I’m researching about Paulo Freire and writing centers

[00:00:07] Esther: mm-hmm.

[00:00:07] Graham: and it in like 30 seconds, it summarized my career, which was upsetting.

[00:00:13] Esther: It broke your heart a little bit.

[00:00:14] Graham: Yeah, a little bit. I, I promise it took me a long time to come up with this

[00:00:18] Esther: It’s scary. It’s scary what this machine can do.

[00:00:27] Hello friends. Thank you for listening to this episode of Slow Agency. Many of you have heard about chat, G P T, and you’ve asked us about how it could affect your work as writing center people. So in this episode, our colleague Graham Stowe shares his thoughts on that topic .

[00:00:41] Graham: Hi there. I’m Graham Stow and today’s question comes from Chatterley. She asks, dear Connecting Writing Centers Across Borders, what are your thoughts on ChatGPT and other AI systems that have come out recently? Are writing centers facing an existential threat? Are there ways these technologies can help us? C. Chatterley?

[00:01:01] Thanks for that question. Chatterley. I want to answer this question from two perspectives as writing program administrator and then as writing center director. So, for those of you who don’t know, ChatGPTis a technology that uses artificial intelligence to respond to user questions. When I first heard of ChatGPT, not long after it was released in beta testing, I panicked a bit.

[00:01:22] I ran some sample ideas through it and it presented some boring but plausible first year student sounding writing and it worried me. I serve as my campus’s writing program administrator, and I’m concerned about plagiarism. I wrote a long email to my dean and chair letting them know about it, in case they hadn’t seen the headlines.

[00:01:40] After sitting with it a bit though, I think I overreacted. For now until the AI gets better and it will get better, the solution is the same as the solution for many plagiarism problems. Write good unique assignments for each semester.

[00:01:53] My concern in my position as writing center director is different but hard to put my finger on. How will we know if a student comes in with something they had written by a bot? What if a student wants to use it in a session? What if it’s a better writer than me? This last one might not strictly be writing center related, but I bet I’m not alone in wondering that.

[00:02:11] I think for now the best course of action is to wait and see. There are a lot of people talking about this. Composition Twitter is throwing all kinds of responses out, the higher education news industry is ringing its hands. What we don’t have though, is any intensive research. There hasn’t been time.

[00:02:30] Writers of theoretical pieces haven’t had time to think deeply yet. Qualitative and quantitative researchers haven’t had time to get IRB approval, much less conduct a study.

[00:02:42] Cultural norms in writing technologies have never not been changing, and educators have never not been worrying about it. Plato worried that writing would damage students’ memories. Nietzsche’s writing changed when he switched to a typewriter. During the early days of the internet, educators worried students would stop doing their own writing, and there was at least one op-ed asking if Google was making people stupid. I’m currently worried that my students can’t read cursive.

[00:03:08] Concerns over plagiarism are real, but I’m excited about some of the possible benefits that ChatGPT and the like may bring us. It could be a real help to people struggling with writer’s block, giving writers just the spark they need to get a project going. It might also help teach different genres.

[00:03:25] A student unfamiliar with a field could ask it to write an essay on a topic of their choice that they could use as a model for their work. The recent news that Microsoft has connected its search engine Bing to ChatGPT is a compelling development for conducting research.

[00:03:39] When considering these positive directions, though, we need to pay very close attention to the ways that new technology might, may support and extend systemic injustice. For these technologies to work well, students may need to learn how to talk to them. Hegemonic and dominant linguistic systems are bound to be embedded in the systems that make the bots function.

[00:04:00] As with much of our work in writing centers, we’ll need to find a balance between resisting these linguistic structures and helping students learn how to interact with them. For example, the bots might have the same kinds of expectations in academic writing as many do like standard edited American English.

[00:04:18] Students are not gonna stop writing their own work because of AI. Classroom teachers will have to adjust their methods, but good teachers were already adjusting their methods with regularity. At the very least, learning to use the technology will will be its own kind of writing. All of this could be a tempest in a teapot and nothing interesting come of it at all.

[00:04:38] We could though be in the midst of a watershed moment in the production of human knowledge akin to the the Gutenberg prints.

[00:04:44] I haven’t included a list of resources this time because the information is coming so quickly and changing so much that they will be out of date within just a few weeks. I’m Graham Stowe.

[00:04:54] Esther: Thanks Graham, and thanks Chatterly for the question. Friends, if you want to learn more about this topic on ChatGPT, check Graham’s blog article for Tuesday, February 20. That article is on w l n And if you have a question you want to ask, email us at writing lab newsletter blog at This episode of Slow Agency was produced by me, Esther Namubiru, and the episodes theme song is provided by Emmanuel Mubiru. Thank you for listening.

One Comment

  1. Jeffrey Gibbs March 17, 2023 at 6:46 am

    We are very interested in figuring out this ChatGPT. Thanks for the podcast!

Comments are closed.

The “Slow Agency” Podcast

Created and hosted by your CWCAB editors, the goal of this podcast is to open up time and space in this productivity-saturated culture to slow down and dialogue with leading thinkers and practitioners in writing studies worldwide. The title of the podcast is inspired by Micciche, L. (2011) For slow agency. Journal of the Council of Writing Program Administrators, 35 (1), 73-90. Our inaugural episode features WLN’s journal editors whose wisdom and hard work make this journal and the blog possible.

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