Radical Imagination

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Radical imagination means inviting and activating radical change to what any subject matter can mean and be. In this case of WRC, we radically imagined what technology-enhanced teaching and learning can mean and be in higher education. In this self-study survey, radical imagination received the lowest median score among all tenets of radical collaboration. To most WRC members, what it means to be “radical” was still subjective to the work of each individual. The undergraduate RAs noted that it was difficult to recognize radical imagination as they were unfamiliar with many concepts used in the works of graduate students and faculty members. Graduate students, however, saw the works of undergraduate RAs as radical—such as their pop-up event and successful acquisitions of seed grants by the college. Graduate student Nate noted:

There are some incredible new directions that the RAs have brought into play and I am seriously impressed with their enthusiasm and work ethic for making proper use of the funding and technology we are so lucky to use! The RAs are the kindling to the fire of the group in my opinion.

Faculty members saw radical imagination as both an exploration as well as a practical organizational challenge. Ann noted that collaborative leadership outside the collaboratory are necessary catalysts for radical imagination.


Suspension requires a focus on problem development. It was also one of the most difficult tenets to be actualized, according to the ratings provided by WRC members. Suspension had received the lowest mean score among all tenets of radical collaboration. Most members thought that the collaboratory as a whole had done well in critiquing each other’s work while being supportive. In my own reflection, I wrote:

We do pretty' well in supporting and critiquing one another’s ideas. Although, many times, I do see us going down a groupthink spiral. . . but we recover quickly when it comes to the practical issues with our ideas. We are slow to judge, but considerably quick to agree. The beautiful thing, however, is that we offer ourselves to participate in things we agree on.

Faculty member Ann had expressed a similar sentiment, noting:

We locked in to studying VR quite early in the process rather than suspending this direction or at least entertaining many other directions. We need to keep focused on ‘problem development’ throughout our collaboration.

Overall, suspension was an underlying warrant of the collaborative work in the collaboratory that was hard to actualize. However, when complemented by other tenets of radical collaboration, such as sharing and collaboration, suspension contributed to the momentum of the collaborator)'. It created a culture of acceptance and kindness toward others’ scholarship that is arguably rare in academia.


Exposure is a tenet that treats all collaborators as equally worthy of participating in problem scoping. It means exposing participants to the complexities of problems regardless of experience. WRC members all agreed that they were exposed to something they have not encountered before participating in the collaborator)' in spring semester. The RAs noted their eyes were opened to various aspects of technical and professional communication through the work of the collaboratory. Alexander, a second-year RA, reported:

Exposure was extremely important for what I have learned over the last semester. My first semester here, I was able to experience many technical writing ideas and I learned a few things for our collaboration. But with this new semester, I was able to connect the ideas from this semester to my major more, and provide much greater context to what I learned here in the collaboratory.

Graduate students perceived exposure as experience cross/interdisciplinary scholarship. Graduate student Chakrika noted:

I think our visiting people doing similar work as ours counts as exposure to build our research network. I think that we also achieved exposure to new technologies and tools for potential future research or teaching use.

Faculty members, too, saw connecting with units outside of the collaborator)' and department home as a way of exposing student members to common issues (mostly technology-related), breaking down academic silos, and capitalizing on talents outside the immediate reach of the field.

To tabulate the degree to which each radical collaboration tenet is actualized in the members’ experience, each member was asked to rank their individual experience of the dimensions on a scale of 0 to 5 (lowest to highest). Table 5.3 and Figure 5.3 show the median and mean scores for each dimension.

Collaboration, sharing, and invitation were ranked as the top three dimensions, followed by radical imagination, exposure, and suspension accordingly. The lowest mean score was 3.4 (suspension) and its median was 4.0. On a 5-point scale, the scores reflect a high degree of actualization across the six dimensions. Their experience in the WRC was thus representative of radical collaboration. Certainly, the six radical collaboration tenets do not need to be equally actualized in order to achieve optimal collaborative experience; yet, based on the survey feedback, they have to be present to manifest radical collaboration in the collaboratory.

While this CAE self-study and narratives have been limited to the context of academic research in technical communication, I believe radical collaboration be

TABLE 5.3 Degree of actualization of radical collaboration dimensions













Radical imagination









*Rtmge = 0 to 5 (0 being lowest; 5 being highest)

Comparison of degree of actualization

FIGURE 5.3 Comparison of degree of actualization (mean and median) across six radical collaboration dimensions useful for industry application. In the remaining of this chapter, I advocate for the adoption of this practice by academic programs and practitioners alike who wish to build and support a culture of radical collaboration. The radical collaboratory model (see Figure 5.4) can be deployed by considering three main conditions in the academy: disciplinary, institutional, and programmatic.

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