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‘ODU Writes a Book’ Experiment Deemed a Success

ODU Writes a BookODU President John R. Broderick speaks at the wrap-up event for ODU Writes a Book.

After 24 madcap hours, the results were startlingly successful.

Nearly 200 Old Dominion University faculty, staff and students joined forces Tuesday and Wednesday this week - in the Learning Commons @ Perry Library and online - to collaboratively write a book, flash mob-style.

The 24 hours of book authorship took place from 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11, to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12. Together, participants submitted more than 650 documents to the project. The documents will be reviewed by an editorial board composed of ODU faculty, staff and students, and eventually turn into the book "You are (w)here: how knowledge is related to virtual and physical place." It is the first time a college or university in the United States has collaborated on a publication such as this, written collaboratively in a short time period.

"This was an experiment, but when I started thinking about how it was going, I started having goose pimples," said George Fowler, associate university librarian for information resources and technology and project co-leader. "It's really inspiring."

Project co-leader Dylan Wittkower, assistant professor of philosophy at ODU, said students from all six of the university's colleges participated in the innovative project. There were poetry submissions, video and spoken word, even virtual submissions from as far away as Hawaii. "I think we ended up seeing everything we hoped we would," Wittkower said.

At a wrap-up event Thursday afternoon, Provost Carol Simpson congratulated event participants, and faculty and staff members from the ODU Libraries who worked overnight to make the project come off without a hitch. "It was a great effort of a great number of you. I'm looking forward to seeing a finished product."

That finished product will be produced as a physical book, but also a publication that can be viewed virtually to access digital content. Completing the project will require significant effort by the ODU Writes a Book editorial board, as it goes about the task of weaving fiction, academic literature, photo essays and other media into a single publication, Fowler said.

ODU President John R. Broderick lauded the organizers and participants in ODU Writes a Book, and said the innovation underlying a project such as this is partly fueled by the fact this is a relatively new school.

"Innovation still has an opportunity here. We're not 300 years old and so tied to our history," Broderick said during the wrap-up program at Perry Library.

In fact, with ODU's 85th anniversary coming next year, Broderick suggested that ODU Writes a Book might present an innovative model for how the school could, collectively, tell its story to mark the occasion.