internet and writing studies, fall 2012

Course Description

In a 2010 article in the Guardian, English novelist, screenwriter, and journalist, Ray Connolly begged the question, “If publishers can sell their books online, why can’t writers? Actually, they can. It isn’t difficult. Anyone who is computer savvy can become a publisher these days. I know, because I’ve just become one.” Connolly announced that he was putting his latest book, The Sandman, online in serialized format on his professional web site—for free for a limited time. Connolly is one in a line of writers and artists—established (Louis CK, RadioHead, Nine Inch Nails) and burgeoning (see also, Unraveling Anne, with its publishing history discussed toward the end of “Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of Deal“)—who are choosing to circumvent traditional publishing processes and institutions by putting their work online, often for free, for an established audience and/or to create a new audience.

Other writers (such the Booker Prize-winning author, Margaret Atwood, who has become a huge fan of the power of Twitter) and artists who have created a professional online presence to connect directly with fans, advertise, upload videos and/or trailers, provide samples of work, share ideas on the artistic process, and link to sites where their work can be purchased. Carin Berger, an award-winning children’s book author, illustrator, and designer, has a wonderful site that exemplifies what we’ll be discussing as Designing for Emotion. Indeed, doing so has become a necessity today. By taking advantage of the freedom of the web, the power of social networking, and the pleasure of connecting directly with new and established audiences, artists are becoming more than writers or musicians or photographers or craft-makers. They are becoming publishers, marketers, and self-promoters. Often this happens in a coordinated effort with traditional publishing institutions and companies. Other times the goal is to gain enough exposure to attract traditional publishing opportunities. Other times the goal is merely to shares one’s work with an unknown audience. It all depends on the artist and their individual goals.

This course will help you gain the theoretical knowledge and practical skills to compose your own professional online presence–and compose it so it is flexible to be read on wide-screen desktops, laptops, tablets, iPads, and smartphones. We will read practical texts that introduce us to mobile first and responsive web design, usability, designing so as to connect emotionally with your audience, among other topics. We will be learning two primary web design languages: XHTML (Hypertext Markup Language), CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), as well as bits of HTML5 and CSS3. We will be blogging, tweeting, and social bookmarking, as well as creating business cards and letterhead. We’ll also read texts on the history of the Internet. The primary goal of all the work will be for you to compose your own professional identity online and to make sound choices when determining how, where, and why to share your work online.

If you have always wanted to know how to design a web site, and are interested in thinking about the implications of writers and other professionals doing so, this course is for you.

Brief Descriptions of Projects

The course will have four main projects and several smaller assignments that support and enhance the development of the main projects. Each project will have it’s own extended assignment page. The main projects were inspired by those created by Karl Stolley.

Responsive Resume (3 Weeks)
In this project students will learn the basics of composing for the web through the process of coding their web site in standards-based XHTML and CSS. Students will compose screen and print versions of their resume. Following the tenants of Responsive Web Design and Mobile First theories, students will create versions that are optimized to be viewed on computer screens and smartphones.

Grid-based Standards-Compliant Responsive Professional Site (7 – 8 Weeks)
In this project students will design a professional web site using XHTML and CSS code that is standards-compliant and follows Mobile First, Responsive Web Design, Grid-based Design, Designing for Emotion, usability, and accessibility theories and practices. The site will have multiple pages, including a portfolio, about page, resume, and blog. It will link to and bring together all of your online presences, including Twitter and LinkedIn, and will be optimized to be viewed on a variety of web-enabled devices. The site will be designed in the following stages: sketching, wire-framing, prototyping, developing.

Final Design Project (4 – 5 weeks)
This project will ask students to take the skills they have learned and bring them to a more advanced level.

Integrated Social Media Presence (12 – 13 weeks)
As we all know, social media has rapidly changed the way people engage with their social and professional communities. But, social media also plays a significant roll in helping people shape the way others perceive them online. For example, if you have ever done a Google search for yourself, what do you find? Do you find pages that you created? If you have spent time creating an integrated social media presence, your blog, your Twitter page, your LinkedIn page, your Google+ page, and so on, will show up first in these searches. When future employers and future fans of your work search for you, they will find these pages and you’ll have gone a long was toward making an immediate positive impression. We’ll be taking the time to set these up so by the end of the class you’ll have an engaged and positive social media presence that makes you look very good and also quite technically savvy. To complement your online presence we’ll be creating business cards and letterhead. As we all know, an online presence is one thing, but ultimately people meet in person and (still) submit manuscripts via mail. Having a print identity that complements and reinforces your online identity will be important.
Sites will include, at least: WordPress, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Diigo, and others.

9 Responses to internet and writing studies, fall 2012

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