writing for electronic communities, fall 2013

Course Description


(Courtesy of a tweet from @LizaPotts)

This seminar explores what it means to write in and about an age of electronic communities—an age, if we are to take the title of the course at its word, that dates back to 1835 with the invention of the relay (which made telegraph possible). We will explore writing for electronic communities across a range of participatory and fan cultures, including telephone, gaming, television, movies, music, writing, social media, and others. We will consider historical approaches and engage directly with a variety contemporary composing and archiving spaces. No prior technological experience is necessary, nor is any expected. Access to laptops, tablets, or iPads able to use the Rowan Network in class is, however, necessary.

We will not be reading texts that describe the characteristics of digital literacy, media-media literacy, or any other literacy. Rather, we want to discover for ourselves what it means to write in these spaces. This seminar is one that encourages exploration, discovery, and curiosity. By exploring new opportunities for writing and reading, by discovering new communities and opportunities, and by allowing our curiosity to lead us in new directions, we will realize more fully what it means to be a writer for and in electronic communities.

The Assignments

This semester we will be completing 4 overlapping assignments, each of which contributes to the completion of the others. Assignments will be explained in greater depth on their own assignment page.

Semester-Long Study of a Community on Twitter

In this semester-long project, each student will create a study around a particular Twitter hashtag or keyword. The hashtag (or keyword) can be of or for any kind of community (e.g. #edchat or #doctorwho50) or in response to any kind of media: TV show, musical group, game, movie, product, or other (e.g. #breakingbad, #springsteen, #HappyBirthdayBeyonce). Students will archive the tweets using Martin Hawksey’s TAGS 5.0 GoogleDrive integrated archiving system and will analyze the tweets using Grounded Theory and the network visualizations. The analyses will reveal the complexity of the composing community (and whether it can be considered a community at all). Students will present in a final in-class 5 minute 20 second Pecha Kucha presentation which, in ways consistent with Pecha Kuchas, will be videotaped and uploaded to the blog. Students will also be asked to contribute something meaningful for the community being studied. This can be in the form of a long form blog post about their study, a written portion of a community-related wiki page, or other written composition of their own choosing.

Online Textual Ecology

One of the challenges of using participatory spaces is how to organize the texts that are read—texts that are then often used to inform blog posts and other writings. To help us organize the texts we find in our research, we will be building an Online Textual Ecology, which, like natural ecologies, evolves in symbiotic relationships with others over time. Our own Online Textual Ecologies will be comprised of at least these interrelated, symbiotic spaces: a blog space using WordPress.com, an RSS reader of your choice, a social bookmarking space of your choice, a Read it Later service of your choice, IFTTT, a Zotero online library, GoogleDrive, and a cloud backup space.

Composing in Markdown

Students will learn the stripped-down, easy to learn writing language, Markdown, which allows for easy conversion into a variety of file formats, including .html, .pdf, and .rtf (depending on the app you use). If you’ve ever tried to copy and paste a PDF into a Word doc, you know the problems of trying to move between file formats. Markdown helps solve this problem. Students will compose all writings for the course using the Markdown editor, StackEdit. StackEdit allows for direct upload to WordPress.com blogs, which we will be using. We’re using Markdown for three main reasons: first, it is an open source programming language developed, in part, by the late Aaron Swartz; second, it has a robust community of programmers who support it; and third, this is a writing class, so why not learn a new way to write that takes us out of the constraints of Word. You’ll come to find it quite liberating.

Blogging and Tweeting

Students will be blogging and tweeting throughout the semester. The course hashtags are #wecf13 and #wecmondays. We will be creating a collaborative blog that I hope will be able to compete with the best blogs being published today. Most of the writing we’ll be doing this semester will be on the blog. We’ll be analyzing creative and successful blogs and will try to borrow from their practices to make ours as robust, creative, and engaging as possible. We’ll integrate Twitter with blogging by tweeting out blog posts, blogging about tweets posted by classmates, and using Twitter (and other spaces) to try to spread the reach of our posts. We’ll also be live-tweeting course-related work and tweeting about class discussion.

One Response to writing for electronic communities, fall 2013

  1. Pingback: Under construction | Writing for Electronic Communities spring 2015

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