Students will be using the web site and blogging platform WordPress to publish content relating to their semester-long subject. WordPress is an industry standard for bloggers and web designers, and we will be getting to know how to many (though not all) of it’s features, including, but not limited to:
- selecting themes
- adding posts
- adding pages
- composing an about page
- adding tags and categories
- creating menus
- adjusting colors
- adding widgets
- installing new widgets
- embedding media, like YouTube videos and images
- making links to other pages
- following other WordPress blogs
We will be learning these features over the course of the semester, with particular emphasis happening in class on 9/4 and all of weeks 3 and 5. Additional help is available during my office hours and during the Bronstein open lab times.
Students are required to purchase a professional domain name (URL) from Reclaim Hosting and install WordPress, as shown in this nifty tutorial I made:
Once you have installed WordPress, create a professional title and tagline that is associated with your project.
You are required to add to your project every week, in most cases multiple times a week. For many of you this will be a word count on writing, for others of you a certain number of photos, for others of you this will take the form of contributing to other sites and than posting a link to those contributions on your own. I would encourage you to think strategically about posting: How can you keep connected, current, and continuously updated in order to find a readership and contribute to a conversation?
The baseline expectation here will be 750 words per week posted to your web site, but some of this can be substituted out for other media production. For example, a long series of photos that you take would reduce your word count, or if you make and edit a short video you might write less that week. Tweets about your project do not count in this total.
UPDATE: How much multimedia counts
One photograph counts as 100 words, as long as you photographed and edited the image specifically for that post. Photographs you created in the past do not count (they can be used, but they do not count for 100 words).
One highly edited video counts as 600 words, as long as you created the video specifically for that post. Photographs you created in the past do not count (they can be used, but they do not count for 100 words).
You can rent DSRL cameras for photos and videos in the basement of Merion Hall. I strongly recommend using these cameras instead of cell phones.
All posts must have written content to contextualize the images/video. Do not just post a series of photos or a video.
The word-count demand might initially seem intense; however, if you are following a significant number of interest-driven sites, you should have plenty of material through which to filter, connect, critique, and advocate, as described by Rheingold.
Weekly, your work will be assessed based only on your content. At the semester’s end, your whole project will be assessed based on criteria that we will negotiate together. These criteria may include categories such as content, conventions, appearance, and engagement.
ONE. Participate–daily, weekly–in the Conversation
When it is time to start building your project, follow Rheingold’s model: filter, connect, critique, and advocate. Filtering might be the easiest place to begin–find an interesting post from the sites you follow and point your readers to it. Don’t just link; however, offer a bit of context. One of the great writers out there doing this Maria Popava, the force behind the gorgeous blog, Brain Pickings. Study this site well. She is incredible at providing context and interpretation of prior material, weaving her own reading(s) with content (including images) from the original text. See, for example, “May 20, 1990: Advice on Life and Creative Integrity from Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson.” Your posts, of course, don’t need to be that long. But, if you share the same sense of wonder and curiosity and love for what your writing about, you’ll be 90% of the way there.
Begin with a post-type that works for you, and remember that the goal isn’t to produce ground-breaking research or poetic prose; instead, you should simply begin by offering your perspective on a topic. Start with what’s happening, what’s interesting, what’s curious. Like, “Why Man Creates: A Saul Bass Gem from 1968.”
You should also think about the frequency and volume of your posts. If you only post once per week, your site will grow very slowly. When a reader stumbles onto your work, they are going to look at how often you are posting–freshness is a reason to bookmark the site. Frequency also means you’re writing more and more often, the first step to becoming a better digital communicator. If you only have one day per week to work on your site, write several posts that day, upload them to WordPress, and schedule them to post throughout the week.
TWO. Learn the Conventions
As you read and write, pay careful attention to the conventions of your interest community. Do participants include many personal stories? Should a unique photo be added to each post? Read and respond to posts with an eye toward the vocabulary and practices of your interest-driven community.
Finally, practice good and ethical intellectual procedures: give credit where due, cite your sources, write with care, don’t troll, and–in general–be a thoughtful digital citizen. You will find that your good will is quickly returned.
THREE. Use the project apps to your advantage.
Each of the apps we use over the course of the semester has been created to facilitate reading, writing, archiving, curating, and/or researching. Take advantage of of what they afford and build them into your writing process. If you see them as barriers rather than facilitators you will be quickly frustrated.
At the end of each week, I will assess your project based solely on did you produce the media requirement for that week. Missing a week of posts will result in a 5% reduction of the project’s total score. There are twelve weeks during which you should post, so missing the word count each week would result in a maximum possible score of 35% for the project. Not good. Meeting the weekly word count, however, gives you a strong foundation for the end-of-semester assessment.
Posts are due every week except week EIGHT, starting with week THREE (with your proposal) and ending with the last post during week FIFTEEN.
This is my way of saying that it is very, very important to regularly work on your project
At the end of the semester I will score the complete project via a rubric that we will design
together at mid-term. While I will give you some possible assessment categories, the class
will build this evaluation criteria together.