In a recent 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 is putting his latest book, The Sandman, online in serialized format on his professional web site—for free. Connolly is just the latest in a line of writers and artists—established and burgeoning—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 and artists use professional web sites 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. 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. We will read scholarly texts that introduce us to the evolution of written communication and writing technologies, Internet studies, hypertext theory, and electronic literature (eLit). We will also read practical texts that introduce us to web design, usability, blogging, and the two primary web design languages: HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). We will use these texts, theories, and skills to analyze and compose various online spaces, and to make sound choices when determining how, where, and why to share your work online.
Brief Descriptions of Course Units and Projects
The course will have two 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.
Designing a Professional Web Site using WordPress (14 weeks)
Each student will compose a professional web site using the free and robust blogging and information management software, WordPress.org. Each student will have their own URL and will learn how to install a blog, learn how to manipulate themes, learn how to use it for more than just blogging, and compose their professional site. The professional site will be completed in two installations. The first installation will be based on the WPFolio theme. The second installation will be based on a theme of your choice, which must be heavily manipulated to fit your own particular goals. Each installation will be accompanied by a reflective statement.
Blogging (14 weeks)
This semester students will use the blog feature of their professional web site to engage with the texts we’ll be reading, reflect on their web design progress, and share ideas with their future audience. Each student will be responsible for at least 3 blog posts per week: 1) one that extends the class discussion; 2) one that discusses their web design progress; and 3) one based on a weekly feature that you create to help promote yourself.
Social Bookmarking (12 – 13 weeks)
Social bookmarking is the process of publicly archiving web pages you find interesting for possible future use. As a class, we will be using Diigo to socially bookmark web sites that directly relate to ideas and skills discussed in class that we think other classmates will find useful.
Analysis of a Professional Web Site (2 essays)
As a way to get a better understanding of how people in your field are using professional web sites and social media, you will write two short analysis papers. The first will analyze a web site in terms of its content, goals, and usability. The second will analyze it in terms of how the person is leveraging social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and so on).