technologies and the future of writing, spr ’14

Module Overview

In 1990, Neil Postman wrote: “Nothing could be more misleading than the idea that computer technology introduced the age of information. The printing press began that age, and we have not been free of it since. But what started out as a liberating stream has turned into a deluge of chaos.” A “deluge of chaos”—and it hasn’t gotten any better what with millions of tweets, instagrams, blog posts, Flickr images, Facebook posts and so on uploaded per day. How do we make sense of all this stuff and what technologies can help us filter through it all so things that are interesting to us find us (rather than us finding them).

In this module, we’ll be attempting to do just that through the creation of an information ecology—an ecology that extends from desktop to laptop to mobile device to those oh so quaint technologies, paper and pencil. Bonnie A. Nardi and Vicki L. O’Day (1999) “define an information ecology to be a system of people, practices, values, and technologies in a particular local environment. In information ecologies, the spotlight is not on technology, but on human activities that are served by technology” (p. 49). Our own personal online information ecologies will be comprised of these interrelated, symbiotic spaces:

  • an RSS reader, Feedly
  • a “read it later” service, Pocket
  • a social bookmarking space (Diigo or Pinterest)
  • an online (scholarly) library, Zotero
  • an interest news service, Zite

Students will be encouraged to use their mobile devices as often as possible with the above apps, as well as with Twitter. Writing is (and has been, really, since people started writing on clay tablets) mobile. While learning how to use these spaces, we will be blogging using WordPress, tweeting on Twitter, and creating a cloud portfolio with Dropbox. The final project will ask you to discuss your information ecology.

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