writing, research, & tech, spring 2015

Course Description

Writing builds and perpetuates connections—connections among people, ideas, technologies, and media objects. This is nothing new, of course. From clay tablets to scrolls to the first books, humans have, as we learned in Intro to Writing Arts, used writing technologies to represent ideas to be shared with others. Internet and web technologies, however, have transformed the speed with which humans can use writing to create personal connections. Mobile technologies feed into the immediacy of that writing and those connections. As the Nancy Baym (2010) states in our main text for the course, “the digital age is distinguished by rapid transformations in the kinds of technological mediation through which we encounter one another” (p. 1).

How do we make sense of these changes? How do they transform what we think about writing and the communities writings serve? How do they change what it means to participate in a mediated society? What are the new terms and ideas that can help us understand what we see happening in public networked writing?

In sections 2 and 3 of Writing, Research, and Technology, we are going to consider what it means to write in digital spaces and how such writing contributes to the creation of personal connections. In doing so, we will consider ideas on off-line and virtual communities, social networks, participatory culture, and fandom. We will consider some historical approaches and engage directly with a variety contemporary composing and archiving spaces. No prior technological experience is necessary, nor is any expected. Indeed, there will be days in class when no digital technologies will be used; we will rely on orality and analog writing technologies to make real our ideas.

We will not be reading texts that describe the characteristics of digital literacy, new-media literacy, or any other literacy (with the possible exception of one reading on gaming). Rather, we want to discover for ourselves what it means to write in these spaces. This course 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 digital spaces.

By the end of the semester, you will have achieved Writing Arts Core Value 6: “Writing Arts students will understand the impact evolving technologies have on the creation of written texts.” And you’ll find you’ve achieved most of the others, as well.

The Assignments

This semester we will be completing several 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 Hashtag on Twitter

In this semester-long project, each student will create a study around a particular Twitter hashtag. The hashtag can be of or for any kind of community (e.g. #edchat or #doctorwho50) or in response to any kind of media: news event, community organization, TV show, musical group, game, movie, product, or other (e.g. #believeinfilm, #crimingwhilewhite, #iamcharlie, #icantbreathe, #MLKDay,  #springsteen,  #supernatural, #walkingdead, #yesallwomen). Students will archive the tweets using Martin Hawksey’s TAGS 6.0 GoogleDrive integrated archiving system and will analyze the tweets using a modified version of Grounded Theory and 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 their results in an essay composed over 3 drafts, each progressively longer until it reaches the final 10 – 12 pages. Students will also compose reflections on their research process.

Blogging and Tweeting

Students will be blogging and tweeting throughout the semester. The course hashtag is #wrts15. We will be creating a collaborative blogs based around similar hashtags 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. The blog posts will directly inform content for your final paper. We’ll integrate Twitter with blogging by tweeting out blog posts, blogging about tweets that contain the hashtag you’re studying, 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.

Experimenting with Distraction-free Writing Spaces and HTML

In the Technologies and the Future of Writing module of Intro to Writing Arts you gained proficiency with blogging: how to navigate the space, how to add links and images, how to compose for a global audience. While we’ll be using the WordPress interface to post your blog posts  as part of the blogging assignment, they will be composed in a variety of different online and off-line spaces, such as ZenPen, and then transferred to the blog. The goal for this part of course is to start thinking about how the spaces we use impact the resulting text.

Diary of Technology Activities

We are often unaware how often we use digital, electronic, and analog technologies to afford the ability to read and write. Being away of the technologies and spaces we use will help us better understand our technology-rich writing environment and our relationship with those technologies and spaces. Each student will be given a small Field Notes notebook and a pen. Over the course of one week, each student will record all the digital, electronic, and analog technologies that mediate the activities of reading and writing.  when they use them, and why. We will discuss the resulting notebook and students will compose a blog post about their experiences with technology.

Personal Technology Skill (updated 2/3/15 after class discussion)

We all come into the class with different learning goals and expectations. Often your expectations are different than what the course offers, though we recognize the goal of the course is to help you meet the objectives of Writing Arts Core Value 6. To help meet at least one of your personal goals, this assignment is going to ask you to identify one skill in which you become proficient during the semester. The skills must be within reason, such as learning basic HTML and/or CSS, becoming a more effective blogger, considering how to bring writing technology into the elementary education classroom and so on. You can’t choose things like learning how to compose mashups which takes a full semester of detailed instruction. Each student will identify one skill or knowledge area and will come a blog post toward the end of the semester showcasing their new knowledge. I will provide support and resources. If you have basic experience in a skill you must show that there is significant room for improvement.