Class, Wed, 4/26

Questions/Thoughts: Profiles and Remediations


The Revision Process 

  • Fastwrite: Describe an experience in which receiving feedback to a piece really helped you develop it in satisfying ways. Or, describe a moment in which you feel that, as a reader or editor, you were really able to help another writer successfully develop a piece, Whichever tack you take, what practical lessons can you draw from this experience about how you might create a social network to support your work as a writer and editor? In what ways does your experience align (or not) with the advice offered by Fenton and Lee?

To Do

  1. Thurs, 4/27, 10:00 am: Post your profile of a digital writer to this site.
  2. Fri, 4/28: No class.
  3. Fri, 4/28, and Mon, 5/01: Conferences with Joe.
  4. Mon, 5/01, class: Scan the profiles posted to this site. Pick at least two that you feel differ in interesting ways from each other, and be ready to talk about what those differences suggest to you.
  5. Thurs, 5/04, 10:00 am: Post your remediated piece to this site.

Conferences, Fri, 4/28, and Mon, 5/01

My plan is to cancel class on Fri, 4/28, to free up time to talk with each of you individually about your work for this course. Here’s my current schedule of conferences:

Conferences E397
E397 Conferences, Fri, 4.28, and Mon, 5/01

We will have 15 minutes to talk with each other. Here’s what I’ll do to prep for our meeting: (a) I’ll read your profile of a digital writer and have some thoughts to offer you about it; (b) I’ll quickly reread your previous posts for this course and be ready to talk about what I see as our strengths as a writer and also issues you may want to work more on; and (c) I’ll be happy to talk with you about the remediation assignment.

That’s a lot to talk about. So I will count on you to steer our conversation to the work and issues that matter most to you. Indeed, I can pretty much assure you that I will begin our meeting by first saying, Let me offer some thoughts about your profile, and then by asking, What do you want to talk about?  So please be ready to respond to that question. I look forward to talking with you!

Writing: Remediating

In ordinary usage, remediation is a word with mostly negative connotations—pointing to something that needs to be fixed, or to a person who somehow needs to be caught up. But for theorists of digital culture, it is a term with positive uses, referring to the work of translating a text composed in one medium into another: writing into graphics, audio into script, images into video, and so on. Re-mediating. Even reading a piece aloud or creating a set of slides to support a talk are forms of remediation. And anyone who has ever sat through a dull lecture or slideshow understands how much care and imagination it takes to move effectively from one mode of expression to another.

For this assignment, I’d like you find to a text you’ve created that you’d like to play with some more, and to compose a new, remediated version of it. You don’t need to translate the entire document into another medium or platform, but you should try to recast a significant part of it, or to add to it in some substantial way. The challenge, if you decide to move from writing to images or audio or video, will be to do something more than merely illustrate what you’ve already said. Similarly, if you move from audio or video or images to writing, you’ll want to do something more than simply transcribe your previous work. Your goal should be to somehow add to or inflect what you said as you shift the mode in which you say it, to revise as well as remediate.

Please post your remediated piece to this site by 10:00 am on Thurs, 5/04. You and I will also have time to talk one-on-one about your work on Fri, 4/28, or Mon, 5/01.

Class, Mon, 4/24

Profile of a Digital Writer

  • Fastwrite: Who do you plan to profile? What do you hope to learn from this person?
  • Interviewing Tips: Fenton and Lee
  • An Example: Kate Harris

Writing: Remediating

To Do

  1. Wed, 4/26, class: Read Fenton and Lee, chapter 11, on “The Revision Process” (pp. 147–55.)
  2. Thurs, 4/27, 10:00 am: Post your profile to this site.
  3. Fri, 4/28: No class.
  4. Fri, 4/28, and Mon, 5/01: Conferences with Joe.
  5. Thurs, 5/04, 10:00 am: Post your remediated piece to this site.

Kate Harris: Profile of a Digital Writer

Levana_112Kate Harris taught American History and World Religions for ten years at Jordan High School in Durham, North Carolina. When she moved two years ago to Pittsburgh, PA , she became a consultant for the Smithsonian Institute, helping other teachers use the vast digital archives of the Smithsonian in their own classes. This job has her making short posts to the internet all the time, showcasing both the work of classroom teachers and items in the Smithsonian collection. But she’s also written longer pieces on teaching social controversies—Colin Kaepernick, Standing Rock, Charlie Hebdo—for the New York Times online. So I thought she’d be a good person to talk to about how to create a presence as a digital writer.

I began our conversation by asking Kate how she thought differently about writing for the screen than writing for the page. 

Kate: Teachers looking for curriculum ideas online do a lot of scanning—as do many online readers in general. So while I don’t necessarily think posts need to be short, I do think they need to establish their relevance pretty quickly and be organized so that readers can find what they are looking for easily. This means that I use a lot of chunking and subtitles in a way that I might not do for other sorts of written work, and I make sure my introductions are as clear and as compelling as possible.

Do your editors have particular things they’re looking for?

Kate: When I write for the Smithsonian learning blog, the editor wants things very short (300-400 words) and very strategy driven. Her take, which is somewhat driven by web analytics data, is that their readers do not take the time to explore longer reads and want “take-aways” that they can easily find. (Here’s a typical Smithsonian post.) I actually prefer writing for the Times because they are less concerned about length and in fact encourage offering a range of possibilities for readers to explore.

Does writing for the web let you do things you couldn’t do in print?

Kate: There’s the pleasure of being able to easily illustrate and link in online writing. The Times blog wants to promote the paper’s own writing, and they actually have an editor go through and link to Times articles, where applicable, throughout. But I enjoy curating resources that I think would be helpful and relevant and inserting them. It’s also a way of dealing with the length issue. I can link to something that you might bookmark and explore further later, without taking the time to write out the full concept in my own article.

What about shorter pieces? You post a lot to Twitter.

Kate: Twitter is very popular among teachers and ed-tech folks, and that’s the primary reason I’ve begun posting there more often. What is nice about twitter is the ability to interact with a lot of people who you may not know personally, but informally network with. I think my more effective posts link up with others (those are certainly the ones that get the most reach—when you @ people with whom you work or whom you admire) or that quote other’s tweets. I think my tweets are more effective when I am “adding value” by quoting another’s tweet, but sometimes I’m lazy and just retweet!

Do you feel you reach people on Twitter you wouldn’t connect with otherwise?

Kate: Yes. Twitter works well when people connect over topics. For example, GLSEN posted about the need for a more inclusive history curriculum, and I was able to reply and share some curriculum about the gay rights movement that I had developed. That got my work out to a larger audience and contributed to a conversation they had started.

What are some strategies you developed for using Twitter effectively?

Kate: Familiarize yourself with Twitter shorthand—there are definitely ways to shorten spellings and phrases and it’s still all acceptable and professional. Twitter is also a useful way to rid yourself of bad habits in writing, like using vague adjectives (great! interesting! nice!) or being redundant. At the same time, don’t worry so much about your tweets. They will disappear quickly.

You use social media not only for your work, but also as a community member, mom, and friend. Do you feel you change your voice as a writer for these more personal posts?

Kate: Yes and no! I think it’s about where I am posting—for me, Twitter is more professional and somewhat political, although I tend to stick to politics that fits within the framework of my profession (pro-education funding or pro-NEH). Facebook is more about family and friends, and my writing is probably a little more sentimental there. But I also feel free to be more politically charged at times on Facebook, again because it is less associated with my professional life. Instagram is the social media I have the most fun with, and I hardly write at all in my captions. It feels the most personal. What I put there is less about sharing and more about capturing impressions.

Seb Museum

Class, Fri, 4/21

Writing as a Social Action

Fastwrite: Pick two posts from your classmates that you’d like to talk about. One should focus on a successful attempt to use social media to contribute to a public conversation; the other should focus on an attempt that illustrates some of the problems in trying to do so.

Interviewing Tips: Fenton and Lee

To Do

  1. Mon, 4/24, class: Identify the digital writer you want to profile and set up a time to talk with them. I’ll ask you to share who you’ll be profiling and why in class. We’ll also talk about how to compose interview questions with your particular person in mind.
  2. Wed, 4/26, class: Read Fenton and Lee, chapter 11, on “The Revision Process” (pp. 147–55.)
  3. Thurs, 4/27, 10:00 am: Post your profile to this site.

Profile of a Digital Writer

You write online to accomplish certain kinds of work—to present information, to make arguments, to reply to what others have said, and son on. But in doing so, you also present a version of yourself—what people sometimes call an online “presence”.

In the last few weeks of this course, I’d like you to think about the sort of presence you want to have online. To some degree, this is a question of what platforms you choose to post on (or not), and how often. But it’s also a matter of voice and tone, of how you present yourself both to readers you know and to those who might stumble upon you for various reasons (or through pure happenstance).

As a way to start thinking about this, I’d like you to write a brief profile of a digital writer you admire. This does not have to be a well-known author (although it could be); you might choose a friend or classmate whose posts or tweets you enjoy and regularly follow. The only requirements are that you choose someone (a) whose work you know, that you can quote with admiration, and (b) who you can talk to.

Once you’ve identified someone you’d like to write about, contact them and set up a time to talk. (If this needs to be done through Skype or email, that’s okay, but face to face is usually best.) Prepare a brief set of questions (the guidelines Fenton and Lee offer on pp. 16–17are excellent), and have a phone or other device on  hand to record your conversation (or be ready to take notes).

You’ll then have two sets of data to draw on in writing your profile: your subject’s actual writing, and your conversation with him or her. Write a brief post in which you present the writer to us and explain why you find them interesting.

(Incidentally, if there is a need to keep the identity of your subject confidential, that’s fine.)

Deadlines: Identify and contact your subject by Monday, 4/24; write your profile by Thursday, 4/27.