My Favorite

There are so many great writers in this class and each one has had a unique post for every assignment. I have enjoyed a lot of these pieces but I have been really struck by Mackenzie’s piece “Messages” from the Writing as Social Action assignment. Her topic here is one that most students are aware of as likely most students have heard Kirkbride Jesus preach at one point or another, and there are probably many of us who have also contributed to the online response to Mark at one point or another making her post extremely relatable. Her post here was extremely well written and I really liked how she introduced the topic with a very descriptive opening and a quote by Mark: “But in the heard of people moving to the same places, once you go under the overpass and can see Trabant, the calling begins. ‘God is watching you right now.’.”

Specifically, I thought her incorporation of quotes throughout her piece was very different from what other people posted about for this assignment. She focused her post on the general reaction from the populace and her own feelings about it, highlighting her involvement in the response with a few tweets. But she didn’t focus her entire piece around the tweets she had written, she only used them to emphasize her purpose and, to me, it had a very interesting effect that worked really well. And definitely, I thought her closing paragraph had some thoughtful insights. I tend to tune out the Kirkbride Jesus when I walk by while he’s there, but I never considered it to be similar to advertising from big name companies in a way: “Companies share messages too. We pass by them as consumers and can choose to listen and learn or can choose to pass by.” It’s interesting to think how they throw out messages about their products and even if no one responds directly, they are still getting their word out and perhaps, just like with Kirkbride Jesus, there is a response to it in an online community.

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My Favorites

Over the course of this semester, I have really enjoyed reading all of the different posts by so many different types of people. I have also found it really interesting seeing people work with mediums other than the written word.

The post that I admire for its quality of the prose is Sara Reuschling’s piece called Information Overload. My favorite part of her response was: “In that sense, I have multiple faucets running but I still choose which faucets to fill my thimble and later bathtub”(Sara’s piece). Earlier in the response, she quotes Carr who uses that metaphor. I really enjoyed how she used Carr’s own words and spun them for her argument. When I read this response and especially that specific line of Sara’s piece I thought it was very clever, and it definitely stuck with me.

The post that I admire for how the writer has moved beyond writing is Ellie’s remediation. Ellie took a very personal poem and turned it into a video. The power of the words in her poem spoke for themselves, but I thought the way that she edited the video was very impressive and impactful. She used found videos with a voiceover to convey her poem. I thought the choice to not have music in the background was very important and allowed her voice to really stand out. Overall, with the use of video, Ellie made her poem have a much greater impact and really resonate with the audience.

 

Writing: Favorites

In our last two class meetings of this semester, I’d like to celebrate the work that all of you have done. Here’s how you can help.

You’ve read a lot of pieces composed by your classmates this semester. I’d like you to identify two favorite posts/pieces:

  • One post which you admire for its quality of prose, for particular sentences or paragraphs that the author has crafted;
  • One post which you admire for how the writer has moved beyond writing—has done something on screen that you can’t do on the page.

(You will note that I am returning here to the idea of affordances which I began the term by talking about. What can you do in writing? What can you do beyond writing?)

But here is the kicker: You cannot simply reference an entire post. You must select and quote: a sentence or two from a post, or few seconds from a video or audio file, or a particularly effective use of images or links or formatting. In any case, you have to quote from within a post, not simply refer to it.

Explain what you like and admire about these two moments in two pieces. While I hope for critical insight, I also aim for celebration.

I’ll ask each of you to briefly present your favorites to the class. I’ll project your post; you’ll talk for about two minutes. This should be fun!

Deadline: Tues, 5/09, 10 00 am

Remediation: Unity

As I stated in my Concept in 60 Video, unity has always been a very interesting concept to me. It has managed to be a driving force throughout every generation and is extremely powerful. It seems as though that every generation has had a movement that has created an immense amount of unity. For example, civil rights, gay rights, and women’s rights. These movements all started a long time ago, but continue to be a prevalent part of our society. I have watched in my lifetime as these movements brought together millions of people. Unity is extremely powerful, and with that carries the power to create disunity. It’s no secret that this country is very disunited right now. It is easy to see this lack of unity when people come together for things like the women’s march. The opposition is made clear, and a solid divide between the two ideologies is put in place. When people unite together for a cause, they are often alienating themselves from another large group of people. That is why this concept of unity is very confusing for me. I don’t see how there could ever be such thing as unity. Unity really only means disunity and vice-versa.

I think that these causes are still really important to fight for but there needs to be an understanding about what is being created. Unity has the power to bring together millions of people but it also has the power to disunite millions of people. However, disunity is necessary. Conflicting viewpoints are needed in order to point out flaws in each other’s thinking. I think the media plays a large role in creating disunity among people. On news channels like CNN, they bring in people with completely opposing thinking and have them basically yell at each other for hours. This type of show is highlighting the lack of unity that we have and isn’t trying to facilitate productive conversations. The new problem that we face is being open to other people’s views. There are certain movements I strongly support, like the three listed above, but with each of those movements comes opposition and in order to understand each other we need to have thoughtful and productive conversations. The 60-second video I made briefly explaining my thoughts on this subject can be here.

A New Digital Writer

The person I have chosen to write about is my sister, Elaina Strong, who is fairly new to the idea of “digital writer” as she has recently started a new public Instagram account under the name “minimalistwithkids” where she posts pictures of her minimalistic lifestyle with 3 children as well as a score of DIY crafts, chemical free products, eco friendly habits and gardening and nature hobbies. I thought she would be interesting to interview considering how she created this account about 3 weeks ago and has already seen an influx of followers from people who share her interests. It’s unique to see the difference between her usage of her private Instagram account and her new public one and how it has influenced her as a new digital writer.

I start by asking her what inspired her to create this new, minimalist account:

Elaina: “Honestly, I’m a stay at home mom. Everything I do is for my kids and I’m also a minimalist, I needed something for myself. I do a lot of DIY and crafts, I know a lot about de-cluttering and simplifying your life and I wanted to broadcast, not necessarily my ways, but show people how I live and how simplifying helps you live a happier life.”

So this simplistic lifestyle, this is the story and the message that you want this account to emphasize to your followers?

Elaina: “Yes, I actually, I have a lot of nature on my account. I take the kids on a lot of nature walks, I try to teach people that being outside is good for your health and your body and to also be very eco-friendly.”

Would you say that, compared to your private account, you take more time to plan these pictures or to choose what to post or what to say?

Elaina: “Absolutely, I do take more time to plan out what I’m going to post to write about it, some of the posts take a lot of thought and time, sometimes they, you know, are DIY, they’re crafting. I teach people how to make things like deodorant, and I’m actually coming up with a post on how to make a lice spray. I have children in preschool and elementary school and sometimes we get letters that lice has gone around, so I’ve made a lice repellant with essential oils.”

So, how do you think your use of hash tags has changed since you started this account and what kind of response have you experienced because of it?

Elaina: “I’ve become more detailed with my hash tags. I have to think of everything so that I get more views, I usually go a little crazy with the hash tags and if I use more hash tags I actually get a lot more people looking at my Instagram page.”

I took this time to notice that she has received comments on several of her pictures by Instagram users with similar public accounts, some of whom have thousands of followers. I asked Elaina how this kind of reaction effected her

Elaina: “A lot of them are moms, and I feel a huge support network. We’re all moms or we’re all minimalists or, you know, zero waste or eco friendly users so I feel a huge support.  I feel like I’ve got so many people backing me up and I’m backing up a lot of people and we all have bad days, you know, we try to build each other up. Bad days with the kids or bad days just in general or someone just forgot their coffee, we’re cheering people on so they can make it through the rest of their day.”

My last question for her was then: What would you do differently to relate this story through other mediums if you had chosen something other than Instagram, like an online blog or twitter of Facebook?

Elaina: “Yeah, I think I would have a blog, but I think a blog is a lot of work so that’s why I felt an Instagram was a little easier for me. I feel like, with a blog I would be sitting in front of the computer a lot and would be typing a lot and I wouldn’t have a lot of time. Instagram is a lot easier for me. I snap a picture and I type it up real quick and I use the hash tags and people see it a lot easier. Also moms are super busy, I personally don’t have a lot of time to read blogs, but I do have time to read a quick little Instagram paragraph.”

Here are some examples from her Instagram

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.

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.

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