Class, Wed, 5/03

Six Diffs 2Profiling Digital Writers: Six More Differences

In groups: Review the lists created by the four groups in class on Monday.  Come up with yet another list that contains:

  1. Three insights about digital writers and writing
  2. Three insights about writing profiles of digital writers.

Re-Mediation

What piece are you going to rework/remediate? How do you plan to shift media or platforms? Why? To what desired effect?

To Do

  1. Thurs, 5/04, 10:00 am: Post your remediation, or a link to it, to this site. Read through the pieces posted by your classmates and comment on at least four that draw your attention and admiration.
  2. Fri, 5/05, class: We will discuss the remediation pieces. And, the death, or not, of Twitter. See Davey Alba.

Cliff Kretkowski: A Profile in Forms of Writing

Cliff Kretkowski is a father of 3 boys, a salesman, pastor, and writer in his free time. More specifically, he is my dad and one of few people I actively follow and am intrigued by on social media that I can actually contact. His posts on Facebook are what I specifically dissect, as that is his primary form of social media communication. The subjects of the posts are varied, some dealing with music, others with prayer and religious concepts, and other areas of interest in my father’s life. I recently spoke with my dad over the phone and conducted a casual interview with him in regards to Cliff Kretkowski the writer. The purpose of our discussion was to identify the process through which Cliff creates his posts, and to see his thoughts on that writing as compared to the written word of literature, an area he has dabbled in throughout his adult life.

Who is the intended audience of your posts on Facebook, as based upon the videos and links you include it could be several different types of people.

Well that’s actually a really good question, because sometimes you’ll see if I see something about, ya know, Metallica, or something like that I’ll directly make the post out to you, but then the other day I posted that song about Nanny [Cliff’s mother] and made some comments, or then even the other day one about the Grateful Dead. Those, I think you see, are for a general audience, because it’s a sweeping kind of a comment or issue being made. I generally feel that’s how I post.

Whenever you post do you try to have some sort of media within the post, whether it be a video or a picture, or does it just kind of happen?

I think that’s the inspiration. You know, now that you say that I think I rarely post without an attachment. I don’t really ever just go ‘Hey, I’m having spaghetti for dinner’, I usually just hear a song or see something of interest and I’ll post that with a comment on it. It kinda broadens the picture, or the video, or the anecdote. The attachments branch my post out to the people who see it.

What is the difference in writing on the Internet as compared to writing for a book, in regards to when speaking on similar issues and different ones?

Now thinking back to your last question and reflecting on that, when I post something online it’s always commentary on something else. As a writer, or when I journal, it’s always about experiences in my life, not commenting on an anecdote or opinion of someone else.

Do you feel that’s in part due to the medium of conversational social media as compared to books, which have no interface?

Absolutely, When I put something on Facebook I want to share it and allow everyone to have their own reflections on it. But when I’m writing for a book I’m calculating, I’m writing thoughts, taking experiences, and formulating a comprehensive idea. I’m not necessarily sending out ideas when I’m on Facebook, so it’s very different to me.

Do you have a preference between the two?

I don’t prefer Facebook, because honestly don’t really think there’s a literary component to it aside from the actual act of writing. To me, it’s not a place to convey deep, significant thoughts, it’s more perfunctory. I don’t necessarily sit and ponder over what I’m writing online, I didn’t revise and research parts. To me it’s like having a conversation around the room just with a keyboard.

So would you not consider it then a ‘technical’ form of writing?

No, I don’t. And you’ve seen this, people will use the letter ‘u’ for ‘you’ on Facebook, so people aren’t even thinking of the full context of writing when on Facebook, and they don’t have to, I don’t judge that, it just doesn’t seem like something for someone involved in engaging writing.

 

Overall, my father uses Facebook quite often but doesn’t view it as an alternative or equal to his literary writing, just more so an outlet for thoughts and reflections t be shared amongst friends and family like text messaging. I conducted the interview with my father as I do whenever I call him, a very casual and conversational format. The interviews contents are quite interesting to me and a different perspective from most of the ideas that have been discussed throughout the English 397 course.

Class, Wed, 4/26

Questions/Thoughts: Profiles and Remediations

Conferences

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.

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

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.