Talk/Make/Play Session: (Digital) Writing vs. (Digital) Composition

One of the most important results of the proliferation of digital media has been a relative increase in studies of the history of the book. As new forms have challenged the primacy of the book, interest has been piqued in the form and history of the book as an object of intellectual communication. I believe that this is because the new modes of communication and presentation that digital media offer have defamiliarized the designed formats of traditional publishing. The design makeup of texts, which is normally virtually invisible because of the ubiquity of the codex, has had a light shown on it by the newness of digital formats, reminding us specifically of the oldness of books and that there was a time before the codex. From this point of defamiliarization we can begin to see that argument, discourse, and scholarly communication can happen in formats other than the book, article, or research paper. As such, we are provided with an opportunity to in effect start anew and explore the virtually infinite possibilities that digital media provide us in designing compositional experiences.

I would like to propose a session where we work to deconstruct those structures of writing that are assumed to be givens purely due to the design history of different forms of material texts, while actively attempt to experiment with different toolsets (Prezi, wikis, blogs, Tumblrs) to find creative ways of doing new types of digital composition. Think of it as a praxis session where we are actively considering the conceptual impulses behind why we choose to write in a certain way while actually composing new forms of expression to convey a narrative/story/argument that we normally would assume to be conveyed in traditional formats. This session will be conversational, playful, and experimental and hopefully will bring forward new tools, methods, and approaches to writing/composition.

A great place to read about how to handcraft visual argumentation such as this is Edward Tufte’s chapter in Visual Explanations about Visual Confections:

  • Edward R. Tufte. “Visual Confections: Juxtapositions from the Ocean of the Streams of Story.” Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, 1997. 121–51.
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Talk Session: Digital Creative Writing

As a writing professor (both expository and creative writing) at an art and design college, I teach to an interesting population of makers, many of whom have been told at least once before they get to me that “it’s OK you can’t write, because you’re a ‘visual’ person.” Students who attend more traditionally academic four-year colleges generally expect that they will be expressing their knowledge acquisition and production through writing, but many students I work with do not. I do a lot of promoting the ideas of writing as thinking, as process, as making; I ask students to consider their writing meaningful creative production worth sharing, and that it can be an artistic and design project as germane and challenging as work they do in their studio major-related courses.

In the past year I’ve been teaching a new class, “Project-Writing Studio,” an advanced writing workshop that offers the time, structure, support, and rigor it takes to complete an ambitious writing project they formulate on their own and “pitch” to the class on the first day. This is in many ways a traditional creative writing workshop, but for the kind of work the students are writing: Short films, ‘zines, illustrated books of poetry, graphic novels, storyboards for animated features, interactive fiction to be read online, short stories to broaden the content of a product-design website, and on. Through these projects, I’ve been introduced by my students to digital writing tools/platforms (Twine and iBooks Author most specifically) I hadn’t known existed, and had to consider how to talk about and teach to writing in these forms—especially how to take full creative advantage of the possibilities they offer in ways that are integrated into the project and help make meaning, rather than functioning marginally, as “bells and whistles.”

I will be able to share/demo several student projects, and discuss how the tool/platform informed the composition, revision, discussion of the writing. But as this is a talk session, this would just be a way to start conversation with others about the way digital writing and the forms it must be poured into can promote both creativity and critical thought about creative expression. I’d love to hear from THATCamp participants about other platforms that exist or can be adapted for digital creative writing, how writers can use them and readers access them; and how to address convention and reader expectation (a large set of considerations when shaping content) when teaching to writing in new platforms.

Categories: General | Comments Off on Talk Session: Digital Creative Writing

Make Session: What is Digital Writing?

What defines digital writing? We are all too comfortable attaching ‘digital’ to ‘writing,’ ‘rhetoric,’ and ‘literacy,’ but what exactly do we want it to describe? In what fundamental ways have writing practices and products changed in the wake of the personal computer and networked computing? I propose we write and curate content for a website that offers a focused but multifaceted, readable but academically-grounded answer to this question that might serve as a starting point for discussion in courses as well as for other interested readers’ thinking about this question. I will facilitate discussion to establish our goals for the site, provide a forum for collaborative writing, and prep a site template (HTML/CSS, WordPress, or Tumblr depending on the choice of the group).

Come ready to write and curate:

  • A declaration of unique principles of digital writing
  • A select bibliography of readings / one key quotation from each
  • A select collection of thoughtful digital writing resources online
  • Other ideas?
Categories: Collaboration, Digital Literacy, Maker Challenge, Session: Make | Comments Off on Make Session: What is Digital Writing?

Talk Session: Blogwork: Understanding the Content of Student [Invention] Blogs

I’d like to have a conversation about the nature of the student writing on course-related blogs.

All writing, in any media, is an act of exhibitionism.  For student writers, who are emerging as knowledge producers, the question is even more fraught as they straddle two paradigms for making meaning.  One part values knowledge as standard and knowable, while the other seeks abnormal discourse that can add to what is known (Freire, Rorty, Bruffee).  These contradictory impulses are the crux of learning and the crux of learning to write.  One must learn the conventions of academic discourse and simultaneously learn to override those standards in order to contribute to that discourse.

What complicates this process is the rise of new media, which seduces student writers with ease of use and immediate, purported, professional presentation.  But what happens to the writing of student writers who are composing in new spaces in which there are few conventions and a perceived lawlessness?   At first glance, the student blog offers little of the hallmarks of polished academic writing; there is a disregard for order and arrangement, revision, and attribution.   But there is also tremendous intellectual activity represented, which is associative and detailed.  There is evidence of important attention to design, to invention, to gathering resources, and to evaluation of materials.   Therefore, one must re-think what one is looking at by considering these important questions:  What are the features of student writing on a blog?  What happens to the writing of those who compose on blogs and who use blogs as platforms to showcase their projects or store their research?  What happens when these user-writers can make meaning in ways that are not writing? How can we understand and assess the content of student invention blogs?   What are we looking at anyway?  What is happening to writing?  What is happening to student writing is manifest in the media in which it is composed now and in other formats in the past.   In these digital times, this change is happening in a very rapid, public way, and this is especially in evidence on the student blog.

Blogs are not a genre necessarily; they are a medium, which connects a sender to a receiver.  In fact, student writing on blogs (with its possibilities to include hypertext, visual and aural media and with its access to a readership and commentary) challenges basic assumptions about textuality.  When we refashion writing space by making it flexible, interactive, and readily accessible, there is no continuous flow of the reading path.  There are abrupt changes of direction and tempo as users (readers and writers) interact.  Students draft and post questions for their peers’ consideration and response.  Thus, the discussion continues asynchronously in a student-directed way. Collin Gifford Brooke applies this refashioning of the writing space:  “We encourage them to shift their own perceptions of writing, urging them not to think of their essays as empty, preexisting containers to be filled, but rather as texts emerging from an ongoing process of reading, thinking, and writing (25).”   I have observed that this potential can indeed be fully realized with blogwork.  There is certainly a change in the way students regard writing in digital spaces, as authorizing them to interact with texts and meaning in new and important ways.  However, what we read on student blogs can often seem fragmented and unfinished. What we witness in student writing on blogs is not what we are accustomed to reading in print.  In fact, I argue that in some ways blogwork is superior in that represents the struggles students have with the making of meaning.  We must process the student blogger’s rhetorical moves in other ways.

I am interested in discussing the ways others design/assign, interpret and assess blogwork.

Categories: General | Comments Off on Talk Session: Blogwork: Understanding the Content of Student [Invention] Blogs

Talk Session: Teaching Digital Writing under Austerity

I propose a discussion about teaching digital writing when students have limited access to technology. At my open admissions community college, many students don’t own computers; they use the internet, read, and take notes primarily on their phones. My classrooms lack reliable internet access. What kinds of digital writing assignments will scale for students and spaces with limited access? Are some students and institutions too poor and/or underprepared for digital writing? Should digital writing be separated into its own lab course with technology-access prerequisites? Is digital writing compatible with an open admissions policy? I am interested in larger issues of social justice and access, but I am also interested in practical solutions to get my students writing online.

I see some others here interested in teaching issues and would be happy to see this topic included in a larger session on teaching; it needn’t be a standalone session.

Categories: Session Proposals, Session: Talk, Teaching | 4 Comments

Talk Session: Editing Wikipedia, Inspired by Adrianne Wadewitz

As many of you have heard, May has been designated as a month for groups around the world to come together to edit Wikipedia in honor of Dr. Adrianne Wadewitz, who was a Mellon Digital Scholarship Fellow.

For this session, I propose that we discuss good practices and strategies for editing Wikipedia, as well as approaches for editing Wikipedia in a classroom setting. Or (and?) the session could be used to edit Wikipedia entries.

This session is for experienced Wikipedians and for people who want to learn more.

Read about the Wadewitz Tribute Edit-a-thon and find resources.

Categories: Collaboration, Crowdsourcing, Digital Literacy, Publishing, Session Proposals, Teaching | Comments Off on Talk Session: Editing Wikipedia, Inspired by Adrianne Wadewitz

Teach & Talk Session: For Whom Is Digital Writing Accessible?

How open Is open source?  How accessible is digital writing?  I propose a session on what makes digital texts accessible or inaccessible to disabled readers.

I will introduce participants to one form of assistive technology used by readers with print disabilities (blindness, low vision, and dyslexia): screen-reading software.  Using free demos, I will give participants an opportunity for hands-on experience with this software.

Drawing upon my experience as a participant in a recent two-day Accessible Future workshop, I will familiarize participants with some factors in web design and text archiving that enhance the accessibility of digitized materials.  I will introduce them to WAVE, a web accessibility evaluation tool and invite them to use it to assess the accessibility of a few sites, including

Categories: Diversity, General, Session: Talk, Session: Teach, Workshops | 1 Comment

Talk Session: Teaching Digital Writing

For this session of THATCamp Digital Writing, I would like to stage a conversation about the ways digital writing can be taught, encouraged, and evaluated in the classroom. What type of assignments and class activities do you set up in your class that produce innovative and original digital composition? What grading criteria/rubrics have you come up with to assess the work of your students? How do we model a process of digital writing in ways that merely reproduce earlier modes of composition pedagogy?

I will kickstart the session by sharing my own experience in teaching an “Introduction to Multimedia” course this spring semester at Rutgers University and will relate the various ways in which my experience as a composition and English literature instructor came to inform my approach to teaching “digital writing.” I will share course materials I used this past semester and I am curious to see what other students and teachers have used in the past to either evaluate others or their own work (maybe by the end of the session we can have a general grading rubric that lays out the core principles we see as being necessary when dealing with the wide-ranging concept of digital writing). On a larger scale, I am also interested in discussing the ways inquiry into the very difference (whether in scale, medium, or process) of producing digital writing can be woven into discussion, assignments and the very structure of courses that deal with digital writing.

Categories: Session Proposals, Session: Talk, Teaching | 3 Comments

Propose a session for THATCamp Digital Writing!

THATCamp Digital Writing needs your session proposals!
>>Scroll down to see current proposals<<

To do that, log into this website and start proposing. If you see a session you like, please comment on it. Share your ideas about projects, tools, assignments, concepts and ideas you’d like to discuss and make with others on Saturday, May 2.

For more information about this process, read the description on the Propose page. Read a general description of this event here.

All proposals must be made by 12:00 PM, Friday, May 2nd. You can continue to make comments throughout the duration of THATCamp.

On May 2nd, online voting will take place. By Saturday around 9:30 AM, we’ll have the sessions posted. Look for the Google form for voting form on May 1 in your email.

Registration is from 8:00-10:00 AM on Saturday, with a light continental breakfast. Lightning Talks, in which speakers describe a current project for 5 minutes, take place from 8:30-10:00.

Interested in signing up to give a Lightning Talk? Send us an email to   with your name, a title and 1-sentence synopsis of what you’ll talk about.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Elizabeth Cornell
Fordham University
Amanda Licastro
The Graduate Center, CUNY

Categories: Blogging, Crowdsourcing, Session Proposals | Comments Off on Propose a session for THATCamp Digital Writing!

THATCamp Digital Writing, New York City, May 2-3, 2014

From tweeting to multimodal research papers to Prezi, writing these days means more than just black text on a white background. Through workshops and discussions, THATCamp Digital Writing aims to deepen and advance our notions of all facets of composition. Participants in THATCamp Digital Writing will explore how to effectively compose using different digital tools and platforms. We begin with a special lecture on Friday afternoon, May 2, 2014, at John Jay College, and continue all day Saturday, May 3, 2014 at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus with workshops, discussions, and a Maker Challenge.

At THATCamp Digital Writing, join a dynamic cast of participants to

  • Learn more about innovative ways to digitize your work and publish it online
  • Share pedagogical methods that use digital media for writing and research assignments
  • Explore how to evaluate online writing and give feedback
  • Question how tools, technology, and methods for publishing work shape the way we write
  • Take workshops on Scalar, Juxta, Omeka and collaborative writing
  • Tell people about your work in a Lightning Presentation and during discussions
  • Make connections with others
  • Establish new collaborations.

TCDW is being organized by Amanda Licastro, a PhD candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center, and Elizabeth Cornell, IT Communications Specialist at Fordham University.

We’re on Twitter: @THATCampDW & #TCDW14


Categories: Administrative, Blogging, Collaboration, Digital Literacy, Research Methods, Teaching | Tags: | 2 Comments