What Is Digital Writing?
Writing has and always will play a major role in peoples everyday lives. This is especially apparent in education, personal relationships, the job market, etc. Writing is a key language skill, which allows individuals to communicate and express themselves through written expression. The emphasis on writing has not changed, however the ways in which people write have. In this day and age where technology runs the world, digital writing has become increasingly popular and more and more educators/individuals are beginning to shift towards it due to its popularity and accessibility. Facebook and twitter are examples of how digital writing has led to more individuals than ever before joining social media and writing digitally. In classes like this, professors promote the use of digital writing through assigning each student their own online blog.
It may seem somewhat obvious what the difference between digital writing and writing in general is and yes the fact that one involves the use of technology and the other doesn’t necessarily, is correct. However it goes beyond just the use of technology. In the past twenty years, technology networks have been a major change agent, but along with the changes that have come with those networks, are changes that have occurred culturally and that could be one of the reasons digital writing has grown to what it is today. In Jeff Grabill’s article, Why Digital Writing Matters in Education, he offers an insightful opinion on how he personally believes culture has shaped digital writing. “Digital writing is networked, and because of this, often deeply collaborative or coordinated. Wikipedia, for instance, is not possible without a computer network. But it is the cultural changes in how we write that an example like Wikipedia makes clear. Or consider Facebook, which is perhaps the most pervasive and commonplace collaborative writing platform in human history” (Grabill). Digital writing has allowed for people to write in all sorts of networks, without even a realization that what they are doing is considered writing. Digital technologies have made it increasingly easy to write in all sorts of new ways and this is especially apparent with younger generations, specifically in education with students. Examples of this are posts on Twitter and Facebook. At the time it might not seem as if one is writing digitally, but as long as there is any writing and it’s on or through a digital platform, it is considered digital writing.
In The Classroom
Jennifer Woollven is an English teacher at West Lake High School in Austin, Texas. Just like we do in our class with our online blog posts, Woollven has her students post their creative writing assignments and essays on blogs. When asked about her reasoning behind this in the article titled, Social Media Makes for Better Student Writing, Not Worse, Teachers Say, she answered “As an English teacher who is trying to improve student writing, one thing I see is that people are seeing greater ownership of their writing when they know it will be seen beyond the class and the teacher”. This is not unique to only Woollvens English either. “A study released today by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and the National Writing Project has found that 78 percent of high school teachers agree that digital technologies “encourage student creativity and personal expression.” (Stern). Woollven is among a much bigger group of teachers who believe digital writing has a positive impact on the development of students. It fosters creativity among students. However there are negatives that come with the constant reliance on digital writing. Students spelling and grammar suffer as a result. “According to the report, 40 percent say digital technology makes students more likely to use poor spelling and grammar, although 38 percent say it is “less likely” to cause those mistakes. There is also the effect of the speed of the new technologies. Forty-six percent of teachers said that digital tools have made students write too fast, causing mistakes and carelessness. “They are bombarded by so much and they are used to things quickly posting on social networks,” Woollven said. “They aren’t always thinking about revising.” (Stern). Even though there are many positives that come from having technology in the classroom, there are also negatives and this is an example of some of those negatives.
Not only have technologies made it easier to write in classroom environments, but also more enjoyable. In Paige Donahue’s post, Writing in Online and Multimedia Environments: Why Digital Writing Matters in Education, she talks about how digital writing has benefited students. According to a study that Donahue looked at, students highly value the opinion of their peers. Access to technology in education allows for collaboration and interconnectedness among students. “Online platforms like Google Drive inspire collaboration and team effort. Students can share more than just ideas, but also files that others can view and revise. With the help of peers and the facilitation of the educator as a guiding mentor, digital writing on such collaborative platforms can not only improve a student’s writing skills, but also widen their social network” (Donahue). Without digital writing, this is a much harder and longer task and often ends up discouraging students from collaborating with each other. Not only is digital writing and access to technology helpful for students, but also teachers as well. It allows teachers to give helpful timely feedback on assignments, which then benefits the student in the long run.
Similar to how Donahue says digital writing allows for collaboration, in Digital Writing Uprising: Third-Order Thinking in the Digital Humanities, Sean Michael Morris talks about digital writing being communal and only as important as its audience makes it. What makes digital writing different in Morris’s opinion is that they take on a life of their own. “But that the words themselves are active. They move, slither, creep, sprint, and outpace us. Digital words have lives of their own. We may write them, birth them ourselves, but without any compunction or notice, they enact themselves in ways we can’t predict. And this is because digital writing is communal writing.” (Morris). This community that digital writing fosters, also allows for the audience of the writing to interpret it however they want. This is done through comments, social media, and the Internet in general. The idea that digital writing is interpreted, rebuilt, refabricated, and repurposed by its audience is know as the third world order. “We are allowing meaning to come from meaningless” (Morris). When we write digitally it’s meaningless until our audience brings meaning and importance to it. It allows for there to be an overall communal collaboration in both positive and negative ways. The responses to writing aren’t always positive and this is evident in the comment sections on many posts online.
Following the theme of communal writing, in Organic Writing and Digital Media: Seeds and Organs, Pete Rorabaugh talks about digital writing as organic writing. “Digital environments maximize the potential for organic writing in three distinct ways: they rebuild “audience,” expose the organic layers of a composition, and invite outside participation in key stages along the way” (Rorabaugh). When Rorabaugh talks about organic writing he suggests that it begins with a seed or an idea and grows in unexpected ways. Based on whatever the seed is, it grows in a multitude of ways. This is due to the digital environments ability to allow peers to offer the feedback and critiques of each other’s writing. “Using the digital landscape to frame academic composition allows us to attend closely to that process and encourage research fluency and critical inquiry” (Rorabaugh). Digital writing fosters a communal environment where individuals can learn from each other in order to become better writers. Rorabaugh makes it clear that there is no right way for how ones writing should evolve. It all depends on the community around them.
The Role of Digital Writing in My Life
Digital writing has and will continue to play a major role in my experience not only at Dickinson, but beyond as well. Majoring in Political Science, with a possible minor in American Studies, writing is a huge part of the curriculum of most of the classes I have taken. Almost all of this writing is done through a digital platform. Whether it involves typing up an essay, peer editing, or using online sources, digital writing has allowed me to improve exponentially as a writer since first arriving at Dickinson. What makes digital writing such an effective tool for me and many other students is how accessible it is. It allows for writing to be done in a quick efficient form that allows for helpful feedback and critiques from either peers or professors. It also allows for access to an infinite amount of information on the Internet, which can then be translated and transformed into ones writing. This can also be done in non-digital forms; it’s just that digital writing allows for this process to be much easier and accessible.
Writing in and for the Digital Environments is a class that is offered here at Dickinson and is one that I am currently in. As the title of the course may suggest digital writing plays a major role in it. I think that out of all of the classes/experiences I have had so far with regards to digital writing, this has been the most influential one. The class has not only taught me a lot about the fundamentals behind digital writing, but also has given me the chance to use digital writing personally in the form of my own blog. This blog is one that is accessible to the public and that is something that I have not done before. Even though I write a lot for my classes, I would consider myself relatively shy when it comes to sharing my writing. When I heard that we would be creating blogs that would be accessible to everyone, I was a little intimidated. However as I have learned over the course of the semester, the only thing that changes when writing a blog is its audience. For me personally this makes me a little more aware of how I write both in terms of what I’m writing about as well as grammatical errors.
There are both positives and negatives to digital writing, both of which I have experienced. However in the long run digital writing is an extremely effective and important tool for people to have access too. It’s not only helpful in the classroom, but also in the workplace, in social settings, as well as many other instances. As I mentioned earlier, I think that digital writing has allowed me to progress significantly as a writer and I think it will continue to in the future beyond my time at Dickinson.
Donahue, Paige . “Writing in Online and Multimedia Environments: Why Digital Writing Matters in Education.” Association of American Educators, 18 May 2016, www.aaeteachers.org/index.php/blog/1634-writing-in-online-and-multimedia-environments-why-digital-writing-matters-in-education
Grabill, Jeff. “Why Digital Writing Matters in Education.” Edutopia, 11 June 2012, www.edutopia.org/blog/why-digital-writing-matters-jeff-grabill.
Michael Morris, Sean . “Digital Writing Uprising: Third-Order Thinking in the Digital Humanities.” Hybrid Pedagogy, 8 Oct. 2012, www.digitalpedagogylab.com/hybridped/digital-writing-uprising-third-order-thinking-in-the-digital-humanities/.
Rorabaugh, Pete . “Organic Writing and Digital Media: Seeds and Organs.” Hybrid Pedagogy, 21 June 2012, www.digitalpedagogylab.com/hybridped/organic-writing-and-digital-media-seeds-and-organs/.
Stern, Joanna. “Social Media Makes for Better Student Writing, Not Worse, Teachers Say.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 16 July 2013, abcnews.go.com/Technology/social-media-makes-student-writing-worse-teachers/story?id=19677570.