Technology today encompasses most every part of our lives. Whether you are waiting for the new iPhone to be released, listening to the radio on your way to work, tuning into the nightly news on TV, or even just shopping online, technology surrounds us. More specifically, I cannot imagine my day to day life without the internet and social media. From every Facebook post, Buzzfeed article, blog entry, or online newspaper article I read, I realize digital writing was involved.
Older generations complain about how these days, “we are always on the internet” and do not “read real books or articles anymore.” We are also “always on our phones” and “do not really engage and talk to people” as much anymore. These claims play to the idea that today’s generations are less social and less connected with one another. I completely disagree. While primary face to face interactions for communication and reading in analogue are more practices of the past, I think it is safe to say that we are as interconnected with people through digital writing and technology than generations before could ever imagine.
How does digital writing connect us all?
Digital writing serves as a platform for people to stay connected through not only reading but also participating. Brian Carroll in his book Writing for Digital Media in the chapter “Blogito, Ergo, Sum” emphasizes how the tools of web publishing have revolutionized culture, society and mass media in ways that involve people to participate, not only take in (137). He describes that online writing through many different forms- blogging, journalism, and desktop publishing, have added many job opportunities as companies and businesses have taken advantage of the outlets these can have in connections to clients and publicity through blogs, online articles, promotions, etc.
Carroll focuses on one form of digital writing, blogs, to prove his points about how this form can interconnect people on many levels. One level of this is the “connective tissue” that blog posts create through the use of hyperlinks to other sources that are just one click away (139). This allows for readers to instantly go to another source to learn more information about a certain topic.
Carroll also asserts that the wide variety of topics that blogs talk about can engage readers because of the forms of expression that the platform allows. This interest in expression promotes interconnectivity not only through reader fellowship, but with the ability for readers to comment and interact with the author and the audience who is reading the same things they are. Carroll says that “the internet has empowered ordinary citizens to become fact-checkers and analysts… people can collaborate online, sharing knowledge, sources and ideas, and challenging each other’s facts” (Carroll 143).
Sean McCarthy and Andrew Witmer in their article “Notes Toward a Value’s Driven Framework for Digital Humanities Pedagogy” describe the values in digital pedagogy, one of them being collaboration, touching on Carroll’s idea. Digital pedagogy is the attempt to use technology to alter ways of teaching and learning. McCarthy and Witmer describe how digital humanities and writing offer critical thinking, collaboration, production, and openness to those who participate.
The digital humanities challenge us to think critically using the variety of sources, types of audience, access, and tools that can be implemented to get what we put online out to audiences. The collaborative aspect of the digital humanities stems from the creation of new knowledge when we work with others to form new ideas. Digital tools allow for creative ways to produce what it is you are writing, for example different interfaces, or even something as simple as a meme can produce visual effects that grab a reader in. And lastly, the open nature of the internet acts as an invitation to get everyone involved, whether it be through writing, commenting, sharing, etc.
How can you get involved and make your writing useful?
The digital community is open to all people who want to get involved. Rebecca Blood in her article “Weblogs: A History and Perspective” demonstrates how user friendly the digital community is through websites that have predesigned interface and customizable features to make sites your own. She writes how blogs these days also allow writers the freedom to post what they want without having to go through channels of approval. Blood also articulates how blog posts can be updated, changed, and filtered in order to keep the information posted relevant, accurate, and up to date. As a blogger, she says you have the ability to “by virtue of simply writing down whatever is on [the] mind” confront the writer with their own thoughts, leading to a more developed opinion, increased confidence in their perspective, and finally helps nurture them from consumers of online writing into the creators of it.
But once you start getting involved with online writing, how can you make it useful, read, and shared? Sean Michael Morris in his article “Digital Writing Uprising: Third-Order Thinking in the Digital Humanities” argues that there is “no value to our writing except as it is made useful.” Morris proposes that because digital writing is an action, meaning it can always be altered, that the words have “lives of their own.” The words, and growth of theses words, in order to implore a meaning, are determined by the community they are read by. Morris thus argues that the “real novelty of digital writing comes when words are repurposed, when they… discover meaning lying below meaning.” Your digital writing becomes meaningful through association with this online community, where your words become active in collaboration with others thoughts.
Digital Writing is Useful for More than Social Media
John Muthyala in his article “Whither the Digital Humanities?” explains how the digital environment is useful for more than just social media and entertainment because it alters how we receive all types of information found on the internet. He argues that web writing can be viewed as emerging and emergent. Digital humanities and online writing are seen as emerging because they have grown within their use as a platform for journals, books, courses, and programs- just to name a few. However, the digital humanities can also be seen as emergent because of the response to changes in technology, and “generating flexible, for-the-moment modes to appropriate the digital to study” with tools to enhance communication, learning, and entertainment. Technology impacts all fields of knowledge, learning, and communication.
McCarthy and Witmer’s model fosters larger discussions about the importance of digital writing and the community it brings. They promote the idea that there is a large space for the use of digital pedagogy on campus’s as a way to expand on the humanities. Professors have the ability to connect with students outside of the classroom with online assignments that allow for students to critique, learn, and share the work that others do with the platforms that digital writing offers. McCarthy and Witmer understand the digital humanities as “central rather than peripheral” meaning that today, with such time and energy spent on the internet and technology, that it is key to take learning and scholarship onto digital platforms as a way to further study and academia.
How I Think Digital Writing Affects Us Inside and Outside of the Classroom
There are many valuable things that I have taken away so far about digital writing through my class. One thing I find most important is the flexibility that this type of writing can teach. Throughout class we focus on good writing skills that can be applied to the various platforms used when writing on the internet. Whether it be how to create insightful comments on a peer’s post that draw on their argument and engage with them further, or writing on our own blog for an audience, our adaptability makes us useful “players” in the online writing field. Writing not only your own content but also knowing how commenting, having the ability to share posts, and fact check other’s writing fosters a collaboration within the online community.
Within the classroom setting we engage with other peer’s writing, but also in the beginning of this “blogging journey” were encouraged to seek out blogs that we could use as inspiration. This forced us to branch out into the expansive community of blogs that are out there and learn from these already established.
The practice of sharing blogs with just a simple link, tweet, or Facebook post, makes even stranger’s blogs accessible and now connected to whoever shared it. This showed us in the classroom that anyone could search and find our blogs, thus holding us accountable for how our writing would be seen. Did we put our best ideas forward? Were we concise in our thinking, and would what we wrote be a beneficial addition to the online community?
When I think about how learning to write for digital environments will affect future internships, and jobs, I realize how beneficial it truly is. While online writing can sometimes be thought of as “less serious” and more “conversational,” it shares the need for strong writing skills and a level of engagement by the reader that all types of academic writing have. Digital writing taught me to be adaptable and ready to revise my claims because the digital environment is always changing and in collaboration with others viewpoints on what is being said.
For my American Studies major we often read articles that talk about social movements and how popular culture influences these. The digital environment in today’s society is a large factor in many social movements and issues, so knowing the other side of that- being a writer- I can have a unique perspective when analyzing these issues.
With future internships and jobs, knowing how to write digitally and navigate to find strong online writing will be a key for research and creativity. Developing these skills in this class has opened my writing up to a whole new platform that offers an expansive network of opportunity to engage in.
It is inevitable to interact with digital writing in this day and age whether you want to admit to it or not. But actually taking the step to further immerse yourself in the online community through writing, researching, or even commenting on articles you enjoy, will broaden your knowledge and opportunities in most fields today and be truly beneficial in the long run.
Blood, Rebecca. “Weblogs: A History and Perspective.” Rebecca’s Pocket. N.p., 7 Sept. 2000. Web.
Carroll, Brian. “”Blogito, Ergo Sum.” Writing for Digital Media. New York, NY: Routledge, 2010. N. pag. Print.
McCarthy, Sean, and Andrew Witmer. “Notes Toward a Values-Driven Framework for Digital Humanities Pedagogy – Hybrid Pedagogy.” Hybrid Pedagogy. N.p., 05 June 2016. Web.
Morris, Sean Michael. “Digital Writing Uprising: Third-Order Thinking in the Digital Humanities – Hybrid Pedagogy.” Hybrid Pedagogy. N.p., 08 Oct. 2012. Web. Nov. 2016.
Muthyala, John. “Whither the Digital Humanities? – Hybrid Pedagogy.” Hybrid Pedagogy. N.p.,05 June 2016. Web. Nov. 2016.