Educating Digital Literacy

Technology has incorporated itself into every aspect of our lives, from media and entertainment to literacy and education.  Digitization is a key component of teaching and learning, whether that be directly within educational institutions or through absorbing and contributing information independently at home.  A child can utilize technology at school to assist with the effectiveness of how information is presented as well as how feedback is disseminated. Meanwhile, older students and adults can take advantage of the internet to participate in the collaborative effort of reading and responding to online conversations in an attempt to contribute to the kinds of information and opinions that circulate.  Although there are definite disadvantages to the prevalence of technology, the incorporation of digital environments into our daily lives is inevitable and often times uniquely beneficial.


Technology is changing and evolving culturally at such a fast rate that in order to keep up with the world, the education system needs to become more electronic.  Digital writing can improve teaching methods and communication skills, making it faster and easier to receive feedback. It can be used as a tool for editing quickly or in real time through mediums such as Google Drive (Donahue).

Also, digital literature makes it very easy to utilize multi-modal teaching methods that can better cater to a broader range of learning styles, thereby fostering more inclusivity in the classroom through use of PowerPoints, videos, and images (Donahue).  Teaching multi-modally is not only more engaging, but it can broaden the scope of how information can present itself to others as a learning tool.

Most important to academic settings is the ease of communication between parties.  “Since the online world has made connecting with others easier, it’s the perfect vehicle for encouraging collaborative efforts between students and their teachers” (Donahue).  This way of maintaining dialogue allows for more layers of interaction.  For example, e-mail and online class forums can help educators evaluate the individual progress of students and voice any concerns or feedback they may have without the pressure of a one-on-one meeting.


Technology’s ability to open up learning opportunities, academic feedback, and communication lends itself to the concept of conversations that occur on the internet in the form of commenting.  The ability to comment on virtually anything on the internet allows for anyone to engage more deeply with the topics of their choosing, from anywhere.  It adds an extra layer to an audience’s relationship with digital text where they “want to believe that others will read and react to [their] ideas” and can add these ideas to a conversation that follows original content (Konnikova).

The fact that digital environments also easily allow for anonymity is another incentive to comment.  “By promoting a greater sense of community identity, users don’t have to worry about standing out individually” (Konnikova).  According to a Pew Research Poll, about 25% of the people who comment on the internet do so anonymously (Konnikova). Anonymous comments are way less likely to be persuasive because they lack credibility, but this is in no way the worst aspect of this phenomenon.

Psychologists have named a concept known as the online disinhibition effect where “factors like anonymity, invisibility, a lack of authority and not communicating in real time strip away the mores society spent millennia building” (Stein).  So, while concealed identity online can be an advantageous method for contributing constructive perspectives and ideas on the internet, it also is a key ingredient necessary for criticizing and attacking others without any fear of direct consequence on the commenter’s behalf.


Today, anyone can be a journalist, and for free.  Simply by utilizing mediums such as WordPress like students do in our Writing In and For Digital Environments class, anyone anywhere in the world can contribute whatever insights or opinions they so choose and essentially self-publish this information.  Additionally, blogs can “give[] a voice to groups that are often underrepresented in mainstream news media coverage” (Alami).  The public can add perspectives or information that they think the internet is missing, and potentially give a “voice to the voiceless;” an example of this way of highlighting certain subjects can be seen in France’s “Bondy Blog,” which most often covers the topics of Islamophobia and racism because of the lack of positive coverage of these topics (Alami).

“…Blogging is an exercise of expression, making one’s views public.  Increasingly, though, blogging is also an expression of community, allowing individuals to communicate and congregate” (Carroll).  In this way, people can start their own threads of conversation, in addition to participating merely through comments.  Although this is different than teaching in a classroom, as digital literature becomes more common, the way in which both students and the general public access and share information is becoming more similar in terms of interactivity.


Digital writing has definitely been a huge asset for me in terms of communicating with other students and teachers, whether that be through e-mail, Google Drive, Facebook messenger, or text messaging.  Especially because I carry my phone with me wherever I go, I always have access to communicating with my peers.  Many of my professors also utilize the Moodle platform for different forums where we can place reactions or questions to texts to better facilitate class discussions.

While it is great getting e-mail alerts or notifications from a group chat where students are coordinating what time to meet up before a lecture or movie screening, for instance, the ability to be constantly reached can be overwhelming. Even while sitting in class with my phone stored away, I know when I check my home screen at the end of the session I will find new digital notifications waiting: reminders for upcoming meetings, exploding group chats, a text from my mom, and social media updates.  While technology has eased communication tremendously, it has also allowed for every type of communication, academic, professional, and personal, to follow us everywhere we go.

Because most of our digital content is multi-modal, producing written digital content often times requires the incorporation of other digital mediums as well.  For instance, while in this class I am writing for Existentially Modern, and for the Dickinson Cricket Club which I co-founded, I write for Facebook, e-mail, and miscellaneous documents.  However, in order to supplement this writing, I needed to focus on the brand and aesthetics of what I produce in order to better attract an audience.  Because of this, I had to use other digital platforms such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to create a logo for both my blog and the club I run.  In this way, digital writing serves as a gateway to other technological experiences; students need to utilize audio and visual skills through mediums such as Audacity, iMovie, and the Adobe Creative Suite in order to keep up with how digital literature has become so multifaceted.

After graduating from Dickinson, I am thinking about either going into arts administration or publishing.  In these industries, I will have to be able to use the skill of adapting to and learning about different electronic tools to best complete whatever task at hand.

The ability to learn from a variety of perspectives is definitely something engrained into liberal arts educations.  However, I do think students at schools such as Dickinson would benefit from having more exposure to different technological programs.  No matter what job I end up getting, there is a strong likelihood that I will have to use an advanced Excel setup to maintain finances, utilize InDesign to create a newsletter or magazine spread, or help create aesthetically pleasing advertisements to promote different events.

Digital writing is employed within most professional job positions today, and an understanding of how to adapt to different ways of crafting texts and images within this environment is imperative.  In order to keep up with the direction professions are moving towards, digital literacy and electronic tools should plant their roots in classroom settings.



Alami, Aida. “Paris’s Voiceless Find a Megaphone Online.” 4 July 2015. The New York Times. 23 October 2017.

Carroll, Brian. “Blogito, Ergo Sum: Trends in Personal Publishing.” Writing For Digital Media. Routledge, 2010.

Donahue, Paige. “Writing in Online and Multimedia Environments: Why Digital Writing Matters in Education.” 18 May 2016. Association of American Educators. 23 October 2017.

Konnikova, Maria. “The Psychology of Online Comments.” 23 October 2013. The New Yorker. 23 October 2017.

Stein, Joel. “Tyranny of the Mob.” 29 August 2016. Time. 29 October 2017.



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Digital Writing Matters


In today’s world, people are writing online more than ever. Social networking, tweeting, and blogging has been increasing rapidly and being used by people all over the world. People are being exposed to a range of digital tools like Twitter that allows writers to share their ideas to the public in a matter of seconds. People from all over the world have the opportunity to share their thoughts in an easier and creative way to their audience. Digital writing is important because it allows individuals to share their ideas, develop critical thinking skills, and strategies for digital learning. As technology is increasing, we see digital writing growing more than ever.

Share ideas across the internet

Digital writing is important because it allows people to share their ideas across the internet. The internet has made it possible for anyone to post, share, and publish their work online and make it accessible for the public to read. People can share their work through online media like Twitter or personal publishing blogs like McMansion Hell. In the book, Twitter Power: How to Dominate Your Market One Tweet at a Time, the author talks about different ways that Twitter (online writing tool) can be used to your advantage. Joel Comm says, “There’s a huge list of different strategies that Twitterers are using to build up followers, make new contacts, and keep in touch (17)”. Some of these strategies are building relationships with your audience. Which is similar to what we discuss in class about the importance of building a community where there’s a connection with the readers and writer. This shows how a digital tool can be advantage when trying to social network or connect with your audience. In the book, Because Digital Writing Matters, Daìnielle DeVoss talks about the tools of digital writing and how students are able to share ideas across the internet. She says, “Now students can participate in-or create their own community of writers. They are able to stay in touch through social media and emails (24)”. This shows how it digital writing is important for those who engage in it.

Develop critical thinking skills

Digital writing allows writers to develop critical thinking skills such as being able to communicate effectively to your audience. In the book, Writing for Digital Media, Brian Carroll explains the importance of writing clearly and precisely for your audience. The author says, “Writing should be clear and concise. Readers need little reason not to read further, and this is especially and painfully true online (7)”. This shows how it’s difficult to attract your audience if you’re writing is cluttered. Less is more, and being able to share your ideas in a concise way is great. For example, on Twitter there’s a limit on words which challenges writers to share their ideas in a precise way. Of course, there are other online writing tools where writers can write more, but I believe Twitter challenges the writer to be concise with their thoughts. Digital writing isn’t easy and sometimes it is hard to get your point across. Carroll does a really good job of explaining and guiding on how to get your thoughts and ideas into words before posting it online. Like any paper or essay, the writer must have a purpose or an argument that he/she is trying to prove based off research and interpretation. And sometimes brainstorming and free write can allow writers to map out their ideas. Carroll says, “Write down whatever might be related to the task, even if it seems irrelevant at the moment. There is no judgement in brainstorming, which, to use a sailing metaphor, is akin to producing your own wind (16)”. Basically, the best way to have a lot of ideas is to generate a lot of ideas. As simple as it seems, it’s very essential especially when you’re trying to determine your purpose.

Throughout the semester, we’ve talked about how a blog is basically a web page for regularly updated posts that are arranged in a specific order. Blogs allow writers to express their personal opinion while trying to reach a particular audience. Blog posts are a form of digital writing and is another example of where writers have to learn to write online and have strategies for digital learning. In class, we’ve learned about the importance of being able to attract your reader’s attention. There are many ways writers use layout and creative images to attract their audience. Colorful images and organized structure are key components to creating a well written post. In the article, Why We Love Beautiful Things, Lance Hosey explains how our brain is triggered when we see vibrant colors and images. While addressing to the reader, Hosey says, “Take color. Last year, German researchers found that just glancing at shades of green can boost creativity and motivation. It’s not hard to guess why: we associate verdant colors with food-bearing vegetation-hues that promise nourishment”, indicating that we are attracted to colors and images. We see examples of this all over media and online websites. For example, on our blog posts we are required to include images for our readers because it keeps them motivated to continue reading. Our mind is attractive to rectangular images and colorful patterns. Hosey mentions a research that was done in the 19th century to proves that readers prefer images in author’s writing. Hosey says, “A Duke University professor demonstrated that our eyes can scan an image fastest when its shape is a golden rectangle”. This is important part of digital writing that is talked about when writing blog posts. Being able to share your ideas while providing images that goes along with your reading is important because it keeps the reader’s attention. Certain patterns also have an appeal to the reader because a good design has dramatic effects. We can see an example of this on the blog website McMansion Hell where writers’ posts photos of huge suburban mansions and criticize it based off the architecture and image of the house.

Strategy for Digital Writing

Another key strategy for digital learning is being able to write your ideas while allowing readers to see your references. It is easy to write about your ideas or argument but it has to be truthful. Plagiarism can be an issue in digital writing because writers are grabbing information from all sorts of websites and articles. Blogs posts are useful when it comes to references. In a blog post, writers can include references in their reading. In the book, Writing for Digital Media, Brian Carroll includes the evolution of digital media and techniques of writing/editing for online audience. He says, “Blog posts typically connect their readers with source materials that were used to write or that are referenced in the post, a connective tissue that also serves to provide layers of information and to build credibility (138)”. This allows readers to be able to track where the writer is getting his/her information while connecting with the writer. Some of these features may include hyperlinks, sidebars, and tags. If you go on Twitter, a writer will post their thoughts and include a hashtag that will allow readers to view that trend or topic. Or on Instagram where publishers can include links to other websites or articles that relate to what their writing. Even in blog posts, the writer may include a sidebar that has a link to other related articles with similar topics. This is an online writing strategy where writers can connect readers to other similar work of their product. It is also a great way for the writer to build communication and community in his writing. The blog should allow readers to interact and to share their opinions. This is important because it allows the readers to discuss about the topic and allow growth between the community. In the article, Organic Writing and Digital Media: Seeds and Organs, Pete Rorabaugh, explains how writing should connect and allow outside participation. He says, “Growth is determined by the encouragement and critique of the community”. Community is important because it allows the writer to get feedback and comments from readers. An online strategy that is very useful for many writers.

Digital writing relates to me in many ways because it allows me to develop writing skills that I would have never learned. Before the semester, the only experience I had with writing online was when I went on Twitter and I retweeted someone’s tweet that I thought was interesting. Or on Facebook, when I would share a post and include my thoughts above it. I believe being able to learn how to write online will benefit me in the long run especially when I’m looking for internships during the summer. Over the summer, I had an internship with Under Armour. It was a great experience but one thing I lacked when I applied was creating my cover letter. And it was always an issue when I applied for other jobs and internships. I had trouble trying to get my thoughts on paper and I lacked creativity. After reading sections of Writing for Digital Media, I learned ways where I could improve my writing skills for future purposes. I really liked the idea of brainstorming, clustering, and free writing your ideas because it will allow you to figure out your purpose. Which something I struggled because I always wanted to start writing my cover letter from the top. I never took the minute to just brainstorm and free write all my ideas on a piece of paper and re ordering them later.

This relates to my semester project because I will have to use the critical thinking skills and the strategies for digital writing to be able to share my ideas. I’m focusing on different study spots on campus where students can use to do work. Along with it, I will include study skills such as using the resources available there. Some of these resources may be the white boards or the library’s circulation desk. Each blog post I create, I must include images of these study areas because it will be useful for readers to visually see the place.

Digital writing relates to my major because as an International Business and Management major, I will be using technology a lot. I can use the skills I learn in this course such as being able to find ways to attract my clients in the business field. Also with a minor in Spanish, I plan to travel to Spanish speaking countries and create a blog that will allow me to share my experiences abroad.

People from all over the world have the opportunity to share their thoughts in an easier and creative way to their audience. Digital writing is important because it allows individuals to share their ideas, develop critical thinking skills, and strategies for digital learning. As technology is increasing, we see digital writing growing more than ever.

Work Cited

Carroll, Brian. Writing and Editing for Digital Media. Routledge, 2017.

Comm, Joel. Twitter Power: How to Dominate Your Market One Tweet at a Time. Hoboken, NJ Wiley. 2009

Hosey, Lance. “Why We Love Beautiful Things”. The New York Times. 15 Feb. 2013. Web

Rorabaugh, Pete. “Organic Writing And Digital Media: Seeds and Organs”. Digital Pedagogy Lab. 21 June. 2012. Web

Vas, Daìnielle. Because Digital Writing Matters. Jossey-Bass, 2010.

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We Want YOU! (To Study Digital Writing)

we want you uncle sam

FYI, I will not try to recruit you for the army. From:

Hey you! I see you. You are procrastinating on a writing assignment. You are sitting at your laptop, looking desperately for something to do that will let you ignore the multiple tabs of articles you pulled up from the library website. So, you turn to social media. When Instagram won’t load, you migrate to Facebook. You scroll through your news feed and watch a video with a catchy headline deconstructing Tomi Lahren’s latest rant. You click on a link to an interesting Medium article, but it’s too long and can’t keep your attention. So out of desperation, you begin taking quizzes on Buzzfeed. You convince yourself that knowing what type of Halloween candy you are is absolutely essential to your future. After all, who knows what kind of crazy careers will be open to you after graduation?

You just consumed a whole lot of forms of digital media, perhaps without even realizing it. As college students, we are inundated by academic (i.e. those articles you are ignoring), personal (i.e. Facebook), and entertaining (i.e. Buzzfeed, Medium) digital writing. It may seem like processing digital writing is automatic, but taking a class examining digital writing will help you approach your daily life – from studenthood to adulthood – with a more informed, critically engaged lens.

Who am I to tell you this?

I’m an English major pursuing a career in social media marketing, here to explain to you why you should take a course in Digital Writign. If that hasn’t immediately stopped you from reading this essay, then great! It’s obvious that a class in Digital Writing makes sense for me. It boosts my English major (and not just because it’s another elective on my transcript), it’s a perk on my resume (it could be on yours too!), and it will give me critical skills to help with my (hopeful) future job.

All the social media: that’s digital writing too! From:

But what if you are not me, living a life that orbits around writing online? Well, technology and digital writing are still parts of our lives, whether we like it or not. Learning to write in digital environments is relevant not only to your life as a student, but also to your life as a critically engaged citizen. And if that label doesn’t apply to you yet, then a class on digital writing will help you get there.

How will studying digital writing help your writing?

Let’s start with your immediate concern: graduating college. If you attend a liberal arts college, that means writing papers. A digital writing course can help your writing by diversifying your style, opening your writing to personal creativity, and giving you a glimpse of the real world from within the college bubble.

Writing on a digital platform requires a distinctly different tone and structure than the more rigid academic writing that we students are taught to churn out. Why do you think you are so much interested in 19 Grammar Fails That Will Make You Shake Your Head Then Laugh Out Loud than an academic article on the Investiture Controversy? For one thing, that Buzzfeed article appeals to your inner grammar snob, but it also has pictures and lists instead of a long stretches of critically dense writing. When writing online, you are free to write how you would like to read: creatively, on interesting topics, and with lots of fun pictures.

puppy in barrel

Aforementioned “fun picture.” From:

In their article on digital writing, Jarrett and Cummings suggest that “a blog offers an opportunity to engage with and write about one’s area of study in a far less constrained way.” Although this claim is aimed more at professors and doctorates, students too can always use a “reminder that one’s knowledge and creativity are not pressed only into the service of professional goals and a quest for approval” (Jarrett and Cummings). A blog project in a digital writing class, even if it is graded, provides a refreshing break from prescribed essay topics. We are free to choose our own topic, tone, audience, and design. It gives a taste of independent writing within the academic framework.

Exploring creativity and a more informal tone do not only help with writing online projects for class. Beyond making your personal Instagram captions much more professional, these skills can easily translate to traditional academic papers. Even though I do not use an informal tone for traditional assignments, I have a new sensitivity to maintaining an authorial voice. Plus, academic papers require us to answer the same questions on author/audience and form/content interaction, albeit in different ways.

Follow the signs! From:

It is also worth considering this use of web communities to build a writing process. Writing for a public space requires a certain amount of vulnerability. To use David Rorabaugh’s metaphor, posting digital writing is like exposing the “organs” of the writing process, especially in a digital writing class that requires posting drafts and peer comments. Even if a post is a “final” draft, writing online inherently encourages community input (and we all know how that can turn out). Learning to write in a digital space exposes us to a more community-based model of writing and helps develop the dynamic process of thinking instead of churning out a paper three hours before the deadline.


That’s your knowledge, growing! From:

Now that we are talking about knowledge creation, let’s take a brief step beyond the world of immediate deadlines to study the big picture of academic conversations. Studying digital writing opens up a whole new way of thinking about academic writing. David Parry suggests that movement from traditional published academic work to a more inclusive digital community requires authors to “start thinking of what we do as participating in a conversation, and ongoing process of knowledge of academics.” Although we are not academics yet, creating a public blog means taking independent responsibility for entering an existing community and building upon conversations. By studying digital writing, we can take a step into the real world from within the classroom.

How does digital writing change my reading?

Now, let’s step back from the classroom. Walk home, grab a snack, and take a deep breath. Phew. Remember that video you watched on Facebook earlier? The article your friend shared? Knowing the steps that go into digital writing helps us read all digital media, including our personal news feeds, more critically.

fake news


Our new digital world isn’t all sunshine, rainbows, and trustworthy sources. Although the internet inarguably provides us with more knowledge to information, that information is not always accurate. Kris Shaffer calls this dark side of digital writing “coordinated digital deception, powered by sock-puppet Twitter accounts, SEO expertise, and a Facebook algorithm that privileges fake news.” As Shaffer points out, actually writing a blog or creating a Twitter bot helps “awaken … students to these new practices of digital deception, and help them face them effectively” far more than learning conceptually about the dangers of “fake news.” After becoming digital writers ourselves, we become conscious of the ways that words, images, and layout can be tailored to cater to any given audience, and how those practices can change the content that is presented.


Not that kind of echo chamber. From:

Beyond fake news, a co-operative class on digital writing also teaches us to be conscious of the “echo chamber” effect. Consider the video on Tomi Lahren that you watched earlier. Facebook algorithm’s work to tailor content to your interests, meaning that similar posts will now appear more frequently on our news feed. However, discussing the creation of media bias with other class members helps us break out of the echo chamber and open our minds to new ways of considering our digital world.

Okay, but how is digital writing relevant to my future?

But what if being able to critically engage with sources isn’t enough for you? You want some real, concrete results from a digital media class. Well, no matter your career path (unless, perhaps, that career path is as a Henry David Thoreau impersonator), you will probably consume digital writing in some capacity in your job. Whether you are pursuing work in data analytics or creative writing, digital literacy is transitioning from a perk on a resume to a requirement for all employees. Soon-to-be graduates are in a prime position to take full advantage of a skill set that comes naturally to us. A recent discussion with the Dickinson Career Center suggested that recent graduates may even have an advantage over more experienced employees in the digital literacy field. Taking a class on digital writing can go on your resume as concrete evidence of your critical background and new skill set for engaging with digital media.

thoreau's cabin

Home sweet home for your new career (as a Thoreau impersonator)! From:

But your career isn’t all that technology will affect. While there are many people (more knowledgeable than I) who will debate what the future of technology holds, there is little question that our future will be defined in some way by the digital world. For instance, Vivek Wadwha paints a picture of fully customized education supplied by Artificial Intelligence. Beyond our social systems, Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows suggests that our very brains could be (or are already being) changed by technology. Carr describes a new “networked thinking process” that is replacing our existing “linear thought process” (Karp qtd. in Carr). He proposes that our brains after the Net crave “information in short; disjointed, often overlapping bursts – the faster, the better.”

Think about that Medium article you tried to read. It may have only been three pages, but that was too long and slow for your new “hungry” brain (Carr). Digital media is not only changing the world around us, but quite possibly the world inside us. A class on digital writing gives us the framework to understand this brave new world, and face the changes head-on.

So, the next time you sit down to mindlessly procrastinate on an essay, consider the layers of depth and manipulation behind those short bursts of texts. Consider your own reaction to them. Consider taking a class on digital writing.

Or, you could just write your damn essay.

Works Cited

Carr, Nicholas. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, W.W. Norton, 2011.

Cummings, Alex Sayf and Jonathan Jarrett. “Only Typing? Informal Writing, Blogging and the Academy (2012 Revision).” Writing History in the Digital Age: a born-digital, open review volume, ed. Jack Dougherty and Kristen Nawrotzki, Michigan UP, 2013. Accessed 31 October 2017.

Parry, David. “Burn the Boats/Books.” Hacking the Academy: New Approaches to Scholarship and Teaching from Digital Humanities, ed. Dan Cohen and Joseph T Scheinfeldt, Michigan UP, 2013. Project Muse, accessed 31 October 2017.

Rorabaugh, Pete. “Organic Writing and Digital Media: Seeds and Organs.” Digital Pedagogy Lab, 21 June 2012. Accessed 31 October 2017.

Shaffer, Kris. “Truthy Lies and Surreal Truths: A Plea for Critical Digital Literacies.” Digital Pedagogy Lab. 8 December, 2016. Accessed 31 October 2017.

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Readers Writing and Writers Reading

One of the major writing beliefs I have held for a good portion of my life has always been that high quality, important writing requires a profound thesis, robust evidence, and intriguing and diverse diction. However, as I learn more about the world of digital writing I realize that many of these things may not necessarily carry over to the world of IP addresses and HTML. Online anyone can write almost anything, and it does not really matter what the content they are writing about is. This may seem like it would detract from the importance of digital writing however, it does not impact it very much. This is because digital writing’s importance stems from its interaction between the reader and writer. Digital writing is important because it offers greater interaction between the author and the reader by providing them with easier and more open ways to communicate through things such as comments and offers structures such as hyperlinks that allow the reader to quickly check sources, look at related websites, or read other articles by the same author.

What Is Digital Writing?

Now that I have hopefully cleared up what I will be talking about I think it would be good to clear up what digital writing is.  However, digital writing can be somewhat tricky to define. This is due to the vast quantity of mediums in which someone can write online and also the ever-changing state of online writing. For example, in the introduction to the National Writing Projects book Because Digital Writing Matters the author lists some different interviewee’s perspectives on what they believe digital writing is and many of their answers differ in pretty drastic ways. However, there was one definition that stood out to me in which it described digital writing as “collaborative/participatory writing, hypertext writing, improvisatory ‘real time’ writing, and new media writing (i.e. multimedia authorship)” (NWP 6). The reason this definition stood out to me is because it focuses on what makes digital writing stand out among all other types of writing. It shows that digital writing is not just about writing online, it is about writing on a platform that allows for collaboration and participation for all parties whether they be author, publishers, or readers. Therefore, I believe the best definition for digital writing is any writing online that allows deeper participation, collaboration, and interaction between readers and the author. This means that digital writing is not the stories on blogs or Email, Google Docs, online quizzes, Quizlets, Twitter, and even the YouTube comment section could be considered online writing all because they offer the ability for the author and reader to interact on a deeper level than say just reading the pages of a book. This is also simultaneously what makes digital writing so important. Digital writing is the only platform that gives the author and reader an easy way to interact with each other.

So Why Is Digital Writing Important?

The interaction between reader and writer through comments is a major reason for the importance of digital writing. Up until the time of digital writing, reading and writing were two largely different activities. An author would compose a piece, it would be printed, and then the reader would read it. This did not allow the reader to really offer an analysis on what they thought of the writing or allow the author to clarify or extend any ideas. This is why the interaction between reader and writer that is derived from digital writing makes digital writing so important. One of the major ways this collaboration between reader and writer occurs is through the comment section of websites. Most people understand what a comment is however one important aspect of the comment section is typically overlooked, and that is how it offers a window into the readers mind. This means that the author can quickly recognize what people are thinking and how they are reacting while offering the reader a deeper layer of investment by allowing them to express their opinions to the author. For example, in Writing for Digital Media by Brian Carrol he discusses a quote from Joanne Jacobs that says “The internet has empowered ordinary citizens to become fact-checkers and analysts. People with a wide range of experiences can collaborate online” (Carrol 143). This is truly exemplifies how important digital writing is. Normal people can offer a form of peer-review to authors and collaborate with them to help the writer understand what people are thinking, and how to make their piece better or more correct. This collaboration is not possible in any other medium and is why online writing should be considered important.

Another example of how comments offer meaningful interactions between an author and reader can be found in Consider the Comments: Why Online Comments are Important for Public Historians. In this article by Kaitlin Wainwright while discussing the importance of online comments to history she says “online comments offer historians and heritage professionals research opportunities as well as a space for the public to contribute meaningful content” (Wainwright 309). This shows that not only do comments allow the author a window into the readers mind they also offer a way for the reader to provide the author with ideas or analysis on what they are reading. This means that readers can actually help support or provide evidence for an author’s research and ideas or help the author fix possible issues by providing meaningful criticism. No other medium allows for this quick, broad, or constructive interaction between the author and readers. Therefore, interaction between writer and reader is a critical part to the importance of digital writing, because without it a large majority of collaboration between the author and the reader would be lost. For example, last year I took an intro to business course. In this course we had group projects in which my group would divvy up the work in sections. The author of a section would then write out their ideas in a google doc and then the other members of the group would help revise or add on to the document through the Google docs share and collaboration features. If google docs, a platform for digital writing, had not offered the ability for the readers to interact with the author our group would not have collaborated nearly as well and the quality of our work would have likely suffered.

Digital writing is important because it offers the ability to quickly find related articles or sources through things such as hyperlinks that no other platform offers. When reading a book, you cannot just tap a word when you want to read more about something. If you want to find more information about something mentioned in a book you first have to hope that the source it is from is referenced somewhere in the text, then find somewhere to acquire the source, and finally find where the portion you want to read more about is located. However, with digital writing this entire process can be bypassed. The author can add a single hyperlink to any fact or piece of information they desire, and the reader will have an instant and simple way of reading more about what was written.

Furthermore, in a paper by Rodolfo Baggio and Magda Antonioli Corigliano they discuss the importance of the hyperlink to online writing saying the hyperlinks “importance is very high due to their ability to provide a visitor with a wealth of good quality information” and concluding that “a modest increase in the number of links may improve the visibility and the navigability of the destination’s webspace” (Baggio 1). This means that by adding hyperlinks to a web page it is easier for the reader to navigate the webpage and find the information but also makes the webpage itself more visible. This happens because the algorithm most search engines use identify groups of related things similar to what is searched. By hyperlinking something you are “adding” your writing into the same group as the source URL and therefore making it more likely for your article to be found when someone searches for something within that group (Baggio 2). This is unique to digital writing. Citing something in a book does not make it more visible to potential readers, however citing something online can actually make your article more visible and more likely to be read. Digital writing is important because it offers unique structures such as hyperlinks that make articles that contain them more visible to the public and likely to be read while also creating a more navigable and enjoyable reading environment that no other medium contains.

But Can’t All These Features Be Harmful?

Now some may say that this ability to quickly jump between source to source and site to site can have some major consequences too. For one,  reading on the internet has been shown to make it harder for people to pay attention which is worrisome to many internet users and also makes digital writing seem like it should be less important. For example, take Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows in which he discusses the effects that reading online has had on his brain. Describing how it has made him and others around him more distracted. He goes on to say “the Internet, I sensed, was turning me into something like a high-speed data-processing machine, a human HAL. I missed my old brain” (Carr 16). Here Carr is saying that he does not like what the Internet is doing to his mind. He does not wish to be a machine that can only process data at high speeds. He just wants his old brain back, so he can once again read long passages and make deeper connections. However, I disagree with this. In my experience of writing online the quicker I am able to process data the better my final product is. Even this research paper would be immensely worse if I was not used to the fast-paced data collection that the internet has trained many of us to do. This is because without it, it would be too difficult to process the vast amount of information that is online and pick pieces that are important to one’s argument.

While digital writing may lead to more distracted readers the idea that digital writing is not as important as other types of writing because of this is flawed. This is because getting distracted online is not always a bad thing. Sometimes the ability to quickly skim through information or jump from source to source is good because it allows us to filter out a lot of what is actually not important to our writing and focus on what we are looking for.

Over the years I have come to expect that it is likely I will always be learning new things that flip what I originally thought was true of something on it’s head. However, I was surprised when I realized important writing does not necessarily have to be profound or eye opening. Digital writings importance does not necessarily stem from its profoundness but is instead rooted in the interactions between the reader and writer that the platform offers through things such as comments and hyperlinks.

My View of Digital Writing (Part II):

In 10th grade during the middle of the year I moved to a completely new high school. One of the many differences I had to become accustom to was our school provided iPads. This was actually one of the hardest things for me because I never had to do so much work online before. At my old high school, we would type up essays or homework’s in word, print them out, and then bring them to class on the due date. With iPads, almost every assignment was due online at midnight the night before. However, because of this the introduction of the iPad made me much more conscious of due dates. I could no longer wait until the night before to start my homework as most of it was due that night. We submitted our work through an application called Schoology, and let me tell you, Schoology was the bane of my existence for the better half of my sophomore year. Using Schoology teachers could see if you had opened assignments, how much time you spent on certain ones, and the exact time you submitted assignments. I was no longer able to rush through an assignment at 1am the night before; I was being forced to be proactive, how awful. However, once I grew accustom to it I realized how much it was actually helping. I would get things done early so I did not risk missing that midnight deadline and began using the calendar within Schoology to organize which assignments I should do when. I was also receiving responses on my work from teachers faster than ever and therefore could quickly correct mistakes or problem areas before they could metastasize into larger gaps in my understanding. I view this experience as my largest and most influential digital writing experience because I had never really written that much online before and I rapidly realized how many advantages digital writing had. Therefore, I believe that digital writing has not only made me a better student and learner, but also more prepared for college and the professional career I will hopefully have one day.

This image was the bane of my existence in 10th grade. Credits:

I believe that one of the largest contributions digital writing has had on me and can have on others is making them better students. Digital writing allows students quick access to a plethora of useful information. Therefore, the instant someone is having difficulty they are capable of searching through hyperlinks and researching hundreds of databases containing the information they are looking for in order to find a solution or answer that works best for them. For example, if I am doing my computer science homework and do not have any idea how to write a method, I will simply google search the method I am having trouble with and almost instantly be able to look at articles and practice sheets that will help me understand what I need to know. Another way I believe digital writing contributes to being a better student is through it making students more attentive to due dates. With digital writing there are no excuses like “my dog ate my homework” or “I left my paper at my house.” If you miss a deadline there is really nothing you can do. I believe that one of the major attributes of a good student is completing work promptly and digital writing is the best way to ensure that this happens because assignments can be due in drop boxes or structures like them at midnight to ensure the student is prepared for class the next day.

Furthermore, I believe digital writing contributes to making people better learners because it offers quick and clear feedback. For example, every week I have to complete a lab quiz before Sunday at midnight for Organic Lab. Immediately after I take the quiz I am able to see which questions I get wrong along with detailed explanations of why another answer is correct. This ensures that I am prepared for the necessary parts of Lab on Tuesday and makes sure I understand the necessary information to complete the lab. Without the quick feedback made possible through digital writing this would not be possible. Digital writing makes people better learners by offering quick feedback to enforce understood areas and correct areas of material someone may be struggling with.

Finally, I believe digital writing helps to prepare people for life after college. After college, I hope to either work in computer science or chemistry. So, it is likely that I will end up working with a team of people to attempt to complete a set goal, whether that be fixing a software issue or working with pharmaceuticals. Therefore, I think classes in digital writing help prepare me and others for this style of work by teaching collaboration. One of the major parts of digital writing is the ease in which it allows people to collaborate with each other. By studying digital writing students will receive more practice collaborating with others online and increase their ability to collaborate with others in a work place.

Although I did not realize it at the time Schoology was my first real experience with digital writing, and I am grateful for it. I believe that through contributions such as quick access to information, rapid feedback, and collaboration learning about digital writing helps people become better students, and therefore more prepared for the rest of their life. Therefore, I thank you digital writing for helping me become a better student and writer, even if I am still mediocre at best.



Works Cited

Baggio, Rodolfo, and Magda Antonioli Corigliano. “On the Importance of Hyperlinks: A Network Science  Approach.” Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism        2009, 2009,  pp. 309–318., doi:10.1007/978-3-211-93971-0_26.

Carr, Nicholas G. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. W.W. Norton, 2011.

Carroll, Brian. Writing and Editing for Digital Media. Routledge, 2017.

DeVoss, DaÌnielle Nicole, et al. “Why Digital Writing Matters.” Because Digital Writing            Matters: Improving Student Writing in Online and Multimedia Environments,    Jossey-Bass,2010, r=pcfile_d.

Wainwright, Kaitlin. “Consider the Comments: Why Online Comments Are Important for Public Historians.”, 29 Oct. 2014, comments-why-online-comments-are-important-for-public-historians/.


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Digital Writing – Helping or Hurting?

As technology continues to advance, the way students use it to read and write continues to change. Students are adapting to various forms of technology in their schooling. It has been noticeable in many research articles that technology has influenced the way college and high school students are performing in the classroom. There are pros and cons to digital writing and the research shows them both. When it comes to digital writing, there are multiple perspectives that are addressed to try and discover if digital writing is beneficial for college students or if it hinders their overall learning experience.

The Bright Side:


Digital writing has become a normal part of the education process for many schools. It can be hard to keep up with the ever changing technology, however most educational systems account for it. Assignments are often found and completed online with the multiple learning platforms. Within my own experience, I have continued to use technology for my courses throughout my time in school. Whether it be writing a paper or research, I am usually using a computer daily to complete assignments. This is common amongst students my age. Research calculates that 87% of teens say they have access to computers and laptops as well ass 91% say they use the internet daily (Dagostino 96). These numbers are not surprising to a college student like myself who is constantly online for homework, writing and research. Even the time I do not spend doing school work, I usually browse the internet for movies or to catch up with family and friends. There are several benefits to using technology for school purposes. One major factor would be the endless amount of information available online that can expand students knowledge on various topics.The endless online reading options can help enhance a students learning experience because it gives them the ability to obtain various amounts of information in a little amount of time. For most students, it does not take them long to search the internet if they have a question or need further research. The data online is so easy to find that it can be a useful tool for college students.

As students continue to adapt to the various ways of reading and writing, it is helpful to expose students to technology early on so they are able to keep up with the advancements in society. The use of technology also allows for frequent interaction between students and their community. For many who use technology, it is a way to stay connected by reading, writing, discussing and providing feedback for assignments. Along with this, using an online platform to connect students work will prompt them to improve their assignment standards. “Researchers suggests that when students know their writing is extended to a larger audience, they are more motivated to write and tend to do better work” (Pearman & Camp 29). This can be related to homework and essays that are submitted to an online platform. Students strive to impress their professor and classmates as well as push themselves to receive a good grade. If students are aware that their peers will read their responses, they are likely to work harder to ensure their submissions are of high quality. This can easily be seen with online writing as well. With online writing such as blog posts, people write differently when they know others will read their writing because they want others to enjoy the reading. Digital writing can be a beneficial aspect to the classroom as well as the real world if used to prompt positive and motivated work.

How Digital Writing Hinders Students:


There is also the other side of using Digital Writing for school related purposes. While it is common to use a laptop or tablet during class, it is not always the best decision for the student in the long run. Research has shown the results of using technology to write down notes during class can hinder a students ability to retain information. Students don’t absorb as much information while taking down notes on laptops (Mueller 1159). This is because students only focus on writing down information as quickly as they can follow as oppose to listening, learning, and writing information down in words they will remember and understand. “Laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.” (Mueller 1162). The information that is written down is not retained because students are not trying to learn but rather are trying to write everything down so the information is not remembered later on. This hurts the students ability to absorb the information for long term use. It is important for students to stay engaged in the lesson rather than zoning out while typing notes.

When it comes to college students, it is nearly essential to use technology to read and write for courses. It is common to have a course assignment that can be found online or that must be typed through a computer. These are all forms of digital writing. Research has proven that students prefer to use a computer when performing for school work, even though they hold a closer retention rate when the information is written by hand. This is due to the thinking process that comes along with writing by hand. In an article published in International Journal of Engineering, three researches did various surveys to determine how digital writing and reading can affect students. In this survey, they focused mainly on the preferred methods of students in comparison to which methods tend to work the best. Students who use computers to read assignments for class tend to look for shorter passages as oppose to longer essay. This is because many students prefer to read longer passages on paper. “Students also like the physical nature of paper, it’s tacticle, pages can be turned and it’s easier to take it anywhere” (Szentgyorgtvolgyi 153).  The preference of paper reading also falls into pleasure reading. When reading for non-academic reasons, the students will use both digital and paper, however paper seems to be the more comfortable method as it “doesn’t fatigue the eyes” (Szentgyorgtvolgyi 153). It becomes difficult too students to stay engaged with online readers which is why they will either scan the long page or search for a shorter piece to avoid the long reading all together. The research shows that although students still prefer to use technology in order to complete a reading assignment, sometimes this is not always the most efficient method for long term learning.

Although digital writing has many pros and cons, it still remains a popular option compared to other writing options. People go to the internet to express themselves and to get their ideas across. It is up to the writer to decide which direction their writing will take. Whether it be the language of the piece or the multimodal elements, online writing is ever-changing. This is also evident in the constant interaction digital writing experiences. When writing is put online, it is available to large platforms of critics, commenters and other readers. “Growth is determined by the encouragement and critique of the community” (Rorabaugh 1).  This is what makes digital writing communal. It may not be intended for interaction, but if it is online it is always open to interpretation of other online readers. Online platforms make it easy to give feedback or write a response to digital writing pieces. It is important to keep the public availability of your work in mind after posting online because it is common for people to respond, both positively and negatively, to online work.

My Own Experience:


When it comes to digital writing, I believe it can be beneficial to college students like myself. Reading and writing online is easier for students to stay connected. Posting assignments online is helpful when there are comment sections that my professors and classmates can utilize to give feedback to my work. Along with writing online, keeping classwork information online is helpful to students. Having an online platform that has the classwork, homework, syllabus and other resources is beneficial for me as a student. It makes it easy to quickly find a resource to assist me in my work and understanding of the course. I think digital writing is essential for this course as well as other courses available at Dickinson. Being a double major with English and Economics, a lot of my time is spent online. I use an online platform to complete economic take home assignments as well as type out various English papers and reflections. Although most of my take home work is done online, I find it easier to hand write notes in class. Even though my preferences may align with the research involving hand writing verses digital writing, I witness it is a personal decision for students. In classes that give you the option, there some people who use laptops during class for notes while other students use notebooks. Even if one is proven more effective than the other, some students may feel differently about their preferred study methods. Digital writing has been a crucial part to my learning experience here at Dickinson College. It is important to develop the skills of digital writing throughout years at school because it is a beneficial skill to have beyond college. The internet will be around long after graduation, so it is important to form a positive online presence and establish a sense of what kind of digital writer you are. Developing a blog is a good way to start digital writing. Whether it is for a course project like my own, personal use, or professional use, having a blog helps engage an audience to hear your ideas as well as develops a set of writing skills that could be helpful in the future.

Works Cited

Dagostino, Lorraine1 and Christine1 Casatelli. “Content Creation for a New Generation: A Guide for Digital Writing.” New England Reading Association Journal, vol. 52, no. 1, Jan. 2017, pp. 94-105. EBSCOhost,

Mueller, Pam A. Oppenheimer, Daniel M. “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking “ Psychological Science, vol 25, issue 6, Published April 23, 2014 pp. 1159 – 1168.

Pearman, Cathy J.1 and Deanne1 Camp. “Digital Writing: The Future of Writing Is Now.” Journal of Reading Education, vol. 39, no. 3, Spring/Summer2014, pp. 29-32. EBSCOhost,

Rorabaugh, Pete. “Organic Writing and Digital Media: Seeds and Organs.” Digital Pedagogy Lab, June 21, 2012.

SZENTGYÖRGYVÖLGYI, Rozália, et al. “Comparative Quantitative Analysis of Writing and Reading Habits on Paper and Digital.” Annals of the Faculty of Engineering Hunedoara – International Journal of Engineering, vol. 15, no. 3, Aug. 2017, pp. 147-154. EBSCOhost,

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The Strength of Our Words: An Essay on Digital Writing

Writing Digitally as a Tool:

 I want to introduce digital writing as a tool. It is a method of writing that has been sculpted to fit our ever-growing technology-dependent age. As much as I had hoped to come up with a single definition of what digital writing is, I could not. There are multiple ways to express what digital writing is from “Any writing that requires a computer to access it”- JodiAnn Stevenson to “Creative writing that uses digital tools/software as an integral part of its conception and delivery”- Catherine Byron (DeVoss, Dànielle Nicole, Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, and Troy Hicks 6). However, the fact I could not provide a single definition strengthens my argument. Digital writing can be defined in so many ways because it can be used in so many ways. You see so many forms of digital writing whether it be a caption on Instagram to a post for a lifestyle blog. Newspapers have become digital, our accessibility to educational resources online has expanded, even birthday cards can be sent through email. Even though technology is occasionally guilty of affecting our sense of personal interaction with one another, it is important to realize that our environment is rapidly changing and as its inhabitants we must adapt to these changes and realize its potential.

Our Technical Environment:

The 21st century is often coined by one word: technology. Its people, labeled as “millennials” are often blamed for the overuse of technology as we are bound at the hip with our iPhones, laptops, iPads, and so on. As Sarah Murray puts it, “Few “millennials”- or the generation aged between 18 and 33- can remember a time when technology has not been a fundamental part of their lives. Not only does it answer their questions, but, through social media, it also gives them the ability to alter the way in which they are perceived by their peers and the greater world around them” (Rodgers 11). Although our use of technology is regularly given a negative connotation, it is important to realize that even social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are in fact empowering the human population at a global degree. Murray goes on to say, “While technology might help them [millennials] feel at the centre of the universe, its ability to connect millennials to other communities across the world has also created in many a desire to help solve big global problems” (Rodgers 11). The level of engagement of this generation is like nothing that has even been seen before and it all stems from the power technology provides us. I recently shadowed an employee at Facebook. She told me that she never had a profile until she started working there. She then went on to say she never understood “the point” of Facebook. However, once she began working at Facebook, understanding and applying the vision, she realized the potential Facebook has to change the world.

Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard graduate, created Facebook in order for only Harvard students to interact amongst each other. It began to expand and soon became a site for all collegiate students. In order to use Facebook, you had to have an email which was associated with an institution. In the fall of 2005, it expanded, yet again, to a high school audience. In no time it opened to the whole world. There was a continuous growth in users over the years and by 2013 more than a billion users had joined Facebook. Why did Facebook spread like a wildfire?

The human population has a constant desire for human interaction. In “Face to Face(Book): Users’ Traits and Motivations and Effects of Facebook Use on Well-Being” one of the authors, Daniela Crisan, argues that the attraction of Facebook is due to Nadkarni and Hofman’s Two Factor Model of Motives Relationship with Facebook Use (2012). The two factor model is the idea that Facebook fulfills the yearn to be a part of something and the need to display oneself. People look for acceptance from their peers and they measure themselves by how others perceive and accept them. With liking, commenting, and sharing capabilities, Facebook is the perfect place to fulfill this need.

What most people don’t understand is that their 2 sentence post has a lot more power than they ever could imagine. Facebook has now used its competence to do things such as bring the internet to third-world countries in order to reduce poverty levels. Mothers looking to provide basic living necessities are being taught how to use the internet to sell their jewelry, clothing, woven goods to people globally just to put food on the table. But just as digital writing has the ability to build lives for those less fortunate, it can also tear down lives that are fortunate.

It is hard to believe that something as small as a 140-character tweet has the ability to affect a problem of a large scale such as poverty levels or even an individual’s whole life. Jon Ronson, a writer for the New York Times, wrote an article in 2015 on a woman named Justine Sacco. The title is “How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life” and that is exactly what this article is about. “…Justine Sacco, 30 years old and the senior director of corporate communications at IAC, began tweeting acerbic little jokes about the indignities of travel” on her way to South Africa to visit family for the holidays in 2013 (Ronson). Sacco’s tweets were an attempt at humor and had little to no substance to them.

She developed momentum as she sent out a new tweet at different points in her travels. Finally, “…on December 20, before the final leg of her trip to Cape Town” she typed “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” (Ronson). This 64-character tweet changed Justine Sacco’s life completely and she had no idea her words had the strength to do so.

By the time Sacco landed, completely unaware of the situation, her tweet was the number 1 worldwide trend. While she was fast asleep on the plane, the whole world was in rage over her ignorant tweet. At first glance you read “…that white people don’t get AIDS, but it seems doubtful many interpreted it that way. More likely it was her apparently gleeful flaunting of her privilege that angered people” (Ronson). Ronson argues that Sacco’s tweet displeased so many because “…a reflexive critique of white privilege- on our tendency to naively imagine ourselves immune from life’s horrors” (Ronson).

Credit Photo illustration by Andrew B. Myers. Prop stylist: Sonia Rentsch.

Sacco claimed the point of her tweet “…wasn’t trying to raise awareness of AIDS or piss off the world or ruin my life. Living in America puts us in a bit of a bubble when it comes to what is going on in the third world. I was making fun of that bubble” (Ronson). Sacco’s life was flipped upside down. She lost the respect of her family, her successful job, and received countless forms of “hate mail”; and it was all because of an unthoughtful formation of words posted to a digital environment.

An incident similar, but not quite to the degree (yet) at which Justine Sacco’s was, occurred this past Halloween weekend here on Dickinson’s campus. Halloween has become a topic of great discussion and sensitivity, more so than past years. The common term “my culture is not a costume” has gone viral as different ethnicities protest people dressing up in ways similar to their lifestyles.

A student dressed up as Colin Kaepernick on Saturday, October 28th 2017. Kaepernick, a previous quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers made himself a name beyond the football field: “A little more than a year ago, Kaepernick became one of the most polarizing figures in U.S. sports when he took a knee during the national anthem. It was a unique and jarring form of protest against police brutality toward African Americans” (Babb). As a biracial man himself, he chose to use his influential image of being a NFL player to express his opinion on police brutality. His actions have cause great controversy amongst the nation as to whether or not showing disrespect to the National Anthem was the “correct way” to express his political views.

With their face heavily bronzed attempting to mimic Blackface (not confirmed) and an afro on their head, this student went about their Saturday night not realizing the repercussions of their costume decision. With a large presence of social media, between Snapchat and Instagram, on every college students’ phones it was inevitable that there would be a picture of this costume. With no surprise a student decided to make their snapchat story of the student dressed as Colin Kaepernick down on one knee and different student holding a gun in their direction. By Sunday night the entire school had become aware of this student’s costume as the Snapchat story was screen-shotted and sent around.

It wasn’t the fact that the student was dressed as Kaepernick demonstrated disrespect, it was the possibility of Blackface on the student. To me, this disrespect stems from history. Just as Ronson says about Sacco’s tweet, the anger arises because it is a “…a reflexive critique of white privilege…” (Ronson). Blackface was first seen in the 19th century as a form of theatrical makeup. It was used predominantly by non-black performers to mock black people to make them appear more animalistic on stage. Resurfacing a form of mockery from so far back in American history is simply unacceptable in this day and age and was bound to start a problem.

This incident exemplifies the strength, once again, of digital writing. The speed in which the image was astonishing. By Monday, October 30thFox News 43 had published an article, protests were happening in Briton Plaza, forums were being held, emails were being sent in masses all of which were dealing with the issue at hand. The power of the image was created in the hundreds of digital writing pieces done by students on campus and media outlets covering the story. The words written about this image are not of the students’ that were involved. More and more screenshots of the image are being taken, each with a new caption. A whirlpool is being created of occurrence as more people get involved and feed off of one another.  All there is are interpretations of the picture. No one knows the context behind the image and truthfully at this point I would find it hard to believe the truth would matter. People have built their own stories revolving the costume and it is officially out of the control of the perpetrators.

This student is facing serious consequences. This matter has caused great deal of emotion amongst our community here on campus. This student has cause a great deal of shame for himself and the group(s) he associates himself with. Not only will they have to deal with the wrath of the incident present day, but what will the repercussions be for this student in the future? An incident of this degree will have major impacts when trying to obtain a job, work colleagues, a significant other, etc.  Once something is posted online, whether it may be by you or of you by another, it truly becomes permanent along with its associated writing.

My Involvement with Digital Writing

As a reader, I have always been drawn to texts that spoke to me at my level. In other words, authors that tend to write in a more casual tone compared to a scholarly one catches my attention and maintains it. I have always thought higher of authors who could convey all essential information in a fashion that was enjoyable to read. I find that these authors happen to in fact be smarter than those who go on for pages and pages in complex vocabulary with graphs that take half an hour to interpret that only those on their level can comprehend. This is not to say that those of a scholarly tone are less intelligent. By smarter I mean the authors of a more casual tone are able to envision themselves at the other end of their writing and understand that one is more likely to read and continue reading their work if they understand it and are genuinely interested in the content. I envy authors who take writing as an art rather than a science.

Throughout this course so far, I have begun to realize that writing in and for digital environments captures the casual tone that I admire. It is a tricky balance between the two, but as I have explored more digital platforms this balance between tone and intelligence has become more prevalent. There is a sense of talking with ones’ readers rather than at them and I believe this is achieved due to the fact authors writing for a digital environment treat their writing as art. By inserting photography, polls, graphs etc. an invisible relationship between the writer and their audience is created because of this sense of interaction beyond words.

I love to pose questions and insert myself in my writing, but have always hesitated to do so in fear of it sounding less academic. I think this is because I have never thought of an audience outside of my teachers and professors. Writing for a digital environment pushed me to expand my audience, leading me to write in a way I have always admired.

While creating my own piece of digital writing, I have learned a variety of ways to get a message across as I studied pre-existing blogs. Whether it be travel destinations or environmental conservation, writing digitally has unveiled the many other ways to go about sharing ones’ goals, hopes, and or dreams. Writing digitally allows you to use multimodal tools such as pictures, interactive activities, maps, music, etc. that other forms of writing don’t allow. What truly spoke to me was photography on blogs. Blogs such as Paul Nicklen use beautiful photography to gain its audience. With a goal of ocean conservation, Paul Nicklen (an extremely talented marine biologist, photographer, and filmmaker) fulfills his goal of creating awareness towards the hardships animals and ocean life endure through his photography. I copied his technique in using thumbnails to capture the beauty of the places I visit to get my blog viewers reading further into my site. Writing digitally allows you to choose the most powerful and effective methods of relaying your message whereas other forms limit you to words on paper (or a screen).

Outside of my Digital Writing course, I take primarily business classes as I am an International Business and Management major here at Dickinson. At first I had a difficult time trying to connect digital writing and my major. However, the connection between the two was so obvious that I overlooked it: Presentations.

In order to be successful in presenting, you need to keep your audience engaged, just as in digital writing. How this is accomplished is the same way: through concise and essential information. In a presentation this means keeping little words on a power point and adding images that support and convey your argument, just as it is writing for a digital environment. Businessmen and women are using digital writing in the work force without even knowing it.

Moving past my career at Dickinson (although I am only a sophomore) I think about how my major pertains to what I will do once graduating. As cliché as it may sound, I have found myself fascinated by the media/ advertising/ marketing world. As mentioned earlier, this past summer I had the opportunity to shadow an employee in the marketing/advertising department at Facebook, a job of my dreams. I was able to sit in on a meeting where the team was going through a power point they created in order to gain a client. The entire meeting was spent going over how to adapt to the specific client (the audience). They did this by honing in on the perfect word choice, number of bullets, and what graphics were deemed most appropriate, all of which tie directly back to digital writing. I have genuinely become aware of the power of my words through digital writing as it pertains to numerous aspects of my life.


Works Cited

Babb, Kent. “The Making of Colin Kaepernick.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 07 Sept. 2017. Web.

Benson, Vladlena, Morgan Stephanie, and Crisan, Daniela . “Face to Face(Book): Users’ Traits and Motivations and Effects of Facebook Use on Well-Being.” Implications of Social Media Use in Personal and Professional Settings. Edited by Vladlena Benson and Stephanie Morgan, Hershey, PA, US, Information Science Reference/IGI Global, 2015, pp. 45-65. PsycINFO, 65. PsycINFO,

DeVoss, Dànielle Nicole, Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, and Troy Hicks. Introduction. Because Digital Writing Matters: Improving Student Writing in Online and Multimedia Environments. N.p.: Jossey-Bass, 2010. N. pag. Print.

Murray, Sarah. “Which Came First, Technology or Society: “Transition: Technology Puts Power in the Hands of Many”.” Technology: A Reader for Writers. By Johannah Rodgers. N.p.: Oxford UP, 2015. N. pag. Print.

Ronson, Jon. “How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Feb. 2015. Web.

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Not Another Teen Listicle: A Critical Look at Digital Writing

Avocado Toast, Anyone?

Millennial's (Current) Obsession

Millennial’s (Current) Obsession.×800/landscape-1452289733-avocado-toast.jpg

Digital writing is the Millennial of the humanities world. Everyone has an opinion on it, it’s woefully misunderstood, and there are countless articles dedicated to examining it with varying degrees of irony and self-awareness. Another thing that digital writing and Millennials have in common? Almost all of the work produced on them is not actually written by the people that are most familiar with them: Millennials. I am going to try to fix that.

Getting With the Times: The Good

Digital Keyboard

Pete Rorabaugh, in his article “Organic Writing and Digital Media: Seeds and Organs,” said that in the context of digital writing and the internet, “Growth is determined by the encouragement and critique of the community” (Rorabaugh, 2012). This sentence, on its face both short and simple, is actually quite deceptive: It contains the seed of an idea that, if accepted, represents a complete paradigmatic shift in understanding what it means to write. In his article, “Digital Writing Uprising: Third-Order Thinking in the Digital Humanities,” Sean Michael Morris explains this significance quite eloquently when he says “Note that it is not ‘affected’ nor ‘influenced’ by the community. No, the growth of ideas is determined by the community. What gets said is inevitably communal. We create the choir as we preach, and the choir creates us” (Morris, 2012).

The above two quotes, when taken together, are quite profound in their implications. Within their words, they suggest that digital writing is far more than a rapid system for transmitting distant and forgotten printed works, more than a repository for previously communicated ideas. They suggest that digital writing encourages an elasticity in text that traditional printed mediums cannot replicate. Digital writing, then, actually represents a completely different avenue in which information is created, disseminated, and utilized. It provides a forum for unique contributions that are specifically designed for niche audiences and represent the result of an intensive and continuous interplay between author and reader, input and output. Sean Michael Morris puts it another way in his article “Creative Beasts With Crayons” when he says, “Digital writing is emergent writing. It mutinies at the imposition of form, the edicts of the grammars of old. It rails to change the rules. It raises the flag of anarchy. The council of digital writing is one…the frenetic joy of dismantling what came before, and the abdication of the author. It is audacious, demanding that we writers free it from the prison of specific rigor. It emerges. It revolts” (Morris, 2016).

What does this mean? Digital writing, by its very nature, seeks to fundamentally refigure traditional conceptions of writing. It creates a unique feedback loop, ensuring that authors are writing what readers want and need, but more than that, it blurs the conventional boundaries between writers and readers, creators and receivers. It grants the opportunity to ask and answer questions that were not commercial enough for print. It encourages participation, engagement, and freeform thinking that is unencumbered by the preordained norms of writing. Digital writing has led to unprecedented levels of adaptability and choice, and it has created a more responsive medium for its rapidly evolving uses. Digital writing has reshaped what it means to write in the twenty-first century.

…The Bad

Digital Divide Image

As much as it may be tempting to end the discussion here with a resounding endorsement of the importance of learning about digital writing, to do so would ignore key facets of the debate. For instance, as Tim Monreal noted in his piece “Beyond Surface-Level Digital Pedagogy“, “Without contestation or challenge, young teachers may assume digital technologies are immune to bias and inequality…My instructors were happy to introduce us to new tools, but I cannot recall one time where anything other than device or internet access was critically discussed. Power structures that may limit student/teacher agency and empowerment remain veiled, protected by the cacophonous voices (like mine) clamoring for practicality and innovation” (Monreal, 2016). Implicit in these statements is the belief that digital writing, and indeed digital technology in general, are only as important and useful as the way in which they are presented. In this vein of thought, it is important to think about how we learn about digital writing. Also implicit, then, is a claim that the way digital writing is taught in the current moment is problematic: Digital writing is utilized in the context of systemic inequities, where only those privileged enough to learn from the elite group of teachers who can actually engage critically with the medium can end up taking advantage of it. There are concerns that digital writing only benefits the wealthy, educated, and socially privileged, because only those who can afford to access the technology can make use of it in this way. Thus, paradoxically, the democratizing force of digital writing can end up contributing to the privatization of the benefits it originally set out to achieve.

…And the Ugly?

Online Troll

Lastly, any discussion on digital writing would be woefully inadequate without addressing the problems posed by “the trolls.” As Joel Stein astutely observed, “Trolls are turning the web into a cesspool of aggression and violence. What watching them is doing to the rest of us may be even more harmful” (Stein, 2016, pg 27). They incite hatred, play on insecurities, and goad people into intense emotional states, all three of which are emblematic of humanity’s ugly underbelly. Digital writing, it could then be argued, is a mass enabler of this reprehensible behavior. Its grant of toxic anonymity promotes action without the fear of retribution, emboldening the trolls to act in ways that would simply be unacceptable in real life interactions.

However, what if that wasn’t the trolls’ full story? What if Steven Berg is correct in claiming that trolls provide a valuable source of learning for a fledgling writer? After all, Berg notes in his article “The Pedagogy of Trolls” that the presence of trolls “help students deal with personal attacks…allows them to realize that they have something meaningful to contribute; that their assignments are meaningful because what they have to say is meaningful…gives them a confidence that they cannot gain by simply turning in assignments for their professor to read and return” (Berg, 2015). Trolls may be terrible people, abhorrent even, but that does not preclude the possibility that they may provide some sort of tangential benefit to everyone else. Indeed, without trolls, it would be much harder to learn how to defend oneself, how to learn when to engage and when to ignore, and how to recognize the complexities of the human psyche. These lessons supersede the classrooms of the humanities: they shape the realities of the life.

Why Am I Even Telling You All of This?


Digital writing has already begun to shape my experience as a Dickinson College student, a Law & Policy major, and a citizen of this country and of this world. This course, and the skills it provides for making sense of, and contributing to, writing in and for digital environments, bears direct influence on my ability to learn and engage with the world around me. To be more specific, I can think of three concrete ways that this course has already begun to supplement and enhance my work as a student, politics enthusiast, and burgeoning legal practitioner. Firstly, writing online has broadened the scope of my ability to adapt to new formats, audiences, and styles, a contribution that has expanded my comfort with academic and personal writing. Secondly, digital writing complements my political activities well by virtue of its mission to serve the wider world and community. Finally, it has greatly bolstered my prospects for succeeding in my post-graduate education, and hopefully, even my career plans.

Do You Even Write Bro?

As I mentioned above, the first manner in which digital writing has offered a meaningful contribution to a student like me is through the lessons it has taught me in the realm of textual variability, or ability to alter and adapt my work to reflect new mediums, readers, and aesthetics. As a student in the Policy Studies department, I have been tasked with writing policy briefs designed for various governmental and interest group stakeholders and creating presentations on possible solutions to policy problems, all while navigating the preferred styles and ideological orientations of the “clients.” Clearly, then, I have been tasked with producing work in various format and tonal iterations, assignments that by their very nature must be adapted to reflect different audiences. Digital writing factors directly into this tradition, albeit with one critical caveat: It eschews conventional platforms and instead relies on the internet. This results in writing that can be read by different audiences, for different purposes, and even in different contexts, all of which are generally unpredictable. For these same reasons, digital writing has directly increased my comfort with writing in the policy realm. It has given me the experience I need to branch out into different projects that are created with different people in mind, but has also given me the mindfulness to know that my words will not always stay my own. They can be adapted for different uses, repackaged and repurposed, and they will impact every reader in unique ways. Therefore, digital writing makes policy briefing seem tame by comparison, but it has nonetheless given me the tools to excel in both.

Digital Idealism

The second reason that digital writing has benefitted me as a student is by virtue of its overlap with politics in the realms of audience engagement and participation. Digital writing, by its very nature, is democratizing and universal. It breaks down barriers to the transfer of knowledge, encourages reader participation, and seeks to make academia a more egalitarian place. These attributes complement my personal brand of politics extremely well, as I believe that any governments, and indeed any society, should strive to promote high levels of civic engagement, equality, and opportunity. Therefore, digital writing and my personal interests and worldview align, but the connection actually goes deeper. Digital writing, by showing me how to navigate the world of blogs, websites, and social media in meaningful ways, is actually giving me the ability to put my vision into action. In fact, my semester long project is actually political in nature, and it is allowing me to try to provide critical information in a way that is accessible, approachable, and easy to follow. In doing so, digital writing has taught me how to use the tools I described in the preceding paragraph in the pursuit of a universal theme and practical good, and as such, is a critical component of my education.

Digital Writing: The Elle Woods of Writing Platforms

Elle Woods

Lastly, the third and final way that digital writing has shaped my personal educational experience is through the impact it has had on my legal aspirations. In the last week, I applied to seventeen law schools. Each of those applications was submitted online, using a digital writing platform, and was the result of countless emails to admissions offices, advisors, and more. The entire process was digitized, and by extension, required me to utilize a specific skillset that was shaped by the specific sensibilities of this new medium. Even more than this, however, my encounters with digital writing have already begun to prepare me for the types of work I am going to encounter at the intersection of law and politics. I mean, just think about the types of issues that dominate political and legal analysis these days: emails, leaked diplomatic cables, tweets, and more. The career path that I hope to walk is paved with the fruits of digital writing, and I am better off because I have been studying it here.

BROTUS, Becky, and the Beyhive: Popular Drawbacks of Digitized Writing

Whether you like it or not, digital writing is a ubiquitous cultural force. “Presidential” tweets dominate the news. Every single day you can rely on seeing at least one student call out their problematic great aunt Carol for her racist Facebook post du jour. Stans on Tumblr work fandoms into a frenzy over the latest perceived celebrity slights, and worst of all, there are the official purveyors of existential dread known as YouTube commenters and Reddit flamers. Digital writing has enabled the mass migration of trolls, obsessive fans, and Nazis to the forefront of our society, and may have even swayed the result of our most recent presidential election. Subsequently, one would be hard-pressed to ignore the fact that the emergence of digital writing as a dominant platform has come with an inherent power to harm both discourse and lives.

Blog Wars Episode IV: A New Hope?

Of course, there is a positive side to this digital revolution as well. News and information are more accessible than ever before, bloggers have the ability to share their knowledge and perspectives with specifically engaged audiences, and individuals from across the world are able to connect in ways that were previously impossible. Students have access to millions of sources, making research and education easier than ever before. Digital writers are gaining unique skillsets, both tactical and practical, that bring about significant skillsets inside and outside of the classroom. Education and political participation are more accessible than ever, citizen networks have banded together in the name of common causes, and the harms of society are called out in minutes. Therefore, one would be equally hard-pressed to deny that the emergence of digital writing has led to a more equitable and accountable society.

The Truth? You Can’t Handle The Truth!

I hope it is clear that digital writing is neither an irredeemable plague on society nor a panacea for all of its ills. In fact, it resembles the internet as a whole in that way. In the words of Nicholas Carr, “Enthusiasts, with good reason, praise the torrent of new content that the technology uncorks, seeing it as signaling a ‘democratization’ of culture. Skeptics, with equally good reason, condemn the crassness of the content, viewing it as signaling a ‘dumbing down’ of culture. One side’s abundant Eden is the other’s vast wasteland” (Carr, 2010, pg 2).

In the face of such a wide debate, it is easy to get lost in the rhetoric of the cultural battleground. It is all too common to be a blind proponent of one side or the other, because your ideology or morals demand it, because everyone else is doing it, or because it’s harder to think critically than it is to accept conventional viewpoints as Gospel. To do so, however, is to ignore reality. To do so mitigates the real benefits and dramatic drawbacks that define the impact of digital writing. To do so is to be yet another thinkpiece about Millennials: one-sided and largely irrelevant.

Works Cited

Berg, Steven L. “The Pedagogy of Trolls.” Hybrid Pedagogy (2015).

Carr, Nicholas. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. WW Norton & Company. (2011).

Monreal, Tim. “Beyond Surface-Level Digital Pedagogy.” Hybrid Pedagogy (2016).

Morris, Sean Michael. “Creative Beasts with Crayons.” Hybrid Pedagogy (2016).

Morris, Sean Michael. “Digital Writing Uprising: Third-Order Thinking in the Digital Humanities.” Hybrid Pedagogy (2012).

Rorabaugh, Pete. “Organic Writing and Digital Media: Seeds and Organs.” Hybrid Pedagogy (2012).

Stein, Joel. “Tyranny of the Mob.” Time 188.8 (2016): 27-32.

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2017 Class Blog Projects

It’s time for the new class of Writing in and for Digital Environments  to unveil their blog projects for the term!

Students, please a leave a comment on this post that includes your URL as well as a short description of what we can expect from your project.

Thank you!
~Prof. Kersh

Posted in 2017 | 19 Comments

A Blast From the Past

Everyone’s childhood wasn’t complete without Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, or Disney Channel. I remember that every day after school I would come home and turn on Spongebob, after my mom made me do my homework of course. Even today, as college students we enjoy watching cartoons from our childhood. Why? Because we still love them, they bring back memories and a good chuckle here and there. Even after class some days I’ll throw on an episode of Cat Dog or The Fairly Odd Parents. This is exactly what I want to center my blog on, cartoons that everyone is familiar with from our childhood. There are so many old shows that go right over our heads that we don’t always think about, but when we remember them we go, “oh yeah, I loved that show!”

Each blog would be about a different cartoon that most kids watched while growing up, analyzing characters and going into depth about the show and whatever episode it is that I watched. Looking through other blogs and websites, I really enjoy the layout of Cartoon Network, having a fair amount of descriptions but also numerous photos, because it’s about cartoons. There are also videos that are useful and everyone wants to see. I think this will be a good idea because a lot of people forget about the cartoons that they watched while growing up, and reading this will hopefully remind them how good the cartoons were and how fortunate we were to have such good shows.


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Blog idea

I am going to create a blog that will provide students the best study spots on campus. Last year, I found myself doing most of my homework at the library. I enjoyed the library because that was where my friends did their homework and I always got my work done there too. But there were days where I was just bored of doing my work at the library and I wanted to find another good spot to do work.

Since the new school year has already begun, you probably already have your study spots where you get your work done. Some students prefer an area where its quiet and where theyre not easily distracted by noise. While other students prefer an area where theyre able to talk to one another and arent distracted by the noise around them. I enjoy a little bit of both. Some days I like to be able to be in an area thats quiet and concentrate on my work. Other days, I like doing homework where I can talk to my friends.

I want to create a blog where I can showcase our campus while providing useful study areas for students. I have never done this before but Im sure it wont be hard at all. I got this idea from an online blog called CengageBrainiac where they offer college students tips on how to study and tackle problems that come their way. This could even be useful for freshman who are new to the school and are looking for places to do their homework. I will include areas like the study rooms, empty classrooms, science buildings, and even local restaurants. I will also include area where students can do their work outside for people who love the outdoors. And finally, I will create a community where readers can engage and give their feedback.

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