Digital Writing NU S15

Write like you mean it.

From cave paintings to wiki-poetry: Where are we now?

This week, we are thinking about where writing is headed. We are talking about the digital age, and what that means for writing. What that means for us. Think about the first time you read a story. Most likely, it was from a book. The old-fashioned, paper kind. But today’s children are often reading from iPad, Kindle or Nook screens. What will future bedtime stories look like?
The digital age has changed how we read, and it’s changing how we write, as well. In class, we read some examples of digital poetry, hypertext, intertext, kinetic poetry and animation poetry. These are just a few of the ways writers are playing with the challenges and luxuries of the Internet to create new things.

Read: This piece on digital storytelling

If you’re interested in great writing and want to read one piece that’s well-crafted (guaranteed!) every day, subscribe to Read This Thing, which will make sure you get one piece of something worth reading in your inbox, every day.

Think: Where does your writing fit in, on the spectrum of the way we read and write today? If we think of a line between cave paintings and today, is your blog closer to the way digital poets are using language, or the way Gutenberg used it?

Write: A blog post of your choosing that integrates at least one image, at least two links and at least one multimedia of your choice, be that a video clip, a graph, chart or animation. Show you know how to use these things. Very shortly, all communication may depend on it.


The end is near: final project syllabus

This is your chance to shine, folks. Think about what we discussed regarding scandals last week, and the importance we’ve placed on social media and your online presence, throughout the semester. This is your chance to showcase what you’ve learned and what you already know about how to live online, as a writer. You have been building an online persona all semester through your blogs, and now I want you to prove you know your stuff (which you do). Take this chance to defend your reputation or demonstrate that you know how to do so. Build a framework. Show you’ve got what it takes to hold your ground, in the Wild West we call the Internet.

Final Project: Myself, Online

Due: In class April 29

Format: Hard copy, 1.5 spacing, Times New Roman (or similar), 12 pt. font, 1-inch margins





Number of pages

Length: As needed; minimum 1,000 words (points will be deducted for shorter papers).

Point value: 100 points

Description (from syllabus)

In this digital age, writers are often their own products or “brands” as much as their work speaks for itself. The days of the elusive magazine editor or cabin-dwelling recluse writer are behind us, and writers must be accountable not only for their work, but their lives and what their persona does to complement or compete with their work. For this project, you will think about the impact your “online life” has on your (real or fictional) life as a digital writer, and what a “digital scandal” would do to that image

You will have two options:

  1. You may curate a page of your class web page to introduce yourself as a writer, using your aggregated social media presences to introduce your persona, as a writer, a student and a citizen of the world. You must explain in a paper to be handed in how these feeds work together to create your “brand,” and it should be immediately apparent what that brand is.
  2. You may respond, on a separate section of your class blog and in a paper to be handed in, to a (PG-13 rated) scandal that has threatened your image as a writer. Research how other digital writers have dealt with (or failed to deal with) digital PR threats and formulate your own targeted, immediately apparent response to your own threat. Points will be given for creativity and efficacy of your campaign, as well as demonstrated understanding of the importance of maintaining and protecting an online image.

You will hand in a paper describing what you have done online. This will be considered your “thesis” for this project, and will carry significant weight for your grade. Make sure you provide a link to the page you created.

  • 25 points: Clarity and efficacy of message. Since this is a writing course and we have spent a lot of time discussing how to clearly get your point across, whichever option you choose must be clear and readable not only for the instructor, but anyone who may find your message. Image control is a very public thing, and you must demonstrate that you can convince me, as well as the (largely hypothetical) public that your reputation remains intact. Points will be given for how much thought you have put into constructing and/or protecting your online persona, as well as how well you can describe it. Tell me what your message or “mantra” is and why you chose it, using the methods we learned in class.
  • 25 points: Spelling, grammar and syntax. Your message is only as effective as its conveyance, so the way you write it is important. Pay attention to your “voice,” as well. In both options, it is important that you “sound like you,” so make sure you are writing like yourself, even when writing about yourself. Points will be given for proper sentence structure, spelling and clarity, as well as the efficacy of your
  • 50 points: Demonstrated awareness of the way social media works, both as a tool to convey and destroy an online persona. Describe why you use it the way you do (for option 1) as well as demonstrate that usage on your page. For option 2, give a clear, step-by-step description of why and how social media is going to work and against you in your hypothetical scandal and reaction plan, as well as what you are going to do, using what platforms. This should be written out as a plan of attack, including any press releases you may send out, the message you plan to construct and why it will work, what social media channels you plan to use and how often, the timeline for your response and the hypothetical reach you intend to get. You may also (and this is an opportunity for extra credit) compare yourself to a celebrity or online figure who has had a similar “scandal” or media crisis and discuss how you would handle your situation better, or if they did well, why you chose to model your own strategy after theirs.

Late papers will not be accepted. Extra credit may be given for exceptional work, so this is your chance to boost your grade if you’re nervous about that. Sloppy work will be penalized and outstanding effort will be recognized and rewarded accordingly.

Read: For some inspiration this week, read about how one start-up, Buffer, responded to a social media crisis.

What do our online interactions say about us?

Let’s talk about creator’s remorse. Most of us have probably had buyer’s remorse: When we purchase something that doesn’t turn out to be quite as awesome as we expected. It’s no fun to be stuck with a product that reminds you of poor decision-making, doesn’t it? Well, it’s even worse to have hit “publish” or “post” on something that didn’t read quite as you had hoped.

We’re all familiar with that feeling. A picture that shows you in an unflattering light, a social media comment that didn’t come off quite as you intended, maybe a blog post that didn’t read as well in the cold light of Internet day as you thought it would. The bigger your audience, the higher the stakes. So how do we deal with it?

This week, let’s look at some creators who have regretted their posts and the fallout from those circumstances.

First, Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone published “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA” on Nov. 19, 2014. The online story ultimately attracted more than 2.7 million views, more than any other feature not about a celebrity that the magazine had ever published. That story ultimately proved false. Read the entire report here, if you’re interested.

An excerpt from the in-depth report about how that story unraveled reads:

Rolling Stone’s repudiation of the main narrative in “A Rape on Campus” is a story of journalistic failure that was avoidable. The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking. The magazine set aside or rationalized as unnecessary essential practices of reporting that, if pursued, would likely have led the magazine’s editors to reconsider publishing Jackie’s narrative so prominently, if at all. The published story glossed over the gaps in the magazine’s reporting by using pseudonyms and by failing to state where important information had come from.

Rolling Stone’s failure to properly check its facts has caused shock waves to reverberate not only through that media conglomerate, but the college it painted in such a negative light. This week, the magazine announced it would not be punishing the reporters and editors involved.

Read: Should there have been firings at Rolling Stone following the UVA scandal?

Think: What should be the consequences for “creator’s remorse?”

Then there’s the case of Justine Sacco, whose “just kidding, I’m white” tweet blew up the Internet and her life.

Read: The New York Times’ account of the tweet read ’round the world. This article describes not only what happened, but what it means for us, as a society both on and offline.

The article reads, in part: Her tormentors were instantly congratulated as they took Sacco down, bit by bit, and so they continued to do so. 

Think: How would you respond to a situation like Sacco’s? How about Lindsey Stone? Alicia Ann Lynch?

This week, think about how you would react if you suddenly found yourself on the wrong end of a Sacco situation, and how to repair your life after that happens.

Media mindfulness and you

This week, we’re talking about writing and mindfulness. It’s important to realize that none of us write in a vacuum, no matter what content we create. Bloggers, journalists, authors – we all have to be aware of what surrounds our content and what that means for us. The media world is changing, and fast. If you want to enter it, you must know where you’re coming from, the system you’re a part of, and how to enter the system, period.

Read: The state of a liberal arts education and what that means for the workforce (ie. YOU!)

In order to exercise mindful creation, we must first exercise mindful consumption.

Think: Where do I get my content and what do I prefer to read? How do my content aggregation systems affect my creation?

Three types of systems:

– Direct engagement

– Search engine referrals

– Social media or “luck”

Think: What is my niche? How do I want readers to find my content?

Once you’ve figured out how your content aggregation affects your creation, you must also understand where your content “lives.” Who are your neighbors?

– Know what drives your creation

– Don’t be afraid to step out your front door

– Understand the market you’re entering (This is probably the hardest part)

– Know what you don’t know

– Consider the distance between where you are and where you want to be

Read: The media world is changing. Read how your social media presence is affecting that.

Write: This week, your blog entry should mention or introduce one of the “players” in your market. If you’re blogging about sports, talk about another sports blogger or site you read. If you’re writing a lifestyle blog, find and discuss another lifestyle blogger. You’ve got to know the field to play the game, so continue to demonstrate you understand where you fall.

What we talk about when we talk about writing

This week, we’re talking about writing. We’ve been talking about how to format it, how to integrate images and video into it, how to disseminate it, how to use it in different ways. This week, let’s think about writing itself.

Think: How do you use writing in your daily life? How do you want to use it in your career?

Read: Susan Sontag on Reading and Writing

Listen: Writers on Writing, the radio show.

Read: This excellent list of writing tips

What does your particular writing do? Read over some of your blog entries and think about the actual words you’re reading, how they’re put together, how your voice sounds. Read some of them out loud. Try some of the writing tips out on your next blog entry. See what that does to your writing. See what paying attention to the writing itself does to your blog.

Write: A writing-conscious blog entry. Your entry can be about writing, if you like, or you can follow the themes you’ve been writing about, in a conscious way. After this week, your voice should be apparent, as should your focus, your intent and your mantra. After this week, if you aren’t already, your entries should start putting what we’ve learned all together in a deliberate, apparent way.

Social media: Conscious usage and self-examination

What did you learn about engagement during this week’s group project? Put it to work on your blog, this week.

Think: How are you using your social media? After examining them in-depth together, hopefully you came to some insights about how different social media are different, similar, focused or could stand to be more so. Do you know of any celebrity, sports figure, artist, or friend who uses any one of them (or all of them) particularly well?

Write: This week, I’d like you to use your blog post to focus on one social media usage and how it works well or exemplifies one usage of the platform. Those of you with focused blogs, find a celebrity, other writer, or someone whose online presence mirrors your own, and blog about how well he or she uses social media. Those of you with personal blogs, you have a choice: write about your own use of social media and how it’s focused or needs improvement, or find someone whose social media philosophy you admire and post about him or her.

And for inspiration,

Read: This article about why our social media obsession is excessive and kind of pointless anyway.

Group site plan project

Hello class members! For your reference, here are your groups:

Group 1: Erica, Nicole, Allina and Audrey

Group 2: Kristin, Matthew, Tyler and Hayley

Group 3: Nathan, Gabrielle, Lucas and Maura

Group 4: Anastaisha, Catherine, Tayler and Michael

Group 5: Deanna, Alanna, Jeremy, Ellynn and Donisha

Below is the rubric for the class.

If you’d like some inspiration for this week’s blog post, here is an interesting article on design.

Read: An article on Designer Marshall McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Message,” a design theory that still affects how we make things look today.

Write: Two blog posts before you come back from break. That’s one per week, but post at will (I’m looking at you, Florida-bound people of whom I am very jealous!)

Group Site Plan

Due: In class March 25

Format: Hard copy, 1.5 spacing, 12 pt. font, 1-inch margins (for paper)

Header:                Names of group members



                               Number of pages

Length: As needed; minimum 1,500 words (for paper) Also include a site design in hard copy and a URL.

Point value: 100 points (per member)

From syllabus: Most websites are not planned and executed by one person. To learn how to work as a team to execute a well-designed, effective website, you will work with three of your classmates to create a new (or better) online presence for the business or organization of your choice. You may use on-campus organizations if you choose, or an existing business, but you must communicate with the representatives of that group to discern their goals, wants and needs for their site. Credit will be given for how well you execute those objectives, site design, writing quality and clarity of message.

Objectives: 25 points

Articulate your objectives for the site. What do you want it to accomplish? How do you want it to reach the intended audience? Objectives must be clearly listed AND demonstrated in your site plan. Make sure your intentions are clearly demonstrated and be able to back them up in your explanation paper that will accompany the design.

Site design: 25 points

You will design a website based on the design models we learned in class, and be able to both explain why you designed it the way you did and what that does for your website’s message. Be able to explain why your site looks the way it does and how you came to that decision, as a group. Talk about the color palette used, your menu/widget location, font, text size, images or multimedia and how the site design works for your chosen organization.

Writing: 25 points

Because this is a writing class, you must devise a mantra or brand message for your chosen organization or if it already has one, explain how and why it’s effective. Think about how brands are created and explain why you chose the message you did and how your site demonstrates that. Write an explanation of your business and its branding on your imaginary site, explain the product it distributes or its mission in operation and introduce your organization or business to the world. Credit will be given for clarity, persuasiveness and appropriate length.

Clarity of message: 25 points

Grammar, spelling, syntax and clarity count big for this project. In professional writing, you lose credibility for every mistake you make. If your site does not have proper grammar, spelling, syntax and word usage, your message fails. Don’t fail your client with a failure to proofread. Every spelling, grammar and syntax mistake will count against you, so proofread carefully.