Make Some Noise: Voicing Our Written Words

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Writers should talk more. We write to make ourselves heard. We use writing to tell a story, contribute to conversations, add our voices to a chorus, raise the alarm against injustice, call for help. Readers, then, look for a strong voice from authors or get emotional over a text that speaks to them. In each of these cases, text evokes a sound. Indeed, the very word audience originates from the Latin word meaning “to hear”, same as audio. Writing allows us, in a fashion, to hear words and language. As we read, we recreate what the words might sound like, rather than exactly how they sounded to the writer. Reading transforms print into sound, even if it’s all internal.

This is a call for authors to make more noise with their writing. I mean that literally: Use vocal sounds to convey words, not just text. Let readers become listeners. Tell your story to their ears—spoken word demands a synchrony of attention that written words cannot duplicate. When confronted with written text, we can skip, skim, scan, and speed-read. With audible speech, we can skip to a different spot in a recording, but we lose all the content we skipped; there’s no way to get an overview of spoken text. While at first this may seem a limitation, I believe the opposite: Spoken text offers an opportunity for a richer involvement with the text than the printed word can. Jonathan Sircy will discuss this idea in the context of teachers reviewing student papers in an upcoming article on Hybrid Pedagogy. In it, he will explain how listening to student work creates a more genuine appreciation of student texts.

Writing teachers, especially those in K-12 schools, often work to help their students develop a voice in their writing. (I would argue that academic writing is often specifically intended to eliminate that voice, but that’s an issue for another time.) Writers who express their voice use words distinctly and purposefully, crafting a unique style recognizable as their own. But why do we limit ourselves like this? Our perception of writing should expand to include the spoken, not just the written, word. We deserve to hear one another’s meaning.

The sound of language helps readers. I’ve been an avid fan of audiobooks for decades; my blind grandfather got me hooked on them, often bragging that he could read a book while doing the dishes while those who used their eyes to read couldn’t pull off the same trick. Audiobooks take the written word back to the oral tradition of storytelling, allowing the narrator to infuse the text with expressiveness and emotion that, for all the wonder of written language, is nonetheless challenging to capture in print. Think how much texture and richness are added to poetry when it’s read aloud. The sound of words endows language with beauty and meaning. Those of us who read books with our ears hold a dual-layer appreciation for the text, and it baffles me when people claim—as I often hear—that listening to an audiobook isn’t “real” reading. Listening to text is more real than reading it.

I’m also a huge fan of podcasts, listening to them in my car any time I don’t have an audiobook queued up. Unlike traditional radio programs, which require an audience to listen at the same time as the program is broadcast, podcasts allow the audience to listen to a program on their own schedule, with a caveat: The program still takes the same amount of time to listen to regardless of when it is played back. Timing is integral to audio programs; good programs captivate audiences with well-timed narrative and keep listeners involved in the audible world they present.

Speaking of timing, silence is underrated. When we tell stories to our friends, we pause at certain points and rush at others, to help deliver the story the way we intend. Audible storytellers need to keep in mind that their audiences might need a moment for something to sink in. Silence is also a foreign concept for people who work in text. While paragraph breaks or visual dividers do a little to affect the speed at which readers experience writing, there is no way with the written word to force readers to stop and ponder an idea. Audio, though, needs to account for necessary time to think. Audio storytellers need to embrace silence on occasion so that listeners can digest.

Audible texts create an intimacy that doesn’t exist in print. This document is a call for more of that intimacy. The spoken word works because the speaker makes vibrations in the air, which then tickle follicles of hair in the listener’s ear. Even if that sound is recorded by microphone, translated to 1s and 0s, saved as an audio file, transmitted over the internet, and played back through a set of headphones, whoever first spoke the words in that recording ultimately affected the listener in a physical way: Spoken words move people. As Anne Fernald put it in an episode of Radiolab, “sound is…touch at a distance.” I challenge you to do more to touch your audience more intentionally. Let’s get intimate with our words.

Take out your microphones, raise your voice, and make some noise.


[Photo, “Abstracted”, by Fio licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.]

Painting with Light Weekend Challenge

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This weekend, we’re leaving words behind. In what will be our most hybrid digital writing challenge yet, we will be painting with light and posting our successes, flubs, and creative failures on Twitter. The goal here is to get outside our comfort zones as people who are accustomed to creating, producing, and writing on computers, tablets, phones. This challenge asks us to stand up, take a place in the world (at night, or in a dark room), and make art using light.

You can create dynamic pictures, drawings, ecstatic images, and more. Anything that takes advantage of technology to make the world around you — and the very air itself — into a digital canvas.

For information on painting with light, check out this video. And this one. And this one.

And if you’re painting with the camera on your phone, check out Lightbomber or LongExpo, or search your local app store for more options.

Plan to post your first attempts Friday night, your second attempts Saturday night, and your very best-in-show before the end of the weekend on Sunday. As always, be sure to use the #digiwrimo hashtag.

This weekend, we’re leaving words behind. Unless, that is, you can paint them with light.


[Photo, “Here’s the message, do you care about the medium?“, by Kevin Dooley licensed under CC BY 2.0.]

DIY Zines: Not Too Trivial

Tiffany Kraft teaches English Composition and Literature at Clark College. Her research interests include 19th-century British Literature, creative writing, Rhetoric and Composition practice and pedagogy, and adjunct advocacy. “I teach in a way that leads to an awareness and appreciation of the craft of writing.” You can find more at tiffanykraft.me.

2512983749_ee38b41e0d_zDIY Zines: Not Too Trivial

by Tiffany Kraft

In The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), Wilde subverts social, intellectual, and sexual paradigms to expose the ethos and materialism of the age. In title and intention, my zine takes its cue from Wilde’s playbook, and attempts something similar, though on a smaller scale that is fit for the digital maker (author, editor, self-publisher, and promoter) of the 21st Century. In the Preface, I come out in character:

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Digital Writing Prompt: Listening with New Eyes

15672488976_318098c854_zThis week, we’re going to pull back the curtain a bit and twist around our methods. We’ve been working on projects in different media, with those media in mind. What can happen when we look at those projects with the wrong medium?

At some point this week, take a few minutes to examine your work with a tool you’ve not been using much. Look at what you’re doing from the vantage point of a different medium. See what you find/create by changing your perspective.

  1. Choose a different medium. For instance, if you’ve been working with text, pick audio or video.
  2. Look differently at what you’re doing. If you’re usually using audio or video, consider looking at the things you’ve written as a product, rather than just as supporting material. If you’re usually using text, consider vocalizing or recording your process, or consider adding images or sounds to your creative process.
  3. Document the difference. Record something about the change of perspective. What do you see that wasn’t there before?
  4. Share what you saw. Publish the off-the-norm text, audio, or video, and tweet a link to it with the #digiwrimo hashtag.
  5. Watch what others create, and comment on the perspective, the work, and/or the discoveries.

[Photo, “safety“, by Fio licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.]

Digital Writing, Paywalls, and Worth

Lee Skallerup Bessette is an English Instructor at Morehead State University in Kentucky and writes regularly at Inside Higher Ed‘s College Ready Writing.

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Digital Writing, Paywalls, and Worth

by Lee Bessette

I’m tired. Scratch that: I’m exhausted. I’ve been writing for my life, like my life depended on it, like somehow if I could find the right words, my life would finally be what I wanted it to be. Words, the public kind, done in all sorts of digital medium, were my lifeline, my lifeblood. I wrote once on Twitter that “You can write yourself into existence. The person you are and the person you aspire to be.” But what happens when you stop?

It’s strange for me to be invited this year to contribute to Digital Writing Month; my digital writing, compared to previous years, feels like it has slowed down. I write “feels like” consciously, because if I were to actually look back at my writing from the past year, it would probably match, if not exceed, last year, but with one significant difference:

Much of it is behind paywalls.

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The #prompt Prompt

Day 241 - Into the sunset

Over the last few years, DigiWriMo has thrown lots of crazy digital writing prompts at the web, like this one or this one or this one. We’ve co-authored a novel in a day, a multimedia novel in two days, and we even unleashed a few hundred zombies. Sometimes the rules of a prompt have been followed. And sometimes breaking the rules became the most imaginative and the most delightful response to the prompt.

Now, it’s your turn to wreak your own brand of havoc upon the Web.

The Challenge:

  1. Compose a prompt, your own digital challenge that you’ll set loose.
  2. Your prompt can be any length. You can write a blog post that sets the stage. Or you can craft a prompt that fits into a single meticulously-composed tweet.
  3. Consider making your prompt multimedia — a picture, a sound file, a video, a computer game. The more compelling the prompt, the more likely you are to lure unsuspecting participants and the better their results will be.
  4. Whatever its shape, wherever it lives, make your prompt beautiful. Assignments/activities/prompts have their own artistry.
  5. Don’t get too caught up in predetermining outcomes. Sometimes the best result is something you couldn’t have anticipated.
  6. Keep the instructions as simple as possible. Inspire, incite, encourage, and maybe even constrain (which can encourage improvisation). But don’t overwhelm or too narrowly control.

Once you’ve written, composed, drawn, filmed, or recorded your prompt, send it out into the world. Share it on Twitter with the hashtags #digiwrimo #prompt. Post it to the Digital Writing Month Facebook page. Link to it in the comments below. Send it to your friends and family by e-mail. However you can best drum up some excitement about it. Don’t be afraid to wave your digital arms around a bit. Sometimes people skip readily onto a playground, and sometimes you have to do some jumping up and down to get them there. And if and when folks start to do your prompt, show off the results by retweeting, linking, sharing, liking, favoriting, +1ing, etc.

And, now, the most important part: Rise to the challenge of someone else’s prompt. Check Facebook (posts to the page are on the bottom left), search #digiwrimo #prompt on Twitter, look in the comments below. Skip merrily onto the playground someone else has built.

Lastly, share this post and the prompts you find especially imaginative to get more folks involved. While this is officially our weekend challenge, we encourage you to repeat this activity throughout the rest of the month.

[Photo, “Into the Sunset“, by Brian J. Matis licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.]

When We Are Writers

Tiny mouseThere’s a thing I want to say. I heard it coming up when I was sitting in Starbucks yesterday. Watching the sun and the people in the sun and thinking this was as good a place as any for a writer and a teacher to be composing his thoughts. And I was imagining composed thoughts — organized and clear and inspiringly meaningful. And instead I was watching a father and his young son have an argument. The four-year-old boy wanted to climb the back of the booth he was sitting on, and then he wanted to lay down on the seat. And the father wanted him to stop. Whichever he chose, just stop and be motionless. The only solution for the father was for his son to sit still, to sit down in the chair and behave as — well, as he himself was. In all his age and sediment. The argument grew to a boil, with the son never quite getting the sitting in the seat right and the father getting more upset each time. Finally at one point he reached over to grab his son’s knee, force him upright, and threatened to take away his cookie. Which he did. Which he did because the boy didn’t obey. The boy couldn’t find it in his small legs and busy hands to sit still. And away went the cookie. And on came the tears.

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Digital Writing Prompt: Transcending Media

Typewriter keysWhen we tell stories to one another in a physical, non-digital space, we do so across multiple media. We use visual hand gestures to emphasize key points of a verbal narrative. The words we choose matter of course, and we sometimes create illustrations to help. (Many of us resort/default to drawing pictures when giving directions.) Emotional stories might lead us to break into song, or funny stories are resolved with the music of the audience’s laughter. We often transcend media in non-digital spaces, yet we rarely think about it.

Not so with digital writing. When authors sit down to create a blog post, they usually stick with the written word; photos provide occasional support when needed. When video of speakers is dramatically close-cropped, that person’s hand gestures may be lost. And how easily can audio be added to a good photograph? Flickr and many other photo-sharing services provide no means of attaching a song to an image; creating an audio track for a slideshow can be tedious.

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Digital Writing Month Launch Party!

And away we go!

Welcome to the Digital Writing Month Launch Party! From 12:01 to 1:00 AM UTC, we’re gonna spend some time getting to know one another and getting ready for this 30-day challenge… all while mucking about in the digital.

If you haven’t already, open a new window or tab and start following #digiwrimo on Twitter. That’s your go-to spot for conversation, information, and collaboration.

This year’s DigiWriMo has redefined what “writing” is by opening up digital projects to the visual and audio. And so during this one hour romp, we’ll be tromping around in three different media: text, image/video, and sound… not necessarily in that order. Below, you’ll find three micro-projects that will help us get to know who you are, where you are, and what your plan is for Digital Writing Month. Feel free to do these during the first hour of the event, or whenever you happen upon this post and want to get started. Continue reading

Your Voice in Mine

Anna Smith is an educational researcher and teacher educator blogging about composition in the digital age, contexts for learning, theories of development, and global youth. In this piece, she ponders the way that audience and author get blended in digital writing, and wishes DigiWriMo a fond farewell.

Your Voice in Mine

by Anna Smith

How can I hear my own voice unless it bounces off of yours?

I have had that single line in my mind for years. It isn’t particularly poetic, and I don’t completely agree with what it implies, but I’ve tried relentlessly to write the poem I hear inside it. It has something to do with the way the masses in NYC weave, avoid, embrace. I wrote another line once trying to get near it:

As a child I would drag my fingers through water or hold my arm out car windows to feel this–this particle rumba, this caressing, this giving and taking of space.

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Dance : Work : Learn : Teach : Write

Robin Wharton is an editor for and contributor to Hybrid Pedagogy. As well since 2005, she has been a collaborator on the <emma> project. Her interests include medieval and early modern law and literature, critical legal studies, and the Digital Humanities. In this piece, Robin reflects on her experience as a dancer, and how our creativity can be one of our most reliable and powerful collaborators.

Dance : Work : Learn : Teach : Write

by Robin Wharton

Prelude

In a former life I was a dancer. A former life, or a previous era: BGS (Before Grad School). This is how I used to think of the countless hours I spent studying ballet in New York and Seattle, and performing with a university-affiliated company as an undergraduate in New Orleans. My dream life ached with what I misinterpreted as nostalgia for that lost age, grief over my dead self. Then, after a long hiatus, during which I got married, started a family, and completed a dissertation, among other things, I started taking dance classes again. And I realized what I thought had died had not even—not really—been dormant. Continue reading

When Writing Digitally, Nobody Knows You’re a Duck

Chris Friend is a Trustees Doctoral Fellow at the University of Central Florida. As part of the Texts and Technology program, his dissertation will focus on how composition courses are adapted for online study. In this piece, Chris invites us to consider online personae — those we construct, and those we read.

When Writing Digitally, Nobody Knows You’re a Duck

by Chris Friend

As the Internet’s popularity and population exploded, issues of personal identity/ies gained traction in the minds of scholars and analysts. With the computer screen and virtual environment as a mediator, users can portray themselves however they wish. For people with social or physical disabilities, this masquerade allows an extra degree of equality. When real-time communication uses text instead of visual signals, physical differences become invisible (Stone/Turkle). The disconnect between the identity of the avatar/screenname and the identity of the user lead to Peter Steiner’s oft-repeated adage: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Anyone online can pretend to be anyone (or anything) else. Continue reading

Creative Beasts with Crayons

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 of spontaneity, rambunctiousness, the aloof horror of invention, 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. Continue reading

A Public Literary Twitter Role-Play

Petra Dierkes-Thrun’s research and teaching interests include the European and transatlantic fin de siècle and modernism (including literature, the visual arts, opera, dance, and film); feminist and queer theory; LGBTQ literary and cultural studies; and literary theory. Her book, Salome’s Modernity: Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetics of Transgression, was published by The University of Michigan Press in Spring 2011. Petra recently used Twitter for a role play exercise in her class on Oscar Wilde. In this piece, posted first on her own site, she discusses the effect of that exercise, and its relationship to authorship and digital writing.

A Public Literary Twitter Role-Play: Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray

By Petra Dierkes-Thrun

On Friday, October 26, 2012, my Stanford class tried out a new and slightly crazy idea: a one-day public literary Twitter role-play, impersonating characters from The Picture of Dorian Gray.  The idea had come to me spontaneously one morning as I was musing about what new kind of close reading activity I could develop for my “Oscar Wilde and the French Decadents” seminar at Stanford: “The Picture of Dorian Gray is such a canonical text, we should get the public involved … It should be a creative and fun group activity, combining individual analysis with readerly and writerly collaboration … Could we do this on social media?  What if we brought The Picture of Dorian Gray in dialogue with Huysmans’ A rebours and Rachilde’s Monsieur Vénus (two other French novels we had been reading, which importantly influenced Wilde’s novel)?  We could have them talk back to Dorian … ‘A Day of Reckoning for Dorian Gray’! I should write this up as a Twitter role-play exercise.” Continue reading

#NoWDigi: Found Storify/Twitter Poem

The Internet is teeming with digital words just ripe for repurposing. In this exercise, participants created a veritable pumpkin patch of words and phrases to be used in a found Storify/Twitter poem. Here’s how:

  1. Beginning at the top of the list of the list below, they responded to as many of the prompts below as they could, posting each response to Twitter as individual tweets, using #NoWDigi.
  2. They had only 10 minutes to tweet as many responses to the prompts! It didn’t matter how crazy or unusual the response might be.
  3. Once that 10 minutes was over, participants had 20 minutes to collect the #NoWDigi tweets on Storify, and arrange them into a poem.
  4. When the 20 minutes was up, they posted a link to the Storify poems on Twitter.
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#NoWDigi: Short Story Relay

When working with digital writing, collaboration can be both synchronous and sequential. During this activity, you’ll be co-writing parts of a short story with the group at your assigned table (if you are online, choose any table, introduce yourself to the group, and keep up), and collaborating with the larger group to complete several short stories at once.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Each table will begin their short story within the appropriate Google Doc (Table 1 using the Table #1 Doc, Table 2 the Table #2 Doc, etc.);
  2. All in the group will collaborate for 10 minutes — no more, no less — to write the opening paragraph of the short story;
  3. At the end of that 10 minutes, the group will “pass” their document to the next table (e.g., Table 1 passes their #1 Doc to Table 2, Table 2 passes their #2 Doc to Table 3, etc.);
  4. For 10 minutes, the group collaborates on the short story passed to them, writing as much as they are able in the allotted time before “passing” the story to the next table.
  5. This process continues in rounds of 10 minutes until the documents return to their original owners, who then must write the conclusion.
  6. As with all things digital, the rules are emergent. Writers may alter the way the game is played where appropriate.

All “passing” is virtual, and will be facilitated by links embedded in each document. Communication and collaboration, however, are very real, and will need to be negotiated within each group, whether on-ground or hybrid.

When the stories are finished, there will be time for each group to revise, if they wish, before the works are published.

To find your table’s Google Doc, click here.

Table 1; Table 2; Table 3; Table 4; Table 5; Table 6

On Brevity

We’re pleased to present a guest post by Jay Ponteri, Director of the Undergraduate Creative Writing Program at Marylhurst University. Jay’s post offers an example of the way that digital writing borrows from many sources. It serves as an excellent example of, and conversation about, authorship. It’s also super cool.

On Brevity

by Jay Ponteri

It requires you to look at it very closely, to engage it in an intimate way. It does not overwhelm you, it cannot swallow you up.

Your mind can encompass a short piece in a way it cannot grasp a novella or a novel. Like a hand closing over a stone with the word sadness painted on it.

Napoleon was a short man.

Make endless meaning using fewer words. Continue reading

The Specter of the Author

Sean Michael Morris is Managing Editor of Hybrid Pedagogy. In this piece, Sean offers a eulogy for the author, and inspects what happens when we enact digital writing.

The Specter of the Author

by Sean Michael Morris

“I find nothing so singular to life as that everything appears to lose its substance the instant one actually grapples with it.”
–Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables

The author is dead. She is become as a specter. Faceless, genderless, subject not now only to scrutiny within her own text but to exorcism from it. That text never again will be her own, but a relic of her fondest desire, her wish toward something that mattered, something that made her matter. Yet, she becomes no more than a wisp behind the words, a half-embarrassed face in the mirror, bodiless, wordless.

Photo by joctaviothomas

Authors drain all their lives into their words. They die into them sometimes, and then resurrect themselves within the fashion of letters, phrases, and sentences that describe what they know, what they’ve seen, how their bodies have felt, what their ears have heard, and also what they cannot know but pine to know. Anyone who has committed to paper the story that woke him at night understands the plight of author, desperate for vivid, livid language to deposit that dream, that narrative, that true true story into the mind and heart of a reader. Anyone who has stared unblinkingly at the deep, dark line of the cursor for minutes and hours, deliberating and waiting on the next word — which. will. be. the. right. one — would happily share a beer, a shoulder, a cry with any other author. For the writing process, in the end, is always the same. Write what you know, and hope your readers will know what you’ve written. Continue reading

Blogging Is A Choral Act

Bonnie Stewart writes memoir, academic papers, and social commentary non-fiction. She speaks about blogging, social media, digital identity, branding, 21st century education, grief, motherhood. And also, jellybeans. In this touching post, she relates how digital writing allows us to give voice to ourselves and to others, in sometimes unique and unexpected ways.

Blogging Is A Choral Act

by Bonnie Stewart

Photo by Benjamin A. Smith

I was going to start by saying that digital writing was, for me, a Pandora’s Box.

But that would not be fair, or true. The jar Pandora opened held the evils of the world; her act unleashed them into the commons forever.

My story is not such a cautionary tale.

Like Pandora, I learned that what is opened to the world cannot be closed again.

But unlike Pandora, I am not sorry.

***

When I left the hospital for the first time after nearly three weeks of bedrest, it was raining. I’d been airlifted in during winter’s last April gasp, but in my hermetic isolation, the ground had transformed into a carpet of green. I was Rip Van Winkle, out of sync with time. Continue reading

Plant a Tree, Start a Forest

Lee Skallerup Bessette writes the very popular College Ready Writing blog at Inside Higher Ed. As well, she is a member of the editorial collective at University of Venus. In this inspiring post, Lee encourages us to consider the nearly ecological nature of our digital writing, how it spreads and grows and populates the Internet almost of its own accord. It’s a lovely piece, and we’re glad to share it.

Plant a Tree, Start a Forest

by Lee Skallerup Bessette

Photo by Aaron Escobar

I’m absolutely horrible at telling stories.

This might seem like a strange admission from someone who reads and writes about (among other things) stories, as well as having a pretty high profile blog that melds the professional with the personal. But if you were to ask anyone who knows me in real life, they will all have at least one unfortunate experience with me trying to tell a story and doing it badly. When I speak a story, it grows and grows, twisting and turning, full of tangles like an out-of-control vine; my stories are less unified, linear narratives, more a long series digressions, asides, and tangents. The vine will overrun whatever space is left for it; my words overrun the silences and spaces with their unruly form.
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