Writing to Connect: Knowing the “Other” Outside Time & Space

Maha Bali is Associate Professor of Practice, Center for Learning and Teaching, American University in Cairo. She writes at blog.mahabali.me and is one of the facilitators of edcontexts.org.

7757863298_88953dd7fb_zWriting to Connect: Knowing the “Other” Outside Time & Space

by Maha Bali

I write and blog like crazy now, and people might be surprised to know that as of November 2014, which is #digiwrimo, I will have been blogging for only 10 months. I am amazed to be asked to guest-write a post for this event, given that I did not start seeing myself as a “writer” until around July 2013 when I was nearing the submission of my PhD dissertation and gaining confidence in myself as an academic. I started writing for magazines first, then realized I sometimes wanted to write my thoughts about something that felt a.) urgent and b.) not necessarily relevant to any particular magazine’s focus. So I first started blogging for myself, blogging to think, to give myself space to think aloud without imposing on others by flooding them with emails. But then I started using my blog for MOOCs, and soon, blogging became a way to connect with others. Here are some ways I write with and for others:

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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.]

Message in a Bottle Prompt

Close up of black dogOver the next several days, much of the nation will be gripped in a polar vortex. Flights will be cancelled. Snow will pile up; bitter cold and ice storms will wreak havoc. Loved ones will be stuck inside. There’s no better time to practice sending messages — of humor, support, wisdom, frankness, or love. And there’s no better way to send those messages than through the digital tools at our fingertips.

This weekend, November 15th and 16th, your challenge is to create unique audio messages that you can or would broadcast. Use Soundcloud or another recording app. Or push even further using Highlight (for iPhone and iPad) to annotate your audio messages with text and image. Record spontaneously, script yourself, sing a song, read a favorite poem… Choose whatever sort of message you want to send, and who you’re going to send it to.

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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

What is Digital Writing? A Twitter Essay

We’ve spent the month doing big things, like this and this and this. Over 75 people wrote a 42,000+ word collaborative novel in a Google Doc. Over 150 people turned zombie on Twitter. We wrote poems. I wordled a month’s worth of e-mail (32,366 words). @Dogtrax made a webcomic series. And I cried twice (here and here). We did lots of big things this month in our quest for 50,000 words. Let’s end by doing something small. 140-characters small.

1. Write what I call a “Twitter Essay.” Here are the instructions:

What is digital writing? Answer in exactly 140 characters using #twitteressay & #digiwrimo. Play, innovate, incite. Don’t waste a character.

(By the way, the instructions above are exactly 140 characters, so this will give you a sense for how much space you have to work with.) Post your “essay” on Twitter. The only rule is that you include the hashtags “#twitteressay” and “#digiwrimo” somewhere in your Tweet. You can add additional hashtags or links, but you can only write one Tweet and it must be exactly 140 characters. Spend time carefully composing, making sure that every character of your tweet is necessary and meaningful.

2. Now, peer review. Search #digiwrimo and/or #twitteressay on Twitter to see all of the Twitter essay tweets. React. Respond. Retweet. (Peer review tweets do not have to be exactly 140 characters.)

3. Finally, tweet a link to this page so we can, as a group, gather together as many contributions as possible.

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

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: 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

#NoWDigi: Hybrid Poem

To get us started with the Night of Writing Digitally, we’ll be writing a collaborative hybrid poem inside of a Google Doc. Those of you who joined us for Digital Writing Month midnight launch will recognize this exercise. But tonight, there’s one added element: the folks on the ground at Marylhurst University! There’s no telling how being within earshot of one another will affect the collaboration.

Here are the rules:

1. We must complete this poem in 30 minutes, start to finish.
2. Each contributor must contribute one word — no more, no less.
3. Each contributor must move one word — no more, no less.
4. Each contributor may contribute or remove one punctuation mark.
5. No word may be deleted, except by its author, who may revise the word at will. Continue reading

#NoWDigi: A Virtual Dinner Party

Welcome to the Night of Writing Digitally! This unique hybrid event combines an on-ground celebration of writing with an online write-a-thon to create an experimental place for synchronous digital writing, collaboration, and general word-related fun.

If you are online, there are a lots of ways to join in the festivities. To start with, you need dinner, snacks, and a cozy spot from which to write, write, write. So, get yourself all snuggled in, and then get involved with some of the suggestions below:

  1. Report for the Twitter Roll Call! Announce yourself on Twitter using the hashtag #NoWDigi. Tell us why you’re joining the fun, or what you’re working on, or what your favorite candy is, or what celebrity you most resemble… Anything juicy will do to get the introductions started.
  2. Use #NoWDigi as your hashtag for the evening (you can also add #DigiWriMo, if you wish). Take pictures of your writing area, your dinner and dessert, your favorite books; write spontaneous haiku; make observations about your own writing and the night’s experiments… Post anything and everything on Twitter!
  3. Our first writing exercise will take place after 10:00pm ET / 7:00pm PT. Keep an eye on the DigiWriMo blog for each new challenge throughout the night. All of these activities are voluntary, but don’t let nervousness or uncertainty get in your way!

If you have any trouble or questions during the night, send a tweet to @slamteacher or @jessifer, and we’ll jump in and help!

Weekend Writing: The Night of Writing Digitally

On Saturday, November 17th from 6:00pm to Midnight (Pacific time), DigiWriMo and Marylhurst University will host the Night of Writing Digitally. This hybrid event is open to anyone with a computer, an internet connection — and plenty of chutzpah and stamina — who likes to write long into the wee hours.

If you’ve enjoyed the digital writing challenges of DigiWriMo so far (remember the novel-in-a-day? Twitter vs. Zombies? the opening night collaborative poem?), then you’re going to love what we’ve dreamed up for Saturday night!

We’re taking the notion of collaborative writing one step further: throughout the night, virtual participants will have the opportunity to interact and work with people on-ground who will also be working in groups during the event. You can join a specific group and stick with them all night long, or float between virtual tables, poking your nose in wherever you like.

As well, all writing events will be synchronous. So order up some pizza, get cozy with your laptop, warn your significant others, and buckle up for the busiest night of digital writing you’ve ever seen.

Kickoff will be at 9:00pm ET / 6:00pm PT, and we’ll start with a Twitter roll call. To participate in the night’s activities, jump in, announce yourself, and start following some new friends. You’ll want to stay attentive to the DigiWriMo web site and the #digiwrimo hashtag all evening for announcements of writing exercises, photos of the on-ground event, and invitations to contribute your own photos, videos, and more.

If you have any questions at all, feel free to reach out to @slamteacher on Twitter. We can’t wait to see you Saturday night!

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

Digital Writing Prompt: Twitter vs. Zombies!

Part flash-mob. Part Hunger-Games. Part Twitter-pocalypse. Part digital feeding frenzy. Part micro-MOOC. Part giant game of Twitter tag.

This weekend your word count goes rabid!

Band together your most trusted Twitter allies to defend against a virtual Zombie horde. Collect canned goods, store water, watch your hashtags, and sleep with one eye open. The rules will be deceptively simple; however, DigiWriters should plan to ply their creativity against those rules. We don’t want to change the game, but we want the game to be as beautiful as possible. Think of the game as a haiku: a carefully structured form, that nonetheless allows for flexibility, invention, and beauty. This is digital writing at its most suspenseful! Continue reading

On the Horrors and Pleasures of Counting Words

Jesse Stommel is Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities in the Division of Continuing Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison. In this post, he illuminates the reasoning behind word counts, and the ways in which counting words can be both useless and fruitful.

On the Horrors and Pleasures of Counting Words

by Jesse Stommel

Good writing is not reducible to numbers; the word count for the expression of an idea can’t always (or even usually) be determined in advance. Ideas fit all kinds of containers, some small, some large, some book-shaped, some made of 1s and 0s. When I aim for a specific word count (or ask students to aim for a specific word count), it’s not because I think there’s something intrinsically meaningful about lining up a certain number of words. It’s not because 500 words amassed are somehow better than 25. But knowing the size of a container can give us a sense for what and how we might fill it. 500 words looks different than 25 words, and 500 words feel different coming out of our mouths or fingers. For the same reason, it’s sometimes (but certainly not always) useful to pre-determine the genre for a piece of writing, the shape of the container, before sitting down to construct it. Continue reading

Digital Writing as Handicraft

Tanya Sasser‘s interests include social media, digital humanities, and hacking educational paradigms and systems. She is also the author of the Remixing College English blog. In this guest post, Tanya explores the ways in which digital writing can be considered a handicraft, along with the likes of woodworking, knitting, ceramics, and more.

Digital Writing as Handicraft

by Tanya Sasser

Digital writing is political. It democratizes the act of writing in the sense that it both allows open participation in the creation of cultural content and redefines public writing as work that anyone–not just professional writers or academics–can do. From blogs to mashups to Twitter, to the greatest extent ever, we have the tools and the opportunity to write our own story, rather than suffering someone else to write it for us.

Some mistakenly correlate digital environments with a virtualism (i.e., artificiality) that diminishes the real (i.e., human). Such a belief understandably engenders a nihilistic attitude towards all things digital. The mindless banality of late-20th century white collar work, such as that depicted in Dilbert and Office Space, is often seen as the outcome of an over-reliance and over-emphasis on the technological over the human. In Shop Class as Soulcraft, Matthew B. Crawford argues that one effective cure for the existential malaise of postindustrial society is the practical act of making: “The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely [as opposed to virtually] in the world through manual [as opposed to informational] competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth” (15). Instead, the craftsman finds himself subsumed by what he is trying to create: “Craftsmanship means dwelling on a task for a long time and going deeply into it, because you want to get it right” (19). Such a relationship with our material culture, Crawford points out, empowers rather than enslaves us, as it repositions us from passive, dependent consumer to spirited creator and curator. Continue reading

You, 99 Others, Digi the Duck… and Doughnuts

What do you and 99 other DigiWriters have in common? Well, other than the toils and hardships of making 50,000 new words appear out of the ether, you all have the opportunity to join Digi the Duck and the entire creative team behind DigiWriMo for a spectaculendous, marvarific, super-inspiring, all-ages live event in Portland, OR: The Night of Writing Digitally!

For one night only — November 17th from 6PM to midnight — Marylhurst University and the English and Digital Humanities degree program will host an event of delicious proportions!

 Throughout the evening, we’ll not only provide all the sustenance you could ask for — fresh, catered food, gallons of coffee and tea, a table weighed down with word-inspiring candy, and Portland’s world-famous Voodoo Doughnuts — but you’ll be treated to special writing challenges and motivational speeches. What’s more, you’ll get to meet DigiWriters of all ages and walks of life with whom you can collaborate, commiserate, and celebrate. Continue reading

A Novel in a Day?

Click here to acess the Google Doc directly if the embedded collaborative novel is not appearing below.

On November 3, 2012, the bravest digital writing experiment of all time took place: over 60 writers attempted to write a 50,000-word novel, collaboratively, in one 24-hour period. Following the tremendous, if slightly surreal success of DigiWriMo’s midnight launch collaborative poem exercise, the army of DigiWriters pushed the limits of what’s possible in communal, digital writing. Are two heads (or five hundred) better than one? How many cooks is too many cooks in the kitchen? Was the adage about monkeys and typewriters finally proven right?

Photo by Victor Nuno

 24 hours. 50,000 words. Plot, characters, setting, action.
How many words will you contribute?

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