What is Digital Writing?

“Academic writing, intellectual writing — this writing right here — cannot know how it will be excerpted, repurposed, discovered, reimagined, plagiarized, undone. Undone by human author or by computer. Discovered through random Google search, corrupted by code, made poetic by an accident of electronic interference.”  ~ Sean Michael Morris

The internet has changed writing. Today, there are more people writing every day — e-mails, text messages, blog posts — and more self-published authors than ever before. Written communication is popular in a way it hasn’t been in a century, and everyone’s doing it. But unlike when writing between two people was quiet and private, much of today’s writing is loud and public, connected through a web of hyperlinks to every other piece of writing out there. With the old masters like Shakespeare, Milton, Melville, Hemingway, and Shelley being translated into code and uploaded onto the web, your blog posts exist right alongside their greatest works.

Photo by WVS

So, not only are we writing a lot more, but now our writing is in communication with other writing (which is in communication with other writing, and more writing, and even more writing… from all around the world!), and what we write doesn’t just say a lot about us, it says a lot about our community, our society, our culture. Never before has writing been more influential, more dispersed, and more abundant than right now!

Digital writing can be anything. It can be a blog post, an e-mail, a text message. It can be a tweet, or a Facebook update, or a conversation on Tumblr. It can be comments on blog posts, responses to news articles, book reviews shared on GoodReads, or fan fiction. It can also look a lot more traditional: poems posted on the web, self-published novels on Amazon and iBooks, or short stories uploaded to an online ‘zine.

Hypertext allows us to link what we write to what others have written. Google Docs allow for simultaneous collaborative writing. Multi-site blogs allow many authors to work together toward a common goal. The internet allows us to communicate through our text in new ways; it frees us to join our words with others’, to innovate, and to let our words become our actions. We can live spontaneously through our words, or vicariously, or cooperatively. Our words can form communities, can take a stand, can create at the same time as we create them.

On the internet, words become actions!