Whoops, I did it again: A new conversation on “digital writing”

Manhattan skyline with the wake of a ferry in the foreground

Sunday Ferry

These conversations creep up when I least expect them. Last night, it was in a car on the way back from a bike ride down the west side of  Manhattan and back up the Jersey side of the Hudson. Included was cruising across the  George Washington Bridge and an excellent ferry ride. Then came the traffic on the way home. Talk turned to work-related stuff, and once again I found myself describing the upcoming 4TDW conference and the session I’m working on with Rick Kreinbring. (You should definitely attend!) And, once again, came the question, “Well, but, I mean…what exactly is digital writing?”

I thought my response was pretty good. I included terms like digital media and composing, but after I finished, my friend was silent for several minutes. “So, communication?” she said, tentatively. She hesitated before telling me I might have spent too much time behind a desk with my nose in books that people like her don’t care about. But it’s exactly people like her who are the parents of high school students or even the teachers of those high school students who are charged with teaching writing in these technologically complex times. What she, and they, think is exactly what I need to be thinking about.

So here I am, writing again.

Kevin Hodgson recently wrote a constructive proposal for a definition of the term, and you’ll be able to hear him talk about it in the closing keynote address of the 4TDW Conference. I, and several others, responded to his post, opening the conversation still further. All of this conversation indicates that these are new and heady times for thinking about and teaching writing.

Today I wondered how the term “digital writing” is used in academic circles. (Was my friend right?) I found lots of articles and I’m thinking about what I found. I also poked around on Academia.edu, where I found an unexpected gem: a podcast called “What Is Digital Writing?” by the Duke Thompson Writing Program . You’ll find the podcast below.

I jotted some fast notes in hope of persuading you to listen– it’s not only thought-provoking, it’s well done and a pleasure to listen to.

  • In the digital age, the work of writing is becoming less constrained by the page, increasingly multilayered, and more complex, in more diverse forms
  • More & more often, we write (work) collaboratively
  • Often compose with aid of technology
  • The difference between pen & paper & multimedia composing? Audience, audience, audience. Tailoring your composition to reach the right audience is key.
  • Mindfulness of broad “publics” was very important in the process of composing multimedia and publish on the Web, and more complicated than it was when writing for the singular audience of their professor.
  • Makers are responsible for producing responsible and quality products
  • Which medium is most appropriate?
  • Writing in “digital spaces” vs. digital writing
  • How does technology give meaning to what you want to say?
  • “Digital writing” or “multimodal composition”?
  • Using it [new media] for the sake of using it is not the point.


You’ll find more podcasts from the Thompson Writing Program here.

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