What We Write About When We Write About Digital Writing

Collaborative writing at the small scale

Terry took the time to grab some of my questions about digital writing (see more at this post by Terry) and popped them into a collaborative Etherpad, and then joined those questions with thoughts of his own. I made my way back this weekend to continue the conversation, and Sarah joined in a bit, too. Maybe others have done so by now, as well. The topics revolved around digital writing, related to some riffing I had done off of a piece by Anna into the margins of the writing (see my original post).

Here is the Etherpad. You are invited to add to the mix, too.

Peace (in writing),

Call Me Naive: We are Part

Part of the Whole

Sometimes, I ponder the possibility that I might just be naive in my digital spaces. (Does pondering about it, negate it?)

I spend a lot of time in digital platforms like blogs, Twitter, Mastodon, etc., in the hopes of forging new collaborations; entering new networks; and finding new, and strengthening existing, connections.

I really do see the power in the possible.

Then I read the news and follow stories, and I see how dark the Internet and social platforms can become, and I think: How is THAT (doxing, attacking, etc.) happening in the same places as THIS (learning, connecting, etc.) is happening?

But it is.

I guess our choices are to either leave those places or work to make them better, or passively hope for the best. I’m naive in this, I know, but I think small actions and people connections still count and can make a difference (this is the teacher in me, for sure, with the faith of seeds planted now blooming later on), so I keep on keeping on, hoping a positive energy and a way forward, step by step, might improve the whole.

The above animated quote — taken from a post by Sheri and created with an image by Sarah — captures a lot of this line of thinking that I cling to in my naivety, that we are indeed connected to the larger possibilities of learning. But this always requires positive action on our part to improve things.

Let’s do it together.

Peace (I hope),

Making the Heart Map Digital

Sheri wrote about a Heart Compass, which made me remember Georgia Heard’s work around Heart Maps. Both had me wondering how one might move such a project of interior exploration of the heart into a digital form.

I wondered if ThingLink might work, so I gave it a try and created my own linked Heart Map. The ability to add media layers helped extend my short writing along topics of teaching, family, writing, reading and more.

Mostly, the map came out fine (I may yet add more) but I think not having the hand-drawn images of Heart Maps, as shared by Georgia Heard, and Heart Compasses, as shared by Sheri Edwards, is a loss of style, perhaps. The hand-drawn element makes those maps more … human … than mine, I think. I don’t know. Still thinking on this. Maybe this observation says something to me about the digital tools and our need to individualize our passions in this kind of personal mapping work.

Peace (in the heart),

These Words, An Inspiration

Off to the Side with Anna

Anna wrote a blog post, rewriting an introduction to a book. I used words from her post, from her remixed introduction, to spark small essays in the margins of her post. Only one essay connects back to her writing. The rest are riffs into someplace else altogether.

I’m curious what this kind of margin, off-centered writing does to the original piece.

  • Are these offshoots mere distractions, particularly given they don’t thematically connect?
  • Or are these blooms, taking root from the original, giving another context to the word choices that Anna made?
  • Is the reader in me, interpreting?
  • Or the writer in me, adding personal perspective?
  • What role does the reader bring to a text as a writer?
  • Why did I add images?
  • Do the images distract or enhance the writing?
  • What does it mean that I wrote this all in the margins of Anna’s text, and that you may never have seen it if I didn’t leave links scattered about?
  • Does that kind of marginalized writing still have meaning?
  • Is it public writing?
  • Private writing?
  • Writing?

Peace (writing it),


Remixo Reverso

flower center macro flickr photo by Rob Weiher shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

I took a video haiku by Terry — he calls ’em vaikus — and worked a little reverso magic on it for a remix.

First, his (made in Lumen5):

and then my remix:

Reverso Vaiku by Terry

I remixed Terry’s vaiku in iMovie, using filters, text and image layers, and video playback functions. I was hoping to see the poem still make sense in reverse, given its form and function as haiku, and it sort of does.

Peace (in reverse),



Words Breaking Free of Constraints

Word Poem HaikuWe were engaged in exploring the constraints on writing yesterday in the #MoDigiWri hashtag, and I wrote the above haiku (a form of poetic restraint) early in the day. I wrote the poem on Twitter and then moved it over to Pablo to make is visual and an image.

Later, I decided to see what I could do with this poem, and with the idea of words being confined, and I began to play around with a few apps. This is what I came up with:

Word Escape HybridHow I did it was I layered with the Fused App the image file with the poem (the one above) with a small animation of a word breaking out of its constraints. I made the animation in the PicsArt Animator App, and used a paper theme. This approach connects to the idea of a word being confined on the page and then breaking its way out of expectations and confinement (metaphorically).

I find Fused to be an interesting app to explore because you layer two different media and use filters to create a feel to the piece. I’ve mostly only used still images but am starting to play around with video, too.

On the side, I also created this quick piece with both Fused and Hype Text App, too. The metaphor here is that words have meaning and weight beyond the screens and papers and stories that confine them by writers and by apps and by whatever.

Words Resist

Peace (breaking out),



Writing in Short: Constraints and Creativity

A few years ago, I gave this Ignite talk at the NCTE conference, and I was reminded of it again this week as some friends — Anna, and Sheri, and Wendy, among others — are using a 15o word limit as an inspiration to write regularly.

I loved Sheri’s video piece that she added with her writing, as a counterbalance to limits:

And how Wendy played with the word count and also worked against the restraints. She wrote:

Do hand gestures count?


Over in Mastodon, I have written regularly (although, ironically, I am taking a bit of break with the new year) with #smallstories — short narratives that fit within the Mastodon character limit — and #smallpoems –short verse of poetry. Making comics is another way this constraint for creativity comes into play. Flash fiction, six word memoirs and other formats also surface this writing world.

What I have noticed with stories and poems over at Mastodon  is how revision is key. I’ll often write a SmallStory way too long and then have to reconsider every word, every phrase, every nuance of meaning. Revision and editing last longer than the writing, most days. I don’t run into that so much with SmallPoems. However, I am attuned to keeping things focused — of finding the kernel and not surrounding it with too much fluff — and therefore, packing meaning into as little a space as possible.

In some ways, this way of thinking goes against Anna’s original call for writing 150 words each day — she saw 150 words as a safe way to encourage people to write who had stopped writing regularly. She writes:

… if I have friends willing to lock proverbial arms with me for the next few days, knocking out 150 a day just might be enough of a chest compression to get some blood flowing in this site again.

But in either case, finding ways to think deeply about writing is a good thing, whether digital on screens or analog with paper. And writing together is always a good idea.

Peace (thinking small),

PS — this all reminds me of a book review I did some times back about Roy Peter Clark’s How to Write Short (Word Craft for Fast Times)

A Gathering of Notes (or, How We Made This)

Seiko Kinetic flickr photo by Photodesaster shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

I’ve been loving how many of us involved in the #MoDigiWri have started to consistently add Process Notes on the making of media, allowing time for reflection on choices made in the creation of the pieces and a path for others to follow.

Anna started this all with a call to “jumpstart” some writing and exploration, based on a previous back/forth we had on digital writing, where we made sure we were sharing our process notes. This kind of reflective writing is both teaching and learning, and remembering for some other day.

Check out:

It turns out that Terry was doing something similar and bit more comprehensive over at Webrecorder (a way to archive the web). Check out this collection of links.

Peace (sharing it further),

Bent and Adjacent, with an Invitation to Remix

A Remixed Poem in Popcorn

Terry did a fine job of laying out the process for making a small bit of media art, using words and image and gif and video, and then adding another layer by pulling it all into Popcorn Maker (now hosted at the Internet Archives) for a soundtrack.

See Terry’s piece at Popcorn

I wondered how I might take what Terry created, and using his idea of adjacent thinking, remix his piece with Popcorn Maker into something slightly bent, with a poem and new music.

Remixing is easy with Popcorn, even if the platform gets funky and wonky at times. Just click on the remix button (two buttons to the right of the volume knob on the lower corner of the project page).

Popcorn remix button

That button re-opens the entire project in a new space, with all of the original media intact. Now you can remix with new media or re-arrange the existing pieces, or add text and images on top. You don’t need to be logged in to remix but you do need to have an account with Internet Archives to save it and share the remix (and supporting the Internet Archives is good idea, anyway, I think).

Again, Popcorn Maker is a bit wonky at times. A little laggy. You need to wrestle with it. Sometimes it does funny things. But it works, and so I spent some time adding a new poem outside of his project, changing the soundtrack and adding bits of this and that. The idea was to be inspired by Terry’s work and bend it a bit through interpretation.

Here’s what I came up with — this is the link, since sometimes Popcorn doesn’t play nice with embeds here, particularly with the music track, for some reason, and sometimes, the youtube video playback

And you know what? You can remix my piece, too, adding another layer up or down or maybe sideways .. use that little remix button. It’s there for a reason. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a series of these remixes, all riffing off another? What would that look like? Sound like? Would there be common echoes across the pieces?

Let me help you get started (I think this will work and you won’t even need a login to play with the remix — does not really work on mobile devices because it is still flash-based, which is why Mozilla abandoned Popcorn Maker):

Remix in Popcorn

Peace (remixed and appreciated),

When You Write Across Platforms

A Poem Jumps (the pieces)I am always intrigued by what happens to a piece of writing when it moves across different platforms. Sometimes, we use the term “transmedia” to describe a piece of media or writing that unfolds in different spaces, all in the service of a larger story. I’ve done different experiments myself with this, and have yet to be completely satisfied with the results.

As part of a continued conversation about digital writing and digital making with a bunch of online friends, I wanted to try to make a poem “jump” from space to space, allowing it to unfold in pieces. I used my own blog as the starting point and ended up over in Mastodon as my ending point, and in between, the poem moves from Flickr, to  Twitter, to Vimeo, to another writing blog space.

Here is the poem:

A poem jumps … (blog)
… leaps into the unknown … (twitter)
… words as anchors to thought … (flickr)
… as thought gives anchors to words … (youtube)
… where one ends is where one begins … (blog)
… a poem jumps. (mastodon)

Sometimes, the links to move forward to the next line of the poem are in the comment bin. Sometimes, they are part of the post. I was not trying to be tricky with it. I wanted the path to be clear to anyone bothering to try to read the piece.

The most difficult part was coordinating the links to become live at nearly the same time, and it was sort of like setting up dominoes. If one piece with links wasn’t live, I could not have the link to connect with the previous and the next one. I worked backwards, and then sideways, re-posting some of the pieces a few times to ensure it all worked.

At one point in the poem’s construction, my plan was to have the path go through the comment bin of either Anna or Sheri’s blogs, but when I tried, I think they either have comments on moderation (which is understandable) or maybe my posts got sent to moderation (due to embedded links) and they were not visible, so I could not get the link I needed to keep the poem moving. I became impatient, not knowing if Sheri or Anna might even be around to see and release the comments. This become an invisible logjam.

I eventually went an alternative route (and reached out Sheri and Anna to let them know to ignore anything I had left behind), although I feel as I missed an opportunity to use another person’s comment area as part of the poem’s architecture. The poem would have been stronger by moving through other people’s posts, I think. This was a missed connection, so to speak.

What I wasn’t so successful at here, I think, is really harnessing more of the possibility of each platform in some way. I did make the Flickr jump visual and the Video is a video of word animation, but maybe I should have added an audio component, for example, and the Twitter jump might have been better with additional tags, spreading the poem further. The two blog jumps — here, at this blog, and at another, where I write poems — are just places with links (although I did add a visual to the first jump), and maybe finding a way to add an interactive element (of some sort) would have been interesting. Landing on Mastodon made sense for me, as I write small poems there every day with a few others, but you would not know that by the landing point.

Small projects like these are learning adventures, though. As a writer, I wonder how a piece can make that leap, in ways that allows platforms to inform and deepen the meaning of the words. As a teacher, I wonder how this might be taught in the classroom with young writers, and maybe .. why.

Here’s what I think as I mull on that last point — the why would one even bother to do this?  It becomes clear that in the process of doing this, you are forces to learn more about each platform as you consider its use as a jump point, that the considerations about possibilities make visible the limitations and the advantages of each platform space — and maybe open the door to unknown workarounds — that only surface when you see the collection of platforms as one larger compositional space, like an artist sees a canvas.

Peace (where poems surface),