Hanging Out in the Margins: Print Text vs Digital Text

Annotation: Print vs Digital

I saw this piece via CNN that explores print text vs. digital text with learners and I thought it would be worth giving it a closer read, given my own interest in digital writing (whatever that is) and digital reading. I am using Hypothesis — an add-on that allows for collaborative annotation of digital text — to annotate the article. The nice thing about Hypothesis is you don’t have to annotate alone. Come join me.

Go to https://via.hypothes.is/http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/06/health/print-education/index.html and hang out in the margins with me. You will need a Hypothesis account, but it is worth having, for sure.

I also put the piece, even though it more about reading than writing, into my occasionally curated Flipboard Magazine: Along the Edges of Digital Writing, which you are welcome to read and subscribe to, if it interests you.

Peace (print it),
Kevin

4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing: The Fertile Ground of CLMOOC

Promo: 4T Virtual Conference

I have been asked to do a session at the upcoming 4t Virtual Conference on Digital Writing on Monday October 16 at 6:30 p.m. EST (registration is free, sessions are online, and everything gets archived) with a CLMOOC (Connected Learning MOOC) theme, and I thought it would be interesting to parse through the concept of how projects, collaborations and ideas seem to regularly bubble up from the CLMOOC soil.

I will be exploring the concept of “emergence” in social spaces, through a CLMOOCish lens. This theme of emergence has been part of a thread in past workshops around CLMOOC, as folks from the National Writing Project who began CLMOOC (Christina Cantrill, etc.) noticed from the first year how the unexpected happened, and how to expect the unexpected with CLMOOC folks. I aim to dive in a little deeper, to think about how it all seems to work.

If you are curious about CLMOOC and about the whole emergence idea, please consider joining me in this free workshop. Also, check out the entire conference, which is all free, and get some ideas for the classroom and for yourself. I will also be helping facilitate a final discussion about digital writing and teaching.

Go to 4T Virtual Conference site for registration information and see program agenda for October 15 (where I notice my CLMOOC friend Karen Labonte is doing a session on rhetoric and digital writing) and October 16

Peace (emerge and be seen),
Kevin

Book Review: Wasting Time on the Internet

I just finished an interesting examination of digital media, technology, the Internet, and writing by Kenneth Goldsmith. The book has the evocative title of Wasting Time on the Internet, and his premise is that what seems like “wasted time” is often not wasted time after all. In fact, he argues that a whole new way of looking at writing and reading is emerging from our online interactions and creating efforts.

I’ve grabbed some quotes from the book that I think are intriguing, as a way to think about Goldsmith’s ideas (the book stems from a college course he taught by the same name).

Goldsmith Quote1 citystoryI found this concept of the cityscape as a compositional canvas interesting, particularly when we do think of how our devices give off so much of our data. That ‘story’ is rather invisible to the naked eye, but not to the companies that track us. Isn’t that a narrative shaped by data? The question is, who controls that story?


Goldsmith Quote2 browsermemoirThis examination of our web browser as personal memoir stunned me, for all the right reasons. For surely, it is, right? Or at least, it becomes a memoir of our online lives. Can we curate that? Should we curate that? Do we even wonder why our browsers track our history and what becomes of those trails? I wonder, is there a way to shape our browser history into a story or narrative? What would that look like and how would you approach it?


Goldsmith Quote3 ArchivingBack to the question of curation. To stem the onslaught of information and data, we have to find better ways of making sense of it all (signal to noise and back again). The “larger vision” is the story we tell of ourselves, now, and how we will remember the story of us, then.


Goldsmith Quote4 gifsWe had just explored animated GIFs in CLMOOC so this section in which Goldsmith dives into the GIF world was interesting. His observation of GIFs as small silent movies, telling a story with gaps in the narrative, set into a looping pattern, expresses much of what we in CLMOOC were exploring, too. How to move the GIF from just funny visual meme into something larger? That’s a worth exploration.


Goldsmith Quote5 mememachineYeah. Imagine that. A recent conversation about using Mastodon, where I join others in writing small texts on a regular basis, centered on this “writer as meme machine” because we talked about the disappearing texts. Not as something to mourn but as something to perhaps celebrate for the way they come and go and remain in memory, if not on the page. As a writer of this “short form” writing, every word and every sentence has to have some resonance. There is no wasted space.


Goldsmith Quote6 shortformAnd this, too. Nothing new is happening here. Just a new platform. Good to remember.


Goldsmith Quote7 mediauseGoldsmith ends his book with a reminder that what seems to be inattention or what seems to be zombie-like connection to the screen may, in fact, be something more, something deeper than appears at first glance. I agree, yet fall back into the “get off that screen” when I see my kids hunched over their iPod or phone.


Finally, for the very last chapter of the book, Goldsmith includes a list of 101 Ways to Waste Your Time on the Internet, via a crowdsourcing endeavor with his college students. I pulled some that I thought were worth remembering (I am curating!) and decided to dump them into an app that animates text. Notice how all of the words got mashed together. The app couldn’t handle the flow. The smashing of words was not planned but amusing just the same.

Wasting Time

Peace (time),
Kevin

 

Checking out SLAM School


Slam flickr photo by delete08 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

SLAM School?

Well, it’s an “assembly” of the National Council of Teachers of English, and SLAM means the ‘Studies in Literacies and Multimedia.’ The “school” (wow, lots of quotes here already) is a series of periodic hangout videos in which folks in education and technology investigate the intersections of writing, multimedia, political action and more.

Check out this sample.

You can follow the SLAM School at the blog and also on YouTube, and the videos are about 30 minutes long, and lots of guests are sharing knowledge about video, social media, advocacy and more.

Peace (slammin’),
Kevin

Visual Literacies and the Emergence of “Picting”


visualliteracy flickr photo by alisonkeller shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

The term “picting” is new to me but it makes sense. In a recent piece at The Journal by Cathie Norris and Elliot Soloway entitled Picting, Not Wriing, is the Literacy of Today’s Youth, the question of whether the visual nature of literacy in the (literal) hands of youth — mostly via cameras on mobile devices — has overtaken the written literacies.

Maybe. I don’t know.

I look at my own teenage sons, and my own adolescent students, and I pay attention to the ways they use Snapchat and YouTube and who knows what other apps to document their world, but are they telling stories? It’s more like the visual elements of their mobile lives are connector points, or documentation hubs of their identity (or projected identities), than telling whatever we want to call a story. Read the comments at the article, and you’ll see a discussion about “story” unfolding along this query.

The authors cite research that does back up, however, how young people are more apt to “compose” with images  – and use writing only as secondary literacy points — than the other way around. Unless they are in school. Then, the equation flip flops. In school, writing is the key literacy skill and visuals are often add-ons.

I think that is generally true (that we value textual writing over visual composition), and while more of a balance would make sense, I still think the teaching of writing and of composition and of “composing” with media is a key anchor of learning in our schools. Whether young people are taking and sharing images with intentional design and composition strategies can probably be debated.

I believe that young people still need to learn and to use those more traditional skills (ie, writing with text) to inform the way they interact and write into the world, whether that writing be visual or not. Note the image I used at the top of the post. The elements of design are becoming more and more important for all of us, so teaching and learning visual literacy makes sense.

I was reminded of the work that Nick Sousanis is doing around the visual narrative. You can read his piece from Digital Writing Month, in which he explores elements of visual narrative with a unique insight.

from Nick Sousanis: Spin Weave and Cut

 

And I was reminded, too, of the way my friend Kim Douillard, a writing project colleague, sees the world through her camera, and shares out visual themes for others to try across many social media streams, every single week. Kim views what she sees through her camera as narrative points, and understands how a picture can be composed. I try to learn from her.

Image by Kim Douillard

 

Not everything we write is story, although a common definition of ‘story’ is often debated in writing and teaching circles. Still, the idea that narrative does run beneath all that writers do is an interesting concept, for sure. See Minds Made for Stories by Thomas Newkirk for more on this.

I wrote this as a comment response at The Journal’s piece:

Writing with text is important. So is visual literacy. Also, add in the ability to speak and listen. Explaining something with video? Yep. That, too. The best approach for us educators is always to find ways to fuse these elements together when working with young “composers” of media. We should teach students how each (writing, visual, audio) on its own transforms a message (if not tells a story) and how each can work in tandem with the other to make a more powerful statement on the world. It is intriguing how visual the world of young people has become and there are many ways to tap into that (graphic novels, comics, infographics, etc). I still maintain, along with others, that the art of writing is still at the center of all these literacies.

What do you think?

Peace (looks like),
Kevin

 

Transliteracies: Reading and Writing Across Mediums

This post has been sitting in my blog draft bin for some time. I remember thinking, this is a useful slideshow presentation from Bobbie Newman for considering the ways we write and read across various media and mediums. I guess I never brought it out during Digital Writing Month. The show’s a few years old now, but it is still relevant on its focus on storytelling across a wide range of concepts, including the way humans interact with narrative.

Peace (in the share),
Kevin

 

Characters Talk (Writers Listen)


Shadow flickr photo by I.Gouss shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

I had a visitor to my imagination the other day, and it sort of startled me. She was a character from a story I wrote (or tried to write) many years ago. The story collapsed under its own weight. Yet she apparently kept going.

I wrote this on Mastodon (I will write about that another day), under the auspices of #smallstories

A character I created years ago, in a short story I only now vaguely remember, came back to haunt me this week. Isn’t that funny? She skirted on the outside of my imagination. I welcomed her, of course, and wondered why she had returned. She had not aged. She was still that erratic, lovable, curious shadow from the page. We didn’t talk about where she had been. We haven’t talked about where she’s going to be, either. But we will.

She wouldn’t leave my head after that, as if mentioning her was an invitation to stay. Not that I wanted her to leave. But still … so I wrote about her again, breathing something like life back into a character from a story best forgotten (for now, anyway).

I wrote the story — What We Remember is Not What We Forget —  over at Notegraphy. You are invited to read it. I’ll just be tinkering with words and hoping you’ll wander back …. here’s the opening few lines:

What We Remember Is Not What We Forget
Conversations with a Character
Kevin Hodgson

“Do you remember me?”
She twirled her hair with her long finger. I noticed she still stood on one foot, using the toe on the other as a sort of balancing fulcrum point. One slight push and down she would go. Or perhaps she would begin dancing on a moment’s noticing, balancing on air.
“Of course.”
It was true. I remembered her clearly, just as I had created her. She looked the same. Wavy auburn hair. Faded blue eyes. A nose slightly twisted at the end. A smile bordering on sinister.
“Are you sure? You look … doubtful.”
“I’m sure. I’m just remembering. That’s all. It’s been a long time.”

more at Notegraphy

I wasn’t done. I still felt her voice in my head. She wasn’t content to remain on the page, digital or otherwise. She was restless.

So I wandered over to Google’s Story Builder, and removed all of the exposition, using only the dialogue between her, my character, and myself, the writer. Strangely, as my friend Lisa N. noted when I shared it with her, the character seems more alive here, in this version.

What do you think? Do you have character rattling around in your head? Do you listen to them?

Peace (in stories),
Kevin

This is (still) the Truth (Zeega Multimedia Version)

Five Voices in Search of a Poem

I’ve been wanting to take a poem for five voices that I wrote last month, and invited four friends to virtually perform with me, into Zeega for some multimedia interpretation, and finally found the time this week to do so. The poem is a response to both the media landscape and the political turmoil (made even more tumultuous yesterday by the firing of the lead investigator by the president being investigated).

First, here is just the audio, with help from Terry, Sheri, Melvina and Scott. We recorded it all remotely using a site called Soundtrap.

Now, here is the Zeega version (You might need to tell your browser in the url bar to allow it to play unsafe scripts, which comes as a result of Terry hosting Zeega at his own space, I believe). Also, it is best to view the Zeega in full screen, to get the entire effect of image layering and viewing. Here it is:

What’s always so interesting about this process is trying to match the visual experience, with limited text anchors, to the audio, even knowing that every viewer will process through the project at a different pace. With Zeega, the viewer/reader/listener chooses when to advance the visuals, even as the audio plays on.

I’m happy with how it came out. I hope you enjoy it.

Peace (in many voices),
Kevin

Inventing a Mirrored Self in a Mirrored World

Pensato WebHome

As Networked Narratives hits the last lap this week (it has been an interesting exploration of digital narratives, with a graduate class at Kean University and a bunch of folks, like me, out here in the open), I want to reflect on a project that took hold in the last weeks of NetNarr.

Specifically, the invention of an alternative, or mirrored, Self in the NetNarr world called Arganee. When I say “World,” I want to be clear that we never did enter or create a real fictional world – like video games do, for example — but one of creative imagination, through an online portal into Arganee. (Essentially, a blog site with hidden doors and strange text features). We imagined it a world.

Our task was to create an alternative personality for the Arganee World, and after some thought, I created a character called Pensato Scherzando. Both words in the name are musical terms, which come together to create a definition of “imaginary music created, playfully.” Or something like that. Music. Play. Imagination.

We created a “home” in the Arganee World site, and created a Twitter account for our characters, and our health and growth was tracked based on interactions with others and how much writing and media making we ended up doing. I also created an alternative home elsewhere, as a collection point for media files.

Prompts encouraged collaboration (although I never really found a place to collaborate) and connection, and the overall theme of Civic Imagination and Social Activism (through World Building) emerged in the final days.

I found it intriguing to invent a persona out of the blue, and although I had some ideas for her, the voice of my Pensato emerged rather on its own.

Pensato became a collector of sounds, a remixer, whose Sound Collector Array is pointed to the Universe, seeking music and messages from somewhere “out there” in hopes of some larger understanding of the world(s). I tried to infuse her speech with metaphysical tics, always urging her readers to “listen” to the Universe.

Pensato is a collector, a poet, an interactor, an actor on the virtual stage, an optimist with hope that there are ways to mend the fabric of the world(s), if only we pause and listen and help each other.

I went about creating audio files from the Universe that Pensato could share out (I don’t know if anyone was really listening, though).

My aim was to find ways to create music and mystery, never quite giving away what Pensato was hearing. I wish I had had some master plan that would have ended in some symphonic conclusion but alas, I was winging it.

Her voice was my voice, but not yet my voice. She became herself, or at least some projection of what I hope we could all become if we just took the time to pay attention to each other. Listening requires attention.

We don’t listen nearly enough. Pensato did, or does. For a final assignment, she wrote me a letter. You can read it, too.

Peace (the Universe beckons),
Kevin

PS – Special thanks to professors Mia Zamora and Alan Levine for inviting us to join the graduate students on this adventure.

The Dilemma of Digital Texts: Who Owns What’s on the Web?


Close Open flickr photo by Kaarina Dillabough shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

An interesting, and quite challenging, discussion unfolded on Twitter this past weekend that centered on the concepts of crowd annotation tools and content that can found on the open web. Tools like Hypothesis (which I use pretty regularly) allow you to annotate most websites and blogs, creating a digital margin side area for discussion. The benefits seem obvious to me: crowd annotation provides a space for engaging group discussions about specific texts and ideas, generating new and expanded understanding of the digital pieces that we are reading.

But the provocative question was raised by a writer with a large audience (one whom I read regularly and support via Patreon): Who owns that original text (that content which is being annotated in the digital margins) and how much say do they have over whether the annotation should even happen in the first place? This particular writer used a web script to shut down Hypothesis and other annotation tools at their site.

It’s not a clear-cut issue, at least in my mind, and a long discussion on Twitter between nearly a dozen people (including the writer, for a bit, before they became angered by the discussion and asked to be left alone) revealed the complexities of ownership of content, and what relationship the writer has with their readers when posting something to the open web.

I find myself appreciating a writer’s desire to be able to control what is being done at their website or blog, and understand the sense of being concerned about what people are doing in the margins of an original text. Sure, comments potentially do open up that discussion, too, but let’s face it, the comment sections of many sites — particularly those run by women with strong opinions — often get overrun by those with nothing better to do in their petty lives than leave vicious comments and provocative, and perhaps profane, words.

The worry is that someone writing in the digital margins will be malicious, too, and the writer would have little (at this time, anyway) recourse. This is a legitimate concern, as any perusal of comments at YouTube will tell you. (Hypothesis is close to adding some new functions for flagging content and has been mulling over this very concept of writer’s rights). To be honest, I have yet to come across anything like that in Hypothesis.

Still, as much I can see the point of protest, another part of me (maybe the naive part of me, that voice that says look to potential and possibilities with digital writing) thinks, if you post something to the world via the Web, you can expect (hope/intend) that maybe someone will want to read what you wrote and maybe react to your words. Why else post your writing if not to engage a reader? (The argument against this viewpoint is that people do the writing, not technology, and writers should not be held hostage to the potential aspects of technology. Or something like that.)

I believe tools like Hypothesis give space for collaborative discussions, allowing the margins of the text to come alive with conversation and questions and associative linking that extends the thinking of the original writer. It empowers the reader, although perhaps that empowerment comes at the expense of the writer’s authority over their own words at that point.

Personally, I use Hypothesis to closely read online texts, to examine and think, and to bounce ideas off the text to others in the margins, who help push my own thinking forward or force me to re-examine my beliefs and ideas. Your text, if posted to the web, can become a source of inspiration for me, and others. That’s a real gift to your readers.

Clearly, not everyone thinks this way.

What do you think?

Who owns the text once a writer makes it public on the Web?

Peace (thinking),
Kevn

PS — There were other nuances to the Twitter discussion that I did not capture here — including the right to be forgotten in a connected world; obligations and compacts (or not) to readers who financially support the writer who is not wanting to be annotated; and what role a text has in the public sphere.

PSS — I purposely did not name the writer because they clearly were upset that their decision was being questioned, and I did not want to make their situation any worse. Besides, the individual case here is less important than the larger discussion.