Unwriting the Unreadable Untext

unread and then unwrite

Phew. Just writing the title of this blog post is a bear of an idea to get my head around, and I don’t know how to even write what I want to write here. So, let me try to frame it, if I can. I am somewhat “collaborating” with a handful of others — facilitated by Maha B. and Keith H. — on an ancillary document about an unwritten autoethnography of the Rhizomatic Learning uncourse/discourse we were all part of months ago. (ie, Rhizo14).

The collaborative document — entitled for now as Writing the Unreadable Untext — is an attempt by Maha and Keith to explain why the autoethnography hasn’t gotten done and in creating a document about an unfinished document, they invited others into the mix, and man, we have made a mess of it. Half-finished sentences. Notes and poems and ideas in the margins. Embedded gifs. Comics. Poems. It’s a like roadmap to nowhere and yet … and yet … it’s also a roadmap to somewhere.

Here, I am trying to unwrite it … deconstruct what I see in there.

You see, in this collaborative piece, I get the sense that we are exploring the idea of voice, of emergent writing in a shared space, of giving up control and ceding authority to the group, of pushing the text beyond the text and into the margins, of playing against the stereotypes of what writing is and might emerge as, of how the visual plays of the written word, of how our collective thinking may or may not be able to be neatly tucked into one single document that represents us all. We seem to be pushing back at the very nature of what we expect writing to be.

All, by the way, in harmony with Rhizomatic Learning, so even amidst the crazy chaos of that document, we are modeling how the swirling, decentralized ideas of many can gravitate around some anchor ideas that may indeed make sense. We’re writing beyond the writing, and from the outside, it looks like dissonance. From the inside, it looks like a new creature of ideas coming to life, even though we can’t say for certain how it will be shaped when it is fully evolved (Pokemon!).

Maha asks if we can move it another step forward, into something more readable and publishable. I’m fine with that, I suppose, although I don’t feel the need, either. If we think of writing as nourishment for the self (I write to learn), then this document, in all of its starts and ends and middle roads to the margins, has done its job for me.

By the way, I realized this morning that I never saw the original document — the original autoethnology draft — that inspired this reflective piece on why that piece wasn’t getting written. I thought this was the piece. I had my anchor set on a different pier, and still, we set sail. Of course, then I found the original, and realized I had contributed to it, months ago, and it was like finding some echoes of words from my mind and being reminded of myself on the screen. I was there. I didn’t remember being there. Odd? You bet.

Peace (in the rhyzome),


The MultiMedia Mouse Story, revisited

I took my story and pushed it into Prezi and had better results. I was even able to add some more audio to elements of the story (using pitch variation in Audacity to change my voice, somewhat). And unlike my use of Storehouse, the videos are embedded and play nicely. See what you think:

Peace (in the process),

The Mouse Problem (A Mixed Media Story)


I’ve been working, and struggling, to pull together this mixed media story for Digital Writing Month. The story is called The Mouse Problem. One struggle has been how to represent different parts of the story with different kinds of media. I did figure that out, using audio, flowcharts, video and other elements to tell parts of the story, which is already a combination of writing genres (texts, letters, newspaper articles, etc.)

The largest struggle has been: how do I post it/where do I post it so that others can experience the story as I have written it? This is no small matter, and I tried a few different spaces. You should know that the original is a Powerpoint, so if you were here with me, I would pull the story up and put the presentation/story into “play” and it would be fine.

But adding audio and adding video to PowerPoint in an online space? And having all of the attached files ready to for play by a distant audience? Not so easy, and the source of much frustration for me. I’ve tried a few different sites (Slideshare, for example) and found them lacking. I feel a bit as if I am losing agency with my story and my work with every hosting space I try.

I ended up using Storehouse (by dropping files into Dropbox for access by the storytelling app). But I had to edit the video to make it fit, only to realize that unless you turn the audio on in a later video in the story, the audio in the upper video (where the reporter gets a call) won’t work. Ack. This DID not happen when I was working in the app to design the story. It’s only in the web version. (And I loved that audio!)

I’m just going to live with it for now, as I figure out other possibilities. Anyone? I want to host a Powerpoint with video/audio files that play sequentially in the story. (Now thinking … what about Prezi? Hmmm).

What this points to, for me, is that digital writing continues to offer a push/pull concept — opening up possibilities for new kinds of writing but also limiting our expression and agency based on the tool itself. Whenever I run into this, I am reminded of the beauty of workarounds, if they work, and how one’s lack of knowledge about technology and composition would force you to make constant compromises for your work. I hate making compromises for a vision I have for a piece, and I hate that I often have to live with something less than my vision.

Sometimes, that’s the case.

Peace (in the digital),

Envisioning a Transmedia Story

The Mouse Problem

The first week’s prompt at Digital Writing Month — to create a transmedia project of sorts — has me revisiting an old story. I started this back when I began teaching the book, Regarding the Fountain (by Kate Klise), as a way to talk about inference and different media to tell a story. Her book is told entirely in artifacts. It’s a hoot, too.

The Mouse Problem is my attempt to do the same, in hopes I might get my students to create their own artifact story, too. So, here I am, back with The Mouse Problem, trying to move it along by adding more media to it. (I have two classes reading Regarding the Fountain right now, so this is good timing for me). The story is a mystery story, with a play on words.

There is a page (it is written in Powerpoint) in which an anonymous caller rings up the newspaper reporter. This morning, I used Soundcloud to record the conversation. I’ll weave it into the book at some other time, in some way. (Although I feel as if I should add sound effects to the audio, too).  

I am thinking of other media that can be integrated to tell the story, too. For example, could I design a simple video game, for some sort of chase? How about a Vine video for a television reporter?

And how will I embed all this media in a meaningful way? Working on it …

Peace (in the think),

My Emoji Bio

My Bio as Emoji
Over at the Digital Writing Month launch site, there is an emerging “roster” of folks who are participating in activities this month. I decided to play around with mine a bit, by using an app that turns text into emoji and making my biography very visual. It was interesting, trying to represent some ideas with icons and it reminded me of how visual composing can sometimes coincide nicely with written composing, but not always.

I decided to deconstruct the biography a bit, noting some of my thinking as I was putting it together.
Deconstructing my emoji

What would yours look like?

Peace (in the image),


And Now … #DigiWriMo

digiwrimo comics
November means .. Digital Writing Month. I went back to see some of the comics that I did for a previous #DigiWriMo year. Digital Writing Month is a time when folks explore all month the ways that technology is influencing and shaping the ways in which we write (while others are engaged in #NaNoWriMo, writing a novel in a single month … and last year, at Digital Writing Month, we collaboratively created our own novel … in two days).

Check out my Digital Writing Month comics.

I have no real plan for this year in #DigiWriMo, other than to be open to possiblities. While the Connected Courses is still underway, I’m making a transition, keeping a foot planted on both. I’m also giving myself permission to step back if I need to. And of course, to have fun, be engaged and reflect on the possibilities for my students as writers in the digital age.

See Vine directly ..

Peace (in the fun),


A Few Lost Memes for the MakerText

This post has been sitting in my bin for a few weeks now (lost and lonely), but during the Makertext Collaborative Project, I could not help myself in creating some memes about the act of joining multitudes of writers working on the same text (a novel) over 48 hours of a weekend. It was crazy, fun chaos. The memes captured the energy and enthusiasm, and nuttiness of the project.

#readmake memes

#readmake memes

#readmake memes

#readmake memes

Peace (in the funny),


Collaborative Storytelling on a Grand Scale is CrazyFun

Day One Makeread wordcloud
I could not spend the entire day yesterday playing with the project known as Read/Make, or Digital Writing MakerText, in which people are invited to create a crowdsourced novel collaboratively in just 48 hours (see premise/rules). But after a lot of writing in the morning, I did periodically pop into the Google Doc where the novel (on theme of  how writing and reading is changing) is unfolding, just to see how things were faring. What was happening was magical and strange, and very fun to watch. (I created the word cloud about mid-afternoon from all the text, although there are links to videos and images and more, so it is merely a slice of the story in a moment in time).

I’ve been contributing to a few chapters, including a skit about a bear and some kids. I started that one, and watching how others have come along and edited my ideas (the bear eats the kids), added to the story and then shifted it in some very different directions provides a very interesting view of the entire writing process. I’ve gone back in to format the writing into a skit, but other than that, I have just left it alone. I did not want the bear to eat the kids, but it happened, you know? Here, you have to let words go, and you write them knowing they are merely “gossamer” (reference to another chapter in the story) that might take hold or suddenly become transparent and disappear when another writer enters the page.

How this entire document will hold together — what literary glue will emerge to bind the disparate parts — seems to me to be unknown at this juncture, mainly because we still have another day of writing. I suspect some grad student somewhere will have a blast with this 48 hour adventure, picking apart the way that distant collaborators write collectively in a digital age. It would be interesting to cull through the revisions, for example (if one had the time and inclination). One complaint about Google Docs for this kind of collaboration is that videos do not get embedded, which is a shame, since multimedia documents are anchored by video (and audio, which also do not get embedded into the story). You have to make links, which breaks the narrative. The reader leaves the page, and knowing how we read online, they might never return (particularly if there is a cat video in the YouTube recommendation sidebar).

I found myself weaving in and out of the stories, adding a line here and there, and maybe a part of two. I felt reluctant to remove text wholesale, even though I know that is part of what we sign up to do. It still feels like theft or vandalism. Someone put those words down on the screen. Who am I to remove them? And yet … we are both the collective writer, sharing the screen together on a single piece of text. I have as much right to remove as they do to add. I think. This is where the idea of a MakerText is intriguing and emblematic of the age we live in.

Who owns the words? Who owns the story? What role does the writer play? The reader?

A Ransom Note from the Reader poem

One of the chapters (which were set out through a collaborative brainstorming session prior to the launch of the story) had a term that I had never heard before: Harbl. It has to do with replacing words in text, partly in a snarky way to generate laughs and partly in a way to remind the writer to expand their vocabulary. I had to look it up. I created this visual, back of the napkin story, and here is where I was sort of wishing someone else would pop in and add to it. Yet no one has.

harbl word replacement app

The fact that no one else added to this chapter had me wondering about how different it is using image versus words here. If my words are in the text, you can change, add and remove my ideas. Not so with an image. You can completely remove it, but you can’t easily alter it. Maybe you can remix it (please, do) but it isn’t necessarily simple to do. Not like writing a word or paragraph. That story as image is mostly locked into place. I think I might go in and add some word buffers around the image, as a way to invite others to write with me. Will that change the collaborative nature of the chapter? We’ll see.

You come, too.

Peace (in the collaboration),

The Read/Make Digital Writing Adventure


I’m popping in and out of an interesting adventure this weekend built out of last year’s Digital Writing Month. This year, over the course of a weekend, the goal is to construct a collaborative novel in a project called Digital Writing Makertext, or read/make. Sort of.

Check out the premise:

Prompt: The novel we construct will be driven by a basic premise — not a plot, but a prompt. How that premise changes and evolves during the writing will depend on the contributions and their effect on the overall narrative.

  • The author is dead. Print is dead. “Storytelling has changed. Stories are no longer told to audiences, but by audiences.” And now the very notion of the story is threatened.

  • You are part of a crack team of storytellers, educators, students, and concerned citizens sent online to investigate the death of narrative. For this mission, you’ll need all the resources of the Internet at the ready… and cooperation from every corner of literature itself.

  • Your job will be to write, film, record, and otherwise digitally construct a story about story itself — weaving your way through literary worlds and digital landscapes to write an account of the precarious health of narrative. It will also be up to you to resurrect the names, voices, and words of the greatest — and the most underrepresented — characters from literature, poetry, drama, television, movies, the Internet and more.

  • We intend this to be a truly global writing experiment. Therefore, all languages are welcome in the text, any form of narrative is welcome, and any and all hyperlinks should link to open (not paywalled or password-protected) sites.

The project is unfolding in a Google Doc and on Twitter, and who knows where else. I’ve been adding a few lines here and there, and created two “pieces” early on. The first is the video at the top of this post, and the second is this podcast poem called A Ransom Note from the Reader.

Watch me now:
As I fold myself up —
all arms and legs; mouth and mind —
into the swirling sounds of your story.

Your tongue unfolds;
I bend myself tighter.

Waiting — ever patient as always —
for the moment to pounce.
Sinewy muscles extended to grab the pen, and then
I wrestle the words right out of your head
in order to make what you wrote
my own.

Peace (come join us!),