He's my Homi! (Bhabha)
Okay, my title doesn't necessarily match the post that I'm about to write BUT it cracked me up at the Re:Humanities conference on Friday. But I disgress. This weekend, I attended and presented at two conferences: Re:Humanities at Swarthmore and the Mid Atlantic Writing Center Association (MAWCA) Conference at Shippensburg University. I got a glimpse of the digital tools that are being implemented at various institutions in terms of student projects and at writing centers across the country and this experience has really made me consider the questions that you should ask yourself when planning on using digital technology. In this post, I want to really gear these questions towards using digital tools in academic writing which this class really allows freedom for.
"With freedom comes great responsibility"
I hate to be really cliche but this is starting to crop up as a theme in terms of writing a digital "webevent" (To borrow Anne's language). I've questioned my postition as someone who is media literate and I've started to realize that to become media literate, you need to start asking the right questions otherwise you will end up with some not-so-great papers. (Check out the link and find some of my experiments gone wrong) So here are some of the things that I will be thinking about in terms of writing digital papers:
1. Design. This particular idea comes from Kevin McGilivray's presentation, Designs of Meaning, at the Re:Humanities conference. Though it seems quite simple, he proposes that design can answer how to get certain messages across in the write way. (Yes, that was intentional.) You must consider the visual relationships between the content and whatever medium you decide to look at -- does it help you get your message across OR does it actual hinder the reading of your paper?
2. Syntax. This idea comes from Lauren Close's presentation "Toppling The Ivory Tower" where she talked about how she broke down the syntax of her writing to appeal to a wider audience. In academia, we place so much value on theory-based work that forces us to use language in a certain vernacular that may not quite translate when presenting through a digital medium. So, I really want to think of using language in a way that not only communicates exactly what I want to say but also, accesses a wider audience.
3. What is lost? Thinking about Michael Rushmore's presentation on viral street art, I considered what is lost and what is gained from digitizing certain images. In Rushmore's case, he spoke about how certain artworks looked better in real life and how other artworks looked more vivid, or became more accessible, through photographs. When considering using images in a paper, this is definitely something to consider. I'm re:thinking my last post -- the image of my notebook would probably have looked better if I had manipulated it to really show the handwriting that was on it.
4. Performance. I'm taking this idea of performance from Shahzeen Nasim's presentation, "The Face of the Digital Humanities". She spoke about blogs as a space for performance and scholarly collaboration In terms of Serendip, which lends itself to this idea of a blog, we must consider that it is highly flexible and with its communicative function (comments!), we should really consider how we can integrate fellow writers.
And the last thing that I brought back from the MAWCA conference was the fact that we really need to think critically about who our audience is, what their expectations are and why they would access information in a certain form. So before we make moves towards working digitally, we need to start thinking about these questions in order to produce work that communicates more than what a paper-bound paper can.