new cultures of writing

A class at Valparaiso University examining the way technology shapes our reading and writing practices. We like to talk about whether we're cyborgs, too.

Never Say Never

Almost 2 years ago exactly, I was a firm member of the anti-twitter community. At the risk of sounding like every other twitter hater out there, I couldn’t have cared less about what you had for breakfast, who had the best performance at the VMA’s (Beyoncé, always Beyoncé!), or what passive aggressive drama was being started over social media. But like all those who dare to say ‘never’, I was forced to eat my own words. As part of a strange new member initiation to the volleyball team at Radford University I was forced to create a twitter account. (Yes, I did end up transferring to Valpo, but I promise it had nothing to do with the twitter initiation!)

As Jaffe suggests in her article “Power to the Tweeple: Progressive Activism in 140 Characters,” those who share this anti-twitter mindset are often missing its true point. 2 years and whopping 255 tweets later I, too, finally understand that twitter is a way to quickly connect to a dozen different communities on the topics of your choosing! Whether for information or humor, twitter provides a platform to which anyone can contribute in a way that only those interested are notified. This web of community is summed up quite nicely by Jaffe, “Rather than merely reinforcing existing social circles, Twitter networks are more like Venn Diagrams: overlapping groups of people selecting whose tweets to receive.”

The NPR story “Newsweek’s ‘Muslim Rage’ Cover Mocked On Twitter” effectively serves to support Jaffe’s opinions. While the #muslimrage admittedly wasn’t used for its intended purposes, it did, however, serve to further an issue of national importance in a humorous way. By trending on twitter, users worldwide joined in on the phenomenon and contributed their own witticisms and remarks using the hashtag. The light-hearted humor connected those around the world who perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise joined the same conversations, and hopefully stirred up curiosity on the real underlying issues in the process. Impressive for 140 characters or less, eh?

Stepping Up To The Soapbox

Hello everyone! My name is Nicole Lambert and I am a Secondary Ed. & English major. My hope for this course is to get at the heart of how technology effects us as individuals and a society and what that means in regards to our actions going forward. Unfortunately, I think too many people are still caught up in the ‘is technology good or bad’ debate. Too late- technology is already here! Simply put I would love to delve into what this means for me as a member of society and as a future educator. I look forward to doing that with you all. :)

What troubles me most of Wesch’s ‘things we need to rethink’ is a combination of ethics and governance. While in a perfect world we’d all like to think sunshine, rainbows, and free speech rule the web, the reality is that there is quite a lot that is, and should be, regulated. So where’s that line?

Response

Hi Bryn,

I enjoyed your post for a few reasons. One of those being that we are in this class for pretty much the same reason and I am also excited to read my peers writing and really explore how technology plays a part in our use of words in our writing.

In regards to your response on the video, I love that you focused on that aspect of the video that related family and love. That is one part I didn't pay much attention to in the video since it was a very short section of it, so thank you for your insight.

Intro and Wesch

Hi everyone! I’m Caitlin, and I’m a senior Creative Writing major. I registered for this course because it is required for my major. (Honestly, I had no idea what the course was even about until yesterday’s introduction, and now I can say that I’m actually looking forward to it!) 

This semester, I’m hoping to LEARN. In middle school, I stayed up to date with HTML, web design, blogging, etc. I felt like I was pretty tech-savvy. However, in the past few years I’ve really fallen behind in the technology realm, and I feel largely unaware! I’m also super interested in spending some time looking at how technology is currently shaping thinking, culture, and our world as a whole (and what this means for the future). I think I have under-thought and under-valued the force of technology; I’m excited to delve into this and its possible repercussions. 

One things that troubles me from Wesch’s list is the need to rethink authorship. I know we mentioned this in passing during class yesterday, but just the idea of rethinking authorship and copyright gives me anxiety! As a writer, I feel a deep attachment to and possessiveness of my work. My gut feeling is to reject any thoughts of releasing my own rights over my work. I HATE the idea of anyone being able to alter my writing without my permission or my collaboration. I feel that rethinking authorship brings up so many ethical considerations and also financial implications. It’s definitely something to explore as technology continues to move forward!

Wesch’s “The Machine Is Us/ing Us”

Hi everybody! My name is A.J. Selig and I am a senior Communication major. I am taking this course because I had the opportunity to take a few elective courses this semester and a few of my friends told me about  the class, which I thought sounded interesting. Thinking of how far technology has come over the years is really interesting me to, but I have never really thought about how technological advances have changed society in dramatic ways. I am excited to see the ways in which technology has not only changed society as a whole, but also how writing has changed because of these advances. I love technology, but I feel that I do not fully understand how it has truly changed society, so I look forward to exploring that in this class.

In Wesch’s video “The Machine Is Us/ing Us”, he lists things we need to rethink, and many of them are troubling. The ones that stuck out most to me were “love” and “family”. It is often discussed how copyrights and authorship are affected by Web 2.0, but people usually do not think about how new technology can change how people think about things like love and family, as these are generally universally understood things. The fact that we need to “rethink” things that I believe are universally understood seems to be the most troubling part for me, but at the same time I understand how new technology can challenge the way these things are seen.

Hi everyone,

So this is Nick, from class, of course, and I’m just writing to tell you all a little about myself and what I hope to get out of this class. But you already know that, because we all have to do it. That’s what homework is. Anyways, after many semesters of flipping around and changing majors and minors and giving my advisor gray hair after gray hair, I have (hopefully) finally settled on majoring in Marketing with a minor in Creative Writing. I hope to get more perspective of the modernity of writing in this class and see the huge influences that technology has in literature and any form of writing. I believe that we’re living through a revolutionary era of text and that if we can better understand how media is currently influencing our writing, we can utilize this to take literature to another level. Creativity can be pushed into another dimension simply by making all of the media readily available. I’m not sure if that really makes sense, but what I’m really trying to get at is that the technology and new forms of media can change writing forever, and the communication and accessibility can turn anyone into a legendary author with a few key strokes and an upload, very similar to how the music industry creates pop sensations almost overnight. It’s just really cool how the advancements in technology have created communities of creative minds that could not have existed beforehand.

After watching the fast-paced video we were assigned, I realized that hypertext basically creates any document into an immense encyclopedia of information that has everything one could possibly think of. Footnotes in books are great and all, but require sifting through whole libraries, while links turn the text into a library. The greatest thing about the video was it’s concept of community among the world. “Web 2.0 is linking people… We’ll need to rethink ourselves.” The idea that the developing technology is changing the world and the people so rapidly that we’ll have to reevaluate how we behave alongside it is astounding. The whole idea that all of the people in the world would be able to work, write, and create together is really cool, and the fact that everything is available to anyone, with the only requirement being an internet connection, is world-changing. I’m a fan of accessibility, and the more of it the better. So, yeah, the Web is a cool place, and community is abound. I’m a fan.

I’m Troubled Because We Are Troubled

Hello everyone!  My name is Carl Colvin, a senior majoring in music, creative writing, and humanities.  I am taking this course for my creative writing degree.  Throughout my studies at VU, specifically in my humanities degree, I have come across many different opinions about how we all should approach technology and deal with it, and the consensus I feel is that we should be very wary or it and should realize the many negatives it produces that seem to be overshadowed by its positives in the eyes of our society.  However, in taking this class, I hope to see more of the balance between the positives and negatives of how it affects us in general and in our writing.

After watching the Wesch video, and thinking on the writing prompt, I realized that what troubled me the most about this video is the fact that we as a people have gotten to the point that a number of us fear and are troubled by technology.  In my opinion, this should not be the case.  One would think that with the scope of our present knowledge of the world and the power we contain over it, we would be able to control our creation.  But there have been have been voices floating around since the ’80s, and maybe earlier, about how we need to be careful about technology, and what it can do to us.  If we are getting to the point that many are realizing that technology is taking a hold of more and more parts of our lives to the point that we are turning into the machine, why are we continuing with it or not doing anything perceivable about it (and someone please point out if we are)?  Have we created a Frankenstein?  In turning into the machine, have we become the monster?         

Hi! I’m Scot Sawa. I’m a sophomore English major (I know, shocking) from Crown Point, Indiana. It’s about fifteen minutes away, so I just commute from home. Anyway, I guess I didn’t read the course description very well because I wasn’t sure exactly what we’d be studying. After the first class, I’m definitely excited and a little nervous. I hope to learn more on how technology has impacted our culture and how it’s continuing to change it. Also, I’d like to know how we can fully utilize it. Specifically, how can I fully utilize it to help my writing. It sounds silly, but I’m pretty nervous to work with all this technology because I’ve never been good with any of it. Hopefully I’ll manage and become a mediocre twitterer (tweeter, twitter person, person-who-tweets, whatever).

I’ve seen a few videos similar to the Wesch one, but not many of them emphasized how “we are the machine.” It was interesting to see the advancement of formatting and what is has led to. When Wesch listed the things we needed to rethink, many of the words concerned me.  Two particular words that stuck out were “privacy” and “identity.” It’s alarming to think how much personal information that the internet requires. The most obvious is Facebook and other social media sites. For example, even if you’re not friends with someone, it’s so simple for anyone to view basic information and pictures; someone could learn so much about a person without ever meeting him/her. Beyond just social media sites, it’s strange to wonder how much personal information we put in a computer or on the internet. As technology advances, it will be interesting to see how we balance full utilization of technology and our privacy. The idea of rethinking “identity” definitely frightened me a little more. I’ve always thought of our identities as something sacred and personal, untouched by most forces. How could technology affect something of that caliber?

Hello, fellow bloggers—both new and old. My name is Natalia Terzic, and I’m an English major at Valparaiso University. I like to define myself as a writer (despite the fact that I’ve yet to publish anything), and part of my “job” as a writer is to, well, write. As someone whose thoughts flow faster through my mind than they can through the tip a pen, I’ve taken to using the computer to type all of my little fictional stories, and I’ve also used it to document my sporadic, interesting thoughts on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Thus, for me, technology and writing have been a beautiful coupling for quite some time now. But despite that, I’ve realized that I hadn’t paid much attention to the ways outside myself that technology and writing can come together to create beautiful techno-lit babies. I’m hoping that my time in this class can enlighten me to just how useful media really is when it comes to writing.

Now, onward to Wesch’s video, “The Machine is Us/ing Us.” I’ll gladly admit that I had to watch the video twice in order to fully absorb his message; technology isn’t the easiest thing to explain to those who haven’t studied it—even to those who, like myself, know their way around a Tumblr theme’s HTML code. While all of his “we’ll need to rethink…” messages warrant comment, I think the most surprising—for me, at the very least—was “love.” With the new age of online dating upon us (from acclaimed sites like Match.com to popular free services like Plenty of Fish), it seems as though we need to “rethink” love only in the sense that we need to let go of our traditional, trite values. We no longer live in a society where every couple meets at school or work or through mutual friends; now people who otherwise would’ve never crossed paths are falling in love through social media. I don’t see what’s so upsetting about that, as Wesch seems to suggest. Yes, these types of connections may be fraudulent (see: Catfish: The TV Show) and others are too long-distance to last, but can’t love and technology exist peacefully together? Can’t we build platonic love through websites just like this one (like many of us already have) without concern? Why does love in the age of technology have to be negative?

Intro & Response

Hello,

I’m Jessica Jachim, and I’m a senior English & Elementary Education double major. This is my last undergraduate English class EVER (tear!), but I’m excited that this is the one I get to take. I am not typically a huge fan of technology. I sort of cringed when I found out I would be joining Twitter. BUT, I love writing, and I think I would really enjoying blogging. I’ve been very hesitant, though, since I shy away from digital media. I hope throughout this course, I learn more about tweeting and blogging and that I feel more comfortable with it. Then, perhaps I’ll finally unleash my own personal blog!

Anyway, I’ll get to the Wesch video. I was very concerned that he mentioned “love” and “family” as two of the things we need to rethink. This troubled me, but I don’t quite know what to make of it. I’m looking forward to the discussion in class. The other thing that really troubled me is privacy. This I found more relatable. I’m thinking about all of the information on the internet. I’ve ordered things online. My credit card information is out there somewhere. Is my social security number on some online database somewhere? I’m sure my address and phone number are available. At my job, we store work in “the cloud,” whatever that is exactly. My family does their banking online. How can I know that this information is secure? It concerns me that we put so much information on the internet. I’m looking forward to hearing others’ thoughts on this.