why teach digital writing?

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(Some) Conclusions: Why We Must Teach Digital Writing

Why teach digital writing? Most—if not all—writing takes place today in computer-mediated spaces. From drafting to presenting to publishing and other forms of production, most documents are digital creations that are frequently created and distributed digitally. And what this means, grand scale, is that writing, today, pushes on institutions in ways that writing has not before pushed.

We argued earlier on in this essay that computers aren’t merely tools. We also argued that writing is radically changed by inernetworked computer technology. We have posited that conventional, print-anchored rhetoric theory offers some means for understanding writing and production, but that we also need to foster new rhetorical tools and theories to better negotiate our tasks as instructors of digital writing.

We have anchored digital writing practices to physical spaces and extended our understandings of how and why traditional spaces hinder our methods and modes of teaching digital writing. We hope to have added to the attention given to the infrastructural possibilities anchored to, within, and across physical, intellectual, and digital networks.

We have anchored digital writing practices to the extension of modes and media, and to the fact that writing, today, means much more than working merely with alphabetic text or with print pages, but that computer applications and digital publishing spaces allow us to weave and orchestrate multiple sign technologies (e.g., images, voice and other sounds, music, video, print, graphics), layered together across space and time to produce artifacts that can be interactive, hyperlinked, and quite powerful.

Fostering, supporting, and enhancing students’ abilities to write within and across digital spaces is complicated by a matrix of media, of rhetorics, of technologies, and of various institutional values. All of these variables and values create the shape of the context for digital writing. Digital writing makes visible needs that writing courses and curricula and programs that we haven’t previously articulated, or needed to articulate. These needs complicate and extend the pressures we already feel and that we already exert—perils and possibilities related to teaching and working spaces, evaluation, class size, access to computer labs, access to wireless teaching spaces, design of curricula, staffing and labor, and more. Many more.

We hope here to have offered some tools for writing instructors to consider as we negotiate the changing landscape of writing instruction within and across digital spaces and networked communications.


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