Google Doxx

In Elizabeth Clark’s “The Digital Imperative: Making the Case for a 21st-Century Pedagogy”, five novel benefits of digital rhetoric are outlined: interactivity, collaboration, ownership, authority, and malleability. Across these areas, digital rhetoric arguably offers more than physically written rhetoric (and this is why everything is moving towards a digital form). Upon reading this, two words came to mind: google docs. The cloud service serves as a compelling piece of evidence for Clark’s theory, as it demonstrates pretty much every benefit she outlined:

Interactivity – Google docs, although not quite as interactive as the vanilla Microsoft products, still offers a variety of different interactive choices, from font size to spacing. Manipulation of text and pictures is pretty easy in google docs, and the user interface is extremely easy to use.

Collaboration – This is one of google docs biggest selling points. Multiple people can work on the same document at the same time. This is significantly easier than trying to have two people take notes on the same sheet of paper.

Ownership – Through the digital nature of google docs, the owner of a document can establish clear ownership (through timestamps) and view it from multiple locations digitally as well as physically if printed.

Authority – You can control who has access to a document, and also whether they can edit the document. (see below)


Malleability – Unlike most physically written documents, the content in google documents can be changed instantly. You can delete content in seconds, and copy-paste other content easily. Unlike a type-writer, no change is permanent.

Therefore, I completely agree with her notion that the move towards digital rhetoric is both exciting and beneficial. One thing that Clark didn’t highlight extensively is the downside to digital rhetoric. In my mind, the two biggest issues are privacy and volatility:

Privacy – Although digital security has evolved significantly over time, there will always be flaws in security systems and there will always be people smart enough to take advantage of them. I remember listening to an NPR story (which I can’t remember in enough detail to find via google) in which one man described how online hackers “doxxed” him and ruined his life. The guy had a very unique twitter handle (unfortunately I’m fuzzy on the details), that was sought after by lots of people online. After refusing to sell his twitter handle, hackers decided to take it by force, and hacked the guy’s email, facebook, flickr, and twitter. They published all of his personal information and deleted all of his stored pictures/videos/projects. Without physical copies, the digital rhetoric that guy published online would be gone forever.

Volatility – The malleability of digital rhetoric can also be a negative effect. Many important documents (passports, court documents, FBI files) are kept in print because there is a permanence to physically written rhetoric. Even though some online platforms time-stamp changes made to rhetoric, it can often be hard to tell whether or not a piece of digital rhetoric has been manipulated recently.

In conclusion, I completely agree with the “21st-Century Pedagogy” that Clark describes, and google docs illustrates why. However, I think there will always be a place for physical rhetoric because the privacy and volatility concerns associated with digital rhetoric will probably continue to exist for a long time.

War of Writing: Academic vs. Digital

The world of writing has without a doubt changed – just as pretty much everything else has with the recent rise of technology. I had never been exposed to digital writing before I got to college. Now, over half of my classes involve some form of digital writing (usually in the form of a blog). As the domain of writing increases, I absolutely agree with Elizabeth Clark that so should the teaching of writing, as digital rhetoric can be just as beneficial as formal writing. Read More

A step towards a more natural, digital rhetoric

Before this class my interactions with digital rhetoric were fairly limited and, contrary to the natural progression Clark implies, were relatively forced. For other classes required blog posts were just that- required. They did not seem to foster a sense of community or collaboration, I regarded them as just another assignment. However, that is beginning to change now. While in some other classes, my routine interaction with other classmates does feel compulsory, that actually began to change by joining this class and more broadly, the writing minor. Because writing unites and grounds our entire class, unlike other classes where it is simply a component, engaging in more digital rhetoric feels like a natural next step to take. It doesn’t feel like a forced progression because it makes sense for us to try new modes of communication as we push forward with our writing.

Blogging was something that took me sometime to see differently in this class. As we started to delve deeper into our projects and interact more in person with our blog groups, it felt very natural and beneficial to be interacting online with my other members. Most of all, though, I think the creation and progression of our eportfolios is the most striking and impactful. These digital records and reflections are so unique and creative. As we walked around in class the other day and looked at each portfolio so far, each was bursting with a unique persona and so many were able to translate their mock-ups onto a website. I would say that this was a prime example of the advantageous ideals of empowerment and effective communication that Clark talked about. I am intrigued to see how all the video projects turn out as these are also key pieces of digital rhetoric emerging out of our work.

Another alternative version of digital rhetoric that is being frequently used by our generation is social media. It is somewhat introduced as a new form of pedagogy. While we engaged in Facebook interactions through our activity with the writing challenge, I think it will be more difficult to integrate something like social media in an academic sense. Students regard social media as a purely social mode of interaction so it seems odd to try and use it in an academic realm. Regardless, I think as future generations become more and more comfortable with digital rhetoric in their everyday lives, it will be more natural to see all different types of digital rhetoric to appear in the classroom.

Making the Shift to Digital

Surrounded by a sea of kindles at the beach, last winter, I remember feeling quite smug with my, however old fashion, paperback book. I liked the way it felt in my hands, the way it smelled, and being able to fold over pages, to see how much left of this novel world there was for me to explore.

I felt similarly about converting to the digital realm of writing. I had always been satisfied by a typical academic writing scenario in which you wrote pieces for your instructor, and potentially a few peer reviewers in your class whose faces you knew. For the first month of this class, the idea of writing academic blogs that were really, for the whole world to see was scary. So was the idea of publishing an eportfolio that could be searched on the internet, or posting a haiku on facebook that could be linked back to my name. All of these Web 2.0 interactions in an academic setting scared me. But do I think that I have grown from being forced to engage in them? Absolutely.

Yes, we are much more technologically advanced than our parents who still struggle to take photos on iPhones, but as Clark addresses, we as millennial students did not grow up exposed to digital texts in an academic setting, and thus, we resist that integration. My sister, on the other hand in her fourth grade class is using ipads to create google powerpoints. She has grown up with the idea that new media technology has a place in the classroom. She could teach me a few things about various technologies and sites that I have never even come across!

Ultimately, as Clark addresses in one of the  final lines of her article, “We need to work to help the profession embrace digital rhetoric not as a fad, but as a profound shift in what we mean by writing, by literacy, and by cultural communication.” Although the shift to eportfolios and public domain is frightening for us millenials, it is the direction in which our culture is going and we must grapple with the fact that academic writing no longer involves simply student-to-teacher sharing, rather our writing might be shared with anyone who happens to click on our page.

Not all digital rhetoric is online

Maybe it’s too soon to tell, but I haven’t yet begun to feel the sense of “community, collaboration, and empowerment” that Elizabeth Clark mentioned.

This is probably because the work we’re doing digitally hasn’t taken place online. Not yet, at least.

The essays we’ve written or the videos we’ve made have thus far only existed as private entities – not online collaborative entities. Maybe once they become part of our online eportfolio this will change.

It just feels an awful lot like working in a non-digital space at the moment.

However, I do agree with Clark that these three things CAN become benefits if one utilizes online spaces to their highest potential. These blog posts are good examples: there’s definitely a community present, both within our individual cohorts and with Sweetland as a whole. There’s also a sense of collaboration where comments are concerned. And yes, it is empowering to know that other people are reading our posts.

Therefore, I would alter Clark’s position in a way that distinguishes between digital rhetoric and online digital rhetoric. Working online has the ability to foster community, collaboration, and empowerment like Clark says, but not all digital rhetoric takes place online.

Adapting Digital Rhetoric in the Classroom

In this essay, I have seen a few parts that legitimately make sense to me. All of these different forms of digital rhetoric from ePortfolios to blogs allow for different types of learning in the classroom. The collaboration and empowerment involved in making and planning out the ePortfolios especially is where I agree with her the most.

There were two statements in the portion of ePortfolios that I thought made the most sense. “Students use their portfolios to demonstrate an authority over their own lives and educational trajectories and to establish online identities built on the quality, content, and character of their own work.” I have to say, with writing my own ePortfolio I think this is true. As I continue to work on my ePortfolio, I feel more and more as though I have control over my own story and digital content. This is something I have created. Something that I can proudly display to many people as my own. Not to mention it looks a lot better than anything I have done on my own personal blog. This is a sense of pride I don’t have when it comes to other assignments I have done in other classes. This is something I can continue to mold, edit and present, that I feel makes me an “expert” on a certain topic.

At the same time, this statement is true as well. “This is a dramatic example and one I am glad to say has not repeated itself in my courses. However, students—and in fact most users of Web 2.0 technologies—have yet to fully understand the implications of living a publicly accessible life.” A lot of us still do not understand the full extent of what it means to “be out there” to the rest of the world. We tend to think that no one else can see what we post, but in reality everyone can. The more well-known public spaces such as Facebook and Twitter are where the serious dangers come from, but even in our ePortfolios. As I have worked on assignments, I have tried to make sure that I have not done anything that could negatively affect me beyond the scope of the class. That is why I have been so careful as to not use photos that were not already provided by Weebly’s search engine. All of those pictures are open through the creative commons website, but I am still nervous as to what I might accidentally “steal” and could come back to haunt me. Hopefully, most of, if not all of what I make is my own original content.

How Pedagogy is Changing

Digital rhetoric seems to define who we are as writers in today’s society.  Facebook posts, tweets, texts, and emails are among the many ways we write digitally.  The audiences vary in these situations and, as a result, our voice and how we want to perceived must also vary so that we can best portray ourselves.

The Buzzfeed article, 25 Of The Most Regrettable Celebrity Tweets sums this up perfectly.  By simply saying the wrong thing, these celebrities are called out for their lack of filter.

Creating digital rhetoric in Writing 220 has undoubtedly related to the many benefits Elizabeth Clark mentions with regards to there being a “digital imperative” in writing instruction today.  From the beginning of the semester, I can see how my voice has developed as a confident writer as a result of peer feedback on my multimodal projects and blog posts.

I agree with Clark when she talks about “[…] the importance of audience and the nature of public and private writing.”  She goes into detail about how one of her students documented publicly her story of how she came to the U.S. illegally.  As a teacher, she had to make the tough decision of telling the student to take the post down.  What we have to remember, as writers in a digital world, is that as soon as we click “publish” or “post” or “tweet”, we cannot take it back.

Digital Writing
Digital Writing

Those words or images are forever public.  This convenience is great in a lot of instances, but in other cases it can be detrimental.

Although I agree with most everything Clark says, I find myself disagreeing with her view of PowerPoint and Youtube videos being “prosaic”.  Her underlying argument is that the classroom needs to be transformed as new technologies are developed.  I completely agree with this.  But, I still think that we get value out of other teaching strategies too.  As great as e-portfolios are, a simple PowerPoint or a short video clip go a long way in making a connection for a student in the classroom.

I believe that there are alternative visions of 21st-century pedagogy.

Some may feel that technology is too much of a distraction.  Some may prefer older methods of teaching since these encourage student-teacher interaction, versus student-digital.  And some may prefer immersing the student in the subject by holding class in a lab, museum, etc. (I had an art class in a museum at UofM and this was very impactful).

Regardless of these alternatives, I think that digital pedagogy is something of value for these 3 reasons:

  • It forces the student to step outside of their comfort zone in their writing.
  • It creates a great environment for peer feedback.
  • It allows a student to continually edit their online presence with work that accurately represents them.

Reflection on Clark’s Arguments

Clark had some great points on digital rhetoric, and I definitely noticed connections between her arguments in favor of incorporating digital rhetoric in the classroom and the ways we have been using digital rhetoric. One aspect I identified with was how digital rhetoric can help strengthen an argument in ways traditional writing lacks. For example, she talked about Ray, a student from China, who was able to make his arguments much more powerful by providing visual rhetoric in addition to words. In traditional papers, we often limit ourselves to text, and consequently limit the arguments we can make. With digital rhetoric, we can incorporate pictures, videos, hyperlinks and much more, making our arguments stronger and more engaging for the audience. In this class, we have been encouraged to add media to our blog posts, and I find the posts much more engaging to read when they contain images and links.

One aspect I hadn’t thought about until reading this paper was understanding the impact of writing for a public audience. As an extreme example, Clark talked about an undocumented student who posted a personal essay on her ePortfolio chronicling her illegal arrival to the United States. Clark made the student take down the paper in order to protect her, but the situation prompts some tough questions. When is a professor allowed to step in and make a student remove work? Is this considered censorship? Was threatening to fail her student the right course of action to take or was she taking advantage of someone who had little power? Conversely, what if students feel uncomfortable making all their work public but are afraid to speak up for fear of having points deducted?

I can’t think of alternative methods of teaching modern-day rhetoric, but one thing I think our classroom could improve upon is the connection between audience and writer. We are able to receive instant feedback on our blog posts, but the audience interaction stops there. Very rarely do students reply to comments that other students have left on their posts, thus eliminating true dialogue. In addition, although we do peer editing in class for our papers, the final draft is ultimately what goes on our ePortfolios. In future classes it might be interesting to post a close-to-final draft online and see what kind of feedback the online community provides, which would include feedback from beyond just our classmates. Of course, this could get tricky with all the internet trolls and Negative Nancies of the world, but it may be worth exploring.

It’s All Out There Now

I have to say, this was definitely not what I expected when I filled out the application for the writing minor. Blogs, videos, e-portfolios? I think I was expecting the more archaic essay after essay after essay written with feather quills and ink. I probably wouldn’t have agreed with Clark a few months ago, but now, her points about the age we live in and the versatility that comes with digital writing seem like common sense. It seems silly, but her article really made me think about how big and permanent of a place the internet really is. With the digital age of writing, we have the power to effectively create our identities on the web through our writing. It is so much easier to lay out the exact person we want to be, and to share intimate stories with potentially millions of people. But it’s so easy to forget that what we put out there does actually stay out there forever. Especially with things like blogs, which are usually very informal and reflect the writer’s thoughts and feelings on a particular subject, it’s easy to lose sight of what may or may not be appropriate to post in a class setting.

I also agreed strongly with her points about how online blog posts could facilitate discussion between students. I think it’s much more engaging to be able to have a conversation about a particular reading and get feedback from other students instead of just doing individual assignments. It gives us the chance to learn from our classmates as well and to have our own ideas challenged and reinforced. It gives us the opportunity to voice our own opinions and thoughts about pieces we read instead of regurgitating points we think we should make in order to get a good grade on an essay.

Clark mentioned how she had her students do digital projects about things they were passionate about, similar to our remediation projects, and I think this type of project forces us to expand our ranges as writers to think how to convey our words in different modes and to get a better understanding of what it is that we really want to say with our writing. If we are careful and are mindful of the context of our writing, digital media can help us discover more about our own identities as writers, and I think that is really cool.

While there are issues with using informal modes of writing for professional purposes, I think overall, I would agree with Clark that digital writing creates so many possibilities for us as writers and is a really effective tool in a class setting.

A Commentary on Commentary

Clark’s article on digital imperative was one of those that forces the reader to self reflect. I mean, after reading detailed analysis of the general trends in digital writing, how could you not reflect on your own habits? I won’t bore you with the details of my self reflection.

What I found most interesting in Clark’s article was the bit on “marginalia”  aka commentary. Clark explains that with the development of new technologies, commentaries are going public. No longer confined to the notes scribbled in the margin of a book, blogging takes “marginalia” to a new level. Clark also noted that there is the possibility for these commentaries  to become more influential than their primary sources.

My thoughts? I agree and disagree. I don’t think that widespread commentaries are really all that new. Take the Talmud for example, an ancient Rabbinic commentary on the Torah. This commentary was widespread way before the 21st century.

I do see the Internet as a means of making less important commentaries more widespread. For example, had I only scribbled these thoughts in the margins of the article, no one would ever see them except me. But because I’m writing them on a blog post, it is possible for anyone to access these thoughts.

Yet, I can’t imagine these commentaries ever becoming more influential than their primary sources. By that I mean, I think digital commentaries that do become more influential than their primary sources would have also become more influential than their primary sources independent of digital technologies.

I believe that degree of influence comes from quality of writing and novelty of ideas, not from ease of transmission. What do you think?