Digitize It

In high school, it was pretty rare that we would take trips to the computer lab with a class.  Usually the teacher lost most of his or her command over the students throughout the period when our faces were hidden behind computer screens.  And regardless of the school districts efforts to block social media and inappropriate websites on the computers, we were still overly distracted and highly unproductive during our time spent in the digital media labs.  Not to mention, the computers took many, many minutes to start up and log onto at the beginning of every class period and it would take students extra class time to walk to the original place of meeting for the class, then be redirected to the lab somewhere across the school.  After all of this, teachers typically decided against the use of computers during class time and pushed this required work onto us for homework, thus interaction with digital media throughout the school day wasn’t a norm for me until I got to college.

I’ve found that the use of computers in class and at lectures for college courses is much more casual and thus, much more productive.  I better use my class time and I don’t often push things off as “to-do-laters” as much as I used to in high school.

One of my favorite forms of digital rhetoric that I could explore for hours on end is Invisible Child: Dasani’s Homeless Life.  As some pieces of digital media struggle with incorporating many facets of rhetoric within their bodies, this captures many.  This New York Times piece on homelessness in New York City incorporates visual, textual, spatial and gestural modes, among others.  The piece uses high definition pictures and vivid text to give the reader authentic feelings as they read through the chapters of the piece.  There are interactive maps that involve physical action in order to explore the facets of the town involved in the article.

It is with no doubt that I tell you this piece could never have been as impactful on paper as it was on the computer.  Its digital elements allow for exploration and free movement.  Reading the piece becomes fluid.  At points in the piece, I feel like I am a kid playing with the different functions of the pages.

If you decide to read this piece, I suggest you take some time, sit down, and read it in full.  It is not often that a piece like this is featured by New York Times and it is vital to your understanding of the characters lifestyles that you read it from start to finish and utilize the digital map commands when appropriate.  Get the full experience because it is worth it.

I am currently writing a scholarship essay on homelessness as it exists in Ann Arbor.  Though this piece takes place is a completely different city, it helped me to better understand the effects that homelessness has on the homeless, when often, society and literature are otherwise focused on homelessness as it affects the homed.  The digitality of this piece makes it feel real.  And without this experience, I think my understanding would be less than half of what it is now.

 Having the ability to digitize our work as writers is an extreme advantage that we don’t utilize as often as we should.  Invisible Child has inspired me to me more multimodal, myself, within the digital realm.

Caroline Petersen

Caroline is a contributing writer to the Sweetland Minor in Writing Blog. She is an architect in training and spends a lot of her time sipping on cappuccinos and discussing elements of malfunctioning building features. She is a city girl who spent her elementary summers in the middle of Iowa at her aunt and uncles farm. She is a woman of many (unusual) facets that are traditionally fairly useless.

3 thoughts to “Digitize It”

  1. Hey Caroline,

    Great post. Interactive news media is certainly one of the most exciting emerging forms of digital rhetoric and multimodality and certainly one I’ve wanted to learn more about. I remember a couple of months ago I read a cover story in Complex that employed interactive features such as the ones you describe and being wildly confused, but quickly I adjusted and realized the realms of possibilities that this opens. At the very least, it’s a fun way to get people reading, and at best, it could help usher paper news successfully into a digital age. And with both of these, it can shed light on issues such as childhood homelessness, as you discuss above. More people should know about this kind of rhetoric, thank you for posting to help spread the news.


  2. Caroline, I can’t help but laugh at the accuracy of your opening paragraph. I remember the middle school/high school enjoyment that came with the computer lab, a time to sit next to friends and explore the Internet rather than sit silently in class and listen to the teacher talk. And while this limited computer use may have been well founded, it also left us unarmed in many situations. Let the casual allowance of computers in the college classroom be a contrasting example. Constant access to computers opens the door to a wider range of resources and facilitates a more productive class hour. This diverse set of resources I am referring to includes, but is surely not limited to, software platforms to create projects, Google platforms to more easily collaborate, and Internet access to unleash infinite amounts of information. As you clearly explicated in your post, multimodal platforms allow for a more holistic experience and ought to be exploited more in society, especially by students in the academic setting.

  3. That’s a really interesting point, about understanding the article better in its digital format. I know that I, too, prefer reading news media online, but maybe that has more to do with the direction of news in today’s world being more online then, say, in a newspaper or magazine.
    However, I’ve always been able to get more into a story if I have physically in front of me. Perhaps this says something about how I view nonfiction versus fiction.

    This is for the Berkeley Prize, right? Good luck!

Leave a Reply