How does technology change the way I write?
Photo by John Diez on

When I first learned to write, all my creative choices came down to what font I wanted to use. Would my 5th grade poem look better written in cursive and in black ink, or in all capital letters in a sharp pencil? Should I center it on my page, or keep it close to the left hand margin? There was no conversation happening about digital affordances and how those would affect my composition process. When I switched to writing my poetry and short stories on a computer instead of paper, the choice was about efficiency and not creativity. It was faster to type than writing by hand, easier to edit, and simpler to share with family or friends via email. It’s only recently that I have begun to think about the true affordances that technology gives me and the content I create. I now consider the visual and aural options that could supplement my writing. I think about how the format of a piece would change based on how I publish it. I am finding that there are more and more ways to curate my individual voice, ways that go far beyond the words I put on paper.

I recently took a multimedia composition class, and it helped me push the boundaries of my story telling process. I was able to use a mix of photography, video, and audio alongside my writing.

The following screenshots are from the final project I created for that multimedia class. The story is a personal account of a backpacking trip I took. Here you see writing followed by a collage of photos from trip.

In this screenshot you can see text from the body of my story, a quote that is formatted to stand apart from the rest of the text, and a video clip from an interview I did with my travel partner.

One of my favorite multimedia features I took advantage of was my ability to upload scans of the journals my friend and I kept while on our backpacking trip. Here’s an example of one of those scans, detailing everything we had in our packs. Here is the link to that story in case anyone is interested in reading more. 40 Days on The Road

Beyond the forms of media used, I also realized that I could mix my writing styles and formats within one piece and still create a coherent story. Listicle articles are widely popular these days, and I’ve found that I enjoy creating a hybrid listicle that supplements each list item with personal essays and interviews. I feel like using a mixed media approach to story telling allows me to reach a wider audience. A solid wall of text can be daunting to some readers and lose their attention quickly. Text interspersed with vibrant photos, however, can catch a reader’s attention in different ways. I can make quotes stand out by using various formats, I can utilize headlines and subtitles to highlight key phrases. It becomes a more immersive and fun experience for the reader, and for me as I create the content. I think it really comes down to that word, create.

Before I began utilizing all the affordances of digital literacy, I would have always used the word writing; now it’s so much more than that. I am creating an experience, not just writing a story.

For the most part I can only see the benefits that a digital space has given me, the affordances. Although there is one constraint that I struggle with. When I was writing on paper, it felt like it was more personal, like it was just for me. There is a sense of privacy to it, which is why my personal journal still is and always will be handwritten. When type something though, I have a sense that the whole world will read it, even if I am trying to write it for my eyes only. This feeling of writing for a public space changes the way I write, and as hard as I try I can’t write just for me when it’s on a computer; I am always re-reading what I write through the eyes of everyone else. This frustrates me sometimes, but I always have the option of returning to pen and paper when it happens.

Overall, the affordances of digital literacy far outweigh the constraints. The digital world has changed the way I write and the way I compose my content, and I feel like a more well-rounded writer because of it. I think that the creativity induced by new technology is exciting and I am inspired everyday by the things people make and put online.

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