All posts by Joe Harris

I teach composition, creative nonfiction, and digital writing at the University of Delaware.

Responses to drafts

By this point in the semester you’ve had the chance to form a sense of the projects most of the other members of this seminar are developing—the issues they’re dealing with, their aims in writing about them, the materials they’re working with. Your task now  is to write each other more focused and detailed advice toward revising the full draft of your digital essays. I’d like this response to be in two parts:

First, write the author a note in which you:

  • Define what you see as their project in writing. What’s their topic and slant?
  • Note what is working especially well in the piece. What should they make sure to keep or expand?
  • Try to describe one or two things (no more!) that you feel the author could work on to take their essay to the next level.This is a moment for big advice, not small criticisms.
  • Respond to any specific questions the author raised in their cover memo.

Address the author by name and sign yours.

Second, please point to at least ten specific moments in the text that the author might add to, delete, rework, reformat, or fix what they’ve written. These issues may be finesse points, or they may relate to the ideas for revising that you pointed to in your note. Use the attached form to keep track of your suggestions. (You can simply type in your note to the author at the top of the document.)

Please post your responses by Thurs, 5/01, at 4:00 pm. (This will allow authors time to review the comments on their drafts.)

Then, for our workshop next Friday morning:

  • Authors: Please print out the responses to your draft, read through them, and bring them with you to class.
  • Readers: Please print out one copy of each of your responses to your group members and bring them with you.

Good luck!


Digital essay, draft 1

The first draft of your digital essay is due next Tuesday, 4/29.  What do I mean by draft? Allow me to quote from myself. Here’s what I wrote to my E110 class this semester:

draft is an open and approximate version of the piece you want to write. It is not simply a set of notes, or an intro, or outline, or ideas toward an essay . . . Rather, it is an attempt to write the actual thing, the essay itself, even while knowing that you are not yet quite in a position to write that thing, that you still have more work to do.

An analogy might be to a sketch or study that an artist makes of a painting, or a demo that a musician makes of a song. The attempt in each case  is to offer a sense of what the final version might look or sound like—even if all the details haven’t been worked out or filled in, and even if key parts of the piece are still open to change. I’m hesitant to use the metaphor of a rough draft, since that can suggest something hastily or sloppily done, but in a sense that is what you want to do—to rough out your essay, put together an approximate version of it as a whole, so that you can then later go back to reshape, develop, and refine it.

So that’s what I want you to try to do for next week—to create a first, working version of your essay, something that gets at what you think you want to say, but that is still open to change and revision.

So, conceptually, that’s what I’m after. In terms of logistics, here’s what I’d suggest: Create your draft. Send your writing group a URL that presents your work in progress. With your URL, write a cover memo in which you: (a) briefly summarize your project, (b) note any gaps or problems in your present draft, (c) tell us what sort of feedback you’d find most useful at this stage in your work.


  1. Tues,4/29, 11:59 pm: Post a link to your first draft, with your cover to this site. Use digital essay as your category.
  2. Thurs, 5/01, 11:59 pm: Share responses to drafts with your group members. (See Responding to drafts.) Please copy all members of the group and me  on your responses to each draft.
  3. Fri, 5/02, class: Read through the responses to your draft. Come to class with whatever materials—online or in print—you will need to facilitate discussion of your work.


  • One (Woodchucks): Janel, Michael, Gab, Heather
  • Two (Groundhogs): Petra, Caitlin, Nagmeh, Chris
  • Three (Gophers): Kiley, Callie, Bel, Katie


Our current plan is to spend about half our class time next Friday sharing and thinking through “proto-drafts” of  your digital essays.

We’ll work in groups of four. Each of you will have about 20 minutes to walk your readers through your essay as it now stands—notes, materials, plans aspirations—with the goal of getting some useful feedback as you put together your first “real” draft of your piece, which is due on Tues, 4/29, at 11:59 pm.

No advance posting or reading is required. But we agreed that each of you would come to class with something like:

  1. A one-page overview of your project (probably a Word document, and it is probably a good idea to bring print copies);
  2. Some version of the frame or format of your piece, however rough or tentative. That is, if you think you’ll end up presenting your work on a WordPress or Tumblr site (or Prezi, or iMovie, or whatever), create a mock-up of what your essay might  actually look like.
  3. A list of the important texts or materials you’ll be working with. I suspect that , again, this might be most usefully formatted (for both you and your readers) as Word document, but I can imagine it taking other forms (links on a WordPress page, for instance).
  4. Anything else. Actual materials, notes, drafts, outlines, video clips, etc.  I have found it useful, at the start of similar projects, to create folders labeled: Videos, Audios, Images, Texts, Notes. But you should create and work with whatever taxonomy makes most sense for you.  One way or the other, though, you’ll want to be able to walk your readers through the “stuff” of your project and  to describe what you hope to do with it.

This is, in one sense, a low-stakes assignment, since it will not be graded and, in fact, I may not even see it. But, in another sense, it’s a high-stakes moment, since this is the first time when you are being asked to move from idea  (“I’m thinking about . . .”) to text (“Here’s what I’ve got so far. . “).  Take advantage of this moment. My hunch is that doing so will help you formulate your first draft.

Class, Fri, 4/18

Update: Who went viral?

Thoughts and questions about digital essays

Looking forward: What should we do next week?

  • Laura McGrane, Workshop, “Engaging Undergraduates in Digital Humanities Research”
  • Proto-drafts, digital essays
  • Kenneth Goldsmith, Uncreative Writing: Introduction, 1, 5, 7, 11, and Afterword. (Perhaps Lethem, “Ecstasy of Influence“?)

Adam Banks, Digital Griots


  •  Using digital media to respond to “white on white”: Janel, Chris, Caitlin, Michael, pp. 154–56.
  • Ethics of diversity, academic writing, and cultural idiom: Callie, Heather,  Katie, Kiley, pp. 27, 49.
  • Performativity as, or instead of, argument: Bel, Gab, Nagmeh, Petra,  pp. 3–5.

Scratch, Groove, Shoutout, Mix, Remix, Mixtape, Fade

To do

  1. Thurs, 4/24, 11:59 pm: Read Goldsmith, Uncreative Writing: Introduction, 1, 5, 7, 11, and Afterword. Condense one of the chapters into a tweet for #685dw.  Or, remediate one of your previous posts for this blog as a tweet.
  2. Fri, 4/25, class: Bring a proto-draft of your digital essay to class.  Be ready to talk your readers through your materials. Have some pointed questions that will help them offer you advice for developing and structuring your project.
  3. Fri, 4/25, class: Workshop proto-drafts. Discuss Goldsmith.


x8: Banks, race, teaching, and innovation

I wanted us to read Digital Griots by Adam Banks for three reasons:

  1. I’m worried by how discourse about digital writing seems to be dominated by straight white males. (Perhaps this state of affairs will not shock those of you who are not straight white males.) I appreciate how Banks forces questions of race into our conversation.
  2. We are all teachers as well as scholars and writers, and I like how Banks asks us to think about how we represent the digital world to students.
  3. I admire the virtuosity of Banks’ writing. His book strives to enact as well as state an argument.

For next week, then, I’d like you to respond to at least one of these three aspects of Banks’ work: race, teaching, innovation. Or, ideally, I’d like you to talk about race and/or teaching in a digital age  in an innovative way.

I’m eager to see what you come up with! I feel sure, at this point, that i will be surprised and delighted.

Deadline: Tues, 4/15, 11:59 pm. Comments due on Thurs, 4/17.  Use x8 as your category.

Class, Fri, 4/11

Christopher-Johnson-150x150Christopher Johnson, Microstyle

A dare: Going viral

In pairs: Come up with two micromessages with the intent of going viral.  No pornography, no intimate revelations or outings—but otherwise, come up with whatever you can think of to get a lot of responses on some social platform or public website. Post your micromessages. See what happens (or not). Be ready to relate your strategies in composing to Johnson’s ideas and advice in Microstyle.


  • Fastwrite: Difficulties, questions, moments of inspiration.
  • How can we help one another moving forward?
  • Proto-drafts (materials and notes) on Fri, 4/25?

Digital Essay

299866e3b1fb965838ab3b88597dc25e740f1cad_1600x1200Kirby Ferguson, “Everything is a Remix” (2012)

To do

  1. Tues, 4/15, 11:59 pm: Post x8 to this site.
  2. Thurs, 4/17, :11:59 pm:Post comments on x8.
  3. Fri, 4/18, class: Discuss Banks, Digital Griots, and ongoing work on digital essay.


Class, Fri, 3/28

Virtual 685, Lessig, and CCCC

Fastwrite: Since we did not meet together last week, I’d like us to spend some time thinking about the work we did online. Please jot down a few lines about what most interested, provoked, or amused you about:

  • #4C14
  • #685dw
  • Lessig, Remix
  • x5

Miller, Fitzpatrick, and the Undead of Academic Writingnosferatu

Fastwrite: Find a passage in one of the following texts that helps you formulate a question for Richard Miller (and the rest of us):

  • Fitzpatrick, Planned Obsolescence
  • Miller, text2cloud
  • Miller, “Habits of the Creative Mind”
  • Your x6s, and the various texts mentioned in them.


Your proposals will count as x7 and will be due on Tues, 4/08, at 11:59. Unless people feel uneasy about doing so, I suggest that they be posted online, so you can get feedback and advice your colleagues in seminar as well as me.

Your proposal should address the following issues:

  • What texts or other materials do you plan to work with?
  • What question or problem will your writing address?
  • What sort of format are you imagining working in? (E.g., WordPress, Tumblr, video, podcast . . . )
  • Can you identify a text that could serve as an approximate model for the sort of piece you’d like to compose?
  • What questions do you have at this point for me and your colleagues?

A proposal is not a contract. I expect that your ideas for your piece will evolve over the next several weeks. Your aim for now should formulate a sense of your project in terms that are specific but open to revision, that describe what you want to do in ways that allow the rest of us to offer you advice.

To Do

  1. Tues, 4/08, 11:59 pm: Post your digital essay proposal to this site.
  2. Thurs, 4/10, 11:59 pm: Post advice and feedback to those proposals you feel you can help with.
  3. Fri, 4/11, class: Be ready to discuss Christopher Johnson’s Microstyle.