Category Archives: digital essay

Betty Who?: Social Media and the Construction of New Pop Celebrities (A Digital Essay)

Greetings, whistle-pigs! Er…groundhogs.

I’ve created a WordPress site that will serve as the platform for my digital essay. The link is:

A. Brief Summary: My digital essay is not only argument-driven but also theoretically-based, meaning I’m trying to pull together various threads of scholarship into one “cohesive” whole: celebrity, media, and fan studies, as well as interdisciplinary work on social media. In doing so, I’m pursuing the question of how fans use social media to construct new pop celebrities, as the title of my essay implies. What is live on my WordPress site thus far is a series of five posts that serve as the theoretical framework for my project. What I have left to compose is my case study, which will focus on Betty Who. By the end of my essay, I hope to prove how a “proto-celebrity” no longer needs to rely solely on the machinations of a PR team to gain and sustain media exposure; rather, fans do much of the footwork these days out of sheer interest in the proto-celebrity at hand and in sharing them with the rest of the world in the hopes of creating a fan community.

B. Gaps and/or Problems: As I stated above, the most obvious gap is my missing case study on Betty Who, which I’m still working through. In terms of problems, I have two concerns: (1) how “multimedia” or “digital” my project is, and (2) how my tone translates onto a blog. I’m afraid of sounding disingenuous by pandering to what a “blogger” should sound like, but I’m also afraid of sounding too academic. At the end of the day, though, I’d rather sound academic (and risk sounding pretentious) than phony.

C. What Sort of Feedback Would Be Most Useful: Here are some guiding questions that way I can avoid micromanaging. How can I better include more “affordances” of the web to make my project seem more multimedia? Keep in mind, though, that my case study of Betty Who will be very multimodal. Are there any places where you think I could condense or pull back on some of my theorizing/frameworking? How well do you see my own authorial voice coming through (since I draw from the work of numerous scholars)? Additionally, I’m conceiving each post as both a separate entity and a part of a larger whole. Does each post achieve those criteria? If not, which ones could I improve, and how could I improve them? Finally, one smaller point: is it redundant to repeat the same, long title for each blog post? Would it be more effective if I just titled them “Part x of ???” or something that more accurately reflects the specific post’s argument, paired with the “Part x of ???” parenthetical?


Philosophers Online

Hello, Gophers!

Here’s my stuff.


Cover Memo:

While humanities programs in the university are worried about their future, philosophy as a subject has quietly, but successfully, moved online. There are, of course, those who abstain from the public sphere, but philosophy has done really well online. The pages on this website are divided by method, in hopes that they can give an overall picture as to which methods work well (and for what reasons). It is also my hope that other fields can look to these public philosophers as they learn how to embrace and engage the public. My current sections are: Simulation, Illustration, Community, and Failures. Each page is divided into two sections: (1) an overview of several key online players and (2) an analysis.

Gaps or Problems:
So right now I am still drawing all of these sources together. I’ve fleshed out the pages on Community and Simulation (as well as the main, overview page), but I’m not sure that all of the pieces are working together. It seems to me that I need some process-education research or something to give my observations a framework. I mean, I can do all of the analysis that I want but there does sometimes need to be something I can tie my analysis to.

I really want to know the following:

First, how do you like the layout of the pages? Is this working for you? Why or why not?

Second, am I doing enough analysis? Should I add more examples from these works? Do I need more reasons?

The Overview worries me the most, because I feel like it’s not as interesting as I would like it to be. Any suggestions?

Also, it feels to me like I need some sort of concluding idea somewhere on the website. Does it also feel like that to you? I might be reading too much into this feeling because I’m envisioning an essay and working with a website (two very different genres).

The Badness Catalog: Digital Essay Draft 1

Yo Woodchucks!

The Badness Catalog is basically live. (Click it to view.)

TBC Draft Screenshot


While you can read all about the project on the About page (general population) and The Mission page (academic audience), I’ve distilled the salient points here:

This site examines the way a key series of apparent “literacy errors”—errors of established language or custom practices—take on a new life on the internet. Instead of being failures of linguistic proficiency,  these apparent errors in digital discourse take on a metonymic role: they become stand-ins for other ideas altogether, the original apparent error erased and repurposed for new meaning. These “bad” practices—viewed in meatspace as mistakes—become markers of proficiency on the web.

The site focuses on those practices where the experienced writer knows that these behaviors are in violation of traditional literate convention, and uses these “bad” practices to signify in a new discourse community. The focus of this project is to elucidate how this “badness” signifies both meaning and membership: in the words of Michele Zappavigna (thanks Callie!) in Discourse of Twitter and Social Media, how this badness is both ideational and interpersonal, searchable (in that it reaches out to other instances of itself to create new meaning) and indicative of community.

There are basically two major arguments going on here:

  1. “badness” is more often an indication of an unwillingness (or unpreparedness) to read a text. In other words, badness on the internet  is not always the result of a mistake, but sometimes a marker of something other than expected being said.
  2. the process by which apparently bad textual performance is actually expressing something else is not new or unique to the internet. Communication depends on a panoply of external cues  and modes (multimodality) to make it legible–it’s simply that the internet has developed, as all cultural sites do, new cues and modes to suit its needs.


In its current state, the framework and scaffolding of the site are complete (the Readings page, notably, is empty as I haven’t yet compiled all my secondary material in one place). About 60% of the evidence/case studies/entries are fully posted at this point–the project will ultimately be longer than 2000 words and will likely not “end” with 685, as I have about a dozen catalog entries of various length planned. By the final submission deadline I plan to have about 10 entries. So keep in mind that while the site’s idea is complete, the project is ongoing and not all the “categories” have been filled out. In short, you could read it in its current state and probably get a very clear idea about the point–but I am going to add more stuff. The posts that exist right now should give you a good idea of what I’m doing–and I wanted to check in before I post more, in case something central isn’t working.


The tone is hard to capture here–I’m trying to do intellectual work, but I’m also not trying to crush the thing under the weight of complex prose, except where setup has made that viable. So really, there are three major areas of feedback I’d value:

  • are the entries answering the call I set out, as evidence that badness on the internet is often signficant/signifying? 
  • is the website organized in an easy, but nonlinear fashion? 
  • does it cite sources effectively? There aren’t many, but the affordances of the website make citation a tricky business.

A smaller, more specific question is: should I continue to put a sort of academic-style mission statement as the lead thing in the “The Mission” menu category? Right now it’s “hidden” in the master category itself–meaning you have to click on the words rather than click on an item in the drop-down menu. Should this be more prominent?

Multimodal Tutoring Pedagogy: Digital Essay Draft 1

Greetings fellow Woodchucks:

For my project, I am exploring how incorporating multimodal texts into writing centers alters tutoring pedagogy. And although I am making a specific intervention into a conversation in writing center theory, I am aiming my digital essay at a more general audience—comp teachers, writing center tutees—basically anyone who is (or could be) affected by this issue. Ultimately, I argue that the polarization of multimodal texts in current writing center theory (i.e., “treat them like any other text!” or “put them in a separate building!”)  is unnecessary, because these texts adhere to writing center theory and, in the end, are not very different from the mythical “traditional” text that we already work with.

As you’ll see, my essay is entirely in video format. I really struggled with figuring out what a “first draft” of a video looks like. I’m sure you all remember the particular challenges of creating videos—all of which don’t really lend themselves to drafts (that look like anything comprehensible). That said, I tried to do my best at creating what I wanted my video to look like without going so far that they idea of revision would be maddening. I accomplished this primarily by dividing my video into two halves. The first half is far more polished and complete—it’s basically what the whole video is going to look like. The second half is much rougher, particularly after about 10 minutes in, when it switches to all audio and an “under construction” image.

For feedback, I’d like style focused comments on the first half and argument focused comments on the second half. Some prompting questions may be: what parts of the various video styles (white board, images, interviews) work and which ones don’t? Is the ratio that I use to mix these styles together too heavy handed on one side or another? Are there major stylistic changes I should make in the second half? Can you follow my argument at the speed with which it’s laid out? Are there certain areas that you think I need to clarify/expand (keep in mind that there are still more interviews I’m going to add in to the second half that help support some of my points)?


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.