I’m writing this in my kitchen this evening…
Reflecting on the possibilities which new forms of writing and the creation of open, collaborative texts might offer, Fitzpatrick notes that ‘such reconsidered writing practices might help many of us find more pleasure, and less anxiety, in the act of writing itself.’ (Fitzpatrick, 2011, p.3). As I noted in my blog post about the task, this was certainly my experience. Firstly, I knew that the media embedded within the presentation would carry some of the ‘weight’ of my ideas. I was able to relax and let the reader play with the connotations, creating their own reading of the text. Secondly, I didn’t feel bound by the structural requirements of a standard academic, written response. I knew that this was the start of an interaction with an audience rather than the end of a process of independent crafting; this was the start of an ongoing conversation, ‘The author is not operating – and has never operated – in a vacuum, but has always been a participant in an ongoing conversation’ (Fitzpatrick, 2011, p.7).
This was, for me, a far more compelling challenge than our first structured blog task; I felt less isolated and constrained ‘network technologies might help us feel less alone and less lost in the writing process…’ (Fitzpatrick, 2011, p.3).
Fitzpatrick cites Lawrence Lessig’s work which explores how ‘the networks of electronic communication carry embedded values within the codes that structure their operation, and many of the Internet’s codes, and thus its values, are substantively different from those within which scholars – or at least those in the humanities – profess to operate.’ (Lessig, 2006, quoted in Fitzpatrick, 2011, p.4). Online creation and communication offer space where we and our students can, perhaps, feel more comfortable than within the strictures and confines of traditional academic writing. The creation of a multimedia essay can be a freeing tool for us and for students; a medium within which we can more readily operate; we can engage in ‘more recursive, more nonlinear, more open-ended, more spontaneous (writing)’ (Fitzpatrick, 2011, p.5).
As Fitzpatrick goes on to note, ‘The technologies of a new literary system, in other words, are here.’ (2011, p.7) and these are beginning to be exploited within education. David Mitchell’s QuadBlogging project, for example, has exploited just some of the potentials of new modes of literacies to encourage, support and improve children’ writing. The process involves a class of young writers being grouped with other schools and organisations (such as MIT); these groups engage in a process of blogging, offering supportive and timely feedback on one another’s post. The children are engaged in a process of communication – they are writing for a ‘real’ audience and they themselves become ‘active readers’ (Bloch and Hesse, 1993, p.8).
Multimodal texts are also increasingly available, offering new ways for young readers to engage with their reading and to become active creators of the text. Earth: a primer is such a resource; readers become makers of the text and of the world itself, creating volcanoes, icebergs and their own meanings.
What is also of real interest is how, through digital media, we are able, as educators, to lay bare the process of creation, the hacking and slashing that happens, the false starts, the hesitations and the revisions offering, via this a model of the creative process for our students to engage with.
Such affordances allow the reader to ‘approach a text not just in a finished state, but throughout its process of development’ (Fitzpatrick, 2011. p.12) and thereby to see that writing is messy, chaotic, difficult and never finished. Even now.