Plat(free)forms: accessible tools for new e-lit composers

Abstract (in English): 

“In a participatory medium, immersion implies learning to swim, to do the things that the new environment makes possible.” -Janet Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck

For new “digital swimmers,” or those just dipping their toes into the pool for a semester or two, complicated (and expensive) technology and skill sets can sometimes hinder creative expression. My goal, as a teacher of digital creative writing, is to get students to “listen to their broccoli” (follow their intuition), as Anne Lamott suggests, and express their unique voices through multiple modes. By utilizing software that is accessible on their own computers and easy to navigate, students are less intimidated and free to create and focus on writing. Although all software has its limitations, I’m seeing some wonderfully creative and thoughtful projects from my students.

My digital creative writing courses are “open education resource.” In the past, I have relied heavily on the Adobe Creative Suite in my courses (accessible on campus) and taught mainly Dreamweaver for hypertext projects. With the spring pivot online, Adobe was not quite as easy to access (although the free subscriptions they offered were appreciated by several of my students) and students in the fall wanted to use their own computers and not those in the lab. I had always tried to incorporate free software options—Twine, Google Maps, and Knightlab storytelling tools—but found myself expanding these options even more this past year. Between my writing and e-lit courses, we explored Google Earth, Scene, and ThingLink for 360 work, and relied mostly on Twine and ThingLink for hypertext projects. This semester I am adding Timeline. The simplicity of the software has allowed these new digital swimmers to delve deeper into the platforms’ potential and their subject matter. I have been impressed with the complex projects being made in ThingLink, which at first glance seems like a very simple platform. You can add links to video, 360 environments, add sound, videos, and link multiple “pages” (projects) together. My intro. level students had very little trouble learning the interface and executing their ideas.

As Anne Frances Wysocki says in Writing New Media, “When someone makes an object that is both separate from her but that shows how she can use the tools and materials of her time, then she can see a possible self—a self positioned and working within the wide material conditions of her world, even shaping that world—in that object” (21). In this paper, I will discuss several of these “Plat(free)forms” and their capabilities (and limitations). I will explore how these accessible platforms enable expression, in particular of marginalized voices, as Twine has been used widely in the LGBTQ+ community, as well as provide potential for exploring virtual spaces with minimal technology. I will show several student projects that exemplify their uses, as well as how they are being used to create political, diverse, and deeply personal narratives, allowing digital learners to shape their worlds and add their voices to the world of e-lit.

Critical writing referenced:


ELO 2021: Platforms & Software 4, May 27

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Daniel Johannes...