Digital Writing, Digital Teaching 2.0

Nearly 10 years ago, Professor Michael Wesch created a video to describe “‘Web 2.0’ in just under 5 minutes.” “The Machine is Us/ing Us” documents the evolution of the web, beginning with HTML and then into the web we know today.

He notes in the video that, with the very first version of hypertext markup language, or HTML, “form and content became inseparable.” That is, whatever we put into a webpage required both a “structural” element (such as a heading, bold, or list item tag) as well as the words themselves.

Then, XML allowed us to separate content from form. Using a different form of markup language, the content (words of the text) were separate from the form (format of the text). As the video notes, “data [words] can be exported, free of formatting constraints.”

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, in the end of the video he invites us to rethink a number of ideas including copyright, authorship, identity, aesthetics, governance, privacy, commerce, love, family, and ourselves.

To say that this video’s effect on my perspective toward digital writing was profound is not nearly enough. In many ways, it helped to set my trajectory over the past ten years, and it was enjoyable to watch it again as I relaunch my blog. I encourage you to take a few minutes to view it, too.

So, fast forward to the present. It was just over 10 years ago when I began this blog with the support of LunarPages free hosting plan for K-12 educators. Since then, it has become a place where I share my on-going thinking, reading, writing, and reflections. It has, directly or indirectly, led to seven books, over 30 articles or book chapters, and countless workshops and conference sessions. I am thankful for all that blogging has allowed me to do, and all that it has invited me to become.

That said, all technologies have affordances and constraints, blogs being no exception. On the mental and emotional side, there have been weeks and months where I have felt guilty for not posting, worrying as to whether or not I was keeping up with digital writing in all the ways that I could or should. On the technical side, I have spent many hours learning about how to customize WordPress, how to stop spammers (unsuccessfully), and — in the past few days — how to download and make sure I have copies of all the MySQL databases from my domain.

Then, last night both to meet the demands of Lunar Pages — who, rightly, need my site to only utilize so much bandwidth — and to provide myself with the kinds of mental and emotional space I need to reaffirm myself as a blogger, I decided to hit the “reset” button. I backed everything up, cleared out the domain, and started fresh. Thus, you will notice my new look and, for the moment, a distinct lack of any “archives” or old posts.

And, here is where these two stories meet. I was reminded of Wesch’s video — and my initial fascination with digital writing — when I realized that I could, despite the fact that my website was being overrun by spammers, separate the content from the form, that I could save my words while resetting the form.

So, I did.

And, so far, I have to say that hitting the reset button on my blog has been a refreshing experience. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to feel like a new blogger once again, all the while knowing that I have a decade of experience (and blog posts) to return to. Hence, I hope to curate some of those old posts and bring them back on this new version of the blog.

And, heck, if you are really feeling nostalgic, the Wayback Machine has some good snapshots from my blog’s history. I might just have to go back and look through all of those myself.

For the moment, I am going to tinker with a few settings, and also begin to think about some more posts that I want to write in the weeks and months to come. Thanks to all of you who have been readers of my blog — as well as all of you who are new to it, too.

I look forward to the (renewed) journey.