personal digital ecology

Due in stages:

  • Stage One: Stage One: Publish a Blog Site for the Class due Week 2
  • Stage Two: Collect and Publish Information About Your Digital Reading and Writing due Week 3
  • Stage Three: Categorize and Publish Information About Your Digital Ecology due Week 4
  • Stage Four: Publish a Word Cloud and Visualization of Your Digital Ecology site due Week 5


During the first few weeks, we’ve developed a theory of technology and writing. The hope is to give you a theory of technology and writing that helps you think and locate activity. In this first assignment for the class, I am asking you to think about the effects digital reading and writing have on you. You will research and represent your own current digital writing practices (including the spaces, times, technologies, identities, and activities related to them). Collectively, let’s call this your personal digital media ecology. Closely observing your own digital media ecology and those of others in this class will prepare you to think strategically about the writing economies you wish to participate in and how you choose to participate, or resist, in them.


  • develop a complex theory of digital writing conceptually and operationally
  • collect data about your own personal digital media ecologies, including practices, technologies, identities, times, spaces, and the relationships across them
  • play with data analysis  and visual rhetoric to chart and categorize your personal digital media economy

Audience online

Usability specialist Ginny Redish in Letting Go of the Words suggests that we can expect individuals reading online to behave in certain ways. She suggests

  • online readers are busy, have intense demands on their attention, and multitask;
  • they “skim and scan” and thus do not take the time to decode long sentences

Reddish names this as a “user-centered design” focused writing process. How much relevant information can you convey with a visual design?

Stage One: Publish a Blog Site for the Class

Publish a blog site to use for this class. You may pick any blogger sight you wish like tumblr, wordpress, or blogger. Your blog should be personal/professional and take into account the discussions of identity we will have over the course of the semester. That is to say, you should personally decide whether to make this an anonymous site, or whether to connect it to your name.

Stage Two: Collect and Publish Information About Your Digital Reading and Writing

For a one week period, keep a journal that records, on a regular period the writing activities you are doing. As you observe, you might find that you wish to add columns. I would like you to start by logging your, what Latour calls programs of action. Your observation log should aim to gather the spaces, times, technologies, identities, activities and people related to them. Our goal here is to operationalize our theoretical readings from a place of experience. Make sure to include people. To begin, open a word processor, text editor, or spreadsheet to create a master file to record all the information you collect about yourself. You should cut and paste information into this file as you go. Make sure to have your log accessible. Something portable. Something usable. Something digital because you have to turn it in. After finding a way to carry your log for yourself, do the following:

    • Check archives kept by the different technologies you use most often for clues about the digital reading and writing you do most frequently. For example, check the history of the browsers that you use, the texting histories kept within your cell phone, and the history of your social media accounts (your “wall” or “feeds”). Export or cut and paste this information into the same word document or spreadsheet.
    • Think back to your digital reading and writing over the past 24 hours. Try to write out an hourly list detailing what kinds of digital reading and writing you did over the past 24 hours, including when you use digital media writing as a form of “multitasking” or to structure the time of your day.

Save this master document containing data about your digital writing. Save the document as “lastname_data” and be ready to use it in the second part of the activity. NOTE: if you do not write digitally at all, you are in a unique position for this assignment. Contact me to chat.

Stage Three: Categorize and Publish Information About Your Digital Ecology

Now that you have paid close attention to your digital reading and writing, open a new word processing document or spreadsheet. In this document, you will closely analyze the information you collected about yourself in order to begin noticing patterns.

  • Categorize the spaces and times for your digital reading and writing: Make a list of all the digital spaces you visited frequently, occasionally, and rarely in your data collection. When did you tend to visit them (i.e., whenever you have a spare moment, when you need information, when you have a school assignment?) Note the physical spaces you are in when you writing in these digital spaces. For example, did you access them from a dorm, apartment, or house that you live in? From classrooms you are in? From a library, café, or coffeehouse? While walking, bussing, or driving from place to place?
  • Categorize the technologies that mediated your digital reading and writing: Make a list of all the devices you used for digital writing (i.e., laptops, desktop computer, cell phone, tablet PC, laboratory computer) during data collection. For example, how many different computing devices did you use? Did you do most of your digital writing using a phone, laptop, desktop, school laboratory computer, or another device? What other devices were involved but not directly? Be specific about materiality. The difference between facebook chat and AIM matters. The difference between pen and pencils matter.
  • Categorize the activity (it might help to think about the purpose and audience) for your digital reading and writing: How many different kinds of audiences can you think of for the digital writing that you do? How many different purposes for your writing can you list? Is most of your digital writing to maintain connections or relationships? To get news? To cure boredom?
  • What stands out most?

Collect your answers to these questions in the second word processing document you created.

Stage Four: Publish a Word Cloud and Visualization of Your Digital Ecology

Post a word cloud and visualization on your blog site along with a short post about what you learned through researching your personal digital ecology. Post to your blog your word cloud infographic, your data or concept visualization, and a short post reflecting on your personal digital ecology. You might discuss the following: what technological commodities do you recruit?