In my first year at York University, I took a course called “WRIT 1500 – Writing and Computers.” Considering that I enjoy both writing and computers, taking this course was a no-brainer; however, I wasn’t prepared for what my professor, John Spencer, was about to spring on our class!
The professor taught the class through a course wiki that was updated by the students themselves. We learned not only to produce written content optimal for online consumption but also to structure this content. We created our own personal wiki pages and our assignments consisted of completing wiki pages defining course ideas.
So, what were some of the things I learned from the course? I can describe 4 very important concepts for potential online content producers:
- Webtexts: Webtexts are any form of online content. Webtexts are commonly thought to include only alphanumeric text (such as the “text” of this blog); on the contrary, webtexts include images, audio, video and other forms of media. Whether an blog post or a Youtube video, webtexts are “read” by their audiences. Therefore, online content producers need to be aware of the “reading habits” of their audiences.
- Multi-modality: The idea that a full webtext is more than just one medium. Many wiki articles – whether they include an image of a famous painting or a sample of a famous hit single – include more than just one type of webtext. Our professor taught us that although combining different media to create a comprehensive experience is an idea that dates back to the mid-19th century, it’s also a concept that is still very important for online content production in the future.
- Hyperlinks: Content that contains links to other content. Our professor stressed the importance of interconnectivity on the internet, and hyperlinks bring this concept into fruition. Hyperlinks allow users to access more content in an easy manner, so online content producers need to ensure that they use hyperlinks to their advantage.
- Public Writing: The idea that user-generated content can help improve a webtext. Wikis are at the forefront of the public writing debate, as they allow any user (registered or anonymous) to edit articles. While this has raised concern about misinformation in wikis, public writing (when properly implemented) can create a plethora of valuable information and perspectives. As the internet becomes more communal, the amount of user-generated content is increasing, and online content producers must be sure to explore the possibilities that public writing allows.
This class really helped shape my perspective on online content production; I find the process both fascinating and fun (and after rereading my blog, I’ve determined that at times I have a little too much fun). I try to keep these four concepts in mind when producing any sort of online document, and I encourage others to do the same.
If you want to know more about this stuff, leave a comment here or send me a message on LinkedIn.