Week 1: Building Blocks and Digital Persona

The foreground of the image features an outdoor deck with a table against the railing. On the table is an ice bucket with a b
Image from Santo Wines, santowines.gr

This week, we have done some reading on the meaning of what technical writing looks like in the digital space, started to build a digital persona, and started finding our way around the class Wiki.

Before the start of this class, my understanding of Technical Writing was mostly based on the four classes I've taken in my degree program so far. These are Rhetoric, Instructional Design, Web Design, and Professional Writing. It's really interesting to me how wide the net of "technical writing" is, in that it encompasses these broad categories and much more. Similarly, all the students in my classes thus far have had a wide range of majors and careers. To me, this shows just how versatile and widely applicable technical writing is.

I also enjoyed Marshall McLuhan's idea that "the media is the message." It seems like this is an important consideration in digital writing especially. In undergrad, my writing was all academic, and mostly on literary topics at that. Although I was writing papers "digitally" using a word processor and online sources, they were not truly digital media according to Dr. Lucas's definition that digital media is "writing composed, created, and read in digital environments." It's a big leap from academic research papers to digital blog posts, listicles, journalistic articles, and other distinctly digital writing forms. These platforms all require a different set of rules, different styles, and different tones. It's important to be adaptable.

The concept of the media being the message also ties into another one of my takeaways from this week: the importance of visual design and useability in digital media. Digital media is dynamic and often fleeting. A lot of it is meant to be consumed in real time and in a single sitting. Therefore, digital pieces run a higher risk of readers getting fatigued or just losing interest. Strategic visual design can help ease fatigue and make the reading more engaging. Even the best-written essay can benefit from visual enhancement such as placement of new headings, images, tables and charts, etc. Not only does this reduce the likelihood of reader fatigue, it also can strengthen the writing itself by providing additional support for the writer's point.

I am already seeing some practical applications and parallels to my career in wine and spirit sales. Reading Dr. Lucas's "Defining Technical Writing" reminded me of the technical jargon used in this field, especially in wine. However, I feel that the world of wine is somewhat unique in that you can never assume your audience is familiar with all the ideas, concepts, and vocabulary. Wine is simultaneously niche and massively appealing. Whether it's an end-user customer, or a fellow professional, everyone has a different level of knowledge and experience. In my opinion, this makes technical communication an even more crucial skill, especially as more and more consumers are getting into wine at the entry level. You have to know how to get your ideas across to anyone who is interested in learning more, without alienating newcomers.

I also found the readings on Digital Persona really helpful, but I'm struggling a bit in identifying my own. I started out by creating my personal website, and I want to build it around my work in the beverage industry while incorporating writing, but I'm still pinpointing what exactly that will look like. I came up with "Wordplay and Wine" as a potential title, and I like how it sounds. I just need to figure out how exactly I'm going to use these two worlds. I'm wondering if it would make more sense to approach it from a personal blog angle, rather than a professional site. I think that way would give me a little more leniency in having two different interests represented, instead of trying to mash them together into a single concept. If I can't iron it out in a way that makes sense, I might have to eliminate the "wordplay" concept altogether and come up with a different title, but I really want to try to make it work first.

Overall, I think this has been an informative first week for this course. I appreciate the Wiki format for the readings, as I use Wikipedia frequently and I enjoy clicking links to related articles to delve deeper. I'm looking forward to working on the class Wiki as well. I had Dr. Lucas for Studies in Drama in undergrad and we did some Wikipedia editing there as part of a class project. I found it to be a really interesting and useful skill, and I came away with a better understanding of what an incredible tool Wikipedia is.

Emma Darnell

Emma Darnell

I work in wine and spirits sales while pursuing a Master of Arts in technical and professional writing.
Macon, GA