WRD 201: Digital Writing (Fall 2015)

Course Description

Writing today requires more than just skill with written words: successful digital-age writers understand how to strategically compose with a variety of modes and media, including still images, moving images, social content, sound, and written text. This course aims to increase your flexibility and confidence with this expanded range of modes and media. You will learn relevant design and rhetorical theories, get instruction and hands-on practice with new digital production and distribution tools, and tackle projects that develop your capacity to create persuasive digital texts for professional and civic purposes.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be better prepared to:

  • Analyze digital texts and describe why they are or are not rhetorically effective.
  • Analyze a particular rhetorical situation and select the modes and media likely to be persuasive in that situation.
  • Compose multimodal texts with media editing software.
  • Create web content using a content management system (CMS).
  • Describe how content circulates and gains value in the digital age, as well as the related implications for writers.


Alloca, K. (2011). Why videos go viral. TED talk.

Arola, K., Sheppard, J., & Ball, C.E. (2014). Writer/designer: A guide to making multimodal projects. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Carroll, L.B. (2010). Backpacks vs. briefcases: Steps toward rhetorical analysis. In C. Lowe & P. Zemliansky (Eds.), Writing spaces: Readings on writing, volume 1 (pp. 45-58). Anderson, SC: Parlor Press.

Gladwell, M. (2010, October 4). Small change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted. New Yorker.

Hagen, R. & Golombisky, K. (2013). Layout sins. In White space is not your enemy: A beginner’s guide to communicating visually through graphic, web, and multimedia design, 2nd edition (pp. 31-42). Burlington, MA: Focal Press.

Marantz, A. (2014, January 5). The virologist: How a young entrepreneur built an empire by repackaging memes. The New Yorker.

Sheridan, D.M., Ridolfo, J., & Michel, A.J. (2012). Composing with rhetorical velocity: Looking beyond the moment of delivery. In The available means of persuasion: Mapping a theory and pedagogy of multimodal public rhetoric (pp. 75-98). Anderson, SC: Parlor Press.

Simmons, C. (2011). Seeking. In  Just design: Socially conscious design for critical causes (pp. 67-95). Cincinnati: HOW Publishers.

White, C. & Biggs, J. (2014). How to write a blog post. In Bloggers boot camp: Learning how to build, write, and run a successful blog (pp. 101-124). Waltham, MA: Focal Press.


  1. Blog and Online Portfolio: Throughout the term, you will engage with course readings and projects by writing posts and pages on a WordPress site. This WordPress site will be a place for you to hone your multimodal writing skills, learn WordPress, and explore some of the associated practices of writing in online environments, such as choosing and customizing themes and templates; composing with multiple modes; and using tags, categories, and other strategies to prepare your content for online circulation.
  2. Rhetorical Analysis Video: Rhetorical analysis is the process of closely examining a persuasive text to 1) better understand the rhetorical situation around that text—its audience, purpose, context, and genre—and 2) identify and evaluate specific choices that the text’s composer has made, in light of your understanding of the rhetorical situation. In this project, you will identify an interesting online text, conduct a rhetorical analysis of that text, and present your findings as a 1-2 minute video.
  3. Multimedia Change Campaign: In this collaborative project, you will work with a small team to design a ‘campaign,’ or collection of persuasive materials, with an aim to raise awareness of a problem or opportunity and mobilize people to address that problem or opportunity. The topic of the campaign is up to your team, and while several materials are required—including a logo and graphic identity, a 30-second to 1-minute video, and a website—your overall task is to determine and design a collection of persuasive materials that have promise to spur change. Each team member will be responsible for producing one or more media items, and the team must also deliver a collaborative presentation to the class.