Writing with Digital Technologies

[D]ifferent writing technologies set up radically different spatial, tactile, visual, and even temporal relations between a writer's material body and his or her material text.
—Christina Haas (1996, p. 226)

Syllabus for WRIT 4662W - Writing with Digital Technologies

« Description »

WRIT 4662W is an advanced level Writing Studies course that explores digital writing technologies and provides opportunities to assess writing situations and make appropriate decisions about digital form and production. Students learn the basic building blocks of writing in Internet environments (text, sound, images, video, interactivity) as well as the vocabularies, functionalities, and organizing structures of Web 2.0 environments, how these impact understanding and use of information, and how to produce these environments (i.e., multimedia internet documents) for interactivity and use. This course includes design projects and practice with apps, markup language, content management systems, video, and social media.

In this class, you will learn some fundamental and some novel ways writing for Internet-based environments has modified professional and everyday literacy practices. You will learn and write semantically rich HTML and DITA markup. Putting such writing skills into action, you will:

  1. Write reading posts in Markdown, publish them to the online "git" version control system, and use Github to coordinate group responses;
  2. Create a static website (HTML/CSS) that historicizes a Web-based writing technology; and
  3. Architect and write a topic model (DITA) that will enable you to create reusable, programmable content.

These writing skills will provide you the opportunity to learn writing processes involved in developing web content in tandem with how such content is programmable and reusable, delivering diverse user experiences across numerous document and device types.

We will frame our goals to learn such writing skills by reading research that will help us understand how written communication, its production and interpretation, is a fusion of old and new media. And, how such writing practices – the cultural knowledge, tech, and skills binding a literate task – is always historically-shaped and socially-packaged.

» Defining Writing

Perhaps, over the years, as you have taken more courses and written more types of documents in different contexts and domains, you have realized that writing for different stakeholders and audiences influences the types of writing you produce. And, even the process by which it is accomplished.

In this class, we take that initial insight and dig deeper into it. I ask you to consider the overarching claim that there is no such thing as big "W" Writing. Rather, writing can be best understood as linked to material technologies and socially organized, recurrent, goal-directed practices. Then, as individuals, who come from diverse backgrounds, we can begin to better identify, learn, and navigate such writing practices.

Furthermore, writing and writing technologies reconfigure the types of writing made possible. Accordingly, we are going to test and explore this claim by writing with fundamental and more novel web-based technologies, markup languages, and web semantics (see Fig. 1).

Diagram of writing process when creating a content, topic model in DITA
Fig. 1. Picture of my IDE window with the content/markup for this page.

» Course Objectives

  • Understand the basic building blocks of writing in Internet environments
    • Writing has always been accomplished with technology. From tokens to pencils and now pixels, writing with digital technologies has changed writing and design practices in interesting ways.
  • Identify, define, and solve writing and design problems
    • During this course, all of you will encounter insurmountable barriers to completing particular writing and design tasks. Accordingly, part of this course will ask you to identify, discuss, and reflect on resources and places with resources that help you complete your work with particular writing technologies.
  • Understand diverse philosophies and cultures
    • There is no capital 'W' writing, because writing is intertwined with culture. Writing is a social-historical practice that individual's learn with particular uses of cultural sign systems. We'll take some time to understand what this means and how it should help you (re)think writing.
  • Learn novel reusable content strategies
    • Technical communication is leading the way with how text is becoming even more malleable in networked, digital environments. Audiences often only need snippets of information related to your larger topic, so you will be introduced to a variety of ways content is being made to conform to particular audience needs and situations. And, ultimately, how this changes how you write about your topic.

» Course Time Commitment

This is a 4-credit, senior-level, writing-intensive course with both undergraduate and masters-level students in it. Such a course requires approximately 12 hours of work per week. You should expect consistent, steady writing and reading work every week throughout the semester.

« Texts & Tools »

» Texts (required)

Duckett, John. (2011). HTML & CSS: Design and build websites. Indianapolis, IN. Amazon.com

Bellamy, Laura, Carey, Michelle, & Schlotfeldt, Jenifer. (2012). DITA best practices: A roadmap for writing, editing, and architecting in DITA. IBM Press. Amazon.com

» Texts (supplemental & free!)

Pilgrim, Mark. (2012). Dive into HTML5. Self-published, but also picked up by O'Reilly Press. Retrieved 10 Jul. 2015 from http://diveintohtml5.info.

Priestley, Michael. (29 Mar. 2006). Introduction to DITA Workshop. DITA.XML.org. Retrieved 30 Jun. 2015 from http://dita.xml.org/node/1253.

Shafie, Hussein. (10 Jun. 2015). DITA for the impatient. XMLmind.com. Retrieved 30 Jun. 2015 from http://www.xmlmind.com/tutorials/DITA/.

Soueidan, Sara. (2015). CSS reference. Codrops. Retrieved 03 Sep. 2015 from http://t.co/vvmqp5cXuA.

» Languages/Tools

« Writing Projects »

» Overview of Projects

Reading Posts

Peer-Group Discussions

Graduate Workshops

Historicizing Website

Reusable Content / DITA

  • 40%
  • Due: 12/23

» Markdown posts on Github / Prose.io (Undergraduate: 20% of total grade; Graduate: 15% of total grade)

Deadlines: By 5pm on the Sunday before the class designated for the assigned readings

Part of being a writing and communication professional is constantly learning, growing, and developing new skills. To help you retain, synthesize, and integrate all of the conceptual and skill-building work, you will respond to a series of questions or a provided prompt about the readings for the week. These writings will guarantee a thorough and meaningful reading, priming our class time together. Overall, these writings will help us build a vocabulary for how to talk about writing in relationship to technology.

Rubric for conceptual reading responses

These responses are graded. I assess them by the quality and thoughtfulness of your responses. I will look for the following properties in your written responses:

  • Response pushed to Github by the Sunday before the next class time. This ensures your reading peers have ample time to read, review, and respond to your post.
  • Demonstrates understanding of the main arguments, claims, and important concepts.
  • Responds directly to the prompt directions, which will sometimes ask for summaries, integration or synthesis work of concepts, or more closely pointed questions of the text.
  • Concise, yet clear prose.
  • Quotations & citations: cites page numbers or video timestamps of author claims/evidence, but no to little direct quotation, as you must put the arguments and claims of the work in your own words.
  • Question-Responses: Your responses to my provided questions must demonstrate the aforementioned criteria above, so you must address the nature of the question in as much detail as possible, citing where you found the idea/information.

Rubric for skill-based responses

  • Completeness: writing produces all of the elements asked of them.
  • Creativity: Writing shows student thoughtfully crafted their response in coordination with the particular skills being developed that week. Creativity pushes beyond aesthetics by demonstrating intelligent choices in how the student completes the writing tasks.

How to deliver your responses

You will deliver your writings by using git version control on Github.com. See the "responses" repo for further instructions.

» Peer-group response discussions (10% of total grade)

Deadlines: Before the class designated for the assigned readings

Reading groups & graduate-student boosters

For each response week, I will create reading groups to facilitate peer commentary of the responses on Github. For each group, I will appoint a graduate student as the group leader. In such a role, the grad student leaders will be responsible for "boosting" the response discussions by drawing connections and asking questions of their peers. This, of course, does not absolve undergraduates from doing such work, but the graduate students will also delegate tasks to their group members to synthesize and prepare a group synopsis and discussion for the entire class.

We will use Github's comment feature on a particular files version history to conduct this process. Within the responses folder, I will create weekly folders, which will also contain group folders. You will be responsible for pushing to your designated group folder for the week, so you peers can easily find your response.


  • Read every one of your peers' responses, commenting at least once to each post and responding at least once to the graduate-student booster(s).
  • Complete the task(s) assigned to you for that week to prepare for the larger class discussion
  • Demonstrate ability to write thoughtful and respectful comments and questions to help advance your's and your peers' thinking

Graduate-Specific Rubric

  • Demonstrates ability to guide group discussions
  • Coordinates class preparation tasks through correspondence with group (email, texting, etc.)

» Historicizing a Web Technology Website (Undergraduate: 30% of total grade; Graduate: 25% of total grade)

Deadlines: prototype (10/27), revised website (12/11)

A critical element to understanding any literacy technology is to understand how even the newest digital media is intertwined with older media and the cussedness of human (in)decision (See Fig. 2). In this writing project, I am asking you to historicize a soft Web technology and the complexity of human decision-making driving its development. To help define the shape of this assignment, let me explain what I mean by historicizing and soft.

Fig. 2. CSS standards body member asks his followers what they should focus on during their meeting on Twitter. Click the date above for the stream of replies.

Historicizing, according to Writing Studies researcher, Christina Haas (1996), is "the reciprocal process of placing computer literacy technologies into historical contexts and, in turn, using those historical contexts to more fully understand today's technologies" (p. 205). As Haas notes, this process is complicated, as is it a complicating process. By conducting this research process, you will need to address 1) the political and rhetorical movements motivating a soft web technologies development, and 2) how this particular technology is shaped by print media.

Soft technology, in the context of this assignment, is an HTML-minded element with a standards body making decisions about its development. Examples include HTML and CSS elements, as well as their respective attributes and properties. If you're interested in visual modalities and their links with written modes, you can historicize soft technologies such as image file formats (.gif, .jpeg, .png), video codecs (FFMPEG, H.264/MPEG-4, WebM), or HTML elements like <svg>, <picture>, <img>, or <video>. Or, you could historicize a particular newer design technology, such as flexbox, tracing its cultural history and the implications of its use currently. Most importantly, historicizing a soft technology must be bounded by your desire to understand its link to print media and learning how to incorporate it into your web-based writing process.

Overall, your task is to research, analyze, and write in modalities akin to the soft-tech being examined. You will have until week 8 of the semester (10/27) to create a protoype website about this particular technology, discussing its links with print media and the "many 'voices'" (Haas, 1996, p. 165) driving its development. I say "prototype," because you must revise this project within 1 month after its first due date.


  1. A prototype "historicizing" website that uses Github for your versioning of it (10/27).
  2. Finalized version (12/11).

Grading rubric

  • Demonstrates your ability to establish a lineage between old and new technologies and the properties of such a relationship
  • Grounds the historical project within a particular community and culture, using the practice framework as your analytic framework. Such a task typically locates some point of conflict or (mis)appropriation of a particular tool within the bounds of a community's writing practice (cf. Dilger, 2010; or the semantics and motives behind git's "fork" feature).
  • Constructs some preliminary core categories about the writing practices bound to the technology.
  • Historicizing website incorporates the particular writing modes linked to the soft technology.
  • File naming and folder hierarchy are clean and logical.
  • HTML5 markup validates. Use the W3C online validator tool: https://validator.w3.org/.
  • HTML & CSS are clean with proper syntax and spacing, as well as an appropriate amount of commenting.

» Reusable content: Writing with DITA (40% of total grade)


This final project builds on multiple elements from your historicizing project. Previously, you learned how to write semantically-rich, static websites—websites that critically engaged in the complex of human-tool relations about the development of a particular web technology. You also researched into a particular writing practice surrounding a particular web-based technology. In this project, you will write with DITA markup to architect a help-focused, topic model that structures 3 particular writing tasks in relationship to your technology. Such a process will serve as a primer to writing reusable content with the DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture) markup language.

Diagram of writing process when creating a content, topic model in DITA
Fig. 3. src: Priestley (2006), "A short introduction to DITA"

Usually, when tasked to write, we often ground our ideas about how to write something in tandem with its material form and configuration. For example, a technical communicator writes user documentation for a coffee pot as, perhaps, a pocket guide, website, and/or a user manual. These different material configurations call for different writing decisions, practices, and even division of labor. Writing with DITA alters this process, and this final project is meant to introduce you to how it is indeed a similar but distinct form of digital written communication.

Even though DITA is another form of markup, akin to HTML, the writing process in DITA will go differently than when you wrote your static website. Writing with DITA means that you will develop and write content into modular, topic-based information units that can become numerous types of documents. In each modular unit, you describe a single concept, task, or reference item. Think of it like you are writing little Ikea-like content pieces that you can integrate into multiple types of "furniture." Accordingly, you must identify 3 particular (writing) tasks linked to your historicized technology, creating a mini-topic model.


  1. (Mini) Topic model of the writing practice linked to your HTML-minded technology. The model should be architected in keeping with 3 common (writing) tasks linked to your technology.
  2. Two to 3 page (single-spaced, TNR, 12-pt font) memo accompanying your topic model that includes the following: 1) documents what is included, and 2) rationalizes the decisions behind its information architecture.

Grading rubric

  • DITA project addresses a set 3 particular (writing) tasks/goals within the community of practice identified in the historicizing project.
  • Demonstrates proper planning and iterative revisions to topic model, using appropriate directory structures and linking (map structure and conrefs), as well as conditional processing techniques.
  • Topic model demonstrates user audience awareness and their levels of expertise.
  • DITA markup follows the guidelines provided in our book: Bellamy et al., pp. 36 (topics generally), 55-56 (tasks), 66 (conceptual), 77 (reference), 119 (mapping).
  • DITA markup is clean with proper syntax and spacing.
  • File naming and hierarchy is clean and logical.
  • Topics are self-contained with only 1 type of information (task, conceptual, or reference).

» Workshop (Graduate only: 10% of total grade)

Deadlines: For available dates, see weeks 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 12, 13, & 14.


This project is in keeping with presentation/workshop situations common to professional and academic conferences. Each graduate student must research and lead an approximately 25-minute teaching session on a particular writing practice or technology pertinent to the class for that week. In short, based on what we are covering for that week, consider what technology or best practice your peers will need and want to learn.

You must provide me with at least 2 weeks notice, so we can decide what might work best for everyone. Also, after choosing your week and talking to me, you can poll your peers about what tech / practice is most desirable.

The session must include a:

  1. Short history of the tech / practice (2-3 minutes),
  2. Short, high-level description about the purpose and functional properties of the tech / practice (5 minutes),
  3. Tutorial-workshop component to help your colleagues learn how and when to use this tech / practice (15-18 minutes), and
  4. "Best practices" and resources handout for everyone.

Grading rubric

  • Adheres to the required components and time constraints noted above.
  • Demonstrates audience awareness, e.g., provides access to manageable slides and notes, responds to prior and in situ audience needs/questions,
  • Workshop / tutorial addresses 1 - 2 particular tasks. If workshop is on particular technology, then it should focus on 2-3 features that support tasks that ally with the goals of your peers.
  • Handout includes sources and resources, as well as condensed "rules of thumb"

« Course Schedule »

The schedule is subject to change.

Phase 1 of the course: In this first of 2 phases, we will learn some of the fundamental components of Web-based documents, develop new theoretical understandings about human-technology relations, and learn how to use git version control.

Wk 1 – 09/08/2015

Course Introduction

A practice account of writing + Setting up our writing environments: Text editors, Github, & Markdown



  • None due today, since it's the first class.

Other directions / comments

We will prepare our computers for web-related work: Sign up @ Github, learn basic git commands, and how to write in Markdown for your course series of writing.

Wk 2 – 09/15/2015

Mediation: Relationships between old & new tech

Learn about human-tool relations, & how tech is culturally constructed


  • Keim, Brandon. (Oct. 2013). The science of handwriting. Scientific American Mind, pp. 54-62. PDF copy..
  • Haas, Christina. (1999). On the relationship between old and new technologies. Computers & Composition, 16, pp. 209-228. PDF copy.
  • Dilger, Bradley. (2010). <table>ing the grid: In B. Dilger & J. Rice (Eds.), From a to <a>: Keywords of markup, (pp. 213-227). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. PDF copy..
  • Brosset, Patrick. (26 Aug. 2015). The future of layout with CSS: Grid layouts. Medium.com. Retrieved 03 Sep. 2015 from https://medium.com/@patrickbrosset/css-grid-layout-6c9cba6e8a5a.


In one response, write the following:

  • Under the <h2> heading of "Summaries," summarize each reading.
  • Under the <h2> heading of "Connections," discuss some of the connections you can make between and across these readings.
  • Be sure to publish your post in the correct directory on github. If you are not sure, please check the roster within the weekly responses folder.

Other directions / comments

Wk 3 – 09/22/2015

HTML / Browser Primer

An introduction to writing static, semantic websites + Grad workshop opp



  • Summarize each reading; each as in each chapter in Duckett and Pilgrim's chapter. Perhaps, with Pilgrim's chapter, focus on a particularly useful-to-you set of content to write about.
  • Literally hand-code, i.e., write out with your hands, paper, & pencil, a webpage with at least the following elements:
    • the MIME type declaration
    • In the <head>, at least 3 <meta>, the <title>, and 2 resource <link> tags
    • In the body, use an HTML5 structure, using <nav>, <article> and <section>, and <footer> elements. Also, the following: <p>, <figure>, <img> and <ul>/<ol>.
    • Choose 2 more HTML elements.
    • For each element, provide proper attributes and write content that is "meta," describing its purpose.
  • Now, scan your hand-coded site as a <jpg>, or series of <jpg>'s and "post" it in a dedicated section at the end of your post for the week in your teams' designated folder.

Other notes

  • HTML exercise on JSbin.com
  • HTML Lesson slides
  • Use your readings, this week's and selected previous readings, to discuss each element in more detail beyond the merely technical.
  • Be sure to set up your web-writing environment on your laptop, using Duckett's instructions for both Mac and PC in chapter 1.
  • Also, set up git on your computer. You will need to use it to upload images to your designated team folder. I suggest that you first test and learn how to do it in your own test repo. Then, push your scanned images to your designated team image folder.

Wk 4 – 09/29/2015

CSS + the Bootstrap & Pure.css libraries

Responsive design strategies + Sarah Murtoh's Workshop



  • Write some basic CSS for your bio site that you wrote during last week's class meeting in 2 ways: 1) without Bootstrap or Pure.css, 2) with Bootstrap or Pure.css (choose one). Take notes as you develop the two, noting differences, difficulties, insights into writing CSS. For example, you could catalog what problems you encountered and how you overcame such problems.
  • Create 1 new repo for each bio website, using the following naming scheme for the root folder:
    1. bio-no-framework
    2. bio-framework-purecss or bio-framework-bootstrap
  • Name your .html file "index.html"
  • Write a post on Prose.io, documenting insights gleaned from this assignment, and save it to your team folder in wk4. I expect you to apply the conceptual framework surrounding mediation and a practice account of writing to your understanding of writing HTML and CSS.

Other notes

Wk 5 – 10/06/2015

Writing HTML5

More about web writing and design


  • Duckett (2011): Chps. 17 & <HTML5> boilerplate
  • Find 2-3 credible sources on some web technology/writing practice. The goal is for you to identify a possible interest to pursue for the historicizing project. One of the sources should be a W3C, WHATWG, or CSSWG specification. The other, perhaps, from a person who serves on the body.
  • Haas, Christina. (1996). Chapter 6 from Writing technology.
  • Review the Historicizing project description.


  • Divide your post into the following 3 sections:
    1. Summary of Haas (1996), "Social dynamics, or scientific truth, or sheer human cussedness: Design decisions in the evolution of a user interface": Your summary should demonstrate your current understanding of Haas' broader argument about technology development and how her Vygotskian concept of mediational means helps her later analyze the design of the scroll bar and menu in Andrew. Be sure to capture these structural parts of her argument, but also dig into some details of interest to the goals of the historicizing project.
    2. HTML5: Discuss the implications for using HTML5 on older browsers, which Duckett and Pilgrim both address. This section can be shorter, but be sure to understand some of the things going on in the <head> element of the HTML5 boilerplate. (Hint: See the docs).
    3. Historicizing Pitch: Using your 2-3 sources, pitch 2-3 web technologies that you are considering to historicize. Each of them must be connected to a particular writing and design practice. Address the following questions in subsections: What practices are linked to this technology: tools, community knowledge and values, & skills? What competing issues or trends are you interested in investigating in more detail? Why? I hope that Haas' chapter will be able to help you consider how the HTML-minded technologies of your choosing may or may not be viable historicizing projects.

Other notes

  • CSS exercise: On codepen.io or jsbin.com. Use this as your CSS selector and grid sandbox for the week. It is not required to complete before class, but I suggest using it to test and develop your CSS writing knowledge and skills. We will dig into it during class.

Wk 6 – 10/13/2015

Historicizing progress reports and team reviews, or STC-TC Meeting on DITA

Give short 2-3 minute pitch on your project to a group of your peers. We will also attend the local STC-TC monthly meeting.


  • Locate and read sources for your historicizing project. Note: You should be searching, reading, and taking notes on numerous sources, but choose the 2 most prominent sources to annotate.
  • Skim Duckett, chp. 18, focusing on sections related to the aim of a site and how to group content together as "chunks"


  • In your response post:
    1. Annotate 2 of the most prominent sources
    2. Write a memo (as a post) about the aim(s) of your historicizing project. Use this memo as a way to start developing categories related to general insights and patterns that you see developing through your research. Considering your initial insights, discuss some potential content building blocks, i.e., major claims, that you see developing. NOTE: These blocks will and must change throughout this project, so don't get too attached to them. :-)
    3. During your team discussions, be sure to provide comments related to at least 1 thing you see working well and 1 thing in need of improvement, clarification, etc. Also, provide any help / resources, if you can.

Other notes

  • Download and print out this historicizing matrix to help guide your reading, note-taking, and constant comparison of your mediational means' development. This matrix will help trace connections between past and present.
  • Tip: You can also draw makeshift matrices in your notebooks, or simply use the box-comparisons to demarcate note-taking sections.
  • Video on what the matrix is and how to use it: https://youtu.be/3WGHCKygKQc

Wk 7 – 10/20/2015

Building a history: Writing your content blocks

Developing your content, wireframing, + Grad workshop opp


  • Locate and read at least 3-4 more sources for your historicizing project
  • Be sure to use prior readings (Haas, Dilger, Duckett, Pilgrim) and the practice framework as guides throughout.


  • Develop content for the blocks by first creating a content tree (see Duckett, chp. 18). To do so:
    1. Use paper to plot out a structure.
    2. Write draft content for the pieces of those structural blocks.
    3. Publish this material as a post with a rationale for this structure. Following the rationale, include subheadings for each content block and its subsequent draft material for each block. This will make it easier for your team to review it.

Other notes

Here are some resources that you will need for today's class:

We'll also cover webdev tools and wireframes, if we haven't already.

Watch this screencast, where I explain some of the relationships between HTML elements and CSS properties in the context of our float-based grid sandbox: http://jsbin.com/namiru/edit?html,css,output.

Wk 8 – 10/27/2015

½ Prototypes + ½ Intro to DITA

Prototypes due by the halfway mark in class and introduce next project


  • Whatever's needed for your project; be sure to keep using our past readings as go-to sources
  • Read the Reusable Content / DITA project description


  1. Prototype of your site is due. Submit and develop it by pushing it as its own gh-pages branch to your own repo on your github account. Name the repo: "historicizing".
  2. Add a link to your site in the index.html file of the"historicizing" gh-pages branch on Github. I've already included everyone's name in a complex list. Find your name and complete the entry with your major, link to your historicizing site, and a synopsis of your project.

Bootstrap Resources

Pure.css Resources

Other Resources

  • Our class Lynda.com playlist. It includes HTML5/CSS lessons, more focused lessons on features such as flexbox, and Bootstrap-specific lessons.

Phase 2 of the course: During this latter phase of the course, you will build on your HTML and CSS writing skills by learning about the benefits and differences of writing DITA markup with the DITA Open Toolkit.

Wk 9 – 11/03/2015

DITA primer, part 1

What is DITA? + Topic-Modeling and Task Topics


Note: All of the material this week is due by class on Tuesday. Below is a video wherein I review the homework for this week.

  • DITA Best Practices, Chps. 1-2
  • The Youtube video playlist (see below).
  • The example dita topic models in the DITA repo. At the very least, I suggest reading through the task topics as you read Bellamy et al. & the video playlist on task topics.
  • You have been organized into new teams; see the roster on our class page on Github. Conduct a code-review of your partners' historicizing projects. Follow these guidelines, when conducting the review on the project as a whole:
    • In your own words, how would you characterize the main argument or goal of the historicizing project?
    • Comment on what elements support this aim and others that stray from it.
    • Using Duckett (pp. 465 - 474) as your rubric, provide suggestions and commentary on the design: visual hierarchy, grouping and similarity, and designed navigation.
    • Note any areas in the project where you wanted to hear more from your peer, or the topic needs or deserves more attention. Reviewers be generous about sharing your questions and ideas for further development within, of course, the aims of the project.
    • Conduct a code review, using the inline comment functions on Github for any other matters.
    Note: These criteria should help you take notes as you read through the project. Write up your response as a comment to provide on the index.html document. Provide any other comments in situ using the inline comments feature.


  • After you and your team have read the chapters and watched the videos, conduct a task analysis (Bellamy et al., pp. 19-20) of posting a Prose.io post in this course. Replace the "business goal" with "student's goal."
  • Publish your teams' task analysis as a response post on Github with one of your team members' account.
  • As noted in the Readings section, publish your peer review to your partners' overall comments on the index.html file.
  • Test out the DITA-OT with the example topic models within the DITA repo. Take notes about difficulties, insights, interests, questions, etc. Bring your notes to class. The more you test the OT out now, the more prepared you will be when you start writing DITA markup.
    • Push your generated output to your personal DITA folder with your notes in a README.md file.

Other notes

Wk 10 – 11/10/2015

DITA primer, part 2

Concept & Reference Topics


  • DITA Best Practices, Chps. 3-4
  • Revisit your historicizing projects + feedback


All of your writings are due by class-time.

  1. Complete your practice <task> topic(s) for the prose.io response posts. Now, incorporate and push it to your practice repo with both PDF and HTML5 outputs.
  2. After completing the readings for the week, write at least one <concept> and one <reference> topic. Then, add those topics into your .ditamap file. Test the new model into a new output directory as both HTML5 and PDF. (Reminder: You can specify the name of the output folder with the OT command.)
  3. Write a response post that includes the following topics:
    1. Discuss what you learned about writing with DITA: any boundaries that you encountered and overcame, new questions that emerged, etc.
    2. Based on the feedback that you received on your historicizing project, write out a revision timeline with concrete tasks and weekly deadlines.
  4. Be sure to complete some tasks related to revising your historicizing project.

Other notes

Remember to test, test, test your DITA topic models incremenetally, so you do not have to deal with numerous errors, when generating output.

Also, keep the DITA v1.2 spec open and available when writing. You won't always remember all of your semantically available means are, or how such elements relate to one another.

Today's DITA workshop / slideshow

Wk 11 – 11/17/2015

DITA primer, part 3

Short Descriptions & DITA MAPS + John's workshop on Web Font Strategies


  • DITA Best Practices:
    • Chp. 5: "Short Descriptions"
    • Chp. 6: "DITA Maps and Navigation"
    • Chp. 7: "Linking": Hierarchical links (pp. 109-111) & Collection-type links (pp. 123-133)


In your response post (due by Sunday afternoon), write the 2 following tasks as 2 separate sections:

  1. Provide a summary of each of the reading segments: short descriptions (chp. 5), DITA maps (chp. 6), and particular types of linking techniques (chp. 7 sections). Also, provide a paragraph about your thoughts, concerns, and questions related to specific parts of the readings.
  2. Conduct a task analysis related to your particular technology for your own topic model.

Within your "DITA teams," respond to your team members' summaries and thoughts about the readings. Also, provide feedback related to their task analyses. (Conduct this discussion work between Sunday and Tuesday's class time.)

Other notes

For those of you having trouble connecting the theoretical aspects to how you conduct your analysis, use this Historicizing Matrix when taking notes or writing about your tech.

Wk 12 – 11/24/2015

Workshop on conceptual tools + Conrefs

Workshop on conceptual tools + Conrefs


  • DITA Best Practices, Chp. 10 on "Content Reuse"
  • ScriptoriumTech video on conrefs
  • Your own research
  • If needed, the Historicizing matrix


  • Finished conceptual invention workshop (see README in responses/wk12 folder). Copy/paste the "raw" README.md markdown and use it to write your last response post for the course!
  • I should see versioning of your historicizing + DITA topic model projects on Github.

Wk 13 – 12/01/2015

DITA Open Questions + Studio

Studio Time


  • Based on your needs


  • I should see git commits and pushes for your projects.

Suggested In-Class Tasks

  • Review your task-analysis feedback and re-visit the 3 tasks that you will include in your topic model
  • Conduct a task analysis of each task in your topic model
  • Create the main architcture of your DITA topic model and push it to your Github account
  • Practice the writing methodology that integrates meaningful Github commits and pushes.

Wk 14 – 12/08/2015

DITA Writing Methodology + Historicizing revisions due (12/11)

Studio Time


  • Based on your own needs


  • More evidence of version control on Github :-)
  • Revised Historicizing Project web site is due at 11:59pm on Friday, 12/11.

Class Agenda

  • Review the DITA Writing Methodology
  • Review the <table> element in DITA
  • Review HTML & CSS syntax/indentation schemes + breakpoint pages for different frameworks: Bootstrap & Pure.css (Scroll down to the "Default Media Queries" section)
  • Open time to ask questions as class. Be sure to ask more general questions that aren't specific to only your project.

Wk 15 – 12/15/2015

DITA Reviews + Wrap-up

Conduct team topic model reviews using the whiteboards


  • None required


  • None required

« Grading & Policies »

» University Writing Intensive Requirement

The writing in this advanced-level course takes up fundamental and novel markup languages to help students understand the complexity of how texts operate on the Web. As a result, much of the writing will be conducted in tools estranged from typical academic publishing editors, such as word processors with page counts. Despite these differences in document production, this course requires students to produce a significant amount of text that fulfills UMN's following WI criteria:

  • Writing is comprehensively integrated into the course
  • The writing in the course must be tied to the course objectives and course outcomes. The syllabus must reflect the critical role that writing plays in the course. Writing assignments in a WI course may be designed as a means to achieving mastery of course content, as a means to enable students to develop professional output, or as a balance between the two.
  • Writing is a significant part of the course work
  • Students must write at least 2,500 words or the equivalent of finished writing, in genres and modes of production appropriate for the course and discipline. The written products may be distributed over a variety of assignments or through a single major assignment; both are encouraged. Group-authored documents may be part of a WI course, but each student must meet the minimum word count.
  • Writing is a significant part of the course grade
  • Writing must be a major component of the final course grade, with this relationship detailed explained in the syllabus.
  • Writing is learned through revision
  • Instructors should provide substantial feedback on writing assignments, and allow revision in response to that feedback. Continuous, focused feedback building systematically over the course of the class is encouraged, as is a variety of modes and purposes of feedback.
  • Writing is explained and practiced in the course
  • Explicit writing instruction must be integral to the course, as part of the course content and as a significant, recurring activity. Through instruction, students should learn about writing, including its disciplinary structures and functions, and should practice writing in a variety of modes and settings appropriate to the discipline. The forms and types of writing instruction that will be used in the course should be explained in the syllabus or supporting teaching materials.
  • Instructors should understand the practice of writing instruction
  • Those responsible for teaching and assessing writing in a WI course should recognize the importance of writing instruction. If teaching assistants participate in teaching and assessing writing, they must be trained and supervised. If multiple faculty members are teaching a WI course, all must ensure that writing intensive requirements are met.

» Attendance Policy

Unlike many courses at the University, WRIT 4662W is a small, discussion‐oriented class. Your attendance is required and will benefit your progress in the course. Please note the following policies:

  • Missing the equivalent of one week or more of class with unexcused absences will result in a lower grade. Missing the equivalent of three weeks or more with unexcused absences will result in failing the course. In some cases, an excessive number of absences, even if they are excused, may result in a lower grade.
  • Students are responsible for coming to class on time. Tardiness may be considered equivalent to unexcused absences. In addition, a student who is unable to function adequately in class (e.g., falling asleep or attending without appropriate materials or assignments) may be considered to have unexcused absences.
  • Absences will be excused only with verification. Excused absences include illness as verified by a doctor's note, death in the immediate family, jury duty, military service, religious observances, and participation in officially scheduled university student organization events (e.g., inter‐collegiate athletics, ROTC, school sports events; see the CLA policy). Excused absences do not include vacations, transportation problems, or employment. In case of an excused absence, you must notify your instructor of your excuse preferably before you miss class, but no later than 24 hours after the absence.
  • A student who is absent for any reason is responsible for all material and activities missed in class. Students must check with the instructor to find out was missed.

» Academic honesty & integrity

When you use the citable work of someone else, document your source. If you have questions about plagiarism as you complete your work, please ask me. I reserve the right to fail a student in the course for plagiarism, i.e., using other people's work without proper documentation and citation. See the UMN Student Conduct Code for more information.

For resources on how to appropriately use and cite sources, and to avoid plagiarism, see UMN's "Quick Help."

» Sexual Harassment

"Sexual harassment" means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and/or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or academic environment in any University activity or program. Such behavior is not acceptable in the University setting. For additional information, please consult Board of Regents Policy.

Equity, diversity, equal opportunity, & affirmative action

The University will provide equal access to and opportunity in its programs and facilities, without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. For more information, please consult Board of Regents Policy.

» Students with Disabilities

The University is committed to providing quality education to all students regardless of ability. Determining appropriate disability accommodations is a collaborative process. You as a student must register with Disability Services and provide documentation of your disability. The course instructor must provide information regarding a course's content, methods, and essential components. The combination of this information will be used by Disability Services to determine appropriate accommodations for a particular student in a particular course. For more information, please reference Disability Services.

» Mental health services

As a student you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may lead to diminished academic performance and may reduce your ability to participate in daily activities. University of Minnesota services are available to assist you. You can learn more about the broad range of confidential mental health services available on campus via the Student Mental Health Website.

» Academic freedom and responsibility

Academic freedom is a cornerstone of the University. Within the scope and content of the course as defined by the instructor, it includes the freedom to discuss relevant matters in the classroom. Along with this freedom comes responsibility. Students are encouraged to develop the capacity for critical judgment and to engage in a sustained and independent search for truth. Students are free to take reasoned exception to the views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion, but they are responsible for learning the content of any course of study for which they are enrolled.

Reports of concerns about academic freedom are taken seriously, and there are individuals and offices available for help. Contact the instructor, the Department Chair, your adviser, the associate dean of the college, or the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs in the Office of the Provost.

Language adapted from the American Association of University Professors "Joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students."

« Resources »

This section includes course resources for you to utilize throughout the course. If you have any tools or resources to share, feel free to contact me, since I will be adding resources as the course progresses.

» Technology and standards resources

» Technical communication, writing, & research resources

» Other related academic & public journals