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Digital Writing: I Challenge You to a Screencast!

Written by Anna Smith
January 02, 2013

Dear Kevin (and World),

Your video in our first round of conversation reminded me of my first attempt just last month to do a screencast. I found it much more difficult than I anticipated to do well. I had some tech difficulties that I’ll mention below. Just know that it’s not my favorite end product, although I think the message is what I wanted. (Interesting to consider just that, eh?)

I am posting this screencast to engage us in discussing the boundaries of what we are considering digital writing in this conversation.

The specs: I used the Quicktime “New Screen Recording” option. I also boosted the audio on iMovie and used that to fade out the music that was cut off dramatically when I ended the screen recording. The sound was distorted when I uploaded it to YouTube. The words are also not clear once uploaded to YouTube. (Any suggestions on how to make sure that doesn’t happen in the future?) For the typing, I used the online typing app called Writer. I used Visual Thesaurus to animate the synonyms of “writing” and “digital.” I played music my friend had posted on Facebook. He had posted that it was music he listens to when he wants to come up with a new idea.

The process (Warning: I wax a bit reflective here…): I originally began composing this for my guest post on the Digital Writing Month blog. (If you go to that post, you’ll see that I did not use this there. In fact, I wrote three different possible posts for that project and none of them felt right until the one I posted.)


Why a screencast? I initally decided to make this screencast because I wanted to visually illustrate what people often talk about when talking about “digital writing”: typing on a computer. I had recently been shown the Writer app and thought that perfectly illustrated a limited view of digital writing. 

I am often frustrated (only slightly) in these conversations, because although writing on a computer is different than writing in a pen on paper, this one aspect does not begin to scratch the surface in terms of all that is possible in “digital writing.” Still though, I wanted to challenge myself with the concept of “writing” that if we explode that definition too much, it loses its meaning as a demarkation. (I have discussed this before with others on my blog.) I think it is a valuable use of our time to at least sketch out where our boundaries around what we consider digital writing (or contemporary composition, which is a term you picked up on as well in your comments on my response.) will be in this discussion.

Why visual thesaurus? I actually then started to try to find synonyms for “writing” because I wanted to explode that notion in the guest post. I was using it as part of my pre-writing, if you will. On a whim, I typed in “digital” and found there were no synonyms in Visual Thesaurus. This essentially reshaped my entire screencast design. Instead of focusing on the concept of writing, I thought it would be interesting to take an expanded notion of writing as a given, and just pose a question via the screencast, and that being, what does “digital” do that “writing” doesn’t already inherently hold. I then moved the use of Visual Thesaurus from pre-writing to some of the body of my “text.”


I tried writing out what I wanted in the screencast on the Writer app two times and then printed off what I wanted to type so I could just copy it instead of compose it in real time. I stacked the windows so it only showed the window I was on. I chose Selected Portion on QuickTime so you wouldn’t see my whole screen. I pushed play on the recording posted on Facebook. Clicked start for New Screen Recording, and with a bit of panic in my heart, I started typing.


I immediately did not like the mix of sound, but I wanted the sound of the keys typing. I knew I didn’t want to add a soundtrack over, because that would cancel out the keystrokes. I still went to iMovie and boosted the background music and then faded it out, because when I clicked Stop Recording, it was a dead stop I didn’t like.

The prewriting and drafting just took toooooooo long to do over again. If I needed this in my “portfolio” I would probably still use the QuickTime Screen Recording option, but I would add the music via iMovie later.


I went to my YouTube account and uploaded the video. I made it “Unlisted” because I wanted to drive traffic here rather than there. “Unlisted” means you have to have the link to the YouTube video to be able to see it.

I still have not made comments available on my YouTube site. I allowed that the first time I made a video and posted it, but the comments were so negative toward a person I had shown in the video (and so unwarranted) that I have been too shy to do again. I understand that in theory over time people police themselves and call out trolling and such. Am I too impatient? Do I allow people to be publicly hateful to others in hopes that such derision is eventually attended to?

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