Hack Your Writing

Hack Your Writing

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This Make was created by Erica Holan Lucci & Mia Zamora, Kean University Writing Project

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In Make Cycle #4 we invite you to “Hack Your Writing.” Maybe you do not think you’re a “hacker” and associate the term exclusively with the most skillful and renegade of computer programmers. But this week we are encouraging a broader use of this term and a more open sense of its possibilities.

What does it mean to hack?

  • Hacking is playful exploration, perhaps exploiting the “weakness” in something.
  • To hack is to make innovative customizations.
  • Hackers are often computer enthusiasts.
  • Hackers often undermine authoritative systems. Hackers crack systems for “fun,” pursuing civic or collective action.

It seems that now, more than ever, the affordances of new digital tools and technologies have opened up our understanding of what it means to write. This week we are invoking a culture of remix and exploration. We propose that writing is indeed “making,” and we invite you to tinker with some writing to make something new. Remix your own writing OR remix other writing.

So Many Ways to Hack

We imagine there are multiple entry points for this week’s make cycle. One option might be to revisit something you wrote before and “dress it up” anew. If you have a notebook or journal that you’ve scribbled in, if you have jotted down a fleeting poem, or if perhaps you have penned an essay or article, this week’s make cycle might involve revisiting an old writing moment and breathing new life into a former work. Perhaps you might want to take several different pieces of writing and put them together to create a collage or compilation? Go for it!
Your own “hack” job might involve seeing something new in the everday texts of your life. Consider taking some pieces of your written world, the everyday stuff like grocery lists, fortune cookie predictions, or your favorite quote that you have up on your wall in your home or office. Re-discover the words around you, refashion them, re-order them. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems.

Your hacking exploration might bridge old methods of writing with the new. Consider hacking your own notebook. You can try “Paper Circuitry” as you light up your writing by creating circuits on paper using copper tape, LEDs, and some simple electronics. What new composing practices might emerge from this hack? And what new meaning and understanding might we gain as writers or as readers?

In other words, you might put analog and digital texts into conversation. Take some analog writing and bring it into a digitized universe.

  •  You might take a traditional poem and layer a multi-modal interpretation via hypertext links.
  • Use the Scratch program to explore new ways of writing and composing (just press the remix button to reinvent or animate texts).
  • You can give the “Concept in 60” digital writing method a try by demonstrating skills in audio and video recording and editing to create a rhetorically effective text.
  • Have you ever transformed your keyboard and your writing process with a Makey Makey?
  • Or how about creating a real life treasure hunt driven by digital narrative? Use your cell phone, GPS technology, and multimedia content to enhance your reader’s connection to a given place by giving locative storytelling a shot.

In short, we imagine there are many ways to infuse your “writing hack” with new found interactivity.

Check out some of these resources:

How To: Found Poetry

Line Lifting

Classroom Connections: Lesson Plan from ReadWriteThink

Paper Circuitry “Hack Your Notebook” Day

Classroom Connections: Our very own Dogtrax (Kevin Hodgson) Brings Paper Circuitry to his 6th Graders

“The Concept in 60” assignment overview

Mozilla Thimble

Mozilla Popcorn

Mozilla XRay Goggles

Mozilla Appmaker

MIT’s Scratch




An additional list of media tools can be found by clicking HERE.

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8 Examples Completed for this Make

  1. Moving Around in Istanbul
       submitted by Dustye Muse

    I hacked an old journal of mine which had a lot of addresses and directions in it as well as writing and poems. I combined the addresses with a picture I took of the city as an artifact of that time in my life.

  2. Hacking a Streetcar
       submitted by Sally Wilson

    When I saw that July 9 was Hack your Notebook day, I immediately saw the potential. Unfortunately the process of tracking down the bits and pieces needed to actually hack the notebook took longer than anticipated, so that project wasn’t completed for THE DAY. Eventually I was able to use two 3V coin batteries, some conductive copper tape and a couple of LED lights to animate a picture of a San Francisco streetcar that I had pasted into a notebook kept during a trip to California a couple of years ago.

  3. Hack My Brain Book
       submitted by Rhonda Jessen

    I took photos of pages of the Brain Book where I keep my notes; then used the iPad to turn them into back out poetry.

  4. Poetry Hack with Piktochart
       submitted by Mindy A. Early

    Over the course of two nights, I took a poem that I’d written in high school and challenged myself to replace as many words with images as possible while keeping the story, rhythm, and tone of the poem intact. Was I successful? Can someone look at my Piktochart poem and see the “same” narrative I constructed in my free form poem back in 1996? Is keeping the “same” narrative a reasonable goal, much less a hack-worthy goal? I asked myself these and many other questions both during the process and after, and my full reflection can be found here: http://mindyaearly.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/just-another-writing-hack/

  5. Hack Your Notebook
       submitted by Kevin Hodgson

    This was done by teacher at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project for Hack Your Notebook Day

  6. Zeee the Lonely Fairy
       submitted by Jeannine Huffman

    The creative writing experience for me is about art married to the words… they are inseparably entwined visuals of my childhood books of whimsy and beauty …I go back to them for inspiration in my sketching …now my love of playful and personally rewarding artwrites can be hacked with lights making me able to express myself eve more.

  7. Learning to Hack My Notebook
       submitted by Jeannine Huffman

    I want to teach my students to design and make interactive notebooks, but first I needed to learn how to use #chibitronics circuit stickers. I went to #TheTech for a workshop with #sfnexmap and learned several new techniques. I met educators from Santa Clara Office of Education, and facilitators Jennifer Dick of Nexmap, David Cole of CV2, and Rebecca Nelson of The Tech Museum, who helped us bring out our inner geek. Parents and Children also participated and were so engaged! All of this Summer of Learning is helping me participate in #nwp #tinkeringstudio #hynb2014 and #clmooc

  8. Visual Poetry Creator
       submitted by Amy Clancy

    Enter your poetry, select background and text colors as well as angles, etc. You can draw your poetry out in any way you’d like!

2 Tutorials Created for this Make

  1. Hack Your Notebook Day Teaching Kit
       submitted by Chad Sansing

    This summer, NEXMAP and CV2 are partnering with Educator Innovator to offer Hack Your Notebook Day on July 9th. This program is part of the Summer to Make, Play and Connect, a MacArthur Foundation-sponsored initiative powered by the National Writing Project and the Mozilla Foundation. Explore the rich connections between art, electronics, notebooking and systems thinking by hacking your notebook with power and LEDs. Curious about how to get your notebook hacking kit together? You can broswe materials here to assemble a kit yourself, as well as order an event kit here.

  2. How to Write Found Poetry
       submitted by Erica Holan Lucci & Mia Zamora

    “A found poem uses language from non-poetic contexts and turns it into poetry. Think of a collage — visual artists take scraps of newspaper, cloth, feathers, bottle caps, and create magic. You can do the same with language and poems.” And this tutorial shows you how!

Creative Commons License
This work by Erica Holan Lucci & Mia Zamora, Kean University Writing Project is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.