Posts Tagged ‘Google Maps’

Writing Digital Literature

untitled20design202My article “Crossing Genres in Digital Writing” is available at the Macmillan International Higher Ed blog. They are my publisher for A Writer’s Craft. I decided to write on digital writing because it’s an area I’ve been exploring recently.

One of the most fun classes I get to teach in The W’s low-residency MFA program in creative writing is a course we call Writing for New Media. We chose that name because we didn’t want to limit ourselves in scope for the future, but the reality is right now most of what we cover is digital literature. This class take students (and me) into the worlds of kinetic poetry, twaiku or twit lit (and other uses of social media for literature), hypertext fiction, mapped stories and poems, and even gaming as a means of storytelling. Our goal is to see what happens when we leave the confines of the page, how forms blend and narrative or lyric structures transform in new media.

ehpiugcxkaap8fbThis fall, after writing this post, I was invited to speak at the Middle Tennessee State Writers’ Conference, and I decided it would make sense to adapt some of what I talk about in the article and teach in the class to a workshop setting. Obviously, everything had to be very compressed for an hour and fifteen minutes, so I decided it would be best to do a little digital writing of my own to demonstrate. Since the conference was right before Halloween, I decided to write “River Hill: A Ghost Story” on Twitter, Google Maps, and Google Sites, which is what I decided to use for the hypertext component of the story.

Follow any of the links above to the story. Start with Twitter, if you want to read it in order, but in true hypertext fiction style, it’s meant to be started anywhere, and there are multiple links back to the other parts of the story to follwo whenever you want. I even left the story unfinished for now, hoping my workshop or other readers might write or suggest their own endings. That hasn’t happened yet, but you’re welcome to try!

Writing literature on Twitter is easy enough, either attempting to write a complete story in 140 (or 280) characters or by linking tweets using hashtags or by replying to successive tweets to create a tweetstorm story. Images or even video can be included with the tweet for a more multimedia effect. Some of my students have experimented with using Instagram instead of Twitter. You can do many of the same things, though it’s a little harder to link posts on Instagram compared to Twitter, though you can use hashtags. Facebook or Tumblr could also be used, I suppose, though each platform has its own culture and its own quirks about how posts are displayed. It might even be fun to aggregate posts across different platforms using Pinterest, for instance, by pinning images from each part of the story to a board.

Google Maps is a little more complicated to set up, but doesn’t take a ton of technical know-how, once you figure out how to get to your My Maps. The most straightforward way I know to do it is to open Google Maps, use the menu to go to Your Places, then click on the Maps tab, then Create A Map. Or you can try going to, which might take you directly to your maps or you may need to login with Google before you do that.

Using Google Sites for a hypertext story worked well, and any web hosting platform ought to work to build a simple linked story. However, in my class, we get a little more complicated, so working with Twine has been better. Twine allows you to map out your links using in graphical user interface, which can be helpful when links multiply exponentially. It also allows you to do more with the code and even create some fairly sophisticated games. There are lots of examples on the Twinery, and there’s an active user support group that can be searched to learn tricks and techniques. You can download the Twine app or write your story online using either Twine 1 or Twine 2, which each have different features and templates.

A GeoPoem Project in Columbus MS

You’ve probably heard of Geocaching, the sport where you use a GPS to locate hidden caches with a log and usually some items inside. In my Writing For New Media class, I was thinking about using this technique for writing poetry, but I decided I didn’t want to go around and hide a bunch of stuff. For one, I don’t have the right to stick a cache in some public places. And finding it might be difficult. I had also heard of Earthcaching, where you don’t find something, but instead you learn something about the location you are sent with your GPS coordinates.

We are also studying how stories or essays can be written on Google Maps by mapping the locations in the story and then writing parts of the story in the location descriptions. Google’s ability to let you create personal map layers (and share them) makes this possible.

The combination of these ideas is what led me to what I am calling a GeoPoem project. We are beginning this project in conjunction with The W’s Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing’s first Short Residency period and the 27th Annual Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium.

Here is the description of this project you’ll find on Google if you go to my map:

This Geopoem was started for my Writing for New Media class in 2015. The goal is to find each point on the map and add a stanza to the poem of that place, using hashtags to create your own poem that is also linked to each others’ stanzas by the hashtag for each place. The main hashtag for this poem is #gpcmswws — This should appear at the end of every contribution to the poem in Twitter, along with the hashtag for the location.

Your contribution should be one tweet from as many locations as you can find, if you are in my class. Your tweet may be a line of a poem or an independent twaiku or micro-poem. Your lines may be complete sentences or they may continue on with the next tweet (as with an enjambed line). If you use enjambment, consider that it might be read in different combinations, so you might want to break the line where it could work with other random sentences or partial sentences.

You may visit the locations on this map in any order at any time of day. Try to tweet your lines from that place or in the order you wrote them, so that your poem could be seen on your feed in one order. When we view the feed by hashtag, it may turn out differently.

Each tweet will be its own short poem, part of a longer poem or cycle, and part of the poem of that place.

Whenever possible, attach a photo from the place to your tweet, so those who can’t physically be in the place can see something of it. Please, do not include identifiable people in photos unless you have their permission.Images with people in the background are fine.

If you wish to add a location to the poem, include the main hashtag and suggest your location’s hashtag (follow the convention #gpcmsXX, where XX = two letters representing that location). Email them to me or send me a message in Twitter to @kdunkelberg.

Though I want my class to do this project in Twitter, it could also be done in Instagram. Doing it in Twitter will keep all of our posts together and will integrate well with Canvas. As this GeoPoem goes live, it might migrate to other platforms. Virtual geopoeming can be done using the pictures submitted with some or all of the tweets.

To find the GeoPoem location coordinates visit my map. (Links to an external site.)

Find as many of these locations as you can and add your line or lines. Incorporate the hashtags for each location. You can also use other hashtags as you wish, but always include the main hashtag and the location-specific hashtag.

You will do your project on Twitter, then submit your version of the poem here, either by submitting a link to your Twitter feed or by copying from your Twitter account and uploading a Word or other file for us to view.

The best way to get all of your tweets for this project to show up together is to start with a “Title Tweet.” Tweet your title (you can include the main hashtag if you want) and then reply to that tweet whenever you want to add to the poem. You can then view the title and all replies together by going to the title tweet. We will still see the other tweets individually when we view by hashtag.

Anyone who wants to participate may do so on Twitter or on another social media platform. Anyone who wants to may take this idea and create their own GeoPoem map in Google based on locations of your choice.