Lisa Dush attempts to tackle the new realm of content creation and its effect on traditional writing in her article “When Writing becomes Content”. This article approaches how writing is slowly becoming more of a content driven profession and what this may mean in the future. Her over-arching insinuation is that there has been “a shift from writing understood as art to writing understood as content” (Dush, 2015, p.174). Throughout her article, she details how various jobs in writing have started to deviate from a focus on style and substance to being overseen by marketing and advertising professionals looking for valuation of a post. This suggestion means that writing has been given valuation and is seen as worth less than content. She also implies the idea that we need to begin a focus on teaching the strategy of content writing because there is a declining need for other types of writing. She believes these courses should “discuss issues such as how to repurpose content across platforms and how to write effectively for both human and nonhuman readers” (Dush, 2015, p.188). Looking at the current internet age and how most information is flown through many different ports, it is hard to disagree with this conclusion. I think the validity of her statements ring true and can be seen as rather fearsome to any aspiring writer.
It is undeniable that there has been a large transition to focus on valuable content in the writing marketplace. We see various social media outlets that rely on constant posting like twitter, where a brief 280 character limit rules all. To get a piece of data across effectively in this little amount of space takes nothing but strategic and targeted effort, not artistic prowess.
As GameSpot shows, for content there is little need to add much writing to a post, there is just a need to display information quickly. So this further backs the idea that “content is conditional, computable, networked, and commodified” (Dush, 2015, p.174). Writing now takes more steps than trying to promote a feeling or convey an emotion artistically. It requires a purpose for being, a literal valuation that confirms its purpose for existing. The idea now resonates that writing is intended to be shared, to be given away for ulterior uses. What began as a story of someone’s experience now be turned into a blog post of why that person should have acted in a different way. As Dash says, “content exists as digital assets that are full of potential, characterized not by being finished or published, but rather by their availability for re-purposing, mining, and other future uses.” (Dush, 2015, p. 176). This is a fearsome ideal when looking at the career path of a writer. Instead of having your work be looked over and enjoyed for its verbose prose and its artistically crafted story arc, it is being disassembled constantly for hundreds of others to re-purpose that you may never even see.
Another factor of this issue arises when you begin to see the need for consistency in this new environment. The new ruling concept seems to be that if you are not constantly plugged into the network you are writing or creating content for, you are going to be left behind very quickly. Therefore the bar is set stating that “networks value surplus over scarcity and, more arguably, democratic participation over hierarchy” (Dush, 2015, p.177). This is a slippery slope for many reasons. It starts to bleed in the understanding that more hits lead to more value, and thus a right to be the leading voice on any topic. This once again applies to social media sources where constant posting and remaining a consistent contributor to various subjects garners more viewership which can lead to being a force that can sway opinion. It becomes clear that “persistent patterns of valuation affect how capital is allocated and thus who controls the means of production, ultimately determining who can speak and on what terms.” (Dush, 2015, p.178). Establishing a precedent where good analytical writing is overshadowed by mass-produced plain rhetoric is not something that bodes well for careers in journalism and research.
While all of this is rather worrying from the viewpoint of a writer, I do not think that writing has been sent out to pasture and replaced by a sole need for content. I think it has instead created various avenues for writers to create their work separately from the content-driven daily life of digital media. Places like subreddits have opened up where people can produce unique artistic works that can be shared and commented on much like content, but they are created and shaped by a single person to be enjoyed. r/WritingPrompts is one of these subreddits that takes an initial posting of an Idea and allows for commenters to explore their creativity and create new stories. There also has been a trend of webcomics lately which are shared and seen over many different platforms but remain true to the artists intentions. These are however usually seen as passion projects and do not gain the same value as the mainstream content Dash refers to. However, there have been certain instances of these posts gaining value in a very real sense to the point the writer can make a career from it. I do fear the idea that “the writer’s role may, as Tim Kreider says, be that of a mere “content provider,” not the craftsperson, rhetorician, or knowledge worker imagined by writing studies” but I think we are also starting to see a merger where certain content is beginning to be viewed as a craft (Dush, 2015, p.184).
Dush. (2015). When Writing Becomes Content. Retrieved January 28, 2020, from https://secure.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Resources/Journals/CCC/0672-dec2015/CCC0672When.pdf
‘Imagine Pleasant Nonsense’ With ‘Strange Planet’ Creator Nathan Pyle [Interview by L. Metzger]. (2019, December 15). Retrieved January 28, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/2019/12/15/787618154/imagine-pleasant-nonsense-with-strange-planet-creator-nathan-pyle
Video Games Reviews & News. (1969, December 31). Retrieved from https://www.gamespot.com/
R/writingprompts. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2020, from https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/