A week without technology

Students in Rob Wittig’s New Media Writing class went a whole week without technology while tweeting about it the whole time.Ironic, don’t you think? The class participated in #1wknotech, one of Wittig’s creative netprovs, where they had the chance to have fun with the hypocrisy of their task along with exploring the more serious implications and consequences of technology. A netprov is a networked improv narrative centered around collaboratively building stories on available media such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, according to Wittig, an assistant professor in the departments of art and design and writing studies at UMD. In making a netprov, Wittig teams up with Mark Marino, a professor at the University of Southern California, to create an overall framework or concept people can contribute to. A core group of writers are clued in and then portray the mindset of “characters” in the netprov and pretend to be doing something, but tweet about it as though it is really happening. “Everyone collaborates to build a big, beautiful, new complete stream that consists of so many voices and ideas which are contradicting each other, and supporting each other,” Marino said about netprovs. Wittig’s goal with netprovs is to create literature in a form that’s relevant to our time by taking something people use every day and applying it to fiction. “It is basically a fictional, funny, collaborative and creative game,” Marino said. “People can play and go deep. In the act of storytelling they can explore ideas while being silly, but also profound.” For the #1wknotech assignment Wittig’s students spent one hour with technology in a place where they would generally use it. Additionally, students posted on social media as if they were not using technology for the entire week, according to Jessica Cohen, a member of Wittig’s class. Throughout the week students portrayed a persona and wrote tweets every day, then commented on other people’s tweets to build an interesting dialogue. “While this is a difficult feat, it made for a very interesting assignment,” Cohen said. “This assignment provided a new understanding of how much technology has consumed our lives — we are completely obsessed with it.” #1wknotech provided students with the opportunity to reflect on our society’s dependence on technology and how it impacts our daily lives. Wittig chose technology to be the topic of this netprov because of how present it is in students’ lives, and of how this presence can negatively impact people. As his students reflected after #1wknotech, people’s feelings get hurt all the time over technology and social media. If people don’t text back right away you feel unimportant; if you see how much “fun” others have on Facebook, you feel unaccomplished. Overall, with technology, some people end up feeling more lonely than “connected.”


Professor's innovative teaching lands him award

Crime Beat