Content v. Copy

Here's one of the problems that comes with creating a syllabus. You carefully arrange each reading and budget out your (and your students') time. Then, checking up on your RSS feeds, you come across an article far better than most of the things you put into your coursepack (which is already at the printer--Wishydig, I put your name on the coursepack but wasn't 100% certain that you were going to require it--the printer is initially going to run 60 copies but told me its no problem to run an additional 20).

Today I'm referring to an article by Amber Simmons over at A List Apart. While obnoxious at points (she links to another of her articles as an example of thoughtful writing--a little humility and generousity please). Putting that aside, she offers an interesting classification of information on the web: copy and content. Copy is the hollow, substance-less, corporate, commercial crap that fills our span filters and junk folders. Content is the thoughtful, insightful, often user-generated stuff that we RSS, cut 'n' paste, blog about [its is, after all, the audience who deems whether a post is insightful by their sustained attention], and forward. Here's some snippets:

The kind of writing we encourage is lifeless, insipid, and calorie-free. If we want to get back on track—to allow writers to write wonderful user experiences—we have to change our expectations and our rules.


As our culture becomes increasingly digital, the art forms that support it must be constructed with the same care, deliberateness, and gusto as our traditional media. Intelligent content is the literature of our time. It is not enough that our printed books and magazines are ardently written and meticulously edited. Our culture loses much if we encourage online writers to sacrifice grace and personality on the altars of pith and scannability. Perhaps better advice is to encourage writers to say exactly what they mean with precisely the words required, however many they may be.

One of the reasons for our teaching this version of introductory composition is to increase our students ability both to recognize copy and generate content. As members of the digital collective, components of the now living and constantly evolving information filter, we are all responsible for our new information ecology. We need to be conservationists, dedicated to upkeep. I see no reason why this shouldn't start in University, why a basic understanding of not only HTML but also social bookmarking and group think.

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