How is writing for the web different than writing for print? Prevailing wisdom says that web-readers scan until they find the specific information they seek.

My question is: how can we engage people on the web and offer meaningful, substantive, responsible, yet accessible encounters with humanities scholarship? And how can we take full advantage of the possibilities that the web now affords? Here are some issues we might explore:

  • How do we best anticipate and satisfy [goal-oriented] search queries?
  • How do we take people in new and unanticipated directions?
  • How do we help readers to “unlearn” what they think they know about a subject and be open to new perspectives? (See NATURE article by Dan Kahan, “Fixing the Communications Failure,” Vol 463, 21 January, 2010.)
  • How do we manage comments sections?
  • What are reasonable lengths for copy on the web? And frequency of updating text on a home page?
  • How should first paragraphs be written to optimize search engine results, grab and orient the reader, and get them to the heart of the matter? [We could give ourselves a writing exercise here, each bringing a fairly complex topic that needs to be introduced in 200 words or less.]
  • How would you think through the designing of an interactive piece or game with the goal of teaching a new concept? [Again, we could each bring an example and try to write a script for it– a game that teaches/tests how to identify a certain type of pottery… or an interactive puzzle based on manuscript fragments…]
  • How can we offer differentiated levels of content so that novices and more sophisticated readers both have something to learn?
  • If there is time, I’m also interested in the merits/drawbacks and practical aspects of producing video content for the web.

I have a demo site from a project at work (Bible Odyssey) that can illustrate some of these questions.