The Purpose of Digital Writing

Individuals and online communities use digital writing in order to accomplish a specific purpose or goal. Two common goals of digital writing are mobilization and group unity. Different genres-such as blogs, websites, and forums-are utilized in a manner that allows the author to encourage the target audience to act in a certain way or to help strengthen the group as a whole. While there are many ways that authors do this, the overall objective is the same: influencing the audience in order to achieve a goal.

As an non-digital native, it is important for you to know how different internet genres use digital writing to influence your participation and call you to social action. It is also useful for you to know how your fandom can be strengthened by various online genres and how internet fandom can benefit you.


By calling the audience to social action, digital writers aim to push their audience to act in a way that helps them achieve a specific objective. Whether their objective is to encourage a mindset change, decrease pollution, or increase awareness about a certain charity or organization, many digital writing authors use genre in order to mobilize their audience to action. If you need to brush up on digital genres, you can learn more here.

Political Party Websites

One example of how groups use digital writing and online genres for mobilization is demonstrated through political party websites. Political party websites, such as President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney, compose a genre that pushes readers to social action. Before the 2012 election, both of these websites shared the common goal of eliciting votes from eligible, voting citizens. In order to inform, warn, and persuade members of the electorate to support and vote for a specific Presidential candidate in the 2012 election, these political party websites encompassed many characteristics that encouraged readers to take social action. The websites are part of the same online genre, with similar textual features, audiences, and rhetorical strategies which were beneficial to their campaigns.

Political party websites have major social ramifications; influence on people's decision for who they vote for. On Mitt Romney’s site, there were many examples of what Romney believes “President Obama did wrong”. For instance, he believes that President Obama's health care plan, often called Obamacare, was going to be a huge problem for our nation. Governor Romney also believed that President Obama was doing too much spending, which would be harmful for the economy. When readers who were undecided about which candidate to vote for saw these examples, they may have been persuaded to vote for Governor Romney and to disagree with President Obama and the Democratic Party. Similarly, President Obama’s website depicts what he feels is ineffective about Mitt Romney’s political plans. He believes that Mitt Romney is only looking out for the upper class and not doing a lot to help the middle class who are struggling in our current economy. This may have moved readers to want to support President Obama because it caused them to feel like Mitt Romney would not put good plans into place. This had a significant impact on who had the most supporters and ultimately, won the election to become president of the United States of America.


As well as rallying votes and support, these websites persuaded potential voters to donate money. On President Obama’s website, there was a box that says, “Your donation will make a bigger difference today than tomorrow” and asked readers to provide their email address. Similarly, on Mitt Romney’s website, there is a linked box asking visitors to contribute saying “We can’t afford 4 more years”. Both sites also have links to help their supporters reach out to others and rally their support. This shows that both candidates need people to support them and ask them to donate money. On President Barack Obama’s website, there are a plethora of statements about and links to the webpage where people can donate money to support his campaign. Quick blurbs and statements exclaiming that donating even $5 can help President Obama win the 2012 election influence those who support him to donate money quickly and without much thought. The rhetoric and word choice he uses in this example of digital writing as well as his ethos can lead people to make sudden decisions to donate money because they feel he knows what he is talking about. Additionally, the constant bombardment of website features asking for donations may eventually change the mind of those who did not originally want to donate. After encountering multiple quotes and information boxes asking for donations, many visitors may be pushed to raise or donate money to support their contender.

Through their political party websites, the presidential candidates accomplished their purpose of increasing votes, awareness, and donations.

Celebrity Twitter Accounts and Tweets

Many celebrities who use Twitter use their tweets to call their followers to social action. Through Twitter, actors and other celebrities are able to communicate information, whether personal or professional, to a network of people who subscribe to their tweets, also known as followers. These tweets, 140 character messages, are sent from the verified celebrities and can be read by anyone with internet access, regardless of whether or not they have a twitter account.

Celebrity tweeters can write about whatever they wish and send the tweets whenever they want. Some, like iCarly star, actor, Nathan Kress, use their tweets to promote movies and other acting projects that they are working on. Nathan Kress has tweeted information on a new movie he is acting in, Black Sky. By sending these tweets, he is influencing his audience to see a movie that they may not have been aware of or chosen to see otherwise.

On September 20, star actress of The Office, Jenna Fischer tweeted

Okay West Coast! Less than an hour before the premiere of The Office last season!

This tweet was intended to encourage readers to watch her show and targets them emotionally while building excitement by mentioning that this is the show’s final season. According to responses to her tweet, this emotional reasoning helped her achieve her purpose of attractive more viewers for that night’s episode.

The X-Factor judge, Demi Lovato, frequently sends tweets asking her followers and fans to vote for the different The X-Factor contestants that she is mentoring. Her goal in sending these tweets is to influence her followers to not only watch the show, but to vote as well. By encouraging more people to vote for the artists she supports, she is calling her followers to social action by getting them to actually pick up a phone and call in a vote.

In this way, celebrities use tweets in order to accomplish a specific goal or purpose.

Group Unity

In addition to mobilization, members of online communities also use different forms of genre for the purpose of drawing the online community together as a group. Through forum posts, comments, and tweets, many authors are able to strengthen the connection between the author and the audience and the audience as a whole.

Online Fan Mail Community

Fanmail.biz, a website for autograph collectors, is a key example of an online community that uses digital writing to foster group unity. This database is one of the largest used fan mail sites among autograph enthusiasts because it is free and has thousands of addresses for collectors to use when sending celebrities fan mail and autograph requests. On this website there are four autograph related forums - Fanmail.biz Database, Autograph Collectors, Movie Set Addresses and Filming Location, and Autographs for Sale/Exchange - that encourage discussion and communication between members of the site. Each of these forums has sub forums, known as boards, and each board has multiple threads that members create when they want to post in a forum. In the forums, members post photos of their in person and through-the-mail autograph successes, request celebrity addresses that are not already listed in the database, and respond to other users’ threads and posts. By providing a space for members to interact with one another, the Fan Mail forum on this website allows members who participate in the autograph collecting hobby to feel a sense of unification with the other members who share their interest.

Members of the site’s forums value sharing this part of their lives with fellow autograph aficionados and being able to connect with other people who share their passion for collecting autographs. Oftentimes when a member makes a thread post that he/she received an authentic autograph success in the mail, several other members will post responses of congratulations on the thread. When members experience failure in trying to attain a certain autograph, other members express sympathy and empathy on their thread. For example, when Mattfew, a member of the Fanmail.biz forums since September 2012, made a thread saying that he sent fan mail to James Earl Jones and got a response that Jones would not be signing for the “foreseeable future”


other members quickly commented sympathetic responses such as “Sorry to hear this” and to “give it a few months and try again.” (James) In this way, members unite through one another’s successes and empathize with one another’s failures.

These forums use threads and polls in order to prevent and solve conflict, further achieving the goal of unification. Often, other members of the site will post their comments on the authenticity of the autograph. Sometimes people disagree about whether or not autographs that are not authentically signed should even be considered autograph successes. Rather than to encourage and allow arguing about whether or not pre-printed, stamped, and autopen autographs should be considered autographs, the forum has a thread for members to post their thoughts on the matter in a polite way. Similarly, members debate about whether or not they prefer their autographs to be personalized (where the celebrity writes “to insert-name-here”) or to simply just have the celebrity’s signature. In the fan mail forums administrators have put polls in place to highlight this debate and handle these disagreements in a way that allows members to express their opinions in an organized manner. With this poll, members can vote whether or not they prefer to have their autographs personalized and they can also post comments explaining why they feel that way. Threads and polls are textual features that are utilized on the fan mail forums in order to highlight different debatable topics and resolve them in a structured, safe manner. This allows for less dissension among the group and increases communication and unification.

Digital Writing, Purpose, and Audience

In order to effectively promote a message or achieve a purpose when digital writing, it is important to be aware of the audience. You don't want to send tweets about why the Democratic Party is the best to those affiliated with the Republican Party or vice versa. Knowing your audience and what they support and stand for can help digital writers accomplish the purpose of their writing.

For more information on how digital writing relates to audience, please visit this page

Digital Writing, Purpose and Authorship

Authorship plays a major role in helping digital writing accomplish its purpose. When an author establishes ethos, it can either hinder or promote social action and/or unification. For example, when Demi Lovato tweets to her followers in order to get more votes on The X Factor, she is able to receive such an overwhelming response because of her celebrity status. She is a young, pop sensation who was the star of a television show and has a successful singing career. This helps her identify to young people who listen to her music, watch her television show, or are otherwise fans of her work. Because she is held in such high regard by the majority of her followers, when she asks them to vote, they are likely to do so. If an average person with no celebrity status were to tweet the same thing, the results would be vastly different and most probably not effective.

For more information on how digital writing relates to authorship, please visit this page Authorship

Why is this Important?

Digital writing is important because it can be used to accomplish different goals. There are multiple applications for digital media. Digital writing can be used in different places and online genres…even classrooms!

1: iCarly : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICarly

2: FAQS About Verified Accounts : https://support.twitter.com/articles/119135-faqs-about-verified-accounts#

3: NBC The Office : http://www.nbc.com/the-office/

4: Demi Lovato : http://www.demilovato.com/

5: The X Factor : http://www.thexfactorusa.com/

6: FanMail.biz : http://www.fanmail.biz/

7: Barack Obama : http://www.barackobama.com/

8: Mitt Romney : http://www.mittromney.com/

9: Political Cartoons : http://www.politico.com/wuerker/2012/11/political-cartoons-november-2012/000532-007435.html

10: James Earl Jones Letter : http://www.fanmail.biz/mboard/viewtopic.php?t=272406

11: Do YOU Count PrePrints, Autopens, Etc as Autographs? : http://www.fanmail.biz/mboard/viewtopic.php?f=114&t=271259&p=1124760

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