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Book: Creativity and Discovery in the University Writing Class

Chapter: 15. Re-Presenting Academic Writing to Popular Audiences: Using Digital Infographics and Timelines

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.27780


This chapter is one small attempt to find ways to reduce the gap between the so-called academic and the popular styles of writing, to undo the perception that scholars avoid exposure by using prosaic and technical prose, and to find ways to re-think academic writing so that we might communicate “academically” and at the same time comprehensibly to wider audiences. There is good reason to pursue such a goal at this moment. Recently, growing numbers of scholars are arguing for open access to journal publications and rebelling against a pay system of publication, rooting their argument in calls for democratic access to academic work (Alberti, 2010; Jha, 2012). This is an argument about systems of knowledge, but it is also one inherently tied to writing. To be brief, there is a danger in fooling ourselves into believing that eliminating a payment system solves a problem of public accessibility to academic texts. In all likelihood, it does not. The practices of writing are much too local, contextual, disciplinary, and convoluted for that. As professional writers and scholars, we must find ways to reach wide and varied audiences through# our writing. Is it enough to make academic texts freely available
online? I believe we must also try to make research compelling to and interactive with those people outside our fields who consider it valuable. In so doing, we bring our discoveries to a wider public and experiment with other means of discovery.

This chapter explores two new techniques-- digital infographics and digital timelines -- which are proving effective in helping to bring academic research to a wider public.

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