The purpose of this webtext is to understand how some writers shape their composing processes through the use of emerging digital tools such as distraction-free writing environments (a minimalist approach to word processing) and Markdown (a markup syntax similar to HTML, but simplified). In order to do so, we examine the tools alongside online discussions of them by the people who develop and use them. Analysis of these tools and discussions reveals the complex ways that mediating tools can shape writing activity, and suggests that writing researchers should once again turn their attention to writers’ processes and the ways they choose certain tools to shape those processes.

Key terms: activity, process, productivity, distraction, tools, writing


Derek Van Ittersum is Assistant Professor of English at Kent State University, where he teaches in the Literacy, Rhetoric, and Social Practice graduate program. He has recently published articles in Technical Communication Quarterly and Computers and Composition. His research focuses on innovative writing technologies and the ways writers adopt them (or not).

Kory Lawson Ching is Assistant Professor of English at San Francisco State University, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in ethnographic writing, blogging, composition theory, teaching with technology, and qualitative research methods. His research interests include teacher preparation and digital literacies, and his work has appeared in the journals Composition Studies, Computers and Composition, JAC, and Rhetoric Review, as well as the website Inside Higher Ed.