Long-form Writing

Additional Resources

  1. On Filter Bubbles
    1. Eli Pariser — “Beware Online Filter Bubbles
    2. Oremus — “The Filter Bubble Revisited
    3. Boxell, Gentzkow, and Shapiro — “Is the Internet Causing Political Polarization?
  2. On Cambridge Analytica
    1. Grassegger and Krogerus, “The Data that Turned the World Upside Down
    2. Bershidsky — “No, Big Data Didn’t Win the U.S. Election


Project 3: Long-form journalism
Due: Monday, May 1st
Objective: Research and investigation for web writing

It is a truism repeated by new media naysayers that the Internet has destroyed our collective attention span. Nicholas Carr, for instance, famously complained he can no longer read books as he once did. “I used to find it easy to immerse myself in a book or a lengthy article,” he wrote in 2011. “Now my concentration starts to drift after a page or two.” Of course, he issued that complaint in the form of a best-selling book, The Shallows, which grew out of an article he published in The Atlantic. In fact, the success of tech writing in outlets like The Atlantic, Wired, and The New Inquiry suggest that long-form and investigative journalism continue to thrive, even in an era of micro-content circulated by the likes of Twitter and Tumblr. Long form content has such a presence online—and across media types—that it has its own aggregating service for fans who want to skip the short content and get right into the most substantive material from around the web. To offer a counter truism: content is king. That’s true not just for driving traffic but also for shaping the ideas that guide policy and development in tech.

This final project requires you to develop a long-form piece of investigative writing that would be appropriate for one of the above magazines. In the coming weeks we will be reading some representative pieces of writing about the social implications of our information infrastructure. In addition to class readings, however, you should check out some of the recent offerings from tech journalism to get a sense of their style, audience, and organizational form. We will be especially concerned with privacy in the coming weeks, but you have the option to write about anything generally related to our course materials. You must cite at least one of the readings we’ve done together as a class.

This project will be developed for the web and will be submitted as a blog post. That means you should consider incorporating multimedia elements such as embedded videos, images, and links. You need not include each of those media types, but you should have some audio or visual elements to supplement your writing. Those elements should contribute to your article by illustrating a point, providing evidence of a claim, or offering a primary source for your analysis. Additionally, you must use hyperlinks to sources that you use in research. Treat linking as you would citations, but for web materials. You should also include two or three print sources at the bottom of your article under the heading “Further Reading.” (See The New Inquiry for a model.) Feel free to quote print materials as well, just make sure to attribute and contextualize the quotes so readers can tell the original source.

The final draft is due on your blog May 1st. However, I encourage you to draft in a Word document for safekeeping and revisions. The final should come to approximately 2,000 words—eight full pages of double-spaced writing in Word. I encourage you print the Word document and proofread in hardcopy before posting it online. I also encourage you to keep in mind one last truism: good writing happens in revision.

Assessment Rubric

Inadequate Acceptable Outstanding

Too short, disorganized, or riddled with errors that impede meaning.



Adequate length and organization; minimal typos that do not impede meaning.



Proper length, well organized, with clean prose. Sentence fluidity makes reading easy and meaning clear.



Absent, not clearly related, or poorly organized in post.


On topic but more decorative than substantive; or organized in an unhelpful way.  

On topic, clearly documented, and important to the article. Organized in a useful way among prose.


 Research and Citations  

Absent, unclear, or misinformed.


Present in the form of hyperlinks and further reading suggestions. Perhaps not contextualized adequately or questionable sources. Present in hyperlinks, contextualized quotations, and further reading suggestions. All sources serve clear purpose, including credible secondary materials.
 Topic, Tone, Audience  

Not related to the course; inappropriate for the genre; not well considered.



Related to the course and appropriate for the genre, but perhaps not consistent or not directed at a clear audience.



Related to the course and appropriate for the genre. Clear, consistent tone with a sense of general interest but tech-specific audience.


 Argument or Original Insight  

Absent, unclear, or unsupported in article.



Stated explicitly but perhaps not clearly demarcated from research materials or inadequately supported in article.



Explicit, clearly distinct from secondary sources, and full supported with relevant examples and research.