Blogging and Journalism

Citizen Journalists

I’ve talked about the effect of blogging on the field of journalism in previous entries, but this will go more in depth.

The invention of the Internet has strengthened the everyday individual’s access to freedom of press.  The cost of producing and distributing publications is now minimal to non-existent. The bigger news outlets, or the people with money, could no longer control the publishing game.  Blogging has made the press more democratic, because anyone’s voice can be heard, and it would be much harder to suppress.

How Blogs Intersect with Journalism:

  1. Give first-hand reports from ongoing events
  2. Go further than a journalist because they have more time
  3. Act as a gatewatcher

Key Terms

Gatewatchers: (filterbloggers) follow mainstream media and decide on stories to display based on their interests

Personal Authenticity: an independent blogger must build trust with individuals by being genuine

Institutional Credibility: a journalist’s credibility stems from the brand of the institution they work for

Mainstream News

Blogging has changed the role of mainstream news.  People no longer look to the big names in Television or Newspapers to get all of their information on current events. Aside from blogs, there are an infinite number of other sources besides those such as CNN or The New York Times.

As I’ve said in a previous post, bloggers can be journalists, and journalists can be bloggers.  However, most bloggers do not think of themselves as journalists. No matter if journalists are beginning to blog, the invention of blogging has changed journalism. They are not under the same constraints and have access to different tools and resources.

A Comparison

chart

Bloggers own up to their biases, which make the readers trust them more.  The individuals with whom they have built a sense of trust see them as credible – they have to work to establish it.  Bloggers can be more relatable than a faceless, objective journalist.

First Hand Reports

The real-time ability of the Internet has changed the reporting on wars.  Both citizens and soldiers, such as Salam Pax and Lieutenant Smash, can blog on a daily basis about what is happening and how they feel about it.  However, since the information is shared immediately after it is posted, this makes it much stronger than finding out what the war was like after it has ended. Journalists can then use these types of blogs in their reports, since people can relate to them.

Other first-hand bloggers do not set out to reach a wide audience, but their experience of certain important current events greatly increases their readers.  The ability to post many short updates over a period of time, demonstrates the value of Twitter.  We quickly read what is happening and feel like we are as up to date as possible.

Independent Journalists

Since bloggers can appear to be more authentic, people like the idea that they will give an honest first-hand account of what they are experiencing.  These types of bloggers have become important for those concerned with wars and politics.  They can get the same access as journalists, but provide a product that is not restricted by any institution.

Gatewatching

     Phases:

  1. Input – news gathered by journalists
  2. Output – news is published
  3. Response – readers comment on the news

Bloggers are now able to control what will be published in the mainstream media.  They are changing the structure of the system by monitoring the output phase.  They help decide what stories people will read based on how interesting they are.  They also look for errors and are not afraid to provide feedback to mainstream new sources. Bloggers provide an important perspective, as they sometimes do their own research and provide their own version of the story.

Symbiotic Relationship

Bloggers link to mainstream media, and journalists cite blogs.  The two fields both intersect and depend on each other to reach their full potential. Where would blogging be without mainstream media, and where would the mainstream media be without blogging?

Journalism of Verification

How is a journalist able to be so objective? How is he able to disregard his own bias and ensure the accuracy of the story? This is where verification comes into play.  Every journalist has a different process, but there are some techniques that almost all journalists use by nature. What separates journalism from entertainment is its goal to tell the absolute truth.

Objectivity 

The meaning of this term in the eyes of journalism has changed over time.   It was originally used to say that journalists needed to use a standard method on checking facts. As Walter Lippman suggested, journalists needed to approach their work as a science. Today, it is used to mean the journalist is not biased, which is pretty much impossible to eliminate.

Journalism of Assertion

The Internet has changed the availability of facts, which has also changed the role of the journalist. They are focusing more and more of writing stories that are based on already established news but add something new, such as an interpretation.

The principles of fairness and balance are actually tools in this scientific process: tools that journalists use to reach the truth.  While it is important to convey both sides equally, it is also important to make sure that your story reflects what is actually happening in the world.  If one side is much bigger, you need to let the reader know.

Science of Reporting

The Method:

  1. Don’t add anything that did not happen
  2. Don’t deceive your readers
  3. Be transparent about how and why you are writing this
  4. Be original – do your own work
  5. Be humble

Techniques:

  • Skeptical Editing –  break down the story line by line (or even word be word) and ask every question possible, as though you are a skeptic
  • Accuracy Checklist
  • Assume Nothing
  • Tom French’s Colored Pencil
  • Anonymous Sources
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News Sources: WYFF

First Impression

In class we were each assigned to look at and analyze a news source.  My group was assigned WYFF, a station that covers local Greenville news. We were given guidelines as to how to break apart and critique the website and its contents.

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 Our first impression of the site was that it was very  busy.  There are way too many ads, distracting from  the news stories, which are supposed to be the most  important part of the site.  The home page provides headlines and brief summaries of the day’s stories.  This allows readers to scan and decide which articles they want to read.

It did accomplish the “three second rule” that I talked about in a previous blog entry.  The website loaded quickly and includes a Breaking News banner, which gives quick access to the top news stories.

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The site works to establish credibility by using a news template similar to the most popular stations, such as NBC and CBS.  It works in the same style as these, and attempts to brand itself as a trusted news source. Some stories are a bit frivolous, which makes me question the website’s credibility and importance.

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Although some of us (myself included) love celebrity news as a guilty pleasure, are these news stories really an important addition to the news circuit? I think they are trying to relate to their target audience, but it does detract from their credibility.
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The main problem with this news source is the ads.  They take up a large portion of every page, and pop up and expand when the home page loads. The general writing style of the site does seem to be objective, short, and factually based.  The writers get right to the point, which is a good quality to have in a news source. However, the ads demonstrate that it is focused on what to sell, not what to share.

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Articles

The arrangement of the information both within the articles and the site in general is very effective. It follows the reverse pyramid style, which states that you should start with a broad summary and then go more into detail.  Each article first gives an overview and then tells the who, what , where, and when. The hiker story is a great example of the site’s article format.

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The article starts with a headline that is concise and informative – it does not attempt to be cute or creative. This is followed by a deckhead, which gives a bit more information on the article without delving into the details. The actually article is preceded by a related picture, which, depending on the article, can add to or detract from it.

The content is organized into short chunks, catering to the reader’s desire to scan.  There are some lists and bolded words, which also allow readers to scan and decide what to actually read. Since the articles are so short, there are no headers or sub-headers.

All articles are consistent in their tone and style. It has a standard organization for each page, and the succinct style of writing establishes a standard rhythm to the articles.  Most articles also contain many short (not block) quotes.

Another pitfall of the site is the lack of hyperlinks.  The only links we only really found were to other articles on the same site.  Without links to other credible news sources, there is less credibility.

The Evolution of the Blog

From Bards to Blogs

Overview

Chapter 2 in Rettberg’s book talks about the history of mass media and how it has developed into blogging. Blogs changing the way we communicate and how information is spread. Audiences used to be passive, but the Internet has completely changed the game. We have gone from followers to leaders – anyone can create the news. We no longer rely on a few powerful groups to decide what is important and report on it.

Orality and Literacy

Orality, as mentioned in my blog response to the work of Gregory Ulmer, mark the beginning of communication as it exists today. Literacy was the first real transition in the field, and as with any new technology, people were skeptical. People may resent the move from writing to blogging, but electronic media touches on both orality and literacy.

Plato’s Complaints

This distrust of changes in communication is not unique to electronic media – it also happened with the invention of writing. Plato, one the history’s greatest scholars, was afraid that the practice of writing would ruin memory.

This is true, as I notice the difference in memory between my dad and me. I cannot go anywhere without my phone’s GPS to guide me, but my dad memorizes his route on a paper map before he leaves. I see no point in doing this when I have access to my phone, which can easily direct me (although sometimes Siri does get me a bit lost). However, the benefits definitely outweigh the risks.

Another one of Plato’s complaints about writing was that it removed the interactive element of conversation. The Internet has brought this back and even expanded on it. The bloggers themselves can constantly edit and correct their work. They also allow readers to comment and help make corrections or share opinions.  This makes the blogs more conversational.

Introduction of Print

The printing press, which was first invented by the Chinese, comes into our story with its introduction to Europe by Gutenberg. It made printing more flexible, quicker, and less expensive. It expedited our cultural move from orality to literacy.

Cultural Changes of Print:

  1. Dissemination – instead of going to the information, it could come to you
  2. Standardization – printing became systematic and errors became less frequent
  3. Reorganization – developed standards that text should have
  4. Data Collection – collaboration allowed for more accuracy
  5. Preservation – more copies, more likely to last longer
  6. Amplification and Reinforcement – go back to old texts for support

Print, Blogging and Reading

As the introduction of writing increased literacy, blogging has influenced a different kind of literacy. This understanding of the Internet is now being called network literacy, multi-literacy, digital literacy, secondary literacy, and electracy.

Since the Internet is worldwide, people from opposite sides of the globe can read the same document at the same time and interact with it. I know with my YouTube channel I was shocked by the viewers and comments I would get from different countries. I think it’s amazing that I can have viewers from every country from Japan and Indonesia to Belgium and Brazil.

Print Inventions for Different Centuries

1600’s 1800’s 1900’s 2000’s
Pamphlets Periodicals Personal Newspapers Photocopies (Newsletters) Blogs

Blogs are faster, easier, and more interactive than photocopying documents.

The Importance of Print

Print is still one of the most important modes of communication, especially for schools. The Internet can be distracting, whereas print media fully holds our attention. However, the latest concerns are about the diminishing time we spend reading versus using electronics. I know as a college student I don’t have time to read books for leisure, yet I still somehow always have time to surf Buzzfeed.

A Modern Public Sphere?

Public Sphere: a space for democratic debate between the government and the (informed) people. If any technology has come close to achieving this space, it is the Internet. Whereas radio and television previously inhibited the conversation in a public sphere, with their combination with the Internet, they have allowed the everyday person to participate.

Hypertext

Before its invention, hypertext was talked about as a more efficient way of thinking. It was in 1965 that Ted Nelson formally defined it as a type of hypermedia.
Goal: to perform a request
Form: displayed on computer screen (not on paper)
Qualities: interconnected and complex
Style: succinct and chunked
Mode of Action: links

Do we shape technology, or does it shape us?

Here are two theories:
Technological Determinism: technology determines the path of our society and culture
Co-construction: technology and culture depend on each other

Which one do you think it is? Please leave comments!

Blogs, Communities and Networks

Overview

An audience, no matter how big or small, matters. Bloggers write with their audience in mind, whether it is 5 or 5 million people. It involves small audiences and many producers.

Key Terms

Social software: built to support networks of social interaction

Examples

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
Blogs Social Software
Free-form Centralized
Decentralized Single server
Many domains One domain
Actively connect to other blogs Automatically provides links

Social Network Theory

The theory states that the weak ties between people are more important that the strong ties of the spread of information. These links cross multiple social groups, as people connect (through these weak ties).

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the “six degrees of connection”, which states that we are all only six people away from knowing any other individual in the world. Am I really six people away from knowing someone who lives in Indonesia, or a celebrity? This is where the Internet comes into play. People can share, especially with their weak ties.

Blogs are especially important with forming ties, whether they are weak or strong. A blogger can link to other blogs without knowing the writers – he may just be a fan of their work. There does not have to be a strong personal tie in order to link on a blog.

Rettberg cites fashion blogs as a great example of this, and I completely agree (maybe I’m biased – I love clothes). They post pictures of everyday people on the street who they think are best dressed. Harper’s Bazaar: Street Style does a great job doing this, showing how trendy people are dressing from all around the world. Fashion bloggers also link to other fashion blogs, creating a social network founded on the same weak ties mentioned earlier.

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The Internet has allowed the concept of the social network to flourish beyond what was originally thought possible. Individuals who don’t know each other, but engage in the same network, form the connections. Blogs help spread ideas and information that otherwise would be limited to certain social groups. In the fashion world, this facilitates the spread of trends, because people can see what is popular even if no one around them is wearing it.

Distributed Conversations

As we had talked about distributed systems in my computer science class last semester, Rettberg talks about their importance regarding social networks. When a network is spread across multiple machines, it is less vulnerable to malfunctioning. If one computer goes down, the other ones will keep the network functioning properly.

Blogs fall into this distributed, decentralized category, as blogs from many different domains link to each other. Since everyone can publish, the distribution of links is nowhere close to equal. The most popular blogs receive many more links than a smaller blog (like mine). Since they are already so popular, these major blogs are likely to continue to make more and more connections.

Technology for Distributed Communities

Blogging may not be in real time like face-to-face conversation, but its ability to post to the Internet (and stay there) makes up for that. Since it is not in real time, blogs value immediacy. This is why they post in reverse chronological order. People want to see the newest post, as that is what the conversation has turned to now.

However, the nature of the conversation has changed. As blog posts last for long periods of time, so do comments. This can lead to a conversation that spans hours, days, or even weeks. This is an advantage blogging conversations have over live ones. Most of them actually take place very quickly, due to the speed of the Internet and the importance of the issue at hand.

If a tree falls in an empty forest does it make a sound? If you blog without any readers, are you really blogging? This is why you need to link to other blogs and encourage reader feedback.

Other Social Networks 

Facebook is a bit different from having different blogs connect, because every profile is located under the same domain name.  However, the News Feed function does work like a blog. The most recent actions are posted to the top of your News Feed.

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A Deeper Look Into Blogging

Headlines and Hypertext

Overview

Chunking text into smaller paragraphs, along with using subheads, deckheads, and lists will make the reader less likely to skim your blog entries.  Smaller chunks prevent them from skipping longer sections entirely.  A good indicator of when to break up a paragraph is anywhere from 100 to 350 words.  Hyperlinks are also important, so that readers don’t feel limited to only your blog.  Links bring different areas of the Internet right to your reader’ fingertips.  They can also add a sense of transparency when the links confirm or expand upon your ideas.

Key Terms

Hypertext: links allowing the user to go anywhere else on the Internet instantaneously

Chunking: splitting up large texts into smaller paragraphs

Headlines: headings that briefly tell the reader the subject of the article

Hyperlinks

Links change the reader’s experience, allowing them to interact and find other sources. It also allows the user to determine the order that he will read the information.  This is important to consider, especially when you are questioning whether or not you should add a link.  The information needs to have value and add to the subject at hand.

Examples of when to link:

  • Sources you cited
  • Public records
  • Sections of an interview
  • Similar stories and information
  • Definitions of abstract terms
  • Further explanations,
  • Multimedia

Readers don’t usually know where the link is taking them .  This can can be both good and bad, depending on if the reader feels the information has helped them learn something new.  A good link shouldn’t interrupt the flow of a sentence.  One of my favorite blogs, Cupcakes and Cashmere, shows exactly how to provide hyperlinks to users.

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All links are the same color – Emily is always simple and consistent.

Each link indirectly tells you exactly what you will be clicking.

She tries to keep it short, while ensuring the user knows the subject of the link.

There is no need to be afraid to add links to your blog.  Although a link gives users the option to leave your page, the more helpful they are, the more likely they are to come back. Another benefit of hyperlinking is that sites you link to appreciate the traffic and may link back to you.

Types of Links:

  • Embedded links – behind a word, sentence, image that redirects you somewhere else
  • Hot areas – multiple links found within an image, depending on where your mouse is
  • Inline links – user stays on the same page, information is brought to them (used to display images)
  • Anchors – navigational links to another part of the document

Wikipedia does a great job of using anchors.  It allows users to find the specific information that they are looking for.

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Headlines and Subheads

Headlines increase the chance of something being read because they help the reader move through the information. Since everyone is scanning– they are more likely to read it in entirety when it is broken up.  Each page has individual header to introduce the topic that the writer is going to discuss. Sub-heads are the next level in layering a blog. They should be added to break up text that is more than 350 words.  They should not repeat what is already in the header – sub-heads need to be brief and beneficial to users. You can even go one step further with sub-sub heads if the text is particularly long. A deckhead, the smaller line under the main headline, can also be included to provide more information about the story.

Qualities of a Good Headline:

  • Attracts attention
  • Summarizes content
  • Helps reader index content
  • Depicts tone
  • Provides relief

Warning: avoid being cute or using puns! A headline should be direct and informative instead of being entertaining. Keep titles simple to generate more traffic – straightforward, readers will know what you will be talking about – should be intuitive and related to the content.

Fonts

I never thought about the fact that a font could be the difference between a good and bad header. It is actually better to use  sans serif font because it doesn’t have as many curves, which can become pixelated on a computer screen. This is important to consider to be more visually appealing and professional.

Trends in Personal Publishing

Overview

Personal publishing, or more specifically, blogging, is changing media and communication because it allows anyone to partake.  A blog is a means of self-expression.  It can be purely personal, but the most successful usually incorporate both fact and opinion.  Since its emergence, blogging has also evolved to become a community activity, since its interactivity allows for people to communicate, discuss, and share.  Although it may create some tension with journalism, the two can positively work together.

Key Terms

Blogging: short for weblog, which is a website that frequently posts new entries in reverse chronological order

Blogroll: links to other blogs

Blogging

Characteristics:

  • Archives
  • Permalinks
  • Time and date stamps
  • Blogrolls
  • References

It has allowed everyday people to engage with journalism and news stories.  Not only can they share their opinions, but they can also help ensure the story is as accurate as possible, if they knew some information was wrong.  People are no longer just accepting the news as it comes, but confirming and fighting it if it is wrong.

Blogging vs. Journalism

Many major news distributors and journalists have started blogs, but there are also many ordinary people who have become journalists through their blogging.  However, the majority of these blogging journalists rely on major news sources for their information.I read about this in Socialnomics by Eric Qualman.  People are beginning to seek bloggers over bigger news distributers, because they tend to be experts in their fields.
Journalism:

Purpose: to serve public interest and inform the reader

Goal: be objective, help the everyday person understand what happened

Content is:

  • Original
  • Accurate
  • Verified

Values:

  •  Immediacy
  • Transparency
  • Interconnectivity
  • Proximity to event

Blogging:

Purpose: expressing oneself

Goal: react or provide comments or context on news events for readers

Form: commentary or opinion

Content is:

  • Original
  • Subjective

Values: same as journalism

Blogging vs. Traditional Media

Blogging has many benefits over communicating via print. It allows writers to connect with readers and build a mutual trust.  This allows a community to form where the loyal users and writer can interact. Instead of being limited to a word count or show time, writers can give additional content that helps further understanding.  They do not have the same constraints of print or television. Journalists and writers can continue to express themselves and expand upon the news. Since more information is being shared through blogging, it encourages the discussion of ideas and opinions among users and the writer.

How to Write For a Blog:

  1. Post new and original content that discusses already known information
  2. Write as though you are having a conversation
  3. Let your readers know what you think is important
  4. Encourage discussion among your loyal readers through questions
  5. Try to establish a loyal following – they will be more willing to interact with you (which will help improve you blog)
  6.  Update frequently (almost every other day)
  7. Put in reverse chronological order
  8. Tag key words to facilitate searching
  9. Use simple headlines to layer posts
  10. 10. Chunk information into small paragraphs
  11. 11. Acknowledge mistakes and make public corrections
  12. 12. Explicitly acknowledge if you are being biased

Making it Personal

I plan to improve my blog using the reading for this class.  I’ve tried to incorporate many of the techniques in this entry, but I know that it will take time to become more skilled.  Since we are required to post for class, I don’t think I will have a problem with posting as often as possible.  We usually post every other day.  This was my first entry where I really took a stab at layering – so please give me feedback on how you think I did! I would love any feedback whatsoever, as I’m trying to interact with anyone reading my blog – feedback is really appreciated.

As a major procrastinator, I do want to try to plan a certain time of day to blog, so that it becomes a part of my schedule.  I think an important part of this will be to keep track of things to blog throughout the day. I know I read a lot of articles online, and it would be great if I could provide more examples.  Also regarding examples, I am working on deciding what my particular focus should be.  I would love to talk about something regarding music, but I’m still not sure which area of it.

Since my first entry, I have tried to be genuine and  funny in order to create a unique voice (sorry if I’m ever a bit corny).  I know I need to try to be more consistent with this and not get lost in the academic side of the entry.

My last goal for my next blog entry is to experiment with formatting.  I’m very new to WordPress, and I’m not entirely sure how to play with color and fonts, but I promise I’m doing my research.  Feel free to check out my newly updated About page, where you’ll get a taste you my most recent experimenting.

The Digital Media Revolution

Discussing how digital media has changed writing as a whole

Digital vs. Print Media

Writing for the web is different than writing for print media –  it’s interactive! Many people believe that there is no valuable information on the Internet; however, just because there is a lot of bad information, doesn’t mean there isn’t anything credible.  Good writing for the Internet still must be clear and concise, just as it was required to be for print media.  It is easy to get caught up in the idea that the web has nothing substantial to offer, but we must remember that there is just so much more information, and it is all so easily accessible.

Although the writer still must be talented, his role has changed a bit with the introduction of digital media. Brian Carroll believes that the writer has three roles – he is the communicator, organizer, and interpreter of information.  The writer must choose an interesting message to convey, and he is in charge of deciding what should and should not be important to the reader.

Writer’s Credibility

Writers credibility is still very important, but it is now established in a different way than it was with print media.  Credibility  is a writer’s “believability”; it ensures that he is both accurate and unbiased.  As I mentioned earlier, writers still have to use good writing techniques and cite reliable sources, but the Internet has introduced other requirements.  I agree that the site must be presentable and user-friendly.  Visual presentation has become very important, as I would be less likely to trust a site that wasn’t visually appealing.  The harder it is to navigate through the information, the more likely I would be to give up on the site.

Links

The writer not only needs to reference other sources, but also provide direct links, allowing the reader or viewer to check for himself. I like that the web is now so much more dynamic than print media.  When a writer includes links, he opens the whole web up to the viewer. However, I do think unnecessary links can detract from a source’s credibility.  I think links are most effective when they provide context, such as a definition, or a related story. In my computer science class last semester, I also learned that a website must have a link back to the homepage, or else a user will be more likely to become frustrated and find another source.

Objectivity

A study has shown that people believe that information found online is more credible than found in traditional media. I do not entirely agree, because we are trained to believe that not everything on the Internet is true.  They make seek information that aligns with their personal views, but I know that personally, I am less inclined to believe information from a blog. Especially with Wikipedia, teachers warn against it and think it is a joke.  I find myself using it more than I should because of how easy it is to navigate.  The organization of its layers allows you to locate the specific information you are seeking. However, I also think it depends on the source. I am much more likely to believe information from an educational or scholarly article, which is why I usually check some in addition to reading a Wikipedia entry.

I think objectivity is still important in the media.  I feel that the more a writer includes his or her personal opinion, the more I will distrust it and look to other sources. Although I do not completely agree that people trust blogs more, I do believe that they have allowed society to value the individual’s opinion.   The web has changed all media for the better because it has forced us to be more honest in our reporting.  This gives the individual journalist more power, and it establishes more trust between him and the reader or viewer.  Unlike television, the Internet allows us to interact and respond to what is being said.  We now have a say in journalism that we have never had before.

Brevity

I think the “three second rule”, which states that the site must immediately download and catch the reader’s attention, is completely valid.  As I talked about in my last blog entry, our attention spans are becoming shorter, and we need to feel engaged or else we will move on to the next site. Many times, I am searching for some specific piece of information and nothing else.  Only when I have an abundance of leisure time do I find myself spending hours going from one Buzzfeed page to the next.

I  recently read a statistic that stated that we read 10% slower on a computer screen than on a printed page.  I have definitely found this to be true, as I prefer to print out any online readings.  Whenever, I am reading an assignment online, I have to force myself not to skim.  In particular, I usually skip completely over long paragraphs, possibly missing some crucial information.

I also am attracted more to smaller text, as I think that I will learn more from the information. I usually disregard the larger text as something to catch my attention, because I don’t usually think of it as accurate or informative. I find it interesting that there is an exact science to our eye movements while viewing a web page.  There are even fonts that readers prefer over others, which is not something you think about while reading.

Navigation

My computer science class last semester, which was focused on social media, also taught me the importance of key words.  If writers don’t include them, it is likely that their sites will get fewer views and be less popular.  On the Internet, you cannot be afraid to be your own self-advocate.  I learned this from my own YouTube channel.  When I started a few years ago, I didn’t include any key words, but then I would wonder why I didn’t have any views.  My sister, who was a communications major, encouraged me to add as many tags as possible, and although I was reluctant at first, I did see a general rise in views on my videos.

My channel is for entertainment purposes only, but I do think that YouTube has established itself as a reliable source for information.  When I Google how to do something online, it will sometimes lead me to a YouTube video.  I used to immediately pass over any information that came in video format, but I have found that seeing how to do something visually in a video can help more than textual instructions.

Coding for Websites

I did not realize how valuable the information I learned in my computer science class would be until I started digital communications.  We learned how to code our own websites, which included HTML and CSS style sheets. Although I am not an expert in these areas, I do agree that having a general understanding in how they work is important when working in digital media.  My understanding may be rudimentary, but I could code a very basic web page. I know how to use the tags and brackets of HTML, and we also learned how to use PHP and MySQL, which are the foundations of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  I have yet to start work on XML, but I think I have a great start to understanding how the Internet is shaping this new form of media.

Writing for the screen is something that I have minimal experience with but would love to know more about.  As a communication studies major, I think it will be essential in whatever field I end up in.

As with print media, it is important to catch the readers’ attention very quickly to prevent them from moving on or finding another source.  When I am searching on the web, I am most likely in need of a very specific piece of information.  Since our attention spans are so much shorter, we feel we don’t have the time to read an entire article if we are only interested in a certain aspect of the topic.  This is why writers must put what they think is the most important at the top of the page. Even if the writing is clever or interesting, I will look for another source that will quickly and easily give me what I am looking for.

I find Carroll to be a bit hypocritical regarding the tone of screen writing.  He has previously said that people seek out and find subjectivity credible, whereas in Chapter 3, he states that people are looking only for the facts. I agree with the latter, because especially with online sources, I need to ensure the information can be used for a class assignment.  If I find information to be inaccurate or potentially biased, I do not want to use it because it can undermine my own credibility.

As I learned in my broadcast and TV production classes in middle school, writing for the screen is a bit similar to writing for videos.  It is important to be short and concise to ensure the reader’s full attention.  Websites that use long sentences and seem to have no point do not seem credible or interesting to me.

I had never considered the fact that since the web is global and many people do know a simple form of English, it is important to be straightforward with your language.  As someone who speaks a basic level of French, I know that I would appreciate if writers do not include slang, because I would be much more likely to understand the site.

Aesthetic Design

As you can see from my blog format, I am a big fan of simplicity. I even like to be simplistic with my everyday makeup and fashion choices.  This is extremely important for Internet writing. If a site is too cluttered, it becomes hard to navigate, hard to read, and just simply not as pretty.

In alignment with being visually appealing, I definitely agree that web pages should be consistent in their styles. You need to be using the same font and colors to maintain the same image for your readers. It removes clutter and leaves a better and more lasting impression on anyone who views the site.

I wish I had known about site planning before creating my blog, because I think it would have allowed me to have an overall idea of what I wanted my blog to look like.  Thankfully, it seems to be working out so far, but I think having a plan for your website is very important. This will help you maintain the consistency that I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Home Pages

As my computer science class taught me, the home page is vital in designing a web page.  It needs to be organized and appealing, because then the reader will know that all subsequent pages will be just as helpful.  So in addition to providing links back to the home page, you really need to focus on its aesthetic development, as it is the face of your “brand”.

As I learn more about blogging, I hope to include some of these strategies in my entries and my overall design.

Fearing Change

Our first reading assignment for this class was to read two articles: “Is Google making us stupid?” by Nicholas Carr and “Introduction: Electracy” by Gregory Ulmer.

Is Google making us stupid?

I did find myself relating to some of Carr’s observations in the first article.  He claims that the Internet is changing the way we think, as it has caused our brains to rewire in order to accommodate a more efficient society.  Carr believes that the Internet has greatly shortened our attention spans, leading us to skim everything that we read.  He warns that we are not getting as deep of a understanding as we used to.

I think my attention span has definitely changed.  I can’t stand in any line longer than two people without my phone to entertain me.  I think since our generation has grown up in the height of this technology age, we expect instant gratification for everything.  This is because that is exactly what the Internet gives us.

Carr specifically worries about what this has done to our reading abilities.  He finds himself unable to delve into the lengthy readings that he used to enjoy.  I used to read all the time, but I can’t remember the last time I read a book outside of a class.  I used to become so engulfed in the books that I would spend my breaks from school reading all day.

In high school, I read the entire Hunger Games series in three days: one day for each book.  Once I started, I could never put the book down.  I remember reading the second book until 9 in the morning.  I don’t know if I have stopped reading books for leisure simply because I don’t have enough time anymore as a college student, or if I don’t have the attention span to do so.

As Carr says, we naturally skim instead of actually reading.  I know I have to force myself not to skim, as it’s what I’m trained to do.  Even when I’m extremely interested in what I’m reading, I will reach the end of the page and realize that I haven’t retained any information.

I am still skeptical of some of Carr’s claims because I am left with a few questions.  Are we reading less because we don’t have the attention span, or because we feel that we don’t have the time?  I know that I can get through a lengthy reading if I know that it’s required for class.

He recognizes that his theory does take a negative approach.  Carr lists some of the world’s greatest inventions and recognizes that skeptics have always expected the worst to follow.  I think the Internet, like the radio and TV before it, is a move in the natural progression of society.  People will always be skeptical of new technologies as they come, but the benefits always outweigh the costs.

Maybe our attention spans have changed, and maybe we have become a bit too reliant on Google.  However, I don’t think that it has worsened the quality of our thinking.  Our thoughts are still creative – we still wander and dream.  Change can be scary, but technological change is almost always for the better.  We just have to decide how we’re going to use the Internet as a positive influence.

Electracy

The second reading was a bit unorthodox, as we were warned before reading.  However, it also highlighted the role of the skepticism towards new technologies.  Both writers even cited the time when scholars shifted from orating to writing down their thoughts.  However, Ulmer’s theory does differ from that of Carr.

He believes that this new way of thinking, is expansion on the existing modes of orality and literacy.  This is what he refers to as electracy: the tool for digital media.  This tool includes both the skills and the physical or technological materials that we need to maximize digital communication in the world today.

Unlike Carr, Ulmer does not fear change – he invites it.  He encourages us to find a balance between literacy and electracy by incorporating electracy into our education system.  In order to do this, he believes that we must understand how to use entertainment in an academic way.

The basis for Ulmer’s theory lies in Heidegger’s interpretation of Aristotle’s observations as an invitation to focus on entirely different aspects of the world.  He specifically wanted to focus on the arts and the emotional reactions associated with them.  Kant’s belief that judging beauty is just as important as judging morality also coincides well with the theory of electracy, because it focuses on digital and visual media. All of these theorists helped facilitate the invention of electracy.

Ulmer once again contrasts the first reading, as he believes that this shift from literacy to electracy fosters our creativity instead of inhibiting it.  This is because we move from thinking only about concrete knowledge to letting our imaginations wonder, which will allow for more creation.

Ulmer emphasizes the importance of an education in aesthetics, but not simply as another art class.  Instead, he believes that it should be another way of thinking and reasoning. He wants us to use electracy to allow digital imaging to flourish and reach its full potential.  In order to illustrate his point, he compared this to literacy and the written word.

Without literacy, what use would the written word be?  This is why we must be educated in electracy in a formal setting, the same way we learned to read and write in school at a young age.  Without a formal education, we will never know how to expand upon entertainment because we won’t know how to contribute to it.

I agree with the proposition that electracy and the Internet are just as vital to society as new inventions of the past.  Although it is for entertainment purposes, I don’t think this should diminish its importance.  I’ve always thought the arts should be focused on more in school, but this approach of teaching it more as a method of thinking could be the key to this gaining traction.

There’s no need to fear the Internet – it comes with both good and bad, as does any change. It is up to us to use it as a tool for the better.

Blogging for Beginners

Although I do consider myself pretty savvy with social media, I have yet to cross the blogging frontier.  I have to admit: it intimidates me, so it’s a good thing that my digital communications class this semester requires it.  I guess I should start by introducing myself…

My name is Katie Shuell, and I am a sophomore at Furman University, which is a small liberal arts school in Greenville, South Carolina.  I am double majoring in Communication Studies and French, but this is my first communication related class aside from public speaking.

I feel like I am not quite up to par with the rest of my classmates, although I have to remind myself that I am the only sophomore.  I have yet to have any work experience in the communications field, and I am anxious to get started.  For my previous summer jobs, I have been an intern at a reinsurance company and a cashier at a local liquor store (yes, you can legally sell alcohol in New Jersey even before you can consume it).  I am torn as whether I should return to these jobs this summer in order to save money, or look for an unpaid opportunity.  Assuming I am accepted into the program, I plan to study abroad in a Furman immersion program in Versailles next fall, which I imagine will be fairly expensive.

I don’t know exactly what I want to do yet for my career, but just in case the whole pop star thing doesn’t work out, I do have an idea of a more realistic dream job.  I have a bit of a beauty addiction, and I would love to incorporate my French into working for a company like Chanel.  I would love to work on the social media or even advertising for any cosmetics company, as it combines all of my interests.

My sister, Ally, graduated last spring from Susquehanna University with a BA in Communications and a minor in Business Administration.  After struggling to find a job in New York City, aside from the abundance of unpaid internships, she finally found the perfect fit for her as the Social Media Manager at a fashion PR company. I don’t know if I want to do exactly what she does, but we do have similar interests. My focus in communication studies is geared more towards the ever-growing platforms of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.  I am interested how companies can create a presence for themselves and acquire a loyal following.

I do consider myself fairly competent in these areas, but I know that digital communications is not limited to these types of applications.  I realize that I know little to nothing about blogging, and my knowledge of video editing is based solely on television production classes I took in middle school.  I hope to learn how to edit videos, as it is always something that I’ve wanted to know how to do.  I know it could even help me with projects in other classes that I am in this semester, but more importantly, I know it will help me impress future employers.

As nervous as I am to be new to blogging, I am excited to finally be taking the first step in my path towards my future career.  I don’t know if it will be for Chanel, for a PR firm, or for a company in an entirely different field. Who knows, maybe that whole pop star thing will work out after all. I’m just excited to finally be setting goals and moving forward.