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On tags and trends

October 2nd, 2009 No comments

Collin Gifford Brooke uses his fourth chapter of Lingua Fracta: Towards a rhetoric of new media to explain his observed connection between patterns and arrangement. At the chapter’s end, he discusses the importance of the “tagcloud” as a new media device. Blogs contain tags, words that considered relevant to either theme or the blog’s contents, that help readers find what they are interested in. The tagcloud collects these tags, displaying for the reader the frequency at which certain terms are identified in posts. By viewing the collection as a whole, readers are able to identify trends, whether changing or constant, that show patterns of interest. Some tags may only remain visible in the cloud for a short period time, signifying the writer’s shift in interest.

Our blog’s tagcloud shows “literacy,” “blogs,” and “technolgy” as some of the more common themes and topics of our blog posts – not surprising, as most of our comments are reading responses to texts on these very subjects. While more terms and topics will be tagged as the semester progresses, it is likely that the patterns of leading tags will not shift.

Using Lev Manovich’s definition of a database as a collection of items on which a user can perform various operations, Brooke idenifies our tagcloud as a database. Readers are able to click terms they find relevant to their topics of interest in the tagcloud. Brooke also analyzes the development of “interactive databases” on sites such as del.icio.us, allowing the readers to tag photos and create tagclouds. In comparing the canons of print and hypertext, he says that “[tagclouds] open up a number of possibilities that take the canon of arrangement beyond the sequentiality of print texts” (112). Developed hypertext has empowered readers with the abilities of arrangement and invention – abilities limited to only the author in printed texts.

Polls on Facebook

September 29th, 2009 2 comments

We’ve been discussing the posting of text and photos on Facebook as “published material,” and whether or not members of realize that their posts are considered public domain. Do all participating members of this social networking site understand that any and all materials posted are owned by Facebook? The answer is obviously no; not all members, although forced to confirm that they’ve read the terms of use before creating accounts, understand that Facebook may sell and use posted information for advertising or any other undisclosed purposes.

The following story appeared on ABC News yesterday, September 28. In fact, it appeared on almost every news station as one of the top stories:  Secret Service Probing Facebook Poll Asking Whether Obama Should Be Killed. Did the creator of this Facebook poll intend for his or her question to truly become public? Did the creator realize the question would be televised and cause a national uproar? Did the creator, masked by a computer screen, feel empowered by a sense of anonymity?

The investigation is underway. The Secret Service is working with Facebook representatives to find the individual that used the “third party application” to create the poll. I think it will be interesting, once the the creator is publically named, to hear his or her answers to the above questions.

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Twittering at Conferences

September 25th, 2009 No comments

Presenters are now embracing the use of social networking sites at their conferences for what they promote: interactivity. Formly viewed as a distraction from discussions, Twitter is helping listeners gain more content and freely offer comments. Speaker Olivia Mitchell’s post, How to Present While People are Twittering, offers a few of her observed benefits to using interactive sites while presenting.

Mitchell mentions that members of an audience are more likely to participate when they don’t have to physically present. After listening to Professor Michael Wesch’s discuss his theory of “networked individualism,” it’s clear to me why audience members are more inclined to participate in conference discussions and ask questions at their keyboards. Those with a fear of public speaking need not stand in front of a crowd to express an opinion or respond to a question. Anyone feeling lost or in need of clarification on something mentioned minutes ago during oral discussion can “tweet” their questions without interrupting the speaker.

The definition of literacy evolves with the blog

September 9th, 2009 1 comment

Jill Walker Rettberg does a fantastic job of following the development of “web-logs” and the expanding definition of literacy in her book, Blogging:  Digital Media and Society Series. She finds the progression of communication is directly proportional to the broadening definition of literacy, making some of the same points and references that we mentioned in class.
Rettberg uses the introduction of the written word in ancient Greece as her starting point. Plato favored oral communication for its immediate acceptance of a response or objection from the listener. Stories, theories or arguments that were written, rather than spoken, and were questioned or found to be incorrect, could not be retracted as easily (32).
We’ve come a long way since Plato’s time. Since the creation of high-speed Internet and the ever-declining cost of computers, many more people are able to become a part of the “participatory media” (1). The shift from the uni-directional mass media that Plato seems to almost have predicted forming, to participatory media, via easy-to-use technology that is in many cases mobile, has many journalists concerned about the future of news.
Rettberg does a fairly good job of remaining unbiased while portraying arguments for bloggers’ comments on current events and the reporting news, and the opposing views of media-employed journalists in pursuit of truth.
She lists three types of bloggers without structured guidelines to abide by that may convey more truthful, unfiltered angles to stories: chance witnesses, gatewatchers and opinionists. Journalists, however, check their sources and represent the companies they work for, and so, would not publish falsities to protect the credibility of both their own names, as well as company names. The bloggers refute the argument of credibility by arguing that all news is filtered and chosen by the editors. Comments are at the discretion of the editor (85).
I’m left thinking about one puissant quote by journalist Abbott Joseph Liebling that Rettberg uses to introduce both arguments, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one” (84). Maybe bloggers need to be respected as reporters, too, as literacy evolves to support participatory media.