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Archive for September, 2009

Cinderella’s Online

September 30th, 2009 1 comment

More and more people are changing the way they think of reading and text.  Tools such as The Kindle and sources such as Google books and Project Gutenberg allow us to access more titles more easily than ever before.  With digital text becoming more and more popular it is no surprise that other companies are jumping on the proverbial bandwagon.

According to the New York Times article Disney Tries to Pull the Storybook Ritual Onto the Web by Brooks Barnes The Walt Disney Company is launching a new subscription based website that will offer hundreds of Disney books. Previously Disney only offered a few titles on Kindle and Leapfrog.  Media analyst for Forrester Research, Sarah Rotman Epps, states “They are the first to say, we’re putting our whole catalog online in this one place, and we’re selling it straight to parents.” The site is organized into age groups and levels of reading skills.  Starting with a “look and listen section for beginning readers, where the books will be read aloud by voice actors to accompanying music, with each word highlighted on the screen as it is spoken.”  For children who can read on their own, there is another section and if they find an unfamiliar word they can “click on it and a voice says it aloud.” For teenagers there are chapter books and trivia.  The vice president of digital media, Yves Saada assures concerned parents that “this isn’t going to replace snuggle time with a storybook…We think you can have different reading formats co-existing together.”

Reading this I found myself wondering how this will affect future generation’s perception of digital text.  There is a certain romantic notion to the physical printed book.  People have libraries in their homes and refuse to throw them away.  But if we are conditioned to read digital text from childhood will these nostalgic notions still be there? What will that mean for printed books? Does it matter?

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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Some thoughts on Web 2.0

September 27th, 2009 2 comments

With the technology and design of Web 2.0 users can actively participate and produce content instead of just passively viewing content to create a more effective means to share information.  Such interactions have changed the way we think of our online space and perhaps media in general both new and old.  In his article “What is Web 2.0?Tim O’Reilly founder of O’Reilly Media attempts to provide us with a working definition of the term itself.  He states in an earlier article “Not 2.0?” that some believe that the term Web 2.0 is simply a “marketing hype — bumper sticker is a better way to say it” and in some ways it is.  It is a buzzword like most memes, but it does point the viewer in the right direction.  To gain a better understanding of this somewhat misleading term O’Reilly provides us with some examples of the themes that have changed with the evolution of the web from 1.0 to 2.0 DoubleClick, Ofoto, Akama, mp3.com, Britannica Online, personal websites, evite, domain name speculation, page views, screen scraping, publishing, content management systems, directories (taxonomy), and stickiness being Web 1.0.  (Some of these appear to have changed to embrace newer technologies this article was posted September 2005 which shows the increased effectiveness of Web 2.0) Google AdSense, Flickr IBitTorrent, Napster, Wikipedia, blogging, upcoming.org and EVDB, search engine optimization, cost per click, web services, participation, wikis, tagging (“folksonomy”), and syndication being Web 2.0.  O’Reilly explains that “Web 2.0 is the era when people have come to realize that it’s not the software that enables the web that matters so much as the services that are delivered over the web.”

Websites like Universe and We Feel Fine provide a whole new dialogue between users. We Feel Fine, by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar, records when users type how they are feeling into their blogs to create a sort of map of human emotion.  We Feel Fine describes itself as “an artwork authored by everyone. It will grow and change as we grow and change, reflecting what’s on our blogs, what’s in our hearts, what’s in our minds.” Universe by Jonathan Harris allows you to track people, places, concepts, or anything else you can imagine.  Universe’s mission statement concludes that “In Universe, as in reality, everything is connected. No event happens in isolation. No company exists in a vacuum. No person lives alone. Whereas news is often presented as a series of unrelated static events, Universe strives to show the broader narrative that contains those events.”  The connections offered with both spaces are incredible.

In his lecture Michael Wesch a professor at Kansas State University mentions Youtube, and perhaps other social networks as well, as a means to “create connection without constrain.” Youtube, Facebook, Myspace, etc. allows users to share their identity, or the small slice of their identity that it is most effective for them to reach their goals at that moment.   Similarly danah boyd, Social Media Researcher at Microsoft Research New England, states, “What makes social network sites unique is not that they allow individuals to meet strangers, but rather that they enable users to articulate and make visible their social networks.” We can then use these new interactive services available with Web 2.0 to collaborate and interact with others to create meaningful conversation.

TV still on Top

September 26th, 2009 No comments

This year at the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards, before there were any unfortunate outbursts, the actors were joking about the decline of television.  One sitcom star Julia Louis-Dreyfus said “Amy and I are honored to be presenting on the last official year of network broadcast television.”  Obviously, things are not that bad for broadcast and cable networks but online video is a growing medium and it will most likely continue attracting viewers and investment dollars.  Currently online video has only earned a small piece of the $65 – $70 billion advertisers spend annually on television spots.  With television consumption at an all time high this makes sense.  However advertisers and agencies have been conducting research initiatives to gain a better idea of the possibilities for online video.  One Video Consumer Mapping Study that was conducted by Ball State University and Sequent Partners for the Nielsen-funded Council for Research Excellence said that, “Despite the proliferation of computers, video-capable mobile phones and similar devices, TV in the home still commands the greatest amount of viewing, even among those ages 18-24. Thus, in the eyes of the researchers, this appears to dispute a common belief that Internet video and mobile phone video exposure among that group (and the next one up, age 25-34) were significant in 2008.” The study also found that on average Americans are exposed to a screen for about 8 ½ hours each day.  They categorized “screen” as traditional television (including live TV as well as DVD/VCR and DVR playback); computer (including Web use, e-mail, instant messaging and stored or streaming video); mobile devices such as a Blackberry or iPhone (including Web use, text messaging and mobile video); and “all other screens” (including display screens in out-of-home environments, in-cinema movies and other messaging and even GPS navigation units). The highest age group interestingly enough was 45-54 year olds at just over 9 ½ hours.  Mike Bloxham, Director of Insight and Research at the Center for Media Design at Ball State University said in reference to the before mentioned study, “we now have data that shows people are consuming one hour of TV advertising per day… Digital is not eating traditional media’s lunch but rather offering another course to marketers that is ripe with opportunity.” Still it will be interesting for us all to see the continued growth of digital media and where it takes us as consumers as well as producers of meaningful content.

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.

Computers and Rhetorical Acts

September 23rd, 2009 2 comments

Over the last couple of years, I have become increasingly interested in the types of rhetorical acts that computers can facilitate. Electronic literature, leveraging digital technology to attain the same goals of print literature, is one medium that relies on computers. Videogames, which can simulate how “real and imagined systems work,” is another medium that leverages digital technology to facilitate its rhetorical acts (Bogost 2007). In “Rethinking Web Usability for Web 2.0 and Beyond,” William I. Wolff explains the time when he began to see the connection between web design and writing: “The purpose of the course, it seems to me now (and despite what might have been on the syllabus), was to suggest that designing a Web page was a rhetorical act fraught with real-world implications” (Wolff, Fitzpatrick, Youseff 2009). With this connection in place, I am beginning to understand more and more what it means to be a rhetorician in the digital age.

Before the advent of digital technology, rhetorical acts were greatly restricted by technology: we could speak or we could write with pen and paper. But if we think about putting down visual information or making a presentation, or designing a website, or even drawing a map, we are doing “writerly” things, we’re just using more than one or two different technologies.

First, however, we must overcome the barrier to entry. Not everyone knows Java, Pearl, Python, or Basic. Most of us don’t know html and css, and if we do, we’re not very adept at it. But once we do get a handle on html, or get a hold of Dreamweaver, NVU, or some other similar program, we can be well on our way to engaging in a highly rhetorical act. When we design a document of any kind, we have to make lots of authorial choices, such as what information to include, what information to exclude, how the information is to be arranged, the medium with which we will work, and who sees it. This is not unlike what writers do when they write an essay: they too need to decide what information will work, what information doesn’t, whether the work will be published online for free, or whether it will published in a book, for a fee. When we draw the connection between “traditional” writing and authoring in a virtual environment or website, it’s easy to argue that technology, not content, is the only discernible difference.

Some Themes to Think About

September 22nd, 2009 1 comment

I’ve got two pretty cool themes here, but I like “Pixel” a great deal.

I found this theme, called “Shades of Blue,” and I think it might work out well. While it’s not necessarily emblematic of our blog, I think it looks pretty sharp nonetheless.

shadesofbluetheme

I found another theme, called “Pixel,” which may both fit the bill as being pleasant to the eye and representative of our blog. Pixels, or picture elements, are the “the smallest discrete component of an image or picture on a CRT screen (usually a colored dot),” according to http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=pixel, which appears to be the most reliable definition I came across.

pixeltheme

Pixels are emblematic of our work because all digital media we talk about are shown on computer screens, which are comprised of picture elements, all the scanned-in readings we read are comprised of picture elements, again, on a screen, and all of the books we’re reading in class that have been written in the last 20 years were once digital documents, also comprised of picture elements. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I liked the idea of “Pixel” being used to symbolize what we do.

Here’ the demo.

Any thoughts?

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what if…

September 22nd, 2009 3 comments

… we took a digital camera and created a still life photo of technologies from the pencil all the way to an iphone (pencil, pen, newspaper, open paperback book, cell phone, computer keyboard, digital book, cell phones, iphones, ipods, etc.)? We could use that still life as the header of a the wordpress blog page to represent the technologies we are discussing.

Some Possible Blog Themes

September 20th, 2009 No comments

Possible Blog Themes

The graphic near the top of this theme looked to be somewhat technology inspired.  Also, I thought that it maintained a less cluttered appearance while perhaps still showcasing the focus of the blog.

Blog Theme ExamplesThe image on the top of this one reminds me of the Windows graphic which I thought might be interesting.

Blog Theme ExamplesPossible Blog Theme

Possible Blog Themes

These last three I found to be relatively easy to read because of the white background.  In addition, they seemed sleek and professional looking.  I did not think that they would distract the reader from the message put forth in the text.

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Stuart’s Multiliteracies

September 19th, 2009 No comments

This book was written to help teachers of writing and communication develop full scale computer literacy programs that are both effective and professionally responsible.

Stuart Selber opens his book, Multiliteracies for a Digital Age, with the above introduction, letting us readers know that what he plans to address in the next 239 pages will be a comprehensive plan for teachers. This book is more or less a persuasive argument and you should enter it with that thought in mind.

Sliding gracefully across fourteen pages, Stuart then announces in a clarifying voice what the problems are in today’s (2004’s) teaching of computer technologies and literacies. Initially, his focus falls on how many schools with computer competency courses lack in one of three crucial literacy categories that he outlines throughout the book. These are functional literacy, critical literacy, and rhetorical literacy. Stuart presents the example of Florida State University’s computer science requirements, explaining that it “…promotes skills for working productively in practical terms, on the other hand, fails to offer the perspectives needed for making rhetorical judgements.”

Thus, Stuart defines what he claims:

Students who are not adequately exposed to all three literacy categories will find it difficult to participate fully and meaningfully in technological activities.

Stuart enters his chapter on functional literacy and identifies computers as tools. His list of competencies, that the ideal functionally literate student has, hold within them parameters Stuart finds important: ability to achieve educational goals, understands social conventions that determine computer use, makes use of associated discourses, effective management of online world, and confident resolution to technical impasses. These skills provide a sound foundation for functional literacy.(45) However, Stuart warns that the literacy hides the political leanings embedded in technologies, and while a functional literate student can manage himself effectively, such work is shortsighted and dangerously malleable without a critical understanding of technology. And so, he addresses that in his next chapter. (72)

It is the why and then the how that is stressed in this next chapter. Under the flag of critical literacy, Stuart encourages teachers to instill in their students a questioning, almost skeptical, frame of mind. He asks critically literate students to be aware of the dominating politics inherent in technology, to contextualize it, and to criticise the sculpting forces of culture and institutions. To achieve this, he prescribes metadiscourse heuristics. He quotes Michael Joyce as saying, “…technology, like any other unacknowledged representation of power, endangers learning.”(133) To counter, students and teachers need to be able to recognize the ebb and flow of power, and need to be able to act accordingly.

This action, as Stuart puts it, is reflective production, constitutes the majority of his definition of rhetorical literacy. Within this literacy, he visualizes computers as hypertextual media, digitized text engaged in the mass dissemination of information. Viewing these hypertexts as form of rhetoric, students can engage in discourse with them, much like conventional conversation. This is largely done at the interface, where the user and the technology meet, where the user asserts control. Stuart idealizes rhetorically literate students as being able to negotiate the persuasive techniques of the producers, and to be able to become producers themselves. (160)

Stuart sums up his beliefs on page 179, 58 pages from the end, by saying:

The more associations that individuals can form between old and new knowledge, the better their understanding of that new knowledge is likely to be.

While the phrase can be applied in many way to many subjects, we can tweak it ourselves by replacing “knowledge” with “technology”. Proceeding, he explains his suggested pedagogical procedures in matters of layered contexts, enabling the students to heuristically climb to higher and broader levels of understanding. Or rather, he says what he thinks is a good way to help students learn about technology and learn from technology. And although rather broad and idealistic, we, as students, can already see his changes in our education. It’d be a wonder to see if they’re being applied to the younger generations.