Week 5 | Digital Technology Gives Power to the Little Guy

If He-man were a technical communicator in the age of social media

Social media and personal computers at every work space has cut out a lot of middle men and shifted power from a few big entities to many individuals. It is a fundamental shift and the overarching theme between Spilka and Qualman readings this week.

Many people have heard how online news and content is quickly diminishing the viability of printed newspapers and magazines. Readership of printed newspapers has declined. People don’t have to wait for the news to break, be printed, and get distributed. Even more, social media is changing who is distributing the news.

Qualman features a hypothetical news story example involving the car accident of a U.S. senator from Idaho. Both a popular newspaper conglomerate in New York a local political enthusiast blogger cover the story. In the end, more people probably read this news from the blogger than the news source because the blogger knew more about the local senators, was able publish the news online faster, and offered her content free. Her friends read the blog post, and her friend’s friends keep passing the word on. People get news with less of a middle man like a news organization. It is an interesting case study that shows the power may be shifting to bloggers. Qualman (p. 12) states that newspapers can’t just get by on delivering news to stay viable. Instead, the newspaper must provide analysis and commentary.

I have to note, however, that the reputation of the newspaper must have some merit. I would more likely click on the newspapers link on the story than the bloggers link on the story. I might not have guessed the blogger to be a credible source on the topic. If I could not read an article because a subscription was required, I’d search for another name in news who was delivering the news story for free.

I appreciated Table 1.1 (Spilka p. 24-25), but I would have understood the example faster if I would have known who the large employer was. I wasn’t sure at first what point the table was trying to make, being that the technical communicator’s role in a large corporation has changed drastically since the 1970s. My guess is the table is a case study of IBM because the company went from making mainframe computer systems to PCs to networks and databases like Watson, the supercomputer.

Spilka reviewed how technology has fundamentally changed the role of the technical communicator. I believe technology has changed every field of work, nonetheless, Spilka made an important point. Before personal computers desktop publishing, communication would have to go through a lengthy production process. But now, the power shifted from a technical communicator who could not produce communication to a technical communicator who could do it all—create and produce.

By being able to do it all, so to speak, bloggers and technical communicators can reach niche markets and small interest groups like never before. Traditional media’s content like TV and newspapers is generated by only a few and is good for reaching the masses. On the other hand, internet’s content is generated by many. Social media has created a huge shift in information holders and distributors (Qualman, p. 11). People are web authors through wikis, they develop micro content with blogs, and interface in an online software applications, thus cutting out the middle man TV or newspaper distributing the content. Like never before, an individual has power and influence.

Posted on October 3, 2011, in Social Media and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Well incorporated and made reading it easy what a professional communicator! Its really impressive to see the summary so interesting to reader! I personally like the way you wrote your analysis and brought theories from both Quailman and Spilka to be one readable piece. I respect your writing. Keep up the good work!

  2. I agree, social media has completely changed the way companies advertise. Instead of throwing an ad out on a popular search engine, they can use social media sites to seek out specific groups of people who will be in most need of their product.

  3. I agree with Siphiwe, great post! Love the image you chose too!

  4. Natalie—

    You said, “…the reputation of the newspaper must have some merit.” I totally agree. This is my main concern with social media. How do I know the source is credible? Is a famous person more credible than John Doe who is posting from his mother’s basement?

    In the early spring, there was a case in Minneapolis, MN where a blog writer wrote some stuff about a newly hired person at the University of Minnesota. Someone from the school read the blog and the person was fired soon after that. The person fired then sued the blogger. The blogger said that he was not part of the ‘press community’, therefore he couldn’t be held liable. In the end, the person that got fired won the lawsuit and the blogger has to pay restitution. It was a strange case because it held the blogger liable.

    Here’s the article:


  5. It goes to show that freedom of speech/libel affects everyone, even bloggers. Nobody has unlimited freedom of speech (like you can’t yell fire in a packed movie theatre without a fire, yell bomb on an airplane). It is too bad this blogger, and it didn’t matter who broke the story-a blogger or a journalist. Moore didn’t sound like an upright citizen, but it doesn’t seem like he was charged in the fraud charges.

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