Monthly Archives: December 2018

Happy Winter Break!

Hi all,

it’s been a wonderful semester working with each of you and getting to know the areas in which interest you the most.

Below is a quick excerpt on a topic I chose for my final paper.

The primary purpose of the research was to examine and explore the ways in which technical communication is being impacted by the advancements of technology. The history of technical communication is outlined in conjunction with the roles and shift of professionals working as technical writers/communicators. New scholar and advancements in technology shaping the workplace including artificial intelligence (AI), robots, cloud computing – smartcalling were further discussed. Additionally, as technology improved and brought with it adaptations for the workplace some organizations and individuals felt the need to sit back and watch it evolve rather than change and adapt with it. The future of technology and its implications on communication will soon be with us whether that means AI, robots, reduced manual labor, etc., but the question remains: Will we be ready for what’s next?

Thanks again for a great semester. I wish you all well as you finalize your papers, projects, etc., and I hope to work with you in future courses.

Happy Holidays!

Kim Drake

Final Paper

Hi all –

Congrats on reaching the end of the semester! For my final paper I examined a website at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as compared to a website at University of Michigan. Both were Mechanical Engineering program sites. Below is my abstract.

Deciding where to go to college is a major investment in both time and money. University marketing is increasingly becoming more highly competitive. As the digital world becomes more prevalent, traditional marketing has taken somewhat of a backseat and online forums such as websites are becoming more heavily used to gather information. This paper shows a comparative evaluation between the University of Wisconsin-Madison Mechanical Engineering website and the University of Michigan Mechanical Engineering Website. It will evaluate the two websites using usability principles and identify opportunities and provide suggestions on how to improve the UW-Madison website.

It’s been a pleasure working with you this semester. Feel free to stay in touch via LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brittneygeenen/

Have a wonderful holiday season!

Best,

Brittney

Final Thoughts

Hello Classmates and Communicators,

For my final paper, I decided to research and learn more about the newest generation entering the workforce – Gen Z.  Here is my abstract:

Generation Z is just entering the workforce and they comprise about 5% of it. But they are already 25% of the population, and they will soon flood the workforce.  At the same time, Baby Boomers are poised to retire in large numbers.  A huge shift is about to happen. One of the changes that Generation Z will bring into the workforce is how they communicate, and how people communicate is influenced by their life experiences.  Generation Z is the first generation to grow up in an information technology world.  Social media is a primary way they use to communicate and foster relationships with others.  For them, life is instant and super connected.  But many of them have difficulty with face-to-face and written communication, skills that are necessary to be successful.   This paper will explore the life experiences that have shaped Generation Z, and how their use of digital technologies and social media will influence communication in the Workforce.  Finally, it will provide some suggestions for how organizations can adapt to help make the youngest generation’s entrance into the workforce a success for everyone

Before doing this research, it wasn’t clear to me what the differences are between Millennials and Gen Z.  But, I’ve found that although there are some similarities, there are also some significant differences.  One in particular is the times Gen Z and the Millennials grew up in.  Where Millennials grew up in times of peace and prosperity, Gen Zers grew up in a time of war and economic uncertainty.  They grew up during the recession, and many saw their families struggle financially.  These significant differences have shaped Gen Z and the Millennials in unique ways.  Millennials tend to be very optomistic and comfortable about the future and Gen Zers are more cautious and unsure of their future, and they believe it is important to save money.  This is just one of the many interesting things I have learned.

Slide5

Note: By Lisa Rohloff

Rohloff Keynote Presentation

Note:  By Lisa Rohloff

 

This is my last class towards my MSTPC, and I’ll now begin work on my thesis.  I have thoroughly enjoyed every class, including this one.  I’ve learned so much that I can apply directly to my work.  But, what I value most is how I have learned from fellow students.  We truly help to sharpen one another.  I wish all of you the best as you pursue your dreams and goals.  Please feel free to contact me.

Thank you,

Lisa Rohloff

rohloffl3313@my.uwstout.edu

I am also on LinkedIn and Facebook.

So Long, Farewell!

Hello, fellow communicators!

For my final paper, I covered various best practices for content management. My abstract is as follows:

Content management is a sophisticated process comprised of various components. Such components include writing/editing, image implementation, page analytics, user feedback, and information sharing (Rdymek). Accordingly, an organized system must be implemented for creating and maintaining content through consistent action. This type of system is referred to as a content management strategy.

Within an organization, ideally, content management is handled by a multi-person team. However, for the purposes of this paper, we will explore content management as handled by an individual content manager.

It has been an absolute pleasure working with and getting to know each and every one of you throughout this semester. I truly enjoyed this course, through which I’ve gained and developed knowledge and skills that will suit me throughout my career in communications.

Please feel free to stay in touch via social media:

Facebook: facebook.com/delwij74

Twitter: @TheBarrelMan

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/jeffreyjdelwiche

Google+: plus.google.com/+JeffreyJDelwiche

Email: jdelwiche12@alumni.uwosh.edu

Please note that I am always happy to write LinkedIn recommendations for my fellow classmates. For those unfamiliar with the process, a LinkedIn recommendation can be displayed on your LinkedIn page for current/prospective employers to see. Please let me know if you would like me to write a LinkedIn recommendation for you.

Best fishes!

Best Fishes

Sincerely,

Jeffrey J. Delwiche

So you say you want feedback?

Greeting, everyone! It’s weird how quickly this fall has flown by, and we’re looking at the holidays in a little over a week.

For my final paper, I chose to research more about the Millennial student, the digital native, and the types of feedback that they respond best to. I teach communication skills courses, and Turkle’s 2011 book Alone Together made me further analyze the students in my classroom and the way to best connect with them and help them learn. My abstract is as follows:

Today’s college students may enter the classroom physically or virtually. Because of emerging technologies, these digital natives, who are often Millennials, bring different communication habits and expectations to the classroom. For those who teach communication skills to college students to prepare them for the workplace and the world at large, it is critical to first understand these tech-savvy students and to give them feedback that will help them learn and improve. Because the modern-day classroom now involves various delivery methods, including video lectures, audio feedback, discussions, and phone conferences, to name a few, today’s educator must adapt different communication approaches best suited to those methods. This paper will attempt to answer the following questions: 1) What are the major changes in communication strategies and preferences for today’s college student (more precisely, today’s technical college student), and 2) How can communications educators provide better feedback to these students to help students improve their communication skills?

I love how research makes you question your own assertions and preferences. Before this research, I was admittedly in the curmudgeonly mindset that “Millennials these days need too much coddling.” Some research supports this, but with a better understanding of WHY they need more feedback, it feels less needy, and honestly, more reasonable.

Oprah

Courtesy of MakeaMeme.org

I came to better understand who the digital native-Millennial student is, why and how she operates the way she does, and what types of feedback she responds to best. I was able to remind myself that just because I was taught to do something one way doesn’t mean it’s the right way or the best way. So, I’ll be taking some of the research findings I learned through this final paper and employing them in my six classes this coming spring. My students will be getting more audio feedback, more specific feedback, more actionable goals, and more timely feedback. I’m not sure yet how I’m going to juggle all of that with six courses, four of which are writing intensive, but I did learn that audio feedback has some advantages for instructors, too, in that it takes less time and makes them feel more engaged with their classes and students, too.

ElffFeedback

Memegen.com

Overall, the research process reinforced the need to stay up to date on pedagogy, to keep learning and trying and growing. It’s something I try to instill in my students, and now I can speak from more recent, relevant experience with them about it.

Thank you all for your kind comments, suggestions, and posts this fall term. I hope you all have a fantastic holiday season and enjoy some much-deserved time away from studies and work.

 

Technical Communication and Computer Algorithms

For my final paper, I wrote about the complex computer algorithms that drive Google’s search engine and Facebook’s news feed. My paper explored the many variables that determine how Google’s search engine ranks web pages, and the user inputs that influences the content users see on Facebook. I also discussed what this means for technical communicators, and how they can use these algorithms to communicate effectively with online audiences.

Google’s Search Engine Algorithm

Google’s Search Engine. Source: Google.com

When conducting research on this topic, I found one journal article that argued that Google’s search engine forces technical communicators to write for two audiences: human and robots. The author argues that technical communicators have to write content that is interesting and helpful for people, while writing in quantifiable and structural ways for Google’s search engine. In order to rank on Google’s search results, you have to repeatedly use certain keywords that match the reader’s intent, write a concise headline that Google’s robots can easily read, and use numerous links throughout the post.

This was probably one of the more interesting insights for me while writing this paper. I had not thought of it in this way before, but it’s true. Even major newspapers (like the New York Times) had to change their writing practices in order to rank on Google’s search engine. The same journal article found that the NYT’s web articles use more literal titles than it’s newspaper headlines. They use more literal headlines because these titles can rank on Google’s search engine more easily.

Facebook’s News Feed Algorithm

Facebook’s News Feed. Source: How-to-geek.com

When it came to Facebook’s news feed algorithm, there are a lot of factors that technical communicators have to consider. Unlike Google’s search engine algorithm, Facebook’s algorithm is controlled more by user activity than writers. Facebook users also have a better idea that their every move is being tracked. This is largely due to the many scandals and news headlines that have brought attention to the issue. For instance, this article shows how Facebook is reading your text messages if you have downloaded certain applications.

This has caused many users to be rather distrustful of the content they find on Facebook. One study found that users changed their behaviors once they learned how Facebook’s news algorithm worked. This can put technical communicators in a tricky situation. They have to use Facebook’s algorithms to reach certain user groups, which means they benefit from a system that tracks a user’s every move. Facebook’s users tend to be more hostile because of this fact.

Computer Algorithms Implications

For these reasons, technical communicators need to practice transparency when using computer algorithms. This can be difficult because technical communicators often serve mixed interests: they write quality content for the user, but they also serve a larger entity like a company. This requires technical communicators to write for a company’s needs rather than a user. As such, technical communicators need to balance these two roles accordingly if they wish to communicate with users effectively.

I recommend that technical communicators become UX experts and researchers in order to balance these roles effectively. By being UX experts, writers must thoroughly understand the needs of the user so they can best write content for them. By being research experts, technical communicators must use the best tools (like Google’s search plan and google analytics) to best learn the key terms they need to know to rank on pages.

Final Thoughts

Personally, this has been an incredibly interesting course and semester. Everyone has written such thoughtful blog posts and has caused me to think more deeply about my own online habits and use of digital technologies. I look forward to seeing what you guys have written about for your final papers! Good job, everyone.

Socially (Media) Destructive

When I joined Facebook in 2008, I was excited about the opportunity to connect with old classmates, family, friends, and co-workers.  It was a way to reconnect with people I’d lost touch with other the years or whom I wouldn’t have reconnected with it weren’t for Facebook. None of really knew how to use it. What do you post?  Pictures of our gatherings, pets or kids and brief headlines about what we were doing or pictures of what we made for dinner seemed to be the idea.  However, it quickly became evident that comments could be misunderstood and taken out of context or intended meaning was lost.  Without a voice to express our tone and inflection, words became lost in translation.  Minor conflicts developed because of the inability to portray inference in typed conversation or comments.  And then we began to see the unfiltered and unrestrained opinions in posts and comments. Quickly social media evolved into platforms of competition and divisiveness.

Has the use of digital communication technologies, mainly social media platforms, caused us to be less empathic towards each other in online communication?

Lifestyles and culture continue to evolve as we further immerse ourselves into digital life.  Humans remarkably adapt and evolve as conditions necessitate.  We are built to handle change.  However, the effects of digital life have created a cultural phenomenon having no precedent. Our very own distinctive identities have been reduced to phantom digital personas stripped of any authentic self.  We wander through endless posts and feeds searching for meaning.  We post our daily ins and outs in the hopes someone is paying attention and clinging to the notion that we matter in the sea of chatter.  But just as we skim over the waves of communications, we also become lost in the massive digital world.  Our communications and relationships changed form, making way for less substantial relationships, meaning, and purpose.  The catch is that we choose to engage in the digital world.  Our survival isn’t reliant upon our participation. Why are we devaluing ourselves, each other, relationships, and our time and how to do we stop this before our culture shifts any further?

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Screenshot: Twitter – @itsWillyFerrell

Digital life thrives on the need for attention and inclusion. We post to get attention: to get “likes” and other affinity clicks, followers, friends, supportive comments, and views. But the need for attention isn’t enough. We want to feel connected. But then we are still we alone.  The constant internal drive striving for more affinity and connection acts as an addiction. Some experts believe that social media attention seeking and the fear of missing out (FOMO) is an actual addiction based in mental health.  Like addictions to drugs and alcohol, social media or digital life addiction causes that rush but then just as wicked of a crash.  The high makes us feel important, connected.  The crash causes anxiety, depression, and social isolation.

The issue of society and communication in the digital world is highly complex.  Much like the political, global, and societal issues we try to navigate in the physical world.  The answer to how we can change our course is just as complex.  You can’t change the haters, the ones who intend to harm others. However, you can change yourself or at least become aware enough to be mindful about your own reactions and behaviors. In an idealistic world, we’d all live by the golden rule.  Since that is not possible, I offer one piece of advice, stop.  Stop thinking everything deserves a response (let alone an instantaneous one), stop thinking you and/or your beliefs are more important than someone else’s, and stop letting everything you read or hear control you.  Stop and regain your sense of self.

We could close all our social media accounts and remove ourselves from the participatory parts of digital interaction but most of us won’t.  The fear of missing out (FOMO) drives our continued slavery.  All the reasons we participate in digital culture boil down to that.  Somehow the digital world created a prison that we desperately strive to remain in.

However, the draw we have to digital life despite its negatives speaks more to what is lacking within ourselves.  The positives we perceive outweigh the negatives because we could walk away, and we don’t.  Then it is safe to assume that the problems of digital life are within each of us independently of each other.  Sherry Turkle reminds us in her book Reclaiming Conversation (2018), “Some of the most crucial conversations you will ever have will be with yourself” (p. 319). The communications that are reflecting positives and negatives within our digital communications begin within ourselves. To change the digital communications culture, we must first change our inner dialogue.  We must take back control of our emotions and reactions by addressing our repressed demons.  And then, consider taking a break from social media to regain our true sense of self.

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Screenshot:    Instagram  – @abcnews

Author note: This blog is comprised of excerpts from my research paper for the Fall term of ENGL745: Communication Strategies for Emerging Media taught by Dr. Daisy Pignetti. (University of Wisconsin – Stout)

Another Semester Down! Happy Holidays!

I can’t believe I am making my final blog post of this semester!  I came into this semester not sure what to expect and I found that I was pleasantly surprised as I enjoyed the course content very much.  It lent itself nicely to my current job – selling Pearls on Facebook Live videos.  I felt an advantage as I read through the course materials and was able to remember much of the growth of technology over the last 20 years.

The final paper has been a challenge for me – mostly because I am not employed in the field of technical communications right now and I struggled to find a good topic that also interested me enough to write about for over 15 pages.  I finally landed on the topic of student preferences for printed texts vs e-texts and why we should, as online students, choose to adapt regardless of our preference.

Here is the abstract of my paper:

As technology has advanced over the last 20 years, college students have found a world of opportunity at their fingertips via online courses that can lead to varying college degrees and online certifications.  However, as students are entering, or returning to, college life through online courses, many are finding that the delivery of online course materials through Portable Document Formats (PDFs) and electronic textbooks (e-texts) does not fit their learning preference for printed textbooks.  This paper discusses how universities have been driven to the e-text alternative due to costs and convenience, shares my personal struggle with e-texts as an online graduate student, details challenges that some college students enrolled in online courses may face with electronic delivery of reading materials, and reports previous research that suggests a general, overall student preference for printed texts over e-texts. It also evaluates the need for students to build the skill of adaptability and suggests ways that online college students can adapt to using e-texts without sacrificing their preferred learning style.

As I framed this paper, I had all intentions of discussing the disdain I had for e-texts and recommending that colleges consider students’ preference when assigning a text.  Then I found this article:  The Definition of Adaptability in the Workplace.  It changed my entire way of thinking!  According to author Neil Kokemuller, “Adaptability is a sought-after job skill as employers increasingly rely on flexible job descriptions and rotate employees into different roles. Your ability to adapt to changing situations and expectations makes you more valuable to a current or prospective employer. It also makes you more equipped for a variety of career opportunities…Adaptable workers find more employment and promotion opportunities because many people lack these critical skills” (Kokemuller, 2016).

Why do students attend college if not in order to best prepare for their future?  College students can adapt to being assigned reading material from an e-text in online courses when that medium may not be their preference – and that will be GOOD for them!  It is imperative that we, as students, realize that technology is not going to stop advancing.  Our employers will not always cater to our preferences, so why should our universities?  Being adaptable is a great quality in an employee and in a student!

Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one that is most adaptable to change.

Thank you Dr. Pignetti for a wonderful course and for all of your help and feedback on my final paper.  Thank you classmates for your responses throughout the semester to my blog posts and for such great discussions!  Have a blessed and wonderful Holiday and I hope to see some of you in my next course for the MSTPC program in January (User Centered Research).

Rebecca

 

Five Steps for Fighting Hate Speech on Social Media

For my final paper in ENGL 745: Communication Strategies for Emerging Media, I chose the topic of hate speech on social media. While learning about social media in this course, I was reminded of its impact and importance every time our country endured another mass shooting and a social media connection was revealed. I decided to research the relationship between online hate speech and real-world violence, and I was surprised by what I found.

In their policies that govern content, social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter acknowledge that hate speech can lead to violence. The first sentence of Facebook’s hate speech policy reads, “We do not allow hate speech on Facebook because it creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion and in some cases may promote real-world violence.” Twitter announced it is updating its “Hateful Conduct Policy” to prohibit content that dehumanizes members of an identifiable group because it can “lead to offline harm.”

Social Media Hate Speech and Violence Feedback Loop

I was glad to see they recognize the problem, but their efforts to combat hate speech seem too little too late. In my final paper, I wrote about the recent shootings involving gunmen who spewed hate speech on social media. I also learned how research is looking at the feedback loop of social media hate speech and violence that is amplified by algorithms and filters that create echo chambers and spread hate speech in a viral way to those outside a self-segregated group. The study that I found most interesting was by Petter Törnberg from the University of Amsterdam.

Triple Parentheses Hate Speech App

In my research, I also learned about the Google Chrome plugin called the Coincidence Detector that was removed from the Chrome store by Google in 2016 due to hate speech. The app would find people with names thought to be Jewish and tag them by surrounding their last names with triple parentheses. The triple parentheses would then help users find people to harass online, especially Twitter.

The Coincidence Detector app was especially frightening to me since I grew up in Alabama with the name Goldblatt and a Jewish grandfather. I went to an elementary school that was predominantly Jewish in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1970s, and I remember having to evacuate a couple of times every school year due to bomb threats. I never understood it at the time, but now I realize why that happened.

Five Steps to Limit Hate Speech on Social Media

Hate is alive and well today in the United States, around the world, and online. Technology companies and governments have an obligation to make sure social media networks are not used to spread hate. In my final paper, I recommended five steps to limit hate speech on social media:

  1. A broad definition of hate speech such as the one suggested by Change the Terms should be used. The policy should be presented to users on a regular basis in a form that is easy to understand such as in a question format as suggested by Flynn (2012).
  2. Hate speech should be taken down immediately. Violators should be warned or banned, and technology companies should face steep fines if they do not act quickly.
  3. Accounts posting objectionable content should not be amplified by algorithms. If posts are deemed objectionable, but not hate speech, they should be quarantined making them searchable but not deleted nor promoted to others.
  4. Technology companies should consider working together to ban repeat offenders on multiple platforms but allow for an appeals process and provide transparency in tracking and enforcement.
  5. Companies that have billions of users should have more than 10,000 content reviewers. Governments should consider requiring social media networks to have a minimum threshold of workers doing content reviewing that is in proportion to the number of users they have within a given jurisdiction.

Communication Strategies for Emerging Media has been one of the best courses I have taken in the Master of Science in Technical and Professional Communication program at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Thank you Dr. Pignetti for an exceptional learning opportunity, and thank you to my fellow classmates for your contributions to the course and your responses to my blog posts as well as discussion posts. I hope you all have a happy holiday season.