Author Archives: baileybudnik

Analyzing the Growing Use of Emojis in Digital Communication

Abstract

This research highlights the function of Emojis within digital communication, especially in the form of nonverbal communication.  Emojis present pictorial representations of known elements. They act as a signifier to a number of signifieds pertinent to the receiver. This study will furthermore investigate how users perceive these Emojis as signifieds and use them to create productive communication and human connection. Likewise, due to the recent onset of the Emoji language, this research will add to the newly found discourse; emojis represent a sector of emerging media that can be tracked in order to understand the larger discipline as a whole as well. Emojis are operating as a replacement to certain forms of language and represent a growing universal language in the digital sphere.

As we close our semester learning about the multiple forms and effects of digital media, Emojis stood out to me as a leading example of the topics we discussed. Digital media is changing the landscape of how we consume information and communicate with each other, so it makes sense that new ways of communication within Web 2.0 are emerging as well. That is something that drew me to studying the use of Emoji’s; they are integrated into almost every digital product we use to communicate now. They are present on laptops, iphones, android, social media applications, and much more. Emoji’s have become so commonplace that there was even a movie created with them. This phenomena proves their powerful place in our new realm of digital communication. The universal traits of the Emoji language also offer a great lens to analyze them by. People from different background and traditional languages cna still communicate through Emojis. As the world becomes more interconnected through technology, language begins to be universal as well. 

Another facet of Emojis that interested me and what I strongly focused on in my final research paper was their relation to emotions. Many of use strongly associate different feelings with the use of specific Emojis. They act as the interpersonal hand of non face-to-face communication. With technology, many times we are communicating without seeing the other person directly. We are missing out on their nonverbal cues and small nuances in their communication. Emojis offer a slight answer to these nonverbal cues, as users can now create subtle changes in their messaging that may not come across if Emoji’s were not used. Overall, my research piece acted as a foundational branch into Emoji discourse, highlighting the major functions and findings coming forth from this new universal communication. 

Social Media in Techncial Communication Workflows

Technical Communication Unbound: Knowledge Work, Social Media, and Emergent Communicative Practices“ by Toni Ferro and Mark Zachry tap into a process that I routinely practice in my role as a technical communicator, but did not realize it until this piece. Social media has broadened social abilities as well as workplace opportunities. Social media has allowed audiences to be in contact with the technical communication in a much more widened way than before. Technical communicators realize this, as they continue to form communication using social media while also posting it through social media.

Personally, in my role as a technical writer in a standard writing department within a larger company, we have begun using social media to post manual updates or certain additions that affect the usability of products. I think this is interesting since it is breaking the traditional chain of the writer, to the manual, to the user. The dialogue between the information and the user is more fluid with the use of social media. This bolsters Ferro and Zachry’s point that “technical communicators who rely on social media to accomplish their goals in distributed organizations must now monitor the technological landscape and be ready to integrate emergent types of online services into their work” (2013, p. 8). We also use social media as a knowledge base to learn about the products we are creating help documentation for. About half of our projects are completely new to our company. This means there are no previous reference manuals or nameplates available for us to use as foundational points. Aside from meeting with subject-matter-experts to understand the product and the functionalities users need to know about, we use social media posts and marketing information on different platforms to understand the product. Looking at users interacting on social media about an upcoming product, or seeing how the company itself is posting about the product on social media, allows us to understand the context of the product.

https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/social-media-in-education.jpg

This thus enables the communication to better reflect the needs of the user. In this way, “Social media provide knowledge workers new avenues to find and leverage resources, enabling work that is increasingly important in the new economy such as developing and strengthening connections, finding and leveraging information, and participating in a professional community consisting of a vast and varied array of people and resources” (Ferro & Zachry, 2013, p. 9). As social media continues to act as the main avenue of communication in our society, technical communicators should use these platforms for their benefit. 

Techncial Communicators Embracing Social Media

As technology and social media continue to grow our communication abilities and circles, technical communicators find themselves trying to put their skills to work in this new area of discourse as well. Just as “Using Social Media for Collective Knowledge-Making: Technical Communication Between the Global North and South” presents, in the past technical communicators had to work solely within print communication. Print communication is less dynamic; communicators usually can easily narrow down a target audience and who will eventually interact with the communication. However, with the onset of Web 2.0, deliverables are now able to be shared with multiple different audiences and naturally flow through the information cycle of social media. Likewise, for technical communicators to excel and take part in this changing landscape, the study “proposes that technical communicators [should] be attentive to the participatory nature of social media while not assuming that social media replace the dynamics of face-to-face human interaction” (Longo, p. 22, 2014). Technical communicators need to bridge the gap between more traditional forms of communicating versus more technological forms.

https://745techprofcomm.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/dbe75-two-way2bcommunication.png

Instead of creating a piece that is active in only one direction of communicating (creator to consumer), technical communicators should now lean into the ability of dual-direction communication. Social media and Web 2.0 has allowed audiences to have a voice back, pushing dialogue and knowledge to even further extents.

This process inevitably is involved in increased knowledge-making. For example, my personal job might seem extremely one-sided in communication. I create manuals for users. Most times, the only interaction the user has with my work is when they open the product, look to see how it operates, and then discard the manual. However, due to social media, this experience has been changing. Last week the company received a YouTube video from a user explaining how a specific manual could be improved, citing specific instructions that did not best explain a function. My department communicated with this user through social media and thus updated the manual accordingly. Social media allowed additional knowledge to be formed on the topic. As technical communicators, we were open to this experience of learning and interacting with the user in this way. I think overall, technical communications need to see the strengths of social media to influence their content while also using foundational methods of the discipline.

What Technical Communciation is Valued Most?


In general, I am always intrigued by the intersection of praxis and theory. The realm of technical communication has many facets, including themes discussed in academia and the workplace. Web 2.0 has broadened these facets even more. “Professional and Technical Communication in a Web 2.0 World,” written by Stuart Blythe, Claire Lauer, and Paul G. Curra studies how Technical Communicators are interacting with Web 2.0 within their professional careers. One part of the study that I found particularly interesting was how it compared the most valued communication versus the most common form of communication used. This comparison showcases what deliverables technical communicators are primarily working  on. It can also display how Web 2.0 has affected what we determine as valuable.

For example, the study ranks “Emails” and “Instructions/Manuals” as the top two primary forms of communication technical communicators routinely work on. This finding aligns with my experience as a Technical Writer as well. Most of my writing is spent on either emails or working on my project deliverables which are instructions and manuals. Web 2.0 has allowed emails to become second nature in a business structure. Almost every decision and discussion is conducted through emails. Furthermore, the recent work-from-home situation has acted as a catalyst for Web 2.0 to be even more integrated into our daily communication. Now, video meetings are interconnected into our email applications, further extending the true impact emails have in the workplace. 

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Ftheborfskipress.com%2F2017%2F10%2F21%2Fissue-iii-continued%2F&psig=AOvVaw0ewTnxDH3DBslCKG238sYv&ust=1604367702461000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAIQjRxqFwoTCKiq88nd4uwCFQAAAAAdAAAAABBp

Now, touching on the most valued technical communication, “Emails” ranks before “Instructions/Manuals.” I find this intriguing since the manuals are the primary document that a user would see. I would guess that this deliverable then would be the most valued technical communication. Although it is still highly ranked on the list, coming in at number two, emails still beat it out as the most valued form of communication. I guess this could be that without the content divided upon in the emails, the manuals and instruction sheets would not materialize. Web 2.0 has truly created an interconnected workflow for technical communicators. 

Remembering the Positives of the Digital Age

Many times after reading about the effects of technology on our lives, I feel slightly more negative than positive. I tend to focus on the negatives in terms of our mental health and consumption, however, Chayko’s chapter in Superconnected: The Internet, Digital Medial, and Techno-social life” I felt empowered to read about factual positives of social media and Web 2.0 in our lives. I was unaware of the theory that during the industrial age, we grew further apart from one another. This time period did not allow for social technology yet, so camaraderie and social connection lessoned. Once the digital age arrived, this separation was mitigated through available digital communication. Chayko explains that “in this sense, “tribes” that might once have met over a fire pit or in a village green can once again gather frequently. Their gathering place, though, is now the internet or a social media site” (Chayko, 2018, p.182)

Now, even when I am sitting in my cubicle at work, I am connected to friends, family, and interests by just a few clicks. This contributes to the world feeling smaller and more connected, even if we are connecting through a digital means. Especially with the onset of social distancing measures, it feels welcoming to know technology acts as a miraculous device to communicate.


When we now feel moments of loneliness or boredom, we have the technology to engage with. It allows a space for myself to pursue my passions as well as connect with like-minded people. This proves Chayko’s assertion that “there is always some kind of entertainment that can be sought, found, or even created online” (Chayko, 2018, p.185). Just as humans created tribes and collaborative events in the past, users replicate that process online. From virtual marathons to live stream gaming, there is no end to entertainment and connection through the digital world.

Personally, I also feel the benefits of technology when I am trying to reach out to friends or family, even when I am not physically close to them. I am (probably annoying!) habit of calling my family or friends down the list if the previous contact did not answer. No matter what time of day, I am bound to find somehow to share something with.

http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3slex7

Reflecting on this phenomenon makes me feel incredibly positive about the high points of technology. We have the ability to share our lives with almost anyone at a moment’s notice. It is a seemingly small, yet powerful action at our disposal.

References

Chayko, M. (2018). Superconnected : the internet, digital media, and techno-social life. Sage Publications, Inc.

The Price of Oversharing Our Lives

When I look down at my phone or laptop, I sometimes get the feeling that this small device knows more about me than myself at times. The things we Google, the patterns in which we post, and our likes and dislikes all get funneled through this device onto the internet. Surely, we all have our own personalized way of interacting online, and we showcase this free of charge usually. In Superconnected: The Internet, Digital Media and Techno-Social Life, Mary Chayko states that, “As people contribute information to websites, blogs, and social media networks, they tell others a great deal about themselves and make quite a bit of personal information public without being compensated in return” (Chayko, 2016, p. 68.). This relates directly to how I experience online engagement. It is that feeling when you are researching the best tennis racquet to purchase, and then tennis advertisements pop-up on a different seemingly unrelated application. Or, when a social media application recommends a topic that you have internally been wondering about, have not looked for it online yet.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.quora.com%2FWhy-do-I-receive-super-targeted-ads-like-my-phone-knows-what-I-m-thinking&psig=AOvVaw0uOk6G87VCEKfJrC8tBHX2&ust=1602545246628000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CA0QjhxqFwoTCNjAurTYrewCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD

These almost uncanny experiences remind me that every minute of every day we are feeding our personal information into this digital medium with little to return. We have created our own return, and that is the meaningful engagement we have with other humans who are also on these media platforms. Likewise, this meaningful connection that we get out of engaging in media is also changing. The human aspect of Web 2.0 is slowly decreasing, as the relationship is starting to be just between us and the technology. We persistently feed our information into this system, only to be met with more technology to interact with. For example, “whether one is shopping, banking, or trying to contact someone at a business by phone, it can be difficult if not impossible to find a human being to be of assistance when making transactions or discussing pertinent issues” (Chayko, 2016, p. 69).

With the onset of Covid-19 and social distancing measures, we have fallen even further away from human connection instead exchanged for technology. No longer is traveling to the grocery store needed when ordering online groceries is just as efficient. Every aspect of our daily life is becoming a commodity to technology. As humans, we are sharing much of our lives to these technology companies in exchange for almost nothing, besides feeling embedded in the systematic technology. Personally, I think technology and the creative space Web 2.0 has provided have great benefits, however, we must be aware of what we are giving away to be apart of this space. As the world grows increasingly digital, we are almost forced to overshare ourselves in this way. Hopefully, our sense of autonomy stays with us as well.

Chayko, M. (2016). Superconnected : the internet, digital media, and techno-social life. Sage Publications, Inc.

Cyberspace is Becoming a Part of Our Physcial Space

Many times within our modern society, there is a feeling of duality between the physical world and the “cyberspace” that Gibson alludes to. As Mary Chakyko, author of Superconnected: The Internet, Digital Media and Techno-Social Life, notes, this cyberspace is not a fully accurate representation of our relationship with the online world, but it does highlight some important points in relation to how we interact with this digital dimension. Likewise, Chakyko describes that “William Gibson’s view of cyberspace as the universe ‘behind all the computer screens’ was, and still is, critical to helping us envision, understand, and define the environment and the experience of becoming involved in computer use” (Chayko, 2016, p. 44). When I meet someone once in a while that does not have a smartphone or access to frequent internet, I can not help but be intrigued by their perspective of the world. To them, the digital world and Web 2.0 most likely does not impact their day-to-day thoughts directly. Their opinions are not shaped by a boundless cyberspace.

In relation to myself, I feel as though almost half of my perspectives on life topics are influenced by the internet. From cooking to current events, I rely on technology to give me updated perspectives on these ongoing topics. Sometimes, it feels as if when I open up Twitter, I am stepping into the cyberspace world. Any arguments or hot topic takes on the application are invisible in my physical world perspective, but once I connect to the application, another sector of society seems to unfold. This experience interests me greatly, since I also understand the cyberworld inadvertently, or even directly in some cases, affects the physical world. Chayko states that, “as researchers learn more and more about how real and consequential digital environments are, and how authentically they are experienced, the term cyberspace is becoming less and less precise a descriptor” (Chayko, 2016, p. 45). When I read this quote, I immediately connected it to the Instagram phenomena of receiving “likes” on posts. What Happens to your Brain When You get a Like on Instagram, written by Eames Yates, describes how receiving “likes” on Instagram posts actually creates a rush of dopamine to the user. After this experience is compounded time after time, it can generate how one feels like in the outside world. This type of situation directly shows how the “cyber” world is flowing seamlessly into reality.

https://en.dopl3r.com/memes/dank/when-you-get-11-likes-on-instagram-google-q-how-to-handle-fame/87957

A scene from the Matrix comes to mind always when I think about this. In a way, we are feeding our energy and time into the digital space to cultivate it. This obviously has great benefits, but also some negatives. This continuous process that we are now looped into now forces the cyberworld to merge with our normal reality. I enjoy the efficiency and entertainment the digital space provides, but also find it quite draining at times. In my own head, I’d like a place where you could unplug from the cyberworld, but as these chapters are showcasing, the cyberworld is already assimilated into our world. I am interested in the future as technology grows, how it will be even more so just an extra component to our already existing reality.

References

Chayko, M. (2018). Superconnected : the internet, digital media, and techno-social life. Sage Publications, Inc.

The Rise of the Algorithm

As I was just placing my phone down to start working on this post, I scrolled through one last Instagram story. In this story, a local account detailed their experience making homemade pumpkin pie today. In this multi-story post, they broke down each step while writing small sections of text that one would need to know in order to follow the recipe. As casual as this may seem, Christine Wolf’s piece touched on this scenario directly. Wolf states that Web 2.0 now “[allow s] users to generate and distribute their own content can support informal and self-directed learning” (Wolf, 2016.) After reading this statement from “DIY Videos on Youtube” by Christine Wolf, I immediately connected to what I just engaged with moments before. Personally, I never have baked a homemade pumpkin pie from scratch, but the organic content generated from the Web 2.0 structure allowed me to self-learn a new skill. 

Now, I only was able to see this story pop up first on my feed since the Instagram algorithm tracked that I watch this specific account’s stories routinely. Thus, this leads the story to be seen first on my homepage when I log into the application. I was not presented with that DIY baking video by accident, rather, the algorithm is in control.

https://memegenerator.net/instance/76508474/one-does-not-simply-one-does-not-simply-understand-the-youtube-algorithm

As a person who has dabbled in creating their own creative content, I struggle to appease the social media algorithm. It seems as though it maintains a mind of its own, placing content and audiences into invisible groups. Algorithms can guide us to engage in our passions and niches on internet platforms. At times, algorithms can even present us with new content that we end up admiring. However, algorithms also box-in and categorize users into certain groups. On one end, this seems like a helpful tool to present users with content they enjoy while keeping them logged into the platform.

Subsequently, algorithms also stop the transfer of new knowledge into the user’s algorithm created bubble. For example, if I only watch YouTube videos on how to garden, there is a large chance I will never be presented with exercise content. Maybe the user would not want to see different content, but maybe they would want to be brought outside their echo chamber as well. This situation that Wolf mentions reminds me of another Web 2.0 experience I had just a few days ago. It is true that “algorithms also shape individuals’ experiences with Web 2.0 platforms in many ways” (Wolf, 2016). I recently downloaded Tik Tok, mostly to understand why the application serged into popularity this year. Before downloading it, my only concept of it was a platform where people choreographically danced to music in small sixty-second videos. That type of niche did not interest me at all, but when I created my Tik Tok account, totally different content filled the screen. I was surprised to notice that the same niches I followed on other platforms appeared in my Tik Tok feed as well. It was almost like the overarching Web 2.0 algorithm already knew what I would like. Instead of watching dances, I interacted with the application in a totally different way than what I thought I would. My experience and concept of the application changed due to the algorithms prior notions about me.

As interesting as I find this, I feel like it also has negative consequences as well. Gone are the days where content is completely and freely flowing into your space if there was ever such a day!

How the Long Curve is Now Driving Entertainment

As Anderson’s “The Long Tail” makes abundantly clear, the entertainment market is finally growing. This growth is due to technology such as social media and the internet allowing entertainment content to be endless and specialized. No longer is the only available entertainment controlled by only what attracts the most people at once (Anderson, 2004). Anderson explains that “many of our assumptions about popular taste are actually artifacts of poor supply-and-demand matching — a market response to inefficient distribution” (Anderson, 2004, p. 4). Sites that support blogging, personal content, and specified entertainment finally can reach the long tail end of the entertainment bell curve. Entertainment can finally reach wide ranges of audiences, even if it is not a “hit” to the masses. This means content finally addresses certain niches and conversations.

This new entertainment model brought on by social media benefits both the industry and audiences. Businesses discovered that if you “combine enough non-hits on the Long Tail and [you have] a market potentially as big as the hits” (Anderson, 2004,p. 12). This can be seen on social media applications such as Youtube. On the trending page, videos have millions upon millions of views. This would be considered the “hits” that defined entertainment options in the past. However, media now allows users to bypass the most popular content in exchange for what interests them more. The “Suggested” and “Subscription” tab now allows users to customize their entertainment experience, seeking out less popular, but more targeted content. The amount of small creators blogging outnumber, or equal, the impact viral content has. Small creators are simply spread out on the long curve, collecting views and audience engagement across the board.

Moreover, the widening of entertainment means content is becoming more personalized. The ability for anyone to carve out their own part of the entertainment pie allows communication to become more authentic. This entertainment is succeeding because “their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking” (Weinberger, 2000). A natural discourse emerges that speaks to certain sectors of the population. In the past, formal companies and businesses struggled to replicate this personalized and natural content users would gravitate towards.

As personally generated content grows, businesses are reaching out to work specifically with solo content creators. This aligns with Weinberger’s thought that “[businesses] will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf” (Weinberger, 2000). Posts are now popping up across social media platforms of creators being sponsored to post on behalf of companies and their products. As seen below from a current Youtube video, creators are now using “ads” within their videos to note that it is sponsored by a brand.

This is an effort to combine authentic human conversation with product placement and advertisement. From the frequency sponsored posts are used, it seems they are successful for companies to use. As entertainment and media become evermore accessible and customizable, it will be interesting to see how the long tail of media consumption continues to broaden and drive the industry as a whole.

Anderson, C. (2004, December 14). The Long Tail. Retrieved September 16, 2020, from https://www.porchlightbooks.com/blog/changethis/2004/the-long-tail

Weinberger, D. (2000). 95 theses. Retrieved September 16, 2020, from https://www.cluetrain.com/book/95-theses.html

Why Longform Blogging Needs to Stay


WHY BLOGGING NEEDS TO STAY

As a middle schooler in the early 2010’s, the term blogging seemed to be everywhere. Many of the figures I now follow on various social media platforms actually started as bloggers. Many current Youtubers and Instagrammers alike first started their online presence through their own blogs. In today’s world, this concept seems so foreign. How could someone gain so much organic growth without the use of social media like Twitter, Tick Tock, and beyond? The reason it seems so foreign is that the speed of information has increased substantially since true blogging began.

As I delved into Jeremy Gordon’s Let’s All Go Back to Tumblr article, it dawned on me that our need for information has grown since the beginning days of Tumblr. However, our need has not grown for the quality of information, but rather, the amount of it. I have maintained a Twitter account since around 2012. My first attraction to the platform was the ability to have endless amounts of thoughts with simply one refresh. I tended to follow people in specific niches, so my timeline was filled with everything anyone thought about a certain topic. I enjoyed this discourse, but always felt a sense of urgency while on the application. This sense of urgency was from the feeling that I was missing out on more tweets. There was always more to see, and I began feeling left behind if I did not keep totally up-to-date on the current discourse.

Flash forward to the past few years, this feeling stayed the same. However, now instead of feverishly staying current on One Direction news, I was worried about the world’s current events. Within the past year, I’ve realized something that Gordon also touches on. Twitter is technically a blog, but it is a rapid-fire of thoughts, and due to its limitations, users avoid nuanced discussions. Unlike the slow, unfolding thoughts of Tumblr, users seek to generate as many thoughts as possible as soon as a story becomes public. Ideas need to be fully formulated, discussed, debated to actually provide the true context of situations. Since Twitter “encourages white hot anger predicated on context collapse,” fully-fledged ideas are never discussed (Gordon, 2018). This leads to tweets that neither explain a point nor persuade anyone else. Longform blogging arenas, like Tumblr, provide space for discourse to naturally progress. We have become desensitized to longer forms of communication to instead long for the brevity of 2,000 tweets scrolling past your eyes.

I do think there lies a balance in the middle for communication, but that balance relies on blogging staying in the realm of popularity.

Gordon, J. (2018, August 14). Let’s all go back to Tumblr. Retrieved September 13, 2020, from https://theoutline.com/post/5811/why-tumblr-is-better-than-twitter-and-we-should-bring-it-back?zd=7

One does not simply Stop tweeting. (n.d.). Retrieved September 13, 2020, from http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/36dk2o