Author Archives: crhunter
This week, I was really into reading about “The Digital Being” as discussed in regards to the Being Frame.
I became engrossed in the idea of how ever-growing and expanding ranges of technologies “continue to sweep over culture and into our organizations” so much that as noted, practitioners and scholars must learn to understand and address the ethical implications (241). One way, according to Digital Literacy this week, is to understand the ethical frames of technical relations. And I could not help but think here about Mr. Clinton for some reason, denying any “relations” with that woman, Monica Lewinsky. It is just where my mind unexpectedly wandered when I read the word relations. I suppose in the context of living in a world where we now must consider our technical relations in addition to our personal relations, it does seem appropriate to connect to the idea of ethics and how this inevitably will always come back to any relationship we have.
One of the most powerful ideas, for me, was this about our digital being from Katz and Rhodes: “Digital being has enabled us to forget that our values, our thinking, and our work are heavily defined by our technology, and that much of our life now exists outside our flesh, essentially in digital bodies” (239). Suddenly, just after reading this, I had a vision of my family, friends, and colleagues as these digital beings, and then I thought, how much of their real selves do I really know? What ethical implications does this have on my relationships and the way we might treat each other? Do their digital beings treat others differently than their flesh selves? I basically sat with lots of questions on my mind, and I saw the world almost in a very Matrix-like fashion where I am not sure who the real person is when I meet someone compared to the digital person.
Another idea developed under this one is that the digital being has now taken over in a way that we are not as capable as people of the past, and our “digital machines have literally replaced our ‘mental storage’ of ‘information’…” (239), especially when it comes to the workplace and writing. The specific example was how new employees struggle with writing and spelling because we are so programmed to use spell-check and grammar check systems that we no longer store the necessary information to become efficient writers. I see this with students, also. I also see it in math with the use of calculators. I have a friend who teaches math prep courses, and she tells me often of students who do not know their multiplication tables without the use of a calculator (these are adult learners.) And so now, I see that their digital being has learned these skills in a digital fashion, and when stripped of the technology tool, they are left lacking fundamental skills to survive in the work world and world in general. Are we to expect that is okay because it is the way they have learned? I find a little bit of an ethical struggle right here alone. What is the responsibility of humans today in these contexts?
The other ethical frame I want to address briefly here is the Thought Frame and quickly tie it into the Digital Being. The last questioning thoughts from the section on “Thought Frame” really had me thinking about my organization: “Does your organization conceptualize or refer to communication as a transmission of information from sender to receiver? Does it regard emotional response in the workplace as noise in the system?” (237). If we are very much defined by our digital beings in the workplace, and we communicate via email, videos, webinars, podcasts, social media, and texting more than we do f2f, isn’t it much easier to become just a receiver in the system? When our authentic selves present an emotional response to something, do we just become noise that interrupts the system? When are we allowed to present our deep, meaningful self versus our digital being? Is there a more appropriate time for one than the other? I find that I am weighing heavily how technology has changed relations and ethics together on a very basic human level: how we see how our selves and how we then communicate with each other.
In our Digital Literacy reading this week, I found much interesting content, and I got stuck on the idea of audience in the digital age from Chapter 8. Now with technology allowing writing in the digital age readily accessible to potentially all Internet users or to anyone who can access an online document, this much broader sense of audience really does cause some serious consideration for technical communicators. Who, exactly, are they trying to reach and why? Are they friends, fans, or followers? The idea of considering the target audience has taken on new meaning in our Internet, user-driven, and social media run online world these days.
I found that the five case studies offered to us by Blakeslee were helpful in gaining an understanding when thinking about the much bigger “audience” a tech writer now must consider. She notes, ” …we still need to approach audiences as contextual, unique, and particular, just as we have been doing all along” (202). This finding made me think of the old adage, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” I cannot help but think that audiences will always be very specific, very particular, and very clear in what they want. I think this line sums it up nicely, “Such evidence also points to the need to tease out the unique and complex characteristics of modern digital audiences” (202). It seems that digital communicators these days, much like in days past, should still seriously consider their audience and its needs to really reach the users.
This idea of heuristics was brand new to me; “the digital environment gives writers various mechanisms, or heuristics, for this learning–in other words, it provides them with alternative methods for understanding user needs and a means to solicit user feedback during both early and later phases of learning and research; it also helps them respond to and interact with users” (204). It is this new age of interaction that really has me intrigued with today’s digital communication age. The entire concept of audience in the online arena has changed with the way we can and do interact with each other on the Internet. Now, digital communicators work in a world where they know their audience might prefer interaction and the opportunity to offer feedback right away compared to earlier days where this was not necessarily possible. The audience of today is a bit more demanding.
With the demands and desires of audiences today, digital communicators who realize that this process is much more user driven today will benefit and be able to target and retain their audiences. Those who ignore their audience needs or oversimplify their needs will not achieve success at reaching their audience. It must be acknowledged that digital audiences are complex and will require a bit more than what we might have called an audience in former days.
I think the audience has more power today than ever before to affect how digital communicators must write. Noted by Blakeslee are three very important ideas about how digital communicators must continue to gain a contextualized understanding of their audiences, and I think it is worth it here to point them out again:
- 1) need to know how readers will read and interact with their documents
- 2) need to know how and in what contexts readers with use their documents and
- 3) need to know what expectations readers will bring to their digital documents
I am not sure that in the past authors in the print or early digital realm really considered point three very much. However, in this time of heavy user interaction, those who fail to realize and address the expectations brought by the reader will not reach them the same way others might.
Audience has really opened up quite a bit with the Internet and its power of interaction and immediate feedback.
As I think about readings this week, I am struck by the phases. Carliner notes, “Over the past 30 years, technology has affected technical communications in profound ways” (29). And indeed I stopped to consider this thought and the profoundness of the past 30 years and the ways in which technology has affected us. For a minute, I just thought about my last 30 years, and then I thought about how many of those years I have been using technology. Then I began to think more in depth about the five phases in this development of technology for technical communication. I ended with questions: what makes one a technical communicator? And what phase most affected me in profound ways? What I found to be true is this (and this will date me): I have really only been fully involved in three of the five phases. The first two were periods of my life that were not necessarily times of my life when I was 1) aware of all the world’s technologies and 2) using them in my daily life was not something I connected to my literacy skills in the sense that I was learning how to become digitally literate.
I was growing up in “The Desktop Revolution”, so Phase Two would be the time I began to become literate in the use of computers. By no means was I a technical communicator during this time, and I was not “automating publishing tasks” in any way, shape, or form. I was simply a child and then a teenager in the 80’s and the 90’s. So, yes, I am a child of the eighties, and I did not own a desktop computer during this phase of my life, and now reading about this aspect of that time period made me think quite a bit about the technology changes that were rapidly occurring around me. I did, however, immediately connect to some of the technical aspects that I read. As a matter of fact, I felt a certain sense of nostalgia when I began to read about the first PCs in the early 1980s, which used 5.25 diskettes. I remember the diskette clearly and vividly. I know what it looks like, I remember what they felt like, and I held them in my hands when I was in elementary school. What I could not have told anyone until now is that those disks only held 360,000 bytes of information. Then when I read that “by the end of the 1980s, systems had internal hard drives with up to 50MB of storage capacity,” I began to really connect to the phase of my life that I clearly remember using PCs: the 1990s.
From Phase Three: The GUI (Graphical User Interfaces) Revolution, I remember mostly this major development mentioned by Carliner: “…the movement of the Internet from a limited-use network by those working in the defense industry and at universities, to a ubiquitous communications network” (37). It was this phase of my life that I was just beginning to feel the omnipresence of the Internet. Wow! I had never seen anything like this world of information before, and now to consider the implications of how this medium affected communication really causes me to pause for a moment and appreciate the enormity of the Internet. I also found it quite interesting to reflect on this idea that the “rise of the browser” also created standards for sharing information. Sharing information during this time period was not the same as it is today. The standards for sharing information continue to evolve as we enter new phases of technological advances. This makes me think of Netiquette rules I share with my students. While these go beyond standards for sharing information, they arose from the same concept: a set of standards needed to address working in an online environment, much to do with sharing information. Furthermore, even the idea that some organizations did not necessarily want to download the plugins needed to run video and sound at the time intrigued me because now we function in a world where, I find, plugins are accepted as a natural part of the system. There might be some reluctance to download them, but for the most part, anyone using a computer or technological device knows that plugins are part of the deal.
From Phase Four: Web 1.0 came the power of the Internet and the World Wide Web among other things. I fully remember exploring the WWW, and now reading from the perspective of how it profoundly affected the world of technical communication, I am struck by how rapidly people were changing with the technology. Email made its emergence as the primary means of interpersonal communication, and it continues to thrive in the business world and, for me, the educational arena. But now I cannot remember exactly where I read it (maybe from last week’s readings), it seems that more and more often other emerging methods of communication are becoming the mode for newer generations, such as texts, tweets, and live chats. When I think about my own email communications, they have taken over much of my world, and yet, I long for good ol’ face-to-face talking. I have a love-hate relationship with email these days. I love communicating, but sometimes I would rather just pick up the phone or visit the person. Another aspect of this phase that I can easily connect to is the ability to display ever-changing content and increased capability to display both audio and visual content. When I think about how and when I first began using the Internet, I was in awe of the content available, and now thinking about how the technical aspect of it all was developed, I have a greater appreciation. I simply learned then that a hyperlink was a clickable link, and navigation bar was at the top or side of a page. I now know that those features were by design. The interface was changing and becoming what it is like today while I was learning to use the Internet and explore the Web. I could not have told you what HTML code was when I was living in this phase, but I can now. I must select to work in HTML or not in most messages I compose and most assessments I create. Before I would not have had a clue what that meant.
Finally, Phase Five: Web 2.0 is the time of my life I most connect to my technical communication skills. I was fresh out of college in 2001, and I had my first professional job at my current institution, but I was only part-time then. I began working and using a computer daily at work. As I progressed in my career, I became more and more responsible for using technology to communicate with students, staff, faculty, and others. In my personal life, I heard about MySpace, although I did not get it at first….I thought, “What the heck is MySpace?” And of course, I was drawn to social media as a form of communication. Back at work, I was communicating via technology every day, and eventually I learned to use our Learning Management Content System and Learning Management System. And at another point, I was in charge of creating a Writing Center webpage with our college web developer, so I would say I was the content provider for the web page. Honestly, I did not know how to develop web content; I had to learn to do so. I also became familiar with the term Web 2.0 tools much later when I began taking classes in E-Learning and Online Teaching. This phase for me really extended from the mid-2000s into my more recent years. Web 2.0 tools really became present in my life when I was working on my graduate classes here at UW for that program.
On a final note, from Phase Five of my life and technology for technical communication came the blog and the wiki. I am a bit embarrassed to admit I did not know that wiki originates from a Hawaiian word for fast, but now I do. And I always think of Wikipedia first when I hear or read wiki. This makes me find a way to connect to Qualman here. He notes that “Wikipedia proves the value of collaboration on a global basis (24). I find that I have spent many phases of my life in collaboration, and more and more, this collaboration involves massive use of technology. For instance, I am now involved in the creation of a MOOC for my college; this is a recent project I have been asked to join. I consider myself a novice, and I am learning more and more as I go. I am not sure I am a proponent of the MOOC, but I am forging ahead with the project in an effort to understand the MOOC and its educational value for varying audiences and populations. I have only just begun, but I can say that from the blog to the wiki to the MOOC, I am constantly moving into a new phase of my technical communication. I have lived through a wiki-world in a sense that everything seems to be moving so fast. Each time I turn around, a new phase is starting somewhere. It just keeps moving, and somehow I keep finding myself blogging or wiki-ing away. BTW, my wiki experience is limited. Yet again, another phase that I must explore more fully.
Carliner, S. (2010). Computers and technical communication in the 21st century. In Rachel Spilka (Ed.) Digital Literacy for Technical Communication. New York: Routledge.
Qualman, E. (2009). Socialnomics. Hoboken, New Jersey- John Wiley and Sons.
It has been a while since I have used WordPress, but I was introduced to it and other blogging sites back somewhere between 2006 and 2008. A close friend and colleague of mine offered a several session course (mini-workshops, if you will) called Blogging Basics through our Lifelong Learning Institute (generally aimed at our senior crowd in the local community). She asked if I would be interested, and I said, “What the heck? Why not?” She was really excited to share her blogs and experience, and I shared in her enthusiasm. She was already blogging about jewelry-making, crafting, and beading at the time; plus, she was new as a faculty member, and she was all about getting others to see the value of blogs in the educational arena….blogs and blogging were quickly becoming popular around campus during this time. I did not understand what blogging was at all until I took the course with her and some other very friendly senior citizens–I remember them pretty vividly since they all had varying technological skills, and I learned much just from listening and watching them in the whole process of learning how to blog.
In the course, I learned primarily how to use WordPress and Eblogger, and it was truly the basics, but I found, as a lover of reading and writing (especially journaling), I was immediately attracted to blogs and what they had to offer. For some reason, at the time, Eblogger attracted me more than WordPress, and it became my go-to blogging site for future use. As a result of completing the course, I went into the next semester with ideas about how to use weblogs in the classroom to supplement my developmental writing courses. I had also begun my master’s degree during this time, and blogging became the basis of several different course projects, research, and, finally, part of a practicum course. I stuck mostly to using blogs in the classroom with students versus blogging in my personal life. I was drawn to their use for learning.
I remember doing much research at the time about blogs and feeling like quite a novice when I started and just moved forward with using one in the classroom with my developmental writers… I needed something to liven my classroom, and the blog seemed like a perfect medium for my students at the time.
As I began to read through the blog literacy readings, I was immediately attracted to Learning With Weblogs, and I continue to see the value of using blogs in the learning process. I was caught by this: “More than traditional learning logs, weblogs offer students the opportunity and encouragement to actively participate in the continuous learning process of social knowledge construction in a number of ways.” For me, it was this idea that really made me love the blog and its purpose for my students….social knowledge construction was definitely the goal.
One of the specific ways mentioned included that blogs provide “Sustainable knowledge stock: Student weblog posts are not only shared but also stored as the community’s knowledge asset for all participants to revisit and reuse.” Again, I love the description here in relation to forming a community via the blog and allowing those members to revisit and reuse the knowledge base. It was those things that drew me to the blog in the first place…the social nature of them and the way authors could store knowledge, share it, and offer threaded comments continuously.
I maintained the class blog for at least one academic year before my life went into a whirlwind of having babies, going on maternity leave, finishing my master’s, and changing disciplines. When I shifted into teaching developmental reading, the curriculum was so packed I left out the blogging. I have used blogs more recently in the classes I have been taking….almost every class I just completed here at UW for the E-Learning Certificate had us using a blog for a project-based portfolio or for reflection purposes. I will be truthful and reveal that I do not do much blog reading on my own these days because I spend so much time on the computer for work, and now with the two little ones, time is always the problem. When I find myself looking at blogs, I get immediately sucked into them, and I love exploring all blogs….tech ones, writing ones, authors and musicians, and more. Some colleagues along the way have been naysayers about using blogs for educational purposes, and I have heard varying opinions, especially from “old school” English teachers at times who refuse to believe blogs can offer much to the writing world, but I am a fan.
I am excited to begin a new journey here with blogging, and I know this experience will fire up my love of wanting to use them in the classroom. I look forward to our experience together.
Du, H.S., & Wagner, C. (2007). Learning with weblogs: enhancing cognitive and social knowledge construction. 50(1), 4.