Author Archives: evelynmartens13
I have thoroughly enjoyed my investigation of using blogs in our Introduction to College Life classrooms, but I feel like I’m emerging from a “blog fog” and I can’t quite relate to anyone who’s not steeped in this subject at the moment. My husband has learned to include the word “blog” in any conversation he attempts to engage me in – “Are we getting a Christmas tree blog this year?,” “Would you like scrambled or fried blogs?,” or “Have you talked to our son,Sam blog, this week?”
But seriously, this was a great learning experience for me. I researched the use of blogs in university classrooms and designed a plan to use those findings to create a blog for our Campus Read program, which is just two years old. Campus Read programs always list “building a sense of community” as a goal, and “community” is almost always listed as an adjective associated with blogs, so I thought it was a natural fit. One thing I learned, however, is that the community-building nature of blogs doesn’t automatically happen and that a great deal of work will have to be invested for my vision to materialize.
I gained this insight from reading about the Julie/Julia project, which was made into the movie Julie & Julia with Amy Adams and Meryl Streep in 2009.
Even though Julie Powell’s blog was very popular, visitors only reported feeling a “moderate” sense of community and the community dissipated when Julie Powell discontinued the blog. To the degree that people did report a strong sense of community, it was associated with the comments function of blogging – both writing and reading, which makes sense if you think about community as being dialogic. Anyway, if anyone is interested in reading more about the Julie/Julia project, I recommend Anita Blanchard’s article “Blogs as Virtual Communities: Identifying a sense of Community in the Julie/Julia Project.” You can retrieve the article here at the Into the Blogosphere series through the University of Minnesota, which offers a lot of great articles about blogging (http://blog.lib.umn.edu/blogosphere/blogs_as_virtual.html).
Aside from my insights about community, I learned a lot about my own campus’s policies and preparedness for 21st century learning. Probably the most interesting insight I came away with is the degree to which we’re still groping with how to effectively use new media. I read an article that described all of the “invisible” issues we might have to consider in creating a campus blog and initially I put it in the “not relevant” pile as I was sorting through my research. It kept bubbling back up to the top of the pile as I had discussions with people on campus about how to implement a blog. (You can read the article, “The When of New Media Writing” by Danielle DeVoss, Ellen Cushman, and Jeffrey Grabill at http:// www. Jstor.org/stable/30037897). It wasn’t that anyone was being obstructionist particularly, but with any large institution, people and departments aren’t always communicating or communicating clearly. As I put the finishing touches on my paper, I still wasn’t clear about what I might and might not be allowed to do with regard to technology, sometimes for practical technological reasons, and sometimes because of local, contextual constraints. I hope I am being sufficiently vague.
Finally, I just have to briefly mention the role of audience and blogging. Because of my role in our Writing Center, I knew that the concepts of blogging and having a sense of audience were linked, but I didn’t expect that I would spend so much time thinking and writing about it for my paper. We always tell students to “imagine” an audience with certain characteristics and so forth and not to think of the professor as the sole reader, but that’s always a difficult exercise because ultimately, students know that their professor usually is the sole member of the audience. Having a blogging experience, though, can fundamentally change the way students think about an audience and motivate them to write—this was probably the main learning outcome I had from my research project, and it isn’t really the one I was prepared for, since I thought my main goal was to use blogs to develop a sense of community.
Which leaves me to you, my “audience.” This experience was very educational for me, and I want to thank you all for your support during my graduation to the 21st century (well, at least from elementary school to middle school!). It has been my privilege to take this course with you.
And now, in a nod to Lori’s sendoff from Michael on “The Office,” I leave you with these words from Creed Bratton’s Blog, also from “The Office,” apropos of the fact that we are now fully immersed in Wisconsin winter:
“Almost winter. Time to turn my tennis racket into snowshoes.”
Good luck to all on final projects!
So, I suppose this is tangential to this week’s readings (or maybe at the heart of them), but I kept going deeper and deeper into the Internet as I studied the issues of privacy, ethics,
and problematic internet use (PIU), straying far from my topic, getting lost in all sorts of sidetracks. For example, I came across the word “paraphilia” in one article and didn’t stop to look it up, but then I came across it again. I was reading an article that mentioned the fact that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM5) (http://www.dsm5.org/Pages/Default.aspx) was updated in 2013 and would now include PIU, which I found interesting and relevant to this week’s readings. So, I went to the DSM site and found, in fact, that “Internet and Gaming Disorders” is included in Section III, which is apparently a research section because it explains, “By listing Internet Gaming Disorder in DSM5’s Section II, APA hopes to encourage research to determine whether the condition should be added to the manual as a disorder.”
It was at this site that I saw “paraphilic” again, so I decided to do a search and spent over an hour just reading up on those. I won’t offer you a link, but you can Wikipedia it and see at a glance why I got distracted. Or perhaps I’ve just been sheltered?
Anyway, I don’t think I would qualify as one of the addicted just yet, but this is the kind of thing I worry about — getting sucked in to the Internet “black hole.” I mean, I really had to force myself to stop going everywhere willy-nilly and exert some discipline — problematic internet use? Scott Caplan makes a distinction between impulsive (lack of impulse control) and excessive (a lot) and says that what might be seen as excessive might just be what is required for a student to complete an assignment (that’s probably me, so far), whereas compulsive use is more likely to result in negative outcomes (p. 724-725).
Speaking of negative outcomes, before I started this course, I thought about Internet privacy challenges mostly in terms of social media and the fact that some people seem to lack
boundaries with regard to self-disclosure. Now, I have a much broader (and more disturbed) understanding of the privacy challenges we face, including the fact that it’s so easy to track our digital footprints. Still, like the people in this Varonis report, I do very little to protect my privacy.
Maybe there’s regulatory help on the way? According to this November 12 article from Politico (http://www.privacylives.com/politico-ftc-wading-into-internet-of-things/2013/11/14/), the Federal Trade Commission is going to start taking an interest in privacy issues because of so many everyday objects (“thermostats, toasters, and even sneakers”) that are getting connected to the Internet. Some of the more interesting ideas: pill bottles that keep track of whether you took the pill, refrigerators that tell you when the milk will expire, and forks that track how fast you eat, all of which could embed sensitive information about individual consumers that could then be inappropriately shared. This echoes Carina Paine and Adam Joinson’s concern that areas of our lives previously considered offline are now areas of privacy concern and being magnified online (p. 16).
Some trade groups are concerned that this new interest from the FTC might inhibit innovation, so it should be interesting to see if the FTC will be able to do much reigning in. By the way, when I went to retrieve the Political URL, I saw an article about “hacktivist” Jeremy Hammond getting 10 years in prison, so of course, I had to stop writing and spend another 45 minutes learning what that was all about. Oh well, I guess that’s the nature of the “Internet of Things” (that’s the name of the FTC workshop).
Finally, I found Steven Katz and Vicki Rhode’s piece, “Beyond Technical Frames of Human Relations,” a bit hard to absorb. If I understand their argument, it’s time to move beyond previous ethical frames to “human-machine” sanctity, which “recognizes the new relationship between him and and machines as whole entities” (p. 250). Call me old-fashioned (for sure!), but I don’t want to have “reciprocity” with my machines (p. 251). The authors bemoan the fact that some mechanized procedures and processes, most notably content management systems, seem to operate according to the machine’s specifications and for its own purposes rather than for people or organizations (p.235), but their proposal that we humanize our machines so that they become “you”s rather than the objects that they actually are seems to be a prescription for making the situation worse.
Did I just not understand this? Do I just need to come to grip with digital “being” and the “Internet of Things”?
Probably the most interesting reading for me this week was “Understanding Digital Literacy Across Cultures” by Barry Thatcher, though I found all of them pretty interesting. One of the reasons I found Thatcher’s piece so interesting is that at my school we’ve been trying to increase our international student enrollment, and I’ve always wondered (on the periphery of my brain) how our website must appear to people of other cultures and countries. For example, we have a partner school in Wuhan China, the South Central University for Nationalities, where we recruit students to enroll in our Master of Science in Education with Emphasis in English. I decided to go to their website to see if and how it might differ from ours―and so much of what Thatcher explained held true!
For example, there were no pictures of people on the SCUN site, and not nearly the sheer number of pictures that we have on our website so this is an example that in studies “more diffuse websites had relatively few pictures” and perhaps the concept that the public space of a website is “not the appropriate medium for something as private as a picture” (of a person) (p.187). Also, there are a few pictures of major icons, historical buildings, a panda, and a few nice views of the campus, so this is an example of research that on Chinese Web sites “drew complexly on icons of Chinese heritage to display the significance of the collective whole (p. 187). Also, take a look at the “Accommodations” page:
It’s a clinical picture of the accommodations, with no indication of people. Compare it to the main Residence Hall page of my school’s website, where all of the pictures focus on students:
So, in thinking about our own website, we could not probably repurpose it for meeting the needs of our primary recruiting demographic (18.1 year olds who are largely from Wisconsin), but I wonder if we might create an alternative version for international students. In fact, SCUN has such a version. Both of their websites are in English, but one is clearly meant for Western, native speaking English people and the other would be for a more localized audience. It seems the best way we might do this, according to Ann Blakesdale in “Addressing Audiences in A Digital Age,” is to get “a full, accurate―and contextualized―understanding of their audiences. One way to acquire this, which was addressed by all writers from my cases, is to interact directly with members of our audiences” (220). So, I think developing a site and asking our current international students to interact with it would be a great project for us to recruit more students and serve their needs more successfully.
Japanese cell phone culture came up in more than one reading this week: in “Going Mobile,” and “Always on,” by Naomi Baron (135, 233) and “Implications of Mobility,” by Kenichi Ishii ( p. 348). Baron says that the government was pretty effective in “transforming outdoor use of keitai from talking to overwhelming texting instruments” (233), mostly because of collective governance . This results from the need to negotiate appropriate activities in public space.
However, no culture mentioned this week has been terribly effective in separating the boundaries of home and the outside world (symbolized by the tradition of removing shoes before entering the house in Japan and India, Baron, p. 230) when it comes to mobile devices.
There was a lot of data to absorb this week, and I’m afraid I got distracted on numerous occasions, stopping to look things up (I suppose this is a good thing!), but nothing disconcerted me so much as the statistic in “Always On” that 51% of American teenagers preferred land line phones. That just astounded me because I work with so many young people every day, 99% of whom seem to have cell phones, and I hardly ever hear of anyone interacting on a land line. I thought maybe it was a function of the fact that the article was published in 2008, so I did some research and found this PEW study from cnet. com (http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57400439-93/teens-prefer-texting-over-phone-calls-e-mail/ ) that says that the number has indeed gone down.
In this study, the number has gone from 30% in 2009 to 14% in 2012, so that seems more in line with what my daily experience tells me. Fourteen percent still seems high, but I am dealing with a pretty homogenous demographic, so my experience is most certainly skewed.
Examining Our Assumptions
The discussion of intercultural communication this week came shortly after I was in a workshop for intercultural communication in which we were asked to reflect on some of the assumptions we make in our communications with our international students, faculty, and staff on a whole host of issues. The presenters showed this video, which I had seen before, but I still got a good laugh and good reflection out of it, so I thought I’d share: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajq8eag4Mvc
I realized I’m going to have to undergo a shift in perspective regarding job seeking and recruiting after reading this week’s material. Having spent the last 10 years in just one institution of higher education, I’ve been used to a certain laborious way of doing things. I’ve probably been on 15-20 search committees in the past 5 years, and, as far as I know, we haven’t used any social media such as Linked In or FB. We recruit via our website and some online newspapers and job boards, then we get electronic resumes, then we consider them individually, then we meet as a committee, then we usually conduct phone interviews, then on-campus interviews, and hopefully make a hiring decision. This process is not very nimble and usually takes 4-6 months.
Since I wasn’t sure if this is just specific to my university or to higher ed as a whole, I did some research and found that we’re probably a little late in adopting newer methods, but our field as a whole is still lagging. In “Web 2.0 in Higher Education Recruitment,” Rob Friedman explains only about 20% of recruiters look to social networks for recruiting and most job seekers are still looking at online job boards. The study also noted that most professionals in higher education are using Linked In to do their networking and the article echoed the cautionary tone of Qualman and Maggiani and Marshall (“Using Linked In to Get Work”) saying, “The utilization of social networks makes it more important for job seekers and representatives of colleges and universities that what people see about them personally is consistent with the image they wish to publicize” (www.higheredjobs.com). Interestingly, the other social media sites professionals are using are Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, and Second Life.
Second Life? How would that work since everyone is a “persona” and doesn’t really know who anyone else is or what they do? Seriously, if anyone knows the answer to this, I’d be interested since I couldn’t find much in my research. Also, if anyone else is working in higher ed, I’d be interested to hear if you’re using SM in recruiting.
It’s hard not to find Qualman engaging, but sometimes his claims seem so contradictory. For example, regarding recruitment through social media, he says “all of this newfound transparency from social business networks is a godsend for employers” (225). Yet, just a few pages later he warns people that “unflattering items should proactively be removed from the public eye” (229). Of resumes, he says that recruiters used to have to “read between the lines” (225) to get a good sense of the candidate. How is that any different than reading between the lines of a Linked In profile that has been wiped squeaky-clean? I think SM is probably more efficient, more convenient, and quicker (which we in higher education could use), but I’m not sure I’m convinced that it’s any more transparent.
Speaking of transparency, I’d hate to be in the shoes of that University of Iowa grad student who accidentally emailed naked pictures of herself to her students. When you think of the potential multiplying effect of those emails getting forwarded, that’s probably not something she’s ever going to be able to “scrub” from her public record (See the story by Lisa Gutierrez at the Kansas City Star/Ihttp://www.kansascity.com/2013/10/24/4574427/iowa-teaching-assistant-accidentally.htmlowa).
The “Human+Machine Culture” by Bernadette Longo probably took me to mental places I really didn’t want to visit. In her discussion of culture and community, she writes “Human+machine culture represents both the hope of freedom from inhuman work and the fear that humans will not be able to control the machines they had made in their own image” (166). She says that technical communicators are in a position of “knowledge making authority” (166) and earlier refers to “the scientific knowledge system sustained through technical communication” (165).
When I read material like this, I worry that I am pursuing the wrong degree. I sort of “glommed” on to the “P” in the MSTPC Program, thinking more of developing myself as a “professional” writer rather than as a technical writer, but most of what I read in my classes seems to focus on the “technical.” Is that because the means by which we communicate are “technological” or do most people envision themselves entering a “scientific knowledge system”? Am I thinking straight in aspiring to the P rather than the T?
I guess I need to start thinking about these things if I’m going to get my Linked In profile updated and polished. That reminds me of some other advice Qualman gives: “if job seekers share a common name with an individual that is less than scrupulous, then the job seeker needs to make certain the employer knows that the person is not them, but rather someone else with the same name” (229).
So, I guess I’m going to have to make a big note on my profile:
“Please don’t confuse me with Evelyn Martens, the serial killer.”
I would rather avoid a discussion of health care policy and politics, and I don’t plan to address those for the most part, but this week’s reading and the healthcare.gov. “hubbub” seem too convergent to ignore.Michael Salvo and Paula Rosinski remind us that “As soon as a design is out of the author’s hand and launched into the world, we see how effective that design can be in use … We make our information spaces, and then these spaces make us and impact our communication―always returning to the human genesis of the space, yet not always under the immediate control of the users (or designers) of that information space” (In “Information Design”).
As Moore put it in “A Sea Change in Enterprise IT, “organizations are facing an avalanche of information” as they change from systems of record to systems of engagement and “Best practices in this new world are scarce.”
Well, they seem to be scarce this month for sure.
What went wrong with Healthcare.gov?
But, back in the spring and over the summer, experts involved in the development and elsewhere were talking about the potential of the Website in much the celebratory tone of Qualman in Socialnomics, without some of the cautionary tones of Moore’s white paper. Both are very clear about the speed of change, but Moore’s quotes from a number of CIOs in 2011 (“We are grappling with this”; “Nobody has figured this out”; and “whether we want it or not, it is coming in”) suggests more trepidation and is somewhat predictive of healthcare.gov.
As I’ve confessed and lamented often, I’m not terribly tech savvy, but from what I can gather, there were some missteps in creating the “information architecture” that characterizes the site. What the developers and designers were celebrating back in the spring was that the site would have a content management system-free philosophy that would make for a “completely static website,” using Jekyll and Github, which was supposed to result in an “incredibly fast and reliable website,” according to an April 10 post at the HHS.gov blog site by David Cole, one of the designers from Development Seed, one of the websites designers.
According to Brian Sivik, Chief Technology Officer at HHS who was quoted in an article in The Atlantic Monthly, its use of social coding is built in a way that’s “open, transparent and enables updates. This is better than a big block of proprietary code locked up in a CMS [content management system].” I mean, the very title of the Atlantic Monthly article is celebrating democracy: “Healthcare.gov: Code Developed by the People and for the People, Released Back to the People.” (See the full article at http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/06/healthcaregov-code-developed-by-the-people-and-for-the-people-released-back-to-the-people/277295/)
So, as I read through any number of articles trying to figure out “what went wrong?” I tried to keep my focus on the role of technical communicators, rather than policy makers, politicians, self-interested CEO’s and CIO’s, software developers, and code writers, but then I started thinking that my thinking is antithetical almost everything I’ve been reading in my classes for the MSTPC program: “We are not merely writers anymore. Now we are editors, information architects, project managers, client liaisons, and more” (135) as Hart-Davidson reminds us this week in “Content Management.” So, there are probably many technical communicators caught in this morass or, alternately, learning opportunity, depending how you view it the current problems at healthcare.gov.
John Pavley at the Huffington Post does see it as an opportunity for the “bi-directional” experience Moore, Qualman, and others have described. “If they want to live up to their initial promise and completely open-source the code on GitHub.com, I’d bet thousands of developers would volunteer to fix all of their bugs for them. That’s the power of open source and open government: Other people are invested in fixing your problems for you!” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-pavley/obamacare-website-problems_b_4057618.html)
Content Management Meet Up in Milwaukee
So, all that reading about the CMS-free healthcare.gov experience got me curious about what are considered “good” content management systems, so I tried to root out some reliable information and came across this CMS “Showdown” in Milwaukee in May. It’s not an “academic” source, but I found it enlightening in that it shows how such providers think it’s important to talk about CMS. The showdown was between 6 CMS providers: Sitecore, ModX, WordPress, Drupal, Concrete5, and Joomla.
The Fight Club meetup metaphor was funny but not really typical of the communication, according to the write up by Jessica Dunbar at anythingdigital.com (May 14). It seemed to me to be pretty communal, in a sense, with quick pitches for each product (3-5 minutes), perhaps a little tag line or branding (ModX – “Creative freedom”; “We like to say that WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time”; “Come for the software, stay for the community” [at Drupal]).
A representative for Joomla declared, “Joomla! is a extremely customizable and adaptable for Enterprise, SMBs, NPOs and beyond.” Joomla was the only representative to bring a comparison chart, so perhaps that’s why it won. At the same time the writer of the article declared himself the only judge, so maybe that’s why it won.
The good news for me? I’m actually starting to understand what some of this means….
After last week’s immersion in Sherry Turkle’s cautionary tale (Alone, together), it’s kind of hard to return to the full-out celebration of all that is Twitter and technological glitter in Qualman’s Socialnomics. I thought I’d bridge the gap by first considering Dave Carlon’s discussion of “Shaped and Shaping Tools” in Digital Literacy (edited by Rachel Spilka).
Time and Space “Fixity”
The subtitle of Carlson’s piece is “The Rhetorical Nature of Technical Communication Technologies,” and in it he calls for technical communicators to “be critical,” to be rhetorically savvy in their use of new technological tools (p. 87). To study the rhetoric of technology, he offers four broad categories of scholarship: rhetorical analysis; technology transfer and diffusion; genre theory; and activity theory.
In his consideration of rhetorical analysis, he discusses the fact that Twitter “opens up both temporal and spatial fixity” because Twitter is not bound by either time or space (93). Early on in the chapter, he makes the point that Twitter can be “endlessly resorted and reorganized” because we have countless interfaces and points of entry. I wasn’t entirely sure what that last idea meant, so I did some surfing and found this “Twitter Storm” piece by Tom Phillips on Buzz Feed http://www.buzzfeed.com/tomphillips/the-29-stages-of-a-twitterstorm).
I think it perfectly makes Carlson’s point about multiple interfaces and points of entry. You can enter the conversation at any point and, especially if you are someone with a following, start the conversation all over again.
Even laggards, thankfully, can enter the conversation at any time!
But, just entering the conversation doesn’t make us critical thinkers with regard to technology, a point Carlson makes, Turkle makes, and even Qualman makes.
Genres as Regularizing Structures: PowerPoint and Prezi
For example, Carlson asks us as technical communicators to think more deeply about how technologies shape us and how we are shapers of technology. Consider his discussion of genre theory. He cites the work of Carolyn Miller (“Genre as social action”) that genres such as memos, reports, and manuals are not simply formats but rather they are “regularizing structures … that shape the work of members of organizations” (97). As example, Carlson cites the work of Yates and Orlikowski’s examination of PowerPoint “arguing that genres create expectations of purpose, content, participants, form, time, and place” (97) and become regularizing structures within organizations.
I’ve seen so many bad PowerPoint presentations (and I’ll bet you have, too), that I readily tried Prezi a few weeks ago simply on the barest glimpse of hope that, if it catches on, people might add a little zip to what otherwise turn out to be humongous snooze fests where we watch someone read from a screen.
Prezi does present a shift in perspective as Klint Finley from Tech Crunch points out: “For those not familiar, Prezi uses a map-like metaphor for creating presentations instead of a slideshow metaphor. This makes it possible to create non-linear presentations, or presentations that use spatial metaphors for organizing ideas, like mind maps.” (techcrunch.com/2012/10/30/powerpoint-killer-prezi-launches-new-interface/.)
In my experience Prezi does offer a different way of organizing information, which might present a new rhetorical paradigm for presentations, but I actually think either platform could be used effectively. If you’re not familiar with Prezi, you should visit their website (http://prezi.com/your/) and try it out. I, a renowned technological “laggard,” taught myself in a couple of hours, so you know it must be pretty intuitive.
Cheerleading for cheerleading camp
The concept of “laggardness” brings me to Qulaman, who is always fun to read because, for one thing, he doesn’t laden himself with too much in the way of academic support. But those are the two querulous impulses I always have when I read Socialnomics―timeliness and evidence.
In the first case, I always have an impulse to check out where the anecdotal evidence stands today. For example, Qualman spends a few pages (161-165) discussing Hulu’s success with delivering high-quality traditional television and movies and for employing an innovative advertising model. Yet, today’s news would suggest that what was true when this book was published is no longer true today. You can read here about the company’s latest challenges: “5 ways new CEO Mike Hopkins Can Save Hulu” from Mike Wallenstein at Variety (http://variety.com/2013/digital/news/5-ways-new-ceo-mike-hopkins-can-save-hulu-1200735150/).
That doesn’t make what Qualman published in 2009 any less true, only outdated, and perhaps what makes it outdated could have bearing on the business strategies and choices Qualman extols. Wallerstein’s advice to Hulu: 1. Get the owners rowing in the same direction 2. Pick―and stick with―a strategy. 3. Time to bid big against Netflix 4. If you’re going to do original programming, do it right. 5. Stop the bleeding.
The other problem, as others have pointed out on this forum, is that Qualman seems to rely a lot on anecdotal evidence. His mother’s friend Betsy’s cheerleading camp (pp. 175-178) was probably pretty meaningful to Betsy, Qualman’s mother, and Qualman himself, but I didn’t find it either particularly informative or easy to follow. What’s missing in Qualman’s analysis is that he can’t seem to direct us to broad conclusions based on quantifiable, reliable data. He can tell stories about this or that success or failure, but he’s not convincing in a broad, academically supportable sense.
Yet, I find him enormously persuasive much of the time, especially when he discusses “finding the right balance between launching every possible idea through the door and ensuring they are not missing out on a great opportunity” (181). He actually lauds TripAdvisor for taking a “deep breath” and re-thinking their strategy with “Where I’ve Been” (p. 106). He also advises companies to “Take time to decide where you will be,” which is sort of the missing element in this 140-character, non-fixity world.
To “think critically,” as Dave Carlson encourages us, does take at least a little bit of time, the most valuable and rare commodity in this twittery, glittery world.
The theme of this week’s readings, for me, was “be nimble!”
The rather sobering cautionary tale, “The Effects of Digital Literacy on the Nature of Technical Communication Work” by Stanley Dicks suggests that technical communicators must reposition, redefine, and sometimes re-educate themselves to become symbolic-analytic workers instead of commodity workers if they are to survive and thrive in the new post-industrial, globalized economy. Chapters 4 and 6 of Socialnomics suggests the same about companies and organizations who want to survive and thrive in the new marketplace.
Dicks’ discussion of the move to a support economy where the “customer will become the center of the support economy universe” (56) helped me to understand better the implications of the Web 2.0 technologies. The customized, transparent, interactive world that customers and consumers are become accustomed to and indeed, are starting to expect, is driving the nature of work in many fields and determining what is and will be valued in the workplace. Technical communicators have to determine and communicate how they are adding value to an organizations’ main mission. They can do this by showing how they contribute to cost reduction, cost avoidance, revenue enhancement, and intangible values, none of which have traditionally been easy for technical communicators to do (61-62).
Another value of this weeks’ readings for me is Dicks’ discussion of management principles. Although I’d heard about most of these principles, either formally or by osmosis, I hadn’t ever considered the degree to which they would affect the profession of technical communicators. (I was a little thrown off by his explanation of the benefits to “employees” at the bottom of p. 64 until I realized this had to be a typo and meant “employers” – how could these benefit employees, I wondered!).
Probably the most interesting and enlightening discussion in Dicks was the explanation and implications of single sourcing work for technical communicators. I could see that this work could remove the “sense of accomplishment and pride that, for many technical communicators, is practically their only job satisfaction” (69). I was thinking as I read it that creating the framework for all those “chunks” of information could be considered symbolic-analytic work and should contribute greatly to the value of the core mission, and it seems like Dicks did suggest some optimism on that point (69).
The Qualman chapters, as always, made for lively and engaging readings, and along with the supplemental site, are still very relevant. I think he is most astute when discussing case histories such as the 2008 Obama campaign and making the case that Obama wouldn’t be president without social media. Obama had such huge advantage over McCain in terms leveraging social media engagement―3.1 million vs. 614,000 fans on FB; 883,161 vs. 217,811 friends on MySpace, and 113,00 Twitter followers compared to 4,650 (62-63). On the other hand, I would have liked to see more on his site discussing the 2012 election, but I only saw one article from March 29 asking “Who’s winning the social media race – Obama or the Republicans?” It had a lot of numbers, but very little analysis, which was maybe the point.
The site features a lot of other content, and I bookmarked it to stay in touch. My favorite this week is “Jimmy John’s: Serving Up Freaky Fast Tweets,” by Kevin O’Connell. Read it here: http://www.socialnomics.net/2013/09/27/jimmy-johns-serving-up-freaky-fast-tweets/. I’m mulling over how to enhance my “digital voice,” which I’d never even heard of just a few weeks ago…
On the other hand, the subject about which I find Qualman least persuasive, and this has come up in previous chapters, is that the digital world is making it possible for people to live their own lives rather than living vicariously through someone else’s: “It is without question ‘cooler’ to say you are bungee jumping off a remote mountain pass overhang in New Mexico than updating your status with ‘I’m watching the latest adventure reality series’ “(122). Anecdotally, I don’t see that at all. In fact, according to a study last July, “Overall, we here in the U.S. spend roughly 20 percent of our time on personal computers liking, tweeting, pinning, whatever it is we do on Tumblr and other stuff on social media, and 30 percent of our time on our mobile devices doing the same” (Popkin). Now, for all I know that is just replacing the television-watching, time-wasting black hole of the old days, but it doesn’t make me too optimistic about bungee-jumping.
You can get this bungee-jumping simulator from Layernet.com on Amazon for 9.99 and avoid finding the nearest cliff to jump off of, which would be my preference, since I have a rather inordinate fear of heights. Will “simulating” life go out with the brave new Internet world? Qualman optimistically hopes so. (http://www.amazon.com/Layernet-40394ping-Simulator-Jumping-Download/dp/B003YDXF2A)
As usual, I find him most persuasive when analyzing business and marketing strategies of the old versus new media, such as the “Referral Program on Steroids” (129). His example of Amazon’s “network universe” versus the network of one’s preferred social media network was enlightening in showing how the “referral floodgates have been opened” (132). So, I think that is my challenge in becoming “nimble” in my current workplace – how can I open the referral floodgates using social media? And, how will I become nimble enough to enter the symbolic analytic technical communicator workforce of tomorrow (which was actually yesterday)?
Popkin, H.S. (4 Dec. 2012). “We spent 230,060 years on social media in one month.” CNBC.com. http://www.cnbc.com/id/100275798
Last week, while everyone else was blogging about the assigned readings, I was blogging about the previous week’s readings, and I think you could consider this metaphorical for my “late adopter” status. In any case, I’ll be incorporating some of last week’s readings to catch up.
But first, I will describe my foray into toilet paper. I had just read Chapter One in Socianomics by Erik Qualman, who suggests that people who ask “Who Cares about What You Are Doing?” usually do so because they are frustrated because they don’t understand what social media is about (3). I realized that even though I don’t want to admit it, that pretty much describes me.
So, just as I was done reading, I walked through the living room where my husband was watching a movie, and a commercial for Cottonelle came on where a woman with a Bristish accent was talking to people about their “bums” and getting them to try Cottonelle tissue. At the end, she urges the viewers to “visit us on Facebook.” So, rather than scratch my head and puzzle over the idea that anyone would proactively visit a toilet paper FB page, I decided to do just that. If it’s true that I don’t understand the attraction of social media, then I think I better start learning if I want to someday call myself a technical communicator.
So, the first thing I noticed truly floored me―apparently 325,812 people “like” the Cottonelle FB page and what’s more mind boggling is that at that moment, 2,167 people were “talking” about it. My first reaction was that these numbers paint a less rosy picture than Qualman does when he says that social media is helping people assess their lives and use their time more productively (50-52). But I didn’t come to quarrel, I came to learn.
Other things happening on the Cottonelle FB page: coupons, tasteful jokes and some less than tasteful, conversations about “bums,” and Cherry, the British narrator, answering questions from people that seem rather fake to me (but who knows?). There are also photos of the Cottonelle toilet paper fashion contest where women are wearing their toilet paper creations. I chose not to “like” the page, despite its attractive promise to send feeds to my FB page if I did. My life is too full as it is.
The Cottonelle Fashion Contest is, apparently, a hit.
Granted, this may not be the best example to sample in my quest to understand social media, so I will keep an open mind and, in fact, I’d love some suggestions from readers about fun social media places to visit.
So, I wasn’t convinced by everything Qualman offered but much of what he had to say about the importance of adopting new business models seems very persuasive. In the “old days” (maybe around the mid-2000’s) I remember being frustrated by the number of mainstream news services that forced people to subscribe, so I’ve used alternate, free sources ever since. Today, I did a little sampling and I see that now The New York Times, L.A. Times, Vanity Fair, and Time allow free access to their content, so a lot of people have probably recognized the new business model since Qualman’s book was published in 2009.
Many people engaged the question of online dating and companies’ efforts to become quite nimble in responding to complaints last week, so I won’t delve into that, but the one other concept I wanted to mention was Qualman’s explanation of the “multiplier effect” of social media (41). I probably knew that intuitively, but to have it spelled out that way was enlightening. Twenty years ago, I would explain to staff the notion that when a customer is unhappy, he/she tells 11 people, and those people tell 11 people. What a difference a couple of decades has made.
I found the history of the development of computer technology pretty interesting in Digital Literacy (edited by Rachel Spilka) mostly because it was going on under my nose without me ever realizing it most of the time. I don’t actually remember where or how I first started using Windows but I think it just occurred to me as I was reading how much it changed my ease of use: “Meanwhile, Microsoft, which had worked with IBM to develop the original operating system for the PC and, by version 3.1 of Windows, what was once a minor add-on (to make DOS appear like a GUI) became a widely used GUI product” (36). I have some vague memories of typing in DOS commands prior to that, so Windows was a whole new (and easier) ball game for me.
I became much more aware of technology changes around the late 90’s, and that was because I was doing some public relations writing and working more closely with graphic designers. Most recently our university created a new website and adopted a content management system (Drupal), so I will be able to get some experience using it and publishing info for our website. I got a greater sense of urgency about leaving my Internet footprint after reading Jack Molisani’s “Is Social Networking for You?” because he suggests that people with no Internet footprint will certainly not be taken seriously as a technical communicator candidate (12-13). At the moment, the main thing you will get if you google “Evelyn Martens” is a bunch of photos and articles about a famous Canadian murder trial of Evelyn Martens (not me).
I found the other two articles from last week’s reading enlightening as well. I had no idea there was so much history or so many SNS around the world until I read ”Social Network Sites: Definition, History and Scholarship” by boyd and Ellison. I couldn’t believe the number of niche communities that I’d never heard of, such as Ryze, Tribe.net, Cyworld, Hi5, BlackPlanet, Six Degrees, just to name a few. Of course, I was particularly surprised that there are SNS for dogs and cats, “although their owners must manage their profiles” (214). I’m glad they cleared that up. Probably the most interesting example to me was the case of Friendster because of the role the “fans”/”friends” played in both the rise and fall of the company.
It would be novel for me to start a a paragraph with something other than “I never knew,” but I’m afraid that’s still the case with “Always On” by Naomi Baron. I never knew there was so much material for psychologists and sociologists in studying IM “away” behavior or “presentation of self,” though it certainly makes sense upon reflection. What probably struck me most in this reading was the sheer logistical undertaking of collecting and logging millions of messages to study social networking behavior. I also noticed that at the time of the writing of the article, only college students had access, so I’m thinking the numbers may have increased dramatically since then.
So, in conclusion, my take away from this and last week’s readings is that I am going to start checking my FB page at least once a day and try to monitor how much time I’m spending and what I’m doing while there in my own mini-study of my behavior. This will probably not feel very authentic because I’m starting off with the notion that “I’m using FB to see how I’m using FB,” but I’m thinking I may enjoy it more by looking at FB as part of my homework.
Baron, N. (2008). Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Boyd, d. and Ellison, N. (2008), Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of
Computer-Mediated Communication 13, pp. 210-230.
Carliner, S. (2010). “Computers and technical communication in the 21st century.” In Rachel Spilka (Ed.)
Digital Literacy for Technical Communication. New York: Routledge.
Molisani, J. “Is social networking for you?” Intercom. Society of Technical Communicators. Retrieved
Qualman, E. (2009). Socialnomics. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.
“By the time that Brittany arrived at high school in 2001, she was thoroughly aware that she was a citizen of a nation dependent on computers and a world moving rapidly, if unevenly, toward technological connection”(658).
This quote from “Becoming Literate in the Information Age: Cultural Ecologies and the Literacies of Technology,” by Gail Hawisher and Cynthia Selfe seemed to sort of crash down on my head as I was reading it. Nothing, not even my own technology literacy narrative that I wrote earlier in the week, has ever afforded Brittany’s kind of clarity for me. At 16, she seems so much more literate than me in any number of ways: in her awareness of her own learning preferences, her engagement with technology for self-directed learning, and her ability to see how future learning will occur for her and others.
Of course, it’s not that I haven’t been aware of the fact that the world has been moving towards “technological connection,” but up until just recently, I’ve only experienced it incrementally. You go from typewriters to DOS systems to Internet and Windows, and then email comes along and insinuates itself indelibly into your life, and before you know it, you find yourself the mother of three children who wear telephones and earplugs as fashion appendages. But this creeping, how-did-I-lose-10-years? (20 years?) sensation keeps winding up back on my psychological doorstep a lot lately.
Reading some other technological narratives has helped a bit. For instance, reading in Hawisher and Selfe about Dean Woodbeck’s story regarding Fortran and the 80 stack cards (p.648) helps me realize that everyone in my cohort sort of has had to cope with the same revolution. In fact, I read Woodbeck’s story to my husband who was a supply officer in the Navy for 20 years and he began to tell me more such stories like having to have those cards retyped over and over. He claims that his current cell phone has more brainpower than the large mainframe computers which he worked with daily and loved so much, once upon a time.
Old Punch Computer Card, forums.pelicanparts.com
But, I’ve decided not to bemoan with a backwards glance but rather look forward towards “affinity spaces,” such as described by Jenkins et.al in “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education in the 21st Century.” This was very enlightening to me because I had, in fact, read material in the past about the digital divide, which mostly cast the question of access in terms of access to computers.
In many ways, the gap in access to the participatory culture is more concerning than the matter of computers themselves, and the rather static response of schools is worrisome as well, though I don’t think I had ever thought of it as the crisis it will soon be, according to this report. Teachers, probably many just like me, “Raised and educated in a culture that valued, and continues to value, alphabetic and print literacies, many of these teachers remain unsure of how to value new media literacies, unsure how to practice these new literacies themselves, and unprepared to integrate them at the curricular and intellectual levels appropriate for these particular young people” (p.671). I wonder how much formal re-training would be necessary to help teachers prepare curricula in line with the tenets of participatory culture or how much of this training will just occur informally for those “alphabetic and print” teachers who may want to evolve?
I could see myself, for example, learning how to engage students through some of the games and strategies suggested under the “What Might Be Done” headings, but I feel like most of the students I would work with would feel towards me the way Brittany feels towards her teachers, that she has mostly outpaced them. Take just one concept – transmedia navigation –who would be teaching whom? I am certainly capable of following “the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities,” but I don’t think I could learn to do so nearly as quickly as a seventh grader sitting next to me, so what would my role be? I guess I will just mull that over for a while before I talk myself into complete obsolescence.
On the other hand, on a more optimistic note, I saw myself in “Four Generations of Editors,” by Heidi Glick and strangely, I was one of those people who have adapted pretty readily to changing expectations about shorter deadlines, electronic formats, and updated methods of proofreading and revising. So, there may be hope for me yet.
Originally, I thought I would start this post off by confessing that I have absolutely no experience with blogs, but that turns out to not be entirely true. While it is accurate that this is my first post—yeah!—it turns out I’ve been reading blogs and not even realizing it. In reading “Searching for Writing on the Web,” Alex Reid lists the top 25 blogs and I am very familiar with 3 of them—The Daily Beast, Think Progress, and the Huffington Post. Now that article is dated 2011, and 2 years is like a millennium in Internet time, so I don’t know if they’re still in the top 25, but it was comforting to realize I already knew something about blogs.
But not much. For example, a former student of mine recently got hired to write a twice-weekly blog about holistic dentistry, and I didn’t quite understand why since, as far as I knew, she knew nothing about dentistry, holistic or otherwise. From her description, she is mostly serving as a “tipster,” about how to engage in holistic care of teeth and alternatives to traditional dentistry. She doesn’t have to be a content matter expert, but rather just do some basic research and engage the material in a lively and readable way. So, I’m still struggling a bit to understand this medium and it’s multifaceted purpose, but I am looking forward to the education.
In my case, my mind tends to want to skip the theoretical and go straight to the practical application, often to my detriment, so I think I’ll need to proceed slowly in thinking about what use I might make of my newfound knowledge after class ends. In Langwitches blog post “What does it Mean to Be Literate?” the author cautions teachers to engage in some basic blogging education including “pre-reading and pre-writing” skills such as understanding how blog platforms work before attempting a blog in the classroom. I’m definitely still at the pre-writing and reading stage.
When I do feel more comfortable with this medium, one use I’d like to make of it regards my role as the chair of our campus’s “Common Read Program.” One of my tasks is to get the students, faculty, and staff engaged in a larger dialogue than simply in individual classrooms or book groups. Last year, our Writing Center held an essay contest and the prompt was tied to the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. It was reasonably successful for a first-time effort, but I didn’t think the submissions really reflected the level of critical thinking we should be seeing from college students.
I’m wondering if a pre-writing blog might help students reflect on and clarify their thinking before they put pen to paper (keyboard to MS Word) for the essay contest? “Learning with Weblogs: Enhancing Cognitive and Social Knowledge Construction,” suggests that “weblog technology fits with the constructivism learning theory, and argues that a weblog is a useful online tool for students to reflect and publish their thoughts and understanding.” I can see some logistical problems already, however, such as the fact that we have about 1,650 students in our freshmen class alone, so I don’t know how exactly this would work. I’ll be interested in learning more from my classmates and our readings as I formulate my goals and understand more about the medium.
By the way, our Campus Read book this year is Scoreboard, Baby by Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry. It’s a very engaging read, and I highly recommend it. I’m using this as an excuse to see if I can master the skills of downloading a graphic.
As I wrap up my first-ever blog post and I read what I’ve written, I’m trying to discern if it reflects anything I’ve read in “16 Top Tips from Blogging Experts for Beginners,” and I’m not entirely sure. It seems clear that I’m writing for myself first, which is tip #2, so I suppose I’ve at least accomplished that. Another tip I read was “Get Ideas from Your Audience,” so I read my other classmates posts first and one thing I noticed is that, as a reader, I like bullet points such as those I read in “Testing, testing… What I’ve Learned from Blogging,” by sr hebert, so let me close with these points:
- I’m very much looking forward to learning from my classmates
- I feel a little more confident already
- This course has already forced me to expand beyond my comfort zone because now I have both Skyped and blogged!
Best to you all!