Author Archives: heidideckermaurer
The two subjects for this week’s readings – ethics and privacy – are some of the most controversial issues that digitally literate people have to deal with. Both readings kind of gave me the creeps. I chose to focus on Katz & Rhodes.
I found this reading to be both interesting and frustrating. I disagree with many of their ideas about the ethical frames of technical relations.
I do not believe in the false frame. The Platonic belief that technology only an “imitation of Knowledge” (p. 233), is not entirely accurate. Technology is the result of knowledge. As such, I do believe that technology fits in the tool frame, “as mechanisms and systems to help their users meet their work goals” (p.234). I can even buy into the means-end frame because it makes sense that technology can be used for “production and profits” and “meeting technical requirements of the technology” (p. 234).
As for the autonomous frame: just no. Their questions, “Have you ever noticed how some systems…are more adapted to themselves, more focused on their own efficiency than on the human being who is the ostensible…user?” (p.234). That argument completely dismisses the role of agency and volition. It’s not the computers that are focused on their own efficiency: it is the people who programmed the computers. Taking agency out of the question renders the argument invalid.
Thought frame is less ridiculous. We do use machines as external extensions of our memories, like phones and PDAs. People, admittedly, even have machines within themselves (pacemakers, hearing aids). However, at my work at least, we do not “…refer to people, things, and actions with words like information, function, connection, transmission, input, output, processing, short-term and long-term memory, and noise in the system…” (p. 236). These terms aren’t exclusive to digital technology. Every one of them existed before the advent of computers. Applying them to a new paradigm is fine, but their logic doesn’t work.
The being frame is a result of the preceding frames. Since many of those are fallacious, the being frame doesn’t hold a lot of water for me. I do believe that people are depersonalized and are often treated as “standing reserve,” but that concept is not acknowledged, nor is it easily proven.
One of the parts that was most interesting to me, and not entirely preposterous, is their proposal that our relationships with machines may go from an “I-It” relationship to an “I-You” relationship, which means that at some point we may refer to machines as other sentient, self-aware beings. I can see that happening if machines become more autonomous and are programmed with beliefs. I do not see this happening in our lifetime. The technology might be there, but acceptance of it is doubtful.
Now for the fun part.
Background information: In my study of memes, I came across a team of folks (Autotune the News) who take daily news, autotune the speakers in the news clips, and set the fabricated “singing” to music.
They might be best known for setting to music the rant of Antoine Dodson, a citizen of Huntsville, Alabama, who was interviewed for a news story about someone breaking into his family’s apartment and attempting to assault his sister.
Autotune the news “songified” the incident:
The folks at Autotune the News have an app that lets you “songify” yourself. This week’s readings talked about how “humans and technology (often merged)” would have relationships with one another.
I decided to preempt this merging and created a song from a paragraph in our text. I read it into an iPad and here is the result. Yes, this is me “singing.” Lyrics are included if you want to sing along. Machine Me
Week 11 Reading Response
I focused this week on the Blakeslee reading in the Spilka book. The idea of writing for audiences in the digital age is what this class is all about, so it really made sense to me as a topic for exploration. Two ideas came through for me: the idea of audience reading choice, and the concept of knowing your reader.
At the outset Blakeslee states, “We have yet to re examine the notion of audience to determine if anything is changing or needs to change in response to the field’s shift to digital communication” (p. 200). This, I think, is a valid argument. Text documents and digital documents are sofundamentally different, that it’s hard to imagine it not having an impact.
One of the ideas that struck me as I was reading this was that, as readers use digital texts, they “become participants, control outcomes, and shape the text itself” (p. 215). She quotes Landow’s argument that, “the nonlinear nature of hypertext empowers the reader, whose choices make a uniquetext” (p.215).
The reason it stuck out to me is because it reminded me of a book fad that existed during the 80s. Choose your own adventure stories were books where you read the story up to a certain point, and then you got to a pivotal part of the story where you had make a choice. After choosing you would flip to the page that would continue your story, depending on the choice you made. I don’t remember how many endings they would have, but I would re-read those books over and over to follow all the paths.
Blakeslee’s discussion of hypertexts reminded me of that genre, and made me realize how pretty much hyperlinks are “choose your own adventure” stories times about a billion. Comparing it to a little, 150 page book made me realize, again, how mind-blowing the internet is with all its anticipatory hyperlinking, banner ads, and sidebar ads.
Knowing Your Reader
That anticipation of reader needs is another thing that provoked a lot of thought. One of the most fitting quotes was, “You don’t know what you don’t know” (p.208). Anticipating reader needs can be very difficult, especially if you aren’t able to have direct contact with that audience. One of Blakeslee’s participants reaffirms the idea that, “One of my first concerns about an audience is that no one knows who it is. That’s an impossible situation to be in. We need to get somebody at the client, a stakeholder, to agree who the audiences are” (p.210). It is crucial to know and agree upon who these people are in order to tailor a useful message. She makes a good point, but the same was true with print.
Although she admits that much work needs to be done, she asserts that that writers need to take as much care identifying their digital audiences as they did learning about their print audiences. She advocates the idea of creating personas to obtain, “the kind of nformation about readers that writers are seeking” (p. 207). She also discusses, “interaction, especially with actual readers” (p. 208), so the writer can get an idea of user background, context of use, and perceived user needs.
I am glad that she discussed the fact that not every writer has the choice to meet their readers. In my experience, I’ve had it both ways. At the travel company where I worked I spoke with customers all the time. I even went on familiarization trips with actual customers. In the other job at a continuing education company for attorneys, I never even met one of our customers. I feel that I delivered better copy at the travel company because I met and made friendships with some of our “personas.”
It’s been a rough week, so this is all I have for creative this time around:
Dave Clark’s essay on rhetoric in technology was extremely esoteric but I was able to take away some good ideas. I agree with him that technology and rhetoric are co-embedded in culture (p 85). I also agree that the words rhetoric and technology are both hard to pin down, so doing a review of the discipline is a slippery slope.
The theoretical frameworks he introduces (rhetorical analysis, technology transfer and diffusion, genre theory and activity theory) don’t seem to click into place- none of them seem to neatly apply themselves to technology rhetoric. It is true when he says, “This lack is unfortunate at a time when technical communicators more than ever need to develop and use rhetorical tools for evaluating and implementing new technologies” (p 96). However, technology (no matter how you define it) is moving so fast that, as a target, it is going to continue to be hard to nail down.
I also found it interesting that he notes that other scholars have acknowledged that current activity theory analyses are incomplete because, “… [they] ignore the circumstances in which much knowledge work is done, that is, in for-profit, hierarchical corporations” (Thralls and Blyler, 1993, p. 14).
As I sit here and type, I have no internet. I don’t know the last time this has happened to me. We have ordered an upgrade to our DSL and AT&T didn’t tell us there would be a minimum twelve-hour outage while they complete the steps. It is absolutely disconcerting. Both my husband and I had a day off: he is sick and I took a vacation day to study. When I came downstairs this morning, he said: “You’re going to have a tough day ahead.” He told me about the outage. I told him I had all my homework on my desktop. Luckily.
It has been frustrating, as I’ve worked on assignments, to not be able to hop on the internet to look up a fact, use the much easier OWL database, and take a ‘brain break’ by checking my Facebook or Pinterest.
The reason I bring all of this up is that it relates to the Qualman reading for this week. He discusses, “That old adage that you can only have two out of the following – cheap, quick, or quality – doesn’t hold true within social media …”(p 108). He’s wrong-o. For us AT&T only lets us have one: quality.
In some of our other readings, he’s talked about the “little man” being able to champion his cause on social media, however some conglomerations are so big and have such a strangle hold that it doesn’t matter if you tweet or blog about it – unless you’re already famous. AT&T won’t let me get an iPhone unless I get a data plan with it. I am in wifi range almost every waking moment of my life. I don’t need a data plan. It made my husband madder than a wet hen that they wouldn’t separate out the service, but we can’t retaliate by boycotting AT&T. We still need them for their sweet, sweet bandwidth.
As of now, I have only three and a half hours left to wait til we’re back online. Maybe. Since I’m really having a hard time with the withdrawal, it makes me wonder if – as a new media student – I am a junkie studying heroin.
During this week’s readings, I identified a few shared themes that both authors touched on – although their approaches were very different. In this week’s post, I’ll review both authors’ ideas about two topics: middlemen and specialization.
Both authors agree that, in the new information economy, there will be fewer communication obstacles between parties in corporate relationships. That means fewer “middlemen,” no matter what relationship.
The first example of middleman elimination is in regards to internal corporate communication. According to R. Stanley Dicks in his article “The Effects of Digital Literacy” from the anthology Digital Literacy for Technical Communication, supervisors are becoming less and less necessary as knowledge workers become more savvy and come into the workplace at a similar educational level as their supervisors. During the industrial age, supervisors oversaw eight to ten workers. Dicks asserts that supervisors can now lead 30-40 workers due to their education and motivation levels (p. 67-68).
Qualman, in his book Socialnomics, makes a similar argument about the layers; however, his assertions cover the relationship between company and consumer. Web 2.0 has given customers the power to communicate directly with the company – and with their peer groups in regard to a company’s products, services and behaviors. In the past if a customer had a complaint, the only recourse they had was to contact customer service. Since customer service calls were private, one-on-one conversations the general public wouldn’t know anything about problems. Compaines could more easily get away with shoddy products or services. These days, companies need to be watchful. With the transparency of Web 2.0, customer experiences – whether good or bad – are broadcast to the world. Qualman states, “…the iddlemen are becoming less important than they’ve been in the past, and the rise in power is shifting rapidly to the social graph” (133).
The authors both touch on the idea of specialization, but approach them from very different angles.
A running theme in the Dicks reading is the idea that technical communicators must abandon the old paradigm of being solely writers and editors, and embrace a broader view of their role in the future. He asserts that technical communicators should become “symbolic-analytic workers,” who are able to “analyze, synthesize, combine, rearrange, develop, design and deliver the same information that they or others will then modify for multiple audiences” (p.54). He also claims that technical communicators may want to learn skills outside their normal purview, like “…learning about Extensible Markup Language (XML), databases, and some light programming…” (p. 70). Workers who develop these skills are less likely to be casualties of companies outsourcing writing and editing duties.
Qualman explores the importance of specialization from a company marketing perspective. He discusses the fact that many companies try have a broad appeal by advertising many of their features rather than homing in on a specialty. Rather than use scattershot marketing to hit as many potential targets as possible, these days companies have to emphasize how they’re unique, both to set themselves apart and to let their niche customers find them. “If you don’t have a niche position in a marketplace that you are attempting to defend from your competition, and you are trying to be all things to all people, then you are doomed to failure” (p 128).
As can be seen from the readings, experts are finding trends in this new information age of ours. Although their approaches are different, I think it’s interesting that these themes keep popping up on parallel tracks. Has anyone else noticed any interesting trends in our readings?
The Spilka reading covered a lot of ground. The forward and intro were good to put everything into context.
It’s true that the digital revolution has changed everything. After having done the digital narrative about myself, this was another way for me to see how I grew up in tandem with technology. Everything that was mentioned is stuff I worked with, dabbled in, or was away from by one degree of separation. My husband has been a computer guy since I met him, so even if I didn’t work with programs myself, I learned from him what they were and how they worked.
I was just a kid during Phase 1, was in junior high and high school during the Desktop Revolution of Phase 2, was in college and in my first jobs during Phase 3 and was working in advertising during Phase 4. How exciting to be on a parallel track with the technology that has changed the world so much.
In a lot of ways, this article has bummed me out. I am on the wrong end of the seemingly two-pronged path of technical communication. I’m on the creative side that’s being farmed out or shipped overseas. I feel that the creative skills are not valued as much as those of the technical/programmer/software engineer. In some ways even I feel like they have the “money” skills, but I think writing has to be valued differently. To communicate effectively, you need to be able to write clearly. If you want to convey meaning or persuade, you need to have a much more subtle grasp of the English language. Just like some people have talent to program script, some people can see shades of meaning within words that can make the difference between a good piece of copy and a great one.
It makes me worry about the career path that I’ve chosen. If it is of so little value, what can be done to change the field enough to be relevant again? One of the paragraphs that stuck out the most for in the introduction is the section where Spilka asks,
“How many of us fully understand all new types of technology that have sprung up in recent years?…Do the changes mean that we need to abandon skills that we have worked so hard to acquire and to set aside strategies that have worked for us in the past, but that have become outmoded? Has the time arrived that we now need to work especially hard to acquire new skills and to develop and try out new strategies?” (Spilka, p.9)
As the meme says: “Wat do?” http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/wat-do
Boyd & Ellison: Like
I have long been a fan of danah boyd. Ever since I first heard of her back in 2009 when I started the program, she has been a great source – my go-to specialist when it comes to social media. She seems to be very tapped into the social aspect of social media and I appreciate her insight
and the way she interweaves herself into her commitment of the discipline. I’d love to meet her someday.
Her collaborative “Social Network Sites: Definition, History and Scholarship,” with Karen Ellison was an excellent look into the background
of the phenomenon that so many of us are interested in. I especially was fascinated by the idea that who you are friends with is a social marker showing how you fit into the context of your peer group. They state, “Another aspect of self-presentation is the articulation of friendship links, which serve as identity markers for the profile owner (boyd & Ellison, 2007).
I also enjoyed reading the history of the different forms of social media, just like I enjoyed watching the fictionalized movie The Social Network. I like to know where our overarching, taken-for granted phenomena come from. I’m kind of a history nerd that way.
Qualman: Like…with reservations
I’ve read either all or most of Socialnomics before. In the portion that we read, I am fascinated by the fact that people are, “…willing to have open diaries within social media because their ultimate desire is to feel a part of something larger” (Qualman p.42). Although I agree, (as I do with most of his points), sometimes the evidence backing his very broad assertions just isn’t there. He does a good job of using quotes and giving examples, but I don’t see any hard research backing a lot of his stuff up.
For chapter three, he uses one anecdote of an 83-year-old man and one of a “mother of three” to back up his claim that social media makes
us more reflective on our lives. Maybe, but that’s shaky evidence. Also, his claim that “reality tv” is out and is being replaced by “reality social media,” seems ridiculous. If anything, the horror that is reality tv seems to be expanding and driving out all semblance of common sense and dignity from television programming. (Ask me how I really feel…)
Turkle: Dislike The ethics of this study are mentioned a few times, but this trainwreck of a study is unconscionable. Testing AI dolls on vulnerable populations (emotionally fragile children) made me sick. Exploiting them by writing about it in this book is horrible. I read most of this book before for another class, and I don’t remember reading this. It was painful. “What we ask of robots shows us what we need” (Turkle, p.87) may have turned out to be true for these kids, but the cost of finding out was too much, in my opinion. It was like pulling the wings of an insect to see what it would do.
This quick overview of uses for social networking was concise, yet comprehensive. It showed social networking benefits that many may have been overlooked by newcomers. It also reinforced the idea that what you put out there tells people a lot about you, so be careful what you say. I also appreciated the mention of the importance of one’s “internet footprint.” That’s something I am hoping to develop through this class.
I remember having read this a while back, and it’s a good refresher. It’s interesting to read this stuff that was – just a few years back – so fresh. Although the technology has zoomed along apace, I think that the behaviors (avoidance, screening people, racking up the friends) is as true today as it was five years ago when they did the study.
I have to admit that I am totally addicted to Facebook. I am kind of an introvert in a lot of ways, so Facebook allows me to stay in contact, without it being too overwhelming. That’s part of why I like this major, too, is because I like time to be able to digest information before I interact. Don’t get me wrong – I like hanging out with people and being around people, but it often wears me out rather than gives me energy. Facebook provides me the information and light interaction that I crave, and it also provides a platform for further contact.
When I first saw the test post assignment, I thought to myself that I didn’t really have very much experience blogging. I think it’s partially because I start to blog, get bored, abandon blog and then forget all about it.
My first blog was on blogger. I can’t even remember the name. I think it was from 2006, maybe. I wrote about weird and funny things that had happened in my day.
I also have blogged for the Department of Art and Design (now the school of Art and Design). It is really, really low on the priority list for the unit, so I only occasionally post. Mostly I solicit write-ups from faculty since I’m not an expert, but I sometimes write articles. It’s found here: http://sightlinesblog.blogspot.com/
I made a recent attempt at blogging. I was focusing on trying to be more mindful of the happiness in my life, so I put this together. However, I kind of got bored talking about what I ate every day, which I discovered was a big factor in my everyday happiness level. Here it is: http://thehappinessreport.blogspot.com/
I’ve also anonymously guest blogged on a friend’s national blog.
There was a lot of ground covered in these readings. In Reid’s “Why Blog” I found some of the reasons my blogs haven’t really been successful. On p. 311, he states “The most challenging task is finding a subject on which to write, or what we rhetoricians term “invention.” That’s one of my biggest problems.
I liked Davies and Merchant’s idea of blogging as a social practice, and was a little surprised at their assertion that blogging was a “seductive” activity, although I have seen why through my own experiences. This article struck a chord with me, because I am really interested in affinity spaces and communities of practice. I didn’t know what they were called, but I was interested in that sense of community that blogs engender. I am so interested in these communities, that I had been thinking about doing my thesis on the phenomenon with regard to memes. I think this will be a seminal springboard for that.
There were great bit and pieces in the rest, like Nardi’s five motivations for blogging, Du & Wagner’s correlation to teaching (which crosses over into my ENGL 750 class) and Gregg’s matter-of-fact, downer Debbie look at blogging for Ph.D. candidates and junior faculty. I really enjoyed reading about SMRs. They seem to make lots of sense.