Author Archives: knoblockj

I’m a Digital Immigrant, Raising Digital Natives

My dad used to tell me that when he was young he had to walk to school, up hill both ways, and carry his lunch.  I know, we’ve all heard stories of the good ‘ole days and how hard our parents had it as compared to our own formative years.  However, when I think of the differences between my own childhood and my children today, I think my dad’s generation saw the greatest amount of change.

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When my parents grew up, they remember getting the first black and white television set.  I remember clunking away on manual typewriters, praying that I wouldn’t make too many mistakes and have to start all over.  The teachers only allowed so much erased and typed over content.  We shared a party-line telephone with all of our neighbors.  Technology tended to come to us in the north woods a lot slower than to the rest of the world.

My husband and I entered the age of technology together.  I embraced it and he avoided it.  But technology won and he eventually ended up having to adapt (except he still won’t carry a cell phone). I never thought of us as digital immigrants, however, my research over the last several weeks has given me a new perspective on the differences in generations; and it’s more than simply having to walk to school, uphill, both ways. 

My kids are members of the digital native population.  According to Marc Prensky, in his article, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants,” digital natives learn, think, and process information differently.  In addition to having a different way of thinking, they also tend to have shorter attention spans and are constantly multi-tasking. It would follow, then, that new teaching tools and methods should be incorporated. A two hour classroom lecture and note-taking will not be effective. 

My 17 year-old son is taking a couple of college level IT classes.  His instructors utilize the “flipped classroom” method.  He is given links and resources to learn on his own.  He watches videos, reads books and articles, contributes to discussions, emails his instructors, researches, and dabbles in the topic of the week prior to attending class.  Once in class, he works on his projects and participates in groups and learning activities.  It’s similar to having the instructor at home with him as he does his homework.  He learns the information on his own (using the resources provided by the instructor) and in class he does the “homework.” 

How many times do students begin homework only to find out they don’t quite understand.  The result is often word done wrong or poorly, handed in, and graded.  With the teacher present while the work is being done, students can find out right away what mistakes they’re making and learn the correct way before completing the work. A teacher once told me that it never made sense to her that we grade students while they learn rather than after they learn (on what they accomplish). 

The flipped classroom is a great way to incorporate social and digital media – which in turn allows the digital immigrant teachers to speak the language of the digital native students.


Resource

Prensky, Marc. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5). MCB University Press. Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf.

Separate Worlds

My 17 year-old son has friends from school that he like to hang out with.  They go bowling and go to the movies.  They play online video games and go out to eat.  They do all the things you would expect a group of teenagers to do. They are all within 4 or 5 years of each other.

My son also has a group of cousins.  The cousins get together every couple of months, mainly because of a family get together or some sort.  They hang together because they all have to be in the same place together on occasion.  They like to do things like video games, bowling, movies – basically, they like the same things that my son does with his school friends.

Once, his school friends wanted to go bowling, but the cousins were over.  I suggested that he take the cousins bowling with his friends.  Oh my goodness!  Apparently that wasn’t acceptable at all.  It was as though I expected him to walk on a tightrope between two buildings, 100 feet in the air.  His explanation?  “My worlds can’t mix.” 

Bernadette Longo, in her article “Using Social Media for Collective Knowledge-Making: Technical Communication Between the Global North and Global South” discusses the expectations of students to utilize social media and technologies from their real lives in their student lives. Outside of school, students create and share content. Longo asserts that professors struggle to incorporate this outside learning interaction while still maintaining their position of knowledge in the classroom. The problem is that if educators don’t address the technological expectations of students, students “may tune out of their academic lives” (p. 30).

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My son was very successful at keeping his worlds separate.  Social media is the place where he couldn’t do that.  Things he posted, things he shared, and content he created opened up dialog between him and his friends, him and his cousins, and his cousins and his friends.  In addition to social media, technology in general helped meld his worlds.  My son created a server in our home in which he ran a Minecraft game.  Only those he invited in could access it.  He would play Minecraft with friends.  When friends weren’t available, he invited in his cousins.  Before he knew it, friends and cousins were logging on at the same time.  He even found that they played together even when he wasn’t live.  After playing Minecraft together, they recognized each other’s names on Facebook and Instagram.  They began to interact outside of Minecraft. The worlds have met and they like each other.

When they came together in real life, they all knew each other.  My son had to go to a wedding where all of the cousins would also be.  Since it was my other son’s wedding, I hired some of the friends to help “work” the wedding.  It all went well at first, but since the cousins and friends began to figure out who each other were, I ended up paying a bunch of kids to dance, hang out, and have fun. 

I understand the two worlds idea.  Once upon a time I used to be much more verbal and active on my Facebook page.  Now that I am “friends” with colleagues, co-workers, family, promoters, various bands, and other “worlds,” I am very careful not to make political posts, emotional posts, overly personal posts, and the like.

Longo says, “For technical communication teachers, establishing learning environments in which students learn from each other — as well as from people outside the classroom — provided opportunities for authentic learning that can prepare students for the workplaces practitioners now encounter.  Using social media in classrooms, teachers can recreate professional settings in which technical communicators learn about users directly.”

Using blogs and discussion boards bring social media to the classroom.  The fine line in my eyes is incorporating more public venues of social media into the classroom.  I like to keep my academic world separate from my personal world.  I also keep my professional world separate from my personal world.  Although, I utilize social media as though my world were mixed.  Although, I want my personal world skills be be usable in my academic world. 


Reference

Longo, Bernadette. (2013). Using social media for collective knowledge-making: Technical communication between the global North and South. Technical communication quarterly. DOI: 10.1080/10572252.2014. 850846.

Soap Box

Allow me to get up on a soap box for a minute.  The dialog between David Weinberger and Andrew Keen ignited a fire in me as it touched on a couple of things that really get my goat. 

I take issue with the reference and description of the lay web user as opposed to the almighty and wise journalists:

Yes, the people have finally spoken. And spoken. And spoken.

Now they won’t shut up. The problem is that YOU! have forgotten how to listen, how to read, how to watch.”

OK – while Keen’s overall opinion is quite distasteful to me, he has a point here.  In fact, I just watched 60 Minutes in which Mike Wallace narrated a piece that looked at our cultural climate during this election.  One person interviewed said, “We don’t listen.  We blast our opinions out on Facebook and we don’t pay attention to see what comes back.”  In other words – where’s the dialog.  No one can have a respectful conversation because all we do is throw out opinions and ignore anything that didn’t come out of our own mouths.  The piece went on to blame social media for the cultural climate during this election.  But they added that it is not just the fault of social media – that people also blame mainstream media, being the gatekeeper of our information, for feeding us all of the negativity and controversy.

While I, for the most part, agree with David Weinberger, I’m not pleased with how he describes us in his response.

“People chatter endlessly. They believe the most appalling things. They express prejudices that would peel the paint off a park bench. They waste their time watching endless hours of TV, wear jerseys as if they were members of the local sports team, are fooled by politicians who don’t even lie convincingly, can’t find Mexico on a map, and don’t believe humans once ran with the dinosaurs.”

Ouch!  Really?  I’d like a little clarification of exactly which people he means…all people?  Some people?

But Keen is quick with another blow to “ordinary people.”

“You see, to use this chaotic media efficaciously, we need to invent our own taxonomies — which isn’t realistic for the majority of ordinary people (seeking to understand the world) who think a “taxonomy” is something that drives us to the airport.”

For the record, I know exactly what taxonomy is.

Of course, Keen and Weinberger are intellectuals.  What you will see in this next Keen quote, is evidence that the web is changing things and Mr. Keen is not adjusting well to change.

“My concern is that this scarcity, the scarcity of the intellectual authority able to help people understand the world, is indeed endangered — particularly if the physical book goes the way of the physical CD and the physical newspaper. Are you convinced that Web 2.0 is of benefit to traditional intellectuals like yourself? Are you confident that, in a flattened media in which authors give away their books for free and collect their revenue on the back-end, the David Weinberger 2.0 of the future will flourish (or even survive)?”

Weinberger gets it.  He understands that we can gain from the knowledge of others.  He gets that no one person has to be an expert in everything or have a singing voice that appeals to everyone.  Instead he knows that even an ordinary person may have a an area of expertise or a voice that appeals to someone:

“With the Web, we can still listen to the world’s greatest, but we can find others who touch us even though their technique isn’t perfect…..

Knowledge is generally not a game for one. It is and always has been a collaborative process…..

Consider how much more we know about the world because we have bloggers everywhere. They may not be journalists, but they are sources, and sometimes they are witnesses in the best sense. We know and understand more because of these voices than we did when we had to rely on a single professional reporting live at 7.”

He goes on to describe some people who give him great conversations, incorporate new ideas, reveal his own biases to him, and produce valuable content.  He later reveals who these people are…ordinary people.

Keen’s response? 

“The comments sections of most major website are littered with this trash. As is the blogosphere. So, yes, the Internet is great for experts to discover one another and conduct responsible conversation. It’s the monkey chorus on the democratized web that bother me.”

Ummm?  Did he just call us “monkey chorus?”

So Keen wants the riff raff off the web as it should be reserved only for those intellectuals who have been enlightened.  Content should be controlled and no one can make any comments.  He sees the Web as a threat to himself and other intellectuals and does not like that everyone can have a voice.  After all, people either have talent or not.

Weinberger, on the other hand sees the value of the Web.  He sees the conversations and the benefit of gaining insight from ordinary people.  Just because one does not have a platform, that doesn’t me he has nothing to contribute.

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Photo Credit: ClassroomClipArt.com

The Gatekeepers

That brings me to the second thing that caught my attention.  Keen calls for gatekeepers.  Gatekeepers are necessary to determine what is newsworthy, what should be reported and written about.  Gatekeepers determine who can do the writing, who has talent, who can get published, or get a recording contract, or get to record an album. These gatekeepers determine if a person has talent or not. They have it or they don’t. Keen says,

“But the problem is that gatekeepers — the agents, editors, recording engineers — these are the very engineers of talent. Web 2.0’s disintermediated media unstitches the ecosystem that has historically nurtured talent. Web 2.0 misunderstands and romanticizes talent. It’s not about the individual — it’s about the media ecosystem. Writers are only as good as their agents and editors. Movie directors are only as good as their studios and producers.”

He says that like it’s a bad thing.  May I respond that that?  Bologna (yes, I had to sing it to spell it).

For every person who got a recording contract, there are at least 10 who can sing better.  The adage, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is true.  Why do some people “make it” and others don’t?  There are many answers: luck, passion, people, coincidence, destiny……  I take issue with these so-called gatekeepers. Who are they?  And by what authority can they decide what I like?  Are they the ones who fired Oprah Winfrey because she was “unfit for TV?”  Or how about the MGM director that said Fred Astaire “Can’t act.  Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.”  Lucille Ball’s drama instructors told her to find another profession.  Elvis was told by the Grand Ole Opry that he should go back to Memphis and be a truck driver. Marilyn Monroe, Dolly Parton, and many more were told by gatekeepers to hang it up, give up, or move on because they don’t have talent.  I wonder how many were told the same thing and actually took that advice, gave up their dream, and kept their talent to themselves. Check this out to see who else was told they don’t have talent:  50 Famous People

My Final Beef

One last “issue” I would like to resolve here is my response to Keen’s need to have intellectuals explain the news to ordinary people.  Nothing gets me more than after a presidential debate when the news media take it upon themselves to tell us what we just heard.  Excuse me?  That’s why I watched it.  I know English.  Similarly, when they try to draw a news worthy event out and discuss at length everything we are watching.  I hate that the media thinks it is their job to tell me what I heard, what I saw, what to think, what to wear, what to eat…….. Keen says, 

“My concern is that this scarcity, the scarcity of the intellectual authority able to help people understand the world, is indeed endangered — particularly if the physical book goes the way of the physical CD and the physical newspaper. Are you convinced that Web 2.0 is of benefit to traditional intellectuals like yourself? Are you confident that, in a flattened media in which authors give away their books for free and collect their revenue on the back-end, the David Weinberger 2.0 of the future will flourish (or even survive)?”

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to pronounce David Weinberger the winner of this debate.  I would also like to echo his words to Keen:

“Andrew, the mud you throw obscures the issues you raise. Porn sites, silly posts, monkeys, cockroaches, toilet seats. This rhetoric isn’t helpful.”

Ah hem.  Thank you. (Steps off of soap box.)


Reference

Keen, A & Weinberger, D. (2007). Keen Vs. Weinberger. The Wall Street Journal.  Dow Jones & Company. http://www.wsj.com/news/articles/SB118460229729267677

What Was Once Out of Reach is Now in my House!

Chris Anderson, in his article, “The Long Tail,” discusses the availability of obscure, lesser known, and low-demand movies, books, and music.  While movie theaters choose to show only movies with predictably high turnouts, Netflix can offer any movie regardless of popularity.  While Barns & Noble is a huge bookstore and can offer 130,000 titles, Amazon can offer 2.3 million (Anderson, 2004). 

As the manager of a band, this is something that really resonated with me.  In the 1980s and earlier, recording original music was very expensive and very much out of reach for common people.  Hopeful artists would solicit labels for a contract in hopes that the label would spring for the recording of an album. Studio time was very expensive and sound engineers were highly skilled.  Unfortunately, the only way to record original music, if a contract wasn’t in the works, was to buy studio time and expect to pay upwards of $100,000 for an album. Often, the only affordable studio time was in the middle of the night. Even more difficult was that the recording studios were mainly located in the music hubs such as Nashville and L.A. (Sound City, 2013).  Watch Sound City

Sound City is a documentary of the recording experience in the 1970s and 80s.  The studio of yesterday is very different from the studio of today.  It also discusses the closing of some legendary studios.

Today technology and the internet make it much easier for local artists to record their music and get it out to the people.  Programs like ProTools bring hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of hi-tech studio equipment into a private home.  Experts and novices alike use ProTools to produce music.  Rhapsody, CD Baby, iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube (to name a few) are tools that allow a small town band to be heard worldwide.  Unlike radio, these venues can host a much larger inventory of music simply because digital music doesn’t take up shelf space and the users can create their own playlists simultaneously. That means they aren’t confined by time (Anderson, 2013).  Not only do these venues suggest potential new music for a listener, but social networking allows listeners to spread their love of new music (Rheingold, 2014). 

How Does That Affect Little ‘Ole Us?

For the band that I manage, this new digital process and accessibility has allowed a group of high school kids with a ton of talent to record with a producer who has worked with Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Kesha, and more. Josh Stoll, from Northern Minnesota got a two year sound engineer degree from McNally Smith in Minneapolis.  As his internship, he worked under Dr. Luke in L.A. He returned to Minneapolis and started his own recording studio and his own band (Summertime Dropouts).  My son was recruited by Josh Stoll to be the lead guitarist for Summertime Dropouts.  Josh did all of their own tracking and sent the tracks via Dropbox to his friend in L.A. (Clint Gibbs) who is Dr. Luke’s assistant.  Gibbs acted as Executive Producer on the Summertime Dropouts CD’s.  The mixed tracks were then sent (again via Dropbox) to New York where Darren Vermaas mastered them.  Finally, Vermaas created a digital image of the CD and sent it out for replication.  Within two weeks, 1000 CD’s were delivered to Josh’s door.  Of course I bi-passed the creation of the artwork, but that was digital as well. Interestingly enough, the songs were tracked at my home in central Wisconsin rather than at a recording studio in a major city.  So, because of technology today, musicians in central Wisconsin were able to access the expertise of people on each coast to create their music. 

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The next step is promotion.  Using social media, bands can promote their music themselves without having to spend money on agents and promoters.  Because of the tech savvy skills of Summertime Dropouts, their music has been featured on MTV, Rich Kids of Beverly Hills, Portlandia, and much more. 

How has that affected the band I manage?  I met Josh Stoll through my son.  We were able to hire him (using a family-friend rate) to track our music.  Josh was our Executive Producer.  We then sent our music to New York for mastering and then submitted to digital retailers.  We get a check every couple of months for the online purchases of our music.  This is something that could not have happened to a young local band 25 or 30 years ago.  Technology has changed the music industry and likewise, it’s changed the movie and book industry as well.  I am attaching links to music by Summertime Dropouts and the band that I manage.  Since a recording studio can by housed in a computer tower, listen to see if you can hear a quality difference between these songs and something that would have been tracked in a major recording studio.  Songs must have a much higher demand to land radio airtime. However, due to the ability to get our music out globally using the internet, the band I manage is getting airplay all over the world and most recently was picked up by a radio station in California.  It’s simply amazing to see how our reach is much different today. The format of digital music is getting easier and more popular than ever.  I used to hold out and buy hard copy music from the music store simply because I wanted to see the photos and get the information that could only be found inside a CD.  Today, that information is rampant all over the internet.  Instead of listening to a new CD and browsing the pages of a CD insert, I can listen to new music while I sift through uploaded articles and photos of my favorite bands.

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It’s simply amazing to see how our reach is much different today. The format of digital music is getting easier and more popular than ever.  I used to hold out and buy hard copy music from the music store simply because I wanted to see the photos and get the information that could only be found inside a CD.  Today, that information is rampant all over the internet.  Instead of listening to a new CD and browsing the pages of a CD insert, I can listen to new music while I sift through uploaded articles and photos of my favorite bands.


References

Anderson, Chris. (2004). “The long tail.” Change This. Issue 10.01. Creative Commons. Stanford, CA.

Grohl, David. (2013). Sound City. Roswell Films.

Rheingold, Howard. (2014).  Net Smart: How to thrive online. MIT Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Information – It’s Not All That

The abundance of available information at our fingertips, simply a Google Search away, is changing the way we do things.  It changes the way we spend our time, the way we learn, the way we read, and the way we think.  Sherry Turkle, in Alone Together, states that because of this, the quality of information is suffering.  People get quick email answers, quick Google Search answers, quick trivia, and don’t take the time to write or read extended written works or books.

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Because information is abundant and fast, because anyone with a smartphone can upload video and details about an event taking place, journalists have new competition.  Turkle says that people are losing their respect for a long, in depth answers.  More than that, people lose their patience for quality information. I recently was drawn to a news article by a headline.  An event had taken place, and I wanted more information, so I clicked on the article and was taken to an online news website.  The article was poorly written, disjointed, and riddled with misspellings, grammatical errors, and sentence fragments.  It was literally painful to read and the event I was reading about took a backseat to my horror at the “news” article.  How could I trust the details if there was no effort put into the publishing of this article.  A simple read-through could have fixed a multitude of errors.  I commented on the article, expressing my disappointment that the author couldn’t proof read his own work before publishing his article.  I pointed out that the errors in the article distracted me from the content and I would not return to this particular website for news anymore.  The author replied to my comment.  He defended his article and said that he was on the scene when he posted it.  He wrote the article on a tablet, which made typing difficult.  He didn’t take time to proofread because someone else may have uploaded the article first.  He prides himself on being first to get the news out. 

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That incident was my first revelation that the quality of information was at stake because of the demand for instant knowledge.  I was reminded of this as I read Howard Rheingold’s response in Net Smart to Nicholas Carr’s assertion that we rely so heavily on internet searches, that we no longer have the capacity to “know.” It’s true.  I find myself less inclined to memorize information since I can pull it up in an instant.  Today, I was packing up books that I had had for years; books that I saved in case I ever needed to know about the topics.  As I was packing them to donate, I thought about what would happen if the internet went down for any amount of time.  The books about math, electricity, art, history, etc. are all waiting until I need to look something up, except I haven’t touched them in years.  We are very dependent on the internet for our knowledge.  On one hand, the internet can go with us everywhere.  Therefore, we have knowledge whenever and wherever we need it.  Frighteningly, we’re dependent on the internet for far more than information.  What if something happens that takes down the internet for a significant amount of time.  We won’t know anything.  Carr is right in this point – the internet is making us stupid.

In addition to poor quality information, we have to contend with inaccurate information and purposefully deceiving information.  Many colleges and universities do not recognize Wikipedia as a legitimate source because of the high risk of faulty information. It used to have an open policy which means that any person, even if they did not have a Wikipedia account, could edit, add, or change information, making that information unreliable.  They have changed that policy, however, limiting and approving edits (Wikipedia Editing Policy). Therefore, since we, as readers and users, have to be able to identify when we are getting solid, or destructive information, we can’t check our brains at the door. Memorizing and “knowing” might not be as prevalent as in the past, but using reason, verifying facts, cross referencing are all becoming new skills. Perhaps the internet is teaching us to develop out critical thinking skills. 


References

Rheingold, Howard. (2012). Net Smart. The MIT Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Turkle, Sherry. (2011).  Alone Together. Basic Books. New York, NY.

Digital Communication, Ethics, and Freedom of Speech

It’s common knowledge that people are on their best “verbal” behavior in certain social situations.  For example, when a person is at work, they know to be careful with how they talk, what they say, and how they present themselves to their supervisors and customers.  Yet, at home people can relax, be themselves, and share their feelings, thoughts, opinions, and beliefs with their close friends and family members.

Ethical lines can somehow get blurred when using other methods of communication. Steven B. Katz and Vicki W. Rhodes, in their article, Beyond Ethical Frames of Technical Relations, as published in Rachel Spilka’s Digital Literacy For Technical Communication, gave an example of how employees of a company refer to clients as “handicapped” or “disabled” when the company would never publicly refer to clients in that way, which it considers demeaning.  The employees are most likely not trying to demean the clients, rather, they use terms that are easier in a digital format. Often, email is used for it’s instant transfer of information.  A person can simply cast their thoughts into the keyboard and hit “send.”  Ethically, the companies publicists would frown. 

Let’s consider other forms of ethical violations.  Facebook users list their place of employment on their profile.  When the user’s face appears, often you can see who your mutual friends are and their place of employment without even going to their page.  Therefore, they are representatives of their employer in the digital world.  Should that person complain about work, or use derogatory language to describe customers, that could present ethical concerns.  Yet that user is simply using free speech to complain to their own “inner circle,” on their own time. Is it right or wrong?  If someone has a really bad day, a customer was rude and inconsiderate and the employee takes to Facebook to unload, does the company have an obligation to address it?  Do they have the right to address it?  After all, their name is associated.  I once read a thread of conversation about a controversial topic.  One particular individual was spewing hate, being vulgar and offensive.  I hovered the curser over his name and his place of employment came up.  Not once have I ever visited that business.  Very purposefully, I have avoided that business, simply because of what one employee posted on Facebook.  Does an employer have the right to limit a user’s content if they are employed at their company?

Facebook is becoming a popular business tool, but email tends to be a significant method of communication for businesses. One reason I like to use email and other forms of digital communication is for a “paper trail.”  I can look back and remember what I said, what I promised, or other important details.  I also have proof that I addressed a topic, followed through, or took action.  Often, if I talk on the phone about something important, I’ll follow up with an email that says, “As per our phone conversation, I wanted to recap our next steps…..”  That way I could always pull the email if there is ever a “he said – she said” type of situation.

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Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

The authors, however, address a much deeper form of ethics in digital technology, and that is that our digital selves do not always resemble our real selves – our digital being (p. 238).  Email creates a relationship between a user and technology.  Interestingly, email is a popular form of workplace communication with which the users develop “relationships” using email, even if the recipient and the sender never actually speak, or the recipient is just a couple cubicles down (p. 243).  The authors ask if it’s possible to remove one’s self from the email communication, and to keep the message “neutral.”  They ask if that is a fair ethical standard for a company to expect of their employees (p. 250).  My answer is – not always.  Consider shooting emails back and forth, discussing important details of a project, and the other person has an alternate motivation or goal.  How can a person remove themselves from the content of the email when they evoke emotions.  What if you’re protective of your work, putting your whole self into the projects, and someone on the other end of the email isn’t as committed as you are? 

Another consideration is that person-less email can often be read as cold, impersonal, rude, or negative.  My rule of thumb is to always try to have my email communication take on a friendly, positive tone (which is not always easy to do if I’m frustrated).  I like to be somewhat personable, to make the recipient feel valued, important, or in the very least – not bothered. That means that I am not keeping my email impersonal and detaching myself from the communication.  At some companies, would that mean I am acting unethically?  I like to think that is professional and reflects well on the company, but that’s just my opinion.

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Reference

Katz, S. B. & Rhodes, V. W. (2010). Beyond ethical frames of technical relations. In R. Spilka (Ed.), Digital literacy for technical communication: 21st century theory and practice. (pp.230 – 256). New York, NY. Routledge.

My, How Things Have Changed

The best description of the term genre as applied to information design is the term “fluid.”  Michael J. Salvo and Paula Rosinski, in their article, Information Design: From Authoring Text to Architecting Virtual Space, explain how the evolution of print documents to digital documents represent the history if the genre of information design. Fluid is an accurate description as the presentation of information will change form depending on the vehicle being used.  As the vehicle advances, or changes, the way in which people receive and use the information also changes.

Years ago, when I planned my wedding, I bought a wedding planning kit that contained a book of check lists and reminders, a timeline and schedule, and a million different advertisements and pieces of valuable information.  I ordered invitations through the mail, from a print catalog.  I sent out RSVP cards with self addressed, stamped envelopes so my guests could easily, with no cost to them, let me know if they planned to attend.

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I kept my family and wedding party in the loop with constant phone calls.  I sent out (via the United States Postal Service) information packets containing a schedule, itinerary, and phone numbers & addresses to the dress and tux shop, venue, hotel, etc.  I did all of my shopping for decorations, favors, in person.  I found the most recommended DJ and cake lady by asking the event planner from the venue for referrals.  Because I worked at a newspaper, I had the luxury of designing and creating my own programs, using colored paper, art catalogs, a typewriter, and a photocopier.

Last year, I helped my son and his fiancé plan their wedding.  Kari (the bride-to-be) created a private wedding website for her to post her ideas, plans, thoughts, likes, etc.  That way, I could log in, see her ideas, and know her vision.  We used interactive spreadsheets to account for RSVP’s.  We designed the invitations using publishing software and ordered them online. We inserted small cards with RSVP instructions for text, email, and snail mail (for the technologically challenged).  We used Google to search for ideas, decorations, recipes, favors, or anything and everything we needed.  We used Facebook groups to keep family and wedding party members informed.  We found the best places to get a cake and entertainment by asking the Facebook world for suggestions.  The wedding party simply had to submit their measurements and payments via the shop website.  We used software to pre-plan the room layout. 

Salvo and Rosinski, in their article, discuss the evolution of communication in small changes.

“Over time, small changes accumulate and result in new emerging genres.  In the clearest example, memos have become email, but so too email has been altered quickly into instant messages, Twitter posts, and position papers and diaries rearticulated online as blogs” (p. 107).

As I realized the jump that RSVP’s took, from mailable cards with self addressed, stamped envelopes, to text and email, I began to consider how much the whole entire process of wedding planning has changed due to technology and information design. 

Likewise, I remember a day when I checked my email first thing every morning, and several times throughout the day, just to see if my friends or family sent me something.  Today, I check it out of obligation, knowing that I’ll find advertising or business notices, and nothing fun and exciting.  Instead, my friends and family use text or Messenger to contact me. 

Remember when voicemail was the best thing ever?  My dad had one of the very first answering machines, called the Code-a-phone.  Today, if I leave a voicemail for my son, he flips out.  “Mom, I can see that you called.  I’ll call you back,”  or “Mom, don’t leave a message.  Just text it to me.”  Apparently, it takes too much time and effort to dial voicemail and listen to the message. By the time I catch on, texting will be out and he’ll have a new message preference.


References

Spilka, Rachel. (2010). Digital literacy for technical communication. “Information design: From authoring text to architecting virtual space. Taylor & Francis Group. New York, NY.

I Was There

Nothing can make a person feel old as reading the history of events for which one was present.  This is the case with Carliner’s Computers and Technical Communication in the 21st Century in Digital Literacy for Technical Communication by Rachel Spilka.  As I read the history of technical communicators and the evolution of computers, one thought stood out: I was there.

I was there when mainframe and mini computers were used in banking. Right out of high school, I worked for a bank whose mainframe computer was housed at another location and connected to our minis via telephone line.  I remember how awed we were when our computer buzzed and a pop up window opened with the Digital Tech style font from someone at the main branch.  That was the earliest form of texting and we thought we were very advanced, technologically. 

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Photo Credit: Sevenels.net

When I wrote for a newspaper, many years ago, I turned my copy in to the typist who would type it and submit it and send it back to be arranged on actual newspaper sized pages. When we created ads, we didn’t use computers. We designed them by paging through hundreds of volumes of “clip art.”  When we found what we wanted to use, we would photo copy it.  Our copiers were the best in the business.  We would enlarge or reduce the size of the art with the copier.  For words, we would submit in writing what we needed printed.  One person would create the copy, and we used the copiers to manipulate the size of the font.  We would then cut it out and glue it with our artwork into a specific sized ad to be glued on larger sheets that made up the newspaper.  Many years later, when I took a group of students to tour the newspaper, I was envious of the ease at which the writers could create and submit their pieces.  The advertising art department was much smaller and didn’t involve glue and scissors.  I’m not sure if they’re still called “Paste Up Artists,” but they now use Photoshop, Illustrator, and other software to create the art.

I learned HTML so that I could write up nice adds for Ebay. Today, I can use Ebay without having to write code.  I was one of those people that Carliner described, buying the cheapest PC I could find (IBM Aptiva).  I watched as companies that I worked for purchased technology packages and had people come in and set up systems, teaching us all how to use new software.  I noticed when mainframes gave way to PC’s, and I sat in meetings where we discussed which software would serve our needs best.  As I read through the chapters, I recognized each significant change and phase since I had also experienced it. I used libraries instead of Google, typewriters instead of word processing software, correction tape instead of a delete key, and glue & scissors instead of Photoshop.  I was there to watch the technological revolution (and I’m still young).


References

Spilka, Rachel. (2010). Computers and technical communication in the 21st century. Digital literacy for technical communicators. Taylor & Francis. New York, NY.

Sevenel.net. (2016). Machines of loving grace.  http://sevenels.net/typewriters/royals.htm. Retrieved on September 24, 2016.

Social Media and Technical Writing

It is true that prior to this course, I have not associated the compatibility of social media and technical writing.  On one hand, it’s odd not to connect the two.  On the other hand, I, like many, haven’t viewed social media as a platform for technical writing.  For me, social media served two purposes. Like the students referenced in The Rhetoric of Reach: Preparing Students for Technical Communication in the Age of Social Media, social media serves to stay connected with friends and family. In addition, I use social media to promote music and concerts for the band I manage.

On occasion, I will browse Facebook for entertainment or “news.”  However, I tend to get distracted by poor grammar, mechanical errors, or informal “slang.”  In The Rhetoric of Reach, the authors write, “Social media has definitely altered the way writers write. They used to write to be read.  Now, they write to be browsed” (p. 60).  That is very accurate.  In fact, I once read a news article that reported on something that I found to be important.  Yet, the article was riddled with errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation.  So much so that I emailed the writer to tell him that his subject matter was important, yet I couldn’t view it as a credible piece because of the unprofessional publishing.  He replied and defended his work by explaining that he had to quickly text the story in on his phone while on the scene.  He didn’t have time to edit it or use a computer because someone else would have made the report faster than him and he prides himself on being the first to make a report.  That was a real eye opener for me.  Of course, I found his reasoning ridiculous, but it made me realize that accuracy and writing skill were being sacrificed for speed and instant publishing.  Writers no longer go through editors.  Pieces are published and sent out to the masses at a click of a button. This is exactly what is described in the student’s concerns in The Rhetoric of Reach.

It is because of this that I choose to be a bit rebellious.  I always spell my words out all the way (no substituting “r” for “are”) and I use complete sentences with punctuation when.  Although I will confess that I occasionally drop the subject in my texting.

A Lightbulb Just Went On

I’ve never blogged before.  My experience with blogs is only as a reader.  I’ve watched as some of my friends began blogging about whatever they were experiencing.  One wrote about being a new mom; sharing her experiences with other young or soon-to-be mothers.  Some wrote about eating healthy or political views.  I always thought that there are enough resources out there – I didn’t need to contribute my two cents.

As I read Is Social Networking for You by Jack Molisani, a lightbulb went on in my head. I realized how essential blogging is to business building.  Using social media and blogs to direct traffic to a website is very effective. I always thought that people were  either being helpful by sharing their experiences, or they were trying to gain popularity by blogging.

I’m very excited for this experience, and already in one week, I’ve learned so much about the world of social media.   I’m looking forward to more lightbulbs and ah-ha moments. Already, my mind is spinning with new ideas for my own website. I can’t wait to see what else I’m going to learn.