Author Archives: mollynolte

DONE DONE DONE DONE

Finals are horrible.  This really nice girl from one of my classes sent a super nice note this morning to congratulate everyone on being done with the semester and I’m like, “Dude, ouch.  Not even close.”  Because today was only day one of the brutality.  Three papers in two days is so mean.  I don’t recommend 9 credits to anyone.  EVER.  Under ANY circumstances.

Anyway!  Here’s a summary of my paper:

TRUE Studio, Yoga Branding, Marketing, and Advertising: What Works and What Doesn’t?

Introduction

As many people may know, the practice of yoga dates back thousands of years to ancient Asia and specifically to India.  The art of yoga itself contains more than just the postures many of us are familiar with today; yoga includes the mental practice including meditation, a spiritual philosophy, a particular lifestyle, using essential oils, and many other “arms” of the practice.  Many yoga practitioners believe that doing yoga, such as going through the postures and poses, is the least important part of yoga and in fact was developed to help young Indian scholars use their energy while in meditation so as to be less distracting to the mental practice.

Yoga was introduced to western society as early as the 1800’s, but gained popularity more throughout the latter half of the 20th century, enjoying a more drastic uptick in popularity since the 1980’s and again in the first part of the 21st century.  While some yoga “essentialists” or “fundamentalists” might disagree with using yoga as simply a form of physical exercise, it is increasingly being used as such and is continually made popular by well-known fitness coaches and professionals, as well as celebrities.  Some “famous yogis” include: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Christy Turlington, Jessica Biel, Hilaria Thomas Baldwin, Reese Witherspoon, Kaley Cuoco, and Miley Cyrus.

In Western culture, the focus tends to be on the yoga poses and postures, also called asanas, themselves rather than yoga and its additional “arms.”  For this reason, yoga fundamentalists disregard modern yoga in western society as true yoga.  But the practice continues to gain speed regardless.

From a technical and professional communication standpoint, it is of interest to communication scholars to study how branding, marketing, and communication is being used to bolster the business of yoga and boost its popularity in this part of the world.  I drew from published research material to bolster my research.  For example, in Branding Yoga: The Cases of Iyengar Yoga, Siddha Yoga and Anusara Yoga (2012), author Andrea Jain attempts to discover why the style Anusara Yoga, developed by an American named John Friend, became so popular in Western culture.  Anusara Yoga is a more modern, contemporary style of yoga than compared to yoga styles that have prevailed in Asia for hundreds of years or more.  In Jain’s study, she “evaluates the context in which yoga became subject to a sequential branding process: selection, introduction, elaboration, and fortification” (p. 4).  She focuses on Friend’s ability to not only brand his style of yoga, but also how he used himself as part of the branding process.

As with many or most businesses in America today, many yoga and fitness studios use a plethora of social media platforms, electronic communication, and other modes of mass communication including, but not limited to, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  While we study the constant onslaught of new means and modes to communicate digitally, on the internet, or with smartphones, businesses must understand and anticipate that onslaught and be ready when it arrives.  The question I would like to answer in my final paper is the following:  When it comes to branding, marketing, and advertising for yoga studios, what works and what doesn’t?  I intend to study different forms of digital and electronic communications for yoga studios in the Janesville and Verona, Wisconsin areas to best understand their methods.  I will observe and record their methods and also observe their online communities and how they interact respectively.  The utility for this topic is to determine the effectiveness of social media in the field of technical communication.  There is also a vast amount of professional research on the subject that have aided me in my research and observation.

TRUE Studio Background

In order to provide a better understanding of the purpose of this research project, it is important to illustrate the type of business TRUE Studio.  This information outlines key elements of True Studio, a unique group-exercise, multi-functional studio featuring indoor cycling (Spinning®), yoga (heated), and core strength (TRX) classes.  This specialized niche business will be conveniently located in a vibrant, active area with optimal population density and high household income.  TRUE Studio will be the first boutique of its kind in the area and will provide classes taught by superior instructors, iconic design, intimacy, convenience and exceptional customer service.  TRUE Studio will also feature a café for nutrition-conscious consumers, childcare, and a friendly, community-oriented environment.

Over the past 3 years, the appeal of boutique fitness studios has increased dramatically as evidenced by the rapid spread of independent group exercise studio businesses across North

America and around the world. Planning to launch in early 2017, TRUE Studio will target cycling

and fitness consumers seeking to improve physical fitness, reduce stress, lower blood pressure,

lose weight, and live a healthier, more abundant lifestyle.  Clients will be largely repeat

customers who develop a regular workout routine.

The health and fitness industry in the United States and globally is growing as a whole.  In Wisconsin, the majority of people exercise at large, franchised gyms/health clubs.  However, there is a demand for a premium boutique experience that is not currently being met.  TRUE Studio looks to capitalize on this growth with its unique health and wellness offering.  Indoor Cycling is a popular and effective group exercise that has been around in various forms since 1987.  Participants pedal sophisticated stationary cycles and are coached by an instructor who leads various “rides” set to motivational music.  Today, roughly 5 million people participate in indoor cycling in North America making it one of the most popular group exercises of all time.  This low-impact, high cardio exercise is recommended for people of all ages and fitness levels because the student controls the speed and intensity.  This is an increase of 74% in the past 5 years. (2016, IHRSA).  An increasing percentage of riders cycle at dedicated studios such Soul Cycle and Flywheel, two high-profile New York-based studios.  Reality TV shows have featured indoor cycling instructors, and Hollywood Cycle airs each Tuesday night on E! Channel.

TRX Strength The TRX Suspension Trainer was developed by former US Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick, as he and his fellow SEALS searched for ways to stay in peak physical condition with limited access to training implements and/or space. Starting as parachute webbing, it has developed into a well-made, portable training system that is affordable and user friendly. It’s harness system allows you to use your own body weight for strength training. It allows for the explosive movement of plyometrics without the same stress upon landing. The exercises performed on the TRX are multiplaner, which more closely mimics real life situations that require strength. By adjusting body position, the level of difficulty of a particular exercise changes as well, making it appropriate for people at all fitness levels.

TRUE Studio’s hot yoga class is an invigorating sequence of postures that works the entire body and is appropriate for all levels of experience. The class is led in a heated room with 40% humidity. The heat warms and opens the body, enhances flexibility, releases toxins, and naturally focuses the mind to a single point of concentration.  Within this environment, a truly complete sequence of postures is practiced at a deliberate pace and with thorough instruction from the teacher.  Modifications and advanced variations will be introduced.  With the aid of the heat, the postures will gradually optimize every facet of the body and mind.  Traditional yoga classes including Vinyasa Flow, Meditative, Ashtanga, and Yin will also be offered.

truestudio1

Differentiation

                The idea of a dedicated boutique studio model is not new.  It has thrived for years unique to exercise activities such as yoga, Pilates, and boot camp, even though those activities are widely available in large gym settings.  TRUE Studio offers 3 unique studio environments under one luxurious roof.  Below are 7 keys that will differentiate the business:

Dedicated boutique: By definition, a studio with niche offerings is more focused on the quality of that service than a large gym providing dozens.

Complementary workouts: Indoor cycling is an extremely effective cardio workout and participants can complement that exercise with a strength or yoga class.

Expert instruction: High energy, charismatic instructors will be selected and trained for their ability to attract and retain class attendees.

Pricing convenience and flexibility: Contract memberships or “pay-per-class” options will be available. Pre-paid ride card fees, or monthly passes are purchased online and class credits are debited as customers attend.

Online scheduling: The studio will deploy a unique online sales and scheduling system that users can also access via mobile device. The system vastly simplifies class dynamics for the studio and is a major convenience for customers.

Intimacy and community: The studio atmosphere is markedly different from the feeling at “big box” gyms. Instructors and class attendees interact more directly and the vibe is fun, friendly and supportive. Appeals to all ages, fitness levels.

Convenience and amenities: Clients can get in and out quickly for an efficient workout. Amenities will include towels, filtered water, spa-grade shower products, hair styling tools, lockers with USB charging stations, cycling shoes, environment-friendly yoga mats, complimentary wi-fi, childcare and expansive social area.

That’s the set up.  Essentially what I did afterwards was break down my findings based on my observations of each company I targeted.

Facebook: Anytime Fitness, Capital Fitness, Cyc Fitness, Dragonfly, Fit Moms Transformation Center, Flyght Cycle, Harbor Wellness, Orange Shoe, Orange Theory, Planet Fitness, Princeton Club

Instagram: Anytime Fitness, Capital Fitness, Cyc Fitness, Dragonfly, Harbor Wellness, iGo, Orange Shoe, Orange Theory, Planet Fitness, Princeton Club

Twitter: Anytime Fitness, Capital Fitness, Cyc Fitness, Dragonfly, Harbor Wellness, Orange Shoe, Orange Theory, Planet Fitness, Princeton Club

The commonplace of these organizations having social media platforms go by how they are listed:  Every target studio has one or more Facebook accounts.  The second most was Instagram, followed by Twitter, LinkedIn, and lastly was newsletters.  It was noticed that many organizations also had Pinterest accounts, but my research did not include information about Pinterest.  I observed how often each company posted on each respective platform noting content and consistency.

Planet Fitness: Facebook—at least once a day to every other day; Instagram—approximately four times a week; Twitter—at least once every two days.

Orange Theory Fitness:  Facebook—once a day; Instagram—at least three times a week; Twitter—one to three times a day.

Orange Shoe: Facebook—few times a month, three times a year; Twitter—once a month to a few times a year

iGo Fitness: Facebook—once since July 2016; Instagram—one post 94 weeks ago.

Harbor Wellness Studios:  Facebook—at least twice a week; Instagram—once per week; Twitter—up to three times a day.

Flyght Cycle Fitness:  Facebook—once a day; Instagram—three times a week.

Fit Moms Transformation Center: Facebook—approximately twice a week

Dragonfly Hot Yoga:  Facebook—up to twice a day; Instagram—once or twice a day; Twitter—up to three times a day.

Cyc Fitness:  Facebook—up to three times a week; Instagram—up to three times a week; Twitter—approximately once a day.

Capital Fitness:  Facebook—up to four times a day; Instagram—once a day; Twitter—up to three times a day.

Anytime Fitness:  Facebook—up to twice a day; Instagram—several times a year; Twitter—up to four times a day.

Princeton Club:  Facebook—once a day; Instagram—once a week; Twitter—up to twice a month.

From these observations, and in combination with the scholarly articles I researched, I tried to analyze what was most commonplace and what TRUE Studio could take from that.

Conclusion

Contemporary versus ancient views of yoga branding absolutely stress the importance of understanding the audience and considering which content and imagery to use to send a certain message.  It’s also important to be cognizant of the appropriate amount of posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Lastly, it’s highly important to consider brand consistency among posts on Facebook in addition to how consistent posts are across all social media platforms.  Considering all of these items creates content that consistently meets the needs of each respective audience. As mentioned before, businesses have to understand what technology exists, how to best use that existing technology and appropriately capitalize on that technology, and anticipate up and coming technology and modes of communication.

As modes of communication and technology evolve at an exponential rate, people and companies, fitness or otherwise, would do well to anticipate such changes as quickly as they come.  TRUE Studio anticipates doing just that to create an advantage and improve the potential for success.

Good luck to you all the rest of this semester and into the next.  It was nice to work with all of you this year.  Cheers and Happy Holidays.  I’ma go find a glass of wine.

Social Media as a Tool

In Using Social Media for Collective Knowledge-Making: Technical Communication Between the Global North and South (2013), Bernadette Longo discusses the necessity of considering social media as a tool to use as a technical communicator.

When It Could Work

It wasn’t until I changed jobs that I realized the reality of this concept.  Working for an antiquated government agency that prohibited departments and employees from using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for both personal and professional use, I did not see the merit in using social media to promote and advertise business.  In the case of my prior employer, Facebook would have been very beneficial for many of the departments and agencies.  For example, I worked for an Aging Unit and specialized in the coordination of transportation and mobility options for older adults and people with disabilities.  I taught people how to ride the bus, I taught AARP Smart Driver courses, and did a lot with the community such as social events, senior fairs, and educational events at the local libraries.  I also taught Dementia Awareness among businesses in the county.
If the county would have allowed its employees to embrace and use social media as a communicative tool, the county would have the ability to reach a much greater audience by advertising these positive community events and public programs to internet users.  According to the Pew Research Center, “46 percent of senior citizen Internet users access Facebook and other social networks, compared with 73 percent of all adult Internet users. Factoring in non-Internet users, just 27 percent of adults 65 and older use social networks, compared with 63 percent of all adults, and 27 percent of adults 80 and older use the internet” (2014).  There is certainly a market of older adults on Facebook.  If the aging unit advertise its smart driver courses and the fact that by taking the course you could save 10-20% on your insurance rate, I believe seniors would find that very appealing and the advertisement would be effective.

When It Does Work

It’s vital to be able to reach your audience; without capturing an audience, a business venture–whatever it may be–has a very slim chance of succeeding.  I work for a fitness company now, and our audience is the 25-55 year old woman who has an interest in health, wellness, and personal improvement.  We know that our client is online, using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, is a blog reader, on Snapchat, uses apps, in any combination.  So when I develop a marketing campaign, I have to consider my audience, the social media usage, and how to best reach them via those communicative avenues.
social-media-communication
Longo speaks directly to technical communicators in her essay:
“Incorporating social media into our technical communication toolset for audience accommodation promises that we can design documents that are more explicitly responsive to audience needs and that are more directly inclusive of a range of perspectives across global communities. These media do help us play the role of a moderator who manages information flows from many sources. But when we think that technological tools can help us make decisions that are true, we need to more deeply explore this utopian desire for inclusion, asking to what extent it is possible” (2013, p. 24).
I heed this advice quite seriously now that I understand how absolutely essential an online presence is.  I know as a marketer and professional communicator that I could have the most incredible message to send to my audience.  But if I don’t use the correct channel, it won’t reach them, thus negating the purpose of my message in the first place.

Bernadette Longo (2014) Using Social Media for Collective Knowledge-Making:
Technical Communication Between the Global North and South, Technical Communication Quarterly, 23:1, 23-34

What the Heck is Bebo and Cyworld?

It’s amazing to me that since “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship” (2008) was written, the world of social networking and Social Network Sites (SNS) have changed so dramatically.  And considering the sites that have come, seen their heydey, and gone since 1997, it’s amazing how irrelevant these topics can become less than a decade later.  For example, Boyd and Ellison’s illustration of the various Social Network Sites that have existed since 1997 looks like a list of irrelevant, outdated, and unknown sources of networking (Fig. 1, p.212).  Out of all of the SNS listed, I recognized only seven out of the (I think) forty-two examples on the timeline, and that list is not an exhaustive list of all of the past or present Social Network Sites.  It’s not wonder that the internet, social networking, and technical communication itself is so difficult to define:  this seemingly limitless word constantly ebbs and flows, more or less unchecked, and essentially anything is possible within it.

The section Bridging Online and Offline Social Networks (p. 221) goes into detail about a lot of what my class peers have been discussing in past posts.  As Boyd and Ellison point out, the beginning of Social Networking Sites created an online format for “real-life” friends to interact in a different way.  Today, people form and maintain friendships that live exclusively online without having begun in a more tradition, face-to-face manner.  As my colleagues have pointed out, there are online lives that occur independently from a person’s “real” life but that are considered just as qualifiable as their face-to-face or physical relationships.

While I have never experienced this phenomenon personally, that doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that they exist.  There is certainly enough evidence to suggest that virtual relationships can be just as meaningful as relationships and friendships that occur “in real life”.  I use these terms lightly because many people in my generation, the so-called Millennials, have grown up online and are accustomed to maintaining an online persona.

Importantly, Boyd and Ellison also touch on the fact that “phishing” does occur in what is supposed to be a friendly environment.  People take advantage of online users.

“In another study examining security issues and SNSs, Jagatic, Johnson, Jakobsson, and Menczer (2007) used freely accessible profile data from SNSs to craft a ‘‘phishing’’ scheme that appeared to originate from a friend on the network; their targets were much more likely to give away information to this ‘‘friend’’ than to a perceived stranger. Survey data offer a more optimistic perspective on the issue, suggesting that teens are aware of potential privacy threats online and that many are proactive about taking steps to minimize certain potential risks. Pew found that 55% of online teens have profiles, 66% of whom report that their profile is not visible to all Internet users (Lenhart & Madden, 2007). Of the teens with completely open profiles, 46% reported including at least some false information” (p. 222).

This evidence is troubling and it shows the risk involved is creating relationships online.  I’ve never watched the show Catfish (MTV) which is a documentary style reality show that follows people who have been “catfished.”  This happens when a person begins a romantic relationship online only to find out the person with whom they are virtually involved turns out to have lied about their identity.

I believe if Boyd and Ellison revisited their research they would find that many of the Social Network Sites visited are no longer in existence and come across as irrelevant to modern scholars.  At least that’s how their research came across to me.  While I appreciate their research and learning about the history of Social Networking according to them, I had a hard time relating to their subject matter since I’m unfamiliar with Cyworld, Bebo, Ryze, Fotoblog, Skyblog, Friendster, and the list goes on and on.

This point is important for scholars of technical communication.  It’s vital for us as students to understand how quickly this world evolves and how we must keep a finger on the pulse in order to keep up and remain relevant.

 

The Power of Living Online

After reading The Long Tail by Chris Anderson, I was inspired to write about a recent experience of mine with my new job.  As all of you know by now, I’m not tech savvy nor do I have a great understanding of social media.  With my new job, I’m tied to my laptop and am VERY quickly learning all about managing Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, creating a WordPress blog, and I’m on Twitter a lot.

Chris Anderson discussed how Amazon users rated an unpopular book well and caused a second-coming of success for a book called Touching the Void.  Something similar happened to me after special event held by my company last Thursday.  TRUE Studio offers “pop-up” yoga events in the city of Janesville.  Over the summer, TRUE Studio held seven rooftop yoga events called Yogabrews.  Each event was three hours long–one hour to register, set up your mat, and socialize, followed by an hour of yoga, and then a social hour afterwards where participants could have a glass of local beer with the proceeds donated to a local charity.  The same has been done recently with additional Yogabrews events, but this time it was with a Halloween-esque twist.  The events featured “glow” yoga.  The set up with similar, an hour before to socialize, and hour of yoga, and a wine/beer social afterwards.  This time, however, the room was set up with black lights and dance lights so folks could “glow” during yoga.

The first event brought in 23 people and was considered successful.  The second event that took place a week later brought in almost 40 people and it was quite amazing to see that many people “glowing” under the black lights.  During the balance portion of the yoga practice, I went up to the balcony with my phone to do a Facebook Live feed from TRUE Studio Janesville’s Facebook page.  Not very many people saw the feed while it was live, and I was really disappointed.  By morning, the video had been seen by over 400 people.  Today, the video has been seen by 1,232 people.  While I don’t work over the weekend, I’m still checking in on all of our accounts and get updates about activity on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Since Thursday, our Facebook has been visited by a heavy influx of people, TRUE Studio has been rated on Facebook 13 times by new members, classes are filling, and people are talking about us on social media.  I think the video I posted had an impact on this flurry of new activity.

At first I was leery about posting a Facebook Live feed.  The CEO and I recently had a phone conference with one of our consultants who said NEVER to post pictures or videos of classes because it could attract bad press and negative comments.  For example, yoga purists wouldn’t approve of the high-intensity music and light playing during yoga.  Many purists practice in total silence or just to a cello.  Our yoga philosophy is different, and I think it’s important for us to advertise all of the amazing new things we’re doing.  The new activity and positive things happening with TRUE Studio online is similar to Chris Anderson’s message in The Long Tail.

untitled

 

#92 Y2K… Wow, That Took Me Back

I found cluetrain’s 95 Theses an exhaustive list of pretty much any and all situations that could possibly be linked to how “the market” is changing because of technology.  I read along the list finding myself curious and in mostly agreement with the items on the list.  When I got to #92 it dawned on me that this list is outdated and I checked the publishing date.  Towards the bottom of the list, it says “Companies are spending billions of dollars on Y2K. Why can’t they hear this market timebomb ticking? The stakes are even higher.”  That made me think: How different would this list be if it were written seventeen years into the future?  Would many of these items remain the same or would the utter onslaught of burgeoning technology render the list useless?  Perhaps it wouldn’t be useless, but I think it would look a bit different.

I’d like to reflect on what technology and forms of media I was using during Y2K.  I was in sixth grade and twelve years old.  On New Year’s Eve 1999 I was at a hotel with my family and a lot of their friends we went camping with every summer plus all of their kids.  Luckily, many of us were around the same age so it was a very fun New Year’s Eve.  I don’t recall understanding exactly what Y2K was, but I knew that 2000 was going to be a big deal.  I was too young to understand the fear of the doomsday preppers and people’s concern that technology wouldn’t be able to comprehend the number 2000 and the world was going to blow up.  The technology I was using as a twelve year old sixth grader included a grey discman with stickers all over it, a Gateway home computer without internet, and a TV with a VCR.  I had never heard of e-mail let alone could I even contemplate social networking and what technology and emerging media looks like today.

Image result for discman

These days, my life is inundated with technology and the way it affects the market and business as a whole.  As I’ve been discussing during this semester, I just started a new position and am now the marketing and communications manager for a fitness company called TRUE Studio.  Being involved in so much technical communications has been very overwhelming this first week.  I have taken over not only the company’s three corporate Facebook accounts, but their Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, corporate e-mails, and am learning different platforms that I am totally unfamiliar with.  Hootsuite, MindBody, Constant Contact…just to name a few.  It’s amazing how much technology is required to remain viable as a business.

The one concept that did resonate with me from the cluetrain reading was the fact that they pointed out that end users and consumers should be viewed as human beings and not simply part of various demographic groups.  I think that’s important for a business person to consider.  The desired audience should be viewed as a collective of people with individual and unique experiences and not simply a cluster of folks who may or may not react similarly to marketing and communication techniques.

 

The Importance of Culture

The grand focus in Chapters 6-9 in Rachel Spilka’s Digital Literacy for Technical Communication (2010) was culture and considering audiences.  Culture is a very tricky subject to pin down and agree on, but I’ve always enjoyed discussing culture and what exactly that means.

As a foreign language student, I’ve had the opportunity to not only learn how to speak a second language, but I have also learned a lot about respecting other cultures and ways of life.  I’m competent in German, and throughout the many years since I began learning the language, I feel as though I’ve learned just as much about German culture.  It’s also been fascinating to me what is considered appropriate in one culture and offensive to others.  For example, certain American hand gestures are considered fine for us–like the peace sign and thumbs up–but in other cultures they can mean something completely different.  The peace sign for Japanese people is the Victory symbol.  For Americans, thumbs up usually means that something is “good.”  In other cultures, it means something more along the lines of “up yours.”  In India and other Asian countries, eating is always done with the right hand and never with the left because the left hand is used for personal hygiene purposes.  In Germany, it’s considered extremely rude to show the person the bottom of your shoe (also equated with “up yours” more or less).  Additionally, tipping a server in Germany is strictly verboten whereas in America stiffing your waiter or waitress is considered very rude.  While I was studying in Italy in 2010, I learned it perfectly culturally acceptable to imbibe whisky or other spirits in your morning espresso.  And business or academic meetings, even ones that occur at 9 a.m., often involve sharing a very strong drink of grappa before the talking starts.  One of the biggest discrepancies between Italian and American culture is the concept of time.  It only took me one day to learn that Italians are much less strict when it comes to punctuality.  My guide told me he would pick me up for dinner at 9 p.m., which is around the time Italians eat dinner, but didn’t show up until nearly ten.  Classes started at 9 in the morning,  but many of the teachers wouldn’t even show up until 9:30 or after and students would trickle in and out whenever.  Siesta is also largely practiced which includes having a long, leisurely lunch midday many times with wine and a long break before heading back to the office, school, wherever.  A practice I happen to have adored.  American business people would not be appreciative of business partners being almost an hour late and taking a two hour lunch, but in some cultures that’s just the way things are done.

What I’m getting at is that culture, even electronic culture, should be considered and respected just like it should be if one were to travel to a foreign country or enter the home of someone from a different background.  But the problem lies in that our digital culture is still being built and defined.  As technology itself and the many modes of communication that we use shift and change so does the overall culture.  In an allusion to not only digital culture but also to culture at its core, Bernadette Longo explains that “Communicators make choices that effect [sic] social relationships; the more aware we can be of the cultural implications of those choices, the wider the range of consequences we can see” (p. 156).  I believe Longo’s implication in this statement is important for everyone to consider rather than just communication students.

It’s important to continue to consider culture not only as a human race but digitally for those of us who might work interculturally in the future.  Barry Thatcher explains the difficulty in digital communication in regards to the differences between American and Mexican culture.  According to Thatcher, the system they used “work[ed] well in the United States because of its values of individualism, universalism, and specific orientation.  This cycle, however, did not work well in Mexico, which tends to have more hierarchical and interpersonal values, thus implying different uses of digital technologies” (p. 171).  Normally, when we think about traveling internationally, we think about language barriers, being able to get around, understanding their currency, and being able to ask where the bathroom is, but we now also have to consider protecting social relationships based on daily cultural life for the locals, whomever they may be, and how their culture is different not only from ours physically but digitally as well.

english-globish-difference

As an aside:  I got a Facebook this week.  THIS IS A SOCIAL AND ACADEMIC EXPERIMENT.

Twitter and Classical Rhetoric?

Once again,  I found myself puzzled and intrigued by the weekly readings. In particular, I focused on David Clark’s (2009) Shaped and Shaping Tools (2010, Spilka).  Let it be noted by all that I am giving it my best to be academic and objective when it comes to reconsidering modern technology and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram because it seems like the audience isn’t interested in my disdain.  In fact, many of my peers are calling me out because I’m a 28 year old technical communications student going to graduate school exclusively online but all I can seem to do is bash technology.  I assure all of you, if going to school traditionally, face to face were a realistic option for me, you bet that’s what I’d be doing.  I don’t enjoy the online learning experience as much as others, but I also can’t fathom drawing my degree out over the course of several years.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’m desperate to be finished and doing it online in a year works best for my life.  So, do I particularly like online schooling?  No, not particularly.  Am I grateful for this particular mode of technology?  Yes, very particularly.

But, alas, I digress.  Go figure.

Let’s talk about David Clark and his approach to the rhetoric of technology.  Specifically, Clark discusses Twitter at length.  I remember the first time I learned about Twitter.  It was around 2010 and I was watching sports highlights or the news maybe at the bar where I worked at the time.  I remember seeing a Twitter username, or “handle”, and something like a status update along with a hashtag for something.  My friend Chris and I were puzzled, and talked about the fact that we had no idea what that was all about.  I kept asking people, “What’s the deal with the pound sign on everything these days?”  At the time, I was 22 years old, so I was out of touch back then, too.  Clark, later in the chapter, goes on to use Twitter and classical rhetoric in the same paragraph.  He begins with “classical rhetoric as a means to argue that the ancients saw technologies as arts in which the end was the civic good to be produced by the product, not the design and making of the product” )p. 93).  I take this to mean that, even according to the classic rhetors of ancient times, Twitter could certainly be considered among creating rhetoric and art.  Of course, I have a serious problem with this when you compare Twitter feeds among the great epics and poetry of good ol’ yesteryear, but then I tried to think about it in another way.

One thing I have noticed about Twitter that makes it really quite unique compared to anything else is the fact that it makes celebrities and public figures so much more accessible to the public, fans, and followers.  Never before has the general public been able to instantly know what was on the mind of their favorite actor, comedian, or even the president.  It’s a second-by-second update of the people we look up to the most.  It allows artists and fans to interact with one another as though they were “everyday” friends.  I’ve learned by listening to the radio that a lot of singers these days have “fan armies” that identify themselves as  being mega-fanatics of that celebrity (i.e. Justin Bieber’s “Beliebers,” Taylor Swift’s “Swifties,” and Beyonce’s “Beyhive” (yikes, y’all)).  When I was a kid, I just “really loved” Hanson and the Spice Girls.  There wasn’t a name for it.

That made me think.  Maybe to the younger generation, Twitter is going to be their classification of rhetoric.  In hundreds of years from now, I suppose anthropologists will be looking back at our history and seeing Twitter as how people were documenting their lives.  And perhaps in the future rhetoric and technology will be even more mind-numbing and pervasive than now.  I remember writing a fan letter to Jonathan Taylor Thomas in elementary school and I got a signed postcard back from him.  (Swoon).  Maybe getting a tweet back from your idol is today’s version of receiving mass-produced autographed fanmail.

twitter

References

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

Death Sentence?

I have to say reading through the beginning of Digital Literacy for Technical Communication was a little bit sobering for me as a technical communication student.  When I was researching graduate programs and schools, I found that the options were limited for what I was planning on doing.  I knew I wanted my Master’s degree in Communications, but was not interested in technical communication.  It just so happened the only graduate program available through any UW school that could be earned online is the MSTPC program at UW-Stout.  So I’m more or less incidentally a technical communication student.  But I suppose these days, communication is technical or digital regardless.  As Spilka points out, communication has evolved and “every aspect of our work has changed”. (2010, p. 7).

What was sobering for me during the reading was the realization that I am most definitely resisting becoming “digitally literate.”  As I’ve stated before, I’m not very keen on technology, computers, social networking, etc.  I’ve never been very technologically inclined and I tend to stay away from computers and other electronic devices except for when I’m at work.  And at work, I mostly use e-mail and the Microsoft Suite, so it’s very basic.  I have a smart phone that I use for texting, checking the weather, GPS, and scrolling through Pinterest when I’m bored.  That’s really the extent of it.  Right now I work at the Rock County Council on Aging and an elderly lady asked me last week to help her with her iPhone and I couldn’t!  I have never used one and I couldn’t figure out how to access her voicemail like she needed.  As technology has evolved, I’ve kept my head buried in the sand.  I figured if I avoided it, technology wouldn’t have an effect on my life.  Now I’m hoping that my ignorance doesn’t negatively affect my educational success.

Spilka mentions survival, evolving, and adapting or dying.  When did we take a right turn into The Hunger Games?  Spilka assures the audience that the purpose of the book is not to “alarm, scare, warn, or provide ultimatums” (p. 3) but I have to say it certainly felt like it.  Realizing how behind I am and how I fundamentally disagree with a lot that comes with the world of technology–the voyeurism of Facebook, the obsession created among children, the effect of blue screen on the body and mind–sort of makes me feel ill-equipped to take on the remainder of the MSTPC program.

At this point, I’m going to swallow my pride and look at digital literacy from an educational perspective rather than a personal one.  There is so much more to it than I had previously considered.  So much so that the experts are still trying to properly define it and agree on a single definition.  Heck, they’re still finding new terms to describe the practice itself (p. 7).  I’ve always approached technology with a place of disdain, but, like the book says, it might come down to “adapt or die”.  I’m still barely starting to create my professional self.  The last thing I want to do is “die professionally” before I even begin.

Reaching Too Far?

When I consider how far reaching social media has become, one experience particularly comes to mind.  As I’ve said in my introduction discussion post, I don’t personally have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.  I do have a Pinterest and definitely have a sweet spot for that app, but I don’t know that I consider Pinterest social networking.  I don’t use it to socialize, I just use it to “pin” recipes, inspiration, clothing, hair and makeup ideas, and girly and nerdy nonsense.  I would certainly survive without it, but I do check it a few times a day.

The experience which I reference in regards to technology and social media reaching “too far” was recently when I was job searching.  I didn’t have a LinkedIn account even though I had read that it was becoming more and more important to have one, I didn’t fully understand what LinkedIn was and wasn’t interested in finding out more about it.  But as I was applying to more jobs, it became more common for me to have to have a LinkedIn.  A lot of the jobs I was interested in had digital applications, and many of them had a section where the applicant was required to insert my LinkedIn URL.  It wasn’t until I started applying to those jobs that I was really interested in that I created an account.  I’m not sure how important LinkedIn really is, and I don’t know if I’ll ever actually use it professionally, but the dream job I just landed required the URL so I guess I’m glad I had it.

It’s been crossing my mind that getting a Facebook or an Instagram might be a good move for my new job.  It would be a great way to promote the fitness studios where I’ll work.  But I would be the biggest hypocrite in the world if I did that.  But there also might be a time where social media reaches even the biggest non-believers like me.  I haven’t made the decision yet.  It feels like walking the plank.

Almost First Blog Ever

This is (pretty much) the first blog I’ve ever written.  The only previous experience I have with writing blogs occurred long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away called…Senior Year German Class at Clinton High School in 2006.  My German teacher, Frau Peters, affectionately known as simply Frau, really wanted to set her students up for success and get us blogging as part of a year-long German 5 project (Deutsch Fünf Projekt) and as a way to express ourselves.  Naturally, we goofed around on the blog more than anything and had basically zero understanding as to what a blog even was.  I recall it being just another place for my classmates (some of my best friends) and I to be silly and tell inside jokes that Frau didn’t seem to ever catch.  For example, one of her favorite questions to ask us on Monday was, “Was hast du am Wochenende gemacht?” meaning, “What did you do this weekend?”  We were pretty good kids, don’t get me wrong, but our weekends were usually pretty colorful and we often responded with answers using code words.  For example, “Wir haben viel Limonada getrunken!” which means “We drank lots of lemonade!”  Oy.

The only other exposure I’ve had more recently to blogs has been when I’m looking for recipes and seem to get taken to all sorts of (mostly ladies’) blogs that go on FOREVER when I’m simply looking for the standard recipe:  ingredients and preparation.  Instead, I have to scroll past what feels like an incredible story and a lifetime of photos leading up to the turkey meatloaf the blogger prepared for her picky husband and children, but (to her delight!) they ate every last bite of the turkey loaf and (gasp!) they couldn’t even tell the difference!

I hope I don’t completely offend/bore/annoy people when it comes to my blog here this semester.  It was shocking to me to read so much about blogging and blog literacy on the course content of D2L–I never knew there were so many rules and so much speculation when it comes to blogging.  But I suppose like anything else there are protocol and analyses.

So here’s to a great semester of blogging and learning about emerging media.  I promise I’ll take this one more seriously than the one from German 5.