Author Archives: oliver550

Emerging Media and the News

Given the recent news surrounding questionable deaths at the hands of the police in both Ferguson, MO and New York, NY, I chose to write my final about emerging medias impact on the way we receive our news.  Historically, it could have been days before the public was aware of the incidents, if it was reported at all.  I thought it was a worthy topic to explore and see if there were more benefits to breaking a socially important story than the negatives of having so many false rumors circulating before any evidence was released.

It was interesting to see find out that the news anchor, Walter Cronkite, was polled as the most trusted man in America at one time.  Today we view our news providers with a certain amount of distrust since most news received has a political spin on it one way or the other.

The most interesting fact I learned in my research proved a misconception I have held for the last few years.  I always thought that social media and the internet was a major source of news for most people.  On the contrary, over 60% of public still gets their news directly from dedicated news organizations.

Thank you to all my classmates and teacher.  Our class this semester was the most unique class I have ever taken, not to mention one of the most enjoyable.  Best of luck to everyone and I hope to see some of you next semester.


Special Agent Pigg

I had a tough time reading Pigg’s “Coordinating Constant Invention: Social media’s role in distributed work.”  Although I found the majority of her article to be convoluted and lacking conciseness, it was her observation of participants in a coffeehouse that I couldn’t look past.  I questioned everything from her description of the coffeehouse to the participants she used and how she chose them.  I will go through her process and ask the questions I had when reading Pigg’s article.

1-Pigg picked an independent coffeehouse, on major avenue, which links the university and government districts-

Q1-Where is this establishment?  Certainly people in Minnesota would have different habits from people in California which would have different habits from people in New York.  What season was it?  Again, this would dictate behaviors and which clientele frequented and stayed at this establishment. Why an independent coffeehouse?  Isn’t Starbucks the most prestigious coffeehouse?  Was the study looking for anti-establishments types that avoided chain restaurants?

2-Pigg observed for 6 weeks, 5 days a week, at varying times of the day-

Q2-Where these observation times random?  Did she do it in her spare time?  If she observed before work, after work, and sometimes on lunch or breaks, she would fail to see a true representation of people frequenting the coffeehouse.  Was there a systematic approach to observing the patrons?  Did she creep around and spy on people?  Did she sit in a corner?  Was she in the same spot every day or different spots at different times?  What happened when someone confronted the creepy lady that kept staring at people all the time?  Surely this would have altered people’s behavior.  The necessary explanation by Pigg to keep people from asking for her removal from the building would have changed their behavior.

3-Pigg selected four patrons that would be ideal case study participants-

Q3-How many did she select initially?  Did she select four and all four were willing to be part of the study?  Did she select ten and only four gave consent?  Were these people professional writers getting paid for their work?  Were they black, white, Asian, affluent, poor, single, or did they have kids?  Did they have an option to go to an office and chose to go to the coffeehouse instead?

4-Pigg videotaped the participants to see the interaction between the bodies and technologies-

Q4-Have you ever been in a coffeehouse and had to fart, pick your nose, scratch your wherever places, or just sit and space out for 15 minutes?  If you were being recorded, would you participate in any of the activities mentioned above?  Regarding the camera pointing at the computer/phone screen.  Would you visit a naughty site, sext a significant other, look at a racy email, post an inappropriate picture, or carry on an extremely personal Instant Messenger conversation knowing that it was all being recorded and you had signed your rights away?  Would you go out for five cigarettes an hour or spit your Copenhagen into a cup knowing you were being recorded?  It’s absurd to think that the recordings were a 100% truthful representations of the participant’s day.

These are just four small pieces that bothered me.  They may seem trivial and petty, but I think an honest answer to any of them could have far reaching implications for the study.  The lack of scientific methods in this study brings its credibility into question.  The basic point that I got from this article was that Pigg maintains that workers, technical writers in particular, are moving more towards non-conventional freelance roles.  In doing so, they use social media to create the conventional “office space” around them.  By using social media, they can essentially carry their office with them no matter where they choose to rest their laptop that day.  They use social media to replace the office chit chat, the exchange of ideas and suggestions, and the personal interaction that they all go without due to the writer’s ever changing locations.  I agree with her conclusions, but I don’t believe the study helped me get there.


I’ve Fallen and I’m Going to Tweet

When I read the article “Tweeting an Ethos” by Bowden, I couldn’t help but think of the early 1990’s Life Call commercial of the grandma laying on the floor of her bathroom.  While laying next to the tub, Mrs. Fletcher hits the button around her neck and the receiver by her phone turns on.  The guy at Life Call answers and asks what her emergency is, she says “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”.  Parodies, songs, and spoofs ensue and good times are had by all.  What if Mrs. Fletcher hit a button and a tweet went out?  Would this work?  Is it more or less effective than trying to yell to the voice box?

Regardless of Mrs. Fletcher’s options to make her emergency known, the topic of using social media during emergencies seems like a legitimate future.  If I think about what I currently have at my disposal to get updates on a severe weather event, there are only a few options.  There is the news, the emergency broadcast system on both TV and the radio, and there are the sirens outside.  If the power goes out, the TV is not an option, the radio is gone without a battery backup option, and the sirens warn, but carry no other information.  As long as your phone has batteries, and even if the power goes out, your vehicle can always charge the phone, you are linked to a stream of information.  The only problem would be how to sift through all of the information and get to what pertains to you.

In the article, they broke down different categories of tweets for Hurricane Irene.  The question I have is how would you get to the information that helped you most at the moment that you needed it.  Its nice to have road closures tweeted, but how many roads were closed?  I would guess more than a few.  Its wonderful to be able to donate or help out, but how would you know where to go (assuming it was time sensitive)?  Twitter and the tweeters may have already figured this out, but it would seem necessary to put something a little more specific than #hurricaneirene on your tweet.  For a midwest weather event, would it make sense to go by county, city, neighborhood, or could you break it down by street?  Are there enough people on Twitter to give an accurate and helpful account to all areas?





If I remember correctly, most people in this class don’t have twitter.  If your city tweeted weather events, road closures, or news that would impact the city’s citizens, would you be more apt to subscribe and set up a Twitter account?  If they used Facebook, would that make a difference?

A Rheingold Application

linked in

 The LinkedIn article by Maggiani and Marshall outlines a few ways to use the site to your benefit.  With over 300,000,000 profiles, it makes sense to utilize it for expanding your network or looking for new employment opportunities.  Although LinkedIn was associated with white collar users in its infancy, it is now being used by people from all economic and social classes.  A class on how to effectively use LinkedIn is even taught in Minnesota Workforce Centers around the state.  After thinking about the readings this semester, it struck me that LinkedIn may be a perfect place to put my new found Rheingold knowledge to use.

An article by Cheryl Connors in Forbes outlines a few interesting statistics LinkedIn has experienced in the last year:

1-41% of people now report 500+ connections, up from 30%in 2013

2-58% of people spend more than two hours a week on the site, up 10% from 2013

3-16% of people are in the maximum number or groups allowed (50)

4-Company page usage jumped from 24% to 57%

Full article:

Having just finished Rhenigold, I questioned how to use the knowledge that he presented.  Before I set out to topple a dictatorship, perhaps I should start with LinkedIn.  Although I have a LinkedIn profile, I only view it once every two weeks, don’t post updates, and am generally a lurker when my Facebook News Feed is stagnant.  When reading this article, there are definitely parallels from what Maggiani and Marshall have discussed and the concepts that Rheingold discussed.

Maggiani and Marshall: Connect with all STC colleagues and people you work with

Rheingold: Building a network

MM: Utilize 1st connections to connect with their 2nd and 3rd connections

R: Utilizing bridges to connect to other networks

MM: Updating your status often

R: Putting in the effort

MM: Ed helped steer connections away from a problem company

R: Adding value

Reading through the blogs, it seems most people would like to utilize the knowledge we have learned from Rheingold and some of us have even posed the question of where to start.  More than half the people I know would classify themselves as unemployed or underemployed.  Given that, it would seem that utilizing Rheingold’s concepts, while using LinkedIn, would be time well spent to experience some real world benefits.  It seems like a better place to start than over-throwing a government.

What’s The End Goal?

After reading through Rheingold’s book Net Smart, I have been many things.  I have been confused, I have been enlightened, I have had my ‘aha’ moments and I have even been inspired.  Closing in on the end of Chapter five, a disturbing question crept into my mind.  What is the goal?  Perhaps a question more to the point is-what should my goal be?

Rheingold has covered getting online, navigating information, how to participate and contribute online, creating social capital, gaining attention, and the inner workings of social networks.  What am I supposed to do with this?  Rheingold writes books and contributes to the online community for monetary compensation.  He may be helping the greater good by sharing (adding value), but in the end, he does it because it allows him to make a living.  Should I be blogging and tweeting in order to drive traffic to my blog in order to make a living?  In order to keep the scope of this blog focused, I will use an example situation.

I have a passion for land stewardship e.g. cultivating crops, timber stand improvement, wildlife habitat improvement, soil health, and native flora and fauna enrichment.  If I decide to blog about this topic, I will definitely be in the long tail…I have a feeling more towards the tip.  I understand the principles of developing relationships inside this community and creating social capital.  Am I doing something wrong by stopping there?  Would being a bridge within that community be enough?  Should I still be linked to and follow people in the tech world, politics, and the business world?  Would only investing in my passion erode my online health?

I could go on with a hundred questions along those lines.  The obvious answer would be “whatever makes you happy”, but I don’t think that is it.  Can the concepts laid out in the book be a guide to an overall more enriched life?  Is that the goal?  In the end, I understand the ideas presented in the book, but I am questioning the application.

Did this book change your idea of online navigation and interaction? Will it change the way you participate within online groups?  Most important, what will you do with the information that Rheingold has discussed?

Its Starting to Come Together

After reading the third chapter “Participation Power” in Rheingold’s book, I couldn’t help but post on a thought sequence I experienced during the reading.  Rheingold gave several different ways the use of emerging media has influenced society, but one sentence in particular resonated with me.  “The difference between seeing Twitter as a waste of time or a powerful new community amplifier depends entirely on how you look at it-and how you grasp it.” (p 141)  A knife can be used to cut up food and allow a cook to recombine them in a way that creates a wonderful meal.  That same knife in the hands of a trained warrior can be deadly.  Emerging media is a knife and in the hands of a trained user, it can be deadly.

Consider the example on page 111 where he talks about the youth using their Facebook organizing to overthrow the dictatorship in two weeks.  How many hundreds of millions of dollars have governments, including our own, spent trying to change regimes in the past?  How much time has been spent and how many lives have been lost to those endeavors?  Using Emerging media, the citizens toppled a government in two weeks.  Think about it, more powerful (effective) than the U.S. government.

Speaking of the U.S. government, the tidbit on page 125 that explained how bloggers could have possibly changed the 2004 election.  Both political parties were represented as liberal bloggers forced the cancellation of a documentary in favor of the republicans and conservative bloggers debunked information about Bush that led to Dan Rather being fired.  Dan Rather had been on CBS longer than I had been alive at the time of his departure.

The readings on digital literacy, social networking, blogging, and technical writing are all very informative individually, but collectively, they are a recipe for something bigger and more profound.  They are an instructional journey that could enable anyone with an internet connection to help change the world.  It may seem overdramatic, I too thought of emerging media as people “liking” posts on Facebook and “following” Ashton Kutcher on what zany nightclub he was at.  That is how I looked at emerging media.  I don’t know if it was an issue of how I grasped it, but perhaps that I failed to grasp it at all.

Rheingold described how to start organizing your lists to follow the right people, contribute useful content, and how to get in the groove, but I feel so behind.  There is no shame in being a cook and continuing to check statuses on Facebook and lurk for information in my favorite online forums.  However, I want to take my knife from the kitchen and teach myself how to be an emerging media warrior.

A Lighthouse in the Fog

Beyond Single Sourcing by William Hart-Davidson was a breath of fresh air for the topic of technical writers.  Whether you are thinking about a career in technical writing, wary of your current job safety, or bored because you are stuck updating product bulletins for a conglomerate, Davidson creates an outline for the future.  Granted theory is almost always shinier when it is discussed, the author lays out logical and plausible applications for expanding roles and responsibilities for technical communicators.

Davidson’s message stirred passion inside of me… my pupils dilated, my heart rate increased and my mind raced.  I love an “idea-person” and the author is just that.  In a world which can seem mostly cloudy, an economy that is only improving on TV, and a society where negativity is just easier, Davidson is the warm glow of a family room fireplace on a cold winter’s night.  He neatly displays his vision on Table 5.1 (p136) which he organized into three rows: text-making, creation and management of information, and design and management of workflows and production models.

The first row of text-making relates to creating an environment for a company’s information to thrive and grow.  The technical writer can create support processes such as templates, guidelines, and usability confirmation to help foster growth in the informational environment. The second row of the table describes how the technical writer is involved in the life cycle of the information.  They are responsible for the quality, accessibility, and the upkeep of the information’s environment.  The third row deals with how human interaction and the information’s environment coexist.  Having intimate knowledge of the information and its environment puts the technical writer in a unique position to refine work processes, improve workflow, and develop training materials.

Davidson has presented three intertwined objectives for identifying, developing, and managing a company’s information.  Each have a number of possible job titles attached to them and all of them relate to how a technical writer views, interprets, and creates information.  A growing question among companies in a “net profit era” is “what does a technical writer do?”.  Individually, that is a question each person must answer themselves.  However, Davidson offers a clear idea of what technical writers are capable of.  Personally, I would not consider myself a “glass half-full” or “glass-half empty” person, but rather a “the glass isn’t big enough” kind of guy… and Davidson fills me up.

A Rose by Any Other Name

After reading the first two chapters of Digital Literacy by Carliner and Dicks, I find myself thinking that their entire premise is flawed.  Each refers to a Technical Communicator as a job title and not a skill.  By doing this, they have contradicted themselves in their message or are at least naïve in their conclusions.

Carliner summarizes the impact of digital technology on technical communicators.  He explains how changing technology impacted technical communicators negatively and forced them to take on new job titles or alter how and what tools they used to complete their work.  He also alludes to the shrinking market for technical communicators.  I disagree.  The same technical communicator, by job title, may be someone such as a web designer.  Instead of constructing information bulletins for easier interpretation by the end user, they are constructing a website to enhance the end users experience during their visit.  He continues his negative outlook by stating “However, those who develop and produce content have been facing dwindling work opportunities.” (p44)  Just two pages earlier he contradicts this statement when he quotes Shank 2008 “e.g., the home page of newspapers changing every 15 minutes”. (p42)  Wouldn’t a website which changes content every 15 minutes create more opportunities?  I believe this would especially be true with a content provider that needs to be clear and concise with their information and would require a professional that was capable of executing this effectively.

Here is a perfect time to insert the argument that technical communicators document or convey scientific, engineering, or other technical information.  Surely you can’t document the changes in technology and how it impacts technical communicators over the last thirty years and assume that the definition of what a technical communicator is would remain static to the old industrial mindset.  Clearly a technical communicator is anyone who effectively addresses the arrangement, emphasis, clarity, conciseness, and tone (Kostelnick and Roberts) when presenting persuasive or instructional information.

Dicks goes on in the second chapter to go through changing business models and their negative effect on the job outlook for technical communicators.  Again, in the 1982 definition, he would be correct.  However, I reiterate my opinion that “technical communicator” is not just a job title, it is a skill.  The general contradiction I find in this chapter can be summarized by Dicks himself “… many communicators are seeing the nature of their work altered considerably.” (p75) I would argue that the communicators are the ones altering their work to fit their new environments.  On page 60, Dicks highlights the problem of value added for technical communicators.  Except for sales people’s production measured in dollars and a manufacturer’s production in units, how does any employee justify their value added?  Marketing, management (except for sales and manufacturing units), lab workers, IT, and engineers are all examples of employees that must adapt and evolve to show their value to a company.

If the two author’s purposes were to inform, they should have allowed the context of the technical communicator to evolve with the world in which they work.  If Dicks and Cauliner were trying to persuade, they did a poor job in my opinion and their work is more apt to gain a following in the next Yahoo article of five ways technical communicators jobs are changing.

Andrew Keen is not invited

While reading the debate on Web 2.0 between Andrew Keen and David Weindberger I became quite emotional.  I wanted to reach through the screen to shake some sense into Keen, I almost yelled at my computer, and I definitely shook my head at every Keen response.  I couldn’t help but see how my previous blog “power to the people” was reiterating his points albeit from the opposing point of view.  I maintain the opinion that the internet and the communication that it allows between people offers individuals and society a greater benefit than the previous model that restricted widely accessible information to “gate keepers”.

Keen believes that allowing anyone to comment on published information is a negative.  It allows anonymous users to post negative comments and clutter.  Don’t opposing viewpoints spur conversation that has the potential to lead to a greater understanding of the subject?  He states “the culture business is ugly.  It rewards talent and punishes those that don’t have it”.  He must be referring to Kim Kardashian.  Keen points to the fact that Gore and Reagan having the top two non fiction books on NY Times Best Seller list disproves opinions of the media being a left/right wing racket.  How can two books on a list even speak to that?  It would seem that the country is almost split 50/50 on their political affiliations.  Wouldn’t it also be reasonable to assume that both viewpoints be on the list?

My biggest problem was when Keen was referring to the top 6 blogs (I’m still shaking my head).  Does he honestly think that the same person that read the autobiography on Einstein couldn’t be the same person reading about their iPhone on a blog?  Given that technology is such a big part of our lives, wouldn’t an “intelligent” person also want to read about the products that are coming out, not just technology geeks?  He alludes to wanting his kids to read books from the non fiction list over blogs about how to kiss.  Isn’t having the option to read both non fiction and articles on miscellaneous knowledge better than only having the option to read one of them?  Andrew Keen argues for the old way we received our information because he was on the inside looking out.  Now he must produce a quality product that the masses want to read and he is unhappy about it.  I can only hope he has a social network where he can find like minded individuals to talk about the good old days.



Power to the people

What is the relationship between technical communication and social media?  Hmmm. Well, what is technical communication and who are technical communicators?  The Wikipedia definition of technical communication is “Individuals in a variety of contexts and with varied professional credentials engage in technical communication.”  To me, that would mean that journalists are the biggest group, followed by teachers, scientists, historians, lawyers and news anchors.   Wikipedia then goes on to say “ The Society for Technical Communication defines the field as any form of communication that focuses on technical or specialized topics, communicates specifically by using technology or provides instructions on how to do something.”  Wait a minute, that would mean that almost anybody could be a technical communicator?

In the not-so-distant past, a person looking for information on a specific topic would be limited to the library, newspaper, or in person communication to gain knowledge on that topic.  A person could also subscribe to any number of print publications specializing on the topic they were interested in.  Given the definition above, although anyone could be a technical communicator, only those given a voice could be heard on a grand scale.  This would limit technical communicators to the people with titles in certain professions that the publishers deemed worthy of voicing their work and/or opinion.

But, then the internet changed things.  Albeit slowly at first, the last decade experienced an explosion in emerging media and began to upset the balance, pull back the curtain, dethrone the information totalitarians. Today, we as “regular people”, have a voice.  Today, we all have the ability to be technical communicators.  I can’t help but ask myself if this is a positive development.  Do I really want Joe Blow invading my Facebook news feed?  Do I want the idiot next door to be able to reach a wide audience and preach about the benefits of not cutting your grass?  The answer is obviously “no”, but that is the wrong way to look at it.

Although the less than desirable viewpoints can now be broadcast beyond sewing circles, it also allows truly gifted and inspiring people access to the masses.  Even though the message from the article “Banal Bohemia:Blogging from the Ivory Tower Hot-Desk” was as follows, it made me think that the “professionals” can no longer recklessly or irresponsibly communicate without consequences. The professionals’ content is being pushed by newcomers, their accuracy is being scrutinized, and their topics are even being altered by the readers.  This change is a huge benefit for the average person.  Now, articles and publications are clearer, more concise, and more relevant than ever before.  This improved content is also being offered for free on a seemingly infinite number of platforms.  Society no longer is bound by the will and motivations of the few.  The power now belongs to the people.


I hate blogs… or do I?

Before I read the readings this week, my only exposure to blogs were two blogs “friends” were writing.  The first was a blog by a work and Facebook friend who had twins.  I read the first three entries and couldn’t care less about the two kids pooping or the two of them dressed the same and propped up in a staged pose to look cute.  The second was a blog by a friend who had moved to England due to her husbands job that is titled “Our crazy life”  The highlight of the first four blogs was her ranting and raving about their second grader not being enrolled in grade school and every school administrator that could help was on holiday.  A holiday, as she explained four different times, occurs when someone in England is on vacation.  YAWN.

As I worked my way through the readings, there were a few light bulbs and a few “I knew it” moments.  While reading Why We Blog, the author listed several different blogs.  Huffington Post, I read a couple of articles from that site on Facebook.  Some were good, most were not.  TMZ, I have that app on my ipad.  Who doesn’t love to check in on what the hollywood crazies are doing?  Mashable is a new app I just downloaded that gives me RSS feeds instantly without going to the websites.  I love that!  Perhaps I don’t hate blogs.

Just when I thought I had misjudged blogs, I came across Julia from Blogtrax in Academic Blogging as New Literacy.  “Although I am writing with a group of people in mind, I am always hoping for more like minded people to listen and join in”.  HA, I caught them.  Blogging is just people that want to get up on their virtual soapbox and develop an audience that agrees with them.  After patting myself on the back, I quickly thought about it further.  Like minded people, like when I Google “framing a corner” or “how to wire your basement” and it brings me to a DIY blog/forum?  Am I not searching for like minded people to share ideas and give feedback?  I have reluctantly retracted my previous stance of disdain for blogs and have reserved my judgement.  Perhaps I didn’t realize what falls under the blogging umbrella.  Perhaps there is a whole new world out there and I haven’t reached the end of the internet after all.