Category Archives: Creative
The internet connects us through unmeasurable hyperlinks, thus leading it to be known as the World Wide Web. The World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 in hopes of creating a global network for referencing and sharing information. This is how Howard Rheingold (2012), author, professor, and proud shoe painter, begins the second half of his book, Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. Rheingold focuses on collaboration, community, and networks both in the digital and real-world realms. He reflects on conversations he’s engaged in with other similarly focused professionals and personal experiences as they relate to communities and networks. Infinite numbers of ideas, opinions, recipes, photos, videos, how-to’s, and art get linked around the web in a practice we know as ‘sharing’. Forget the New York minute, honey, sharing is happening in a cyber-minute and it’s modern communication lightning. Sharing happens so frequently that in 2019 (a simpler time) global online users sent over 41.6 million mobile messages. Many of these were, I’m sure, simple communications, but they also included an abundance of link-sharing. The act of sharing information is why we have the worldwide “web” and the infinite number of communities and networks entangled within. Sharing is not just something one can perform online, it is truly engrained into our cultural practice of the internet. Rheingold’s (2012) chapter 5 discusses sharing at length, but he states early on, “entire communities exist for the purpose of sharing and organization” (p. 22).
DeviantArt was created to share and organize art between artists. A Web 2.0 darling, DeviantArt was a community embracing collaboration and inclusivity until a simple platform switch encouraging sharing changed everything. Dan Perkel, now director of global design company Ideo, spent three years doing fieldwork on DeviantArt. Perkel’s work would inevitably become a piece for firstmonday.org entitled Share wars: Sharing, theft, and the everyday production of Web 2.0 on DeviantArt. Amid Perkel’s fieldwork, August of 2009, DeviantArt’s platform added new “Share Tools”. The tools were a result of application programming interfaces (APIs) ability to share DeviantArt content directly into other platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit.
In the days following the launch of the new Share Tools, conflict erupted across the DeviantArt network. The primary issue was the loss of control for community artists. Shortly after the tool’s incorporation, community members’ original work began showing up on other websites as banners and button or as other artists own “work”. Of course, most damaging of all was community members original artwork appearing for sale on other websites. This underside of sharing, the inspiration for Tim Berners-Lee’s vision, has a very real and impactful effect on both independent artists and brands.
The story of Tuesday Bassen versus Spanish apparel retailer Zara was featured in the podcast Articles of Interest, #8 Knockoffs. Articles of Interest is a “limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible.” As a quick side note, I highly recommend 99% Invisible, created and hosted by Roman Mars. It deep dives into design features present all around us, things we engage with or see every day, but never knew the full story behind them. I digress. Tuesday Bassen is an illustrator and entrepreneur who sells her unique, pop-art sketches in the form of prints, pins, t-shirts, and most notably her satin jackets which feature saying like “Hail Satan” and “Mixed Emotions Club”.
Tuesday is made aware from others on social media that Zara seems to be copying her original work. Initially, she’s scared to go after the giant retailer – which is understandable. Just like Dan Perkel’s experiences with his field study of DeviantArt, independent artists are not prepared for legal battles, nor do they want to participate in them. Who would? Yet, Tuesday Bassen decided for the love of her brand, she would play David against the Goliath, Zara. Bassen eventually wins a settlement, only to shortly after find items similar to her originals on Zara and many other sites.
Music and video theft, as discussed by Rheingold (2012) came with heavy legality, copyrighting, and ultimately streaming serves which aided acts of piracy. Similar movements for artists online exist but don’t have the backing of the film and music industry. A growing trend in stock art websites allows anyone to purchase or obtain both knock-off and original art, videos, and stock photos. Sites like pexels.com, flaticon.com, and unsplash.com are useful resources – especially when I’m designing a website and my client doesn’t have photography in the budget. However, I’m certain their services are hurting independent artists. Technology combined with sharing within both communities and networks is a beautiful, progressive process. Technological expediency within art communities, however, may be providing shortcomings and downright theft for many.
As video usage and video views continue to grow, so does the importance of making video a key part of digital design. A Forbes headline from June reads “Video Marketing in 2018 Continues to Explode.” Consider this statistic from the article: more than 500 million hours of videos are watched daily on YouTube. In a 2018 survey that Hubspot conducted, 81% of businesses reported using video as a marketing tool, which is up 18% from last year’s survey.
Video Placement Guidelines
Despite the increased profile of videos, many people still place them at the bottom of emails, hide them in links, or forget about them altogether. A 2015 article by Stjepan Alaupovic for OnlineVideo.net has some practical guidelines for the placement of video on websites:
- Use a simple video player that viewers are used to seeing such as YouTube or Vimeo with a video play button to provide a visual cue to users.
- Place videos above the fold (in the top part of the screen) and in a prominent spot so that viewers see them easily.
- Enhance search engine optimization (SEO) with good metadata including a description that includes the word video and a verbatim transcription.
Recently, my own firm was redesigning our website. When the plan for the site was presented at a meeting, video was not part of it. Not only is video a product of most agencies today, it is essential for capturing an audience’s attention and presenting information in today’s digital environment.
Video Gallery or Library
In Chapter 4 of Digital Literacy for Technical Communication on information design, Michael J. Salvo and Paula Rosinski discuss the need for technical communicators to consider “findability” of documents and information. Today, users want to be able to find information in many formats including video. Websites should have a video gallery or library that is linked in a tab, card, or area of the homepage that is easy to see. Videos should be organized by category and playlists. Descriptive thumbnail images are useful, too.
Many organizations spend time, effort, and money producing videos, but they fail to consider where the video will be placed online, how it will be seen, and why users will view it. I recommend starting any video project by completing a video creative brief that lists a series of questions that should be considered. One of the most important questions to answer is “where will this video live online?” Below, you’ll find an example of a video creative brief.
Ever since I joined the MSTPC program, I have noticed a repeated theme throughout technical and professional communication literature. Technical communication often doesn’t seem to know what it is, what it does, or why it matters. I have read many research papers that seem insecure about the profession and try to pinpoint what technical communication is and who it is for. Notable technical writers like Tom Johnson have even tackled this issue in posts like “Why is there a divide between academics and practitioners and tech comm?”. In my Theory and Research class, I wrote my final essay about why researchers seem to explore the identity of the technical writer more so than other professions. I understand all professions do research about about their own field, but technical communication is one of the first fields I’ve run into that seems unsure of itself.
I saw some of these themes of identity in Blythe, Lauer, and Curran’s article “Professional and Technical Communication in a Web 2.0 World.” However, these authors seemed more sure about what technical communicators do and seem to be okay with the fact that technical writers are a diverse bunch with a wide skill set. They focus less on “What is a technical writer?” and instead, “What does a technical communicator do?” I particularly enjoyed and agreed with this quote from the piece, “In other words it is not enough in a Web 2.0 world to ONLY write effectively, you must branch out and be a master of many skills and tools.” Blythe, Lauer, and Curran explore these many skillsets and tools throughout the paper and it inspired me to create my own list of common writing tasks and tools I use in my day-to-day job as a technical content writer:
|Most often used types of writing||Most often Used Tools|
|1. White Papers||1. Google Drive (Doc, Excel, Slides)|
|2. Case Studies||2. Sketch|
|3. Blog / Syndicated Content||3. Slack / Email|
|4. Website / Landing Pages||4. UX Research tools like Ethnio|
|5. Blog / Syndicated Content||5. HubSpot|
|6. Press Releases||6. Asana|
|7. Advertising||7. WordPress|
|8. Strategy / Planning / Internal Sales documents||8. Survey Tools|
Most Often Used Types of Writing
I decided to create two different list of my writing tasks / tools to show the multifacetedness of technical writing. For instance, many of my “most often used types of writing” involves doing more than just writing (especially the higher ranked types). To create a strong white paper or webpage requires knowing design skills, information management, and UX expertise. Sometimes, I spend more time designing white papers and case studies with design tools than I do actually writing. This often makes me feel more like a visual designer than a technical writer, but I would argue that you would need to know skills from both trades to make a compelling document that is exciting to read.
Case Study Design
I created this document above to explain how Jacuzzi is using my company’s platform to create a connected hot tub. One of the biggest challenges with case studies is they offer a lot of information and most clients don’t have time to read them. As such, I believe it is important to create a document that would excite clients and can be read quickly. For this case study, I create a document that is easily scannable with data visualization and short paragraphs, while adding visual interests with color contrasts and visuals. I had to use design tools like Sketch to make visuals that draw the reader’s attention and use information management skills to organize the information in a way that is compelling.
The Importance of Tools
In “Using Social Media for Collective Knowledge-Making,” Longo discusses how technical communicators must become masters of ICT technologies. I would add to that and say that technical communicators must master more than ICT tools nowadays, but also must become a master of design, information management, task management tools, and more. The number of tools required to be a become a proficient technical communicator is only increasing too. However, while mastering all of these tools is helpful and certainly increase career opportunities, I wouldn’t say a technical communicator must be an expert at all of them.
The Bottom Line
As a marketing technical writer, it makes sense why I see visuals and design tools as such an important element of being a technical communicator. However, a technical communicator who focuses on creating internal documentation may not need to know the same number of design tools as I do. They may prioritize other skillsets and tools that I may not even know about. And that’s the benefit of being a technical writer – there is so many different routes and paths to specialize in. These wide range of skillsets and purposes make it hard to define what a technical communicator is, but it is certainly not a weakness. It’s something we should celebrate more.
Content managers face the twin pressures of simultaneously reducing the total investment a company must make to produce content and increasing the quality, quantity, and sustainable value of that content. – William Hart Davidson
There it is, black and white, plain as day; the centerpiece of the modern business structure. We must create more with less while making our creations higher quality than those before them. Logically, it makes no sense. How can you create more things with less materials and resources?
Magic, of course.
Thankfully technical communicators are not only trained in various technical disciplines, but the Arcane Arts as well. Some of their specialties include time travel (yes, travel, not management) and The Impossible.
From the beginning, Hart-Davidson’s article struck a chord within me. Primarily, I liked that he got right down to the heart of the matter: the expectation to do more with less.
It boggles my mind that companies truly believe that this model works and that their employees are getting their degrees in magic on the side to keep up with the workflow. Newsflash: Everyone does not get a letter to Hogwarts. I would know since I’m still waiting.
I recently started a new job at a startup ecommerce web design company and I already feel the pressure of this expectation. I’m supposed to split my mind in three different ways simultaneously and accomplish several tasks at once. These tasks vary in nature and focus, but somehow I manage to get them all done. I just internally worry about the quality of my work, but not for long, because the fast pace always forces me to keep moving forward and not dwelling on what has already passed.
I don’t foresee this issue getting any better with time, but worse. I can understand the need to be competitive, but realistic expectations goals need to be set. Like I said before, not everyone was lucky enough to get their Hogwarts letters to study magic.
I nearly forgot that I needed to write one final post, which is why I am writing it now. : (
I chose to write my final paper about the impact emerging media and digital technologies have on the field of technical communication. I had originally wanted to write my paper on perceived privacy in the digital work, which was partially sparked by personal interest and partially because of the blog post I directed you all to a few weeks back. Unfortunately, that topic did not fit well with out course objectives, so I needed to go back and reconsider my topic. Thankfully that realization happened before I started writing my proposal and annotated bibliography.
I learned several things while writing my final paper. First. I really need to procrastinate less. I really should’ve started working on this paper a month ago. With a wife also in grad school, having a 15 month old little girl, and working full time, I really cannot afford to not plan ahead.
Second, 15-20 pages doesn’t seem like a lot, but it is more difficult to write that much when my usual writing is providing direction. Most of my work involves rewriting instructions to be as clear as possible and in as few words as possible. Aside from that, I really do very little writing anymore. Writers block set in several times, and I needed to step away to try to refocus.
Third, I really do enjoy the work that I do, and I take pride in it. I’ve really enjoyed the courses I have taken so far, and each semester seems to build on foundation laid by the previous semester. Also, I usually find textbook reading tedious, but I enjoyed our textbook selection from this semester, even though I frequently disagreed with Qualman.
Finally, while I did not fully enjoy the process of writing this final paper (entirely my own fault), I did enjoy the research portion. I read several articles and websites that were interesting, but unfortunately did not contain information that I could use in my paper. I also developed a new perspective on Spilka’s book, which I found to be a very valuable resource for my paper. I also found myself do the same sort of things I was writing about, such as checking my phone frequently, or randomly surfing the web when I should’ve been working. I was hoping someone would call or text me, but that was unlikely since my wife was at home.
From this course, I learned that I am a late adopter of new technology and that is a decision I am happy with. I feel relieved that I am not like the people that Turkle described in Always On. I still have the ability to unplug each day, despite being a salary employee. I am not expected to be available and working all the time, and my emails are not important or numerous enough for me to spend my own time keeping up with them.
I really enjoyed getting to know all of you this semester, and hopefully I will have more courses with you in the future. Have a great winter break and happy holidays!
Blogging has always been intriguing to me but, at the same time, has never been something I really felt comfortable doing. First and foremost, I never felt like I had anything interesting to write about. I have a very normal (sometimes very boring!) life with kids who rarely give us trouble and aren’t at that super cute stage where they are making major milestones on a regular basis. Those milestones takes much longer to appear now and blogging once a year didn’t make much sense. After all, isn’t that what the obnoxious braggy holiday cards are for? When I was working as a Realtor, I tried blogging as a “Subject Matter Expert”. Well, I learned pretty quickly that even after 10 years in the business, you will never feel completely like an expert so why in the world would anyone ever want to read what I had to say? And then, of course, is that obnoxious fear factor side to blogging. What if someone makes a comment on what I post and it ends up being a nasty comment? Real Estate brings enough toughness into the world, I didn’t need to introduce another source for potential nastiness!
So imagine my surprise when last semester I had Engl-700 Rhetorical Theory with Dr, Pignetti and found out we would be blogging on a weekly basis. I definitely had mixed emotions at first. A little bit of nervousness and also excitement. Sometimes we (well, I do for sure) have to be forced out of our comfort zone to do something that we found intriguing but never tried. Those first couple of posts were pretty torturous! To think that this blog wasn’t just the safety of the class members on the D2L discussion boards, it was a blog that anyone can find and comment on (that fear factor was screaming loud and clear!). And . . . that is exactly what happened to another classmates blog post. After the initial shock of the comment from the “outsider”, and several comments back and forth asking the commenter to have some blogging manners, my worst blogging fear had come and gone. To my surprise, the world didn’t end. And the blogging continued.
I still envy those who can just write about simple everyday things and make it sound so elegant and effortless. Blogging isn’t as much of a challenge for me as it was in the beginning but I don’t think I will ever master the “Art” of casual written conversation in the public sphere where posts from years before can come back and haunt you. I think I will leave that to my annual Christmas card letter.
The first blog I ever read was written by an old high school classmate of mine. She linked to it from her Facebook page and I thought, oh, Andrea’s writing a blog! That’s great! This might be something I want to do one day, so let’s see how hers looks.
Essentially, she wrote about her life as a stay-at-home mom. She shared stories a few times a month that talked about the frustrations and joys of raising a family. This may sound harsh, but I don’t think I even finished reading the first paragraph of the most recent post. Although I like this person very much, I really was not interested in reading about her trip to the grocery store with the kids or her husband’s issues with his boss. And it wasn’t that I didn’t care what she was up to, but to come back to a site repeatedly just to read about one person’s life does not appeal to me. I can get all that information in one place, for many people, on Facebook, and in much fewer words. Based on this first experience, I believed blogs were just cyber diaries and decided it wasn’t something I wanted to spend time on, including writing my own. No one cares (except maybe my mom or husband) what I think or do each day. Sorry, Andrea! Keep on blogging, but I’ll pass for now.
I began to appreciate blogs when I started reading one written by a local physician who is partial owner of the allergy company that I work for. His blogs were not only informative and scientific, but interesting, humorous and easy to read. They detailed different patient cases and clinical experiences he’s had over the past 30+ years of practicing medicine. The site is a bit of a ranting site, but I still find it enjoyable to read. I invite you to take a peek if you have a moment: www.renaissanceallergist.com. So, why did I decide this blog was worth reading? It’s relevant to my life and I get something out it: information that helps me with my work.
Another blog that I began reading was www.allergymoms.com. Written by a woman with kids that have bad food allergies, it’s more than just a daily diary of her life and dealing with her kids’ diseases. She interviews experts in the field on the latest and greatest allergy treatments, posts links to recent news in the allergy world as well as links to other websites and resources on managing allergies, shares recipes, products, etc. Like the doctor’s blog, this blog relevant to what I do for a living, but it’s also educational and helpful to others.
I also read blogs from time to time on http://www.huffingtonpost.com.
That pretty much summarizes my experience with reading blogs, but I can now add to my resume that I have experience WRITING a blog, courtesy of last semester with Dr. Pignetti. Like with the current class, we were required in ENGL 720 to blog each week to share our perspectives on the readings. I found the communal blog to be extremely beneficial as it encouraged conversation and provided a unique situation to learn from fellow classmates. This is similar to what Du and Wagner (2007) discuss in this week’s reading. They talked about blogs as “online learning logs” (p. 2.). Blogging, or even just posting regularly to D2L like with some of my other classes, is a form of collaborative constructivism, also described by Du and Wagner. With collaborative constructivism, “learning emerges through shared understandings of more than one learner and the construction of understanding builds upon interaction with others” (p. 6).
My husband also had the opportunity to blog for an English class he had two years ago. Although the purpose was primarily to improve writing skills through the use of a modern medium (to make it more fun and relevant), he found there was a good deal of communal learning taking place. Everyone would provide constructive feedback on grammar, spelling and writing structure which was great because it was a writing-focused class.
From cyber diaries to communal learning…quite the paradigm shift! I am glad to embrace it, however, and I look forward to expanding my views even further this semester.
To me, it seems a huge coincidence that one of this week’s topics is “trust.” As I wrote last week, my wife, Jody, found her grandpa’s missing Purple Heart, which he earned during World War I, on an internet site honoring soldiers who were wounded or killed in action. Jody wanted that medal back in the family, so she asked Mr. Maier, the man who runs the site To Honor Our Fallen, if she could buy it back.
According to Carina Paine Schofield and Adam N. Joinson’s paper “Privacy, Trust, and Disclosure Online,” “Trust is the willingness to be vulnerable, based on positive expectations about the actions of others.” My wife and I felt pretty vulnerable this week, but on Saturday, when I was in Michigan, I received a tearful call from my wife that she was holding her grandpa’s medal in her hand. It was back in the family.
Last Sunday, when Mr. Maier told us he would send the Purple Heart back to us if we covered his investment in the medal and research surrounding it, we were put in a tough position. Mr. Maier did not operate a store, he had no reputation as a seller, and we knew of no recourse if a transaction went badly. Should we trust him? If we did, were we being foolish?
Schofield and Joinson’s article identifies three dimensions of trust including “ability,” “integrity,” and “benevolence.” We weren’t really worried about his ability; shipping a package with delivery confirmation is easy enough.
Mr. Maier’s “benevolence” was a concern that needed some thought, though a week ago I wouldn’t have considered calling it that. According to Schofield and Joinson, benevolent companies and organizations look out for their customers’ best interests and do not exploit them. Jody researched average prices paid for Purple Hearts and found out Mr. Maier was actually asking less than what a lot of other people make in selling these medals. Considering the emotional attachment we had expressed for this family artifact, he could have asked for more money. But he didn’t, and we were starting to trust him because of his benevolence (and the research Jody did–trust doesn’t need to be blind).
Still, we wondered about Mr. Maier’s integrity–whether he would actually follow through and send us the medal after we paid him. In retrospect, it was his “benevolence” that helped us believe in his integrity. Since he wasn’t asking for as much money as other people were asking for these medals, maybe that indicated he would be fair with us and keep his end of the deal. Also, the nature of the website he ran showed benevolence; he was not collecting Purple Hearts as a for-profit venture. He was using them and the information he researched about the recipients to share online as a memorial to veterans. Didn’t we have to trust him?
Yes, actually, we did. If we didn’t trust Mr. Maier, there was no way the medal would be back in the family.
And the reality is that he trusted us, too. He trusted that my wife’s account of how her grandfather was wounded, her memories of the man, and the significance of the medal were sincere. He trusted that we wanted the Purple Heart, not so we could turn a profit with a different buyer, but because it had meaning to us.
So we all trusted. And even though we never met Mr. Maier or talked to him or saw a picture of him, I don’t think we are complete strangers. Through Jody’s emails to him, he was given a glimpse of some of what we value–history, connections to family, and remembering the sacrifices made by our elders. And through the work of his web site and traveling Purple Heart memorial, he shows us that we have a lot in common.
Do you remember this band from the 80’s? There’s no real relation between this and the article, “Privacy, Trust and Disclosure Online” by Schofield and Johnson. but they included the following quote, so I couldn’t resist:
At no time have privacy issues taken on greater significance than in recent years, as technological developments have led to the emvergence of an “information society” capable of gathering, storing and disseminating increasing amounts of data about individuals. (p.16)
The focus of the article is on personal privacy and all the various aspects of that, such as psychological, physical, and interactional (p. 14), but one area that really impacts us is organizational privacy. By that I mean, the ability of the employees of our customers to retrie ve and share information without exposing it to our other customers (their competitors). We would love to implement the kind of communication that social media provides, but our customers are very concerned about keeping their proprietary information away from their competitors. Even just letting other customers see the kinds of questions they are asking could give away some key competitive details.
It is hard enough to really understand the difference between your actual privacy and perceived privacy as an individual, but I think it is probably even harder for people to make decisions in this area when they are making them on behalf of their employer. This might be the single biggest obstacle to implementing social media in business to business (B2B) communication.
We are the Borg. Resistance as you know it is over. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own.
– The Borg
At work my employee computer ID is QA4268. If someone logs into our CMS and wants to search for something that I have created, they can’t use my name, they have to know that QA4268 is me–or that I’m QA4268. Hmmm . . . now that I think about it, that is a teeny bit disturbing, which brings me to the article, Beyond Ethical Frames of Technical Relations, by Steven Katz and Vicki Rhodes. In it they state, “Have you ever noticed how some systems or procedures at work–say, a time tracking system, registration process, or evaluation procedure–are more adapted to themselves, more focused on their own efficiency and operation, than on the human being who is the ostensible object or user?” (p. 235)
They even follow this quote up with a specific mention to most CMSs and how they are often guilty of this–the one where I work is no exception. The software has all the technical capability that we require and is capable of fully delivering on everything we ask of it, but in many ways it ignores the requirements and limitations of the people that need to use it. For example, almost all the information about how information is related to each other is presented in lists or tabular reports. While this does provide all the detail, people are visual beings that work best when they can visualize relationships. The CMS asks us to bend people to the machine rather than bending the machine to the people.
The problem, as Katz and Rhodes, describe it is that you can’t separate people and technology when defining processes, procedures and tools. More and more we are merging with our technology (both literally and figuratively) to become some sort of hybrid. Katz and Rhodes point to examples like automatic spell-checkers and Bluetooth headsets as examples (p. 240). The point, as I see it, is that we need to view the relationship between people and technology more holistically. When we say that we want to implement a CMS, we can’t just select a tool and then throw people at it. Instead of a CMS we should be implementing a CME (Content Management Ecosystem). To get the most out of these technical relations, we need to make sure that the technology complements our people and that our human skills fully exploit the capabilities of our technology.
Dear E745er of Fall 2012,
Yes, to me blogging feels like writing a letter/email to someone – at this point. As you can tell now, I don’t have any experience whatsoever with blogging, neither reading nor writing. However, I am familiar with the technical side of writing a post, creating a page, etc. (on wordpress at least) since I have an online portfolio there. But I don’t consider that to be a blog. So, let’s say, I am an absolute BB (Blogging Beginner).
However, after reading the works concerning blog literacy, it was just outpouring out of me, means, I wrote like 1000 words within a heartbeat, which I don’t even remember when that happened to me the last time. Normally, I really have to work for each 100 words I have to write. Anyways, in the following you just find my most important thoughts. But apparently something hit home.
To get started and acquainted to blogging, I would begin with reading others’ blogs. Alex Reid’s article provided a list of the top 25 blogs as of 2010. In the next week I will check some of those out and actually see for myself why they are considered to be so successful. Actually, I am wondering, how many of those would be still on that list today in our fast-paced time.
Blogging also is not like something been written in stone or even printed. I guess what I try to say is that a blog doesn’t necessary have the life span of a book or even a magazine, but it can. There are no parameters anymore about how long would a blog last.
Also, Alex Reid lets us remember in his definition of a blog that all the content published on the web, (even emails and chat) is stored on some servers somewhere in this world and can be reactivated in decades and centuries to come. Even though you might have wrote a blog for a specific audience, you can never be sure who your audience will be in the future, when they will read it and how they might interpret it. How can you be sure that your message will be understood the way you wanted it to be. But then again, Shakespeare comes to mind. Do you think he envisioned that centuries later his works are still being read?
Here’s another aspect of blogging: Since we don’t have to go through the hubs of finding a publisher and getting our works being edited, it seems everybody can write and publish – no education, no costs necessary. What I would like to ask the community of this blog (mmh, I guess I am adapting already to the ‘new’ medium), how do we find out about the credibility of the author? To answer this question myself: It is up to us. As always in life, we have to decide what to believe and whom to trust. My dad used to say, “Just because it is printed, doesn’t mean it is true”. That still applies. Just rephrase it a little. As professionals, as students in this program I consider us being lucky, since we have the education to distinguish between the different sources.
Does this sound all pretty negative, at least standoffish? Ok, let’s see, what are the good points? Because of the publishing format, a blog can be read, reviewed and commented on almost instantly. A real interaction with your audience is possible which is unique in my eyes. During my work, I always enjoyed working directly with customers, to see how they use the manuals produced for their specific needs. So this is definitely a plus. Also, I can reach people not only in my immediate physical setting, but also around the world. What is scary on one hand (not knowing who actually reads your blog) can be a real opportunity. You might reach people you thought you would have never access to. I guess, like always in life, it is all about the perspective on things. You can focus on the negatives or on the positives. Here is my promise: I will give my best to leave my fears behind, to actually overcome them and move forward into embracing the many facets of the digital age. But I know I will have to push myself.
I’m currently (informally) leading a team of people that reside in: England, Germany, Italy, China, Brazil, America, and Finland. None of the typical communication tools (email, webex, IM) could do what I needed them to do. So, I set up a SharePoint community site for the team that has a blog. I wanted to create a less formal environment for people to get comfortable with each other and loosen up.
The project that we’re working on requires people to be creative and take risks and that just doesn’t happen unless people feel safe. Sharing new ideas–especially in a corporate environment with many cultures–is scary. And, while all the corporate messages say that we need to be more innovative, we don’t really reward people for taking chances or slowing down to think about the future. I guess it is one thing to say you value creativity and another thing to demonstrate that.
It reminds me of the Ken Robinson TED video that Alex Reid referred to in his article, Why Blog? Searching for Writing on the Web. Robinson believes that while our schools are trying to maximize students’ potential, they are really killing creativity and valuing the wrong things.
I know that he is talking about schools, but I think it’s true in companies too. It is in mine. Maybe our schools have been so successful in quashing the creativity out of us that we can’t innovate to save our lives.
My hope was that blogging would help foster the right environment and rekindle that creativity, but I think I’m just doing it wrong. I want to keep it loose, but somehow my posts end up reading like legal disclaimers. I just don’t know what will fly. Blogs are informal, but companies are not. What is the right tone?
The two subjects for this week’s readings – ethics and privacy – are some of the most controversial issues that digitally literate people have to deal with. Both readings kind of gave me the creeps. I chose to focus on Katz & Rhodes.
I found this reading to be both interesting and frustrating. I disagree with many of their ideas about the ethical frames of technical relations.
I do not believe in the false frame. The Platonic belief that technology only an “imitation of Knowledge” (p. 233), is not entirely accurate. Technology is the result of knowledge. As such, I do believe that technology fits in the tool frame, “as mechanisms and systems to help their users meet their work goals” (p.234). I can even buy into the means-end frame because it makes sense that technology can be used for “production and profits” and “meeting technical requirements of the technology” (p. 234).
As for the autonomous frame: just no. Their questions, “Have you ever noticed how some systems…are more adapted to themselves, more focused on their own efficiency than on the human being who is the ostensible…user?” (p.234). That argument completely dismisses the role of agency and volition. It’s not the computers that are focused on their own efficiency: it is the people who programmed the computers. Taking agency out of the question renders the argument invalid.
Thought frame is less ridiculous. We do use machines as external extensions of our memories, like phones and PDAs. People, admittedly, even have machines within themselves (pacemakers, hearing aids). However, at my work at least, we do not “…refer to people, things, and actions with words like information, function, connection, transmission, input, output, processing, short-term and long-term memory, and noise in the system…” (p. 236). These terms aren’t exclusive to digital technology. Every one of them existed before the advent of computers. Applying them to a new paradigm is fine, but their logic doesn’t work.
The being frame is a result of the preceding frames. Since many of those are fallacious, the being frame doesn’t hold a lot of water for me. I do believe that people are depersonalized and are often treated as “standing reserve,” but that concept is not acknowledged, nor is it easily proven.
One of the parts that was most interesting to me, and not entirely preposterous, is their proposal that our relationships with machines may go from an “I-It” relationship to an “I-You” relationship, which means that at some point we may refer to machines as other sentient, self-aware beings. I can see that happening if machines become more autonomous and are programmed with beliefs. I do not see this happening in our lifetime. The technology might be there, but acceptance of it is doubtful.
Now for the fun part.
Background information: In my study of memes, I came across a team of folks (Autotune the News) who take daily news, autotune the speakers in the news clips, and set the fabricated “singing” to music.
They might be best known for setting to music the rant of Antoine Dodson, a citizen of Huntsville, Alabama, who was interviewed for a news story about someone breaking into his family’s apartment and attempting to assault his sister.
Autotune the news “songified” the incident:
The folks at Autotune the News have an app that lets you “songify” yourself. This week’s readings talked about how “humans and technology (often merged)” would have relationships with one another.
I decided to preempt this merging and created a song from a paragraph in our text. I read it into an iPad and here is the result. Yes, this is me “singing.” Lyrics are included if you want to sing along. Machine Me