Digital Rhetoric All Stars

As a class, we did a lot of writing this semester and, as a result, a lot of reading. I think that what I liked about working with groups is that we could get accustomed to people’s writing styles and recognize the distinct quality of certain writers. For example, I noticed that Amanda was always able to find connections between the text the class was reading and the real world. This is something that also shows in her posts to social media sites like facebook and twitter.

Jake is an extremely eloquent writer. I think one of the lines that best shows this is in his response to Ronson, titled “Plaintiff and Defendant.” It is near the end “If there is no plaintiff and defense, then there is only an executioner.” Throughout his response he emphasizes one of the ideas that Ronson presents, that the internet is allowing for condemnation without defense. He draws upon the backlash against United Airlines. I think the reason that this line stands out is because it sounds almost poetic but is still very powerful and really emphasizes his point.

I also liked a line from Molly’s post “Writing as a Social Action.” Its not a very poetic line, but to me it stood out because I relate to it. I think about it a lot when I’m on the computer. “I hope it’s a joke, but even if it is it is not funny, at all.” In this instance she is referring to an article published on Total Frat Move (this is a thing?) called “50 Ways To Be The Perfect College Girlfriend.” The thing about the internet is that I always (and I’m sure everyone else does) has to consider this many times. Is someone being serious or are they just trying to make a joke? Is there a context or an inside thing that we (an unintended audience) are missing out on? And I think that Molly’s one uncertain statement summed up a lot of Ronson’s book (in a different way than Jake), a lot of my experience on the internet, and why the internet is such a controversial place.

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Medusa: An Essay Made Video

 

For my Art History Class (Art History, Myth, and Religion) there was an assignment to write an essay comparing two pieces of artwork focused on one subject. I chose Medusa, mostly because I had about two minutes with a list of choices and her name was recognizable. Throughout the assignment I learned about the myths associated with Medusa and how it has changed throughout history, often impacted by the shifts in power and thought in the encompassing society. The changes in her myth impact how she was presented in artwork.

When doing research for the essay I found a lot of artwork dedicated to Medusa, some very old, some very modern. The thing was, there were a lot of pieces that I wanted to use. So this was sort of my way of satisfying that. I was able to use more artwork and visually draw emphasis to certain aspects of each piece. For the video I took some parts out of the essay (not my favorite parts, just the parts that were the best a summarizing the whole). I think I like it as a companion to the essay, not as much as a stand alone, mostly because I felt like I had to leave a lot out.

medusa

Writer Profile: Canela

Well, first things first: Check to make sure an app that you downloaded to record an interview works. While the first few minutes of dialogue came through, the recording ended sometime into the first question. Luckily, I took notes of things that Canela, online photographer, said during our talk.

Canela began putting photographs online when she was in high school. It was originally a school project. Students were given the assignment to create a website. Though putting them up online was an assignment, the act of photography was a personal act for Canela. She said that she took pictures in high school to “be cool,” but it was also important to her to remember things, especially the things that made her happy. Though it began as a class assignment, Canela spoke as if she did enjoy the experience. She spoke of the pride she felt, looking at the pictures that she had taken and the website she created.

She took a lot of pictures. To be put on her website, they had to be her favorites. There are two portfolios on the website, she points out that her favorites are in the first portfolio. These are of her sister Elena, her trip to Aruba, and a visit to a tattoo parlor, where she documents another girl getting a tattoo. The second portfolio has pictures of butterflies and flowers and of a biking marathon. She admits that a lot of the photos in the second portfolio were not as personal as those in the first, being more for completing the school assignment than anything else. There were a few questions about her particularly photographic style. For example, it was noticed that few of her photos are centered, many are off balance. Canela states that this was partially unintentional. Her sight proved to be a bit of an issue, it is possible that she had trouble focusing the camera (She says that she was “Blind” and didn’t have glasses). It was also something that she learned in photography class, don’t take a picture of something face on. Off balance creates this idea of things in motion.

On her website there was also the addition of music in the background. When asked why she made these selections, Canela comments that they were songs that she liked. Some of the photos she thought were a little dark and she wanted some happier songs to provide balance. There was also an About page, where she wrote a little about herself, her emotions and why she turned to photography. She also invites other people to give her feedback and share some aspects of themselves. When asked what sort of response she got, Canela comments that the only people to comment were those in her class.

It was noticed that Canela had not updated the site in some time. She claims that she still enjoys taking pictures and that she may one day consider making a new website.

No Online Presence

 

On my twitter account I posted a response to a Tweet by the National Crime Agency. The post consisted of an image, depicting children as 25% of the victims of human trafficking. In text there was an explanation of the image and a hotline to call to report suspicious activity. I tweeted about a web page that I found, released by the US Department of State, which provided 15 ways to help stop human trafficking.

There has been no response. No likes, no retweets.

I picked a topic that I care about. The problem is, I am not well informed. Recently here on the UD campus students were on the green, asking for people to sign their petition to stop human trafficking. There was a jar for collecting donations, but it was sort of pushed to the side and none of the participants mentioned it. The issue I had, walking away, was that I did not know what the petition was doing. I knew that it was against human trafficking, but what else? Was it in support to a bill? So, inspired by the class assignment, I decided to see what twitter had to offer.

There were some things I thought I did well, to get a response. I picked something that I was certain people cared about. I joined an already existing, and recent, conversation. However, looking back on it as I type, I can see some obvious problems. First, my tweet feels kind of rushed. While it’s obviously about human trafficking, it’s not well written or put together. It feels like I’m trying to cram a large topic in under 140 characters. Second, I didn’t use hashtags to show my connection to the conversation. I also did not provide a link to the US Department of State page. I don’t have a connection to the other people who retweeted or commented on the National Crime Agency’s tweet.

What I learned from this experience: not every tweet gets attention. Some things are overlooked, and probably should be. Some things instigate and demand a response, but for the most part it’s just people putting their thoughts out there. I’ve also realized that I’m not a very good digital writer. One of the main reasons for this is that I’m not very concise. I think that Facebook would have been a better platform for this assignment, because it would have given me less of a limit on words. Another thing that I learned is that social media platforms are places to find information on topics and how other people feel about them. Twitter is a good source for quick information, with the option to explore further through the use of links.

 

Human VS Technology: Who is the Menace

Jon Ronson makes the comment that social media is one of the least democratic courts that can prosecute someone. The people on display, on trial, often do not have the ability to defend themselves, because any attempt as explanation or defense is often met with more backlash and anger. No one wants to help defend a person, for fear that the violence and aggression might be diverted their way. The evidence of an infraction, something difficult to even define, is left public for anyone to see and join in on what Ronson questions might be a “Kangaroo court.”

Ronson of course does not ignore the merits of the internet and of the act of public shaming. He mentions the unemployed couple who was finally released from an L.A. Fitness membership because of public response. However, he seems to indicate that public shaming has shifted from people shaming big corporations who may otherwise escape judgement and the consequences of their actions to individuals online searching for someone to shame. This is shown explicitly (pun sort of intended) in the chapter “Journey to a Shame Free Paradise.” Here the private lives of various individuals was put on display, often times causing suicide. In the case of Max Mosley details of his dalliances were purposefully altered to produce scandal and public response. There are ideas that he explores about this inclination to ruin someone online, such as the power struggle producing cruelty. One thing that I’ve noticed is that he tries to find the balance between human impact on machine and machine impact on humans. He incorporates the human aspect to it, bringing back the common practice of public shaming as a legal punishment. However he also notes that things like twitter and Facebook have made it easier to effectively ruin people’s lives.

I thought that boyd was definitely more pro technology and the interactions that take place on the internet. To her it was not bullying that was taking place on the internet, but a debate. However, she had at the time been describing teenagers. What she wants to stress is the human aspect of activity online. People have always bullied and shamed, but the internet has made it more visible. She also stresses that the internet has become a scapegoat for these social issues. People will focus on the fact that cyberbullying was involved but often ignore other issues. She discusses this at length when she brings child predator online, explaining that youths who are susceptible to that sort of danger online are also the sort to be in danger in the physical world. These are neglected children, already in risk. It ignores social issues that were already present. She, also like Ronson, discusses the selectivity of what people give their attention to online. Ronson saw a comment about rape go entirely unnoticed because it was directed toward shaming someone who was already being shamed. Boyd tells the story of a girl who released a video about her life and how she was ready to kill herself. She had been requesting help, but the video only became viral after her death and used in arguments about the dangers of cyberbullying, ignoring other factors that contributed to her decision.

Carr and Ronson on Empathy

In his book The Shallows, Nicolas Carr expresses many concerns about the lasting impact of technology on the brains and resultant behavior of people. He describes a shortening attention span in response to interactions with new media and in many a change in work ethic. Author Hawthorne was able to enjoy peaceful contemplation in a field until the roaring sound of a train interrupted it. While for Hawthorne it was the sound of a train, for people today it is the constant alerts and feedback from the technological tools that they seek out and carry with them every day. According to Carr, this does not just impact attention to work and information. It also makes it harder for people to feel empathy.  He discusses and experiment performed by Antonio Demasio, the head of USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute. They found that the constant distractions are making it harder to give the adequate amount of attention to feel empathy. He quotes Mary Helen Immordino Yang, who believed that people weren’t  taking enough time to reflect and consider the position of others.

Jon Ronson, in his book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, focuses on the behavior of people, their actions online and how they impact others. He discusses, in depth, different cases of people taking action against a corporation or a person. In cases like the LA Fitness not canceling an unemployed couple’s membership, people paid attention and put forward enough effort to get the gym to cancel it. However, he also expresses distress regarding how people respond to things on the internet, bringing up cases like Justine Sacco and Hank and Adria, whose lives were greatly changed from being shamed online. Ronson asked the question “Has Twitter become a kangaroo court?” Someone responded that “Twitter still can’t impose real sentences” (p.56). The way he looks at cases shows that people can impose real sentences that have huge impacts on the lives of others. He brings up a young woman named Mercedes who uses the internet to speak out against injustices she sees. One example that I think relates to Carr is a young boy who was posting videos of himself abusing his cat. Mercedes and people like her were able to get the cat away from the boy, but did not look into why he might have been acting this way, like maybe he was experiencing his own abuse. Those involved in the shaming are even able to say things that otherwise would be unacceptable, for example threatening rape. It seems to me that Ronson is showing that people often react too quickly and make assumptions about things they see online, and the way that they can take it and frame it has a lasting impact on people’s lives without giving them a chance to defend themselves as they would in court. People are willing to give attention to things, but maybe it has less to do with empathy and more with wanting to be a part of the group.

Videos And Writing

When thinking about what is the more effective medium, written text or video, I think about two things. One, which is the easier platform for the creator to work with and two, which platform is more easily absorbed by the audience. Honestly, it probably depends on what the producer of the media intends to accomplish. I think the videos that the class made showed that videos are useful in ways that text is not. One thing that I noticed from the videos is that the use of video allowed for examples and descriptions. People were able to narrate ideas or concepts or events while showing what they are talking about. One example from our class videos is “Art” by Ashley. She was able to talk about how creating art made her feel while making a piece of art work in video. It allowed the viewer to see her process and an example of her artwork while listening to her. Another example is “Why Do You UDance?” She is able to describe her experience as well and show the viewer what is going on, a process that may get be difficult to describe and get bogged down by words if a person tries to write it. Some things are easier to follow when they are shown in video. The humor in “Procrastination” might have been lessened if in written form. People might also find it easier to follow instructions, like in how to videos which show people how to do things, than reading it. “How to properly watch a movie at home,” is an example of that.

Written text has its benefits as well. The writer is still able to make descriptions, and often these are more personal because the reader is able to fill in the spot in their minds. Another thing is that the reader has the ability to go at their own pace, stopping and starting whenever they wish. Videos can often be paused or rewound, but that can get tiring. People can also highlight things when their reading.

There were some videos that made use of written text. For example, Amanda’s “Subtweeting” and Brittany’s “Geotag.” Both had parts of the words they said shown written down. I thought that this was interesting, because it was a combination of mediums. Peter’s “Filthy Frank” video was also a combination of video and text, but without the use of narration.