My Favorite

There are so many great writers in this class and each one has had a unique post for every assignment. I have enjoyed a lot of these pieces but I have been really struck by Mackenzie’s piece “Messages” from the Writing as Social Action assignment. Her topic here is one that most students are aware of as likely most students have heard Kirkbride Jesus preach at one point or another, and there are probably many of us who have also contributed to the online response to Mark at one point or another making her post extremely relatable. Her post here was extremely well written and I really liked how she introduced the topic with a very descriptive opening and a quote by Mark: “But in the heard of people moving to the same places, once you go under the overpass and can see Trabant, the calling begins. ‘God is watching you right now.’.”

Specifically, I thought her incorporation of quotes throughout her piece was very different from what other people posted about for this assignment. She focused her post on the general reaction from the populace and her own feelings about it, highlighting her involvement in the response with a few tweets. But she didn’t focus her entire piece around the tweets she had written, she only used them to emphasize her purpose and, to me, it had a very interesting effect that worked really well. And definitely, I thought her closing paragraph had some thoughtful insights. I tend to tune out the Kirkbride Jesus when I walk by while he’s there, but I never considered it to be similar to advertising from big name companies in a way: “Companies share messages too. We pass by them as consumers and can choose to listen and learn or can choose to pass by.” It’s interesting to think how they throw out messages about their products and even if no one responds directly, they are still getting their word out and perhaps, just like with Kirkbride Jesus, there is a response to it in an online community.

Cliff Kretkowski: A Profile in Forms of Writing

Cliff Kretkowski is a father of 3 boys, a salesman, pastor, and writer in his free time. More specifically, he is my dad and one of few people I actively follow and am intrigued by on social media that I can actually contact. His posts on Facebook are what I specifically dissect, as that is his primary form of social media communication. The subjects of the posts are varied, some dealing with music, others with prayer and religious concepts, and other areas of interest in my father’s life. I recently spoke with my dad over the phone and conducted a casual interview with him in regards to Cliff Kretkowski the writer. The purpose of our discussion was to identify the process through which Cliff creates his posts, and to see his thoughts on that writing as compared to the written word of literature, an area he has dabbled in throughout his adult life.

Who is the intended audience of your posts on Facebook, as based upon the videos and links you include it could be several different types of people.

Well that’s actually a really good question, because sometimes you’ll see if I see something about, ya know, Metallica, or something like that I’ll directly make the post out to you, but then the other day I posted that song about Nanny [Cliff’s mother] and made some comments, or then even the other day one about the Grateful Dead. Those, I think you see, are for a general audience, because it’s a sweeping kind of a comment or issue being made. I generally feel that’s how I post.

Whenever you post do you try to have some sort of media within the post, whether it be a video or a picture, or does it just kind of happen?

I think that’s the inspiration. You know, now that you say that I think I rarely post without an attachment. I don’t really ever just go ‘Hey, I’m having spaghetti for dinner’, I usually just hear a song or see something of interest and I’ll post that with a comment on it. It kinda broadens the picture, or the video, or the anecdote. The attachments branch my post out to the people who see it.

What is the difference in writing on the Internet as compared to writing for a book, in regards to when speaking on similar issues and different ones?

Now thinking back to your last question and reflecting on that, when I post something online it’s always commentary on something else. As a writer, or when I journal, it’s always about experiences in my life, not commenting on an anecdote or opinion of someone else.

Do you feel that’s in part due to the medium of conversational social media as compared to books, which have no interface?

Absolutely, When I put something on Facebook I want to share it and allow everyone to have their own reflections on it. But when I’m writing for a book I’m calculating, I’m writing thoughts, taking experiences, and formulating a comprehensive idea. I’m not necessarily sending out ideas when I’m on Facebook, so it’s very different to me.

Do you have a preference between the two?

I don’t prefer Facebook, because honestly don’t really think there’s a literary component to it aside from the actual act of writing. To me, it’s not a place to convey deep, significant thoughts, it’s more perfunctory. I don’t necessarily sit and ponder over what I’m writing online, I didn’t revise and research parts. To me it’s like having a conversation around the room just with a keyboard.

So would you not consider it then a ‘technical’ form of writing?

No, I don’t. And you’ve seen this, people will use the letter ‘u’ for ‘you’ on Facebook, so people aren’t even thinking of the full context of writing when on Facebook, and they don’t have to, I don’t judge that, it just doesn’t seem like something for someone involved in engaging writing.


Overall, my father uses Facebook quite often but doesn’t view it as an alternative or equal to his literary writing, just more so an outlet for thoughts and reflections t be shared amongst friends and family like text messaging. I conducted the interview with my father as I do whenever I call him, a very casual and conversational format. The interviews contents are quite interesting to me and a different perspective from most of the ideas that have been discussed throughout the English 397 course.

The Internet is a Dangerous Place

I found it interesting that there was a similar stance of technology as dangerous in all three books that we have read so far this semester. Each book has made a stance on the pulpit of technology and the pros and cons of these advances as they continue to develop and intertwine with our evolving society. But especially when it came to Ronson and Boyd since there was a hint of these authors leaning more towards pro technology only to outline some key dangers of it. Boyd implies it is a means of communication that we never had access to before. Ronson points out how it can give a voice to justice and gives power to people who would otherwise have no means of making themselves heard. In each case, however, there is an underlying concern of technology as a dangerous thing when mismanaged and misused.

Ronson and Boyd both seemed to have strong feelings of technology as a way of communication and interaction with people. In Boyd’s case, she emphasized this idea that younger generations have more restrictions when it comes to interacting with people out in society than what the older generations once had, there’s less available space for these kids to be themselves with other young people. Thus the incorporation of social media opens up a gateway for youth to interact with like-minded people, creating a new space for them to open up. However, this also opens the door to things such as cyber bullying, hackers and access to inappropriate content that would otherwise be unavailable to them and so on. Ronson too starts his book with the same ideals of technology as a beacon for something  good, like justice. He begins with an example of how his identity over twitter was stolen and used as an “infomorph” by a team of academics who only took it down after a barrage of internet shaming. Ronson illustrates how even if something is askew in the internet world, if someone misuses the channels of technology in a heinous way, it could be righted by the mass voice of the people. Here too, we see as the book progresses, there is an underside to this method of justice he once admired. Innocent lives were ruined forever by this mass voice, but whether the sentence was truly deserved or not, one thing was clear, there was no forgiveness or redemption for these people who were publicly shamed.

It can be said that any new advancement or step forward, no matter how well intended, can be misused and thus become a hazard. I think throughout these books, we see that despite how well intentioned the use of technology can be, there is always going to be someone to misuse it, creating a sense of danger in the online world entirely unique from ones in reality. Even if Ronson and Boyd want to point out and emphasize just how much good can come from technology, they cannot avoid the fact that there is so much bad tied along with it, and I think that, despite how positive the tone of these books may seem at first, it elicits a deep cynicism towards technology and how helpful it actually is.

Not So Different After All

Ronson describes in his book, So You’ve Been Publically Shamed, the downfalls of social media. Public shaming has seen a rise in recent times. In my opinion, Ronson takes the stance that social media has its positives but, at the same time, extreme negatives. Carr also views social media in a negative light in his book, The Shallows.  Ronson and Carr have many opposing ideas, but do show similarities in the fact that they both recognize the downfalls of social media.

Ronson and Carr agree on the fact that social media and technology are a powerful tool. Carr discusses in his book that with technology came a rewiring of our brains and loss of compassion. While I don’t think Ronson would agree with that technology rewired our brains, Ronson does agree that there is a lack of compassion on social media: “During the months that followed, it became routine. Everyday people, some with young children, were getting annihilated for tweeting some badly worded joke to their hundred or so followers”(Ronson 67). We have become desensitized to the vicious public shaming occurring on a daily basis. Ronson saw with his own eyes how quickly someone could be taken down by everyday people on social media, and the effect it has on that person. Social media can be too powerful. Carr shares that belief that social media is dangerous in many different ways. On the other hand, a major difference between Ronson and Carr is that Carr addresses technology more and how technological advances are causing this decrease in empathy. Ronson seems to believe that it has always been there.

Another major different between Ronson and Carr is that Carr believes technology is to blame for our problems with social media. I think that Carr is incorrect in this conclusion, and my thinking much closer aligns with boyd and Ronson. Boyd refutes Carr’s claims eloquently in her book, It’s Complicated. She and Ronson believe that people are to blame for our problems with social media rather than technology: “Blaming technology or assuming that conflict will disappear if technology usage is minimized is naïve”(boyd 152). Ronson shares similar thinking because he relates current public shaming to the public punishment of the past. Social media was not around during the times of public punishment, so people are the reason for these actions; not technology. Boyd and Ronson, on the surface, seem to be the most similar. However, I believe Ronson, boyd, and Carr all share a similar sense of cynicism toward human nature and society.


Affordances and Public Shaming on the Internet

When looking for connections or contrasts between Danah Boyd’s “It’s Complicated” and Ronson’s “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”, I found that the affordances of technology, specifically social media, Boyd describes enables the public internet shaming Ronson talks about. Boyd discusses four aspects of these affordances, which are “persistence: the durability of online expressions and content, visibility: the potential audience who can bear witness, spreadability,: the ease with which content can be shared and searchability: the ability to find content.” (Boyd 11).

These four contributing factors of affordance make it possible for us to shame one another on a larger public scale than ever before. Due to the durability of online expressions and content, people find trouble retracting statements they mistakenly make, because even when their presence is deleted, the tweet or post lives on. The visibility aspect of affordances is immense; millions of people have access to your personal social media platform with just a click. I also want to pause and raise the question: what does this mean for us as people? I can convey ideas about myself and life easily through social media, and none of them are reflections of my truest self. Can we access depictions of one another so easily that we’re numb to the actual human behind the screen? Completely.

The spreadability social media holds is immense, the websites we actively go on make it incredibly easy for us to “retweet” “share” and “like” things. So when one person finds another’s actions indisputable, and expresses so through social media, it is extremely easy for others to hop on without fully forming their own opinions. This is what enables such public shaming to take place.

All of these affordances contribute to the power of social media, but they not only enable public shaming, but through “liking” and “retweeting”, they almost encourage it.

It’s difficult to pick a Ronson quote that completely conveys the power of the internet, and in turn the ability it gives us to shame one another. The best way to connect to Boyd’s idea of affordances is when Ronson says, “On the Internet we have power in situations where we would otherwise be powerless.” (Ronson 123). It’s anxiety-inducing to think we hold access to the world in the palm of our hand, and I don’t find that to be an exaggeration. The public shaming Ronson describes in his book is the perfect depiction of it. You screw up once, and people will hold it against you forever. But technology is getting in the way of our basic human sympathies. I am not for racist remarks, or plagiarism, but I know people make mistakes and misjudgments. It’s how we grow and understand what’s acceptable and what’s not. Online bullying is a huge thing teenagers face today. It’s difficult to see adults participate just as easily, just because they can. 

Behind the Screen Bullies

Ronson and boyd dissect the same subject, but they take different approaches of doing so. They both focus on how technology affects and enhances the publicity of negatively treating others. Ronson discusses shaming and boyd discusses bullying. Bullying is a stepping stone on the way to shaming. As we discussed in class, bullying tends to be a more “private” form of harassment usually done by one specific person. Shaming is harassment done in a very public forum, and can be done by anyone with access to the situation – whether they know the person being shamed or not.

Ronson and boyd both explain how technology plays a major role in shaming and bullying. Shaming and bullying have been around for ages, as Ronson proves with a brief history anecdote, but are now becoming more public in a different light due to technology. The internet and social media have created numerous ways for shamers and bullies to harass people, and for others to join in on the bashing. Ronson highlights online shaming done to adults, but boyd proves online bullying happens with teens as well.
It is interesting to think about how technology has affected this issue – from the publicity of it to the amount of people participating in it. When I think about stories such as Justine Sacco’s, I wonder why so many people felt it was their job to publicly shame and harass her. Of course she tweeted an insensitive comment, but the lengths that people behind their screens went to to punish her is concerning. We all make mistakes, even though they may not be that public or extreme, so when did we decide to publicly humiliate and shame one another for those mistakes to this degree? Online shaming and bullying has gone from more than just attacking the person for their mistake. It turns into attacking their character and values, and destroying their life piece by piece. Most of the people Ronson highlighted lost their jobs due to the amount of public shaming they received. While I do not condone the mistakes of the people boyd and Ronson highlight, I also do not think that the level of bullying and shaming (or any of it for that matter) people have taken up are okay either. It is a complex issue with lots of layers; but, I think that Ronson and boyd have both written interesting and entertaining books that peel away at those layers in order to help us understand the connections between bullying and shaming and technology.

Screens or Pages

I have always cringed any time a teacher has asked for a video project in school. Taking videos of the things around me is entirely different from having to edit a video into a legitimate concept to present to an audience and it’s something that has always confused and terrified me. That being said, there are definitely some aspects about creating a film that made the goal of relaying my concept much easier than if I had been asked to simply write about it as video offers certain affordances that writing simply does not.

As anyone might guess, the ability to use visual and audio stimuli in videos can greatly enhance the quality of presenting a concept as well as the reception from the audience. When writing out a paper the only images you can use are through the descriptive language you put on the page, requiring the reader to imagine the concept being presented in front of them. This leaves room for all different kinds of interpretation, while when it comes to video, you can very clearly showcase and explain in your own words what you want to get across to the audience. This can be seen in several of the “How To” video’s such as with Alexandra’s “How to build a Cootie Catcher” or Jake and Sara’s “How to tip your waitress”. The simple style of going step by step through the process of the specific “How To” with a voice over explanation in the background really aids in the audience learning how to do what it is they are showing us to do.

There’s also a kind of connection between the creator of the film and the audience in these videos that is less prominent when reading their words on a page. In the videos by Ellie and Ashley, we never actually see the author but we can still hear their voice overlapping the images in front of us, and even though we cannot see them, there is still a part of them present in the film speaking directly to us. As a reader, we can only see the words the writer has left for us and try to decipher their own voice or intonations based off of what we read.

However, for video, there is this sense that it is not universally preferred as a medium for showcasing concepts and many people find it difficult to actually present their ideas this way. I noticed for this project that, despite how it takes less time to absorb the material out of watching a video than taking the time and energy to read a long article on the same material, it took me much longer to create the presentation for it. Certainly all of the Concept in 60 videos were well done and showcased their ideas nicely, I couldn’t help but hear how many people, myself included, had difficulty with the editing process, noticing how much simpler it would have been to just write it out instead of working with the online tools. Despite the fluidity that comes with a film presentation, there is twice the amount of effort behind even a 60 second video as there is with a written piece which can be daunting for future potential media users.

I also believe that when it comes to video, it is much easier to get distracted by other things. From a generation who tend to multitask and give only small bits of attention to any given piece, it’s easy to feel that because the text of the material is being verbally presented to us that there is no need to spend our whole attention on it. For example, when it comes to reading a book, most people will immerse themselves entirely to the contents, to be able to absorb all of the material it can require all of your attention. When it comes to watching videos online, some people may have several tabs open at once, merely listening to the audio of a video while scrolling through various other online mediums, thus missing any visual aids that accompany the concept and losing some of the meaning in it.

Overall, I think both methods of conveying ideas are entirely effective in their own ways, sometimes it may be more efficient to rely on visual and audio aids to get a point across, while other times it may be better to invite different interpretations to an idea.