Class Favorites

When thinking back on the work of my classmates throughout the semester, Brittany’s piece titled “Is Google God or Satan” stands out to me for its quality of prose. I love the way she started off with the quote, “Without its search engine, and the other engines that have been built on its model, the Internet would have long ago become a Tower of Digital Babel” (156). She describes the uses of Google in our lives in such an efficient and relatable manner. I think it was a really unique idea to pose a question in the middle of it, asking if Google and all that it has to offer is a problem or if it is good to have. This allows the reader to take a quick break to think about the question and how it pertains to him or herself. I also thought it was a great idea to list many different components of what Google can do in brief sentences. This is followed by Carr’s thoughts on the matter, which Brittany then connects to her own feelings about Google. I think overall this piece does a great job of giving multiple perspectives on Google and connects them together in a unique way.

I really admire Molly’s concept in 60 video about UDance. This is a great example of a piece where the writer has moved far beyond just writing and has really taken advantage of all that she can do on screen. I think it was clever to start off the video by proposing the question, “Why do UDance?” and then flashing this question on screen again on the brightly colored chalk board where students had the opportunity to provide their reasons for participating. This is a great introduction for not only her video, but also for UDance for those that are not as familiar with it. Showing the clips of students dancing, donating their hair and posing for pictures with their Be Positive heroes makes the viewer feel as if they are experiencing the thrill of UDance themselves. I also found it really helpful while watching it that Molly added a voiceover where she explained all of these aspects of the event since there are so many people who are not very familiar with UDance. The video conveyed a lot of meaning and shows how special this event is to Molly. I think she did a great job editing the video and making it look professional, but also sharing a personal passion she has with the entire class and showing a little bit more of who she is other than just as a writer.

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My Profile

For my profile, I interviewed my friend Katie. She currently writes for The Review as a Senior Reporter. She hopes to hone her writing skills in this position and apply them beyond UD in her journalism career. My goal for this interview is to probe Katie about some topics we’ve been churning about, plus her writing and where she wants to go with it. I picked Katie to interview because she’s an open person and has experience with different types of writing. I find her tone in her pieces to be exciting enough to keep people interested, but not explosive enough to turn people off.

First things first, I ask her to tell me about the pieces she’s written so far. I wanted to see if they were mostly in one genre, and I found quite the opposite.

“So far it’s been pretty diverse. I have a column, I recently wrote a satire piece for them. I’ve covered a few events, and I’m going to localize a global story for my next piece. I just got published in Delaware Today. It was a sports piece, which is pretty new for me.”

When Katie talks about being on the job as a reporter, her face lights up. I think that is a testament to someone who has found their calling; she is able to adapt in her chosen profession to produce a variety of pieces.

Next I wanted to tackle something we’ve been discussing in class. Being cog in the wheel of journalism, she has a unique perspective on the field and where it’s going. I was looking to see if she’s more Carrful or Boydish by nature.

How do you feel about physical newspapers vs. online publishing? Do you think the internet is destroying the authenticity of reporting or is it a tool for better circulation?

            “I always love seeing my work in the physical newspaper when it comes out-” I can imagine there is an added element excitement to see your words printed in such a form utilized so much powerful writers who came before us. “it makes it feel a lot more real to me. Would it be weird to say I like the smell of them?” I appeased her on this query, but I’m more a book sniffer myself. “That said, I think it would be naïve to say that the internet is singularly destroying or helping newspapers…[it’s] more of a grey area. I think that with the public’s ability to post anything they want, people are wary of the media nowadays and trust the real newspapers much less. But I also think that the internet allows people who may not otherwise read a physical newspaper to get their hands on good journalism. The model is definitely [undergoing] a transition, so I’m excited to see where it will go.”

            We’ve talked a lot about the impression society has of the journalist in our Journalism class. Because of recent events in the news, it is hard for the average person to feel like their news source is as unbiased as possible. Like Katie said, it is hard for the public to trust the media especially newspapers. She touched on something here that we haven’t a lot in class, which is the influx of new readers that have come on the scene because of its availability online. She gives us a good example of this…

            “Students using their UD emails can get a huge discount on The New York Times online. Being a broke college student that I am, I probably couldn’t or wouldn’t shell out the money of a full physical description.” Good to know.

Finally, I asked her about her ultimate goal for her time at The Review. I was looking to see where she wants to go UD and beyond.

“I definitely want to continue to sharpen my skills and begin to write more long form stories, and I also think editing or taking some sort of leadership role would be cool. Long term my dream job would be to have someone pay me to travel and write about it. I’m not sure that job actually exists, but in a perfect world that’s what I would do.”

            To wrap up, I asked her if she had any advice for writing online pieces.

“Try to make it so that every paragraph you’re writing either says something interesting or alludes to something interesting you are going to say later. Each sentence a reader reads should make them want to read more. This keeps your reader on your article. Doing this without being click baity or gimmicky is difficult and requires you to be conscious of each sentence you’re writing, it’s relevance, and how it fits and flows with the piece. Also: don’t use interactive tools. Unless they’re adding something to the story, they can be straight up annoying.”

 

 

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.

The Endless Possibilities of Video

I was very excited to express my thoughts on a concept through video. My original thought about using video was that it would allow me to express my ideas more clearly. I also thought it would be easier for me to get across what I was trying to convey. For the most part, those predictions were true. However, with only having 60 seconds to get my point across, I found it slightly harder for me to explain what I wanted to say. When I’m writing responses, I have more flexibility with my words, and I feel like I can describe more. In the video, I had to extremely condense what I wanted to say in order to fit the allotted time. I had to learn how to exchange the words I would usually want to say with photos and video.

Working with video shed light on many different ways to express an idea and get a point across. For example, James’ video, “How to Properly Watch a Movie at Home” and in Nicole’s video, “Procrastination” both take advantage of acting and voiceover to convey a certain message and tone for their video. Both videos were more humorous, and without the voiceover and acting, I don’t think that would have come across. Writing a response makes it harder to incorporate humor, but it was much more detectable in their videos.

Another way I think video can be easier to use than writing was exemplified in Amanda’s video about sub-tweeting. She combined writing on paper with a voiceover to further explain her ideas. I think those two things did a really good job at supplementing each other. The words that Amanda wrote focused the viewer on a specific idea while the voiceover further explained her thinking. I think videos do a good job at filling the “between the lines” space that is often left open to interpretation in writing. In many of the videos I noticed that the ideas could easily be expressed in writing as well, but video added an extra layer of explanation that is impossible to achieve with just the written word.

After creating a 60-second video, I definitely have a lot more appreciation for the film majors out there. My brother happens to be a film major and I always thought that he had it so easy, but in reality, writing, shooting, and editing a video is a huge process. People who make films have to stylistically decide what ideas they want to be vocalized and what they want to be supplemented by images and video. Even in my short video, a lot of thought went into the visuals and in what ways I wanted them to speak for themselves. I then had to decide what I should say in words and when I should be saying them. Overall, this project opened my eyes to the effort that goes into creating an impact through video, and the possibilities of working with video.

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.

Choose Your Medium Wisely

We use language and communication to express ideas. When interacting with others, context of the interaction determines the medium and method of communication. When I meet someone for the first time in the flesh, I don’t write out a greeting on a piece of paper and then hand it to the confused and concerned looking recipient. So when I consider whether video or written text is more appropriate, I consider how the affordances and constraints of each impact my ability to communicate effectively.

In some situations, written text is clearly appropriate such as in a formal communication with a business colleague. Video is strictly necessary for television shows: reading the script would not be as effective as watching. So which aspects of these two mediums determine their value?

Time

Written correspondence allows the reader to absorb information by choice: the reader can choose which words to read and the pace to read them. Video forces reader attention more strictly than writing. If I don’t have the option to pause the video, I am forced to take in information at a set pace which I might find too fast or too slow. But even having control of the video cannot be enough. Amanda makes sure that each paper she shows in her video has enough screen time to be read. But video can sometimes convey information to rapidly causing confusion or too slowly, causing boredom. Writing can have this issue as well, but it is easier to slow or hasten our consumption of writing than it is for video.

Expression

Video impacts a greater number of senses as it is both visual and auditory. The nature of the visuals is also different as instead of imagining what a character in a story looks like, I can see them clearly on my screen. If I write the lyrics to a song I will have no idea what the cadence, pronunciation, background music, or feel of the song is. If I watch a music video, I can perfectly understand all of these aspects. Video can clearly establish tone to the audience whereas writing can be more subjective. James’ video simply wouldn’t work in a written format as he uses visual comedy that only video can convey his message effectively to the audience. Sure he could write out a step by step guide, but that wouldn’t have the same emotional impact on the audience as say a shot of him eating Pringles while holding a heap of snacks. Video can create deeper expression through greater sensory communication.

Specificity and Imagination

If I look at a video of the Grand Canyon with someone, I have shared that sight with them. If I read the same novel as someone else, it is more likely that we will have differing conceptions of characters’ appearances or the way events in the book unfolded. Imagination in the reader leads to differing understanding: what the writer meant may not always get to the reader. A ‘how to’ explanation in written form is less specific than a video in that it can be more widely interpreted. I can imagine the physical process of how to get dressed in the morning based on a written explanation. But when I watch Isabella’s video on how she chooses what to wear, I can see the exact process she is describing and my impact as the audience in changing or altering her message through my imagination lessens. Video often offers greater specificity of information while writing leads to deeper imaginative process.

Choosing the medium varies by context. Writing is more useful in some circumstances, while in other cases video is the superior modality. Understanding the technical limitations and affordances of each medium helps us to decide the best way to communicate effectively.

 

 

 

Carr Response

In his book, The Shallows, Nicholas Carr attempts to describe the cumulative impact of the changes in technology on the human brain. He gives a brief history of writing, there were carvings in stone, papyrus, and animal skins. Scrolls, and later books, were steps in making books easier and cheaper to travel with and make.  However, the writing was actually difficult to comprehend, being based on an oral tradition. The words were written without spaces and often out of order. Authors often had other people act as their scribes, writing things as they said them. It was easier to decipher these texts when reading them aloud. When the written word was modified, allowing for spaces between words and sentence structure, it became easier both for writers to write and readers to read. The act of writing and reading became more personal. Authors took on the task of writing themselves and felt more comfortable, as a result their works were better developed and more progressive than before. Readers were able to focus less on comprehending the text and more on experiencing it, building their own personal relationship with the text. Studies have shown that the activity in readers’ minds imitates what they read, so they are really experiencing what they read.

Carr has found that, with the introduction of the internet and the ability to just jump around from thing to thing, people have lost the ability to really immerse themselves in the text like they used to. They are no longer able to concentrate as long, they have been trained to skim texts. Even e-books are unable to recreate the experience. There are plans to take the e-book even further, adding links for readers to follow to articles and other things related to the text. Vooks are e-books with videos in them. These books have already begun being published and there are some that describe them as the next step for the novel. The ability to see a character, to access information that you aren’t sure about immediately. Carr thinks that this will only take away the personal aspect to both the writing and the reading process, where the writer in almost entirely influenced by outside interests and readers only read so they can say that they were involved.

I agree with Carr. I think that putting all of the extra things in books is only going to be a distraction for the reader. It will stunt both reader creativity and ability to focus. It may even stunt the writer, who will be forced to adapt to a new media. I honestly think that it would be too much, that no one would ever really finish a story or be able to build their own opinions.