cjcoughlin

Month: January, 2014

MDW #3

As I was reading Zappen’s take on rhetoric, the first idea that popped into my head was my interpretation of written or verbal communication: this is an idea or belief I have, and here is how I express it. As a participant in this dialogue people are expected to ingest this information and question or confirm these beliefs. The passage below distills the relationship between two participants of a conversation and how they are expected to interact with one another:

“Dialogue is not simply a way of persuading others to accept our ideas, but a way of holding ourselves, and others, accountable for all of our thoughts, words, and actions. . . . Bakhtin’s dialogical rhetoric is not restricted to oral discourse, but is possible in any medium, including written, graphic, and digital.” – James Zappen

To examine how this view of dialogue and rhetoric applies to digital content, I chose to analyze an entertainment blog: Grantland.

Grantland_Home

Grantland is primarily a sports blog created by Bill Simmons, a writer for ESPN. Where the site differs from other sports blogs, however, is the approach of intertwining articles about sports with pop culture pieces, ranging from movie reviews to retrospectives of classic albums and interviews with entertainers.

In Chapter One of “Letting Go of the Words”, Janice Redish provides a summation of why we go to entertaining , non-informational or news related web sites in the first place:

We read social media messages, blog articles, news that interests us. We read to do. We read to learn. We read for fun.

This passage is what made me think of Grantland when brainstorming for a site to focus on. Grantland is what I would consider a “fun” website with a clear view of its content and audience.

I usually enjoy about half of new content on Grantland, but what I do fully appreciate is their approach to providing what I call “stacking” content in their articles. Due to Grantland being a relatively modestly staffed blog in the scheme of things, there is a cohesiveness to the writing that allows callbacks and asides to current and previously published articles that gives readers a good deal of information on a topic.

I chose to spotlight Grantland because this information “overload” is an example of what I consider effective writing and dialogue for the web, especially in the form of the footnotes they employ.  There is plenty of content, but you can grab only what you want and go.

Grantland_footnote

Before Grantland came about, I couldn’t name a site I last encountered that used footnotes in any meaningful way, but here they supplement the content without being essential reading. Also highlighted in the above screenshot is a link to a previous article by the author that provides background to the topic. By giving an additional stream of dialogue, the author can engage the reader past the superficial.

In Chapter Two, Redish reinforces the importance of the dialogue between creator and participant:

Your site = you = one side of the conversation. You have to know what you want that conversation to accomplish.

Your site visitor = the other side of the conversation. To have successful conversations with your site visitors, you must understand them and what they need and want.

Steering users towards information they need (or might not know they need) has gotten progressively easier using links. Links are plentiful on the site, most with the added benefit of accompanying images that allow readers to associate the information with visual stimulation as seen on the landing page above. Grantland takes advantage of a true multimedia blog format, leading users to targeted content that provides entertainment (and ad revenue). Writing for the web has evolved in such a way that linking to content both internal and external is natural and follows along a trail of information that leads readers to desired outcomes.

Many blogs today are effective at both written and non-written dialogue between author and reader, especially those that dispense news or educational content. Entertainment blogs are different because they are much more passive in their approach to how they present “useful” information or dialogue threads. Grantland was a slightly difficult example to analyze because of this, but I feel it illustrates a strong connection between author and reader. They present their side of the story and as a reader you have the power to agree or disagree; vote with your continued readership or find a new source of info. Dialogue has evolved along with the web and our forums for discussion are plentiful.

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MDW #2

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I consider myself a “reader”, but I’ve been having a bit of a crisis lately when it comes to the act of reading itself. I finish a chapter, or even an entire book, and as I set it aside I ask myself “What did I just read?” I sometimes couldn’t explain what I just read. There’s a breakdown between what I see and what my brain is processing, so when I started reading Nicholas Carr’s article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, I felt a sense of relief. Now I know I’m not the only one.

I was initially struck by the irony of an author bemoaning his inability to process lengthy reads in a multi-page article that spanned around thirty-six paragraphs, but as I read on, I realized it’s not the act of reading that we’re relying on: it’s the medium. I agree with Scott Karp, a colleague  of Carr, who pontificated on our altered thought patterns:

“What if I do all my reading on the web not so much because the way I read has changed, i.e. I’m just seeking convenience, but because the way I THINK has changed?”

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Carr argues that we’re just skimming content because our brains aren’t equipped to work at the speed of search engines, which are the underpinnings of the Internet.

In opposition to Carr’s article, Carl Knerr, in “No, Google, is not Making us Stupid”, claims that our brains haven’t rewired themselves. We’re simply finding the info using different methods and in turn, processing that info in new ways:

“Google, as the face of the Internet, is not looking to grow profit by changing the way you think. Instead, they charge a utilization fee (in the form of advertising) for plugging into their grid of knowledge.”

I’m not sure who I agree with more; I’m leaning towards Carr because the phenomenon he’s experiencing is something I’ve found myself grappling with while trying to process print media. I’m far from a technophobe, but it is a bit disconcerting to think about how information is processed by our brains, especially among younger people. Books aren’t dying, but popular culture’s interest in them sure is.

Reading the recommended articles and watching the videos for this assignment was a bit refreshing, as these are ideas and problems I’ve recently encountered. Eli Pariser’s TED talk about the danger of online “filter bubbles” brings to light an important distraction when viewing news:

“Yahoo News, the biggest news site on the Internet, is now personalized — different people get different things. Huffington Post, the Washington Post, the New York Times — all flirting with personalization in various ways. And this moves us very quickly toward a world in which the Internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see.”

Web culture has evolved to provide a myopic view of the world, centered around convenience and a desire to get granular amounts of information. The articles referenced above present ideas about how to digest that information and if it is affecting our ability process what we’re presented with, or in the case of Pariser, what we choose to present ourselves with. Taking these ideas into account, I can’t say for sure why we might be feeling dumber, but it might not be Google’s fault.

MDW #1

Hi, I’m Cody Coughlin and this is my blog for my DIG3153 and DIG3286 courses. I’m a new student in the Converged Communication program at FSCJ. I also work at the College as a Blackboard Administrator; additionally I’ve worked in the Information Technology department for around 10 years.

I received an Associate’s Degree in Fine Arts from FSCJ about 7 years ago. I’ve always been interested in the creative arts and my class selection usually gravitates towards anything in that world. I have years of experience in digital multimedia, but I know that there is always more to learn and am looking forward to broadening my horizons. I’m hoping the Converged Communication program will expand my options in my career and open new doors for me.

In my free time I enjoy reading, woodworking and spending time with my girlfriend and her dogs.

me