Powering Up, Again

(Photo Credit: Bill O'Leary, Washington Post, 1/27/11

We begin again, after the storm and the power outages and the canceled class. Social media may be powerful, may effect certain kinds of changes (which is perhaps why the Egyptian government blocked access to social media websites as it has sought to control unrest in that country in recent days), but they can’t control the weather. Alas.

Tomorrow, we will play catch up. Our discussion will focus on the readings that were assigned for last Thursday as well as Aimée Morrison’s essay, “Blogs and Blogging: Text and Practice” (PDF on Blackboard). (Morrison’s essay is in this very useful anthology, by the way, which is electronically accessible through the University of Maryland library.) We will defer our discussion of Rebecca Blood’s The Weblog Handbook to Thursday. You should also be reading around in The Bygone Bureau’s “Best New Blogs of 2010” to help you decide what kind of blog you might like to study for the blog tracking assignment and to start sparking ideas for the blog you will design and build for this class.

In advance of class tomorrow, here are some questions I would like for you to reflect on. Be brave. Leave a comment here on the blog in response to one or more of the questions. It will help you prepare for class, and, besides, it’s never too soon to start learning in public. (Here again is that link to Grammar Girl’s advice on “How to Write a Great Blog Comment.”)

1. As we begin our work, do some reflecting on your use of and relationship to blogs and other social networking tools (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.). How passive or active is that relationship for you? How would you characterize your rate of use — light, medium, heavy, addicted? How would you characterize your technical skills? How, today, would you complete the following sentence? Blogs are . . . .

2. Take notes as you watch the video presentation by professors Richard E. Miller and Paul Hammond, “This Is How We Think: Learning in Public After the Paradigm Shift.” What do you see as the key terms and major ideas in the presentation? How do you imagine they might be relevant to the work we will be doing in this course? How has the transition from what they term a “print-centric paradigm for human communication” to a “network-centric paradigm for human communication” shifted the ways in which you read, write, and think?

3. Similarly, what do you see as the key terms and ideas of Jay Rosen’s “The People Formerly Known as the Audience?” Pay particular attention to his bullet points. Also, think about how Jeff Jarvis’ “First Law of Media,” which Rosen quotes, might be applied to what’s happening in Egypt: “Give the people control of media, they will use it. The corollary: Don’t give the people control of media, and you will lose. Whenever citizens can exercise control, they will.”

4. What did you learn about blogs and blogging that you didn’t know before by reading Aimée Morrison’s essay? What about the form or the practice of blogging do you find especially compelling? baffling? Why?

Have at it, bloggers! See you at 3:30 tomorrow, weather permitting.


15 Comments on “Powering Up, Again”

  1. Nathalie says:

    Facebook, Youtube, Tumblr, etc. These are the sites that we provide entirely too much information about ourselves to to be locked away and stored permanently somewhere. Yet it would seem we (myself included) are addicted. While I may not be the most fervent of bloggers or facebook stalkers, it is a prevalent aspect of my day in which i wedge out a good thirty minutes to check on who’s doing what, where, and with who. While I may not be the next steve jobs, I certainly feel that I can handle the computer problems that arise in day to day situations, and if not, there is always google.

    Today I would say blogs are working their way under our skin until we can no longer remember a time when they weren’t so prevalent.

  2. Kyle says:

    When it comes to social media, I am admittedly a junkie. Although my use of the ever-powerful Facebook has declined sharply over the past six months, my uses of other tools have grown. YouTube is not something I actively participate in (read: upload to) but obviously, there is hardly a day that goes by that I will not watch at least a video embedded from YouTube. I am also learning music-related sites Last.fm and Bandcamp, as these two sites are becoming more and more important now that MySpace is, as one blogger put it, “dying a slow and undignified death” within the music scene.
    My newest obsession, well maybe not new but still an obsession, is Twitter. I was reluctant at first, joining a little over a year ago, and let it go unused until an internship a year ago got me hooked on it. That, coupled with the extremely easy Twitter for Blackberry app and the fact that more and more of my friends are joining, makes Twitter my new go-to for wasting my time in the social media-osphere.
    Finally, right now I would write my sentence as such: Blogs are an integral part of my life. I follow no less than five blogs daily, and then there are many many more that I check upon occasionally. I run a (admittedly messy) blog myself, and at this point in my in internet-browsing career I couldn’t see myself without blogs.

  3. 1. Blogs are a very interesting medium of entertainment for me. I love the excitement from getting a new follower, because it’s one more person who thinks what you have to say is interesting.
    I am addicted to social networking sites , especially Twitter. I find it fascinating how fast information is spread by just a few people clicking the “retweet” button. Something interesting is always happening. Over time I’ve made it a point to write in full sentences both when blogging, and on social networking sites. This has really developed my typing skills.

  4. jrittenberg says:

    For me, blogs are essential. I have a strong passion for television/film that I am hoping to expand into a career. Opinions, news and having the most up-to-date industry information is imperative for understanding the entertainment world. Using blogs as well as organizing them through RSS feeds provides a way to simplify complex and large amounts of information. For example, each day TV ratings are posted from the previous night. However, there is not enough time in the day to go through every channel’s performance. But, the blogs that I read on a daily basis highlight the most notable events.

    Some of the blogs that I read are deadline.com, TVBythenumbers, TVLine, thefutoncritic.com and CableU. I also receive daily emails from Cynopsis Media as well as Mediaweek. In my current internship, part of my responsibility is to stay on top of the information that these blogs contain. In such a fast-paced environment there is no room for second place or to begin a project that is already in the works somewhere else.

    Moreover, something that makes these blogs extremely useful to me are the comments sections. By reading the comments, I can see how people react to certain news and their predictions of how a show or idea will pan out. This allows me to help formulate my own opinion and also sound informed when interacting with co-workers ;).

    I use facebook but not as much as I used to. I also have a twitter account but do not take advantage of it as much as I should. However, I intend to sit down one afternoon and figure out how it works.

  5. Sarah Greenberg says:

    “This is How We Think” and “The People Formerly Known as the Audience” deeply resonate with me because they explore the way human communication technology allows the general public reclaims its power and unite.

    I reaped immense insight from Miller and Hammond’s documentary, as they raised significant arguments about the shift from print-centric communication to network-centric communication. They also explore why and how my generation can contend with the fact the problems that face us are global ones. Network-centric human communication lends itself so well to solving these global issues because it is fundamentally collective, in that it allows us to discuss these problems with a wide range of people, and this technology can only survive if we work together.

    This argument speaks to the fact that although world issues are becoming more complex and mired in our respective moral/political views, this network-centered technology allows us to exchange ideas and gives us hope that we can overcome these problems. In Rosen’s article, he posits that that ordinary people outside of the capitalistic “old media” world are reclaiming their power as content generators and consumers. Blogging empowers us, as we have complete control of the content we produce and view. According to Rosen, this renders us a “more real” and “more skilled and able” group.

    Throughout the semester, 488B will emphasize our class as an audience. We will undoubtedly face challenges as novice and seasoned bloggers meet physically and virtually. However, because we are blogging together, we will have opportunities to constantly learn from each other by offering each other feedback, questioning each other in class and online, and offering helpful suggestions about how to improve our writing and design skills. This technology unites us and helps us overcome the struggles we will face, something that traditional media technology is unable to do.

  6. DayanaJanae says:

    I wouldn’t call myself a social media guru but I’m darn close. With a heavy PR track my life has become social media. I am constantly checking my Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin sites. While previously I was using for personal reasons I have now started to use them for business and networking. I wouldn’t say I’m addicted but my parents would argue otherwise. Me and my Blackberry are old chums and life without each other is just an unbearable thought.
    Blogs are… on the come up and are much more than a space to spill your sorrowful woes as many people believe.

  7. My technological skills would be described as average at best. I took a computer science class and ended up with a C because of my lack of understanding for fundamental computer functions such as HTML and Binary code. Although computer science was not my forte, I am a surprisingly competent Facebook user who uses this social networking phenomenon to avoid becoming a social faux pas. I hadn’t touched Twitter before the beginning of the semester until one of my professors urged the class to get one and keep up to date on class business, but since signing up for it, I am still trying to learn the basics. Before Facebook, I used a few social networking sites in middle and high school such as Xanga, LiveJournal and MySpace, none of which I updated on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. Facebook has become such a good tool for keeping up with old friends, new friends, current events, and social activity that it is difficult to not to want to be constantly up to date. With all of these advancements bringing Facebook right off of the computer screen, it can be detramental not to check it at least a few times a week to make sure you’re in the loop. I consider myself a medium to heavy user but have been trying to wean myself off in an attempt to live in the now but because of all the overlap in the digital world and real life, it is becoming increasingly difficult to stay away.

    Blogs are….a way for private thoughts to become public knowledge.

  8. ginamarie31 says:

    Blogs are.. unexpectedly addictive in my case. I was never interested in blogs until a year ago when I came across a video I really liked, which linked to the YouTuber’s blog. Now I read that blog everyday. I also use other social mediums like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Even still, I would characterize my usage as a 5 on a scale of 1-10, seeing as I do not write a blog myself and only check a few sites regularly. I’m also not a comment-leaver, but I am disappointed when my favorite blogger takes a few days off. Overall, my participation in social media might be considered actively passive(?), since I read more than I write and offer zero contributions.
    As for my technical abilities, I consider them to be mediocre. I understand the formats of most social media websites and can usually navigate my way; mindless surfing is how I accidently, and semi-reluctantly, discovered a few gems in the blogosphere. But my tech skills are in no way elite and I have lots to learn. Facebook and Twitter are my go-to sites, and I think the transitive versions of both help users become more adaptable to updated (or alternative) forms of social media.

  9. WillDanger says:

    In Richard E. Miller and Paul Hammond’s “This Is How We Think: Learning in Public After the Paradigm Shift,” I am most compelled by their idea that resourcefulness is the new paradigm on which writing rests. In a world where we are all supersaturated with information and extremely capable of gathering almost any information via a quick google search, knowledge is becoming increasingly passe, where writing is concerned. This is not to say that writing no longer needs to be informed, but rather that information is much easier to come by. When every article/blog post/essay contains (more or less) the proper degree of information (informedness?), good writers must separate themselves from the herd in the way they treat their information. Their creativity of language/argument or skill in filtering through information becomes what good writing depends on (not that this was necessarily untrue pre-blogging). Another way to frame the “resourcefulness” shift might be to say that in the age of google, anyone can answer a question. The really smart/creative ones are the ones who are capable of coming up with the right questions to ask.

    I do take slight issue with one minor point in their presentation, though. As a passing comment, they say something to the effect that blogging becomes a lost opportunity when it is used only as a tool for parody/satire. Though they are right to say that blogging has the potential to be many other things, I have a hard time identifying parody as a “lost opportunity,” necessarily. Parody seems a more than reasonable genre for blogging.


  10. mrthomps says:

    I consider myself to be a light user of social networking tools and blogs yet, somehow, I find myself on the internet for a ridiculous amount of time everyday. When I am using facebook or blogs, it’s usually as an observer/reader and not an active participant. But i think facebook can be an awesome tool and I would like to take advantage of it more this semester.

    Technically I have no concrete skills when it comes to internet functions or the like. I rely heavily on problem solving skills and helping hands.

    Blogs are… so diverse! i think you can find a blog about just about anything. No matter what you’re interested in there’s a blog out there that will make you laugh/cry/think/ etc.

  11. skturpie says:

    My two top blog/social networking sites are Livejournal and Facebook. I’ve never really considered Twitter, as the character limit isn’t appealing. I don’t often want to shout something to the entire world, but when I do, I want to have all the room I need to shout in. Once in a very great while I’ll get embroiled in a great debate (gay marriage and creationism were the last two) and I post micro-essays in somebody’s comments.

    I use Facebook mainly for daily life things, like commenting on my reaction to the power outage, or seeing other people’s reactions. I’ve met all but three of my Facebook friends face-to-face.

    I do not use Facebook apps. They’re evil datamining schemes.

    Livejournal’s different. I’ve never met most of the people I follow on lj, with the exceptions of one of my sisters (my other two siblings blog on Tumblr) and my best friend since kindergarten. Livejournal mainly connects me to my favorite fanfic writers and writer community activities like the little_details livejournal community, where people post questions about things they’re researching for fiction writing. Every now and then I have something useful to say there. This, and my best friend’s and sister’s blogs, are my more active Livejournal relationships. The fanfiction is more passive.

    I think I have very reasonable technical skills for someone not pursuing a degree in CS or IT. I can find my way around most GUI’s, and can manage simple HTML and can handle an FTP program. I’m the website manager for the Nerf Activity Society, although to be perfectly fair that has as much to do with my nagging skills and initiative as any technical prowess.

    Blogs are…whatever we want them to be. One of my sisters blogs about her daily life. The other sister does this rarely (although when she does it’s pretty entertaining)– she mostly reblogs things she sees elsewhere that she thinks are cool or funny or cute or touching. She’s 13. My brother writes poetry. Some people rant about politics, or write about feminism and television, or post fiction.

  12. samara69 says:

    Though I find myself inadvertently typing http://www.facebook.com into my dashboard window multiple times a day, I feel that my Facebook usage has slightly diminished over these past few years. While I still enjoy the random tagged picture, I generally only stay on Facebook for two minutes maximum.

    As far as Twitter is concerned, I am not a member of the elite club. Though I cannot say I do not chuckle at the occasional tweet from a Raven about an upcoming football game, I by and large think Twitter is an utter waste of time. Maybe I am not your average girl, but I just could not care less about where Kim Kardashian ate lunch last Tuesday, but I digress.

    YouTube, on the other hand, is an incredible website where I have wasted countless hours of my life watching fat people fall down stairs. I would consider myself heavily addicted to YouTube in addition to StumbleUpon, which is currently the greatest website for students like me who suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder.

    My technical skills are improving with the help of a computer science course I recently took. However, they could be further improved.

    Blogs are… a place where people have the freedom to express their ideas in a fashion that is unique and representative of them.

  13. jayspence says:

    Jarvis’ First Law of Media and Jay Rosen’s “The People Formerly Known as the Audience” discuss how media can be viewed as a deliberate source of power. I found that both authors made compelling arguments of how the current explosion of public access and application of media through the internet and technology advancements has enabled ordinary citizens of the world to finally harness that power. When Rosen referenced the word control in relation to media, he described how public media users are now able to post videos and blogs and explore issues that appeal to them. This is revolutionary compared to the decades of media companies forcing information they deemed important and/or interesting to their audiences. With this new technological frontier, the audience is able to create their own focus and force mainstream media to report more on what their readers want. Jarvis and Rosen are basically alerting old school media to sell their audience what they want, and if they don’t, well then the audience will just sell it themselves.

  14. themanrocks says:

    In my case I would be considered a very light user of social networking sites. The only one have is Facebook which I use to keep in contact with old friends that I rarely see. In that respect I believe that social networking sites are useful, I would even venture to say necessary for maintaining such contacts. As far as blogging goes I read technical/electronic blogs quite frequently. Blogs are a good source of information gathered into one place, making them convenient, and useful.

  15. joeymowa says:

    I have come to realize that within the last two years or so my use of new media – blogs, facebook, twitter, etc. – has skyrocketed. I’d like to think that I am not addicted, but with the development of smart phones and such, I can honestly say that it is becoming harder and harder to go a full day without interacting with new media in some way.

    My technical skills aren’t anything special, but I can use photoshop and am familiar with most blogging tools and the like. When it comes to the nitty gritty stuff, I can’t say I have much experience though.

    Blogs are…becoming an increasingly important tool to become informed and enjoy everyday life.

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