Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Better Understanding of "Open Sky"

In the third section of Open Sky, Paul Virilio discusses the ways in which technology effects our physical being and then wraps up the book with a deeper look into the technological arena that is changing the world as we know it. While I enjoyed the book as a whole and loved the way it pushed the envelope with its existentialism, I particularly enjoyed the mind-bending topic in the chapter "From Sexual Perversion to Sexual Diversion".

While it is clear to me that technology effects our personal lives in many ways, the ways in which it effects personal, loving relationships bother me the most. In a world where not many things are personal anymore, it is heartbreaking to me that the sense of communication, passion, and connection once shared by physically having to be in the same place as one another is lost with the addition of the internet, telephones, etc. Conversations that once centered around long discussions complete with emotion, expression, and reaction are now reduced to a break up over the phone, a text message to get asked on a date, and a Facebook chat to cancel plans. After this chapter in the book, I see now that technology is also effecting the more passionate and physical sides of relationships as well.

Virilio explains the popularity of such things as internet dating, pornography sites, and (at the extreme), forms of "remote-control masturbation". I was shocked to learn of the different technology that enables people to feel "pleasure" from a distance. In a world where people crave and desire things quickly and instantly, there is now even an option to experience the happiness and pleasure that once had to come from a warm body from world and miles away. After reading - and discussing aloud with my friends - this concept was still difficult to wrap my head around. After some thought, I feel I have taken the position of being somewhat fearful of what technology could do to our culture, our traditions, our feelings, and our emotions. For someone who mourns the loss of handwritten letters and long calls on the phone, the idea of reducing such beautiful human acts of passion to a mere visit to a website scares me. This idea of "telesexual interactivity" as Virilio calls it threatens the past, present, and future of our race by changing the fabric that holds us together - personal connectivity.

As Virilio ends the book, he sums up the pages and pages of discussion on how technology can touch and shape every part of our world. After this reading, I believe it is our job as technology and media consumers to question and fear the onslaught of speed and info and machines. It is our job to dissect our changing world rather than simply sitting back and allowing it to wash over and consume us.

What are the ways in which you can become more educated about the technological world around you? What ways do you think you hold on to the connectedness of the past and what technologies are you willing to gain at the loss of ourselves?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Diving Deeper: "Open Sky"

In continuing reading Paul Virilio's Open Sky, I have discovered more on his view on technology and the way it is shaping our world in more ways than you would think. The second portion of the book discusses many facets of technology but starts out with the idea of the way technology and new research would effect our bodies. In discussing "animates", or microscopic pieces of machinery that could be used to navigate the body and aid in disease recovery, he touches on the reduction in size of technology. The world, with all of its most recent advances, is taking a step back from other revolutions of size and space and is now focused on making all devices small and compact, increasing not only function but also efficiency.

Related to the downsize of technology, Virilio discusses our desire to "miniaturize the world", therefore creating an arena of life that knows no space or time because it is subject to internet, technology, and speedy communication. With this same idea, he questions whether a move to make all technology compact and instant actually improves us as humans or changes the very theories and concepts we live by. Advances like "animates" or other devices that can go inside the human body and improve them, or even make then better than they were biologically, begs the question of if we are trying too hard to blend technology with biology, as Virilio states.

With all of these ideas, he also discusses the ways in which our "life-size" world is in danger. If technology is not only advancing humans but also advancing travel and the idea of communication, then the real world that we live in no longer functions as it did. Virilio speaks to the gap that media creates in people making connections with each other that I often notice in my daily life. To me, it is sad to no longer receive hand written letters or enjoy a lengthy in person conversation. To me, it is impersonal to only receive text messages and emails as my main form of contact. While these methods are efficient and effective, I also wonder if we are in danger of losing ourselves to gain a world of technology that can supplement human contact.

Virilio goes on to discuss ideas of online dating, the small television screen making life speed up, and the future of super highways in France. While all the topics touched on are quite interesting and pose great questions, I can't help but think that the main concept to be taking away from his reading is how much technology will change us if we are willing to let it. By highlighting the ways it can effect us mentally, emotionally, physically, and psychologically, Virilio warns of the dangers that may accompany technology.

What dangers to you see technology creating in your life? Do you support the ways in which technology is changing and "improving" us? Why or why not?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Speaking in Legal Terms: Chapter 11

Chapter 11 of Writing for Digital Media by Brian Carroll deals with the legal issues and matters associated with the digital age and all things internet. When starting to create our own websites (as well as our blogs and anything else we publish onto the internet) it is important to be aware of what is legal and how to go our creating information properly. While the chapter covers many legal terms and issues- such as privacy laws, safeguarding, and spam- in the digital world we live in, I will focus on the important terms libel, slander, and defamation.

While we as bloggers just starting out probably wouldn't be worth a big company suing over a libel suit, it is still important for bloggers and writers on the internet to be cautious of the law. For material to be considered libel, it must be three things:

  • the material must be printed or published
  • it must be false or erroneous
  • and it must be defamatory 
While the digital age deals mostly with written defamation, slander, or spoken defamation, is also an issue in dealing with libel. The three aspects of libel warn against and make internet bloggers and writers aware of how dangerous it is to ruin or harm someone's reputation in their written work. Carroll states in the book that "allegations of libel are included in about three-fourths of all lawsuits filed against mass media". With such a large number of suits, it is easy to imagine cases of libel in many sources of printed material, such as blogs, headlines, letters, or even conversations in online chat rooms. While Carroll goes on to state that many of the libel cases are thrown out, this is an important issue to be aware of when writing on the internet. 

Many celebrities such as Tom Cruise and the Olsen twins have experienced libel cases.

Do you think libel cases are more frequent in the digital age? Why or why not? What methods will you take to ensure that you are not harming someone's reputation before you publish internet material?  

Monday, November 26, 2012

Diving Into "Open Sky"

Paul Virilio's book Open Sky radically addresses the evolving world of media and technology and how it is effecting our lives. While the content was slightly intimidating at first, once I finished the first of three parts in the book, I was better able to understand the interesting and innovative claims made about our information overwhelmed culture.

One of the first concepts that truly resonated with me was that of "generalized arrival", or that of an object or piece of information arriving without ever having to truly leave the previous location. While I am sure this mind bending concept is not something people ponder (or even notice) often, it is amazing to think of the high paced, highly digital world we live in. Just think, the minute I post this blog writing, the information will have reached your screen without myself or the writing ever truly leaving my desk. Crazy, right?

In thinking about such phenomenon, it is also important to question how such changes in time and space effect our society. In the book, Virilio discusses how people become "channel-surfing" automatons when we have significantly less work to do with our own minds. Again, just think, how many websites are there that can convert measurements for you? How many applications on the phone that can do such human things as lock the front doors of your home? How many banks where you no longer have to deal with a human teller to deposit a check? Much like all eras of technology have changed the public in which they are born, technology and the instantaneous ability of a machine to do exactly what we can do (if not better) raises questions of how we function as a culture.

It seems to me that one of Virilio's main concern is that such shifts to technology and a lulling waterfall of information makes us a more distant, less personal society. He begs the question of the importance of "real time" vs. "real space". In simpler times when the internet and machines didn't feed on our fascination, our society could flourish in an environment based on human contact, service, and a sense of common good. Now, in a world where "real time" dominates "real space", conversations are centered around the touch of a button, board meetings no longer require the people to sit around the same table, and dating is something often defined by an online profile.

Just an Virilio raises the argument of what we are willing to lose as a society to gain in technology and efficiency, I can't help but wonder if it is worth it to live in a world where "reality is ubiquitous". While I often look to my forms of technology-my phone, computer, tv- with fondness and appreciation, I can't help but ask what skills am I losing to be gaining a machine that will think for me?

What questions did the first portion of the book raise in your mind? Do you think technology fully helps or fully hinders a society (or a portion of both)? What are the fears associated with a technology dominated society?

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Key to Websites: Getting It Right

With our final project of making our own website on the horizon, it is important to know the ins and outs of creating a successful and effective site for both yourself and your users. As with many aspects of communicating we have discussed, Chapter 2 of Janice Redish's text "Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content That Works" deals with 7 steps of understanding your audience. As the article states and life supports, people react differently to differnet websites based on a number of factors. For this reason, it is important to understand your audience before creating the site. The 7 steps are briefly listed below.

- List your major audiences
- Gather info about your audiences
- List major characteristics for each audience
- Gather your audiences' questions, tasks, and stories
- Use your info to create personas
- Include the persona's goals and tasks
- Use your info to write scenarios for your site

The step that stuck out to the me the most was gathering the audiences' questions, tasks, and stories. Seeing that we are creating websites that hightlight our resumes and work, and will be sending them to future employers, it is important for us to gather from people with experience questions they will be hoping to answer. Knowing what employers are looking for will help us to write in a language that pleases the audience as well as answering the right questions.

In Chapter 3, Redish gives advice on creating a successful home page, the jumping point for the whole website. Home pages need to be attention grabbing, well organized, and easily skimmable. In using these "five major functions of home pages", I hope to make my home page of my website appealing and useful for audiences. Here are the 5 functions Redish lists.

- identifying the site, establishing the brand
-setting the tone and personality of the site
- helping people get a sense of what the site is all about
- letting people start key tasks immediately
- sending people on the right way, effectively and efficiently

I hope to acheive all these functions positively by giving my website a personality that reflects my own. I also hope to create a home page with tabs to send my audience to my resume, writings, and personal bio. The Redish article was very helpful in giving great advice about creating a website.

What is the most important aspect of your website going to be? What tone are you looking to create for your website and what will it help you acheive?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Call to Uncover the Upstate

This video story is a call to people in the Upstate South Carolina area to uncover local restaurants like the four that I feature. With such beautiful cities surrounding us, it would be a shame not to experience these wonderful restaurants and meet some kind people along the way. The restaurants featured are Duke's Doggs in Travelers Rest, Grille 33 in downtown Greenville, Mug and Muffin on Augusta Road, and The Beacon in Spartanburg. Hopefully this video will inspire you to Uncover the Upstate!

Special thanks to all the restaurants as well as Kristy Burns -owner of Duke's Doggs- and Maggie Austin, Anna Fluevog, Elizabeth Griffin, Molly Gunson, and Nanne Remington- my loyal and helpful friends.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Making a List, Checking it Twice: Online Editing

Unlike print editing, online editing is quick, constant, and ever-changing. Much like it is a very different medium, there are very different roles and skills required for online editors. In Brian Carroll's book Writing for Digital Media, he discusses online editing in Chapter 6, "Online Editing, Designing, and Publishing". Like many things in life, Carroll stresses how important it is to double (even triple) check every aspect of a website or online publication. While there are many important aspects of online editing, he lists a "universal checklist" (taken from Carolyn Rude's Technical Editing) to give a "jumping off" point for online editors. The items discussed are briefly listed below.

  • Identify with the readers/purpose of the content 
  • Define document structure and links
  • Define the style 
  • Edit
  • Copyedit
  • Copyedit II
  • Write headlines
  • Test usability 
As Carroll emphasizes, all of these steps are crucial in creating a coherent and accessible web production. Out of the steps on the list, I want to highlight the importance of identifying with the readers and testing usability. As a user of many online websites, I know I often get the most frustrated with websites that fail to target me as the audience and miss the boat on making the site user friendly. 

To avoid problems with not knowing the audience, it is important to focus not only on their needs but also on technical factors such as what kinds of software they will be using. Nothing is more frustrating than your computer not being compatible with a websites software. Solving this problem involves much research and thought, steps that fall under the job description of the online editor.

As for testing usability, in my eyes, this may be the last but the most important step. Target is one of my favorite places to shop, yet there website is a bit of a train wreck in my eyes. The site is cluttered, confusing, and unintuitive. Due to these problems, I use Target's website very little and would be more willing to shop online at their site if it was tested more, making it more user friendly. If the editor designs and tests a site that is intuitive and enjoyable to use, it will be much more likely that the site will get proper attention and use. 

What steps on the checklist did you find most important? What steps do you think often get overlooked or aren't executed properly on your most used websites?