Monday, 21 May 2012

WEB206 - Week 12: The Future of Web Publishing

"DIY media are engendering a shift in popular taste. No longer is professionalism assumed to be the norm and standard of quality. The notion that do–it–yourself amateurism can stand on equal ground with media industry professionalism signals a democratic challenge to hierarchies of aesthetic value. And at the same time that amateur media are gaining ground, so is the communitarian alternative to traditional, top–down mass media distinctions between production and reception" (Newman, 2008).

As Internet connection speeds have increased and broadband has become commonplace (at least in most developed nations), the use of audio and video as publishing tools on the Web has increased in popularity. As the early Web shifted the balance of power away from print media conglomerates, so too are audio and video publishing beginning to have an impact on our perceptions of media as amateurs around the world now have the tools to not only create footage, but to see that footage distributed to a global audience.

This week's readings/viewing:
Podcasting in Plain English http://www.commoncraft.com/video/podcasting

An anthropological introduction to YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPAO-lZ4_hU
Berry, R. (2006). Will the iPod Kill the Radio Star? Profiling Podcasting as Radio. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 12(2), 143-162.
Available through the Library database.
Crofts, S., Dilley, J., Fox, M., Retsema, A., & Williams, B. (2005). Podcasting: A New Technology in Search of Viable Business Models. First Monday, 10(9). Available: http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1273/1193
Newman, M. (2008). Ze Frank and the Poetics of Web Video. First Monday, 13(5). Available: http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2102/1962
McMurria, J. (2006). The YouTube Community. FlowTV, 5(2). Available: http://flowtv.org/?p=48

Activity - Discussion Questions
Consider the podcast you listened to this week:

How did the content compare with traditional radio in terms of professionalism of presentation?
How did the level of professionalism affect your enjoyment of the content?
Is the content that was covered available through conventional radio?

I chose to listen to a blog presented by the Australian Businesswomen's Network entitled Social Media Policy for Small Business Explained.

I found it to be similar in style to talkback radio - which unfortunately I don't like that much! To me it was a bit too girly chatty and I kept zoning off and losing interest. But that's partly because I'm a visual learner and I prefer things I can see, with links, rather than an auditory experience.   Which probably explains why I've never really gotten into the whole podcast thing. :-)

Do you think that these digital models of production and distribution are a threat to, or a companion to, traditional media forms such as radio and television?
 
I would say it is more of a companion to traditional media forms. There is probably not a large enough audience to put this type of content onto a traditional radio network, but podcasting enables the content to still be accessible by those who are interested.

As is clear from Wesch's presentation, different people use YouTube in a myriad of ways and invest the site with a varying degree of importance in their lives. What does YouTube mean to you?
 
Not as much as some of those people!

Friday, 11 May 2012

WEB206 - Week 11: Flows

"Though the 140-character format is a constraint, it need not be seen as a limitation; while participants often shorten and otherwise modify tweets to fit into 140 characters, this characteristic of Twitter can also be seen as an advantage. The brevity of messages allows them to be produced, consumed, and shared without a significant amount of effort, allowing a fast-paced conversational environment to emerge" (boyd et. al., Forthcoming).

We are increasingly swimming in a river of information and nowhere is this more apparent than in current trends in social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The constant flow of information that is available to us and the ability to update others with information you think may be relevant to them is creating a media environment where the ability to communicate effectively in a concise way is of growing importance. This week we are going to be looking at techniques for publishing to the Internet that eschew the lengthy paradigms of traditional print media.

In a recent Pew Internet Survey, 11% of Americans indicated that they used some form of microblogging service. Microblogging refers to posting very short text or multimedia clips, often from a mobile device. By all indications it is likely that the use of microblogging will only increase. Although for many microblogging is merely a way of distributing stream-of-consciousness, "what are you doing right now?" style posts, the form can also be used to maintain conversations on specific subjects and to distribute information on a topic.

Given the nature of this course, one question that arises is that of whether we can really consider Twitter and similar services as a 'publishing' platform. Certainly there is an ephemeral feel to them that feels more akin to a personal conversation. However, microblogging is a clear indicator of the way we need to reconsider our ideas of what publishing entails in the context of new media. Notably the term 'publish' is derived from the Latin 'publicare' - "to make public", and this is what we do as we post into the twitterverse, whether this be a summary of what you had for breakfast, a pointer to an interesting link or a part of an ongoing distributed global conversation on a particular topic. The restriction of 140 words forces us to think about exactly what we want to say and how we can use such a small amount of text to grab the reader's attention.

This week's readings/viewing:
Nielsen, J. (2009). Twitter Postings: Iterative Design. Retrieved September 14th, 2009, from http://www.useit.com/alertbox/twitter-iterations.html.
Boyd, d., Golder, S., & Lotan, G. (Forthcoming, 2010). Tweet Tweet Retweet: Conversational Aspects of Retweeting on Twitter. Paper presented at the HICSS-42, Persistent Conversation Track.
Marwick, A.E., & boyd, d. (2011). I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience. New Media & Society, 13(1), 114-133.

Activity - Discussion Questions
 
Although termed 'micro-blogging', how do you think Twitter differs from blogs in terms of the practices, conversations and experiences it produces?
Twitter enables quick, real-time conversation and the distribution of up-to-date information. I've encountered several events in the past year where I've found out about it on Twitter first. A lot of news reporters and outlets are now monitoring Twitter as a basis for news. The 140 character limitation means that it is quicker and easier for a lot of people to tweet than is is for them to blog. And the fact that all Tweets go via twitter.com means it is easy to engage with a wide variety of people (via hashtags etc.), as opposed to blogs where people need to go to that particular place to participate.

Following Johnson's article, what do you think of the various claims he makes that contribute to his assertion that "Twitter will change the way we live"?
I'm not sure that Twitter specifically will change the way we live, but I think it's fair to say that social media and the Internet in general already has. Although perhaps if you were living somewhere like Egypt earlier this year, where social media is generally credited as being behind the political uprising, then perhaps you might agree with Johnson that Twitter has changed their world. :-)

What influences do you think have given rise to the enormous success of Twitter as a communication platform?
Twitter is very simple to use, and there are many different ways of accessing it because the Twitter API is openly available for developers to access. I also think that the openness of the system has helped its success - the ability to follow anybody that interests you, including "famous" celebrities, sporting personalities and politicians, means that individuals can feel more connected to these people. As well, I find that the immediacy of topics and information, via the use of hashtags, means that I can quickly engage with others who share the same interests.

Monday, 7 May 2012

WEB206 - Week 10: Links

Up until now we have largely focused on how you can use your own creative skills in order to build up an identity on the Web. This, however, is only half of the story in terms of building an audience for your work. As Web technologies have advanced, the act of creating an identity on the Web is increasingly tied to your use of social media as a platform for communication. As you will see in the readings this week, Web 2.0 has given rise to an environment wherein reciprocity and participation play a significant role.

Becoming a part of the Conversation
As you develop your online identity, you will need to engage with others who are also writing about your area of interest. There are a number of ways that you can foster this type of connection through the hub of your web presence.

Blogrolls
Blogrolls are the list of linked-to blogs and sites that appear on the sidebar of blogs. As you saw in Topic 1.1, the sites you select to link to in your blogroll form a part of your online presence inasmuch as they indicate to readers who you are reading and the types of discussion you are following. There is typically a degree of reciprocity in blogrolling (i.e. "you link to me, I link to you") but you need to be selective in the sites you link to. Once again, the question to ask yourself is "What does linking to this site say about me?".

Comments
As you will see in the readings over the next two weeks, as social media platforms have evolved, they have become increasingly 'conversational'. The main way that these conversations are manifest in blogs is through comments and trackbacks. Engaging with other writers through comments, you can not only expand your own understandings of your topic, but also become involved in a broader discussion that will enhance your web presence.

Trackbacks
Implemented in a variety of ways by different blogging softwares, trackbacks operate as a kind of automated comment service. If two blogs both have trackback active, when a post is made to one blog and that post is subsequently linked to by another, a notification appears in the comments of the originating article. Although trackbacks are being largely superseded by shifting conversations to other media platforms (E.g. Instant messaging, Twitter), a large number of blogs still use the feature.

This week's readings/viewing:
Hendriks, N. (2009). From Social Media To Human Media - critical reflection on social media & some design methods to design social environments. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/nielshendriks/from-social-media-to-human-media-critical-reflection-on-social-media-some-design-methods-to-design-social-environments
Ali-Hasan, N. F., & Adamic, L. A. (2007). Expressing Social Relationships on the Blog through Links and Comments. Paper presented at the AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media, Boulder.
Available:http://www.icwsm.org/papers/2--Ali-Hasan--Adamic.pdf
Herring, S., Kouper, I., Paolillo, J., Scheidt, L., Tyworth, M., Welsch, P. et al. (2005). Conversations in the Blogosphere: An Analysis "From the Bottom Up". Paper presented at the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.
Available: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpls/abs_all.jsp?arnumber=1385453&;tag=1

Activity - Discussion Questions

Has your own Blog/Web presence hub attracted any comments beyond those of other students? How do you think you might encourage conversation through your writing?
So far my blog has only attracted a couple of comments from other students. However, I've put links to some of the posts onto my business Facebook page and Twitter accounts and there have been a couple of "Likes" and an email so I was a bit happy!

In your own tracking of Blogs on your chosen topic, how much of the conversational nature of the blogosphere have you directly observed?
To be honest, not a lot! Granted, a lot of posts have a lot of comments, but in general I don't see a lot of replies to THOSE comments by the original poster, which is what I would consider would make it a real "conversation".

Given the broadly social and participatory nature of Web 2.0 technologies, is the term media still appropriate to describe these emerging forms?

I realise that academia hates Wikipedia as a reference but I thought the Wikipedia article for "media" was quite informative!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

WEB206 - Week 9: A New Media Audience

The nature of media consumption has shifted dramatically in the era of personal computers and the Internet. No longer are audiences made up of passive consumers who select from a small range of media channels. Now, faced with a seemingly endless variety of sources, readers have become far more selective and discriminating in terms of the media they consume. Furthermore, as audiences have become familiar with the interactive nature of digital technologies and the publishing platforms available, there has been a significant shift towards organic, community-driven content. The nature of audience expectations and engagement with texts has moved towards a participatory model where readers are actively involved in creation and remediation.

One of the results of this has been the emergence of communities on the Web that attract readers and contributors who are interested in specific niche interests, or in a particular 'angle' or political approach to general news. The 'audience' is made up of individuals who have a strong interest in the topic and who communicate that interest through a variety of platforms. Becoming an active voice in this environment requires a good knowledge of the topic you are writing about along with a willingness to engage with others in thoughtful dialogue rather than emotional argument.

This week's readings:
Cover, R. (2006). Audience inter/active: Interactive Media, Narrative Control and Reconceiving Audience History. New Media & Society, (8)1. Available from the library database.
Shirky, C. (2003). Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality. Retrieved October 14th, 2009, from http://www.shirky.com/writings/powerlaw_weblog.html.

Are you actively involved in any online interest groups or communities? What elements do you think define engaging writing in this context?
I'm afraid I've been too busy the last few years to spend much time participating in online communities. I lurk around a few different Facebook groups, Whirlpool and a couple of other geeky places, and a couple of AFL forums (go Hawks!), and I have a couple of distinct circles of people that I interact with via Twitter, but that's about it. Back in the 90's I did the whole IRC and Usenet newsgroups thing, but that was Before Children. :>

Are there approaches to, or styles of writing that actively encourage conversation and dialogue from an audience?
I tend to respond better to people who are clear and articulate, and who can demonstrate a decent grasp of spelling and grammar. I also tend to respond well to people who can use humour effectively, and who discuss things in a way I can relate to. I agree too with Kym's point about conversational writing, as this encourages people to respond.

What sorts of impact can the audience have on online media texts such as blogs? What difference does this make to the media landscape in general?
I found Shirky's analysis of power law distributions quite interesting - that merely by one person choosing a blog, another person is more likely to also choose that blog. This also happens with things like Twitter - as soon as you read that Ashton Kutcher has a million followers, people will go and follow him purely based on that fact, even if most of what he says is complete tripe. Another side of that is that Ashton may then start tailoring his tripe to suit those million people, whereas perhaps before he didn't. So not only is the audience influencing who people should follow, but perhaps they are also influencing what is being said.

Writing Task - Entering the Conversation
As we have seen, the increasingly participatory nature of the Web calls upon publishers to become actively involved with their audiences. As both a publisher and a member of the audience, you will need to engage with others who are working in your particular area and become a part of a distributed conversation.
 
You should now have found a variety of sources that relate to your chosen topic. Select one of these sources that provide functionality for responding to an original piece of writing. (Eg. blog comments, discussion forums).
 
    Write a considered and informed response to a post of your choosing.
    This response should be no longer than 200 words.
 
As a part of this exercise, you will also need to consider how you are going to keep track of and monitor the impact of your commentary. The conversation that emerges from your commentary (or the lack thereof) will prove valuable in preparations for your final assignment.
 
Apologies for the delay (again). So far I've managed to run a week behind for approximately 7 weeks of this unit! Every time I think I'm getting back on top of things, something else pops up and bites me in the backside!

Anyway, I attended some seminars at the Melbourne Internet Show on Monday/Tuesday and heard a social media expert give a brief talk which I found quite interesting. I then tracked her down on Twitter and her blog. Much of what she talks about is relevant to my own blog so I thought it would be good both for this exercise, and also just for my networking in general, to comment on one of her posts.  Here 'tis:

http://thesocialskinny.com/11-simple-things-you-can-do-to-get-more-twitter-followers/

Cheers,
Nicky

ps: When I posted my comment I entered my email address, which is not published but is used to notify me of any replies.
pps: Her presentation from Monday's seminar is here if anybody is interested.