Thursday, April 30, 2015

Course Reflection

I took this class for “fun,” knowing that I had a lot to learn about current technology and the digital environment in general.  The assignments really pushed me to gain a greater understanding of many different aspects of digital literacy and to appreciate just how much it influences daily life.  The many different tools used, which really are cultural tools and extensions that come to define the users in some very basic ways (our abilities to function in the world, ways of relating and communicating with others, and even how we think), are extremely valuable.  Knowing how to use these tools makes an individual viable in the world today.  Without an understanding, individuals are left at a great disadvantage in most every venue I can think of (social, vocational, educational, financial), which is why it remains an important social/political issue.  I now pay much more attention to this.

I thought the requirements and assignments that Dr. Bridgeford gave us were very helpful.  I did not have a blog before and am glad to have that experience.  I also enjoy using Dropbox, which I think is an extremely valuable service and after having my hard drive crash on my PC, I will definitely be using Dropbox in the future.  The Adobe Creative Cloud applications, something I was intimidated and maybe even overwhelmed with before, now seem less so even though I feel I still only have a basic understanding.  I would like to become better acquainted/skilled with these in the future.  They are very marketable skills to acquire. 

On our final website project, I made a huge mistake in the beginning which is why I did not give my presentation.  I renamed by local root folder (changing the first letter of my last name to lowercase) after I had already created other folders and files and assumed that would not be a problem.  Well, needless to say, I learned a very valuable lesson from that mistake!  All that work was not completely worthless as I did get practice and experience in HTML and CSS and still learned so much from the reading and tutorials I watched.  I couldn’t figure out why only some of my files were getting saved!  Ugghhh…  All that being said, I think that learning how to use Dreamweaver is probably my favorite assignment from the course.  I also wanted to share a valuable resource available on YouTube:  Dreamweaver CC Introduction Class Part 1-4 by Joshua Kywn.  He refers to a free downloads for both Basic HTML and CCC Vocabulary and Grammar Basics which I found to be helpful as well.  I learned so much from all of you and was really impressed with your websites as well as your other projects and comments.  Thank you!     

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Selfe & Selfe, “Writing as Democratic Social Action in a Technological World: Politicizing and Inhabiting Virtual Landscapes”

This essay explores the different aspects (social, cultural, and political) of the virtual landscape of digital communication, as well as investigates the power and control of the ideas and influence associated with it.  Ideas and thoughts often have far-reaching consequences and connectivity is an important aspect to consider.  The authors’ goal is to encourage teachers and students of nonacademic writing/technical communication to learn how to navigate and utilize this particular venue with purpose in the hopes of an increasing “democratic” society (locally as well as globally). 

Selfe & Selfe suggest that communication/language is the dominant change agent for reform (many examples throughout history support this) and that educators and students carry the responsibility surrounding language and civic/social action, being more than just obligated to the corporate sector (our employers), but also serving the interests of the public.  In essence, this means utilizing the many different platforms via the internet as a forum for political issues and debate, and educating and connecting with others as a means to shape culture. 

The authors make an interesting point in that throughout history the different venues used for open and critical public discourse were considered to be equal access but realistically, only certain segments of the population had the power to be involved (i.e. 5th century Athens debate did not allow women or slaves to engage and in the 17th and 18th century clubs, salons, and coffee houses, membership was limited to a certain social rank/status).  Only certain individuals (those within a certain demographic, i.e. wealthy, educated men) were allowed free and equal say.

Selfe & Selfe suggest that it is easier for practicing communicators to simply go with the flow (which supports the existing goals of the establishment), and that these individuals may avoid challenging the status quo because it could be perceived as “dangerous, contentious, or disloyal” (332).  (Perhaps someone who chooses to speak out could lose their job or not get hired because of something they posted online.)  The authors emphasize the importance of working within the larger public spheres that exist to get involved, taking advantage of the available venues for responsible social and political action.

Many examples of how the government uses computerized records and surveillance to exert a certain amount of power and control over the public are cited (criminal records, welfare recipients, census records) as well as how the State’s “oppressive or violent agendas” are incorporated such as the regulation of weapons, control and delivery (Stealth bombers, SCUD missiles).  News in recent times includes more contemporary examples (i.e. the National Security Agency getting exposed for its extensive surveillance program of civilian phone and internet use; Hillary Clinton getting exposed for not following government protocol regarding her email).  There are many paradoxes and contradictions regarding these issues.  For example, if a sex offender moves into your neighborhood, you are allowed that information which could be useful information, especially if you have young children.  Also, the NSA continues to collect and store records of private individual’s phone calls for use in terrorism investigation under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. There are also two sides to the issue of weapons and defense.  If we lag behind in this arena, we might be considered a lame duck to any country that has it out for the U.S. (and many do).

This article was written circa 1996 (the publication date) so certainly many things have changed since then but many of the same issues still exist.  I think the prevailing sentiment is that, even though surveillance is a proven reality, the public is not being censored (yet) and even though there is some accountability for what is said, there is still a vast amount of freedom.  (In contrast, China, which is a Communist country, filters and censors their internet.)  It is important to exercise the rights and freedoms (of speech) in order to exert civic responsibility and to engage in public discourse in areas that are important and have personal impact.  Using digital communication as a tool for civic responsibility has many advantages.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Manovich, “The Language of New Media”

Manovich makes an interesting argument regarding the computer interface itself (as code) imposing its own logic, and worldview even, onto the user where the hierarchical file system suggest a logical, orderly world and hypertext is representational of a more random (using association) paradigm, the Web browser being more representative of the socialist perspective (involving work and leisure), and the AL approach (such as Life Spacies) depicting the evolution paradigm.  This is intriguing.  I wonder how Manovich (who wrote the essay in 2001) would describe current computer culture and which examples would be used. 
I had no idea what Life Spacies were and was fascinated by the installations shown online.  (It is worth checking out, if you’re at all interested.)  This is a very good example of how the correlation to evolution is made (the programmer sets up the initial rules/procedures and then as users change and manipulate, the “thing” has the potential to evolve into a myriad of forms/options).

Because computer media consists of the building blocks of characters and numbers with numerous ways to be presented to the user, Manovich suggests that only a fraction of “action grammars and metaphors” are used out of a much broader range of possibilities.  Given, again, that the essay was written in 2001, I had to stop and think of all the programs (and devices) that have been invented since that time and am curious to see how far things will go yet in my lifetime.  (Perhaps the cartoon ‘The Jetsons” isn’t really that far off from what will soon be possible??)  There are lots of possibilities not yet imagined…

I was surprised to read that way back in the 1960s, the concept (Ted Nelson’s Xanadu hypertext project) to make the entire written catalogue available online originated.  As a matter of interest, I thought I’d offer the link to this article:  Pioneering hypertext project Xanadu released after 54 years” at 

It doesn’t appear that there has been much change since the desktop and media-access machine metaphors (VCR, CD player) dominated the computer interface culture.  Even though screen sizes have changed dramatically over the years (altered to be both much larger and much smaller than previously), Manovich suggests that the screen, just as a typical fifteenth-century painting has not altered its aspect ratio in 50 years.  Another link, if interested in learning more:
“Aspect Ratio: What it is and Why it Matters” at

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Critical Literacy (Chapter 7)

Daily, I use my smartphone (using it more and more for random things like the calculator or the timer feature) as well as the maps function and Google.  I would consider it to be more and more transparent the longer I have it (9) but there are still some things on it I do not use.  As far as opacity, it is fairly adaptable as far as how I set it up and which apps to use (intended purpose) but I am trying to think of what else it could possibly used for other than what is intended…so I would rate it a 10 for opacity.

I also use my personal pc (which, just this week in fact, crashed!) on a daily basis.  (I find it a little strange that even though I also have a MacBook, I am in the habit or relying on my old Gateway, for most things when I am at home.  Old habits die hard, I suppose.  It is (was?) very transparent (10). 

I check my personal email (Outlook) often throughout the day.  Email is very easy to use and highly transparent for most people these days (10).  I will often check Facebook but typically not during the day.  It is easy to use, easier than previously in my opinion, but there are still some things I just haven’t taken the time to figure out yet.  The platform is fairly obvious though so I would rate it a 9 as well.  I did not realize, as our text mentions, that they are selling information about and access to their users (making the user their product).  I use Microsoft Word for most of my assignments.  I would say that it is highly transparent mainly because it is the standard and most people have used it as it has developed and changed over time.

At work we communicate (email) using Outlook 365 email and I will often retrieve documents from OneDrive.  Outlook 365 is less transparent in my opinion, so I would rate them an 8.  This is mostly because the features are more “hidden” than before.  I imagine to have a cleaner, easier to use-look to it.  But it does take a little bit to figure out how to utilize all of the features.

I utilize Pearson Vue testing software at work and even though it is very basic and simple to use (high transparency), if there are any problems (“incidents”), it is a major hassle.  I have to go to their website to file an Incident Report and go through an extended list of questions, etc. just to get on the fix-it list.  I have called the support hotline instead, which gets quicker results but protocol states we are supposed to file the Incident Report online and then wait for our turn to get the issue resolved.  (The trouble with this is that often I have a student waiting to test.) 

The testing software itself is purposely designed to be as easy to use as possible and it would also rate high for opacity.