Final Reflection Post

Digital Literacy

In her article, “At Last: Youth Culture and Digital Media: New Literacies for New Times,” Glynda Hull, Professor of Language and Literacy, Society and Culture, calls for

"… [an] urgent need: to expand our conceptions of what it means to be fully literate in new times. Ours is an age in which technologies for multi-media, multi-modal authorship proliferate, challenging logo centric habits of mind… In these new times, I want to suggest, a familiarity with the full range of communicative tools, modes, and media, plus an awareness of and a sensitivity to the power and importance of representation of self and others, along with the space and support to communicate critically, aesthetically, lovingly, and agentively – these are paramount for literacy now (p. 230)."

I believe Professor Hull’s acknowledgment of the power of digital representation is key to understanding digital literacy. If we recognize that our new communicative tools have the power to influence people all over the world, we should also work to be digitally screen-shot-2014-01-01-at-10-32-14-pm1literate. Without this literacy, a journalist could find herself breaking the law, according to Brian Carroll’s discussion of libel in Writing for Digital Media. Similarly, if the digital consumer is illiterate, the content he or she is interacting with can never be properly stolen. In his work, Steal Like an ArtistAustin Kleon notes that stealing and plagiarizing are different. Literate digital artists steal the motivations behind content they love; illiterate digital consumers publish someone else’s content as their own.

In order to better understand Professor Hull, I’ve considered my multimedia project a lesson in digital literacy. My project helped me identify the important digital literacies we need in this digital age:

  • Honesty
  • Professionalism
  • Integrity
  • Identification of
    • Personal brand
    • Intended audience

Creating digital content requires a massive amount of respect for the digital medium. In order to be digitally literate, I’ve found that a great deal of time, energy, and passion must be present in each video clip, sound bite, blog post, and web page. Because I was involved in each part of digital production, I’ve begun to understand why digital communications is so important and marketable in this day in age. Digital content demands unwavering professionalism.

The Videos

decal-i-voted-oval-sticker-copyBefore I made Millennial Voter Participation, my individual video project, a number of my classmates and professors shared with me their frustrations with student voter turnout at Furman. As a political science major, I was inclined to create a video that spoke to the problem that is too often blamed on millennials alone. I wanted this video to tell the story of Furman’s students– their frustrations with the voting process and inability to register to vote in Greenville County until the 2016 lawsuit. Therefore, every part of the video’s production was grounded in honesty. For example, in her interview, Claudia Leslie said that she did not care about voting because it was too difficult to request an absentee ballot. I believe this statement honestly reflects the priorities of busy college students.

While trying to afford the ROTC cadets the same candidness, I encountered my first taste of what it could be like to be a real journalist with the group video I helped produce, ROTC: A Story of Three Women. Our production group received some negative feedback about parts of our video, and we honored a cadet’s request to edit our original video. In Digital Communications class we’ve discussed topics such as the First Amendment and the Freedom of Information Act; I knew that our group had every right to include the original content. However, we’ve also discussed journalistic integrity in class. I wanted our video to tell the stories of the females in ROTC, so I chose to be an advocate for the three cadets we interviewed. Although I learned an incredible amount about the functions of Premiere Elements software, I believe that my unexpected lesson from ROTC taught me something more valuable. I learned that honoring the subjects of a video is more important that disrespecting them to get a good sound bite.

Group Podcast: Furman Major Stereotypes

After spending so much time editing two videos, I found editing audio difficult. The
combination of audio and visual elements can bring a story to life. I discovered that a podcast can have a similar impact on a story, but the editing process requires much more attention to audio detail. I mistakenly thought that because I was skilled at video editing, I could also expertly navigate Audacity software. I was wrong. It took me longer than expected to edit the audio interviews, and the process tested my patience. For example, I found that editing the volume of music clips to balance with the interview audio takes a lot of time. It was through this assignment that I really developed my respect for digital creators.

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Skills and Competencies: My Blog and Personal Website

I’ve grouped these two sections of my multimedia project together because they taught me how to represent myself online. I’ve always been naturally good at interpersonal communication and public speaking, but the online platform works in an entirely different way. Instead, I had to develop my writing skills. I found it tricky to write for both an informational Politicollege blog post and an About Me blurb on my website. While both must be concise, they must also reflect the intended audience. Before this class, I never thought about how I could develop and market my personal brand online. I found that the key to doing so it to understand who you’re writing to. Personally, I’m writing to future law firms and/or policymakers in Washington D.C. I want my personal brand to be approachable yet professional. In my opinion, my blog reflects that I am passionate about my community and knowledgeable about my area of study. My website exemplifies my content design abilities and conveys that my skill set it versatile. I will regularly update my website and showcase my blog in interviews because I intend for the skills I’ve learned in this class to help carry my professional career.

 

Sources and Image Credit

FOIA.gov

Glynda Hull ~ “At Last: Youth Culture and Digital Media: New Literacies for New Times,”

Heritage.org

Steal Like and Artist and Image ~ Austin Kleon

Brian Carroll ~ Writing for Digital Media

All other images ~ Shannon Cherney

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Watch What you Write

The job of a journalist requires more than writing abilities, creativity, and good sources. Journalists must be careful; accurate reporting helps prevent journalists from being sued for libel.

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Image Credit: EULawAnalysis

What exactly is libel?

In his work Writing for Digital Media, Brian Carroll identifies libel as a written statement that damages the reputation of the subject about which the statement was written. Libel is usually a civil matter and must be printed or published, must be erroneous or false, and must be defamatory.

According to Carroll, of all the lawsuits filed against mass media, three-fourths are allegations of libel. In order for the plaintiff, the entity or individual suing, to win the lawsuit, it must meet a six-pronged burden. These elements include:

  • Defamation of the plantiff’s reputation or character
  • Identification of the plaintiff as the subject written about
  • Publication of the defamatory information
  • Fault on behalf of the media
  • Falsity of information written
  • Injury suffered by the plaintiff (for the purposes of awarding monetary damages)

 

What does libel have to do with defamation?

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Image Credit: Hariri Law Group

Defamatory, or derogatory, information must hold the plaintiff up to hatred, ridicule, or contempt, according to Carroll. This type of information can include accusing someone of a crime, of moral failings, or of serious business and/or professional shortcomings. Stories that suggest a pattern of this behavior are almost always found defamatory.

However, simply because information qualifies as defamation does not automatically

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Image  credit: World Magazine

make it libel. In order for the publication of defamatory information to be illegal, it must be false. When information is published about a public figure, like a governor or celebrity, the plaintiff must prove the journalist knew the information was false or wrote the information with a reckless disregard for the truth. This is called actual malice. On the other hand, if the defamatory information is published about a private citizen, the plaintiff need only prove that the journalist acted negligently, that he or she simply failed to exercise ordinary or reasonable care, according to Carroll. Because public figures have very little private and protected aspects of their lives, the plaintiff is held to a harder standard of falsity if he or she is a public figure suing for libel.

A good journalist can avoid a libel case altogether by conducting a thorough investigation, verifying information from official and reliable sources, and contacting the subject of a story for commentary.

 

Sources and Image Credit

Writing for Digital Media

Header Image from QuickandDirtyTips.com

 

 

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So you want to Conduct an Audio Interview?

Stop, look, and listen

Baby, that’s my philosophy. When it comes to interviewing a subject, it’s important to stop, take a pause. Allowing your subject time to recollect their thoughts is a valuable tool in an audio interview setting. Even though the interview will record only audio, an expert interviewer will also take time to look at their surroundings to ensure their subject is comfortable. Most importantly, listen to your creative process. Listen to radio you like, and listen to your own content.

Stop

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Source: DreamsTime

According to J. Carl Ganter and Eileen E. Ganter, the authors of Sound in the Story, silence
equals reflection. Because we’re afraid of silence, we often don’t let people speak. In an interview, if there is a pause, we have a tendency to jump in a fill it. If you feel the urge to do so, STOP. Let the subject reflect on what he or she was talking about. Sometimes there is a beauty in silence. Giving your subject time to recollect allows you to get a good sound bite for the audio recording. If needed, you can always edit the pause out later.

Look

Look at where you’ve positioned the microphone. You  want the subject close to the microphone, ideally about four inches away. Do not let the subject hold the microphone. as it may make him or her uncomfortable or feel that they are controlling the interview. You direct the questions, so you should control the interview.

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Source: Erich Schmidt

Take time to build a rapport with your subject. If he or she balks at the microphone, make them feel more at ease by looking the him or her in the eye. When your subject is talking, eye contact helps to demonstrate your attentiveness to the subject. It’s important that your subject feels like you care about what he or she is telling you.

Listen

Listen to your voice, listen to your subject’s voice, listen to the environment around you,

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Source: Austin Kleon

even listen to other audio programs that you like. Once you get an ear for a type of sound you think is good, use it. In the words of Austin Kleon, steal like an artist. Nothing is original, we all use each other’s content to spark new interpretations of old ideas. Even the Ganters note that “it’s all been said before.” More often than not, journalists have to write on the same news events. A good journalist will report the same facts in a unique way.

For example, the Ganters write…

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Source: J. Carl Ganter and Eileen Ganter

 

As your subject talks, listen for both the content of what he or she is saying and for the quality of the sound. Is there distracting background noise? Did you subject complete his or her sentence or thought? If you find that you may have missed something important that your subject said, simply ask him or her to rephrase their thought.

Your most important job as an interviewer is to tell a story. You use your subject to help you paint beautiful pictures with the spoken word. So go out and start stopping, looking, and listening.

 

 

How to become Content with your Content

“There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Nothing is original. In order to generate the best content, we gather information and ideas from sources we  love. We then use these ideas to formulate our own creative content, with the hope that someone will one day borrow from us.

We’ve always been stealing.

In his New York Times Bestseller, Austin Kleon advises his readers to “Steal like an Artist.” He notes that we should start to discover our own voice by copying our heroes. Since no one is born knowing exactly who they want to be in life, we have all developed parts of who we are from other people. One of my dearest friends once told me that you are the average of the five people you are closest to. Pick your five people, think about your favorite qualities in each of them, then begin to process who you’ve become.

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Source: Austin Kleon

Why stealing is okay.

Stealing and copying are not plagiarizing. Instead of parading someone’s content as your own, stealing like an artist entails finding content that you like, figuring out why you enjoyed it, and copying the originator’s motivations.

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Source: Newinshoes.com

Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright note a similar process in their discussion of cultural appropriation. They use the term bricolage to describe the idea that we “make do” with components of popular ideals, especially within youth consumer culture. For example,  Doc Martins were sold as orthopedic and work boots in the 1940s-60s. However, they became a feature of the late 20th century grunge and neopunk youth subculture. Teens wearing black Gothic dresses and Doc Martins weren’t plagiarizing an element of past culture; they were reinventing an existing aspect of society.

But what does this mean for a blog post?

It means that the world is full of untapped Doc Martin-esque ideas to steal from. It means that creativity is the process of recycling things we love into new forms of communication and connectivity. Therefore, in order to become content with your content, you must learn to appreciate the world around you and steal it in the best possible way.

This post is nothing new. I adore Kleon’s book and am trying to embody his energy as I write. This blog is also not original. I’ve been inspired by political bloggers young and old, partisan and non, government and civilian. And the buck doesn’t stop here; My content is designed for you. Steal from me, discuss my content.

Start your own.

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Source: Austin Kleon

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Blogging is Dating: A How-To Guide

Your audience is the most important aspect of blogging. Every word you write, headline you create, or phrase you omit should be motivated by the idea that people will be reading your blog. That being said, you blog has to be the perfect date: intriguing, credible, and attractive.

The Love Gurus

Brian Carroll, an academic authority on writing and editing for digital media, and Linda Felder, an expert with years of experience writing professional digital content, provide essential information about writing in the digital world.

How to Snag Them

Less flirting, be direct.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a tool that digital writers can use to influence how often views visit their page. Search engines like Google use algorithms to find and rank online content using key words in your headings, subheadings, or tags. Carroll writes that the most intriguing headlines are brief, complete, clear, and proactive. Direct headlines increase the likelihood that your page is a top result in a Google search, and interesting headlines increase the chances that your viewer will want to click on your page.

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Source: Web Candy

How to Impress Them

Give them what they want.

Carroll notes that online readers view content in a “F” pattern, meaning that they look at the upper left quadrant of a webpage first. Dominant headlines draw the eye and are a useful place to include important or intriguing information. Fittingly, Carroll uses the KISS Method for headlines: “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

  • Determine what to highlight
  • Decide how to phrase it given limitations on space

In addition to headlines, Felder writes that the first sentence of a post should be a topic sentence with the most important information. This sentence should be followed by supporting facts, and you should end with the less important fluff. She calls this the inverted pyramid.

invertedpyramid
Source: Write for the Web

How to Keep Them Interested

Look good.

Carroll notes that an audience does not read online content. They surf, scan, scroll, and skip. Therefore, he suggests that a blogger layer his or her digital content. Layering enhances the readers’ ability to scan the post. These page attributes can include:

  • bulleted lists
  • highlighted words
  • subheads
  • hyperlinks

Felder also notes that page attributes like bulleted lists, rather than lists separated by commas, can make information easier to scan quickly. She advises that lists can break up large portions of texts, which can make the page more attractive.

 

So go put yourself out there!