Final Thoughts on Digital Communication

Advances in technology have provided a completely new medium for literacy. Personal computers and the Internet dramatically increased the amount of information that can be conveniently and quickly accessed. Social networking sites and blogs connect millions of people all over the globe and it is now easier than ever for an individual to share their ideas. Digital literacy, or the understanding of how to use these new mediums available, is extremely important in this digital age.

Storytelling

Screen-Shot-2012-10-22-at-9.00.06-PMA key part of capturing an audience is telling a good story. According to Matador Network, stories have the power to entertain us, soothe us, educate us, and inspire their audience to take action. The first step in developing a good story is addressing the “so what” or what you want your audience to take away from your multimedia story. The next steps are collecting information about the topic and constructing a plan for developing the story around the core idea. When outlining a method to develop the story, it is often helpful to ensure your story has a beginning, middle and end. The final step in the story telling process is to review your story, correcting errors in grammar or style.

We adhered to the process of good story telling when creating our group video. We developed our story based on the idea that diversity in higher education is extremely important and that Furman University is actively trying to promote diversity in its student body. However, we stressed that although Furman is succeeding in many ways, there is still room for improvement. We utilized a beginning, middle, and end format in our video as well. We began by explaining the value of diversity in higher education. The middle of the story’s function was to determine how diverse Furman was in reality through interviews with the administration and students. The end of the story concluded that Furman was still struggling with some aspects of diversity, specifically in Greek life, and reiterated the importance of working through these difficulties to achieve a more inclusive environment. While storytelling was also strong in my group podcast, I think it could be improved upon by adding more voiceovers between interview clips to connect them better.

Usability

Writing for digital spaces is fundamentally different than writing for print spaces. Individuals have countless options to choose from when looking at digital content and audiences scan, rather than fully read content. If a reader is overwhelmed by too much content or if information is irrelevant or hard to locate, they can move away from a webpage with a single click.

My personal blog used headlines to grab readers’ attention, persuade them to read further, and highlight the main ideas of the story. The writing of my blog was fairly concise, and informed readers of the main point early on. I also chunked information, used lists, and incorporated adequate amounts of white space in order to accommodate scanning in both my blog and personal website. One aspect of usability I would like to improve on is utilizing an inverted pyramid style of writing. My blog posts tended to be a bit long and I could still work on being more concise.

 

My website uses a lot of white space in order to prevent readers from becoming distracted by too much text.

My website uses a lot of white space in order to prevent readers from becoming distracted by too much text.

The Next Step

I came into the semester with a very limited understanding of digital literacy. Through my Digital Communication course, I learned, first hand, the best way to take advantage of the new communication mediums and establish a presence online. I also now feel confident using WordPress, Wix, Audacity, iMovie, Adobe Premier Elements, and Adobe Photoshop. I hope to build on my new digital communication skills by continuing to blog and create videos in the future. I know there is always room for improvement, but I am very pleased with my accomplishments thus far.

These skills will prove to be invaluable post graduation as I move into a career in marketing or public relations. Companies are continually seeking innovative individuals who are able to ignite stories and make their brand stand apart through a wide variety of mediums. Thanks to my background in digital communication, I will be able to be competitive in these industries.

 

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Social Networking Sites Have Impact

Zizi Papacharissi’s book, a Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Nework Sites examines social connections in the new digital age.

Social Media and Networking are Intertwined

Papacharissi explains that the process of self presentation is constantly changing and becomes an “ever-evolving cycle through which individual identity is presented, compared, adjusted, or defended against a constellation of social, cultural, economic, or political realities.” Technology, including the wide variety of social media platforms, allows various networks to interact and engage in self-presentation and social connection.

The principle of convergence forms the structure of social media platforms. Convergence is the term used to describe the change to having many overlapping connections between a diverse range of groups. Information and self presentation from these group is remixed into one new sphere, while still being re-mixable and able to evolve into something new.

 Social Networking Sites are all about Customization

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The individual user is free to use a multitude of tools when deciding the how they want to portray themselves on Social Networking Sits. Users can manipulate the “setting” in which they present themselves by changing font styles, adding graphics, linking to other sites, and writing specific content to help shape viewer’s perceptions.

Users can also chose the audience they wish to share content with on Social Networking Sites. For example, on Facebook, users can chose to share stories, pictures, and videos on their personal timeline, on only a specific friend’s timeline, on a group’s timeline, or in a private message to another user. A user posting content on their own wall means all their Facebook friends will see the post in their news feed, often resenting in a large audience. Self presentation to a large audience can be difficult and as Papacharissi says, “the individual performer must then engage in multiple mini performances that combine a variety of semi-logical references so as to produce a presentation of the self that makes sense to multiple audiences, without sacrificing coherence and continuity.

Sociability? More or Less Social?

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One question frequently tackled by researchers is, “do Social Networking Sites make users more or less social?” Studies have shown that users initially increase use of these sites and therefore their involvement in other activities decreases. Individuals eventually return to their original behavior patterns, but with a more moderate and healthy use of Social Networking Sites. Therefore, its believed these sites neither add to nor take away from individual spheres of sociality, but rather reshape.

As Social Networking Sites are still a relatively new phenomena more research must be conducted in the future to truly understand its impact.

The Scoop on Social Media

A Whole New World

The advent of social media platforms has catapulted us into a completely new world of communication. Instead of merely taking in content and using the internet for buying and selling, users are now engaging with media by creating, modifying, sharing, and discussing it.

These changes are not only affecting everyday citizens but large companies and corporations as well. Even the Pope is now using social media platforms and has large online presence. According to Kietzmann, et al.’s article, Social Media? Get serious! Understanding the effect of the functional building blocks of social media, “with the rise in social media, it appears that corporate communication has been democratized.” It is no longer only the companies putting forth brand information, bloggers and social media users also have a large role in providing brand details. Companies must decide if they will use social media to their advantage or refrain from participating all together, both of which have serious effects.

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The Seven Functional Blocks of Social Media

Keitzmann et al. developed the 7 functional blocks to help companies better understand the new world of social media and how multiple factors play a part in their audience’s social media experience.

1. Identity
• Social media users can present their identity in a multitude of ways. The amount of personal information that is disclosed, such as age, weight, gender, and profession, is completely up to the discretion of the user. Depending on which social media platform is being used, the amount of identity required to use the site successfully varies. Some social platforms, like a divorce support networking site, would prefer anonymity.
2. Conversations
• One of the main functions of social media platforms is to facilitate communication through user conversations. The type of social media platform used also dictates the length of conversation. Twitter, for instance, engages users in short 140 character or less patterns of communication.
3. Sharing
• Sharing is defined as the extent to which users share, distribute, and receive information on social media platforms. To help make a sharing network stronger, it is important for companies to reflect on the objects of sociality that their users have in common and pinpoint new objects that can connect them.
4. Presence
• Presence is about being aware about what others are doing on their social media platforms and knowing if/when users are available.
5. Relationships
• Relationships are described as the connections users have with one another. There are formal, more structured relationships, like those found on LinkedIn and more casual ones like Facebook.
6. Reputation
• Reputation is extremely important on social media platforms because it is the way in which users can identify themselves and others based on their social media content. People frequently determine personal popularity by the number of likes they get on Instagram photos or the number of Facebook friends they have. LinkedIn helps build a more professional reputation through endorsements by others.
7. Groups
• Social Media Platforms allow users to create communities and sub-communities. Grouping friends, followers, and likers is especially helpful when the size of a companies social media network grows larger.

Takeaways From the Trip of a Lifetime

The Journey

To say studying abroad is an experience is an understatement. Studying abroad is a journey.

Let’s be honest. It is not all happy and exciting. There are moments where you miss home, moments where everything goes wrong, and moments where you feel like a complete outsider. However, when you push through all of these challenges you learn so much about yourself and what you can accomplish. According to GoOverseas, study abroad is “perhaps the most educational experience of any college student’s tenure.” I strongly urge everyone to investigate study abroad opportunities available to them.

There is truly no better way to discover what you are made of. Beyond self-discovery, study abroad introduces you to new places, people, and cultures. Your understanding of the world and your place in it is often dramatically changed after study abroad. There is no doubt that study abroad is transformative; it takes us out of our element and reminds us why we are here.

Study abroad is a personal journey that leads to self discovery and growth

Study abroad is a personal journey that leads to self discovery and growth.

3 Ways Study Abroad Changes You for the Better

1. You learn to expect the unexpected and how to roll with things.

Delays, lost luggage, and incorrect directions are inherent to traveling. Although irritating, the way that we handle these moments teaches us how to deal with future challenges. Traveling and studying abroad show you very quickly that many things in life are outside of your control,  but that even the most unexpected roadblocks are not worth getting upset over. Thinking through problems in a rational way almost always leads to effective solutions.

2. You broaden your worldview and become more open to different ways of life.

Study abroad exposes you to people from many different cultures. By living in another society for a long period of time, you gain a greater understanding of its deep cultural layers. StudyAbroad.com states, “You may better understand its music, its dance, and its visual arts; its language, its literature, and its style of communication; its emotional, physical, and soulful expression; and, best of all, you will better appreciate the culture’s personality and how it influences and informs everyday life politically, economically, and socially.” Understanding leads to more peaceful relationships and you learn to accept people for who they are.

3. You start appreciating the little things in life and learn to be thankful for what you have.

When you study abroad you realize that the smaller things in life often bring you just as much, if not more, happiness as the bigger things. A cup of café con leche on your walk to class can give you as much pleasure as an A+ on a paper or a even a job offer. You realize that a beautiful sunset over the vineyards in Tuscany is more delightful than a designer handbag or the newest smartphone. Also, when you see the conditions that a large portion of the world lives in, you realize how fortunate you have been in your own life. Little things that you complained about in the past, suddenly, no longer seem terrible and you make do with what you have.

An Inside Look at Study Abroad

I interviewed a study abroad counselor and several students from Furman University that have just returned from a semester abroad. They share their experience, takeaways, and advice in the video below. Make sure to take a look to see another perspective about study abroad!

Case Study: Barcelona

Barcelona, My One True Love

I was very fortunate to call Barcelona home for 4 months and the city will always hold a special place in my heart. As I have said before, I think what really sets Barcelona apart is its energy. It’s got that BIG city feeling and radiates youth, passion, vibrancy, and sunniness. But don’t just take my word on it, make Barcelona a destination on your own study abroad journey and feel Barcelona’s exuberance for yourself!

Arc de Triumf, one of my favorite places to relax, was just a short walk from my residencia in Barcelona.

Arc de Triumf, one of my favorite places to relax, was just a short walk from my residencia in Barcelona.

 A Center For Artistic Expression

The possibilities in Barcelona are endless. There are so many great things to see and experience, which makes this city one of the most popular tourist destinations. Stunning architecture can be found throughout the city and there is a unique combination of modernism, art nouveau, gothic, and renaissance. Barcelona is home to some of Gaudi’s most famous work and there is an abundance of other art galleries and museums.

 Food Lovers Will Rejoice

Art and architecture are not the only reasons to visit Barcelona, the food is to die for as well. Although Barcelona suffered from the economic recession, the food scene in Barcelona is still thriving. According to an article by the New York Times, “Many feared the recession might destroy the city’s culinary superstardom; instead, those challenges have helped breathe new life into it.” Fresh outdoor markets, tasty tapas, and Michelin-starred restaurants make Barcelona a paradise for foodies.

Top 5 Must See, Do, Eat List

When you’re traveling, it’s important to make the most of your time. To help ensure you have the best possible experience in Barcelona, I have compiled a list of 5 must-visit attractions, activities, and restaurants.

1. Check out some of Gaudi’s work.

La Sagrada Familia's ornate exterior

La Sagrada Familia’s ornate exterior

Barcelona is known for its modernista architecture. Antoni Gaudi, arguably one of the most famous modernista architects, worked all over the city and you can’t come to Barcelona without taking a look at least a few of his impressive buildings. His most famous works, La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell are truly breathtaking and showcase his imagination and creativity.

2. Get lost in La Boqueria.

The fresh berries at my favorite fruit stand in La Boqueria

The fresh berries at my favorite fruit stand in La Boqueria

Feast your senses and walk through La Boqueria, a huge fresh food market off La Rambla. Every fruit, vegetable, and meat that you could ever dream of can be found somewhere in the market, it’s just a matter of finding it. La Boqueria is chaotic, there are seas of locals and tourists, shouting vendors, and slippery floors. However, it has some of the freshest produce in Barcelona and the experience alone is worth the trip.

3. Wander through El Barrio Gotic and El Born.

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La Luna’s mouth-watering goat cheese salad

El Gotico and El Born are filled with some of Europe’s most oldest and most beautiful streets. Even after living in Barcelona for four months I still managed to discover a new trendy store or cute café each time. Make sure to stop by my all time favorite restaurant in Barcelona, La Luna for the best goat cheese salad and red berry mojito you will ever have.

4. Experience the nightlife.

My friends and I had so much fun going out at night and meeting people from all over the world.

My friends and I had so much fun going out at night and meeting people from all over the world.

There’s no doubt that Barcelona has some of the world’s best nightlife and many people say that the city never sleeps. Get a taste of Barcelonas nightlife and mix with some of the locals by stopping by the bars in El Born. For a wilder night, head to Port Olympic and dance the night away in the beach clubs. I highly recommend the nightclubs Opium or Shoko, but be sure to guard your valuables as pick pocketing is common.

5. Try some authentic cuisine.

The potates braves come with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce and is a must try item!

The potates braves come with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce and is a must try item!

I am usually a very picky eater and my friends and parents jokingly told me I would starve to death in Barcelona. However, they couldn’t have been more wrong. You have to get a taste for some authentic Spanish food while your in Barcelona, I promise no matter how picky you are you will still find something you like! I especially enjoyed stopping by small tapas bars with friends on our way home from class. My favorite, Bar Del Pla, is nestled in the heart of El Born and is lesser known to tourists. I recommend the croquet de rostit i pernil, potates braves, pan con tomate, and l’ensaladilla del bar.

Here are some other pictures from my adventures in Barcelona!

Ethics in Digital Media

Thomas Bivins, a Communication Studies professor at the University of Oregon published, Mixed Media, which outlines practical ways journalists can be ethical.

Each time we publish something, we have a direct effect on our readers. In today’s digital world everyone is constantly connected and our audience is larger than ever before. Bivins believes it’s the writer’s responsibility to be aware of the groups that he/she is impacting. He describes four claimant groups that are affected by the writer’s moral decisions:

  • Clients/customers
  • Organizations that people work for
  • An individual’s profession
  • Society as a whole

Bivins warns that writers can run into trouble by choosing to focus on certain claimant groups over others based on how much each of the group personally affects the writer. It is, therefore, very important that we develop an organized way to deal with our relationship with potential moral claimants. A first step in this process is to fully consider the consequences of our actions and to favor actions that have positive consequences on our audience.

Linking Adds to Ethics

Organizational Systems Theory states, organizations exist in environments relevant to their survival. This environment provides them with the resources necessary to do their jobs and produce their end products. Educator John Grunig suggests organizations are linked with other by consequences. Linkage occurs by either providing input to the organization or receiving output by the organization. Grunig specifies five key linkages:

  • Providers- give authority and control the resources that enable the organization to exist
  • Suppliers-issue materials and other necessary inputs the organization needs
  • Receivers- use the organizations output
  • Associates- share similar interests or struggle with similar problems as the organization
  • Issue defined constituents-appear on the organization’s radar when an issue arises that affects both groups

ethics

 

 

Adding Motion

Chapter 4 of Linda Felder’s Writing for the Web discusses adding motion to storytelling.

Motion can be magical for story telling. As Lynda Felder puts it, “If you get it right, there’s no better way to draw in your readers and keep their attention.” However, the key is to get it right. The first step to nailing motion on the web is to be aware of the different types of moving graphics available to you and to know how to use them successfully.

Types of Moving Graphics

Video- real life, moving images, great for promoting products and messages

  1. Animation– individual pictures of characters or objects in continuous movement, good for short advertisements, instructions, and games
  2. Motion graphics– three dimensional logos spin across the screen, film titles dance around, images fly across screen then disappear
  3. Software simulation– shows software screens and mouse movements to model a software program experience, perfect for promoting software packages and instruction on software tools
  4. Games– useful for entertainment and education, must be appropriate for your audience
  5. Photo slide shows– still photographs can provide more emotional experience than video
  6. Digital storytelling– works well for personal stories and educational purposes

 Brainstorming

So you have decided you want to incorporate motion, but how do you come up with an idea to set in motion? Ideas can come from anywhere and anything and what works well for one person might not work for another. Writing down everything that comes to mind on sticky notes, napkins or 3 by 5 index cards and placing them on a large surface where you can move them around is one brainstorming technique. Other helpful brainstorming techniques involve making lists and outlines to keep track of multiple ideas.

Creating a Storyboard

 After you gather some good ideas, you need to start planning your story. You must understand the structure, setting, action, and any spoken narration. You also must have a good understanding of how the multiple elements will work together. Planning is crucial for the success of your video animation and the first part of planning involves designing a storyboard. What exactly is a storyboard you might ask? A storyboard is a design tool that shows the main action on the screen over a period of time. The various media required for each scene and how all the elements of media work together is also part of the storyboard.  Ohio State’s Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design believes story boards are extremely helpful and states, “You can make changes to your storyboard before you start animating, instead of changing your mind later. You will also be able to talk about your animation and show your storyboard to other people to get feedback on your ideas.”

How To Create a Story Board via Promotional-videos.com

How To Create a Story Board via Promotional-videos.com

Don’t forget the beginning, middle or end!

Every story need an introduction, body, and conclusion, especially one with moving images! The middle of the video is very important and you should make sure that it tells a story. Some helpful tips for structuring the middle portion of a story are:

  1. Show the overview. Show a long camera shot as the audio narration speaks the introduction
  2. Show a mid-range shot as audio narration gives more specifics about the story
  3. Show a close-up shot and describe details with the audio narration.

Script Writing

According to Lynda Felder, “A written script provides a road map for your production and example dialogue for any spoke words in your story. It can also briefly explain the setting, action, lighting and transitions.” Scripts also help reduce errors and help speakers remember what to say and when to say it. Its extremely important to write a good script, but don’t be fooled into believing you need a screenwriting program to write one. Make sure to remember that your script should be clean and easy to read as well.

Final Suggestions

When producing visual work always keep in mind:

  • Keep it short.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Keep your audience in mind.
  • Keep the lighting suitable for any camera work.
  • Keep it fun.