My Newfound Digital Literacy

Digital literacy has many different aspects to it. This semester, I have had the opportunity to become more digitally literate through this blog, my group project, and my website. This class has taught me the importance of social media, blogging, and photo and video. All of these aspects of the digital world will continue to grow and shape our world.

Social media such as Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are taking center stage in the digital world. Knowing how to use these will be helpful in the professional world. Blogging will become the new writing. Photo and video organization and editing are important as well due to the increased importance of digital storytelling.

What my projects taught me

My individual project

Blog

This blog reflects who I am well as far as the layout and style are concerned. I am very proud of how it looks. The topic I chose to focus on was not only interesting to me, but it also an important cultural issue. I found some very scary statistics which made me want to learn more, and now I am personally on a mission to change the issue.

There are two improvements I would make, but both have improved already since I started this blog and will get better over time.

The first is my writing. I tend to be very formal because I’ve had so much experience with academic writing. This course has taught me to write for the web: more bullet points, shorter phrases, and shorter paragraphs.

The second is hyperlinking. I know how to actually hyperlink, but I’ve struggled with choosing the right phrases or words to hyperlink, and whether or not to state the source I got the information from. Again, this will only improve with more experience.

Video

The first version of this video wasn’t very strong, mostly because I didn’t give myself enough time to make it good. But I think this version is miles better. I brought in some statistics that I’d collected while doing research for the blog. The video is definitely more informational than a story, but I made it as much of a story as I possibly could.

Although I added more video, B-roll, and pictures to the video, there could have been more. I also think the sound levels are a little funny in some places, but the mike I used for the interviews wasn’t the best. It was difficult to make the interviewees louder.

Website

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 1.26.48 PM

My website is what I’m most proud of. It reflects who I am very well, and it shows what I’ve done and can do. I’m so excited to keep up with it and keep adding the work that I do in the future.

An improvement I could make to the website is the mobile layout, which I’ll start working on soon. It looks weird on a phone so I have to go through and adjust everything!

My group project

I worked with two other girls named Paige on this group project about the new women’s lacrosse team at Furman. We worked really well as a team and I think everything came out really well.

Podcast

I’d never made a podcast before this class, so it was good to learn how to make one. Our podcast was particularly strong with good interviews and a conversational tone. However, our sound levels were inconsistent in a couple places and it sounds a little scripted, but overall it was well-done.

Video

I am so proud of this video. Everything came together so well. The lacrosse team is even using it as a promotional video! The sound levels are a little weird in some places and some of the shots are blue, but overall it’s a strong video.

The skills I’ve gained from this experience

Before this class, I’d had some experience with blogging and video, but not a lot. Now, I know I can do anything if I’m asked to at a job. I also feel more comfortable with starting my own blog and keeping up with it, now that I know the right practices.

Video editing is something I’ve definitely improved on this semester, and I’ve also fallen in love with it. I can’t wait to do more in the future.

Designing my website was my favorite thing I did for this class. It gave me the freedom to show who I am in my own way while learning. I think having web design in my skill set is going to help me in the future, and it’s fun!

Overall, this class has taught me more than I expected. The skills I have gained will take me far professionally and personally, and I can’t wait to see what I do with my newfound digital literacy in the future.

Blake

A Cyber Economy In Our Future?

Andrew McAfee’s Ted talk about the future of technology in the economy is an interesting outlook on the Machine Age, the economy, and social mobility. The United States is having issues with its economy and with social mobility. McAfee explains that the ideal capitalist economy requires a large, successful middle class. Currently, the middle class is under a huge threat. Median income has gone down, but social inequality and polarization are going up. To fix the economic issue, McAfee thinks converting to a socialist economy will be helpful because it will increase social mobility. He goes on to say that social mobility in the United States is lower than in European countries with socialist economies.

Are there benefits to an economy run by machines?

There are two questions here; one is mine, one is his. Mine is this: Having more technology and less jobs is great news, but what about our growing over-population problem? How will we sustain this large amount of people with no money to go around? We are headed for larger social gap if we allow machines to take over jobs.

To go off of that, people will not be able to give their labor to an economy run by machines. The companies using these machines will benefit from them, but the working population will not. Instead, the working population will just become the population.

The future of the people

McAfee uses the name “Bill” to refer to the members of the economy who have suffered due to the increase in the use of technology in jobs. He then refers to members of the economy whose situations are either better or unchanged as a result of the increase of technology use as “Ted.” His question is, “How can we allow for social mobility and keep the middle and lower classes at work and in the economy?” This is an important question that needs answered, quickly. If the future of the world is in machines, then what is the future of the people? Human creativity will slowly become unimportant as machines begin thinking for themselves. This will not keep the “Bills” of the world working. I think we will also see a decrease in higher education. For young people, the lack of promise for a future job will cause them to not seek higher education.

Will there be an increase in apathy or an increase in social change?

McAfee believes that if the population is provided with the true facts about how the world works, the people will come together and fix the problems. Our current problem is both misinformation and lack of information. If media would be less biased in sharing information, misinformation would cease to exist. If information were accessible to those who do not have access to all technology, the population would be better educated and aware of the state of the world.

If we do not change either of these things, we will become more and more apathetic towards change as a society. It’s already present in my generation. Information is more accessible than ever before, but there are those who still cannot access all information from their fingertips because they just can’t afford it. Young people need to change their mindset on being informed. The most important thing, though, is that we need to be more aware of our impact on the future.

Machine Age Image Link

Perpetuating Eating Disorders and Body Image Issues

The eating disorder you don’t know about

Kendyl Klein brought my attention to EDNOS: Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. According to the National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders:

  • EDNOS is an eating disorder in which the person does not meet the psychological or weight requirements for anorexia or bulimia and is very concerned about their weight
  • The person may have symptoms of the other two eating disorders but do not show the behaviors as often as needed to diagnose them or show signs of the health issues that come with each one
  • 52% of people with an eating disorder most likely have EDNOS
  • It has the highest death rates of any eating disorder

Social media and body image

Social media are becoming one of the most important parts of our social relationships and therefore help shape our identities. We depend on what the people we care about think in order to shape our identity. Our opinion on ourselves is dependent on the opinions of others. When we see images of others, we cannot help but compare ourselves to them. Our increased exposure to visual presentations of others is not helping the issue of body image. The San Antonio Express-News recognizes that people, especially women, only post “flattering” pictures of themselves on their social media which causes their followers and friends to immediately compare themselves to those images. The increase of social media, therefore, has definitely had a negative effect on the pressure to be perfect in America; it has catered to it.

To reiterate…

Body image is a very important issue around the world, not just in the United States. Everyone is held to a high aesthetic standard that, unfortunately, we will never achieve. These standards are due to high fashion and the male gaze. We let designers tell us what we should wear, and we let our objects of affection control how we feel about ourselves. In order to get rid of this issue, we must change how we feel about ourselves. It starts with us.

The Effects Women or the Media Won’t Tell You

Media advertisements have a large effect on people, and advertising agencies know this. The effects advertisements have on women are sorted into four categories:

Excessive thinness:

  • 1 out of every 4 female college students show unhealthy behaviors with weight control
  • Images are an unrealistic image of how much women should weigh
  • In ads, normal is fat
  • All contributes to signs and diagnosis of anorexia and bulimia

Sexual exploitation:

  • Objectification
  • Women portrayed as passive and child-like
  • Men use these portrayed qualities in their relationships, expect women to be submissive

Ageism:

  • Bias towards younger ages
  • Young is beautiful; if you are not young, you are not beautiful
  • Younger women are sexualized in ads

Consequence-Free Fantasies:

  • Beautiful people enjoying harmful things, i.e. junk food
  • If you consume these things, you will be beautiful too
  • Opposite is true: leads to bad lifestyle choices and self-esteem issues

If advertising agencies would find something that sells products better than objectifying women does, women would not feel like they have to live up to high expectations.

A great blog post that talks about the issues with the portrayal of women is from a blog called Destructive Advertisements. The entire blog discusses issues with advertisements and I think it’s worth the read.

Sources:

Sofia Vergara Image Link

Model Image Link

Group Image Link

Below is a slideshow of images of normal women versus images of what we are expected to look like.

Food Labeling

What we see on our labels in grocery stores.

The next thing I want to cover here is the labeling of food products. Here in America we are always seeing foods in the grocery store being advertised as lowfat, fat-free, or sugar-free. Foods labeled as such sell faster than those that aren’t. We need sugar and fat to live. The types of sugars and fats are specific, but we still need them to sustain ourselves. The sugars and fats found in dairy products such as yogurt are those that we need. They are essential to our health. If we take these away, we are losing the body mass we need to sustain ourselves. According to Brian Wansink and Pierre Chando, low-fat labels on foods may be leading to overconsumption of nutrient-poor and calorie-rich snacks. In short, these labels are misleading in the first place. Low-fat does not necessarily mean low in fat; it actually means low in nutrients.

Labeling our foods falsely then leads to false eating habits in the first place. If we get rid of the pressure to be perfect, labeling our foods falsely will no longer be an issue.

Blake

Sources:

Oikos Yogurt Image Link

Oreo Image Link

Dressing Image Link

Jello Image Link

Stonyfield Yogurt Image Link

Access to Government Information: Easier Than You May Think

Until I read chapter 10 of Brian Carroll’s book, Writing and Editing for Digital Media, I did not know about the Freedom of Information Act or the OPEN Government Act. Access to government information is much easier to get than the public may think, and it is important to know the rights we have concerning this freedom of access.

Some background on each act

About FOIA:

  • Allows for citizens to have access to government records
  • Allows citizens to understand what happens with the government
  • Is enforceable in court
  • Valid for any government agency
  • Requests for information must be made
  • Agency must give any information requested unless information is kept from public disclosure

About OPEN:

  • Amendment of FOIA
  • Defines “representative of news media”
  • Fees must be paid from government agency’s budget rather than Judgement Fund
  • Government agency must pay fees if it does not meet FOIA deadlines
  • Allows for disputes between media and government agency to be solved by the Office of Government Information Services
  • Allows for suggestions of further amendments to FOIA

Why are they so important?

Having access to government information is a huge privilege that United States citizens have. It is important for us, especially journalists, to use this freedom of information wisely. Use it to your advantage, but don’t abuse your rights.

Blake

Image Sources:

FOIA Image

OPEN Image

Brainstorming and Storyboards

In her book, Writing for the Web, Lynda Felder discusses what is appropriate to write online and the best ways to format ideas online. Chapter 4 focuses on motion: what it can add or detract from a blog, and how to properly decide what form(s) of motion are relevant to post. At the beginning of the chapter, she mentions all of the different types of motion that one can put on their blog; some I had not even considered. She mentioned motion graphics, software simulation, and games. These three are not the most popular choices for a blog compared to photo slideshows or videos. Finding how these relate to certain topics is really difficult. When deciding, the individual or group has to exercise great caution when deciding.

Are storyboards always necessary?

One of the biggest parts of the chapter is Felder’s discussion of brainstorming and storyboards. She mentions both in multiple chapters of her book. She believes that brainstorming and storyboards are important when adding motion to a blog because it needs to appeal to the reader and be relevant to what is being written about. Although this is true, I have to disagree with her about storyboards. It is different for corporate websites, websites run by groups, and websites attempting to appeal to mass amounts of people. Take Emerson Spartz as an example. He is an internet mogul who thrives off creating websites intended to appeal to large amounts of people at one time. He needs a storyboard to execute his ideas because of this intent. I don’t think is necessary for an individual blogger to have a storyboard. An individual blogger should be able to brainstorm on their own because the individual has their own vision for how they want their blog to look and what they want it to say. Although people like Spartz have their own ideas as well, they need more than just themselves to create larger-scale websites. For our purposes, I think storyboards are unnecessary; brainstorming, however, is important. There is always more than one way to execute an idea, but brainstorming helps the person figure out which way is the best way for what they are doing.

The most important point I took away from this chapter was, when choosing motion for an web page, relevance is key. Maintaining enough white space is important as well. But adding motion can make the web page more interesting, which is what every internet writer wants in order to draw people in.

Blake

Word Image Link

Storyboard Image Link

Attitudes About Dieting

I conducted a survey that both women and men between the ages of 18 and 25 took. It was a Google Doc that I posted on my Facebook wall since that was the most effective way to reach people of this age range. The results of the survey, which was of 85 people, are as follows:


69 females and 16 males took the survey.

36% of those who took the survey diet, 42% do not.

18% of those who took the survey have tried to diet and failed.

Of the 36% who diet, 90% were female.

84% of the women who diet do it to feel better about themselves.

The majority of the men who diet do it to be healthier.

Out of all the possible answers (to feel better about themselves, be healthier, social influence, media influence, all of the above, or none of the above) to the question, “Why do you diet?,” the majority of the people who answered the survey chose all of the above.

28% of the females would feel unattractive if they didn’t diet.

38% out of the people who took the survey believe diets are a way to influence body image.

74% of 85 people believe that there is a contradiction between America’s high levels of obesity and pressure to be perfect.

Of the 19 men who took the survey, 6 don’t believe that there is this contradiction. Of the 69 women who took the survey, 15 don’t believe that there is this contradiction.

Conclusions from the data

• It’s obvious that this is a more interesting issue to women than men. I think it’s safe to assume that this issue is also more important to women than men.
• Although it is a less important issue to men, it still exists. It needs to be addressed more.
• Societal attitudes about body image and dieting need to be changed. Not dieting or watching what you eat closely makes you unattractive.
• The societal contradiction between our obesity issues and the pressure to be perfect need to be changed as quickly as possible.

An Introduction to Body Image and Dieting

Some statistics

According to Montenido.com:

  • 75% of women encourage negative or unhealthy opinions of food and/or their bodies.
  • 91% of women surveyed on a college campus have attempted to control their weight through diets; 22% of them “always” or “often” do this.
  • The scariest statistic I have found: 35% of “occasional diets” become “pathological dieting” (disordered eating), and up to 25% of the disordered eating becomes an eating disorder.

Along with these statistics on dieting as a whole, HealthResearchFunding.org has statistics on fad diets:

  • 69% of fad diets fail to establish a target weight because people exercise while dieting.
  • Only 8% of people who diet will follow a strict plan, like the Atkins or South Beach Diets.
  • Fad diets are more likely to work if the person exercises for a total of 150 minutes every week.
  • The average American tries to start a fad diet 4 times a year.
  • 25% of Americans give up on their weight loss goals within two weeks.

Why this topic?

Last spring, I attended a Cultural Life Program about body image, eating disorders, and disordered eating. Listening to the speakers reinforced my interest in the topic. It is something I am very passionate about. As a woman, I would like to fix these issues because I believe that we are all created to be different, not the same. We are taught to always try to change how we are, when in reality we are just fine. This section of my blog will be about these issues and their importance in our society. I want to discuss these issues because of the high standards women, especially young women, are held to. Dieting is a way in which these high aesthetic standards for women are enforced. What we are unaware of is that dieting is disordered eating; it is a type of eating disorder.

Points of exploration

Here are the main things I will be writing about with this blog:

  • Diets as ideas
  • Dieting as a practice and the values behind it
  • How body image is affected by pressure to diet

I will be showing images of fad diets and weight loss programs (beginning with the Flickr slideshow below), as well as controversial advertisements and observations of advertisements of food products. I will also share young women’s opinions on these issues and their relevance to these women’s everyday lives. I hope that reading my blog will start conversations not only amongst other readers, but amongst your family, friends, and peers as well. I also hope that anyone who reads this feels empowered.

If you would like to read more blogs on the issue, I encourage you to read The Body Image Project, We Are The Real Deal, or BlogHer, particularly in the Body Image section. All contain images and discussions concerning these issues, and even some personal accounts.

Sources:

South Beach Diet Image Link        Atkins Diet Image Link

Paleo Diet Image Link                    Protein Power Image Link

Jenny Craig Image Link                  Weight Watchers Image Link

Questions Image Link                    Fad Diets Don’t Work Image Link

                               Model Image Link

The Information Age, the Internet, and Journalism

At this point in human history, we are in what is called the Information Age. This term for our current society essentially means that information is everywhere, available to us at every turn. There are many ways in which we receive information: the internet, books, newspapers, television, and each other. Receiving information from each other is a new concept; before smartphones came to be, we only received information from radio or television news. Brian Carroll writes about where this information comes from, and how it is changing all the time in his book, Writing for Digital Media. He discusses the significance of professional journalism in a world of participatory journalism.

We have become the sources of our own information, and the professionals basically make sure we are not crazy liars. They sift through the information given to them through firsthand and secondhand accounts of events, eventually verifying what is fact and what is fiction. It is interesting to me that in an era called the Information Age, not all information is going to be correct. The internet officially runs our world now, so whatever is posted on it will be read and taken in. Some may question what they ready, but others may not. This makes conversational information outlets such as CNN’s iReport all the more controversial. Although CNN fact checks everything users post, having something like this is risky. People are not to be trusted with information, especially vital information, due to bias. Bias is what arguably makes the Information Age a scary time.

Journalism has always contained bias in some form, but the information itself is usually factual. It is the way in which the information is interpreted that creates bias. When allowing the general public to report on things themselves, this only creates informational bias. This relates to Carroll’s idea of pull media, where people use sites such as Twitter to pull out the information that interests them the most or that is most relevant to them on their own sites. The decrease in push media, or media that send out information, is going to affect the efficiency of professional journalism. It has already affected it; newspapers are slowly losing influence, money, and job opportunities. Without professional journalism, people would have to get their information about the world on their own, and people are too lazy for that.

Thus lies a contradiction here in the Information Age. All we want is information, but we don’t want to get it ourselves. Yet, we are destroying the means by which we get our information. So, where is the middle ground here? We have yet to find out.

Blake

Sources:

Newspaper Image Link

Smartphone Use Image Link