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Multimedia Musings: end of the semester course reflection May 2, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rcgerhard @ 3:49 am

Alright. Try as I may I can’t avoid this sentence, brace yourself here it comes:  I learned a lot in this class. But at the same time nothing in the subject matter was all that alienatingly new. It was more like scaffolding. It expanded my knowledge to things that were just beyond the periphery of what I had known before. Sometimes this included putting a name to what I had already felt was the case. Sometimes this meant extending a rule to new areas.

For example, I already had a sense that web communication had its own conventions (see course goal #2). I knew that I clicked on the links with the most attractive pictures. But this class helped to spell out what exactly made these links different, what kept me reading, and why it was that way. The web is not just different for the sake of being different. It’s different because it needs to achieve something that other media does not. With one click a web surfer can abandon one website for another. It’s not the same with books, newspapers or magazines. People don’t haul around a library of options in case they become bored with their physical reading material. But with the web that option is always there. Reader attention spans are short and the competition for that attention is aggressive. As a result content needs to be to the point and delivered quickly. As a reading we did in week 2 notes, walls of text can be scary for surfers. In this way course goal #2 (improve your ability to communicate in electronic environments. Web communication has its own conventions) feeds into course goal #4 (Understanding the audience conventions of electronic environment).  Communicating in an online environment requires your audience to stay put long enough to get the message. To get the audience to stay put the audience needs you to avoid walls of text wherever possible.

For my own part I have tried (though not always successfully) to keep my blog posts on topic and relatively short. Alternatively I try to break them up with graphics, and added links to help get my meaning across without having to put in excess descriptions. For example in my post “The Power of Introverts” I stated that I wished I was able to study in a cubicle in elementary school. I know that some, if not many readers have an aversion to cubicles. Cubicles typically evoke ideas of claustrophobia, cookie cutter tedium and harsh florescent lighting. This is not the image of cubicles I wanted to evoke or had in mind when I referenced them in my post. But I also did not want to have to go into detail explaining the image of cubicles I had in mind. Therefore, I linked “cubicles” to a cubicle design blog-post that had pictures of cubicles more in line with what I meant.

But adding pictures and links do not just serve to break up walls of text. As a week 3 reading assignment instructed, adding pictures and links are part of creating a successful blog (see course goal #5). This guide also suggests a listing technique which I included in some of my posts to help break up my points visually. But I also avoided some of the suggestions this website gave. Tagging was one of the things I did not do. I avoided it because while I want my blog to be easy to read for my classmates, I did not want it to be easy to read for others. Tagging helps search engines find your material, and I didn’t (and still don’t) want to be found.

I also broke some rules based on personal preference and inexperience. One mistake is that I did not come up with, nor could think of a very good name for my blog. I also did not know what to write as my banner underneath my blog’s name. Maybe it should have been, “yeah I know it’s a crummy name” I would probably get tired of it in a week though. Another thing I know I have struggled with is voice. It’s more difficult to be consistent between blog posts than I had originally imagined. On certain topics I want to be serious and make a point about something. On other occasions I want to be sarcastic. Then still on other occasions I just want to be funny. Sometimes I want to be all three in one blog post. Take this blog post for example. I wrote a whole intro section involving my process of choosing this course and some initial trepidation which would have included these pictures:

and a reference to spider man. But the humor didn’t really allow me to shift gears into talking more thoughtfully about my blog, so I had to scrap it.

As for personal preference, I broke the blog rule that stated that like newspapers, all important information should be above the fold. I selected my blog’s theme largely based on the fact that it was clean and simple. The parameters of each post are clearly defined, and the posts appear in a chronologically ordered fashion. A main page with every blog post shouting out for attention all at once was not something I was interested in. I find reading blog pages like this somewhat obtrusive.