Sunday, March 29, 2009

communication studies is freaking awesome

As many of you already know, us Comm majors have suffered a terrible insult this past week.
Kimberly Elworthy's Cord article about the apparent shortcomings of the Communication Studies major sent shockwaves through the Comm community. Quite the outrage, from what I've heard. Well I'm outraged too. But instead of posting aggressive insults on her Facebook wall, I'm going to try to do something a little bit more constructive: vent through my class blog!
So, you've all read it. So I'm going to avoid recapping the article and rebutting every short-sighted, generalized claim Elworthy made. That's pretty easy. What I'd like to do here is list the top 3 reasons I love Communication Studies classes, and why everbody else should too :)
1) We have some of the coolest class discussions ever
Try and find another major on campus where regular classroom discussions revolve around everything that is downright interesting: the Internet, television, radio, the news, the entertainment industry, culture, politics, society...Comm studies students get a behind-the-scenes look at basically evey element of society that other majors may study exclusively. That HAS to be more invigorating than molecular biology.
2) We learn how to communicate!
No, really. We do. Check out Nonverbal Comm, Human Comm Processes, etc. Not only are we learning how to be the best damned communicators around, we'll get to apply these skills each and every day in our lives...AKA job fairs, interviews, metting the boyfriend's parents, you get it. Classroom time that is often structured around discussion, which allows us to apply these skills often.
3) Bird Major my butt: Comm Majors can get ANY JOB THEY WANT
Biz Majors will argue with you on this one, but depending on how well you present yourself and your resume, you can get a shot at the same jobs usually designated for any business graduates. Now, those Biz kids gain a much more extensive and in-depth knowledge of the field, but mostly every job in the field offers internal training. You can learn a ton once you have a foot in the door. What's most important is being able to communicate effectively, understand the role the companies you apply to play in society, and essentially sell yourself. We're basically trained to be well-spoken, well-learned individuals.
Well I could go on all day here, but I want to know what YOU like most about Comm!
Let me have it

Saturday, March 28, 2009


What cute hamsters!

But that one little guy is trying to steal his friends' carrot, and that is not cool. He did not come by that carrot in a legitimate fashion, and he is is attempting to benefit himself from his furry friends' hard work. That is unjust, dishonest, and basically really mean. He who does the work should reap the benefits.

In other words, "get your own carrot, I worked hard for this one".

What does this have to do with Lots. Our classroom discussion on the cons that apply to using this assignment analyzing system really made me think about the experiences I have had with this system, and I can't say there are many positive points to look back on.
First, to explain what turnitin does (as if any of you don't know), the system analyzes students’ papers and generates a digital fingerprint of the words and patterns used in them. It then checks the fingerprint against a massive database of written submitted work, including millions of academic papers and articles in trade journals, newspapers and other subscription-based publications. What this is meant to ensure is that no-one is submitting assignments that have stolen ideas from other sources to claim them as their own.

In theory, this all sounds like a great idea. It's a system that makes it almost painfully easy for profs to catch plagiarism. However, it is evident that this system is not without it's faults. All papers submitted to the website remain there in 'storage', and many students have understandable issues with the fact that their work can be archived on a website. Maybe we would like to have sole rights to our unpublished amateur work? Not a big demand, really.

What my main problem though is that I don't see a feasible way, in an assignment, to completely avoid having material similar to someone else's. In some classes, a final assignment may have only 4 topic options for a class of nearly 300. There are seriously only a small variety of ways that information can be put down on paper. It is ridiculously easy to have a paper that may look similar to anothers even though you have have never met each other or even spoken.

As well, there are some bits of information that I have picked up over the years that have become part of my basic knowledge. I can't tell you where I learned it from or when, but I damn well know it. What do I do then, when I want to use this information in an assignment and I can't find the source? I'm not plagiarising, but at some point this information has become MINE. I know it, it's my info. This is clearly not plagiarism, but turnitin's non-human digital system is not equipped to make such distinctions. It will simply compare, and flag non sourced material.

I have personally been the victim of an unfair and altogether wrong plagiarism charge from the use of turnitin, and I cannot even begin to tell you how frusterating it is to sit there and wave a pile of rough notes and sources in front of a Prof attempting to demonstrate how I arrived at my paper in my own words and through my own research, only to have her say she was sorry, but turnitin says otherwise.

I did NOT steal the carrot.

Anyone have any similar stories?

Monday, March 23, 2009

gossip girl: participatory media at its worst

Look at Blake Lively's face.

For a girl with all the money and popularity one could want, she certainly looks unhappy, even slightly angry.
Perhaps it's just me, but she's looking pretty sketchy and conniving. No doubt at this very moment she's passing along some inane gossip that is about to seriously screw up someone's social life. Whaaaaat a beeotch.
Now, I realize that this is just a singular google image, but I think it conveys the concept of the show in it's entirety: bitchy, well dressed, well-off females (and males) in the Upper East Side of NYC all trying to ruin each others lives online and offline.

To be perfectly honest, I do not have a problem with the show Gossip Girl. In fact, I crushed 2 seasons in about a week on the Internet. Call me a girl, but I love the clothes and the complete bitchiness that pervades pretty much every episode. However, what I have noticed upon watching umpteen hours of Gossip Girl is the complete and utter destructive powers of their cell phones. The entire premise of the show revolves around a gossip site concerning the characters,
and the effects its content has on its followers. Nice!

Cell phones have advanced leaps and bounds since the dawn of their time, and nowadays a Smart Phone can do pretty much anything: take pictures, send pictures, take videos, send videos....and in this case, ruin reputations. Back in the day, all that was needed for a rumour to run rampant was an loose pair of lips and a bad conscience. Today, there can be photo evidence of scandals, and it is easier than ever for secrets to become very un-secret.

Gossip Girl demonstrates perfectly how easy it is to accomplish this. Instead of rumours being based on word of mouth, people are able to capture condemning incidents simply by being at the right place at the right time- and with the right phone. How many times in the show (if you watch it) have you seen Serena or Chuck- or basically ANY of the characters- seeing something juicy or damaging, immediately snapping a photo, and instantaneously sending it from their phone to the site? Before long, everyone sees it and BAM! Drama. Most of the time, capturing these incidents is in the best interest of those capturing them- seeing the guy they like with another girl, a drug exchange...anything. Sometimes, the images may not even convey the truth, but come on its a gossip site...nobody cares about the truth.

What this demonstrates to me is that with cell phones and the internet, it is easier than ever before to create or perpetuate damaging rumours about people. Instead of just passing along crap, now we can have PHOTO or VIDEO evidence? Awful. What changes do we have to protect ourselves? How vulnerable does that make you feel?

Since I'm a total angel with a heart of gold, I feel relatively safe. But I don't live in the Upper East Side.
But I'd stilll be on the watch. You should too.

Monday, March 9, 2009

i have A.D.D, and i bet you do too

So I'm sitting here, trying to write an assignment, make a blog post, sing along to the concourse radio tunes, and eat wedges. So far it's going okay I guess, but AH wait, forgot a drink! Green tea Gingerale or OJ..both acidic-y. Hmm, 2:04, that's like, 2 hours to class time. Zero hour let's go type type type...why is my mom calling? Crap , I need to get off Facebook. Okay, next paragraph...whoa that dude looks like Ryan Sheckler, there's no way he's or legal university age-

Good god. If my head doesn't explode in the next 40 seconds I'll consider it luck. Why can't I just focus on a single task? Years ago I don't even think it would have been possible for people my age to be doing and paying attention to so many things at once. My dad is fond of saying that back in the day, cell phones had a cord (ha. ha.) and people were rarely expected to walk and chew simultaneously.

I blame it entirely on the internet. Don't get me wrong, I love being connected, but it has come to a point where you can talk, surf the net, play music and simulate light saber noises with a single device. The internet as well as general technological advances have made it possible to easily do about fifteen and a half things at once. And know what I think this is doing to our generation? Giving each and every one of us a healthy dose of Attention Defecit Disorder.

To be able to do a million things on one device is referred to positively by technological industries as 'convergence'. In theory, having access to a multitude of functions from a single place is quite useful and convenient. It's not the idea of this convenience that I'm worried about. It is the tendencies and habits that are born of this convenience. It's the level of multi-tasking that we become accustomed to and thus employ in areas where it's maybe NOT so convenient to be multi-tasking. Such as when we are trying to do homework. Or literally ANYTHING on a computer.

Take good hard look at your computer habits. When you're sitting there trying to get to business, how many different mediums are you using in a given hour? Take me for example: I've been known to try and do assignments while: watching TV, downloading music, partaking in a living-room laptop party, eating, talking on the phone, Facebooking (don't judge), listening to the music I just downloaded, googling longboards, avoding my roommates' flatulence, doing my hair, doing ANOTHER assignment...These activites occur all at once, or in stages, give or take a few...It's never just the single task at hand, and I bet you have the same problem.

With the emergence of the Internet and multi-use devices, we have become accustomed to being able to accomplish any number of things at once, and because of this were are losing the ability to stay focussed on a single task. For me personally, it has become so bad that when I do manage to isolate my focus on a single task, I begin to stray and figet until I have incorporated some other action into what I'm doing. Is this normal?

Reversing the effects of this generational A.D.D explosion looks nearly impossible. We would have to ignore technological advances and stick to outdated methods of communication and computing, which is inconceivable as it would mean becoming less in touch with the rest of the population. It would mean being a step behind everyone else, a little bit slower. Who wants to be hanging onto the bumper of the bandwagon?

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go ahead and buy Ritalin shares.

Monday, February 2, 2009

the sloth revolution



Criminally lazy people everywhere, unite and rejoice! Now, for the first time ever, you can navigate the web without even sitting up straight. Obama who? THIS is history.

If you laughed good-naturedly there then way to go. High-five! If you've already tried to place an advance priority-shipping order with your mom's Visa, then this post is about you. If you were filled with dread at this obvious symbol of the Technological Revolution's effect on the human race then dude, you and I are on the saaaame page.

I'm afraid of technology. Unlike Rose, my French grandmother, I'm ok with admitting that. If you feel that way too, admit it also because there is literally nothing wrong with accepting the fact that the Technological Revolution has left you somewhat reeling. Don't get me wrong: I love the Internet. I love my little cell phone. I like the convenience of e-mail. I like wasting time I don't have on sites that prominently feature people falling down. Hell, I even like Facebook. What I don't like, and what ultimately bothers me enough that I'll write a blog post about it, is the way in which this revolution has provided humanity with a one-way downhill ticket to sloth-dom.

Think about this: Look at the way that students do homework these days. With everything class-related online now (class sites, WebCT, Turnitin, library databases, Wikipedia, etc), virtually everything you need to access, research, study -ANYTHING- is only a mouse click away. Research today involves little more dexterous ability than twitching your index finger in a downwards motion. Seriously, look at yourself, you`re doing it right now. The situation is the same for accessing information in general, for ANYONE. It's not like homework was ever by any means a vigorous physical undertaking, but at least back then entire forearms were involved (and sometimes legs, if one were to choose to do such an undertaking in an atual real-life library).

What I'm saying is that we as a species have regressed in relation to the way we learn. Not far, but we have regressed. No longer do we have to walk through aisles and aisles of books, crane our necks to read titles, flip laboriously through periodicals. No, today we 'click'.

This is not something than can be blamed entirely on the Internet. It wasn't just the emergence of the cyberworld that facilitated this shift, it can be traced back to the computer interface itself. Anne Friedberg's "The Multiple" from The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft discusses the concept of multiple 'windows' within a computer desktop that we look at and work with when we use computers, as opposed to the actual tops of desks people used to work on. Friedberg says a window "refer(s) not to the full expanse of the computer screen, but rather to a subset of its screen surface: an inset screen within the screen of the computer, one of many nested in its 'desktop'". From this concept her theory of multiple windows emerges. We can look at a whole bunch of little windows, as many as we want, within a single other window. It is basically this condition of the computer-world that has made information gathering and working so ridiculously effortless. We don't even have to move our heads to look at different windows of information. We can keep them perfectly still! NICE!

Seriously, is this not terrible?!

How long will it be until we become drooling, immobile, glassy-eyed, big-butted zombies navigating the web with the shift of a pupil? They could DO that.

And you laughed at the computer bed.

Monday, January 26, 2009

of democracy and zombies

The Jenkins and Thorburn article, The Digital Revolution, the Informed Citizen, and the Culture of Democracy discusses the digital revolution and democracy in the context of computer networks and how they facilitate free, democratic action. A place where any citizen can reach hundreds of thousands of other citizens to exchange and share ideas without much fear of censorship is truly utopian. In a political sense, people have the ability to really become informed on political issues, discuss them with others, and in turn make better more educated political decisions. But what quality or condition has enabled this system to remain outside of the capitalistic control that has plagued the television, radio and newspaper spheres? What makes the Internet and computer networks so effective in voicing citizen political views is the lack of an ultimate central control node. Unlike other media, the very condition of the Internet network as an impossibly large intricate web of connections is what makes it so powerful: without a central commanding node or 'mother computer', it is nearly impossible to have total control over any bit of it!
Beaurocratize THAT!
Even the government cannot deny the logic and power of such a decentralized, dispersed system. Jenkins and Thorburn state that "both the left and the right...understood computer networks in opposition to bureaucratic control". They even praise it as a strategic military tool. For them, "a distributed system (is) essential so that it (can) operate even if central nodes were destroyed".
Voila. Everyone agrees, the internet is one powerful tool for freedom and democracy.

But what does that have to to with zombies?

It's simple: Zombies are powerful in the same way that the Internet is powerful. Like computer networks, zombies have no centralized power. A zombie horde is nothing like an army. To deliver a powerful blow to an army, you HAVE to hit a general, a leader. To do the same to zombies is impossible: knock one out and the rest will keep coming for your brains. Trust me that. Therefore, much like a zombie army cannot be taken down easily, nor will our realm of free cyber-speech!

So, a system that works for the ghouls will work for the Internet as a whole and netizens everywhere. For now, we're safe...

Sweet dreams!

Or..concerned about protection against an undead uprising? Check out Max Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide:


This of course is the official beginning of my blog on citizen media and the public sphere. At this point I would hope that none of us are still trying to decide what citizen media I was for roughly 2 weeks. The problem is that citizen media is a broad term. The public sphere is self-explanatory- the sphere or realm that the public and and masses inhabit. Citizen media can take the form of any media-related artifact the public chooses to use or produce media. It takes form in the page you're reading right now -a blog-, in cyber social networks like Facebook, gadgets like iPhones, in laptops, in 'zines...the list literally goes on and on. The Internet has of course revolutionized the practice of citizen media by effectively holding gatekeepers at bay, so that anyone can tell anyone what they think about anything. Anytime. Ahh, the internet. One could write a blog on that alone. However, our focus here is to comment and observe on citizen media practices as a whole. Of course though, to observe and comment on the way that the general public uses media is to actually look at yourself- the way YOU use media in your personal life, and to what extent you contribute. What to YOU offer to the cyberworld? What messages would you love communicate?
Cyber relations are very complex, and a new rhetoric has begun to emerge of this 'technological frontier'. My goal is to objectively observe this new rhetoric, comment on different relations and phenomena in the public sphere, and try to understand the role of citizen media in today's contemporary society.
.............and also try desperately to make some sense of it.