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Category Archives: Blogging

New forms of media publishing

With the rise of user-generated technologies, many new forms of media publishing such as blogs, vlog, and forum have become a means to foster citizen journalism. The combine affordances (‘showing’, ‘telling’ and ‘hearing’) that the digital modes offer in this multimodal environment has created a dynamic interaction between the users and the site (Walsh 2006).

Figure 1: Youtube used for citizen journalism

Source: http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2008/05/news-unfiltered-youtube-embraces-citizen-journalism.ars

For instance, Chartier (2008) reported that YouTube has set up a new channel that caters to “Citizen News”. It aims to focus on users to produce newsworthy content that is accessible to a wider global audience. Other than that, independent news blogs have been gaining momentum to overlap the space traditionally occupied by the mainstream news media (Thurman and Jones 2005).

So how has these new medium changed the role of journalism? Pavlik (2000) believe the foundation of journalism has altered in such a way that it focuses less on the tradition method of reporting (e.g. inverted pyramid) and re-established relationship between reporters and audiences/news organizations. According to Bowman & Willis (2003) these participatory journalism are distinguished through decentralization and powered by technological change.

I want to point out one of the issues created from these new forms of media publishing that challenge the professional journalism ethics – lack of moderation.

Figure 2: Racist comment on Mail Online

One of the examples would be a pre-moderated racist comment was allowed on the Mail Online comment section. This would give a reason to ‘move away from a straight-to-air, post-moderated model to a system of pre-moderation where journalists publish a selection of readers’ contributions’ (Corrigan cited in Thurman 2008, p. 145).

Reference

Bowman, S & Willis C 2003, We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information, viewed 18 November 2009, <www.hypergene.net>.

Chartier, D 2008, News unfiltered: YouTube embraces citizen journalism, viewed 18 November 2009, <http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2008/05/news-unfiltered-youtube-embraces-citizen-journalism.ars>.

Pavlik, J 2000, ‘The Impact of Technology on Journalism’, Journalism Studies, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 229 – 237.

Thurman, N 2008, ‘Forums for citizen journalists? Adoption of user generated content initiatives by online news media, New Media & Society, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 139 – 157.

Thurman, N & Jones, S 2005, ‘From Nexus to Newslog: Online Journalism from the Grassroots’, in Print Journalism: A Critical Introduction, eds Keeble, R, Taylor and Francis, London, pp. 252 – 263.

Walsh, M 2006, The ‘textual shift’: Examining the reading process with print, visual and multimodal texts’, Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 24 – 37.

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Online design versus print design

Designing for online publication is rather different from designing for print. In print-based text, the reading process is ‘linear and textual integration [is] achieved by linguistic means’ (Kress & van Leeuwen 2006).

However, in online-based text, the reading path follows F pattern because users would first read in horizontal movement and then move down to the page in a second horizontal movement. Lastly, they would scan the content’s left side in vertical movement (Nielsen 2006).

This implies that when designing for web, there are three things to bear in mind:

  • A good introduction would acknowledge the users about the gist of the article and encourage them to keep on the reading;
  • Avoid verbose and lengthy words because users generally do not read a lot of text online as reading from the computer screens is roughly 25% slower than reading from paper (Nielsen 1997);
  • Use headings and subheadings because users tend to scan and select keywords, sentences and paragraph that interest them (Nielsen 1997).

Figure 1: Printed front cover of Time magazine

Figure 2: Online version of Time magazine

The first thing the audience would notice when looking at front cover is the large photo of President Obama. As Kress & van Leeuwen (2006) suggests, salience is the element that attracts the viewer’s attention. The saliency created from the large photograph is capable of prompting the readers to read the articles.

On the other hand, the website has a much more complex structure as there is a ‘manipulative effect in the way language and modes of image, text and sound are combined in websites and linked to layers of interconnections within and between sites’ (Lemke cited in Walsh 2006).

In other words, printed text depends heavily on attractive photograph to draw the attention while website requires interplay of hyperlinks, navigation bars, menu buttons, and interface to generate a good browsing experience for the users.

Reference

Kress, G. & van Leeuwen, T. 2006, ‘Chapter 1: The semiotic landscape: language and visual communication’ in Reading images: the grammar of visual design, 2dn edn, Routledge, London.

Nielsen, J 1997, Be Succinct! (Writing for the Web), viewed 18 November 2009, <http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9703b.html>.

Nielsen, J 2006, F-Shaped Pattern for Reading Web Content, viewed 18 November 2009, <http://www.useit.com/alertbox/reading_pattern.html>.

Walsh, M 2006, The ‘textual shift’: Examining the reading process with print, visual and multimodal texts’, Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 24 – 37.

The blogging communities

Bock (cited in White 2005) considered that the shaping of virtual communities is depended on three key factors: common interests, frequent interaction, and identification. From my perspective, blog is one of the social medium that fosters virtual connection. Donath (1997) wrote that ‘people are not only looking for information, they are also looking for affiliation, support and affirmation’. Hence, it could be argued that blogging communities are a form of social aggregations when people have developed personal relationship on the Internet (Rheingold 1993).

I would use comment sections and linking devices to build a blogging community because Nardi et al. (2004) found that these basic methods are effective in engaging the audience. There are other ways to improve the interactivity with audience as well. The incorporation of tag clouds to visually show the content of blog inclines with the suggestion of Walsh (2005) on multimodality. She stated that visual texts are changing the conceptual schemata and the reading process is grounded on ‘logic of the image’.

Figure 1: Types of blogging communities

Source: http://kt.flexiblelearning.net.au/tkt2006/edition-11-editorial/blogs-and-community-%E2%80%93-launching-a-new-paradigm-for-online-community

There are three types of blogging communities: one blog centric community, topic centric community and boundaried community (White 2006). One blog centric community refers to one centralized blog that is firmly controlled by the blog’s owner in terms of content. Topic centric community is built on network formation as several blogs are linked together under a common interest. Boundaried community is a collection of blogs and blog readers are invited to host on a single site.

Figure 2: Example of one blog centric community

Source: http://quaintly.net/

Quaintly.net belongs to one blog centric community because the central identity of this community is the blog owner (Su Ann) and the commentators are able to know each other once they become regular on the blog. Another characteristic of this community is that the blog owner has absolute power to control and censor comments that is deemed as derogatory White (2006).

Reference

Donath, JS 1997, Inhabiting the virtual city: the design of social environments for electronic communities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA.

Nardi, BA, Schiano, DJ, Gumbrecht, M & Swartz, L 2004, ‘Why we blog?’ Communications of the ACM, vol. 47, no. 12, pp. 41 – 46.

Rheingold, H 1993, The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier, HarperParennial, USA.

Walsh, M 2006, ‘The ‘textual shift’: Examining the reading process with print, visual and multimodal texts’, Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 24 – 37.

White, N 2005, How some folks have tried to describe community, viewed 18 November 2009, <http://www.fullcirc.com/community/definingcommunity.htm>.

White, N 2006, Blogs and Community – launching a new paradigm for online community?, viewed 18 November 2009,
<http://kt.flexiblelearning.net.au/tkt2006/edition-11-editorial/blogs-and-community-%E2%80%93-launching-a-new-paradigm-for-online-community>.

Classification of blogs

As witnessed by Sifry, there are 120,000 of blogs being created worldwide each day. This leads to the use of classification system with the attempt of structuring these blogs.

The first is with regard to subject matter. According to Technorati, there are 6 major categories: entertainment, sports, politics, technology and living. The second is blogs that depend on devices such as mobile phone. These blogs are known as moblogs (mobile blogging) and they allow bloggers to submit their blog entries via email or SMS (Knudsen 2003). The third is sorted on media types (e.g. vlog, linklog and tumblelog). Vlog are video blogs that enable unbundling – a process in which users can watch the segments one at a time or combine them with other pieces to construct a longer narration or visual sequences (Dawson 2007). Linklog and tumblelog have similar function. The former only restricted to a collection of URLs that intrigues the users while the latter allows more micromedia and post types. Kottke (2005) commented that ‘tumblelog is a quick and dirty stream of consciousness, a bit like a remaindered links style linklog but with more than just links’.

Figure 1: Example of a tumblelog

Source: http://www.bivingsreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/tumblelog.jpg

While many blogs tend to have a combination of styles, I would mostly look at the format of the blog prior reading it. Author and media analyst, Margaret Simons (2008) describes that we can distinguish blogs based on different format. For instance, Popular Mechanics blogs follow the arrangement of how-to for various topics while Advocacy blogs always have an advocacy group or a commercial organization to push a particular perspective on a specific issue. In short, I think blogs have the potential to embody different styles; however, once the readers know the convention and formats of the blogs, they can differentiate them easily.

Reference

Dawson, M 2007, ‘Little players, big shows’, The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, vol 13, no. 3, pp. 231 – 250.

Knudsen, J 2003, Introducition to mobile blogging, viewed 18 November 2009, <http://developers.sun.com/mobility/midp/articles/blogging/>.

Kottke, J 2005, Tumblelogs, viewed 18 November 2009, <http://www.kottke.org/05/10/tumblelogs>.

Simons, M 2008, A taxonomy of blogs, ABC Media Report, viewed 18 November 2009, <http://www.abc.net.au/rn/mediareport/stories/2008/2372882.htm#transcript>.

The Revolution of Blogging

Helmond (2007) has reported an interesting viewpoint on the size of blogosphere. She seems to think that Technorati has failed to record an accurate number of blogs over the world. This is because The China Internet Network Information Center counted 72.82 million Chinese blogs whereas Technorati, as pointed out in her article, only tracked 112.8 million blogs worldwide. Hence, it could be argued that blogs are growing so fast that the indexing engines and ping devices could not detect the precise figure anymore.

So what is the trend in blogging? According to a survey done by a full time blogger, Gaman,  he found that 28% of Malaysian Top 50 bloggers write about personal stuff while 16% talk about politics and technology respectively. Some of the most influential blogs in Malaysia are KennySia, Screenshoots, SmashPop, TokKok and Alex Allied.

Furthermore, Microsoft discovered female (64%) is setting the blogging trend in Malaysia while IndiaTimes revealed that 76% the blogosphere is dominated by Indian bloggers. In European countries such as the United Kingdom, blogging is slowly gaining its momentum especially in the political scene. Based on a report, Sparrow pointed out that older members of the parliament are more passionate to blog than the younger ones.

Figure 1: Bloggers around the world in the year 2009.

Source: http://technorati.com/blogging/article/day-1-who-are-the-bloggers1/page-2/

Political type of blog is probably most prevalent in the United States because politicians are using it as a means to communicate with its voters. For instance, Blog for America (it later changed to Democracy for America) has successfully demonstrated the use of political blog to facilitate online grassroots campaigning during Howard Dean’s presidential campaign (Kerbel & Bloom 2005).

Figure 2: Example of political blog in the US.

Source: http://www.democracyforamerica.com/

Because blog software has simplified the process of online publishing, it has become an international phenomenon that contributes to the rise of citizen journalism (Pedley 2005). News blogs are beneficial in acting as a watchdog for media by providing wider information that is previously not available to the public.

Moreover, blogs can connect people through its interactive nature. With comment sections available on each post, we can voice out our opinions and improve communication. This parallels to the suggestion by Graber, McQuail & Norris (1998, p. 3) on upholding democracy where ‘communication should be open so that all…  interests enjoy an opportunity to advance their causes, regardless of their popularity views’.

Reference

Graber, D, McQuail, D & Norris, P 1998, ‘Introduction: Political Communication in a Democracy’ in The Politics of News, the News of Politics, eds Graber, D, McQuail, D & Norris, P, Congressional Quarterly, Washington.

Helmond, A 2008, How many blogs are there? Is someone still counting?, viewed 18 November 2009, <http://www.blogherald.com/2008/02/11/how-many-blogs-are-there-is-someone-still-counting/>.

Kerbel, MR & Bloom, JD 2005, ‘Blog for America and Civic Involvement’, The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 3 – 27.

Pedley, P 2005, ‘International phenomenon? Amateur journalism? Legal minefield?: Why informational professionals cannot afford to ignore weblog’, Business Information Review, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 95 – 100.