Do you know that this is my very first attempt setting up a blog?  You can say that I am treading on virgin territory.  Prior to this I know nothing about blogs except that my children cannot do without sharing their deepest darkest secrets with their friends through their blogs hosted by Blogger, Xanga or WordPress and more.

To be frank, this blog would not have existed except for the fact that I have to create one for my assignment.  Why, you may ask?  The answer is simple.  Trying to be a super-mom at home, super-employee at work and model-student at UNISA is physically, emotionally and mentally draining.  It has not been a priority that I bare my soul in cyberspace for anyone lucky (or unlucky) enough to ‘find’ me accidentally!

Having said that, I think blogs serve a purpose in their existence.  As Fran Kelly expressed in an ABC Breakfast article online at ABC Radio National Online blogging is a new form of journalism unfettered by the constraints of the traditional press with the power to influence public opinion. Wow, I can make a difference and express my views on issues close to my heart!  The saying that the pen is mightier than the sword cannot be more true today…There is a purpose now for me to log in regularly to discuss issues on media and communication developments.  I have also learnt how to manoeuver, albeit very slowly and painfully; my way around the blog to put in images, links and categories.  I am getting better now and with practice, I am sure in no time, I will be just as nimble and quick as my girls.

Although my visitor count stands at zero as of now I am not discouraged.  In the space of a few well executed clicks, my world has changed.  I am now ‘connected’ and in touch with issues in the cyberworld.  Not disheartening, not at all.

So join me, it’s easy, it’s fun and most importantly, it’s free.

Resources

Image source: Breakfast at ABC Radio National

 

For many of us who grew up in the ‘printed word’ generation before the PC became an indispensable part of our lives, I daresay that the majority have adjusted very successfully to embrace the digital lifestyle that we are now in.  We are quite at home flipping through the pages of our newspapers over a cup of coffee or getting the latest breaking news from around the world online from one of the many news websites.

Therefore, designing effective, good-looking communication be it in print or online is key to ensure that the message gets across to the reader and the desired reaction is performed.  This can be a print advertisement for a product that requires you to present a cutting to get a discount when you buy or an online opinion article seeking your comments on a hot topic of the day. Parker (1990 p. 9) states that good design provides a road map guiding readers from point to point.

As traditional print media embrace the online channel, we are seeing a mirroring of print documents online in a different form to appeal to a new genre of audience.  In creating documents, it is important to think about the experience of your audience, which differs greatly between print and web design. It is therefore vital to know that print and online design operate with its own set of rules and I will touch on three key points.

Content Readability

According to Parker (2003, p. 207) reading online is far more difficult than reading from paper because the screen projects light and this foreground/background contrast increases eye fatigue making it unadvisable for readers to stare at the screen for long periods of time. 

Reading onscreen also reduces the page visibility as readers only get a partial page view and they would need to constantly scroll up or down making “a big picture” view of the article difficult to grasp.  Personally, if I find an online article interesting, I would copy and print it for easier reading and digestion.

Design

A great tip from Parker (2003, p. 273) on document design is to create layouts that can be comfortably read onscreen which means it will be even easier to read when printed!

How?  In a nutshell:

  1. Avoid multicolumn layouts for onscreen documents
  2. Reduce line length by building white space to add contrast to a page
  3. Adjust line spacing to adapt to easy reading
  4. Create more white space between paragraphs for onscreen documents to make easier reading
  5. Use subheadings to add visual interest and “advertise” the text that follows
  6. Add text hyperlinks for onscreen documents to aid readers to jump to a topic of interest
  7. Use color with restraint to enhance, not detract

Interactivity

At its most basic, the web is interactive whereas print pieces are usually not.  Web designing has to take

into consideration the media consumer’s overall user experience by engaging them actively through audio, video and images.  As Kress (1997, p. 55-56) shares, the visual state is a vastly more efficient mode for carrying and ‘processing’ great amounts of information. Professor John Seely Brown said that media firms that can tailor their offerings to fit their different audiences will reign in the interactive, collaborative next-generation online world. 

This was reported by Chua Hian Hou in The Straits Tmes (24 September 2008, p. B6) when Prof Brown conducted his lecture titled Redefining Media in the 21st Century in Singapore.  He cited the example of Amazon Kindle an e-book reader that offers its users access to its library of 180,000 books and newspapers, allowing them to also share their experiences with other Kindle users. To sum it all up, whether it is for web or print, the design must fit the medium it is intended for to meet the needs of the media consumer it is targetted at.

Resources:

Image Source: PC Magazine Online, PC Magazine, Amazon Kindle

References: Kindle: Amazon’s Wireless Reading Device viewed 24 September 2008, http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Amazons-Wireless-Reading-Device/dp/B000FI73MA

Kress, G 1997, ‘Visual and verbal modes of representation in electronically mediated communication: the potentials of new forms of text’ in Snyder, Ilana (ed.) 1997, Page to screen: taking literacy into the electronic era, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, Chapter 3, p. 53-79

Parker, RC 2003, ‘Designing documents for web distribution’, Looking good in print, 5th edn, Paraglyph Press, Scottsdale AZ, Chapter 14, p. 269-293

Chua, HH 2008, ‘Context is king on new Web, says expert’ The Straits Times 24 September 2008, p. B6

Singapore has been heavily criticised by the global community for having a ‘restrictive’ or ‘suffocated’ local media scene. The term ‘OB Markers’ largely come into play in the debates that centre around this issue; it is a Singaporean political jargon- they draw the line where “sensitive” ends and “insensitive” begins. Such markers are issues or topics considered taboo for public debate. They are, however invisible, and there is no official stand as to where these OB markers are at any given point in time.

Michael Backman from Asia Online (2004) once noted: “What is Singapore? A country or a child-care centre?”; OB Markers are unwritten and vague, he quipped, in his article Singapore must drop Out of Bounds Censorship. He argues that they are nebulous, not transparent and are applied in a discretionary manner- this results in a highly cautious Singaporean society prone to self-censorship. This is accompanied by other numerous repercussions, like the lessening of creativity, breeding the culture of fear, and the cultivation of narrow-minded Singaporeans. Michael was, in fact, one of those who fell foul of these mysterious markers. Information Minster Lee Boon Yang said in a speech that he had ‘crossed the line’ and sought to intervene in Singapore’s domestic politics. Michael then proceeded to conclude that he had only crossed the line because what he said was contrary to the stance of the government, to his displeasure of course.

Censorship has been defined as the restriction of the freedom of expression by an established authority for the perceived good of the situation. The Singaporean government are clear on the issues of race and religion- saying that issues like these which have potential to disrupt unity in a country are clearly out of bounds.  They go on to state that allegation of corruption and failings without proof and evidence to people holding high office (in the government), are also out of bounds.

So then, how is censorship relevant in the internet?  Many bloggers are still reeling over the Wee Shu Min scandal as reported in the Straits Times (2006), and the prosecution of racist bloggers under the Sedition Act.  Many enjoy the blogosphere as an avenue for free expression of personal views.  It was argued, at that time, whether it was right to force an apology from someone who was only expressing her honest viewpoint.  The social backlash as a result of her blog post may have been a strong signal to many bloggers out there that extremist remarks or comments are unwelcome.  To many, this may seem a blatant invasion of private space.  After all, it is their private space, they have a right to say whatever they want and Singapore is a democratic country.

Over in Malaysia, the government has instilled a ‘climate of fear’ when it invoked the Internal Security Acto to detain blogger and webmaster of news portal, Malaysia Today, Raja Petra Kamaruddin, Sin Chew journalist Tan Hoon Cheng and Opposition MP Teresa Kok.  Charges ranged from tarnishing the leadership of the country, insulting the sanctity of Islam and racist remarks.  The latest on this issue is that Raja Petra has had his detention extended for a further two years without trial.  How safe then is freedom of speech?

For those of us living in this part of the world especially in Singapore where we pledge ourselves as one united people, regardless of race, language or religion, must exercise sensitivity towards our fellow citizens and residents who live among us.  To me this means that we have to accept that we may not see eye to eye on such matters but accept the differences as unique and be tolerant.

Should bloggers be accountable?

The internet, by virtue of its size (the size of the web is more than 800 million pages, and the biggest search engine only covers about 20% of it) is said by many to be impossible to regulate.  Pseudonymity and data havens (such as freenet) allow unconditional free speech, as the technology almost guarantees that material canot be removed and the author of any information is impossible to link to a physical identity or organisation.  Yet, racist bloggers in Singapore were so quickly caught and prosecuted; a country as ‘liberal’ as the United Kingdom also successfully censor internet content via a service called Cleanfeed.  British Telecommunications passes internet traffic through the service which uses data provided by the Internet Watch Foundation to identify pages believed to contain indecent photographs of children and other objectionable content.  When such a page is found, the system creates a ‘URL not found page’ error rather than deliver the actual page.

Freedom of speech and expression then, even with the advent of the internet and the proliferation of personal blogs, is arguably not as free as it is perceived to be, although, it does give users a tad lot more free reign that it ever was imaginable. 

 

Resources:

Image sources:

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/dayart/20050615/cartoon20050615.gif

http://images.scripting.com/archiveScriptingCom/2005/05/26/blogCartoon.jpg

http://serialdeviant.org/images/2004/doodles/OBmarkers.gif

References:

Backman, M 2004, ‘Singapore must drop ‘out of bounds’ censorship’ Asia Online, 13 August 2004, viewed 20 September 2008, http://www.singapore-window.org/sw04/040813ao.htm

Kwek, K 2006, ‘Singapore: Teen blogger counselled for her ‘elitist’ remarks, Straits Times, 24 October 2004, viewed on 20 September 2008 on Asia Media, http://www.asiamedia.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=56059

Low, ST 2008, Malaysia: Changing the climate of fear, Malaysia Today, 25 September 2008, viewed 25 September 2008, http://mt.m2day.org/2008/content/view/13094/84/

The term ‘blog‘ is derived from ‘web log‘ and is usually maintained by an individual making entries in a journal style displayed in reverse chronological order.  Blogs offer commentary and opinions on topics that can range from food to politics.  Most blogs function as personal online reflections and diaries and depending on the blogger’s technical skills, may be basic or highly sophisticated with text, images, videos and links to other media.

Blogs differ not only in the content type content but also in the content delivery.  Briefly I shall list those that I can think of…

  1. Personal blogs – by far the most proliferate, is most often an ongoing diary of an individual’s musings on topics that he/she has a personal interest in
  2. Coroporate blogs – is used either internally to improve communication or externally for marketing by an organisation for business purposes
  3. Media type blogs – these can be vlogs (video), photoblogs, artlogs, sketchblogs, musicblogs etc
  4. Genre blogs – my favourites would be satirical blogs like BrownTown, travelblogs, fashionblogs, foodblogs…the list goes on

Blogosphere is the term to describe the collective community of blogs.

According to Kinkeldei (2007), blog communities aggregate the individual and independent blogs of a number of people with a shared interest.  Bloggers with common interests, business men and women trying to link up with like-minded peers etc can use blog communities to network, socialise and help each other.

Blog communities like Live Journal and MySpace attract the younger audience who are looking for social networking to form connections and bonds in much more focused groups.  The marmaBLOGS targets working women and the issues they face in their everyday lives which may include new business venture opportunities, new gadgets, planning a baby shower and recipe sharing etc.  It clearly offers the perfect opportunity for like-minded women to come together as a group to share common interests on one platform.

As pointed out by Kinkeldei (2007), for blog communities to flourish, key fundamentals must be observed including:

  • a clear direction and topic
  • elect a manager/organiser as the ‘face’ of the blog community
  • trumpet clearly the cause or theme and use Meta tags for search engines to find and link to the blog

Once the fundamentals are in place, blog communities will be able to play a bigger role within the blogosphere, contributing pooled information and knowledge to inspire and reach more people than an individual blogger.  The boundaries are only as far as what is in the mind which in the blogosphere can be NONE!

Have you been encouraged enough to start your own blog community?

Resources

Image Source: YouTube

References

BrownTown, viewed 4 September 2008, http://mrbrown.com/

Kinkeldei, B 2007, White Paper Blog Communities, ‘Forging Connections and Promoting Growth Through Blog Communities’, 21publish.com, viewed 4 September 2008, http://www.21publish.com/pub/21publish/blogging-whitepaper.pdf

LiveJournal, Express yourself, share your life, connect with friends online, viewed 4 September 2008, http://www.livejournal.com/

MarmaBlogs, A rather ladylike place to blog, viewed 4 September 2008, http://blogs.marmaladya.com/

MySpace.com, a space for friends, viewed 4 September 2008, http://www.myspace.com/

Youtube Terry Fator Video, viewed 4 Sep 2008, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OECxtUd0-k&feature=related