Critical Responses

The Typewriter: More Than Just a Noisy Machine

Photo By: Amy Ross

Photo By: Amy Ross

Being born in the 90s I have never touched or used a typewriter.  Whenever I hear the word
“typewriter”, I think of an old-fashioned noisy mechanical machine with the one simple task of putting black printed words on a white sheet of paper.  Marshall Mcluhan’s “Into the Age of the Iron Whim” sheds light on the major contributions the typewriter has made to society.  In addition, parallels can be drawn between the typewriter and blogging.

One surprising impact the typewriter had was on the autonomy of women.  Women were not obligated to only be housewives anymore because there were more jobs available for them due to the typewriter.  Since more women could enter the workforce, they did not have the pressure to get married and depend on the husband to be the breadwinner.  Furthermore, Mcluhan points out that the increase of women working lead to a revolution in the fashion industry.

Along with contributing to women independence and fashion, the typewriter changed the way poetry could be expressed.  Just like how jazz allowed musicians to freely express themselves through improvisation, the typewriter allowed poets to create more effects in their poems.  Mcluhan stated, “The machine is like a public-address system immediately at hand. He can shout or whisper or whistle, and make funny typographic faces.”  Similar to the typewriter allowing poets to have more freedom of expression, blogging is way for writers to express their opinions online.

It was also interesting to learn that the typewriter had an effect on spelling, grammar, and the sales of dictionaries.  At first, I was puzzled as to why it lead to the increase of dictionaries.  I knew that typewriters did not come with the convenience of a spell check program, but I later learned that there was no backspace or delete key as well.  If a typist makes a mistake they would have to restart.  I do not think that white-out was even invented yet.  Today, many people just take for granted of how easy it is to delete and edit a mistake while typing.  I am so glad that WordPress offers an “edit” feature and nothing is set and stone.  This puts less stress on the writer knowing that they can change a mistake after a post has been published.

Another interesting concept mentioned in the excerpt, is that at first people were unsure about the use of typewriters.  As Mcluhan stated, “The personal touch of the hand-penned letter was considered so important that the typewriter was ruled out of commercial use by the pundits.”  Many new technological innovations usually take time to gain the confidence of the public.  Like the typewriter, I believe that the concept of blogging had a rocky beginning.  Some writers may feel uncomfortable putting their opinions online for everyone to see and judge.  As a novice blogger myself, I was not very confident at writing posts, but the more posts I published, the easier it became for me to be more open and write more freely.

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The Cycle of Technology: Comparing the Invention of the Typewriter and the Use of Modern Blogging

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This picture was found on Flickr using Creative Commons. It was added by member, The New Ruffian.

The article we had to read for this week talked about the different impacts of the typewriter on businesses, literature (like memoirs, poetry, and others), and other aspects of life. It got me thinking about how a lot of the initial feelings that people had towards the typewriter first started being used could be comparable to the feelings people have about different blogs.

To start with, the article mentioned something about how the women of the time were able to become typists and became a icon symbol for other women. Basically, these women were held in high esteem, and made other women want to follow their footsteps. Thus, as the article states, many other women followed whatever styles and fashions that the typists initiated. This is similar to how popular bloggers are followed today. There are many different blogging platforms used on the internet for these bloggers to get their messages across to their readers. The posts that bloggers put up are rich in their own ideals, morals, views, experiences, and so on. To be more explicit: their style, their flare, their passions. Think about those bloggers who blog about fashion. They explain what style of clothes and products they wear, when to wear them, how to wear them, how to accessorize, the prices, and so forth. After taking this into account, readers may end up buying whatever was featured on the blog the next time they go shopping for either clothes or shoes. Now think about those bloggers who are social justice bloggers. They spotlight issues that readers have come to take for granted. Readers, once getting educated on a particular issue, may feel compelled to do something about that injustice. They may even start to reshape the way they think about certain things or modify their actions to cause less offense. Therefore, these bloggers- like the typists long before them- have influential power because they are looked up to by people who are reading their work.

Additionally, the articled talked about how the invention of the typewriter made grammar and spelling so important that dictionaries became a valuable tool to have. Just like the dictionary became an important tool once the typewriter was introduced, modern blogging made becoming internet-literate a very important skill. How often is it that we have heard how everything is now on the web, that newspapers and magazines and other forms of print are becoming more and more obsolete? Soon, printed materials will become just as rare as handwritten letters. As the article had said:

The typewriter fuses composition and publication, causing an entirely new attitude to the written and printed word”

Modern blogging is another step in that ladder of fusing different printed works together and presenting it in a new way. Newspaper companies now have blogs that highlight different news bulletins, making it more accessible than watching a broadcast on television or hearing a broadcast on the radio. A lot of magazines- whether they are gossip ones or life style ones- are also following the same path.

In conclusion, after reading the article I could not help but see the similarities between the attitudes towards the typewriter when it first was used and modern blogging today. I like to think of the whole thing as a cycle, a cycle that improves information transmission with every turn it takes. Who knows, maybe some day in our future there will be another method of informational transmission that would take over after blogging. Difficult to picture right now, but can you just imagine it?

Blog Layout

I was very informed after reading these two articles. They represent how to make the perfect blog and they give you information on both the more and less obvious aspects as to how to layout your blog. Some of these tips may be common knowledge which is what more of the first article, “Tips for laying out Blog Posts” focused on. Then there are more technical tips most do not know and this knowledge came more from the second article “10 blog Layout Tips.” Both present great tips in order to have an eye-catching blog!

In the first article, “Tips for laying out Blog Posts,” it is all about how to catch a person’s attention through visual concepts. These concepts consist of things such as colors, images, fonts, all the things that draw a viewer’s eye to something. I figured this was a very important aspect to blogging but I did not realize actually how much until reading these two pieces. The tip that interested me the most from this article would be number three, which was collages. I would not have guessed that collages caught the eye more than a single picture. My reasoning would be because there is a lot to focus on rather than just one picture. Turns out I was wrong! Not only are they attractive to the eye, they help speed up the loading time of a page from the consolidation of the photo. Everyone can agree that they are much happier with a page that loads quicker rather than having to wait! So this tip actually serves two purposes, the practical purpose and the fun purpose!

Then on the opposite side we have the second article, which basically gives tips on things that most people would not already know about. These are more technical things that many people would not realize that it actually does make a difference such as, white space, vertical alignment, typography and so on. These things focus more on how to set up your blog so that your viewer has an easy read while also being able to easily navigate through your page. You might think things such as a cluttered page may not matter but you would be wrong! Small things like this do make a difference even if it may be a sub-conscience one. I wanted to point out that there was a reoccurring tip I came across and that was colors. Using vibrant colors in order to direct the reader’s eye to where you want it to go has come up in both articles making it one of the most, if not the most, important aspects to a blog in my personal opinion. It makes sense when you think about it, in order for a reader to stay on your blog and actually get to the point of them reading your posts, they have to be interested enough so that they do not click out of it first. In order to do that your layout must be eye-catching so the little things such as colors matter just as much as the actual information that is being provided and so it is worth it to really contribute to all parts.

A Gold Mine Of Tips: A Beautiful Mess

Photo From: Abeautifulmess.com

Photo From: Abeautifulmess.com

Blogging can be a career when done right, often times we see people on blogs just reblogging posts and do not know how to curate our own content. On occasion we see people who try to do it right but fail because of their lack of knowledge and expertise. A Beautiful Mess gives us insight on six ways bloggers can improve their work. In their , “Tips For Laying Out Blog Posts” and “10 Blog Layout Tips” , they talk about how to attract viewers attentions through the aesthetics of one’s layout. Their first tip emphasized the use of cover photos, this instantly attracts viewers attention to a large picture. The next tip is captioning, this is a way to give the reader a brief summary of what the article is about. Next they talk about collages, this is important because collages help with loading time. Have you ever been to a site where there are just too many pictures on one page, and it loads super slow, it is because of all the pictures. With collages it takes all the photos and mashes them into one photo so instead of loading five individual pictures the site just has one to load. Tip 4 is the photo layout, when used correctly users will know which post is a weekly special or which post is “hot”. Next is tip 5, clip art is used to bedazzle a photo, this gives the photo a certain attractive feature rather than having the plain and simple one. The last tip in “Tips For Laying Out Blog Posts” is fonts. Fonts can be creative and unique, they give your post a different feel, also you can make a certain word or phrase stand out by utilizing different fonts.

Similarly, “10 Blog Layout Tips” also gives you insight on how to better manage and optimize your blogs visual appeal. This posts goes more in depth then the other one which talks about blog Posts, but they are still somewhat similar in concept yet they provide two different outcomes. Blog layout tips is the visual appeal of the whole blog together. This combines everything from spacing, pictures, links, information, posts, and alignment, to give the viewer a fluent and pleasing experience when browsing one’s blog.

Here are pictures of what a blog looks like before using the tips and after using them.

Photo From : Abeautifulmess.com

Photo From : Abeautifulmess.com

Photo From : Abeautifulmess.com

Photo From : Abeautifulmess.com 

You can see the big impact of what those tips have on the blog. One looks very cluttered, it has too much going on, while the other one looks more sophisticated and professional. Note the difference in the side bar also, the links are not grabbing the attention away from the posts in the after picture. Also the background is another big  improvement, in the before picture the background is cutoff and you see that the pink background is cutoff displaying the plain gray background. In the after photo everything is nicely bordered, spaced out, and the background is consistent.

These tips are goldmines to a beginning blog such as myself. Furthermore not only can these tips be used on blogs and posts, they can also be applied to anything visual.

Rewriting Rules of Copyright…?

Image from Creative Commons website

Image from Creative Commons website

So what I find really great about this article is that its talking about all the new possibilities made accessible to people who wanted to innovate certain types of art. The article starts off by mentioning, of course, that music is such a prevalent area in which mixing occurs–which makes sense with the amount of remixes we have circulating the internet. However, like with anything else, the problem boils itself down to making sure everyone’s intellectual and creative property is protected. But how could we do this and still continue to create mixed versions of art? How can we give credit where credit is due but also acknowledge our own contributions?

The answer to this came in the genius form of Creative Commons, which we obviously observed in our class the previous Monday. What I find so interesting however, is that no one really had a way to do this prior to Creative Commons in a way that was both comprehensive and easy to manage. Directly from the article Ariana Cha writes, “[Lawrence] Lessig argues that the current system of copyright laws provides little flexibility — either you give up all permissions for use of your work or you withhold everything. He proposed a solution: a set of copyright licenses that would allow artists to choose to keep ‘some rights reserved’ rather than ‘all rights reserved.'” This is such a brilliant method of encouraging collaboration, especially in an age where everyone is concerned about the exact amount of rights they have once they release something into the beast that is the internet.

As a writer, who also follows other aspiring writers, I’ve sat down to read works that have presently been taken down because the original author has been made aware of plagiarizing of that material on another site. Sometimes its harmless, in which another person wants to genuinely share the work because they love it so much and are a fan–or want to spread the word about the work. But other times its very malicious in which another person will masquerade as a different author claiming that it is her/his original work. Then there are sometimes translated version which also forget to give attribution to the proper author. For this reason, many great novels-in-progress have been taken away or deleted or discontinued because of these writers’ fears that their work will be forever plagiarized. This leads to a decrease in postings as well as many disappointed followers. Its definitely a huge impediment in getting your work out there.

A great thing about these networks is that they’re a good way to not only have your work edited for free, more or less, but also a chance to see if your work is in the right place for a specific audience. This can be so important in relation to projects you are just trying to test out versus serious endeavors that you’re trying to make succeed. The article stresses the importance of the ability to keep creating, and not being afraid to share that creation in the space where the most amount of people can see it. You can get exposure in a way that would be just so much harder to do in real life. A hit on your page or a recommendation could lead to as many as 500-1000 different set of eyes looking at your work and helping to either make it substantial or better. These collaborations are so important on so many levels for people who are aspiring to share their work or make themselves a presence. In the case of the writers I follow, some of their blogs or stories have been so successful that they have led to publications and accolades.

Creative Common will give other writers and artists or collaborators the opportunity to further extend that community in a way that will make the owner feel safe or protected. I think its absolutely amazing to have access to art from places like Nevada or California that I could possibly never come into contact with living just inside of a suburb within New Jersey. The ability to become a part of a different cultural movement, be involved in the development of a novel, piece of music, or photography is incredible. We shouldn’t take those opportunities for granted, but at the same time we need to be aware and conscientious of our roles in crediting where its due. The article ends with this great description of a start-up online record company just to underscore the amazing abilities that things like Creative Commons gives us the opportunity to do–in a way that benefits those who use it and those who created it. If Creative Commons could seriously become the common language that we use in the crazy world that is the internet, I believe we’d be creating a much more tight-knit online community.

Response: Creative Commons is Rewriting Rules of Copyright

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Creative Commons was created by Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford University law professor. Lessig said he created Creative Commons in order  “to create a body of digital work, which he calls ‘artifacts of culture,’ for the public domain, accessible to all.” Since then, artists, writers and musicians alike have used Creative Commons to release their work, whether it be in full or just pieces, with the hopes of sharing their creations with the public.

One of the problems facing artists then, that is even worse now, is the ability to get their work into the hands of their fans, for little to no cost. As is explained in the article, Chuck D and the Fine Arts Militia released their single, “No Meaning No,” through Creative Commons, and were blown away by the fan base the free release of their music created. After this success, the band then released their entire album under creative commons licensing.

So then, I am left wondering, even with such a successful fan base, how is this band making money? Creative Commons allows anyone to use, edit and redistribute the material on the site. Although this is great for exposure, especially for new musicians and artists, how are these people supposed to make money? At the time this article was written, Apple Inc. had proved that people were willing to pay 99 cents to download a single song, I’m not convinced that’s the case now. I don’t remember the last time I purchased a song on iTunes or even bought a DVD. Nowadays, we can find everything for free online, though most of these are illegal versions. Think about how you consume media. Whether its music, tv shows or movies, do you always pay to listen to or watch them?

On the contrary, there is something to be said about the fact that these artists and musicians are willing to give their art away for free, and not only give it away, but let users turn it into whatever they want. The article points out that this is becoming the new norm as more and more artists warm to “the idea of the Internet as a friend instead of foe and race to capitalize on technologies such as file-sharing and digital copying.”

The internet can be such a beautiful thing, if we allow it to be. Opposite from last week’s discussion about trolls and the hurtful things they can say to anyone they want, without even saying who they are, Creative Commons is one of the most positive places on the internet. We all know the saying, “sharing is caring” and Creative Commons capitalizes on that notion. The creator, fans and supporters of Creative Commons are all a part of this community that lets anyone access and use art for free and do whatever they want with it. These people aren’t necessarily concerned about the money, but rather care so much about the art, and their art, that they will let anyone have it for free. This really makes you think — why do we have to pay to listen to music, or to watch movies, or look at pretty pictures? Is the obsession with making money off of all of this taking away from the art itself?

Regardless of where you stand on the money debate that I laid out above, Creative Commons, in my opinion, is a lifesaver for a lot of people. Just the other day I introduced my coworker to Creative Commons and she couldn’t stop thanking me. She needed music to add to the background of a video she was making, but had no idea where to get music that she could use legally. Creative Commons allows anyone to use media or art to do whatever they need, saving them time, money and a whole lot of effort.

How the Internet Created an Age of Rage (Response)

In his article, Tim Adams discusses what trolling involves and what mentality trolls have because of anonymity and a general lack of rules online. Because of a perceived “mask,” people comment and post rude comments or make threatening remarks to individuals. People no longer feel the need to adhere to social normsl; Adam calls it “deindividuation.” Some troll for reactions and others do it because they are angry people. It has become a much bigger issue, however, with the emergence of comment sections on most entertainment news providing sites.

trollI don’t think trolling is as serious as people make it out to be. Yes, trolling is bad; it’s annoying, inconvenient, and generally unhelpful and irrelevant. The last word is important however: irrelevant. At the end of the day, people can ignore trolls and go on with their lives, just like a person walks by strangers every day. There are so many people and so many comments that it is not necessary to give them the time of day. Perhaps that seems a bit lax but this is because I don’t consider people who use explicit/violent language to be trollers. I consider this to be harassment. I think there’s ultimately a huge difference between saying “you suck!” and “I will come to your house and slaughter you and your family.”

Unfortunately, whatever it’s considered, there’s no real way to stop it without censoring, something that people seem to shy away from as though the rule “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all” isn’t still great advice. Anonymity is something that should be permitted. So many things have stigma attached to them that it benefits all to be able to hide behind a username at some point in their lives. Not only that, but not everyone believes it is necessary to have an account for every website just so that they can provide insight. It would be unfair to people who genuinely want to contribute but who feel they can’t because they can’t remain anonymous.

I don’t believe anything needs full censorship. I think the most anyone can hope to do is moderate. I believe people should be able to express themselves and their opinions, whether it be positive or negative. That being said, people can still express themselves and say what they want to say without excessive use of expletives or without the need to threaten bodily harm. And if it can’t be said, it’s because nothing was being said in the first place.

pokemonAn excellent example, if not a bit off-topic would be the game Pokémon. There used to be a time where players could nickname their Pokémon whatever they wanted. And I do mean WHATEVER. If they wanted to name it after a body part or after an expletive, they had full rights and they weren’t censored at all. It’s important to note that no one saw your Pokémon unless you were interacting through use of a (physical) link cable. In the year 2014, it is now possible that I, a 20 year old in New Jersey, can interact with a five year old playing Pokémon in Japan. Players can no longer name their Pokémon anything that they want. Curse words are not allowed, the word “kill” is not allowed, nothing negative or excessively violent is allowed. This is because gamemakers realized that as the internet gets larger and the world gets smaller, it is much easier to be exposed to all kinds of negativity. They have acted accordingly by moderating what can and cannot be said.

WordPress already employs this; in the settings for comments on our personal blogs, we are able to blacklist any words we do not want a commenter to be able to post. This needs to be adopted by more websites so that, for the most part, no one is censored, people can remain anonymous, and people can still contribute and express themselves and their opinions.

Response: Age of Rage

2879775-internet_trollTim Adams’ piece discusses something that pretty much everybody with a computer and WiFi connection has encountered: internet trolls. I think this is something that most of us have come to expect to some degree. No matter what websites you frequent–Pinterest, Buzzfeed, CNN, E!–if they have a comments section then they have trolls.

Put simply, they are users who make inflammatory remarks for the purpose of making other people angry. There are obvious trolls who are deliberately off-topic and politically incorrect to the point of being parodies of themselves. Others are more subtle and may actually believe the outlandish things they say. Either way, their words hinder thoughtful discussion. Adams cites the psychological phenomenon called “deindividuation”, which is when people defy cultural norms under the protection of anonymity. It is no surprise that trolls thrive on the internet, since many websites allow users to remain anonymous.

The common response to trolling is what your mother always told you about what to do if someone on the schoolyard was picking on you: just ignore them. Bullies only do what they do to get a rise out of you, so denying them the reaction they crave is also denying them power.You’re bound to fine trolls anywhere you go on the internet and there’s no point getting riled up every single time someone says something ugly. Since most trolls are reduced to basement-dwelling losers with too much free time on their hands, it isn’t too hard to discount what they have to say. This approach works most of the time.

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Pretty obvious troll

On occasion, the boundary between harmlessness and serious threats to personal safety gets blurred. As mentioned in the article:

Kathy Sierra is a programming instructor based in California; after an online spat on a tech-site she was apparently randomly targeted by an anonymous mob that posted images of her as a sexually mutilated corpse on various websites and issued death threats. She wrote on her own blog: “I’m at home, with the doors locked, terrified. I am afraid to leave my yard, I will never feel the same. I will never be the same.”

Sierra’s situation is complicated for law enforcement since there’s no real way to police the actions of anonymous users on the internet. In a post by blogger Lindy West, she explains how women in particular are “trolled” with rape threats. When they seek help from the police, they are often met with ridicule. Since the threat is anonymous, they are thought to be overreacting.

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These are threats Lindy West received after a televised debate with a male comedian over whether or not it is okay to make jokes about rape.

Is there a solution to the problem at hand? Not really. Unfortunately, people who maintain a public presence on the internet like Sierra and West are likely to be subjected to vitriol simply because there are people out there who disagree with them. That being said, something needs to be done to protect public figures from feeling that their real life safety is threatened.

The rest of us are more privileged because we can avoid trolls by choosing which sites to frequent based on how well their comment sections are moderated. I’m not so sure how I feel about the government taking away internet anonymity, but there’s no denying that trolling can extend beyond ploys for attention.