Reflection: Six Degrees of Separation. How connected are we?

Resources:

1. Thomas Berman 2008, ‘Six Degrees of Separation: Fact or Fiction?’ , ABC, Accessed at: http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/story?id=2717038&page=1#.UHT_aBZrbSE-

2.Tu, Zhang, ‘Six Degrees of Separation in Online Society’, journalwebscience.org, Accessed at: http://journal.webscience.org/147/2/websci09_submission_49.pdf

3. Internet World Statistics, Accessed at: http://www.internetworldstats.com/

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Prof Comm Student Charter

So the challenge was to see if we as students of ‘Professional Communications’ at RMIT University we could improved the prescribed charter. So how to go about this? Well google docs file sharing apparently. I found this experience rather confronting at first, I think the challenge lay in the fact that the document was open to such a large amount of contributors, so many that material that had been changed and edited was difficult to follow and further improve myself. Therefore this experience taught me that perhaps when using online file sharing and editing programs one must be very specific about the content and the intended use and development, as well as the amount of people the file is shared with. A vast and open arena of online editors and contributors in this case proved quite problematic.

Although in saying this I did find the experience quite enlightening and interesting. As such an open forum allowed for a wide range of ideas and sentiments. Annotated in the screen shots below are the changes I believe were most important to make and the points I thought could be added.

SCREEN GRAB 1

The screen grab above shows the three new points I added to the charter

  1. Involve yourself actively and often in discussions during tutorials. It is important to have the ability to voice your opinions in a public space, and draw and develop upon the ideas of others.
  2. Utilise the resources that RMIT provides (technical equipment, academic resources, tutors and lecturers) wherever possible in order to get the most out of your degree.
  3. Approach the course as an active and ongoing learning experience. Students are expected to push their learning boundaries and step outside their immediate comfort zone, in order to get the most of the course

I attempted to write these goals in a formal and direct style in order to suit the already existing points within the charter. Whilst also aiming to be descriptive and clear.

SCREEN GRAB 2:

Visible in the annotation on the screen grab I made some changes to three of the points already posted by fellow students. With these changes I aimed to improve clarity in expression and description. As well as attempting to make the wording and expression within these points more in line with the original charter (Seen in Figure 1, Figure 2,Figure 3).

Digital Storytelling: How do you do it?

‘BEAR 71’

The first digital story I watched was ‘Bear 71’ an interactive 20 minute documentary from the ‘National Film Board of Canada’ by Leanne Allison and Jeremy Mendes. It follows the story of a grizzly bear who was collared at three years old and followed around Banff National Park.

My initial response to this digital story was amazement. The ability to navigate around a map of Banff National Park, was extremely creative and the ability to follow the movements of Bear 71 and other animals within this habitat. Although a great strength of this piece I believe is the continuation of the narrative voice-over whilst allowing you to explore the interactive map. Keeping this narrative thread going throughout, whilst allowing the viewer to choose their own path in my opinion ensures a continued engagement with the piece and prevents the viewer getting lost within what is a quite complex layout.

The use of music throughout the piece also greatly added to it’s sense of narrative and flow. I think the instrumental soundtrack selected added to the serious tone of the piece, which really communicated the ‘realness’ of the plight of the bears within this deteriorating habitat, rather than just presenting the story as a fictional narrative or an interactive ‘game’.

The narrator speaking as though they were Bear 71 also proved effective, it provided the bear with humanistic qualities the viewer can relate to, thus providing the basis for emotional connection with the character. On a personal level it wasn’t until the concluding videos in the series (which were not viewer selected, but presented within the story as a compulsory element), that I realised how following this character so closely for 17 minutes had pulled me into the world of the story.

In my personal opinion the weakness of this piece of digital storytelling was in some ways it’s complexity. For example the map in which you could navigate within seemed almost boundary-less, which meant at times you felt as though you were searching for quite a long time to pin-point a particular video. I also think in this regard a system could have been implemented to show the viewer the videos they had already viewed within the map, to avoid the chance of re-watching.

In terms of the development of digital storytelling I see this documentary as an exemplary example of the the integration of viewer interactivity, as well as the employment of a range of different mediums, from video, to music, to on screen text. The absolute complexity, yet the presented simplicity in the integration of these mediums, in my opinion is the future of digital storytelling.

‘TAKE THIS LOLLIPOP’

Wow, what an incredibly effective way to tell a story. This piece is not what you expect when you see the opening page, an innocent blue lollipop. The twists of this digital story make it highly effective, as well as it’s unpredictability.

The way in which it highlights the dangers of social media is incredible, and by utilizing your own personal facebook images, it draws you immediately into the story. I felt a knot forming in my stomach. Despite every user essentially seeing the same skeleton of a story, by accessing personal images and information the story becomes personal, and this truly captivates an audience in my opinion. The development of character is also very strong in my opinion, the acting is believable and the setting adds to the threatening and intimidating nature of the story. The use of quick changes between a variety of different shot sizes, close-ups most regularly help contribute to the fast paced nature of the story and create a sense of intimacy and a feeling of watching something that you shouldn’t really be seeing. The option to share the story to Facebook at the completion is also a strong feature, allowing the story to reach a wider audience through the very medium it critiques. Such a convention makes the audience, I know particularly in my case really think about ‘sharing’ and what facebook really has the power to do. Which in my opinion is the story’s main contention. The short, succinct length of the piece worked quite well for the subject matter that was presented, it helped develop as a sense of fear, as the viewer is forced to feel as though such a story starts and finishes in just a matter of moments.

In comparison to the first piece ‘Bear 71’, this story is far less interactive. Perhaps it could be improved by offering the audience different options within the story, asking them questions and allowing them to control where the story takes them. I see interactivity as a convention that can improve engagement with the story structure and narrative, as the viewer is consciously active within the story itself. But in saying this perhaps the beauty of the story itself is the inability to take action, just having to watch the internet predator and not be able to do anything about it. Maybe to strengthen the piece the author could add an interactive second episode or prequel, in order to further engage the audience.

In regards to the development of digital storytelling I think this piece highlights the way in which online mediums are perhaps most effective in commenting on online issues. The way in which this story uses facebook (the very social media outlet it critiques), highlights the way in which digital storytelling can draw from such a wide range of online mediums to tell it’s story.

‘ROME’

Rome is an interactive digital story that aims to tell the story of  ‘inspired by the music of Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi (featuring Jack White, Norah Jones and renowned composer Ennio Morricone’s original 40-piece orchestra from Italy)’ (Source: Mashable.com Layla Revis 2012, Accessed at: http://mashable.com/2012/01/31/digital-storytelling/). The piece essentially takes you on a journey through a number of different graphically produced environments; city, desert, countryside using the music as a catalyst for where the journey takes you.

One of the main strengths of this piece in my opinion is the ability for the viewer to be able to navigate through the different environments using the mouse. The story directs you in a certain forwards direction, although the viewer can navigate up and down and side to side. This I believe added great interest to the piece. The movement of the mouse throughout the journey also prompted the creation of new graphics in the direction the viewer chooses. This allows the viewer to make his or her own connection with the music, and direct the story the way in which the music makes. For me personally this gave the story a whimsical feeling, creating an almost dream like state. Therefore I think the most significant strength of this piece of storytelling is the mood it is able to create through the effective combination of graphics, music and interactivity.

I think this piece could potentially be improved by adding the ability to ‘click’ using the mouse controls. I know a couple of times I subconsciously tried to ‘click’ on certain areas of the digital environment. I think by doing this would allow the user to engage in yet another layer of the digital storyworld. Perhaps by ‘clicking’ you could open up certain elements of the landscape that is presented. I also think the piece could be improved by the use of some form of text, perhaps that related to the lyrics of the songs, or that appeared depending on where the mouse was moved. Once again adding another layer within the story. I also think some of the graphics within the piece could be improved to make the images clearer.

In terms of the development of digital storytelling in my opinion this example highlights a potential direction for music videos in the future. This medium allows people to engage more with the music and gives them the ability to interact with it, perhaps establishing a greater connection.

E-books, the real reading experience?

So I must admit I have always had a pretty set and sure opinion on e-books. Let me start by saying this, I just can’t see myself sitting down to read Jane Austen in the sunshine then looking down to find myself staring at the pages of her novel on, well essentially, a computer screen. Where has the magic gone? I don’t get to feel the pages or fiddle with the edges or mark my place with the bookmark my Grandma gave me. I love books, walking into a book shop, casting my eyes over the hundreds of titles, feeling surrounded by words and ideas. That feeling, in my opinion, just can’t be equated into browsing through a list of links on amazon.com.

But when I began my research I was willing to open my mind and see if I could be convinced that ebooks were the way of the future. So let’s consider the pros based on my research. First and fore mostly I had failed to consider the environmental benefits of an ebook, as Remez Sasson writes,

‘No trees are required to manufacture paper for the pages of ebooks’ (Source: Remez Sasson 2012, ‘The Benefits and Advantages of Ebooks’, Accessed at: http://www.successconsciousness.com/ebooks_benefits.htm ).

Next of course comes the portability of an ebook, lighter and smaller than most conventional books, there is obvious benefits with storage and transportation as Sasson also notes,

‘Ebooks take up less space. You practically don’t need any space to store them. You don’t need a library or a room for them. You can store hundreds and thousands of ebooks on your computer or reading device.’ (Source: Remez Sasson 2012, ‘The Benefits and Advantages of Ebooks’, Accessed at: http://www.successconsciousness.com/ebooks_benefits.htm )

Similarly noted in the article ‘The Ebook debate’:

‘…with my Newton I immediately recognized the potential of digital readers, since I quickly filled it with a number of books that I could carry around all the time.’ (Source: ‘The Ebook debate’ 2008, Accessed at: http://www.humanismus.com/_/The_Ebook_Debate.html)

I do see the potential in this aspect of the ebook and it’s ability to make life easier for the user. During my research I encountered the suggestion that perhaps the market for ebooks is for heavy textbooks, medical texts etc. That maybe the need isn’t there for novels, but perhaps for these forms of text an ebook presents great potential. This idea supported by Walt Crawford who states,

‘Forget replacing mass-market paperbacks; ebook vendors should look to replace bulky, overpriced, hard-to update, print books.’ (Source: Crawford, W 2006, ‘Why Aren’t Ebooks more successful, Econtent, vol. 29, no.8, pp. 44-44. Accessed: http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=2f3d9440-e24e-40c4-a52f-47c6a2017df7%40sessionmgr110&vid=2&hid=125)

On the contrary many still argue on my side, that the magic of books is simply that ‘the magic of a book’. But also the sustainability of the resource, a book essentially has the ability to last forever, although an ebook’s technology has the potential to become outdated. This idea is supported by the author Franzen, as noted in Anita Singh’s article for ‘The Telegraph’, ‘Jonathan Franzen: e-books are damaging society’:

‘“The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom. I can spill water on it and it would still work! So it’s pretty good technology. And what’s more, it will work great 10 years from now. So no wonder the capitalists hate it. It’s a bad business model,” said Franzen, who famously cuts off all connection to the internet when he is writing.’  (Source: Singh, A 2012, ‘Jonathan Franzen: e-books are damaging society’, ‘The Telegraph’, Accessed: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/9047981/Jonathan-Franzen-e-books-are-damaging-society.html)

Finally Franzen supports my somewhat nostalgic ideas of books and memories of childhood and reading my great grandmothers copy of ‘Winnie the Pooh’ and feeling a connection to the history of the pages.

‘Speaking at the Hay Festival in Cartagena, Colombia, Franzen argued that e-books, such as Amazon’s Kindle, can never have the magic of the printed page.’   (Source: Singh, A 2012, ‘Jonathan Franzen: e-books are damaging society’, ‘The Telegraph’, Accessed: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/9047981/Jonathan-Franzen-e-books-are-damaging-society.html)

My question, can an ebook every emulate this history and magic?

Flipped Lecture 3: ‘2057: The City of the Future’

The documentary ‘2057: The City of the Future’ is presented in a creative manner, aiming to illustrate the development of technology into the future. Integrating real scientific advancements and a fictional narrative of the ‘City of the Future’ in 2057, the documentary attempts to demonstrate the positives that can be linked with the development of technology, as well as the dangers in relying so heavily upon technology in the future.

What I found most interesting within this documentary was the real scientific developments it documented, such as; self driving cars and the development of robots. But what I found most intriguing about these developments in science was the fact that almost all the scientists noted how a computer is many, many levels below the human brain and it’s ability to face challenges. So this begs the question by creating these new technologies we aim to remove human error, but really by doing this are we just increasing the dependence upon technology and thus making society more susceptible to technological errors?

I did some further research into the potential technological developments of the future and found an interesting website, futuretimeline.net. This website like the documentary predicted future developments in the future, specifically for 2050-2059 the following ideas were listed:

 

‘2050-2059 timeline contents

2050 – Humanity is at a crossroads | Nearly half of the Amazon rainforest has been deforested | Wildfires have tripled in some regions | Smaller, safer, hi-tech automobiles | Major advances in air travel comfort |Continent-wide “supergrids” provide much of the world’s energy needs | China completes the largest water diversion project in history

2051 – An interstellar radio message arrives at Gliese 777 | Britain holds its centennial national exhibition

2053 – Moore’s Law reaches stunning new levels | Genetically engineered “designer babies” for the rich

2055 – Spaceflight has taken a leap forward | The vast majority of countries have achieved democracy |Global population is reaching a plateau | Traditional media have fragmented and diversified

2056 – Global average temperatures have risen by 3°C | Fully synthetic humans are becoming technically feasible

2057 – Computers reach another milestone | Handheld MRI scanners

2058 – The Beatles’ music catalogue enters the public domain | A radio telescope is built on the Moon

2059 – The end of the oil age | Mars has a permanent human presence by now’

(Source: Future Timeline 2012, 2050-2059 Timeline Contents)

This source alone in comparison with the documentary demonstrates that it proves very ambiguous to attempt to predict the future, as both sources presented different interpretations about how the future of technology and thus the world may look. Ultimately I think the documentary was aiming to highlight the infinite possibilities for technology in the future. Whilst also warning it’s audience that as a human society there is definite harm in relying too heavily upon technology to dictate all facets of our lives. I think this quote from PCWorld’s article ‘The Next 25 years in Tech’ highlights the weakness in attempting to prove the technological future, by drawing upon  the past:

‘The future ain’t what it used to be. In the pre-PC era, futurists predicted huge changes in transportation. By 2008 we would be flitting about in personal jetpacks and taking vacations on the moon. But the communications revolution spurred by personal computers and the Internet wasn’t on anyone’s radar.’ 

(Source: PCWorld: ‘The Next 25 years in Tech’ 2008)

RSS Teach Me How to Blog cont.

Once again I have gone to my RSS feeds for tips on how to turn this ‘reluctant’ blogger into an enthusiastic one. The feed I found most useful in this instance was Blog Go Down. More specifically the blog post ‘5 Steps to Building More Confidence with Your Readers’

It’s not as though I have the suggested 250 visitors a day, but I still found I could draw some keys points from the blog written by guest blogger, Nathan Kash. The blog post discussed in a logical manner, using sub-headings the way in which as a blogger needs to have specific goals and ideas concerning the way their blog operates and the content that is posted. As the article suggests:

‘The main reason random visitors don’t end up converting i.e. subscribing to your lists, feeds or buying a product is simply that they do not trust you. They have come to your site sure enough but you haven’t given them a reason to stay or keep coming.’ (Source: Nathan Kash 2012, (‘5 Steps to Building More Confidence with Your Readers’)

The key steps Kash suggests are as follows:

  1. Focus on your content
  2. Find a compelling angle for your content
  3. Create a posting schedule
  4. Reply to all your comments
  5. Build a relationship with other bloggers

(Source: Nathan Kash 2012, ‘5 Steps to Building More Confidence with Your Readers’ )

The step I found most useful with the stage I am currently at in my blogging career and where I want to take blogging after the conclusion of ‘Networked Media’ was step 1. In terms of content, according to the research I did by reading this blog post, I need to discover a niche. Something that is specific to my blog and appealing to readers, that has a clear directional focus. This prompted me to begin brainstorming where my niche may lie.

This research, employing the use of my RSS feed proved very useful as it has provided me with an easy to follow process that I can follow and adapt with as blogging career develops.

I also found reading the reactions via twitter at the bottom of the blog post interesting (see image below), I also believe this is a great way to extend the reach of ones blog, allowing a blog writer to connect with a much wider audience.

 

(Source: Nathan Kash 2012, ‘5 Steps to Building More Confidence with Your Readers’ , accessed 12.02pm 7 September 2012)

How Do I Best Search the Net?

Due to my absolute fascination and the inspiring performances in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London 2012, I decided to use ‘Paralympics’ as my search term of choice. I used three contrasting search engines, google, instagrok and duck duck go. All three search engines provided a different way of searching the vast information the internet has to offer.

Instagrok was perhaps the most different to any search engine I had ever seen before, presenting the results within a mind map/flow chart format, as well as a key facts table on the right hand side (see picture below). Personally I found this format slightly hard to navigate. Although for people who best learn visually I can see how this format would cater to their needs.

The second search engine I employed was ‘Duck Duck Go’ this search provided a format I found easy to understand and navigate. In my opinion it was quite logically set out. Providing a general overview of the topic at the very top of the screen followed by the ‘Official’ Paralympics site. The search engine also pin points which results are sponsored links and provides the option to uncover ‘more results’ if more information is need (see picture below).

Finally I employed the use of Google, admittedly my default search engine up until now. The strength in Google as a search engine I believe was the ability to break up informative sites, from news sites and the how the engine pin points these differences (see picture below). The order of sites seemed quite logical and I found it quite easy to navigate between the different resources.

For the above reasons I decided to rank the search engines in this order:

  1. Duck Duck Go
  2. Google
  3. Instagrok

Therefore, I went about changing Duck Duck Go to my default search engine. I did this by following the instructions posted on Duck Duck Go itself:

1. Right-click the address bar (where it says duckduckgo.com).

2. Select Edit search engines.

3. Find and select DuckDuckGo in the list. If not there, click here.

4. Click Make Default.

5. It should then move to the very top with (Default) next to it. Good luck!

(Source: www.duckduckgo.com)