Monday, March 15, 2010

why are you... doing what you're doing?

i figured i needed a place to think out some of my school-related ideas in various stages of their development in a less formal environment, so hopefully this will serve that purpose.

the name of this blog comes from a paper i did in an introductory grad course from my first semester at UIC. i wrote my final paper about privacy on the internet, and why people make decisions to share particular information via various media which might be considered personal and private otherwise. (the hubub about penelope trunk's miscarriage twitter post is what started me down that path.)

my professor advised me to create a typology, because there are so many different types of content on the internet. so, first i had to figure out what a typology WAS. it turns out it's just a way to classify things based on a bunch of different characteristics. this is what i ended up with:

Generally, a discussion of ‘old’ media refers to analog forms such as radio and television, while ‘new’ media pertains to the impact of digital technologies and changes in the way we have traditionally understood media due to the Internet. The term ‘new media’ as it is used here will refer to the many different types of media using the Internet as a vehicle of delivery, particularly blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. In order to examine them effectively, they must be broken down and categorized in some fashion. A helpful starting off point here is Guillory’s basic typology of media, shown in Table 1.1, which essentializes the formats into their crucial components (2009).

Table 1.1
CONTENT (opposed) TEMPORALITY (opposed)
Words (W) Visuals (V) Static (S) Moving (M)
Text, either written or spoken; includes music (either sheet or aural) Still or moving images in artistic, iconic, or photorealistic form Fixed in time/space; use of the media does not require it to change Motion through time/space is necessary for the understanding and usage of media
ITERATIONS (opposed) CUSTOMIZATION (continuum)
Live (L) Recorded (R) Interactive (I) Directed (D)
Media is created concurrent with its usage Recreation of previous event that can be re-used at a later time User may change the experience and customize it to suit own interests/paths/ choices User feedback is negligible or non-existent

Guillory posits oppositions in the content, temporality, and iterations of media, but this becomes problematic in that many types of media on the Internet are beginning to meld with each other, becoming complex, multilayered, and quite resistant to categorization within a dichotomy. For instance, a moving medium may be used to share static media, or content may involve a combination of both words and visuals, which is not allowed for in Guillory’s content opposition. A more interesting way to look at these in terms of new media would be to consider each category a continuum rather than a rigid dichotomy, and to explore what that might mean in each case.

This typology is certainly helpful in beginning to categorize the vast and varied amount of information available on the rapidly changing Internet; however, it lacks a few dimensions needed for this investigation. I have thus expanded his breakdown in order to enable a bit more specificity with the content portion of media in terms of privacy, as seen in table 1.2.

Table 1.2
TOPICS (continuum) AVAILABILITY (continuum)
Public (PU) Personal (PE) Open (O) Closed (C)
Subject matter focused outward to public sphere Subject matter focused on personal life, thoughts Content readily accessible to all Access to media must be granted by creator

Both of these areas are a continuum in new media, since public and personal topics are often mixed to varying degrees, and within some forms of new media there are levels of availability between being completely open and completely closed which are under the control of the content creator. Examples of a more public and open format would be a technology blog such as TechCrunch or the political blog DailyKos, while the blog of Penelope Trunk, while open, would fall closer to the personal end of the topics continuum since it contains discussions of personal experiences with work, life, and love. Most major blogging and social networking sites, such as Livejournal, Blogger, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, contain the capability for users to control who sees the information that they post. Some are more of a simple open versus closed dichotomy, where one can either lock the content with a required password or leave it entirely open to public view, but many allow fine control of privacy. For instance, on Livejournal and Facebook, one can create different groups of users who are then set to receive different levels of information from the creating user, such as photographs, videos, Internet site links, or blog entries. This is not meant to completely conflate the more short-form social networking sites, such as Twitter, with dedicated blog sites like Livejournal or profiled social networking such as Facebook, but merely to show that there are similarities in some of the information shared through them, as well as the fact that privacy controls are being made available by the sites’ developers.

so, somewhere within all that academic prose, you can start to see how this typology might come in handy. when we discussed it in class, ellen told me that my "typology was clutch," and i'm into that because
a) ellen is awesome
b) it's good to feel like you're smart enough to be in your program sometimes, and
c) combining academics ("typology") and accessibility ("clutch", although let's get real, i'm not really sure who actually says that) is pretty much my goal in general. (see also at some point later: media literacy, or why i love TAing for COMM 103 [intro to media] this semester.)

so there you have it. clutch typology: THE BLOG.

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