The first day of of the semester, each individual student in our Publishing 101 class was tasked to come up with a definition of the word publishing. As a communication student who has heard only good things about the department, I was excited to finally gain some insight into the world of publishing. In coming up with a definition, however, I soon came to the realization that I had no real understanding of the field at all, and struggled to come up with a definitive answer without the help of Google. In taking this course, I’ve learned that publishing can mean a variety of things, from engaging collaboratively within networked public spaces online, to developing our own digital lives. One way of looking at it, as Nash (2013) notes, is to consider the word publishing like you would a book, in that it is almost but not quite a proxy for the “business of literature” (pp.4).
The course has enabled students, from various faculties, to develop their digital media presence through the creation and development of their own personal websites. In their article, “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure”, Campbell (2009) theorizes that by developing a personal cyberinfrastructure, students will have the capability to become system administrators for their own digital lives (pp.6). To add onto this theory, Campbell notes:
“Students not only would acquire crucial technical skills for their digital lives but also would engage in work that provides richly teachable moments ranging from multimodal writing to information science, knowledge management, bibliographic instruction, and social networking. Fascinating and important innovations would emerge as students are able to shape their own cognition, learning, expression, and reflection in a digital age, in a digital medium” (pp. 7).
Campbell takes a very technophilic approach in his consideration of the web, however provides useful insight into how I’ve created my online self this past semester. I’ve been able to express myself through a digital platform, and learn important aspects of what it means to be an online publisher. Prior to this course, I had little to no experience in curating a personal cyberinfrastructure for the purposes of creating meaningful, engaging content. While my digital media literacies are well developed regarding social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, and my willingness to share personal information is reminiscent of the benign disinhibition effect that Suler (2004) refers to (pp. 1), my knowledge of WordPress or blogging in general was limited.
A reading that had significant impact on my decision making when designing my blog was Gertz’ (2015), “Design Machines: How to survive in the digital Apocalypse.” In their article, Gertz describes the current state of design in an online context, and sheds light on the homogeneity of web-based digital design due to external pressures to keep up with the competitiveness of the online world (pp. 6). When browsing the various themes to choose from, the homogeneity of website templates was obvious. While they were all very aesthetically pleasing, they lacked character and authenticity. So many companies, in their attempt to emulate the success of others, end up producing content that falls flat or lacks meaningful content.
While I do not consider myself a professional website designer by any means, the article was helping in making me aware of the decisions I was making regarding all design elements of my website, including text, images, and overall layout. The purpose of my website, more than about sharing vegetarian food, was to develop my skills as an online publisher. By keeping that in mind, I would make decision about design, as well as content, to reflect my learning process as I became more adept at managing my own personal blog.
The best part of creating my blog was developing my voice within my writing and conveying it in a way that would resonate with others. Warner (2002) discusses the idea of a “public” address (in this case, the collective of random internet users) being predicated, to some extent, on their attention (pg. 419). While some aspect of what I am doing is simply contributing content to a void of infinite possibilities in hopes that someone will find it, another part of me is interested in being, well, interesting. Being a publisher is more than simply creating content for content’s sake, but producing something of value. While I am very sure that no “public” has been created in response to my website, perhaps someone, someday, will pay my blog enough attention that a small internet community of vegetarians could form. One can only hope.
Now that the course has come to and end, and I am no longer prescribed to a meal plan, my goals for my website have shifted. If I should continue blogging, I would like to develop my photo editing skills by learning Photoshop in order to enhance the quality of the graphics I post. My website is very niche, however one thing I am sure of will stay consistent: my vegetarianism! I’ve learned so much in regard to best strategies to developing an online presence, and hope to continue applying those skills in the future.
Campbell, G. (2009). “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure.” EDUCAUSE Review 44 (5). Retrieved from: http://er.educause.edu/articles/2009/9/a-personal-cyberinfrastructure
Gertz, T. (2015). “Design Machines. How to survive in the digital Apocalypse.” Retrieved from: https://louderthanten.com/articles/story/design-machines
Nash, R. et al. (n.d.). What Is the Business of Literature? Retrieved from: https://www.vqronline.org/articles/what-business-literature
Suler, J. (2004). “The Online Disinhibition Effect”. Cyberpsychology & behavior 7(3), 321-326. Retrieved from: http://truecenterpublishing.com/psycyber/disinhibit.html
Warner, M. (2002). “Publics and Counterpublics”. Quarterly Journal of Speech. 88(4). Retrieved from: http://knowledgepublic.pbworks.com/f/warnerPubCounterP.pdf