Walking into the first PUB 101 class, I had no idea what to expect. I had found this course by complete coincidence and figured I would take it as a refreshing change to all the film courses I had already been taking. But when I had found out the main focus of this class would be to independently operate my own blog, I was a bit surprised. Surprised by how radically different this course was sounding, and how it would be run. Nevertheless, I was excited to have a course that was something different, so I stuck with it. Little did I realize however, that this course wouldn’t only be about how to maintain a blog, but also about the deeper more philosophical reasons behind social media and the internet as a whole.
The first hurdle I had to overcome when creating my blog was what it was actually going to be about. The choice came down to being either a photography blog where I post my own pictures and comment about being a photographer, or a movie blog where I talk about movies I like, dislike, etc. What made my decision in the end came from a course reading that I had stumbled across while looking ahead into the outline. The quote comes from Why We Post “Social media has shifted human communication towards the visual at the expense of text and voice. Now a photo can become the core of our conversation.” This quote really struck me, and reminded me of the old phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Sometimes an image can have a greater impact than a 750 word essay (cough cough). So it was decided. Using my last name as clever wordplay, Pawer of Photography was born. Then came my next hurdle, design. Being both a film enthusiast and student of it, design and aesthetics are concepts that lay close to my heart, so I knew I really wanted the design to both highlight the purpose of my blog and look good doing it. After examining different WordPress themes and playing around with their options, I eventually settled on my current theme, Hitchcock. Not only did I like how this theme gave special attention to photos, but I found it fitting that it be named after the famed director. However this would not be the end in my attempt to get my blog looking the way I like it. For almost a week I struggled to figure out a way to select which photos I wanted to appear on my homepage, and which ones I didn’t. I wanted my regular content, and my PUB 101 content to remain separate (with a few exceptions here and there). I wanted my homepage to reflect the content I wanted to put out, and not the content that I was required to create. Eventually, one of my peers suggested a plugin for me, and it’s been working just the way I like ever since. Working on getting my blog looking just the way I wanted was by no means a simple task, and it required a lot of time experimenting with the limits of WordPress. Erin Kissane, in her magazine article “Contents may have shifted” explains this, stating “But as the web has matured and our browsing devices have proliferated, online content has begun to turn liquid and fall out of our page-shaped boxes.” I remember the time when no website looked good. They were all very blocky and unappealing (those dark days of the early internet). But as technology has evolved, so has our understanding of what looks good online. Working within WordPress very much felt like I was working with a liquid that can take the shape of whatever container I place it in. It required a lot of creativity, but the tools existed to help you shape the liquid into a shape I liked.
Having and appealing to an audience was something I hadn’t considered while initially creating my website. I wasn’t expecting there to be a great deal of traffic, and I had created this site primarily for myself as an archive of my photos. As a result, I didn’t put a lot of effort into cultivating or imanganing a specific audience. Looking at my analytics, I see that my entire audience is viewing my site from Canada, who I suspect consists mainly of my classmates or my close friends who i’ve shared the website with, or from the U.S., who I suspect consist entirely of my girlfriend and whatever of her friends she’s shared my site with. I’m not getting a lot of foreign traffic, or even traffic that I don’t except in the first place. However, this isn’t discouraging. I understood perfectly well while creating my site that I wanted it to be for me primarily and for others secondary.
Something that I was thinking about while creating my website was how I was going to behave while creating content for it. I knew I wanted to write a short commentary for most of the photos i’d post, but some part of me was worried about opening up too much. I began to understand this situation better once we started learning about the online disinhibition effect. Suler explains the effect in his article, stating “They loosen up, feel more uninhibited, express themselves more openly.” As I began posting and writing for my blog, I definitely began to feel this way. This was both a frightening and comforting realization. Reading about something, only to discover that you’re going through it yourself can be a bit unsettling, but conversely I thought it might be a positive thing that I was opening up a bit more. It meant that I was able to put more personality into my posts, and I think it really shows in a few specific posts i’ve made. Thinking back to the start of this course, I had understood publication as simply putting content out for others to see. However now I understand that publishing is a process that requires a lot of thought into what kind of content you want to create, how you want to distribute it, and who you want to see it. Will I continue to post on my blog? Quite frankly I wouldn’t bet on it. Maybe if I take a picture i’m particularly proud of, or think of some groundbreaking idea for my site, I can’t imagine it will see too much activity once this course is over. That is not to say however that I didn’t find this course enjoyable. I may have struggled in the first few weeks to fully grasp the concept, but coming out of it I have a much greater appreciation and understanding of the online world and how I interact with it.
Suler, J. The Online Disinhibition Effect. The Psychology of Cyberspace. truecenterpublishing.com/psycyber/basicfeat.html Accessed 7 Apr. 2018.
“Why We Post: We used to just talk, now we just talk photos”. University College London. www.ucl.ac.uk/why-we-post/discoveries/why-we-post/discoveries/7-we-used-to-just-talk-now-we-talk-photos. Accessed 7 Apr. 2018.
Kissane, Erin. “Contents may have shifted”. Contents magazine, issue No. 4. 2013. contentsmagazine.com/articles/contents-may-have-shifted. Accessed 7 Apr. 2018.