Monthly Archives: February 2021

January & February Wrap Up

Hi everyone!

This week, I will be talking about all the books I read during January & February and what I rated them. So far, 2021 has been a great reading year for me and I am excited for the books I am planning to read next!

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I actually have written an in-depth review of this book that you can find here if you want to know more about my thoughts! While it was enjoyable, there were some parts that just fell flat for me. I read this book with a few friends including Kayla at Musings of a Middle Child and discussed it in our little book club over FaceTime! It was definitely worth it for the fun discussions we were able to have.

Parachutes

Parachutes by Kelly Yang

Rating: 5 out of 5.

To be honest, half of why I picked up this book was for the pretty cover catching my eye at the library and I was pleasantly blown away by the story! It follows two girls, Claire, a parachute – a student sent to study in America from China by her wealthy parents – and Dani, her host sister whose financial situation is a lot different. In the beginning, the book reminded me a little of Crazy Rich Asians, but while the story is quite different, it is still an interesting look at privilege, family, and power. The synopsis also relates it to Gossip Girl, and I could definitely see fans of the show loving this.

This book surprised me with how fast-paced it was despite being almost 500 pages, and I found myself flipping through it eager to learn what would happen. The book takes place in alternating POVS which I am a sucker for, especially when their stories coincide! If anything, I would have liked to see more of the relationship growth between Claire and Dani, but it was still really interesting to see how their separate stories and situations intersect.

TW: This book touches on sexual assault and rape so that is important to be aware of before reading (there is a trigger warning at the start of the book). I really admired the strength of the author who wrote a lot of the book using parts of her own experience which she outlines in the author’s note.

This was truly an incredible read and I would recommend older readers who are aware of the trigger warnings to pick it up!

The Secret History

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I mentioned this book in my dark academia post! This was the second book I read with my book club. The Secret History is richly detailed, which made it a bit of a longer and more difficult book to discuss, but it was really beneficial to be able to discuss some of the more complex concepts in the book!

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was a super quick and easy read which was needed after finishing The Secret History! Read my thoughts on this book in my review here!

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m always a little hesitant to pick up classics, but I am glad I gave this one a chance! It was fairly easy to read and understand, plus the intro in this edition of the book gave a lot of context for the novel. The Picture of Dorian Gray is a really interesting look at vanity and narcissism. I also just loved the supernatural elements of the painting. As soon as I can, I will be watching the movie with Ben Barnes as Dorian Gray. I’ve seen so many Marauders fan edits on Tik Tok with clips from the movie as a young Sirius and I’m dying to actually watch it!

Julie and the Phantoms: The Edge of Great

Julie and the Phantoms: Season 1 Novelization by Micol Ostow

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I think I’ve mentioned my love for the show Julie and the Phantoms on here a few times already… So obviously when there was a novelization of the show announced, I needed to buy it. I was super excited when it arrived and it was still a fun read (basically like rewatching the show but reading), but there were too many good parts left out that it ended up being a disappointment. (I can’t believe they called it “The Edge of Great” then only alluded to that scene!)

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Black Flamingo follows Michael a mixed-race gay teen who finds his place in his university drag society. This novel is unlike any that I’ve read before as it is told in verse. As I am taking a poetry class at the moment, it made me more conscious of the pauses and spaces in the text and the additional meanings this brought to the story. Michael being a poet himself in the book made it feel like a natural choice for the novel, it couldn’t have been told in a better way. While romance is an element in this coming-of-age novel, I personally really liked how it didn’t take away from the focus of the book which is identity and the importance of a sense of self.

Here is a Book Tok video in which I rate all these books with the help of Hannah Montana’s singing:

How has your reading gone so far this year? Have you read any of the same books as I did?

Peer Review #2

Week 6: Peer Review #2

Screenshot of Kate’s website.

This week I will be reviewing Kate’s website. I love music so I enjoyed looking at her site because it introduced me to new music. I like the design of the cassette tape in the top left corner. However, I would suggest making it larger if her theme allows her to. I suggest this because I notice there is writing on the cassette tape but I can not clearly see it. Or if it is possible for her to make the text on the cassette tape clearer without enlarging the image may be better, as I understand making the image larger could possibly make the page feel imbalanced. Overall I would just suggest playing around with the image to see what works, but I do like that design choice.

A zoomed in screenshot of the cassette tape and title.

I like how she uses two colors for her font which are black and white. I also like how she stays consistent with these two colors. Her typography also looks consistent. I believe she is just using one font, but I think there may be two.

I also like how she has decided to use her whitespace. She has placed videos on the left side of her home page that show what music she listens to. This is a good use of the white space and is a good overall addition to her site as it lets users know what music she is listening to.  

However, another suggestion I would make is to move the “Here are some of my current favorite songs:” closer to the videos, and to possibly bold that text as she has with the rest of text on the home page.

I would also suggest editing “Welcome to my Blog!” She could add the word music before blog just to further indicate what the blog is, however regardless of this change it is still clear that it is a music site.

Overall her site is very easy to navigate as I was able to find everything. I also liked how she has included a search bar.  I like how she has designed her site so far. I am also doing music and I have found it difficult to design my website but I think Kate does a good job of designing hers.

In Travis Gertz article How to survive the digital apocalypse, it discusses that site designs are often repeated or look the same and that this “isn’t a design trend or construction technique (Gertz, 2015, para.4)” but is rather “more systemic than that (Gertz, 2015, para.4).” However, in terms of Kate’s website I think her design is different and that she is not following a repeated look that is seen often.

Here is the link to her site again: http://kateglinnum.ca/blog/

Check out her site to see her music reviews! I know I will!

Link to Travis Gertz article How to survive the digital apocalypse: https://louderthanten.com/coax/design-machines

Book Playlist: Since You’ve Been Gone

Since You’ve Been Gone is a book by Morgan Matson which centres around Emily, who spends her summer completing a bucket list her friend left for her. This book is the definition of a fun, light, summer read. A side plot is her and the love interest swapping playlists back and forth. I decided to compile all the songs listed in the book to make the ultimate Since You’ve Been Gone summer playlist. Enjoy!

The post Book Playlist: Since You’ve Been Gone appeared first on Home.

Process Post #6

Prompt: What audience have you been imagining thus far? How has that imagined audience informed your design and editorial decisions?

I have been imagining my audience somewhat like myself, people who would read the type of books I have been reviewing. The books I have been reviewing so far are aimed at young women, so I’m picturing teenage and young adult girls reading this blog.

This is reflected in my design, as I decided to go with a light pink which reflects a younger, girlier style. I decided to go for a minimalist style, only featuring the light pink and the one contrast colour being the grey-blue colour. I didn’t want it to feel overwhelming, but instead calm, like reading a book.

I also based the design off of my favourite colours. Since I am writing to an audience that is like myself in terms of books, I echoed this in what I like in a design. I like the light pink as the main colour, soft enough that it doesn’t take away from the content, and the blue-grey colour is a colour I like a lot that I also thought would complement this.

I also wanted to feature the book covers on my home page. I am definitely someone who judges a book by its cover, so I thought it was important for people to see the book covers so they could decide if it was something interesting that they wanted to read.

The post Process Post #6 appeared first on Home.

My Story

When I look back on my life and my journey to this point, I see a singular catalyst that launched me towards the path I am on today. When I was seventeen years old, my guitar teacher asked me to join a band, as a bassist. This of course seemed like a preposterous idea to me at the time because I was a fairly beginner guitar player at any rate and I had never even touched a bass in my life up to that point. For some insane, unfathomable reason, I decided to take that leap. From that decision, Esc. was born. That one choice I made back in high school, before I even knew what university I wanted to attend, or who I was going to prom with, unknowingly sent me on a journey towards my greatest passion and truest calling in life: I wanted to consume, live and breathe music.

Playing music, booking music, releasing music, writing about music. Whatever it was, I wanted to do it. I wanted to dip my toe into every part of the music industry. I wanted to make a name for myself in the local industry. I wasn’t fooled into believing this would be a career that would bring me wealth, but it was my greatest desire. Somehow, I have made it to where I am today. I still play in my band, but I am also a session musician. I have planned and executed a successful local concert. I am published in a popular local blog for a piece I wrote about the local music scene. If there is one thing I know about myself it is that I am persistent. I do not give up. So far it has all paid off. The one thing I do know is that I will keep working, because I am nowhere near done getting my name out into the world.

Somehow, a girl from Cloverdale who loved music but didn’t really consider herself much of a musician ended up where I am today. A girl who has always loved listening to music now has the opportunity to write about it. I have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing people so far and I hope to continue to be able to do so again soon. If there are two things, I can promise you, they are my persistence and my passion, and they haven’t let me down so far.

The post My Story appeared first on Keely Rammage-Scott.

Peer Review #2: Chii’s Sweet Home

Hi everyone!

In this post, I will be reviewing my peer Chii’s blog, Chii’s Sweet Home. Straight from the beginning, I am able to tell from the name and various mouth-watering header images, that Chii’s Sweet Home is a food-related blog. This is further reinforced by the subheading which reads, “Home-cooked recipes, inspired by Asian cuisine with a touch of Western-style.” The menu bar at the top makes the website very easy to navigate, along with the addition of a search bar which is very helpful for a recipe-organized blog. 

Since Chii does not have any social media channels linked, I have focused my review only on Chii’s Sweet Home. As I get into my suggestions in this review, I will be writing directed to Chii.

Hi, Chii! From the first peer review, a suggestion for you was to change the colour of the text/ background on your site. I do enjoy the warmth of the pink background but agree it can be a little hard to read, so I think maybe a lighter tone of pink with a white text would be easier on the eyes.

Chii, I think the organization of your blog posts is on point! It is nice to see a description of the food at the top of the post and a clear list of ingredients and instructions underneath it. A suggestion I would have is to include photos as cover images on your posts, as this will draw your readers in visually instead of depending on the text. This goes along with our discussion of branding in class, and how the majority of cues we first take in are actually visual cues. You include step-by-step photos in posts which are great, like in this “Mitarashi Dango Recipe,” and I think a photo of the final product as a cover image would really encourage your viewers to click on the post.

I’d love to see you post more recipes on your blog or if you want to incorporate other less-time consuming posts, some options could be to talk about your favourite meals/recipes for different occasions, “Top 10 dishes,” or some other fun food-related posts!


Best of luck with your blog, Chii!

-Victoria

blog review (2) – Joao Paulo Alves

For my second peer review for my class, I will be taking a look at Joao Paulo Alves` blog. From his About Page – which is very clear and easy to find at the top – he suggests that his blog will act as a portfolio for his graphic design work! Joao’s description is clear, and he lays out the purpose of his website while also adding a personal spin by sharing his hobbies, education, and love for his pups! The theme of his website is very sleek – with the grey tones, easy to read font, and limited buttons but easy to find menu.

The work that Joao Paulo does share in his “Blog” tab is fantastic! As an art blog, I obviously have a huge appreciation and admiration for the art that others create. As we are a few weeks into the course, I wish he would have put more work on his blog so he could really showcase his talent. I suggest even putting up old pieces, as the blog is meant to be a portfolio of work.

I also came across one problem when accessing his blog for the first time that can be an easy adjustment: The Home Page (www.jpalves.com) is a 404: Page Not Found 🙁 I suggest changing that so there is something on the front page – Even just making it a “static” page and putting some favourite pieces to catch the viewers attention. I also suggest putting Contact information so that if people (or employers) ARE interested in the work, they have a way to contact Joao.

Overall, I enjoy the simplicity of this portfolio. I think that simple designs like this are the perfect choice for a portfolio because it focuses on the actual content – however, due to not much content, there is not much to see!

I look forward to seeing your work, Joao Paulo! (and wouldn’t mind a picture of your pups too while you’re at it!!) 🙂

My Current Workout Split

I (think) have finally perfected my workout split! Everyone has their own routine and things that they enjoy, and for me that is weightlifting. I aim to workout 6 days a week, but depending on how many days I get scheduled for work, or how much schoolwork I have to finish. And sometimes, I’m just really tired so I’ll take an extra rest day if needed. There is nothing more empowering than reaching a new PR and lifting heavier than you ever have before. Allowing myself to eat more food because I have learned not to fear it, but that it is a tool, and is truly my friend and not an enemy. Getting stronger has been so much more empowering than looking skinnier in the mirror. Always remember that what works for me, won’t necessarily work for everyone. So, find what works for you, what will help you reach your personal goals, and what makes you happy.

(Monday) – pull day

  • bicep curl 3×10
  • dumbbell rows 3×10
  • barbell rows 3×10
  • hammer curls 3×10
  • sitting reverse fly 3×10
  • straight arm cable pulldown 3×10
  • cable pull back 3×10
  • lat pull down 3×10

(Tuesday) – hamstrings and glutes

  • dumbbell romanian deadlift 3×12
  • hip thrust 3×12
  • bulgarian split squat 3×10
  • single leg deadlift 3×8 (per leg)
  • goblet squat 3×12
  • kettleball swing 3×12
  • cable kickbacks 3×8 (per leg)
  • abduction and adduction 3×10
  • hamstring curl 3×10

(Wednesday) – push  day

  • seated shoulder press 3×10
  • dumbbell chest fly 3×10
  • side lateral raise 3×10
  • bench press 3×10
  • skull crusher 3×10
  • chest press 3×10
  • tricep push down 3×10
  • kneeling pall of press 3×10

(Thursday) – quads & calves

  • barbell front squat 3×12
  • dumbbell calf raises 3×12 
  • dumbbell curtsy lunges 3×12
  • side lunge 3×12
  • leg press 3×12
  • calf leg press 3×12
  • quad leg extension 3×12

(Friday) – cardio & abs circuit 

  • Plank up 30sec
  • Plank down 30sec
  • 50 twists
  • 25 side crunch each side
  • 25 side plank dips
  • 50 heel taps
  • 50 bicycles
  • 30 vertical crunches
  • 8 incline at 8 mph, for 30 seconds on 12 incline at 3.3 mph for 30 seconds 1 incline at 9 mph for 30 seconds, 15 second rest between each set, repeat 3-5 times

(Saturday) – full lower body

  • good mornings 3×12
  • deadlift 3×12
  • lunges 3×12
  • cable kickbacks 3×8
  • cable abductions 3×8 
  • leg press 3×12
  • goblet squats 3×12
  • calf raises 3×12
  • hip thrusts 3×12

(Sunday) REST DAY

Lastly, always remember to listen to your body and give it the rest and the nutrition it needs, food is fuel.

xx Savannah

Winter Wonderland: Dressing for the Cold Weather

Last week during the reading break, my boyfriend and I went on a road trip to Golden, BC. This trip inspired this week’s blog post, where I want to discuss dressing for the cold. I know it is hard to find the motivation to look cute when the weather forecast is in the negatives, the days are short, and you are stuck inside for most of the day. However, I often find that winter fashion is the best because you can always just layer a bulky jacket over top of a not-so-weather-appropriate outfit.

Here are some of my top tips to stay fashionable this winter season

Add a pop of colour

Just because the days are dim and dark does not mean your clothing has to be. In the winter, I find myself gravitating to darker and cooler tones. However, to add a little spice and fun to my outfits, I will always incorporate some sort of colour. For Christmas, my boyfriend got me this sensationally bright orange Carharrt beanie that came in handy this road trip.

Image of me at Lake Louise

Add a Puffer Jacket

A few years ago, Aritzia revolutionized the winter fashion game when it came out with the super puff. It is safe to say that the super puff jacket is this season’s wardrobe staple. I own two different variations of the super puff, including the original one in taupe and the cloud puff in green. I love this style of jacket because it keeps you warm while allowing you to stay fashionable. I enjoy styling it with a turtle neck sweater, mini skirt, and sheer tights.

Image from @Aritzia on Instagram

Don’t forget your accessorizes

Growing up, I hated it when my mom would force me to wear scarves, mittens, and toques. I always felt suffocated with so many layers. However, as you grow up, you learn to realize that your mother always knows best. Now I cannot imagine leaving the house without at least a scarf. I love chunky and colourful scarves such as this one from Acne Studios.

Image from @linmick on Instagram

Sunglasses are NOT just for summer

If you have ever been to the snowy mountains on a sunny day, you know the importance of sunglasses. It is imperative to know that even in the winter months, bright UV exposure can cause photokeratitis. Photokeratitis is commonly referred to as snow blindness and can be very harmful. That is why you must always pack a pair of sunnies. In the winter, I go for an all-black frame as they pair nicely with everything.

No source

Your Grandma’s chunky knits are essentials

2021 trend prediction here! This recent winter season, I have been seeing chunky knit sweaters all over Pinterest. I also have recently started following Lindsay Vrckovnik on Instagram. I fell in love with her hip and trendy fashion taste. Her Instagram feed includes photos of hand-made knits, avantgarde lace dresses, and hand-dyed shirts. She is the queen of chunky over-sized knit sweaters, and I am definitely taking notes on her styling choices.

Image from @linmick on Instagram

Thoughts?

Are you experiencing colder-than-average temps right now? Do you have any tips for dressing warm while maintaining a chic aesthetic? Let me know in the comments!

xo,

Javiera Guevara

Process Post 4

For the longest time, I always wanted to start a fashion blog. I still remember when I first discovered fashion blogging. I found out about it when I was in high school and recall being so captivated by bloggers such as Chiara Ferragni, Danielle Berstein, and Emma Leger. For my process post this week, I will be diving deeper into looking at design elements. I will be looking at design elements implemented by Danielle Berstein in her website, We Wore What.

I will be looking at some of the five design principles. The five design principles are balance, rhythm, proportion/scale, contrast/point of focus, and harmony/unity. For this analysis, I will be looking at balance, rhythm and harmony/ unity.
In terms of balance, the website does a superb job of having a sufficient amount of white space. Scrolling the homepage there is vertical symmetry, as everything is balanced on each side.

Regarding rhythm, this website does an excellent job of utilizing repetition of elements. On the homepage, twelve boxes are showcasing its latest blog posts, these divided into 3×4 squares. I believe this categorization of recent posts works well because it shows the viewers a variety of blog posts.

Next, I will be discussing unity/harmony. In her lecture, Mauve states that unity makes sure everything is working together as a whole. Overall, I think everything on the homepage works well together. The website’s colour palette is neutral with pastel colours. Moreover, there is not a lot of saturation or intense colours but rather more cool tones. Although her colour palette is very neutral, she does a wonderful job of adding variety by diversity through collaging. Looking at the recent posts section, you can see she adds different effects to her cover photos, such as Valentine’s Day Gift Guide, that are in the form of polaroids.

Overall, I really enjoy Danielle’s website and it is evident that others do too. She has a following of 2.6 million on Instagram and is very popular among young adults who are interested in fashion. Thinking about my own website, I will be looking at ways I can make my site more balanced. Prior to this lesson on design elements, I wasn’t really paying attention to things such as rhythm and proportion. However, now I will be more attentive to design elements.

xo,

Javiera Guevara

Album Review: Imploding the Mirage by The Killers

Week 6: Blog Post

Imploding the Mirage - Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Island Records

This album review is an extended version of the one I had written for The Peak, SFU. It is a more in-depth review of the album however there are repeats from the original. Here is the original: Imploding the Mirage is a whimsical journey through life’s ups and downs

This extended version:

The Killers returned in August 2020 with another alternative rock/pop rock album, Imploding the Mirage. They are known for releasing amazing bops like, “When You Were Young,” “All These Things That I’ve Done,” and of course,“Mr. Brightside.”

The album is similar to their previous work as the tempo switches between moderato to allegro, and the loud drums and guitar can be heard in almost every song. However, don’t let their name or genre confuse you, The Killers can present a very whimsical and dreamy sound. 

Songs like, “When Dreams Run Dry,” will make listeners want to pack their bags and go on an adventure they’ll never forget. The lyrics encourage listeners to think of the time they have left, and to use that time to go on adventures instead of living in sorrow because of the hardships life brings. It is the perfect song to motivate listeners to just do, and to not think about anything else, even “when dreams run dry.” 

The album presents triumph, love, sadness, and everything in-between. “Lighting Fields”, featuring k.d. lang, demonstrates this well: sadness and love can be heard through the chorus with lyrics like “I just wanted to run my fastest and stand beside you in a lightning field of love.” However, the song also contains a triumph that can be heard through the music, which is very upbeat, fast and powerful. 

The Killers are one of the few rare bands that can create an album of ten songs that articulate a wide variety of emotions and sound that can be played in any situation. Lead singer Brandon Flowers’ has a low tenor vocal range, that sounds very raw and is always perfectly accompanied by the delicate playing of the piano and the loud crashing of the drums. 

To all the dreamers who need motivation, this is the album for you. Imploding the Mirage is nothing short of their previous work.

Audiences.

Week 6: Process Post

Photo by Samantha Borges on Unsplash

This week I will discuss the process post prompt, which asks what audience I have imagined so far and how that audience has affected my design and editorial decisions.

I have imagined a younger audience possibly between the ages of 15-30 for my blog. I do not think that my blog is gender specific but I believe that a younger demographic may be my target audience. I think this because I post artists and discuss music that is more relevant to this age group. I have imagined an audience that loves music and has different interests in regard to music.

I think this audience affects my design choices because the younger generation is tech savvy and I believe that they often enjoy unique and original styles online. My website follows an older layout and is not necessarily an original style. Throughout this course I am learning how to change this and how to create a unique style and I hope by the end of the term I can say that my website caters more to my target audience. There are many design elements I would like to change but I am learning I may need to change my theme in order to do this or even work with a different program.

The audience has also affected my design and editorial choices through simplicity, meaning I try to keep the blog simple. I have drop downs and I have hyperlinked topics so that it is easy for the users to navigate. I think the younger generation likes fast and easy. I also think my audience would want to see less text so recently in one of my blog posts (New Artist: Giveon), I took out text and added in videos. I intend to continue with this change for my blog posts, however with my process posts I may not as they are more academic.

Lastly, throughout the course I am learning that typography, the color scheme and more should stay consistent and that this will allow audiences to be familiar with your website, so I am also hoping to do that because it acts as branding and I think again young people love to follow brands.

Peer Review – Clayton Wong

*The featured image from this post is from Clayton’s Instagram!*

Today’s post is going to be another blog review, this time for Clayton Wong, who runs a photography and creative work blog. This particular review is going to focus on Clayton’s social media presence, as well as growth since the last peer review from slayer willow. Let’s get started!

I want to start off by saying that the About page is really well-written. Clayton states that this is not just another photography blog, since he doesn’t “necessarily pride [him]self on taking the ‘best’ or editing the best photos.” I think this statement is going to be really appealing to Clayton’s audience, since it makes him sound more relatable. Going through the posts, I see that this personable side of Clayton shines through all the posts as well, which is really great for engaging audience.

One piece of advice given in the first peer review was to include content on the front page of the site, so that viewers are able to click on posts directly from the homepage, which Clayton has in fact changed. I think this is a really helpful suggestion, and it gives viewers more options to view your blog without having to search for posts in other sections.

Going into social media presence, the first peer review suggests that Clayton adds an Instagram widget, which he has done. I think that especially since this is a photography blog, this widget adds so much to the overall presence of the blog, and it really showcases his work.

The actual Instagram page features absolutely stunning photos, such as landscape and travel photos, as well as really fun and unique shots. However, once you click the Instagram link, the bio includes a link to a portfolio, rather than this blog. It’s great to link to the portfolio since that showcases more of your work, but I think it would be helpful to also put a link in your Instagram bio to this particular blog (claytongwong) as well, because otherwise it seems a bit inconsistent.

At the bottom of the page, all of Clayton’s social media links can be found: Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The first peer review suggests Clayton make these links icons, rather than words, and I completely agree with that suggestion. This is a photography blog, so having the more visual option as slayer willow suggests does seem like the right move, but he does make it quite easy for his audience to reach him across several platforms.

However, I will just agree that the Contact page is still in need of development, as it’s currently blank. While you do link out to other ways people can reach you, I think the contact page is still very much needed.

Clayton has also recently made a TikTok showcasing his account with a Wix video, which is really insightful and interesting to watch as well. The TikTok itself is really great, but it isn’t an embedded TikTok, it’s just a video, so viewers are not able to click it and be redirected to Clayton’s account. The account itself also seems to be private, so I think if you want to continue making TikToks for your platform, making it a public account will help a lot with reaching people.

I really enjoyed reviewing this blog and the associated social media platforms. The Instagram page is definitely worth a visit – the photography is absolutely beautiful. Can’t wait to see this blog progress even more!

Essay #1

Social media has been an exceptional advancement in communications. It has changed the very way we receive information, consume content, and communicate with one another. Although these platforms are a great resource to citizens in making themselves heard, it is hardly an environment where democracy could thrive. The foundation of democracy rests on a well-informed public. By allowing the mass distribution of false information, social media has unleashed a full-blown attack on democracy. Considering social media platforms as sources of news, this essay will explore whether they have created a more democratic space for political discourse.

Of the many social media platforms available, one especially pertinent when discussing news distribution is YouTube. It is one of the most widely used platforms for news in the United States, and where about one-quarter of adult Americans receive their news (Shearer & Grieco, 2019). The site attracts all sorts of creators, providing them with the platform to share a wide variety of video content. It was found that of the individuals on YouTube in search of news, approximately half sought out opinions, whereas the others were looking for factual information (Stocking et al., 2020). These consumers also claimed to trust the site’s recommended videos algorithm rather than remaining loyal to specific channels. About 73% of these news consumers claimed that they expected the information they received to be accurate (Stocking et al., 2020). In conversations about YouTube being a catalyst for political extremism, about half of YouTube news consumers saw “news videos about politics and social issues as generally moderate, while about a third (32%) [saw] them as liberal-leaning and a smaller portion (14%) view them as generally conservative” (Stocking et al., 2020). Though, much of the existing content on social media platforms have mal intent.

YouTube, like every other social media platform, runs on an algorithm. This dictates the users recommended videos, attempting to propose ones tailored to interests found based on previous views. Algorithms formulate an echo-chamber of personalized media, creating spaces that are rampant with propaganda and unconscious brainwashing. Meaning, these platforms will only show users what aligns with their political views, in hopes to keep users scrolling. This commonly results in the filter-bubble effect, which is when individuals will not seek to understand political positions they disagree with (Anderson & Rainie, 2020). Individuals living in a filter-bubble will be entrenched within a collection of distorted facts and information, without enough basis to make a thoughtful argument. The misinformation they are fed strengthens their preexisting views and fortifies their contention with those who have opposing views, thus heightening political polarization and destabilizing democracy. Free press no longer encourages democracy and a marketplace of ideas and is now used to protect misinformation and ensure that people will not be exposed to different political views.

Technology and digital innovations can help improve democracy depending on who controls it and how they do so. At the moment, those in control of social media networks are large corporations and shareholders who are not willing to share their power. “As of 2015, the outcomes of upward of 25 of the national elections in the world were being determined by Google’s search engine” which goes to show how much power these individuals wield (Robert Epstein as cited in Anderson & Rainie, 2020). As mentioned above, the algorithms they develop feed into the filter bubble effect, to political polarization, and ultimately disrupt democracy. To succeed, a democracy must equally represent the public’s views. However, “the problem with everyone having a megaphone is that we get drowned in more noise than useful information” (Sam Adams as cited in Anderson & Rainie, 2020). Those in power let us believe we do as well, but behind it all, they are still the ones in control.

Although at first glance, social media appears to be a space where mediated discourse can take place, it is clear that there are other forces at work. With the use of algorithms, individuals who design social media platforms hold a lot of power in terms of shaping public opinion. Individuals can no longer trust what they are being offered online and the continuous media stream inhibits people from seeking information on their own and creating their unique opinions. The general public has been made more gullible due to short attention spans, lack of reasoning skills, and thus has become an easy target for indoctrination. Social media has not formed a more democratic space for political discourse, it has conversely created a space where political views could not be more polar.

 

References:

Anderson, J., & Rainie, L. (2020, February 21). Concerns about democracy in the digital age. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2020/02/21/concerns-about-democracy-in-the-digital-age/

Anderson, J., & Rainie, L. (2020, February 21). Many tech experts say digital disruption will hurt democracy. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2020/02/21/many-tech-experts-say-digital-disruption-will-hurt-democracy/

Naughton, J. (2019, January 20). ‘The goal is to automate us’: Welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jan/20/shoshana-zuboff-age-of-surveillance-capitalism-google-facebook

Shearer, E., & Grieco, E. (2019, October 2). Americans are wary of the role social media sites play in delivering the news. Pew Research Center. https://www.journalism.org/2019/10/02/americans-are-wary-of-the-role-social-media-sites-play-in-delivering-the-news/

Stocking, G., Kessel, P. V., Barthel, M., Matsa, K. E., & Khuzam, M. (2020, September 28). YouTube news consumers about as likely to use the site for opinions as for facts. Pew Research Center. https://www.journalism.org/2020/09/28/youtube-news-consumers-about-as-likely-to-use-the-site-for-opinions-as-for-facts/

Twitter as a source for political discourse

It is no secret that social media has impacted almost every aspect of our lives. Whether social media is used for shopping, communicating, job searching, or receiving the news, it is an integral part of our everyday life. In this essay, I want to delve deeper into how social media platforms create a space for political dialogue going beyond traditional news outlets. I will be looking specifically at how social media has initiated a modernized way to acquire and spread the news. As of late last year, “18% of U.S. adults say they turn most to social media for political and election news…[which is] on par with the percent who say their primary pathway is cable television (16%) or local television (16%)” (Mitchell et al., 2020, para. 4). Therefore, it is safe to say that it has fundamentally affected political information consumption. Furthermore, I will be looking explicitly at the platform Twitter, discussing both positive and negative effects the site has on producing, curating, and disseminating the news.

Firstly, I will provide a brief background on Twitter as this will provide context for why I chose this specific platform. Twitter is a microblogging service known for its “limited nature of the onscreen input field that allows users to send messages no longer than 140 characters” (Jewitt, 2009, p. 232). A microblog is a further development of a blog. A blog is a website that contains periodically published postings organized so that shown first are newer postings. A microblog allows for one to share short messages with other users and the public. Fuchs (2014) states that a microblog entails three distinctive characteristics, including (1) users having a public profile where they broadcast short public messages/updates […] (2) messages become publicly aggregated together across users; (3) users can decide whose messages they wish to receive, but not necessarily who can interact with their content (p. 8). Weblogs have “come of age, enabling anyone with the will or desire to communicate with other like-minded individuals at relatively little or no cost” (Jewitt, 2009, p. 231). All these characteristics allow for the perfect platform for people to post information and content regarding political discourse. And an excellent site for further inquiry into the affordances and shortcomings that social media has on the political dissertation. Furthermore, I chose Twitter because it is the platform from where I receive my news. 

Now, I will look at the shortcomings of Twitter as a source for political discourse. A critical element to take into consideration is the echo chamber effect. Twitter is said to be a “modern public square where many voices discuss, debate and share their views” (Wojcik & Hughes, 2019, para. 1). However, it is also well-established that Twitter echo chambers are real when it comes to political affiliation. The term echo chamber refers to “the context of social media, situations where users consume content that expresses the same point of view that users themselves hold or express” (Garimella, 2018, p. 2)

A study found that Twitter users are, to a considerable degree, exposed to political opinions that agree with their own. An algorithmic code runs Twitter, meaning that Twitter suggests topics based on what it thinks someone likes. When someone follows a Topic, related tweets, users, events, and ads will appear in their home feed. Your feed is curated specifically for you, which can be a bad thing. An example of this regarding political affiliation is that if you lean towards a specific side, chances are Twitter already knows that and filters content that caters to your beliefs only. For instance, take the topic of abortion. If you are, pro-life it is almost a guarantee that your feed will only provide news relevant to that point of view. Taking all this into consideration creates concerns that citizens are becoming more polarized about political issues. If the algorithm only feeds you content that expresses only opinions you agree with, it limits your abilities to gain a multiperspective view of the world. Overall, it is evident that Twitter and its echo chamber do not allow for learning a diverse and broad set of general political news that can be troublesome.

Now that I have discussed some shortcomings, it is only fair that I give credit where it is due. There is no dispute that social media can add an “extra dimension to reporting breaking news events” (Jewitt, 2009, p. 232). One affordance Twitter has, is being able to grant instantaneous sharing of current events and news stories. Twitter is a real-time global communications platform, and this is where its comparative advantage lies. Also, Twitter is known to have beaten traditional mainstream news outlets to breaking stories. Another positive aspect of Twitter concerning political discourse and producing, curating, and disseminating the news is the user’s ability to become producers. Social media in the web 2.0 era has allowed users to become more than just passive listeners, but rather producers of content. You do not need a journalism degree to voice your opinion or be involved in political topics online. You can be a part of the conversation, actively posting, sharing and interacting with other users. Although not everyone will view it due to the echo chamber effect, your contribution to political discussion is still valid and worthy of recognition. 

I argue that social media platforms such as Twitter are great additions to current traditional news outlets. However, they should not entirely replace them as sites for political information consumption and dialogue. Highlighted in this essay are both affordances and drawbacks of Twitter in political discourse. Although it gives everyone an equal opportunity to spread their message and produce original content, it can also seclude people from interacting with other viewpoints. 

Sources:

Fuchs, C. (2014). Twitter and Democracy: A New Public Sphere? Social Media: A Critical Introduction, 179–209.

Garimella, Kiran, Morales, Gianmarco De Francisci, Gionis, Aristides, & Mathioudakis, Michael. (2018). Political Discourse on Social Media: Echo Chambers, Gatekeepers, and the Price of Bipartisanship.

Jewitt, R. (2009). The Trouble with Twittering: Integrating Social Media into Mainstream News. International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics, 5(3), 233.

Mitchell, A., Jurkowitz, M., Oliphant, J. B., & Shearer, E. (2020, July 30). Americans Who Mainly Get Their News on Social Media Are Less Engaged, Less Knowledgeable. Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project. https://www.journalism.org/2020/07/30/ 

Sehl, K. (2020, May 20). How the Twitter Algorithm Works in 2020 and How to Make it Work for You. Social Media Marketing & Management Dashboard. https://blog.hootsuite.com/twitter-algorithm/. 

Wojcik, S., & Hughes, A. (2019, April 14). Sizing Up Twitter Users. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2019/04/24/sizing-up-twitter-users/. 

The Black Flamingo – Dean Atta

Release Date: August 6, 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you’re happy in the closet for the time being, play dress-up until you find the right outfit.

Dean Atta, The Black Flamingo

Note: This book has made my favourites list!

So recently I enrolled in a “Special Topics” Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies class which is all about looking at LGBTQ+ YA Literature. If you read this blog, you probably know that I read mostly YA literature, so this was a class that I absolutely needed to enrol in. It is a reading intensive course, and the most recent read was Dean Atta’s The Black Flamingo, which is by far the best book I’ve read in 2021 so far.

Format

The format of the book is in the style of verse, rather than prose, which come together to make a story. I thought I might have some difficulty getting into this book because I’m not one to usually go for books that are set up like that, but this was clearly an exception. This style made this quite a quick read, and yet I didn’t feel like it ended unfinished or abruptly; I thought it was genuinely so well constructed, and the style was just as easy to read as a standard novel.

Some General Thoughts

This book had me immersed from the first page, and I got quite emotional at various points in the story – it is truly difficult to put into words how important this book is. Dean Atta is such a beautiful and honest writer, and some lines in particular are extremely thought-provoking and deep. Each poem and prose is going to affect readers differently, and I think this is something that everyone needs to read. It deals with quite a lot, such as toxic masculinity, internalized racism and racism, and internalized homophobia and homophobia, fetishization, growing up, going to University, intersectionality, and more.

Intersectionality in YA Literature

Don’t let anyone tell you that you are half anything…Don’t let anyone tell you that you are half black and half white. Half Cypriot and half Jamaican. You are a full human being. It’s never as simple as being half and half.

Page 34

In my class, while we learned that YA literature often does have quite a lot of representation of LGBTQ+ characters, it is rare that they are also BIPOC. The Black Flamingo focuses quite a lot on the intersectionality of Michael, who is Black, Greek Cypriot, and queer. When first going to college, Michael really struggles with his identity and with a lack of sense of belonging, feeling like he doesn’t quite fit in with his Greek peers or his Black peers, or even his peers in the LGBTQ+ community. However, the above quote, as said by his mother, is really important to this story as it is something that Michael constantly struggles with.

He also doesn’t quite fit in with either side of his family, aside from his mom and his sister, but even with them, he is called out by his friends for not being “full” siblings with his sister, a thought that didn’t earlier occur to him – she is just his sister.

Near the beginning of the book, Michael mentions how he wants a Barbie for his birthday. However, he ends up receiving it for Christmas because his mom doesn’t take his request seriously. When he finally receives it, it isn’t the exact Barbie he wants, but he cares for her anyways. Then it comes time for Michael to visit his dad’s side of the family for the holidays, and his mom asks him to leave the Barbie at home, saying she needs the doll’s help cleaning up. Michael’s relationship with his father is quite complicated, hence why his mother tells him not to bring the Barbie. Later on in the book, his dad also avoids speaking to him on the phone.

While he doesn’t seem to question his mother’s request that he leave the Barbie at home, I think it becomes clear to Michael at a young age what people will judge him for being a boy who likes dolls. This is reinforced when he notices that when his sister receives his old things – the Barbie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, overalls – no one questions what she decides to play with or wear.

As for his mother’s side of the family, Michael finally visits his mom’s side of the family on vacation, and he notices quite a lot of differences with them as well. His mom’s parents also seem to make subtle remarks about the children being Black.

The Black Flamingo

Where Michael finally finds a place is within his school’s drag community, where he becomes “The Black Flamingo”, and he talks about what it’s like being a Black drag artist, and how that’s a completely different situation. As The Black Flamingo, a whole other carefree and confident side of Michael comes out, and he is funny and outspoken and gives such a wonderful performance, which was definitely my most favourite moment in the book.

Final Thoughts

This book is not just something you should read, it is something you need to read. Not only is it an entertaining and heartfelt read, but it’s also very informative. Please read this!

Social Media and Democracy

For generations now, social media has been a web-based platform where people are able to freely share their thoughts, ideas, and information; however, recent events have forced society to question the notion that social media platforms are democratic. The fundamental aim of social media has been to generate a space where an online community, conversation, and connectivity are created. Social media platforms are terrific for democracy in numerous ways but have downsides as well (Sunstein, 2018, para.6). Social media platforms that were once seen as democracy’s ally, have increasingly become democracy’s enemy (Beauchamp, 2019, 7). In today’s day and age, censorship on social media platforms, racism, incitement to violence, hatred are common problems the people face when talking about injustices and exercising their right to freedom of speech. In this essay, I will specifically be focusing on the infringement of democratic rights on social media platforms by the Indian government.

In order to better understand how platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter have violated the democratic rights of people, insight into the events occurring in India right now is crucial. Presently, the largest protest in human history is taking place in India and the Indian government is not happy with all of the international attention it has gained. More than 60 percent of India’s 1.3 billion population mainly depend on agriculture to survive (Mashal et al, 2021, para.7). So when the Indian government passed three new farm laws this past September undemocratically during a pandemic, with no representation of farmers who will be exploited by these bills; farmers felt unheard and silenced. In response, farmers peacefully protested in their individual states but still, the government showed no sign of remorse. Then, Nationwide farmers decided to protest in India’s capital, Delhi in hopes to be heard this time. It has been almost three months since farmers left their lands, families, homes to peacefully protest on the highways leading to Delhi. It is critical to understand that these three laws will directly be impacting the livelihoods of farmers, so it was an easy choice for the farmers to protest during a global pandemic simply because the laws will take more lives than a deadly virus like covid-19.

The people who have been raising awareness about the farmer’s protest on social media have been constantly facing censorship. Hundreds of Indian Twitter accounts, including those of news websites, activists, and a farmers’ union, were suspended by the Indian government (Pathi, 2021, Para.6). One would think a country that takes pride in being “the largest democracy in the world” would respect freedom of speech on social media platforms but we have seen otherwise. Similarly, one would imagine a platform such as Twitter where freedom of speech is defended, respected, and recognized as a core value would not fall vulnerable to the pressure of power (Twitter Help Center, 2020, Para.1).

Disha Ravi a 21-year-old climate activist was arrested by the Indian police with the help of Google for merely editing a tool-kit that Greta Thunberg, a well-known Swedish climate activist tweeted about to show her solidarity for Indian farmers (Arvin, 2021, Para.2). It is shocking but not surprising to see the Indian government stoop so low to silence and scare its own citizens. Ravi’s arrest is concerning for every social media user who is vocal about the farmer’s protest, especially because of the involvement of technology giants like Google and Twitter (Sangomla, 2021, Para.8).

Many international celebrities like Rihanna, JuJu Smith, Meena Harris, Greta Thunberg, and more have used their social media platforms to show their support for the farmers. This has caused the Indian government to issue a statement criticizing those coming to the aid of farmers online (Ebrahimji, 2021, Para.12). Since then, right-wing Hindu nationalists have bombarded the comment sections of the celebrities and athletes who had shown their support for farmers with rape, death, and hate, threats (Ebrahimji, 2021, Para.15). The Indian government is afraid of the international attention this protest has received and in return has made it clear that it does not appreciate outsiders interfering in India’s “internal affairs.” However, it is important to remember that when human rights are being violated it is everyone’s business to interfere.

All things considered, social media platforms have the potential to be a hundred percent democratic but from time to time we have seen popular social media platforms favor corrupt governments rather than treating everyone equally and allowing freedom of speech. In this specific case scenario, the international attention that arose from a few tweets by celebrities has prevented bloodshed and saved lives! The power of social media is unreal but we could only imagine how impactful it could be if these platforms lived up to their full potential. Hopefully, in the coming years, we see changes in social media in order to make democracy work better (Sunstein, 2018, para.17).

References

Arvin, J. (2021). Climate activist Disha Ravi has been arrested in India for supporting farmers’ protests. Vox. Retrieved from: https://www.vox.com/2021/2/16/22285458/india-climate-activist-farmers-protest-jail-disha-ravi

Beauchamp, Z. (2019). How social media platforms enable politicians to undermine democracy. Vox. Retrieved from: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/1/22/18177076/social-media-facebook-far-right-authoritarian-populism

Ebrahimji, A. C. (2021). Rihanna’s call to support Indian farmers quickly embraced by other celebrities. CNN. Retrieved from: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/02/04/world/rihanna-farmer-protests-indian-government-trnd/index.html

Mashal, M., Schmall, E., & Goldman, R. (2021) Why India’s Farmers Are Protesting. The New York Times. Retrieved from: httpshttps://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/27/world/asia/india-farmer-protest.html

Pathi, S. S. A. K. (2021). Activists, journalists face social media crackdown amid Indian farmer protests. Global News. Retrieved from:https://globalnews.ca/news/7621907/india-farmers-social-media/

Sangomla, A. S. (2021). Disha Ravi arrest: Role of Google, tech companies under cloud. Down To Earth. Retrieved from: https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/governance/disha-ravi-arrest-role-of-google-tech-companies-under-cloud-75563

Sunstein, C. (2018). Is Social Media Good or Bad for Democracy? Sur – International Journal on Human Rights. Retrieved from: https://sur.conectas.org/en/is-social-media-good-or-bad-for-democracy/

Twitter Help Center. (2020). Defending and respecting the rights of people using our service. Twitter. Retrieved from: https://help.twitter.com/en/rules-and-policies/defending-and-respecting-our-users-voice

Essay #1

Over the last few years, specifically in the last few months, we have seen a lot of discourse over free speech and social media. Last month, Donald Trump’s twitter account was officially taken down, something that has sparked debate over what constitutes as free speech. In this essay I will consider the idea that social media is a democratic space for dialogue, and what this means for free speech.  

Social media allows for everyone to have an equal voice on the platform. In the past, it was harder to get your message into the world. You had to be a writer for a newspaper, a TV news reporter, or a radio broadcaster in order to have your voice heard. On social media, everyone has the same access to posting. If you have an opinion about something, you can tweet it, Instagram it, make a Tik Tok, or post on YouTube to share your message. It is through this that social media acts as a democratic space for dialogue. 

Many people are also heading to social media to get their news, rather than traditional media news outlets. Bergström and Belfrage (2018) state that “society is moving from a traditional news cycle dominated by journalism professionals to a more complex information cycle that incorporates ordinary people within the process” (p. 583). Shearer and Mitchell (2021) have shown that 36% of adults in the United States get their news from Facebook, 23% on YouTube, and 15% on Twitter (para. 2). Social media platforms allow anyone to post information and content, which can either be interpreted as fact or opinion. While social media can be a good way to have news be more accessible, it can also lead to false information and harmful opinions. When these posts become dangerous, social media platforms will fact check, suspend, or remove posts and accounts they find offensive and harmful.

With Donald Trump’s twitter account being removed, there have been many arguments over free speech. If people with the same opinions as Donald Trump are also removed from social media, are their rights being taken away? The United States has the First Amendment, which was made to “prevent Congress or the states from blocking people’s freedom to express themselves” (Phillips, 2020, para. 5). This is meant to stop the government from restricting speech. However, Twitter, and other social media platforms, are private companies. Free speech has never protected tweets that are an “incitement of violence” (Gelber, 2021, para. 2). The government cannot force a private company to “publish something it doesn’t want to publish” (Phillips, 2020, para. 5). In fact, free speech allows private companies to host only what they want on their own site, and not be forced to share everything by the government (para. 5). Twitter, and other social media sites, are allowed to make their own rules about what is allowed on their platform. There are certain lines that cannot be crossed. For Twitter, they decided that incitement of violence was the line, and Donald Trump’s twitter had to be removed. Tweets like this cannot be defended under free speech, such as when they cause harm (Gelber, 2021, para. 12). 

Another important aspect to consider when discussing the democratic space of social media is the echo chamber effect. Social media uses algorithms to curate a feed that is designed specifically for you. The algorithm will choose “which content a given viewer will see” (Röemmmele and Goldzweig, 2017, para. 4). An example of this is when a user on Twitter likes a tweet from Donald Trump, they will continue to see content that is in line with his views, and the algorithm would not show this user posts about “gun control, affirmative action, or gender issues” (para. 4). Can a space truly be democratic if you are only shown content you agree with? Although social media allows anything to be posted, only certain people will be shown this content. Experts have explained that when we are only shown content we agree with; it encourages us to “take more radical political positions by creating a comfort zone where these are more easily adopted” (para. 9). This does not create a space for true dialogue on social media.

So, are social media sites democratic spaces for dialogue? Yes and no. Everyone is given an equal opportunity to spread their message on social media. However, the social media site is a private company, and does not need to allow your posts to be shared online. If your posts violate Twitter’s policies, you do not have a right to share your voice. In the same way, if Parler decides it only wants to allow certain opinions online, they have the right to do that as a private platform. Additionally, social media does not function as a true democratic space that shares all opinions equally to each person. The echo chamber effect allows certain opinions to be shown to people who agree, and the differing opinions shown to those who agree with that. There isn’t a real dialogue being shown if your curated feed is only meant to show what you agree with.

References:

Bergström, A., & Belfrage, M. J. (2018). News in Social Media. Digital Journalism6(5), 583–598. https://doi.org/10.1080/21670811.2018.1423625 

Gelber, K. (2021, January 27). Social media and “free speech”. ABC Religion & Ethics. https://www.abc.net.au/religion/katharine-gelber-social-media-and-free-speech/13093868. 

Phillips, A. (2020, May 29). Analysis | No, Twitter is not violating Trump’s freedom of speech. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/05/29/no-twitter-did-not-violate-trumps-freedom-speech/. 

Röemmele, A., & Goldzweig, R. (2017, November 9). Social media can be a healthier and more democratic space for politics. The Dahrendorf Forum. https://www.dahrendorf-forum.eu/social-media-and-democracy/. 

Shearer, E., & Mitchell, A. (2021, January 12). News Use Across Social Media Platforms in 2020. Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project. https://www.journalism.org/2021/01/12/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-in-2020/. 

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