Author Archives: Finding Balance

Some Semester Thoughts

This semester has been not just about creating a website, but about creating an audience. I have always been inspired to create something that benefits others, because a lot of what we learn in life is that the world can be a really negative and greedy place. But I feel that if we don’t take a little time to think about ourselves as well, we won’t be able to help others. If everyone thought like this, I believe the world would be a better place to live in for sure. My blog is for those who have the same ideals. It’s for those who feel a little lost or stressed out, for those who would like to contribute to a space that isn’t trying to sell you something, and a place for others to express their stories and how they get through their lives. I particularly want to cater to those going into University, because when I started, there was an overwhelming amount of opinions about what is healthy and what isn’t. Fab diets, fat loss pills, and insane and unrealistic expectations of how you should work out and look like are huge issues. My blog reflects this with calming or goofy pictures meant to make people reflect what they do in their own lives, or even laugh. It’s a space for people to get information that isn’t from a top-down perspective. Although I haven’t started gathering comments on my website yet, I would hope to see more as I post more content. I get a lot of comments and reviews on my Facebook as well, not necessarily on the website itself, but so far I have gotten a lot of good reviews and look forward to more, with criticisms welcomed.

Personally, I was really moved by Audrey Watters article, “The Web We Need to Give Students”. This class and this article sum up what I believe University should be all about; not just education, but promoting creativity and new ideas and challenging our perspectives. I feel that University doesn’t do that as much in this day and age. It is such a traditional industry that dates back thousands of years — don’t we think we’ve gone beyond that old structure by now? We need to be challenged and driven to new ideas, and constricting us to these traditional teaching practices is stamping out creativity and drive. This class allowed the students in PUB 101 to “have control over the look and feel of their own sites, including what’s shared publicly. This means they have some say — although not complete — over their personal data, and in turn they begin to have an understanding of the technologies that underpin the Web, including how their work and their data circulate there” (Watters, 2015). As Watters (2015) says, “giving students their own digital domain is a radical act”. I call for these education industries to do the same in returning the agency to students, and in return you will have students who will be enlightened and contribute back to society with enthusiasm and passion.

I was really glad we went over online behaviours, particularly the bad ones, and because of this I was extremely interested in Whitney Philips’ article, “Let’s call ‘trolling’ what it really is”. Trolls are essentially “why we can’t have nice things online” (Philips, 2015). In an internet-driven world, I constantly worry about what my younger sisters will have to go through in their online environments. My little sister even knows the term ‘trolling’ and will use it when describing certain people even though she doesn’t have any social medias. Philips (2015) emphasizes that the term itself “implies a level of playfulness that tends to minimize their antagonistic behaviours, or at least establish a firewall between the embodied person and their digitally mediated actions”. This was a huge wake-up call for me and I am able to better position myself on the impact of people’s online behaviours, especially knowing that’s not just us being sensitive when we go against trolls; we are standing up against hate and violence. Especially violence people wouldn’t even commit or act in if they were face-to-face with the person they were ‘trolling’.

Another wake-up call for me was actually when I reflected on my online data trail. I haven’t had much filtration or thought about what I put online besides the basics, like no revealing photos of my body or me at parties, no obscene language, etc. My digital breadcrumb trail extends long and true. I thought about it this way; if I tried to run away and disappear, I am not sure I’d be able to stay ‘missing’ because I know I’m very dependent on everything I use, like my bank cards, phone, computer, etc. Although I have to admit I love anything that makes my life more convenient, it does disappoint me how much companies know about me. Like with how Suzanne Norman experienced going into the Amazon bookstore in Seattle, data is collected everywhere. I believe I’m most noticed in my online shopping, because all the advertisements online are tailored to what I’m always looking for. Maybe we have just grown accustomed to accepting a lack of privacy. Podacademy sums up the issue perfectly in one question: “Should we then as producers of data benefit from the money that we help generate or is the fact that we use these services for free suffice enough to serve as a form of payment in return for our data?”. I would have to argue yes, because what other choice do we have? If Facebook suddenly decided that it’s users had to pay a monthly fee, would I? Probably, I’m too dependent on it now. It sucks but it’s the truth. All I would be able to hope for is a different company to come along and offer a free service.

I would like to continue on the blog and see how it goes, however, especially as I move into PUB 201, I actually have a lot of inspiration to create a new blog based on the EDM industry. It is something I am truly passionate about and can possibly monetize off of, whereas with this one, I don’t think it feels proper to have a lot of ads on my blog. I also have a lot of inspiration for it so I look forward to creating that before the next semester even starts.

You can find my inspired articles here:

https://brightthemag.com/the-web-we-need-to-give-students-311d97713713

http://kernelmag.dailydot.com/issue-sections/staff-editorials/12898/trolling-stem-tech-sexism/

https://publishing.sfu.ca/2016/03/breadcrumbs-of-data/

Podacademy’s article/podcast by George Philip, Jennifer Anne Lazo, Rooham Jamali and Rudy Al Jaroodi: http://podacademy.org/podcasts/digital-breadcrumbs-our-data-trail/

Community Guidelines

In light of past, recent, and unfortunately continuing stories of people being harassed online, it has come to my attention that guidelines must be established if there is to be a comments section.

Maria Konnikova (2013) writes about the ‘online dishibition effect’, which is basically where the moment in which one sheds their “identity the usual constraints on your behaviour go, too”. This is especially true in cases where users can comment anonymously, which may encourage participation, but has just gone to increase uncivilly and incredibly negative comments.

I would like to encourage participation, but it seems necessary that I point out that there is a fine line between free speech and hate speech. Due to some of the sensitive topics that may be discussed here on this blog, it might be beneficial for these guidelines to be understood before writing a comment:

No racism, sexism, or any sort of hate comments whatsoever.

No promotional comments unless previously validated through the admin beforehand.

Any violation of these guidelines will prompt the removal of the comments by admin. Comments are taken down if admin doesn’t think it contributes to the conversation or is irrelevant or hateful in any way, or threatens other readers or authors. If there are any questions, please email the admin for more information.

When it comes to people’s safety, some form of filtration is necessary. If a comment is not constructive to a conversation, it will not be included. I love to hear feedback and opinions on the matter. But in a space that is supposed to be one in which people should come to for positivity in an already hate-filled world, I need to establish this before my website goes further. 

A Winter Story

All the reasons to love winter for those who suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder):

    

Please dismiss my childish artistic skills. I just want everyone to try and look at winter more positively! I definitely didn’t cover all of it either. What are your favorite things about winter?

Transmedia Ideas

Some transmedia ideas for my health and wellness blog include:

  • Podcasts/audio segments — perhaps on Soundcloud?
  • Youtube (interviews with others, videos in general)

This would probably need to come with a more structured timeframe on when to post. For example, a blog post every Monday to start off the week and perhaps a video or audio segment every Friday. It would be a bit more structured than a vlog, and would allow for different interactions with the website in many ways for readers, leading them to become part of the conversation by being listeners and viewers as well. For me, I find my passion lies more with video editing and what not so I would prefer to do health interviews with students over video but I know some topics like those revolving around mental health are a bit personal so the interviewee may want to be anonymous and having an audio segment instead of a video one might be less invasive.

The Electronic Parasite

Over the last 8 years of my life, particularly through my life in high school and University, everyone is always asking about my phone, perhaps more than I’m actually on it. Everyone wants to know what everyone is paying attention to. Attention, attention, attention. What could possibly be distracting me from whatever I’m supposed to be doing?

ATTENTION! New things require attention. News grabs attention. It is completely possible in my mind that new = notification. Because when I am notified, I am drawn to my phone like a bug to a night light. There is a habitual need to put my attention on what is demanding it and reply. What if it’s an emergency? What if it’s important? What if I miss out? That stupid red notification symbol will get me every time.

I know from myself and from friends that we open apps and our phones just to be rid of that damn notification symbol. Inhale, exhale. Notification gone. I am updated. I have been productive. Nothing is wrong. Everything is right in the world.

However, I have noticed a few abnormal habits that have developed.

Phantom vibration syndrome. Most people know what I mean by this. You SWEAR you just felt your phone vibrate and now YOU HAVE TO CHECK IT! ATTENTION! You open your phone just to see nothing there. Lots of people can testify that this is a real condition and it baffles everyone, yet, it’s harmless.

And what about the mindless checking of your phone, where you open it and do absolutely nothing except scroll through the home pages, almost searching for something to pay attention to. There’s no notifications, nothing. There was just a need to open the phone, JUST CHECK and make sure you didn’t miss anything, and then go back to whatever you were supposed to be doing. Perhaps this happens more out of boredom, rather than as flashback to when your phone vibrated.

The worst that truly bothers me is when I check Facebook and I have it open on both my phone and computer. There is no reason for this whatsoever. It normally happens when I’m in class and bored, but that incessant need to BE UPDATED as often as possible irks me.

I think you know when you’re addicted to something when these dysfunctional attention syndromes arise. But is it necessarily a big deal? Yes. I’m trying to convince the whole population to give a shit — YOUR ATTENTION IS BEING DEMANDED ALL THE TIME! They know we know how much attention we give our phones. Advertisers and corporations want your attention and your data. We know that. Now what? Well, what are you missing out on when you erratically check your phone? At what point in every moment that we did we feel the need to pay attention to our phones?

I am critical of those who claim that this is not natural. Even when individual cell phones didn’t exist, people found other ways to distract themselves in class. Reading newspapers in public, for example. Passing notes or doodling in class. When we are in stagnant situations like sitting on transit, our attention isn’t being demanded, and why go through another mindless, routine, and systematic day, accepting the lack of control we have over our lives, when instead, for a moment, we can retake that control and take back our ATTENTION by deciding what to do with it?

For classrooms, teachers should not blame the phone but instead, wonder at which point students felt the need to be distracted. Is it the way the content is being taught? Is the content engaging? If kids feel like they already know something, or that something is irrelevant, perhaps it is time we challenge them and make it relevant for them. WHY SHOULD THEY GIVE YOU THEIR ATTENTION?

I am asked yet again how often I check my phone. First, I would have to break down when I mindlessly check it, like I’ve previously described, and when I feel I am being productive. When I consider myself being productive on my phone, I am checking messages, emails, making playlists or just lists in general, creating events and schedules on my calendar. This, in my opinion, is actually constructive. I am using the phone for what it was supposed to be for; as an aid in my daily life to help me be a productive citizen, student, friend, and family member. There are mindless messages, and constructive conversations.

I dismiss any arguments and criticisms to how much time is spent on phones when it is not defined as to what is constructive and what isn’t productive time on the phone, or even social media. A lot of work revolves around social media and being available in and contributing to digital spaces. In this day and age, how could anyone’s attention NOT be diverted to check their phones once in a while when we’ve all been trained to? Repercussions from mom and dad if we didn’t text or call back in a specific amount of time. Missing out on an opportunity or event, or missing the notification about an event when something about it changed. Loss of a job if our employers didn’t receive an email fast enough. This is literally Psych 101: over the years of negative reinforcement, we have been trained to check our phones. Obviously this is dependent on age and many variables unique to everyone, but the argument is still relevant. And we are still inevitably told that everything we have been trained to do is bad and wrong.

We live in a world where our attention is battled over and equivalent to work value. So much so, we crave times we aren’t on the grid anymore. We look at vacation as a time where we aren’t obliged to look at our damn phones all the time, where notifications can’t reach us and we have agency to look at them.

Nothing comes free, something is always given up. Everything must be moderated. My suggestion to anyone who feels they check their phones too much is to simply put your phone on silent. You can change the settings so that it notifies you when you get phone calls, but not when you get texts or notifications from apps. You’d be surprised how much less you may look at your phone, because now your ATTENTION isn’t being demanded, it is being given with your own discretion.

Some Readership and Writership Balance

I found that it would be pretty hard to get noticed online without my social media. I think I have a pretty large following and most people are interested in what I am posting, particularly when it comes to creative stuff. The blog I have now is more a health and wellness blog as well as personal. But, I have been thinking about starting another blog; it could piss a lot of people and corporations off, which means it’s necessary to be anonymous. I would still need to use my social media to get it out there and bring attention to my new blog, so when I think of Google Analytics I compare how the two blogs would do in my mind and I realize that I’d need to find other means of social medias and attention in the new blog in order to stay anonymous. My Google Analytics has also shown me that a lot of my family and close friends are super interested in my health and wellness blog, as it is a bit more personal, but it would be cool to try and post some of my posts to specific pages on Facebook and see if I can branch out a bit. Using the annotations will help me keep track of what posts I post where, and I can see where the biggest audience is. In my other blog, once it’s created, I wouldn’t want to post too much on other pages on Facebook through my account in particular. However, it would definitely mean I would need a separate Facebook account and Instagram and other social medias. It would be especially cool to keep track of the analytics alongside with the Facebook account and see what people look at more! My blog now is pretty personalized, so I have a few different strategies on how to branch out into more people. For example, I would like to interview a few friends who are also students about their struggles with mental health and gain some perspective and tips with them. This is also another good opportunity to either film or record it as a sort of podcast too. This would also boost online attention because the people I interview will most likely share their stories online and I’ll increase my reach the way.

Monetization

I monetized my site through Google Adsense mostly because I didn’t think it would affect people from reading my content anyways. We ignore ads all the time, and I placed them accordingly throughout my website that won’t interrupt people reading. I downloaded a new plugin called Ad Inserter to make the process easier as well. Other changes I will have to make is to make sure that the ads don’t slow the loading time of my site, interrupt reading, and don’t move anything around where it’s not supposed to be. Also, I will need to filter out certain kinds of ads so nothing irrelevant shows up on my website.

On the self-reflection side of things, when I am asked about my data trails and digital footprint, I definitely haven’t made an effort to minimize my footprint, but I haven’t necessarily just thrown-in the towel either. I’m very aware of the information I’ve put out there, but I am a bit biased. The technology I use everyday has only helped me with my every day life. In fact, more opportunities come to me through all my social medias and activities. I’ve been offered jobs and been contacted by employers through social media. I find that my information is a fair trade-off for using these apps for free. I also just feel no one is really interested in my information unless they just try to sell me things, which hardly works, but I am comfortable with how things are progressing with technology. I love convenience, I love the speed of information, and I think that data is a necessary thing that already exists and we just need to adapt to it because it isn’t going anywhere.

Between the Stripes — A Review

Jenny Chan’s blog, “Between the Stripes”, is a beautifully simplistic space to explore new worlds of music while being within the comforts of home. Especially at a time of the year where I would be sitting inside, by a window, while the weather can do whatever it pleases outside. The design reflects this, as if the sun or the natural light was peering through the window trying to see what I was doing.

 

Exploring the site itself, I first notice there is a strange “social media & sharing icons” link that brings me to a page for plugins with WordPress; I’m not sure if you can get rid of that or not, it’s at the bottom of the page, so it’s not the biggest deal if you can’t. However, it looks a little off just because it isn’t aligned right with the blurb above it that reads “BETWEEN THE STRIPES Powered by WordPress and FancyThemes”.

Like I mentioned before, I love the colors, not sure if you could add a bit more shadow around the title and play around with that a bit more? As for the menus and categories, I also think the Home About and Captures sections would benefit from and stand out a bit more if it was placed on the black stripe, but if that was the point to be in between the lines, I would add shadow to that as well.  As for the content, I love how you incorporated all the different senses in the “About” section. Keep up the Captures page!

Your “Recent Posts” section keeps repeating every time you post “song of the day” so maybe change that somehow, or number the title in each one? As well, as a reader who may want to comment, it was hard to understand that the“post comment” button was there because it is highlighted black, so it was a little confusing until I hovered over it to make a comment. I would change that so it’s not highlighted black. The mobile version of your website looks very nice as well.

I’m loving the social media outreach on the site; it makes it very interactive and builds more dimension to the simplicity of the site. My one suggestion would be to use specific social media pages as the blog, instead of your own personal Instagram, or your own personal Instagram. With a Between the Stripes Instagram, you could post your song of the day, maybe a blurb with it. You can also purchase InstaReport to keep statistics on that as well! I know some music-based social medias post parts of songs and perhaps you could do the same on behalf of the page. My confusion with Pinterest leads me to ask if there is a specific page on Pinterest you’d like us to look at that is relevant to your blog? Because there are many boards related to your Pinterest. Maybe make sure it just links to a specific board or perhaps a completely different Between the Stripes Pinterest account instead of your whole Pinterest profile. Otherwise, I have definitely been inspired by the social media interactivity and aspire to reflect that in my website as well!

If anyone is feeling adventurous and has a craving for new music, definitely check out Jenny’s blog here: http://triangularzebras.com