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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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Book Review: You Say It First

You Say It First is a book written by Katie Cotugno that focuses on Meg, an avid volunteer for a voter registration call centre. When she calls Colby, someone who has no interest in politics, they continue their phone calls with each other, leading to a long distance friendship turned romance.

This is the first book of my reviews that I don’t recommend. The premise interested me, especially knowing it considered politics which is a very big part of our lives over the last few months. But I ended up finding the characters fairly unlikeable, and I did not root for them to get together. The plot lines were fine, but the relationship between the characters was not good. They had bad communication, didn’t relate well to one another, and never fixed any of their issues through the book. I thought there was very little character growth for the two main characters.

The secondary characters were worse. These characters were so flat that I did not care about them at all. They were not likeable at all, and never redeemed themselves by the end of the book.

There was good back story to the two main characters. You learn about Colby’s father’s suicide and how he struggled with that, and Meg’s alcoholic mother and her father marrying someone else. I appreciated this part of the book as feeling more real and allowing me to sympathize with the characters more.

Overall, I think this book had the potential to be better but it just didn’t live up to what it could have been.

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Process Post #5

For this process post I will be reflecting on my Peer Review and what I learned from it.

The first thing I am working on updating is adding an image to each process post. I have images for my blogs posts, but my process posts are empty which doesn’t look as good. I am using this post to test using an image.

Another piece of feedback I received was to separate the blog section into different categories. I am going to try splitting them up into “book reviews” and “articles” to differentiate my posts, as not all of them are book reviews.

The last thing I am going to fix is my about me page. It was suggested that I add more content to it, which I agree I definitely should. I hate writing about me pages, but I am going to attempt to make it more interesting to people coming to my site.

Overall, I am happy with the design of my page and the feedback I received on it. I like how it is laid out and I am hoping that others feel the same. One thing I have also tried to implement is a cohesive colour scheme which I think I have been able to do.

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Book Review: Love & Olives

Love & Olives is the third book in a series by Jenna Evans Welch. However, you do not need to have read the previous books, Love & Gelato and Love & Luck, in order to understand this book. There is no overlap of story lines or characters, rather it is just the theme that carries through these books. Love & Olives features the protagonist, Olive, who goes to Greece to reconnect with her long lost father. The other books in this series also feature protagonists spending time in Europe and connecting with family.

The previous two books in this series were a lot lighter, and while this one was similar, it also had more emotions in it than the previous books. With this said, this would still make for a fantastic light read, especially during a summer vacation. That is one of my favourite things about Jenna’s books, is that they are entertaining but also fun to just read in a day.

It’s hard to compare with the first book in the series which was originally my favourite, but I think this might tie or even surpass that book for my favourite spot. It was such a fun read that made me care so much about the characters, and it is set in Santorini which makes it seem even more magical. I would definitely recommend this book, along with the other two.

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Peer Review #1

For the first review, I will be reviewing Gurjap Sahota’s website, JaapsFilm. This website title is “Film photos that tell powerful stories”. I am excited to looking into the photo content on this site.

Layout and Design

I like the theme used for this website. It looks like it was picked as it showcases photos well, which is crucial for this design. I love how the featured image from each post is featured on the home page. I also really like the smaller photos in the bottom right corner. However, there are a couple changes that I would make to this design. The first is I would have the title somewhere on this page, not only JaapsFilm. This would make it clear to visitors that this site is focused on film photos. I’m also not sure if the calendar is crucial to this website. But that is also just my opinion and it is also fine as is. For this specific theme, I would make sure to include photos on every post, including the process posts. The empty box for the latest process post draws my eyes there first, instead of the beautiful photos beside it.

On the “About Me” page, I was not able to view one of the two photos. I’m not sure if this is a problem with the photo on the website, or if it was a problem loading it on my end.

Content

Starting off with the About page, I love the content. There is lots of information provided that makes me feel like I know her, which I love about this page. There is no question to who the creator of this site is.

Moving into the blog posts, there is currently only one available for me to review. For future blog posts, in the blog section in the header there is sections for travel, adventure, and revolution. I like these categories, even though there is not content in all of them yet it tells me what type of content I can expect.

The first post is titled “Adventures on Garibaldi Mountain“. It features a stunning picture, which I think is the star of this post. The written content is short, but I really enjoyed it. It tells a great story which I found very intriguing, and feels inspirational. There could be more written content, but I think the focus should be on the photos for this blog so it isn’t necessary. If anything, I would like to see more pictures included since the first one is beautiful. Maybe there could be the first featured photo, and then some smaller photos throughout the post or towards the bottom. One typo I found on this post was “caste” instead of “cast” on the arm towards the end of the second paragraph. Other than that this was a great first post! I’m excited to see what future content and photos is put on this website.

For the first process post, I was unable to load the photo again. Disregard if this is just an issue for me, but if it isn’t it’s important to make sure that is working. I was able to see it on the homepage, and it looked like a great photo. I like that photo content is being included in these process posts as it is very true to the blog’s theme.

The second process post didn’t seem to be completely finished, but I may have been looking at this one prematurely. The last paragraph starts with “Next,” making me think that there may be more content added. I love the title of the process post, “The bumpy journey to the starting line”. I find that much more interesting than just “Process Post 2”.

Concluding Thoughts

JaapsFilm reminds me of Tanya Basu’s idea of a “digital garden“. This site seems very personal, and works both as a place to show photos and a place of reflection. It functions almost like diary entries, with photos included as memories. I think this is a great way to show off this content as it makes me feel like I am adventuring along as well.

Overall, the content is very well written, and the photos are a great addition to the content. The content is written well with very few typos or grammar mistakes. I enjoyed reading it and would be interested to read more posts in the future. Great job!

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Process Post #4

What would you do if there was only one hour left with the Internet?

This is a difficult question to answer, there is so much I would want to do, how would I narrow it down to only the most important?

Some things I would want to do would be downloading as much music as possible, downloading Wikipedia pages, downloading IMDB info (because I’m always that person who needs to know every single thing an actor has been in while watching a movie), downloading my favourite videos, or making sure I share my contact information with friends that I may not keep in touch with much outside of social media.

If I had to pick only one of these things to do, I would probably pick sharing information with friends. I could always go back to buying CDs and looking up information in the library, but if I didn’t have current contact information for someone it may be very hard to get in touch with them again.

It’s crazy for me to think just how much I would want to do, and how much my life relies on the Internet. Even though humans lived for so long without it and it is only a recent invention, I can’t imagine trying to live in a world without it.

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Book Review: The Cousins

The Cousins is a mystery novel written by Karen M. McManus, and the story focuses on three cousins who go to their grandmother’s island to meet her for the first time. Their grandmother had disinherited their parents about 25 years later, so when the grandchildren are contacted for the first time they head to the island to try and get some answers. 

This is the fourth book I’ve read by Karen M. McManus, and I love it just as much as her previous books. This one is a little slower-paced than her previous novels, but it is still very interesting throughout and picks up at the end. It’s a little more laid back than her other books, it’s a good mix between a mystery and a relaxing read, perfect for a light read to binge through. 

One of my favourite things about Karen M. McManus’s novels is that she writes from the perspective of different characters, and she is very good at writing each character with a different voice. I never forget which character I am reading in a current chapter, which is something very important for an author tackling this narrative style. 

Overall it was a very fun read, and I would recommend it along with her other novels, One of Us is Lying, One of Us is Next, and Two Can Keep a Secret.

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Process Post #3

This infographic shows the flow of my website. It starts with the home page, and from there you can go to the about page, the blog posts, or the PUB 101 posts. Then under PUB 101 posts there is mini assignments, essays, and process posts. There are not too many pages on my site so it is fairly straightforward to follow.

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Mini Assignment #2

Deadpool reviewing The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks:

This is the worst book I have ever read. It is way too sappy, and it involves no Ryan Gosling, the second best Canadian named Ryan. The whole book is too lovey-dovey, it makes me want to puke. Love like that doesn’t exist except in movies and books.

Allie’s fiancé was the real star, who cares about Noah. I definitely don’t. I would rather sit on a crate of dynamite than read this book again. Love is gross.

I give this book 0 out of 5 stars.

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