It’s funny, I feel more like a fish out of water now, at the end of the semester, than I did at the beginning. I have veered left, right, and back on the journey through PUB101, changing my WordPress theme at least three times — with the most recent change being only two weeks ago.
Entering the course in September, my main goal was to get my online professional portfolio up and running. The blog aspect, I figured, would be an excellent way for me to get more comfortable putting myself out there; speaking up, creating more exposure for the hidden international student community, and sharing my views and experiences for all the world to see.
From content creation to audience awareness, and even to general organization, I have discovered over the last three months that there are a lot more considerations and decisions not just to blogging, but to being a publisher in general, than I initially anticipated — and as we discussed in the first week of the semester, given the Internet, everyone is a publisher now.
My first and main online publishing platform remains Instagram. A couple of years ago I attempted to “up my insta-game”; I made my account public, posted every other day, and had my list of go-to hashtags to help reach an audience beyond my Facebook friends. And for a while, I had success. My follow count grew steadily, and I even managed to get consistent commenters. Eventually though, as it happens, I became busier and busier and so I posted less and less. I’ve realized that if I couldn’t even find the time to post a photo with a less than 100 character caption, how did I expect myself to find the time to blog 200+ words?
Truthfully speaking, I don’t feel like I have come very far with “My wonderful experience in Canada”. A blog about Canada as a beautiful country and the role it plays in my life… It’s not particularly developed at this point. I have seven out of 21 posts on the website that are specifically written for My wonderful experience in Canada and not Posiel, and those that are there do not tell that much of a story. My findings on Google Analytics support my statement; on average I have two hits per month on my website, and from the dates and regions, I think it’s safe to conclude that these few users are my fellow classmates visiting for peer reviews. Heartbreaking? — Not really. Not to me. While I may not have grown an active audience as I began the semester thinking I would, I am more than content with my online takeaway from the course.
Although, in my eyes, it is far from “finished” (I don’t think it’s fair to say that an online platform is ever fully finished — there will always be something to update and to adjust), I believe that I have produced a fantastic starting point for myself moving forwards. I have a site with a cohesive aesthetic across the pages; clean and modern with hints of a bubbly personality sprinkled throughout. In their peer reviews, Christopher (peer review 2) and Joanni (peer review 3) both comment to the uniquely friendly and inviting environment that I create through design decisions such as font and colour choices, as well as language used in what content is there. Being in a world in which Travis Gertz, partner, designer, and developer of Louder Than Ten, states that “everything looks the same” (Gertz, 2015), it is crucial to me that my personality be evident in my site and set it apart.
I noted within several process posts that I don’t identify myself as the blogging-type, yet in my classification, I defined a blog as written content — but why? A blog can be as much of a visual story as it is a written one. Creating mixed media content for process posts two, seven, and eleven have reinforced this realization over the term. This is why I struggled to produce content, I believe. I gave myself false constraints of my content needing to be word-heavy. For this reason, I hesitated to commit to continuing the blog section of my website as I transition it to more of a portfolio space, but reflecting now, I think that I can use it to create an extension of my Instagram public.
As was suggested to me in class, I can create series of mini-posts — a different series for each trip, each life experience, each little side project I tackle. Leon Watson of telegraph.co.uk notes a study conducted by Microsoft notes that those with “more digital lifestyles … struggle to focus in environments where prolonged attention is needed” (Watson, 2015), so the posts will be shorter and much more visual, ones that do not require extensive time commitments to consume. As I generally post only a photo or two from any event to my Instagram account, I can use those posts to channel my audience there over to my blog, should they want more of a “behind the scenes” experience of my excursions. As I realize that blogs are not as commonly or easily “stumbled upon” as are accounts on social media platforms, linking my blog to my Instagram account will definitely give my website the opportunity for more hits. Hits, not necessarily just for the sake of growing my public, but for the sake of networking as well. Alyssa Acree of copypress.com writes to social media as a networking tool, saying “[it] is as strong a networking tool as any other” (Acree, 2016). Furthermore, blogs require considerably more time commitment from its engagers than do social media accounts such as Instagram or Tumblr or Twitter, where quick scrolling is the primary activity.
I think incorporating this version of a blog into my transitioning website will strengthen my portfolio more than the current version. It will still lend potential employers a closer look into who I am and what I do beyond UX/UI and graphic design, but it will do so in a way that reinforces my visual nature and provides another medium for me to showcase the ways in which I am able to apply my creative and technical skills.
Though I may not be continuing to build up a blog the way we focused on in the course, I am still incredibly happy for having taken the class. While not all the topics feel like they related directly to my online goals, they’re definitely things that I should be aware of (like monetization). Before, I knew that I needed an online portfolio, but now I’m seeing that it’s more than just a showcase of my projects — its a showcase of me, and not just as a designer. Every bit, down to the way I categorize posts, allow or don’t allow comments, etc. are a reflection of me. The environment I create speaks just as much to my character as my about page, if not more.
Possibly more than the course content itself, I genuinely appreciated and enjoyed the environment which we learned in. I was, by no means, one of the more participative members of the class and generally found it intimidating to be among peers who were so openly and easily able to voice their thoughts. But, intimidating as it may have been, it was equally encouraging for me to try to poke my head out of my shell more and join in the conversations.
I had said that I feel like a fish out of water; like I’ve been floundering all semester — afraid to speak up in class, trying to figure out how to present myself online and find my niche as so many others seemed to do so easily. While I might not be leaving PUB101 with as finished a product as I had hoped to, I am leaving confident that I now have the knowledge to keep myself afloat when I really dive into developing my online self.
I’m in the process of developing community guidelines for my blog. As I’ve created my website as a safe and happy place, I want to keep bullying and harassment to a minimum. If this requires blacklisting words, or blocking certain users, I’m prepared to do that.
However, there is a different between bullying/harassment, and a disagreement. Where I feel some sites go to far is when they silence disagreements between users, or disagreements to their own opinions. If a comment challenges, or questions the sites content, I find that these comments are deleted or shut down. This worries me because it silences a potential dialogue that could happen between a user and an author. As well, it worries me when I see every disagreement between users being moderated or stopped. When there is no bullying or harassment happening with a disagreement I don’t totally see the point in silencing it. I want my blog to be a place for dialogue, and If this dialogue includes respectfully questioning or disagreeing with my own opinions, I welcome these disagreements and I am open to hearing other opinions.
As of now these are the only things I know I want to include in my community guideline, but I hope to come up with more things to help my community be one of happiness, and one that lacks bullying.
THE TEMPERATE rain forests of the West Coast of Canada are magnificent to behold. You could say that forests are our sacred groves. In a young and secular country with a small population and vast expanses of pristine wilderness, our forests are our natural temples. This is where we go to worship the beauty and majesty of nature, and what attracts many of our visitors. But you don’t have to be a rugged explorer to appreciate our northern paradise. The West Coast temperate rainforest can be found lovingly preserved at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.
As you walk softly on a thick carpet of reddish pine needles you feel enveloped by the lushness, moist air and sun-dappled greenery. Iridescent ferns, bright mosses, and trickling streams of fresh water catch your eye at ground level. Crowds of evergreens — cedar, pine and fir trees — soften the middle distance. Birds twitter among the branches, while squirrels gambol up and down tree trunks and butterflies alight on lush ground-level foliage. There is a quiet sanctity, a reverence in the air that slows the gait and lowers the voices of casual visitors.
I also learned there was indeed a connection with the Native people of this area. In fact, the word Capilano is derived from Kia’palano, a Squamish word for “beautiful river.” And Chief Joe Matthias Kia’palano was hired in the 1930s to tell stories and teach visitors about the Native way of life.
Via Rail, the company that’s been running The Canadian since the 1970s, is well aware that this is a big trip, across a big country. They support the excitement and anticipation in so many ways, from announcements about passing landmarks through on-board activities and superb menu options.
We ate our first meal in the dining car that evening as we left Ottawa. I had halibut, cooked to order without breading, vegetables, salad, a gluten-free chocolate mousse dessert and peppermint tea.
The train is a relaxed way to see the breadth of the Canadian geographic experience.
In the meantime, the attendant had lowered the bed in my room, tucking away the chairs underneath, and leaving me a shower kit with soap and towels and a single chocolate on the turned-down bed. I retired to my private room, nothing else to do but crawl into bed and read, everything I needed within arm’s length distance. I slept very soundly in a surprisingly comfortable bed, rocked to sleep by the motion of the train.
I expected the diverse scenery we passed to be a highlight of the journey. But what I didn’t expect is that the culture inside the train is even more absorbing than the passing scenery.
Ottawa is Canada’s capital, a small city of about one million people that spreads out from the scenic place where three rivers meet. This is the political heart of Canada, a storied area with sweeping views, steeped in history, and the perfect place to begin travels in Canada.
Ottawa is beautiful, the best of Canada is here.”
My friend and I spent about three days exploring Ottawa, and learning about the history of the country and some of the many attractions this city has to offer. “Ottawa is beautiful, the best of Canada is here,” he said.
Parliament Hill is a great place to start your Ottawa tour. That’s what we did. We walked around the entire hill, on the promenade that runs along the Ottawa River shoreline. You get great views of the Parliament Buildings from below and the Canadian Museum of History across the river.
After our walk around the back of the Parliament Buildings, we walked to the front, and stood near the Centennial Flame. In front of us was Centre Block, with East and West Blocks on either side. It’s a very grand site, massive Victorian Gothic buildings flanking a huge expanse of lawn. The House of Commons, Senate, Library of Parliament, Peace Tower and Memorial Chamber are in the Centre Block, and this is what most tourists come to see.
Another highlight is the War Paintings in the Senate Chamber. I loved going up to the top of the Peace Tower, which offers 360 degree views of the Ottawa region. The final stop was the Memorial Chamber, another moving moment, as this sunny, uplifting room, the colours of heaven, contains the names of all Canadian soldiers who fell in battle.
This week, my friends and I wandered the Haliburton Highlands in search of art, culture, and natural beauty – and opportunities to enjoy them. We found a profusion of all three. In fact, it is safe to say, the Haliburton Ontario region can be characterized by the thriving art and culture scene, and the beauty and serenity of the rugged Haliburton Highlands. Haliburton Ontario is home to some very good artists and a surprising number of arts organizations.
The Haliburton Sculpture Forest is adjacent to the Haliburton School of the Arts, in and among the forest that surrounds this rural location near Haliburton Ontario. My favourite piece of art in the Sculpture Forest is by one of my favourite Canadian contemporary artists, Mary Anne Barkhouse. An Indigenous artist, Mary Anne’s bronze sculptures are devoted to giving animals a sense of majesty, and they are all over the province – including in front of the Museum of History in Ottawa. In the Haliburton Sculpture Forest, her bronze dog “Gelert” honours the dramatic legend of a Welsh prince and his dog. You read the legend of Gelert here.
Craft is also a big part of the Haliburton Highlands, and there are some great craft artists here, as well as a few who blend their work into what could easily be called art. Our trail took us to Blackbird Pottery, a three-year-old studio owned by artist April Gates. The addition of Blackbird Pottery to the Haliburton Highlands. Blackbird Pottery is a very good example of where art and craft meet. The quality of the work reflects someone who takes a serious and professional approach to art and craft. Blackbird Pottery is located in an old school house just outside of Haliburton village. It’s an airy room that easily merges retail space with room for workshops, and it’s open to visitors four days a week.
Being a 90’s kid who lived and breathed Pokemon for the better part of their childhood, it was rather mind-blowing to read into the depths of the Pokemon franchise as transmedia storytelling. Transmedia storytelling is ” a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience” (Jenkins, 2007). Essentially, it’s when a fiction is created and contributed through various elements which stand on their own, but also together strengthen the story being told. I realize now that literally so many pop-culture stories are transmedia; Pokemon, South Park, Marvel and DC Comics, and Archie and Friends to name a few.
I think, for portfolio purposes, expanding my brand (me, as a designer; my ethos) across different platforms will be extremely beneficial. My website will highlight my web-coding abilities and provide a lens into my professional self. Instagram can act as a more filtered, but personal lens on my story. A paper portfolio is another element that I have considered creating for a while. It could showcase my print design capabilities, however so to could the web — as most people just display all of their work on a website. Regardless, I think having a printed portfolio is still a good idea.
It’s a tricky question, how to tell my story. I will have to think on this more.
Not going to lie, I completely forgot that I had Google Analytics installed! Waiting for the data to load, I was kind of nervous… How many people had visited my site? Had anybody at all? If people had, who were they? What did they think of my content?
Alas… I had zero hits aside from two that must have been from peer reviews. But honestly, I’m a kind of relieved by that. The fact that I’m relieved by having reached next to no one… Well that opens up a whole other batch of questions, namely, what am I afraid of? I think… Okay, maybe afraid wasn’t the right word. But I haven’t linked any social media to my account still either. I don’t feel like my site is ready to “go public”, so to speak. (Clearly, it’s already public, but I mean public to my pre-existing public.)
Thinking about it, how did I expect anyone to even find my blog? If I haven’t provided any links to it from my social media, and I’ve hardly added any tags… I guess I could say that my website is still in its beta stages; I’m testing the waters and getting my sea legs producing content strictly for the Posiel audience. I’m going to have to move beyond that though, and soon. I guess the test for me, for when I feel that not just my blog, but the entire site is what I want it to be, will be when I really make it public and have it accessible to my Instagram/Facebook audiences