Closing the Semester

Well, we made it to the last week of CO 402 class! It’s been quite an experience, and I feel all the better for having taken this class in my last semester at CSU. I think that I experienced a lot of learning, thought, communication, frustration, and triumph throughout this semester, and I’m very glad that I decided to try something new.

The beginning of this class was stressful, to say the least. I am an English Literature major, which means that I’ve spent most of my time with physical texts, reading materials, and writing assignments. Seeing the syllabus was overwhelming and anxiety-inducing, because I was unfamiliar with many of the terms for learning used and I did not have any familiarity with many of the technologies listed. I felt that I was diving headfirst into a pool in which I was completely unprepared to swim.

However, I can successfully say that, at the very end of the semester, I have learned more about myself and my capabilities in this class than I ever thought I would. I know now that I am able to take an assignment that looks completely foreign and, with help from my resources — online help, textbooks, class texts, classmates, and professor — I can create something new, unique, and actually good with some serious effort.

In the course of this semester, I have (often with the help of my awesome group — shoutout to Manton, Rachel, and Paul!) created a remix/mashup, a Photoshop self-portrait, a PSA about water, a video with my friend on his work, a web text of coding (HTML and CSS), and (soon) a documentary. I’m so excited to see how our long-form project turns out (I think it’s going to be quite fantastic), and I’m so thankful for all of the awesome experiences I’ve had in Digital Rhetoric and Design this semester. Thanks for coming along on the journey with me!

Providing Feedback

In one of our last weeks of the semester, we have been tasked with providing others feedback on their long-form projects. Since my project is a group project, we have been told to provide feedback to another group, and this time, we are critiquing Group 4’s long-form project. I have been attempting to come up with good, useful, and constructive feedback for Group 4 tonight, but it is quite a difficult task for me.

When I am giving criticism of a specific assignment for another person, I always begin to feel awkward, because I think that I am being too mean or critical, or that I am just “looking for problems” to point out. I think that Group 4 has a great idea for their project (a website, blog, images, and videos on local, large, and international breweries) and I know that their final product will be great without my feedback. However, I am hoping that I can contribute a few tidbits of knowledge or outside insight on the project in order to shed some light on their ideas in a way that they might not be able to see from so close to the project itself.

I am really looking forward to the feedback that our group will receive from Group 6 by Friday, which will (hopefully) help us in our quest to create a brilliant and poignant documentary. 🙂

Usability Testing for Next Year’s Class

Yesterday in class, Tim gave us the opportunity to provide him (and the rest of the class) with feedback on our entire experiences with the class this semester. We discussed the assignments that worked well, the things that we would change if we could take the class over again, and the lessons that we have learned throughout the semester (based on the five main concepts of the class’s structure).

Generally, people were critical of the overall class structure. Some students mentioned that they would have preferred more feedback and instruction on certain assignments because they felt too out of their element on some of the topics. However, it was difficult for others to deal with the class structure because they knew some of the concepts too well. I believe that this would be an incredibly difficult class to teach because there are so many facets of digital rhetoric that need to be addressed in just a single semester. I think that we would all be able to learn a lot more over the course of the class (and go deeper into each topic) if this was a full year-long class.

I believe that, if I could change one thing about this class, I would change the way that the long-form project was structured. I think that, at least for me, the project was too spaced-out and the assignment was a bit too vague to be working on consistently from the beginning. It was nice to have ideas in the back of my mind throughout the semester, but I think that I would have benefitted more if we had received the actual assignment sheet (with the actual rubric, dynamics, deliverables, etc.) closer to the end of the semester, simply because I did not have enough knowledge about digital rhetoric (and my own interests within the subject) and my group did not have a specific trajectory in mind for our project. I think that we would have a much more cohesive long-form project now (at the end of the semester) if we had had more of a focus toward the last month or two of this year. However, I have no doubt that it will turn out great.

Filming Is Awkward

This week, we have begun filming the subjects of our long-form project, which will be a documentary. We started with a professor and faculty member of Warner College of Natural Resources, Ethan Billingsley, and today, we polled and filmed students walking to and from class on the Plaza (and we also caught a nice lady who works at the LSC Bookstore, Fran!).

However, during both of these experiences, I have been learning just how uncomfortable documentary filming can be. We have had to reach out to so many people about this project, and we heard back from some caring and helpful individuals — most, we did not. We received rejections through phone calls, emails, and most frequently, in person on the Plaza. Yelling out “Can we ask you a couple questions on camera?” in a place where people are typically accosted by those wishing them Hell is surprisingly not received all that well. We were told “no,” laughed at, and, more often, completely ignored by those who pretended not to hear us (or just stared, open-mouthed).

When we did manage to convince someone to sit in front of our camera and answer our questions, it was still awkward. Many people seemed confused or taken by surprise by some of our questions. A lot of people answered, “I don’t know,” or “I’m not sure if I know much about that topic.” It seemed that even those who were willing to help were uncomfortable by our documentary.

I’m not sure if this awkwardness is simply part of documentary-making (or filming in general), or if it’s just my personality, but I have certainly been uncomfortable this week. However, we should be wrapping up at the end of next week, so it seems that I will survive, and I will continue to try to make people more comfortable with our filming style.

Concept Expansion 4: Author Queries, Accessibility, and Usability

14 April 2017

Dear Author,

We have been preparing your webtext, “Learning Spaces for Sustainable Futures: Encounters between design and rhetoric in shaping nomadic pedagogy,” for publication on TechnoRhetoric.net. We have copyedited the text and have a few remaining questions, which are listed below. You can also find a temporary version of your webtext at this URL: http://technorhetoric.net/~keditors/working-files/22.1/snaddon_et_al-2/index.php. In this temporary version, we have marked in BOLD CAPS the in-text locations that correspond to the queries below. (Please do NOT use this URL to proofread your piece — we’ll supply an updated one in a few weeks for you to use.) In order to proceed with an on-time publication, we ask that you Reply All to this email, embedding your answers below each question, by Monday, April 17, 2017.

Broader Queries:

  • No access to burgerbar and other navigation tools when zoomed into text.
  • Images are not mapped on all pages.
  • Using Screenify, the webpage is not viewable in any mobile platform.
  • Burgerbar and other navigation tools should follow when scrolling.
  • Do we want the key (for Discussion and Reflection symbols) closer to where they appear on the webpage (e.g., at the bottom of the page with the images)?
  • Do we want the “Reflections” to be available between each section/image at the bottom of the screen? They only apply to each section (they do not seem to tie the sections together, as the symbols would suggest). Maybe they should be similar to the “Discussion” symbols, which are only attached to a specific image.
  • The scrolling is specific to either the page at large or the HTML text. This could deter some users from seeing the navigation infographic at the bottom of the page.
  • Stylesheets are linked and not embedded.
  • The home page isn’t labeled “index.html,” but “index.php,” while all other pages end with “.html.”

Page-Level Queries:

  • ABSTRACT:
    • The page’s header (in the Chrome tab) only says “Bruce Snaddon,” even though there are three authors listed in the “Abstract” page.
  • OPENINGS:
    • The ten videos on this page do not include an options for viewing the transcript or closed captions. Can we create an option for this accessibility?
  • APPROACHES:
    • The sections within this page are not available in the navigation bar, as they are with other sections (“Openings” and “Contexts”).
  • METHODOLOGIES:
    • The sections within this page are not available in the navigation bar, as they are with other sections (“Openings” and “Contexts”).
  • CONTEXTS:
    • The “Contexts” navigation automatically navigates to the “Cape Town” page, even though there are three other sections within the “Contexts” page.
    • Each section on this page includes videos without transcripts or closed captioning, as well as images that do not appear.
      • Some of the videos have descriptions for them covering the titles, organizations/groups responsible for the videos, filmmakers, running times, and production years, while other videos have a brief description of what’s going on in the video. Maybe we should update this for consistency.
    • The section “Noodoewer” is titled differently from the other three sections (it says, “Place: Noordoewer,” while none of the others use the word “Place”).
  • CLOSINGS:
    • The sections within this page are not available in the navigation bar, as they are with other sections (“Openings” and “Contexts”).
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:
    • Do we want the “Acknowledgements” section to include links to the organizations listed?
    • We may want to spell out all of the acronyms/initialisms used so that all readers understand what these organizations are and what they do.
  • REFERENCES:
    • Why do so few of these resources have links to their websites/sources? We might want to include one for every resource for consistency and accessibility.

 

Thank you,

CO402 Editors (Group 1):

Baleigh Greene

Manton Chambers

Rachel Nelligan

Paul Trujillo

Reflection:

Throughout the process of searching the web page “Learning Spaces for Sustainable Futures” for accessibility, our group has been discussing and considering the concept of user-friendliness for all people. It is very easy to believe that simply using a platform (e.g., WordPress) or design process (e.g., HTML) to create a website and publishing it online would make it accessible, viewable, usable, and interactive for anyone searching the web. However, this belief stems from an ableist paradigm. We found several factors within this web page that would seem, to the untrained (or able) eye, interactive and simple to use, such as Vimeo videos and a key for symbols on the page. However, when we took on different roles and considered different levels of ability, we realized that these factors could make or break an individual’s experience with, and reception of, a website. For example, the videos on the page did not include an option for closed captioning or transcripts, which could make them completely inaccessible for hearing-impaired people.

In addition, user-friendliness can affect the reception of a web page for anyone, including the most able and media-literate people. While creating this Concept Expansion, our group learned that the content — no matter how interesting, engaging, entertaining, or profound — does not matter when the platform is not user-friendly and easy to navigate. Users are turned off by sites that contain broken links, images that do not appear (like this web page), or menus that are not available on every page.

Lastly, this exercise highlights the metaphorical dilemma of “retrofit” as presented by Dolmage. For example, to correct the videos lack of closed captions raises the concern “that disability is supplemental to society, that it is an after-thought” (Dolmage 12). While of course limiting the hearing impaired was most likely not intended by the authors, it bares resemblance to Dolmage’s claim, “to often we react to diversity instead of planning for it” (12). Part of CE4 was certainly a reaction for the need of a retrofit. This concern raises a valuable lesson to keep accessibility as a necessity in the designing phase, rather than an afterthought or retrofit. These have been enlightening concepts to consider throughout this project, and we will be using them when we create our own web pages for our next project.

Global Mass Surveillance

Throughout the course of this Digital Rhetoric and Design class, the topic of surveillance and the capabilities of technology to “spy” on us and invade our privacy has come up quite often. We have had several in-class presentations on technologies such as the Tor router, VPNs, and global mass surveillance in general, which have sparked several conversations on the ability of the United States government, businesses, and other agencies to see parts of us that even our closest friends don’t know about, such as our browsing history, private images, health records, and more.

I am still not quite sure how I feel about this topic. I do believe that individuals like Edward Snowden have helped the public to realize the extent to which we (as ordinary citizens) are being watched on a daily basis. It’s certainly frightening to think about someone knowing me better than I might even know myself, especially in a time when privacy is of the utmost importance to many of us.

I don’t feel that I have ever done anything that would warrant surveillance on my every move, but the reality seems to be that that fact does not matter to hackers or even the government. I have nothing to hide, but it seems categorically wrong to take my personal information without my knowledge or consent. I hope that we discuss this topic further, because it’s something I’m very interested in learning more about and exploring my options for creating personal privacy further.

Accessibility

This week, one of our main focuses for this class is accessibility, especially of web pages. We are working on navigating a website and making sure that it is accessible for the most people possible. I think that this is very important. Even as an extremely able-bodied and minded person, I have trouble navigating certain web pages all the time. If a website does not take the time to consider a wide variety of people in their audience (with different levels of ability and cognition), they will have many potential consumers who simply turn away from their page without engaging (or even trying to engage).

We learned the accessibility tool WAVE, which scours a web page for errors, improvements that could be made for a specific audience, and the limits of the HTML coding on the site. The tool provides the user with specific actions that they can take to make the site/page more accessible for all people and more user-friendly in general. I believe that user-friendliness is incredibly important for readers and web searchers, because there have been many websites into which I have run that have made it incredibly hard for me to engage, and that immediately turns me off of the site (no matter how important their message is).

I hope that our team can learn how to make websites more accessible through this tool and can use that knowledge in our own HTML project, in which we will be making our own web pages that will hopefully be accessible to a wide and numerous audience.

Project Scheduling

Our group met today to create a schedule for filming and editing our long-form project documentary — essentially, a schedule for the rest of the semester. Before we met, I was beginning to get quite nervous about our project and our looming deadlines, but our group meeting made me feel much more confident in our ability to create something great in a fairly short amount of time.

Our plan is to film an interview (we have the basic scripts prepared) with a professor from Warner College of Natural Resources at CSU and spend a day polling students on the LSC Plaza next week for a large portion of our footage. The rest of our footage will come from two field trips (which will take place the following week) to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Office in Fort Collins and Rocky Mountain National Park, which is about an hour away. We have group members who have connections to those who can speak with us for these interviews, and I believe that they will go well!

Our editing will most likely be completed in the first week of May, which will give us plenty of time to get feedback on the long-form project and put the finishing touches on the documentary before turning it in during the last week of classes. I believe that this will be a meaningful and well-made project that we can all be proud of in the long run.

Missing Class

I’ve always had a difficult time missing class (for any reason), because I always seem to miss so much. I missed class last Thursday due to a job interview in Denver (yay!), and, unfortunately, I had to miss another day of HTML instruction. I believe that this class has become more and more engaging over time, and this unit has been particularly interesting for me because it is a task that we can all work on separately, and because Tim has been showing us exactly what to do on the projector screen. I struggled with the remix project because we had very little instruction, but I have felt like this unit has been full of quite a bit more structure.

However, missing class has set me back quite a bit. For example, I do not know how to use a specific font in HTML code, and I have not learned the process of opening Google docs anonymously, which were the topics covered in last week’s class (at least, that’s what I have heard from classmates).

I hope that I did not miss too much and that my group members can catch me up on the HTML information I did not receive in class. I believe that our group can create a very interesting webpage design if we put our brains together for the next concept expansion.

Presentation Nerves

Well, I’ll be presenting in class tomorrow on “Proximity and Micro-location Marketing,” and I think I’m fairly prepared. I’ve never been one for public speaking, but I’m excited to share what I’ve learned on this topic with the class.

I spent a lot of time researching Proximity Marketing, which has to do with location-specific Bluetooth Beacons that send out messages to the smartphones of passersby who have the business’s phone app. The Beacon can send rewards for walking in the door, choosing specific items, and even purchasing something. Proximity Marketing also suggests certain products within the establishment based on the customer’s personal preferences and past purchasing behavior.

The thing that I struggled with most in this presentation was finding the information. Since this is such a new technology, there is not a ton of research on the Beacon out there. I found two videos that I think explain the technology very well, as well as an incredibly handy infographic that gave me a majority of the information for my presentation slides.

I think that this will be a very successful presentation, but we’ll just have to wait and see!