Wikipedia

Wikipedia has always seemed like a vast desert of smart people who edit things without interacting with normal humans like myself. Stacy Schiff’s New Yorker article says,

“Wikipedia is an online community devoted not to last night’s party or to next  season’s iPod but to a higher good. It is also no more immune to human nature  than any other utopian project. Pettiness, idiocy, and vulgarity are regular  features of the site. Nothing about high-minded collaboration guarantees  accuracy, and open editing invites abuse. Senators and congressmen have been  caught tampering with their entries; the entire House of Representatives has  been banned from Wikipedia several times.”

When creating a Wikipedia account I was intimidated. What did I possibly know better than other people on the internet? I went to the page of my favorite magazine about interior design, Domino, and looked around. Then it hit me.

I can spell.

While this may seem like a minor skill going to such an accredited university, people on the internet are careless with their grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Five seconds into reading the entry about Domino proved Wikipedia was no exception. Domino was frequently not capitalized, book titles were mislabeled, and puntuation had run amok.

Editing grammar seemed safe enough; I would not run into the die-hards Schiff mentioned in her article who often argue over tiny corrections. I decided to follow a few clicks and ended up looking at a list of online magazines. I could still only find articles to edit slightly, such as Queerty, an online queer news publication whose entry needed a comma.

Now that I know how to edit entries maybe once I’m more well-read on a subject I will be more adventurous with my editing. After all, I have a lot of thoughts on Justin Timberlake’s fake house forclosure…

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Eating your HTML.

I once took a computer programming class. Or, tried to take a computer programming class might be more accurate. After a few lessons I could not figure out what language we were even speaking so I dropped the class, opting to take something in mathematics or philosophy instead.

I think a lot of people find HTML to be daunting. It seems unrelatable and foreign. What do all the numbers and symbols mean? Why does it matter what format you save a file in? Where can you even learn these things?

But learning HTML is actually a lot like learning anything else. I used to be horrible at baking because I was never able to measure ingredients correctly, and would absentmindedly wander away from the oven only to return to a burnt pan of whatever I was trying to turn into cookies. It was a new language I had to learn. Take, for example, this recipe for one of my specialties, Apple Cinnamon Crumb Muffins. The steps given might seem foreign to someone who hasn’t taken the time to learn baking yet, too. “1/4 teaspoon ground all-spice?” Like the men’s fragrance? What’s the difference between wheat and all-purpose flour?

Learning a new skill takes time and patience, and sometimes a lot of research. I’m currently trying to learn to crochet (because I’m not busy enough already) and am struggling with the simplest stitches, not to mention learning a whole new vocabulary. But I can relate it to sewing and I want to be able to make my own hat, so I stick with it. I want to start composting because it’s good for the environment, so I found a children’s guide to doing it (the simpler the better for me) and have a friend committed to helping me, even providing me with worms.

People just need to remember that learning HTML is like learning any other skill. You start out with the basics and then move on to researching more in-depth information on how to do it. It’s a useful skill to have, as the internet becomes more prominent in our lives and information technology careers become more in demand.

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Google (Scholar) is king.

I have been sick the past week and a half, which means a lot of my time has been spent on my computer in bed. One of my favorite online sites is Hulu. On this website you can subscribe to, view, and share television shows and movies for free (mostly) and legally. If I were to want to research something about online culture, I thought, why not look up information on watching videos online!

Searching Google was frustrating because it was difficult to find actually relevant research. Google Scholar was much more reliable for finding pertinent research and articles. On Google Scholar just by searching “online video,” which in regular Google turned up video hosting sites, I found information on Youtube and participatory culture and how video sharing improves online socialization.

Loyola’s online library search system was also frustrating with my search for anything related to “online video,” because it turned up a lot of information on how to teach online or online video games but not video hosting or sharing. One interesting thing I found, though, was a DVD about growing up in a digital culture; however, being from 4 years ago it’s probably outdated already.

All three of these would be useful to formulate a thesis around how online video streaming, hosting, sharing, and downloading (all useable search terms!) can help foster an online social community.

Now if only they could make my episodes of New Girl load faster while I drink tea and take Tylenol….

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Time

The time consumed by new technology is an issue very relevant today. Where has all of my time gone, I recently caught myself thinking. Then it hit me. I was spending most of my free time at home on the computer, either doing homework or trying to relax. This method of relaxing, though, only kept my brain active and made it more difficult to think.

Last night I decided to take a break for a while. Returning home early from class, I decided instead of going on the internet I would spend some time cooking. One of the reasons I wanted to move was to have a larger kitchen. There was barely any room to move around in my previous kitchen, and very limited counter space. My new kitchen is very open and has ample room for food prep. I decided to make one of my favorite meals, fried eggplant with pasta and a homemade tomato sauce. There were a few snags involving my cat Sausage trying to trip me and an “overdone” eggplant piece setting off the smoke alarm, but it was fun and delicious!

After finishing, however, I instinctively sat down to my computer, checked my email, and put on an episode of The Bachelor (which was for research for an article I am writing– no, really!).

How much time do we really waste online every day? What could we be using that time for instead? I always used to say that if I’d never watched television as a child I may know two more languages or be a concert pianist by now.

I think the best thing to do is limit new media usage, and keep it to useful things. Instead of spending hours online on my tumblr I can look up a fun project to do at home, like this lamp idea.Image

I think this weekend I will try to use the internet in the way the author first thought it would be used- to improve my life outside of the net!

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And in the beginning, there was Mar.

As a student in Prof. Coffman’s New Media and Communication class I have been asked to write a blog on a subject of my choosing which I can relate beck to the class readings. I am no stranger to blogging, as I am a contributing writer for two online queer blogs in Chicago and work with a new media activist group. I racked my brain for a topic I would be comfortable writing about, sitting in my bedroom for about half an hour stressing out.

 

Then it hit me: I had just moved into a new apartment, and was using it as a method of beginning a new healthier phase in my life. Didn’t our reading from Ruskoff’s Program or be programmed:  Ten commands for a digital age state that the internet was to be used for collaborative participation? Why not start writing about the trials and tribulations of trying to become an “adult” right before graduation? Share my experiences with new ways of trying to be healthy and responsible? Surely some funny stories could develop from that, as they’ve already begun to pop up since my roommates and I first got our keys two weeks ago.

Ruskoff’s introduction section bemoaned the use of the internet for mindless browsing and chatter, and the lack of deeper critical exploration of our humanity. Why not connect my class project with an exploration of what this house means to me (growing up, taking control of adulthood, facing my fears about being a “real person,” as I often say, as if I was only a partial adult in the rest of my college experience) with technology (asking the internet community for feedback on design projects, photographing design projects, using internet sources for learning how to do new things like make my own bread)?

Ruskoff connects the use of the internet and our everyday lives as inevitable but worthy of thought rather than blindly giving machines control of our daily tasks. This blog will serve, then as an attempt to integrate new media into my personal journey that began with moving into a new house, a new neighborhood, and a new frame of mind.

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