Sunday, November 1, 2009

The future of the print media

According to an article published in The Australian today (Meade, A 02/11/09, The blog as twitterature: an academic's passion,,28124,26290301-7582,00.html)
Canberra journalism lecturer Julie Posetti is quoted as saying 'I am one of those people who no longer walks into a newsagent and buys a copy of a newspaper. I consume all my news online'.
The question begs to be asked - if even journalists and former journos no longer buy newspapers, how much longer will the public continue to buy them when they can access virtually the same content online free of charge? As I have recently discovered in the course of my research into the implications of Web 2.0 technology for society, many people these days are turning to news sites that utilise citizen reporting to access news content. It seems there is a growing number of people who are becoming dissatisfied with the fact that reporting in the traditional news media is often subject to a certain amount of commercial control, thus they are turning to citizen journalism sites for what they perceive to be a more accurate representation of events from people who are 'on the ground'. However let's not forget that there are a vast amount of people who, for one reason or another, cannot or will not want to access news online. These are the people who will keep the newspaper industry going for the foreseeable future, for example; the elderly and those who don't feel comfortable using a computer, those who cannot afford an internet connection, and those in rural or remote areas who do not have broadband or any internet access at all, to name but a few. I don't believe the death knell has sounded for the print media just yet, however I believe we will see a concerted effort by companies to change and remain relevant and viable in this digital age.

Finally, it is time to reflect on all that I have learnt throughout studying IPD in 2009. Prior to studying IPD I had never read the Media section of The Australian, and never put much thought into considering media issues. I had little knowlege of what is taken into consideration when preparing an item for publication including factors such as use of colour, font size, position of graphics, page balance, etc. I now have a much greater appreciation of the effort that goes into every publication in order to attract and maintain reader attention which I am hopeful will stand me in good stead as I pursue a career in the Editing and Publishing industry.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Is internet voting the future of democracy?

According to an article published in The Australian today (Meade, A 27/10/09, Net role urged for poll messages, <,28124,26258011-7582,00.html>), the vast majority of 18-24 year olds would prefer online voting rather than the current mail-based system for the next referendum.

Currently, the legislation states that all citizens eligible to vote must be sent two 2000 word essay in a pamphlet via post in order to vote in a referendum. In this day and age when the majority of young people think 'homework' whenever they hear the word essay, this is perhaps an ineffective means of communicating with today's youth. Apparently, 47 per cent of people in this age group surveyed stated that they would prefer the information to be delivered via a social networking site such as Facebook. Given that young people are less politically savvy and feel more disconnected from politics than ever before, perhaps we do need to embrace new technology to stay relevant to our future leaders of this country. It is interesting to note that the article states that only 11 per cent of respondents aged over 65 stated that they felt Facebook would be an effective means of communicating referendum information. If this is the case - why not let people choose for themselves? Give people the option of either voting online or by mail and perhaps we will see the tide start to turn and youth participation in politics pick up again. It's worth a try, time will tell...

Class reunion

Having had quite a few weeks off between classes it was great for all the students of Annie's IPD 09 class to come together and discuss how we had chosen to go about creating our artefacts. We then worked to create a programme outlining the order of presentation of our artefacts next week which will be our final class.

Having spent a number of weeks perfecting my three artefacts, I can honestly say that I have learnt invaluable lessons in the process. I had never created a brochure or a magazine article before, and in doing so along the way I certainly learnt there is a lot more to be considered when creating such publications that meets the eye! From colour schemes to adequate white space to font selection, it seems there is so much detailed thought and planning that goes into creating such pieces. On the other hand, I realised that intervening in someone else's text and making it my own causes me to reflect on my own attitudes towards the message the text is trying to convey. Through this process I was able to explore attitudes and biases that I never knew I had.

Finally, the biggest and most painful lesson that I learnt is to be thorough and check everything over and over again. Initially I got a verbal quote from a professional printing company to have my three artefacts printed off that I thought was reasonable, so I agreed to email them the files so they could print them off. In doing so, I unwittingly sent them the wrong file which was a previous draft that contained a couple of spelling errors because I was in a hurry and failed to check that it was the correct file before I sent it. When I reached the printers' to collect my artefacts they proceeded to charge me triple what they had originally quoted me and then denied that they had ever given me a verbal quote. There wasn't much I could do so I reluctantly paid the amount they wanted and after carefully examining the artefacts that was when I also discovered the spelling errors. Given the expense that I had already gone to I did not have sufficient funds to have the artefact printed off without the errors, and as a consequence my artefact will now look less professional than I would have liked. Through this I learnt two very important lessons - firstly, always get a written quote and secondly, check check and recheck things before they go for final printing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ethical blogging

According to a recent article published on the ABC news website (Bruns, A. 21/10/09, King Canute's guidelines for bloggers, in America the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) intends to crack down on bloggers who promote goods in return for cash or benefits. The article goes on to argue that it is impossible to regulate all of the vast amount of posts in the blogosphere, and that even if it were possible, the majority of blog followers wouldn't be interested in hearing about the sanctions imposed anyway. This is an interesting debate as I have touched previously on the ethics of blogging and advertising posts on sites such as Twitter. In the past I have stated that I feel any paid advertising on such sites would not be overt and thus could potentially be misleading to those who are not particularly media-savvy, i.e. tweens and teens. I am still of this opinion, however I do recognise that it is impractical for one single organisation to enforce regulations on the entire blogosphere. Rather, I believe it is the responsibility of individual bloggers to adhere to their own ethical code when posting. For example, I would feel pretty bad walking up to a 10 year old and telling them that a certain product is fantastic and watching them spend all their pocket money on something that I personally believed was awful. That is my own moral code and, as far as I'm concerned, if I wouldn't behave in such a way in real life why should I alter my conduct in cyberspace? The end results are just the same, even if the impact is not as visible when sitting behind a computer. No amount of formal regulation can possibly eradicate this practise, it is up to individual bloggers to think hard before they post and listen to their conscience before praising a product they have little faith in.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

You Have Been Warned

It seems those naughty journo's just can't keep their opinions to themselves. According to an article published in The Australian (Jackson, S 12/10/09, MEAA calls to spell out blogging policies), a Brisbane sub-editor was sacked for his loose-lipped comments about the paper published on his own personal blog. Apparently, the former employee is 'astonished' to have lost his job as a result and feels that a warning would have been much more appropriate. However, according to the editor of the newspaper concerned, 'There is no way, as a newspaper editor, I could entertain that I was paying for someone to sub copy - which implies they're improving it - while they're using their time to go on the internet and criticise the copy'.

I can't help but agree with the newspaper editor here - such behaviour is indefensible on a number of levels. Firstly, bad-mouthing your employer in the public domain whatever the circumstances is a recipe for disaster. You risk irrepairable damage to your credibility, and due to the public nature of the display this will have ramifications for gaining future employment within the same industry as well. Secondly, using the Internet for non-work related matter is a waste of employers' time and money, akin to having a smoke and fag out the front when you should be working. This scenario is no different to the employee being discovered conducting a personal phone conversation bad-mouthing the company when he should be working. Such behaviour is not condoned in any workplace and no sane employee would allow themselves to be caught by the boss engaging in such conduct. In this day and age, one has to assume that anything broadcast in the public domain of the Internet will eventually make its way back to the boss. Therefore, the rule of thumb is - if you wouldn't say it out loud don't put it online. You have been warned...

CGI in Advertising

According to a recent article in the Australian (Sinclair, L 12/10/09, Digital images take truth out of advertising), up to 80% of advertisements in Australia use computer generated imaging (CGI). Apparently, this is most common in the car industry as manufacturers need no longer go to the expense of building a prototype, rather they can just use a CGI for the purposes of advertising. What is more interesting, however, is that it is almost impossible to detect the difference between a CGI and a live image.

Certainly, it is much more cost effective for international companies to use this method of advertising rather than making specific advertisements to target individual companies. For example, a phone manufacturer can make one advertisement and add in a CGI background according to the country the advertisement is being shown in. Previously, the same company would have been required to shoot the same advertisement in several locations around the world. However, I believe this shift towards using generated images rather than real-life examples is an indication of a larger trend in western society towards living in a world that is surreal. In my opinion, this technology is not just being utilised as a cost-saving measure by companies but rather to 'tweak' some of the very imperfections that make human beings unique. It is a dangerous world that we live in where even international swimmers at the peak of physical fitness have their images digitally altered in promotional shots in an attempt to achieve some kind of 'perfection'. What kind of message does this send to younger generations, too young to understand that their idols don't really look like this, who push themselve to achieve the same kind of unattainable physical stature? Similarly, what about the young driver who borrows Dad's brand new car and, after seeing it advertised on television speeding through corners with precision handling, decides to try the same manouvre only to find the CGI of its handling is nowhere near a depiction of reality?

Clearly, advertising using CGI is here to stay and will doubtless become more prevalent in the future, especially given the current financial climate. I, for one, will be far more skeptical when viewing advertising in the future, armed with the knowledge that in the current media environment nothing is what it seems...

Thursday, September 17, 2009


The following is a draft of my exegesis on three multimodal interventions I have completed based on the readings of Emily Post.

This semester students of Issues in Publication and Design were required to intervene in three documents based on the writings of Emily Post in order to produce three new artefacts. Each artefact must be multimodal and comprise of visual and/or audio elements. In an attempt to facilitate effective communication of messages to the reader, numerous texts concerning document design and textual intervention were consulted when producing these artefacts. Elements such as consistency, whitespace, use of headings, graphics, and colours were taken into consideration when determining the design of these three artefacts.

Artefact One

The Emily Post reading titled ‘Engagements’ was reworked to give a modern-day interpretation of Post’s original ideas. According to Pope (1995), paraphrasing a text is a useful way of examining its construction. This is a means of identifying one’s own values, as well as labelling and categorising behaviours, as discourse. This is certainly true as my own judgements of relationships in modern society have heavily influenced my style of intervention in this text. Pope (1995) also recommends altering the ending of a text when intervening and in doing so exploring cultural differences.

Emily Post was an author who wrote a book about appropriate etiquette in the 1920’s (The Emily Post Institute, 2009). There are significant cultural differences in how relationships were played out in society in that era, compared to modern times. Taking this into consideration, I chose to end the text with the couple divorcing five years on to illustrate the marked increase in society’s acceptance of divorce compared to Post’s days. Statistically, it is estimated that one in two marriages in the US will end in divorce, compared with one in seven in the 1920’s (Thomas and Associates, 2005). Divorce has become socially acceptable in the Western world in modern times and relationship breakdowns are often played out in the public eye, in contrast to Post’s era where such proceedings were undertaken discreetly. Thus, I chose to incorporate the contemporary example of a high-profile sportsman whose marriage breakdown garnered a lot of publicity in recent years. In the 1920’s women who divorced traditionally were forced to move back in with their parents as they no longer had anyone to financially support them (Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society, 2008). Today, it is perfectly reasonable for a wife to expect her husband to financially maintain her post-divorce.

Kress states that visuals are a more effective means of communicating large quantities of information to readers. Considering that my artefact is a large document, I decided to present it in the style of a series of wedding invitations. I believe this is an effective way of conveying to the reader that the artefact is about an upcoming wedding. In order to communicate the satirical tone of the intervention to the reader, I have included audio of Good Charlotte’s song entitled
‘Boys and Girls’. This song is a parody of relationships in modern society and fits in well with the theme of my intervention which is the superficial nature of many relationships today.

Artefact Two

The second artefact is a brochure based on the Japanese interpretation of Emily Post’s ‘Greetings’ (Post, 1922). Sweller (1990), argues that one of the major factors that contribute to a document being unusable is poor design. He believes that this leads to confusion caused by readers exceeding their cognitive comprehension level. Similarly, Kress (2004) states that as society progresses, it is becoming increasingly important for publishers to consider how their document can communicate most effectively with the reader.

An Australian pamphlet should constitute an A4 size and have six panels. It should have a visually enticing front cover which sets the tone for a consistent design style throughout. Headings are required to guide readers to content as they quickly flick through seeking relevant information (Whitbread, 2001). Reep states that consistent headings and attractive graphics maintain reader interest in a document. The Japanese greetings brochure uses the same font for all headings which are boldface and underlined to attract reader attention. The use of a single font for all headings provides consistency for the reader, making a document easier to read (Bear, 2009). According to Reep, effective document design includes an appropriate amount of whitespace surrounding headings so the reader can easily distinguish these from the body of the text. The brochure has no more than one heading on each panel, and allows plenty of space between the headings and the rest of the panel’s content so the reader can easily identify the headings from the body of the text.

Kress (2004) states that graphics give readers a clear impression of what otherwise may have been a vague sentence. This is in keeping with Reep’s argument that readers ‘read’ visual content of a document as much as they do text. Therefore, a well designed document will incorporate text and visuals to support each other and convey meaning to the reader. This is achieved with the graphics in the Japanese greetings brochure by using images that support the instructions of the text on how to greet people appropriately. Images of Japan have been used in the brochure to convey the message to the reader that the content contains information regarding Japanese culture.

The use of contrasting colours in a document is an effective way of capturing the reader’s interest (Bear, 2009). However, Reep argues that the number of colours used in a document should be kept to a minimum, as too many colours may overwhelm and distract the reader. To achieve this balance, the brochure has used the colours red and black consistently throughout. These are colours that are traditionally associated with Japan, and also are contrasting colours therefore are likely to be effective in attracting the attention of readers. By keeping a consistent theme of red and black, the reader is not distracted from the content by sudden or unnecessary colour changes, allowing them to focus on the message of the content. As the fifth panel of the brochure is viewed ahead of the others in a gate-folded design, Whitbread (2001) recommends using this for material that stands alone. With this in mind, the fifth panel is used to give information regarding the business promoted in the brochure.

Artefact Three
The third artefact is based on an interpretation of Post’s ‘Travelling at home and abroad’
(Post, 1922). The artefact is in the form of a magazine article aimed at young women, discussing the appropriate etiquette to observe when travelling on a public bus in today’s society.

According to Walsh (2006) readers constantly interact with text as they read. This can be influenced by various factors including social conditioning, the genre of the text and the cultural context of the text. Walsh believes that readers of texts incorporating graphics are required to deconstruct visual codes to interpret meaning. This interpretation is subject to the reader’s culture, life experiences and prior knowledge, and assists them to derive meaning from text. The use of colours and the image selected for this document were chosen to convey the message that this is an article aimed towards young women. A cartoon image depicting one of the characters of the popular television show ‘The Simpsons’ was chosen as Whitbread (2001) states that the use of cartoon images can make text more lively and enhance aspects referred to in the text. This image was placed in the top left-hand corner of the article, as this is where Western readers begin to read a page. If the image were to be placed elsewhere, it may be difficult to attract the reader’s attention back to the beginning of the text as the eye is always attracted to a graphic first (Style Manual, 200).

According to Style Manual (200) readers are attracted to large text first. The text in the article descends in size from a large heading, medium size first paragraph, to a small body. This provides the reader with a pathway through the text, making it easier for the reader to interpret the content in order. Whitbread (2001) states that the introductory paragraph of a magazine article should be written in a slightly larger font as a way of guiding the reader into the main body of the text. Consistency in a document should be maintained by the use of only one font throughout and boldface type should be used to draw the reader’s attention to headings (Reep, 200). With this in mind a single font has been used throughout the artefact to maintain consistency, with changes such as variations in size, boldface and use of italics implemented to highlight sections of importance to the reader. The text of the artefact is bright and the background is a pale colour, as readers interpret colours from brightest to palest (Style Manual, 200). As an accompaniment to the artefact, an audio recording of bus noises has been included to assist the reader to interpret the message that the text of the article relates to appropriate ways to behave on a bus.

In conclusion, essential elements of good document design have been considered when creating all three artefacts. The use of headings, whitespace, colour, graphics, and a consistent style all combine to help readers easily interpret the meaning of texts. In putting a modern twist on the writings of Emily Post, each artefact essentially helps the reader translate her theories into a modern day context. All three articles have been produced in a multimodal manner to reflect the progression of technology in today’s society, and to assist the facilitation of communication of Post’s ideas to modern day readers.

There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

'I see search engines as breaking into our homes, itemising the contents, walking out and listing everything for everyone to see. And they get money out of that process...the only problem is, I don't see any revenue being paid directly from Google, Yahoo! or Microsoft in our company profit and loss accounts.' So sayeth Brendan Hopkins, CEO of APN News and Media, in attempt to justify why the news media should charge for online content (The Daily Telegraph, 10/09/09). This is eerily reminiscent of the battle between record companies and P2P sharing sites such as Kazaa and Limewire arguing over the right to distribute music free online. Whilst I understand that APN News and Media is a business not a charity, and therefore not usually in the habit of giving away content, I do believe they are fighting a losing battle here as did the record companies in the past. The web is simply too large to control and people will not pay for content when they can go elsewhere and get it free. To again use the analogy of record labels vs P2P sites, whilst the labels obtain some financial benefit from legal download site such as iTunes, there are plenty more music lovers who continue to download illegally from other P2P sites. As soon as one site is shut down, another one springs up in its place. The web is simply too large to be able to find and prosecute every single site that breaches copyright restrictions. I believe that if the news media shifted to charging for online content they would face the same insurmountable hurdles as the record companies before them.

Speaking of charging for online content, it seems that Twitter are moving one step closer to allowing advertising content. The site has amended its Terms to say that 'In consideration for Twitter granting you access to and use of the Services, you agree that Twitter and its third party providers and partners may place such advertising on the Services' (The Courier Mail, 13/09/09). I am rather skeptical of this move as I don't believe that they necessarily have overt advertising in mind. Rather, it may take the form of endorsements that look like regular tweets which younger audiences may have trouble distinguishing as paid tweets. Although, I suppose this isn't much different to paid celebrity endorsements already seen on tv and in print that are made to look like the endorser REALLY couldn't get through the day without that product!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Publication Considerations

Apparently there is more to reading text on a page than meets the eye. In fact, how text is presented on a page can have a significant impact on the way a reader interprets the content. Publication is like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle, each part is important and needs to be positioned in the appropriate place in order to give a clear picture of the overall message. For example, according to Parker (1990, pp 1-22) factors such as proportion, consistency and contrast must be considered when presenting a document. Headings should be sized according to the importance of the text they are drawing attention to - the larger the font size the more likely the eye will be attracted to reading it first. Consistency makes a document easier for readers to interpret - consistent fonts and sizes, as well as spacing specifications can help guide a reader smoothly through text and allow for a tidier, more orderly presentation. Contrast balances colour and whitespace, or can help establish the importance of one area of the page over another. The use of appropriately placed graphics can help establish a pathway for the reader's eye to follow, however if an image is placed in the wrong area of the page it can have a distracting effect on the reader and cause them to overlook vital information contained in the text. Bearing these principles in mind, it seems there are many subconscious actions that occur each time a person reads any type of publication. I am hopeful that further study of these theories will lead to my developing an ability to prepare professional, carefully considered and well laid out documents for publication in the future. It is certainly food for thought...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Blogger Beware

Well it seems we bloggers will have to be more careful with what we publish these days. According to Asher Moses of the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH 19/08/09), model Liksula Cohen is taking legal action against Google to reveal the identity of an anonymous blogger who has published defamatory remarks about her. On Monday US time a ruling was handed down that Ms Cohen could sue the anonymous blogger for defamation and forced Google to reveal the blogger’s identity. This could potentially open the door for other bloggers to be legally held accountable for their work in the future, resulting in people being less inclined to express themselves freely online. Already legal experts are warning that this ruling opens the possibility of anyone who has been the subject of a nasty comment online to sue the person responsible. There are currently many ethical implications surrounding the content of blogs, however as of this time they are self-regulated rather than subject to legal regulations. Personally, I believe the regulation of blogs is just one step away from censorship – if those responsible were to be held legally accountable for their content in the future I feel this would undermine the notion of cyberspace as being a place where citizens of the world can seek refuge and be free to express themselves as they see fit.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Powerpoint Presentations

We have spent the morning viewing our classmates' powerpoint presentations about individual readings we had been assigned. Richard joined our group today, both he and Adam spoke about the same two readings - Poynter 'EyeTrack '07, The Myth of Short Attention Spans' and Wheildon, 'Communicating or just making pretty shapes'. Both guys had different interpretations of the same readings which gave me an interesting perspective and meant that we didn't have to sit through hearing the same information twice. Adam talked about the power of using images to communicate information and gave the example that studies have shown that The Australian newspaper is less effective at communicating messages to young people due to their limited use of graphics. Richard approached things from a different angle and focussed on the theory of how different types of readers intepret text. Most people who read on paper are methodical readers who start at the top left hand corner of a page and read left to right down the page. Other readers, however are known as scanners who read quickly through information and only focus on the information that interests them. Alice explained readings by Simmons, M. Funnel, A. and Davies, A. 'A taxonomy of blogs' and Nielson, 'Buzzmetrics' Blog Pulse'. She spoke of various blogs and the types of readers they attract, as well as how the popularity of certain forms of blogs such as diary blogs are diminishing with the increase of useage of social networking sites such as Facebook.

My own presentation led me to explore the content of produsage - something I had never heard of previously. Essentially, it is the idea that each time we use the internet we are affecting the way content may be displayed for future users. For example, seach engines such as Google retain data of searches requested to be frequently analysed. The findings of this analysis determines which search results are the most popular, and therefore where they should be ranked when future searches are requested. My research also gave me an interesting insight into how collaborative sites such as MetaFilter and Wikipedia operate, and the social structure that evolves when users of sites also contribute to their content. I feel this fluid kind of social structure may have an effect on the way many industries operate in the future and we may see a move to traditional industries using input according to merit rather than a person's previously identified skills.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The humble paperback goes digital

This week I learned of a new concept - eBooks. According to eBook retailer eBookMall, they are designed to 'provide an alternate reading choice for lovers of technology' (

What are eBooks I hear you say? It seems that rather than publish a large amount of books to be distributed to various retail outlets, publishers have decided it is much more cost-efficient to utilise a print on demand concept. Essentially, this means often books are only printed in hard copy once they have been purchased, eg online via a retailer such as Amazon. This delivers value for money for publishers who no longer face the costs incurred of printing and delivering a large run of books only to find that demand for the books is not as high as expected. In other words books are printed according to demand rather than based on an estimate of sales figures.

Sounds fair enough? Of course it is, it makes sense to only produce a product on demand rather than risk oversupply which in the end is a waste of the publisher's resources. Yet as we progress further in this digital age, where every day society seems to become more insular and isolative, it seems some clever marketer has come up with the idea of skipping the printing process altogether and selling books in a digital format. Yes that's right, turning a page has become so outdated - now we can have a whole book displayed on a computer screen before our eyes that even turns the pages for us! No need to walk into a bookshop and actually speak to a cashier - we can just click a button, buy a book online and start reading straight away. The cynic in me can't help wondering if this is just another way for publishing houses to further minimise costs - one would guess it would be significantly cheaper to send a digital file online to a purchaser than print off a hard copy of a book and incur the costs of shipping the product. What impact will this have on local libraries? Will they purchase digital titles to then be "lent out" online, further doing away with the physical exertion of having to actually walk into a library and select a book off the shelf? Of course this will also spell the end of the good old "family favourite" that goes from mum to aunt to nanna - a paperback is a lot easier to lend to others than a whole laptop with a copy of a book on it!

Another digital issue that has been raised this week is the idea of news media websites charging a subscription fee for their sites. It is an interesting proposal - of course the knee-jerk reaction from the public has been outrage as people generally resent having to pay for online content. However, how many other businesses are expected to give away their product free of charge? Essentially this is what news media websites are doing at the moment, although they still receive some revenue from the sale of advertising space on their websites. Would movie producers be happy if their work was available online for free and no one paid for tickets at the cinema anymore? News sites that charge a subscription fee may initially see a drop in readers, however should the practise become common-place the public would soon realise the only way they could read reliably sourced news articles online would be to pay. With the formidable might of News Corp's Rupert Murdoch leading the charge this may be the case in the not too distant future.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Welcome to the world of blogging!

This week I begin my first blog. I have been assigned the reading Bruns, A. (2008). Blogs, Wikipedia, Second life, and Beyond: from production to produsage. New York: Peter Lang.

In groups of four, we are to give a 5 minute Power Point presentation based on the readings we have individually been assigned. The other people in my group are : Alice O'Neill, Mel Elsdon and Adam Luitjes.