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.