Commentary #3: Print in Cyberspace

As I surf the Internet and search for different things, such as recipes, fashion advice, and so forth, I have noticed that the Internet has a plethora of websites with very similar layouts and web addresses.  The posts are in reverse chronological order and or somewhere in the address is either “blogspot” or “wordpress” or “tumblr”.  These are all indicative of blogs.  I have also noticed that more and more people are writing blogs.  The authors of these sites are diverse, ranging from adolescents to adults.  I have also noticed that within each of the posts, there are “tags”; words associated with the piece to aid in searches.  After reading Bryan Alexander’s articles, the use of tags is referred to as “folksonomies” (2008).  These pieces of writing are authored willingly without any advice by outside forces such as instructors, teachers, editors, or bosses but do they all mean?

Walter Ong mentions in Orality and Literacy that “print situates words in space” (2002, p.119) and that it “is consumer-oriented” (2002, p.120).  In the case of blogging, the words are situated in cyberspace and it is definitely consumer-oriented.  The consumer is the reader seeking advice, entertainment, or opinions.  The more a particular blog is read, the more likely the author will continue to write.  The more pieces written, the more it is read, and so on.  In other words, the reader searches the different tags placed on a blog entry or article then decides whether it is worth reading by looking at the other tags associated with it.  If the reader finds the entry is useful, he she will continue to read and follow the blog.  This is consumerism at its best as it because as more entries are written and added, the more the follower will read it.

Ong also writes about how print has driven the publication of dictionaries and the desire to create rules for “correctness” (2002).  Within the realm of writing in cyberspace, new terms are created and used, such as blogging, blogs, folksonomies, tags, tag clouds, and so on.  It has become a social activity more than anything else.  The interaction of writers via the Internet began with e-mail listservs, bulletin boards, and usernet groups making writing a very social activity (Alexander, 2008).  Currently, people are writing blogs, commenting on blogs, creating and editing wikis, posting on social network and media sites, and so on.  These methods with which individuals communicate with one another has therefore changed, there is more interaction versus letter writing or sending of telegraphs.  Individuals, particularly students, can collaborate and discuss ideas via social writing platforms (Alexander, 2006).  These platforms allow for content to be created by multiple participants and allow students to make connections and synthesize information differently.  Each contributor adds microcontent and allows the entries to evolve as corrections and modifications are made with the addition of comments.  The rules of writing has therefore changed with amount of writing that is taking place.  There are rules for commenting and producing blog entries; such as typing in all upper case font implies yelling and is considered as rude.  Other rules of writing have also changed.  Usually published writing is more formal with structure and is linear.  Now an entry or comment can be quite casual with the use of abbreviations, acronyms, or vernacular, such as “LOL”, “cuz”, “BTW”, and so forth.  Regarding the non-linear style of writing, one can find links to ideas, products, or other entries (Alexander, 2008).  The reader now has choices if something peaks his her interest and can explore it before finishing the entry.

Finally, Ong states that “print created a new sense of the private ownership of words” (2002, p.128).  Within cyberspace, there is the issue of intellectual property and ownership.  As long as words are written down, they now belong to someone.  The challenge is now to identify where the words and ideas originated; more time is spent determining the primary source.  It is part of the learning process for students to sift through the information and the ideas and assess a site’s credibility and decide who the ideas belong to (Alexander, 2008).  Writing in cyberspace can be a dangerous feat because the author may read something and be inspired to write an entry of their own but may not credit the original author for the inspiration.  This could be seen as plagiarism, appropriating another person’s words as one’s own (Ong, 2002).

It is now the role of educators to teach their students the skills needed to navigate through the plethora of information made available to them through Web 2.0.  Educators also need to modify and update their teaching strategies to address the new multiliteracies of students but it is also important to note that educators need to be aware of the new multiliteracies for themselves and be able to do what they want of their students as well.  Students have the abilities and the space to write for fun therefore educators could tap into this skill and provide the opportunities, in perhaps, a more academic setting.  We could be surprised by what the results are and what arises with these new writing opportunities.

References

Alexander, B. (2006) “Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning?” Educause Review, 41(2), 34-44. Retrieved, November 11, 2010, from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0621.pdf

Alexander, B. (2008)  “Web 2.0 and Emergent Multiliteracies.” Theory into practice. 47(2), 150-60. Retrieved, November 14, 2010, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00405840801992371

Ong, W. (2002). Orality and literacy. New York: Routledge.

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