Overview for the Week
This week will be about information design. This is an introduction only, but I should mention we do teach a course on it: ENGL 4182 “Information Design & Digital Publishing.” That course provides an in-depth look at principles of design. We’ll just scratch the surface in this class, and Wednesday’s webpage will be more about visuals in general. Many of you didn’t include a visual for your Set of Procedures assignment, so much sure you do so for you revision in your Finial Portfolio.
Also, I, Robot is coming up in two weeks, so you might want to get started on reading it.
Using Visuals in Technical Communication
It’s probably obvious to mention that visuals are an important component of Technical Communication. Some people forget that visuals communicate information about technologies and technical subjects. Think about all the illustrations, charts, graphs, etc. that you’ve seen. Why do you think an author included them?
Thinking about the Digital Void…I Mean World
What do you think about these Websites?
I don’t expect you to have a background in art history, but, as a potential user of the above websites, you might want to know what’s new, borrowed, and (for Picasso fans) blue. Knowing the museum’s location, ticket price, and hours would be helpful.
English Department Websites:
- UNC Charlotte’s English Department
- University of Louisville’s English Department
- Towson University’s English Department
- University of Florida’s English Department
You might not have reason to go to an English Department website, but, as a major of a department, you probably have expectations for departmental websites in general. In addition to faculty, major requirements, and upcoming events, what else might you think is essential for a department’s website?
- Electronic Gamming Monthly (EGM.com)
- AMD’s website
- PC Gamer Magazine Site
- Farfetch.com (formerly Style.Com’s Site)
What attributes do you think the different types of websites above should have?
Also, what problems could arise if you used Dr. Eastin’s monitor as the “typical” monitor for users of your webpage?
- That monitor was huge–friggin enormous circa 2006. Now, it’s not as rare as it was. However, it’s important to remember that your audience will access your information in various ways, including on mobile devices. One expectation I have is that students will access this class website and Canvas on a desktop or laptop.
- Organizations need to be much more concerned with how users access their websites, so they can’t just expect everyone to use a desktop or laptop, so they need to be able to support mobile browsing.
A Note or Two on E-mailing and CMD/CMC*
*CMD–Computer Mediated Discourse
CMC–Computer Mediated Communication
A good friend of mine, a software sales person, has very specific guidelines for the employees he supervises:
- Keep them short
- Change the Reply Subject to something more accurate
- Make them correct so the reader isn’t confused
- Use e-mail when appropriate…let’s discuss
Is there a difference between how different genders participate more in cyberspace? In the early 2000s, there was quite a bit of talk about the “digital divide,” which focused on how white middle-to-upper class males used the internet the most. The feeling was that not having access to the internet would be detrimental to one’s chances for success. Because of the near ubiquity of mobile communication devices, this “divide” shrank; however, we learned during the pandemic that people had disproportionate access to reliable internet connections. I don’t think it’s beneficial to consider mere access as the standard for closing the digital divide. Homeless individuals have “access” to the internet. One’s phone is able to access the internet. What I would like you to reflect on is your level of access. Consider the ways you normally access the internet and for what purposes. For instance, I have lots of access:
- Home computer (desktop with scanner, printer, and 27-inch monitor)
- Office computer (laptop with docking station and two 27-inch monitors)
- Mobile phone
- Roku attached to my 50-inch plasma TV from 2009 (yes, this June that TV will be 14 years old, and it still works great…but I did replace my surround sound once)
- Google Fiber–I really don’t know why I leave my house
- As an aside, I love movies. Going to the movies was an almost weekly event before COVID-19; now, I honestly would rather stream stuff, and I pay plenty in monthly subscriptions. However, I would like to plug the Independent Picture House here in Charlotte.
The above ways I access the internet offer me advantages over those who only have mobile phone access and, even worse, wi-fi only mobile phone access. Moving to remote teaching wasn’t ideal because there’s more we can do face-to-face, but I had all the resources I needed to do it. I even bought a green screen! Also, I only had one 48-hour period in the past year where Google Fiber went down because of an outage, but I have a super fast connection. Therefore, we can say I have very reliable access to the internet and a variety of ways to access the internet for my work, social, and entertainment needs.
Anther aspect of the “digital divide” deals with gender differences. Again, back in the early 2000s, many researchers claimed that men used the internet more than women, and the differences were very pronounced globally and especially in developing countries. An essay in The Internet Encyclopedia (2004) titled “Gender and Internet Usage” by Ruby Roy Dholakia, Nikhilesh Dholakia, and Nir Kshetri noted the huge discrepancy of men’s and women’s internet usage in developing countries, but noted that there was more or less equal usage in the United States and Canada. However, they also pointed out that men’s and women’s behaviors online mimicked their offline behaviors. For instance, men and women made online purchases roughly equal to each other; however, “men report greater purchases of technical products online and women purchase more apparel” (p. 19). I wonder if this still holds true 19 years later. Consider your online purchases in the past year. What did you purchase the most? Here’s my rough estimate:
- Technical products (computers, computer accessories, appliances): 60%
- Books and media: 25%
- Food: 10% (yes, I rarely ordered food online, and I never used a delivery service like DoorDash or GrubHub)
- Apparel: 5% (but a friend sent me a t-shirt in the mail)
Blogs and IM/texting: I realize these are different things/activities, but I often think about them together. Maybe that’s just my peculiarity, but what do you think about the value (in terms of communication) for each?
We’ll continue the discussion on information design by specifically covering visuals. Keep up with the reading and these webpages because everything is fair game for your Final Exam.