Monthly Archives: September 2012

(Still) Getting Used to the Evolution of Writing and Tech

Before I was required to create a Twitter account for Intro to Writing Arts, I was required to do so for Internet and Writing Studies (IWS) with Professor Wolff. Now, we are also creating LinkedIn, Flickr, Diigo, and separate WordPress accounts in IWS. All this is for our “Integrated Social Media Presence” project, a project aimed at helping us create one pervasive, yet consistent, professional presence across the web. I’ve never even heard of Diigo, and I’ve never been on LinkedIn’s or Flickr’s websites. I was just starting to catch up in Intro, and now the overwhelming sensation of existing in the wrong century is starting to creep back.

In reality, I know it’s not all that bad. No matter what your desired profession (creative writer and library-science-guru, for me), having a professional online presence is essential. At least, that’s what they keep telling me. I’m still trying to convince myself that it’s true, not because I don’t honestly believe that it’s true, but because attempting to run all these webpages in a professional, coherent, and attention-grabbing manner terrifies me. I’d much rather just sit here writing (with pen and paper), or reading a book (printed and bound.)

So I must say, while I truly am frightened by the upcoming weeks and the new skills I will have to learn, I’m also excited. I want to be able to join this group of elite, tech-savvy geniuses who have their online presence ironed out perfectly and wrapped with a bow. Authors are now required by publishing companies to create and maintain their own websites. Self-publishing, particularly on e-readers, is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to sell one’s work. I want to know that these are things I am capable of doing myself.

I suppose it’s finally time to just put on the work gloves and get to work with the internet.

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Are Game Designers Responsible for Video Game Addiction?

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Video game designer David Perry claimed in a TEDtalk he gave in 2008 that rather than improving the visual and audio aspects of video games, game developers were focusing on “emotion, purpose, meaning, understanding and feeling. …can a video game make you cry?” Their goal, according to Perry, was to create a gaming experience that mimicked, and even surpassed, real life. If you were to take a moment to step into the universe of World of Warcraft, The Old Republic, or a non-MMO such as Diablo or Call of Duty, you might argue their goal has been achieved. The question is: at what cost?

Perry’s own presentation included a 8-minute video description of life as a video game addict titled “As Real as Your Life” by Michael Highland. I found it incredibly interesting that as a game designer himself, Perry did not directly address this as a social issue. Many people still don’t believe that video game addiction is legitimate, but in fact the American Medical Association determined that 15% of America’s youth (or 5 million kids) may be addicted to video games. This is to say nothing of the 20-30 something’s, who are in fact the average-age gamers.

WebMD describes video game addiction as an addictive behavior, akin to gambling. Criteria to meet the addiction include:

“1. The person needs more and more of a substance or behavior to keep him going.

2. If the person does not get more of the substance or behavior, he becomes irritable and miserable.”

In 2010, a 16-year-old in Philly beat his mother to death in her sleep because she took away his play station. Obviously, not every gamer becomes so obsessed as to lose their grip of right and wrong, but there is an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to those who have. So while gamers become more and more immersed in fantasy worlds and characters developed for them by designers, are the designers to blame when things go wrong?

As the creators of this new phenomenon, I think the game-designing community should at least acknowledge this growing addiction and its negative effects. For example, the fact that Perry showed that video to the audience, and then glossed over it, implying that he only hoped to create more addicting games in the future (and even stating he hoped his daughter would enjoy games) seems odd and irresponsible to me. They didn’t create this monster on purpose, but it’s still been created. Someone has to do something about it.


Time to talk about video games (and much more)

(I wanted to practice creating a saturated blog post full of outside media, and this is a topic I am passionate about. Enjoy!)

Michael Highland’s video “As Real As Your Life” struck a chord with me. In the video, he discusses his gaming addiction and the appeal of video games to the younger generations. I consider myself a gamer, though I’m not an addict. I appreciate video games as both an escape for me and a creative platform for the creators, and believe they are much more than a sum of their parts. I have friends who’ve studied game creation, my friend Brad is currently a level designer working for Gearbox Software, and through them I have seen bits and pieces of the sheer amount of work that goes into creating a game. Game design goes far beyond writing and programming.

In the video, Michael says, “Unlike any pop culture phenomenon before it, video games actually allow us to become part of the machine… we are interacting with our entertainment.” This is the quintessence of the appeal video games have. You no longer have to watch your entertainment as an outsider; instead, you become a pivotal part of the storyline. Without you, there is no story. Personally, my favorite games are open world games, like the Elder Scrolls series, and survival horror games, namely the Silent Hill series, which have solid storylines surrounding the main character and his/her actions.

If I may go off on a tangent for a moment, Michael was a bit mistaken by saying no pop-culture phenomenon has allowed us to become a part of it. Remember those choose-your-own-adventure storybooks? I was addicted to my Give Yourself Goosebumps set when I was younger. While this isn’t total immersion, you were still able to have a say in what happened during the story. There are also choose-your-own-adventure videos popping up now and again on the web. An excellent survival horror video on YouTube is Survive the House. (WARNING: this is addictive, please don’t use it to procrastinate.) I’m assuming this interactive video concept was modeled on the idea of video games, but I still wanted to include it as an example of other media that you interact with.

But, I digress, let’s get back to video games. Continue reading


Social networks! Social networks everywhere!

I had to read a few articles on social networking this week for my special topics class, Professions in Writing Arts (everyone who wants to pursue a career in writing should take this class if you can, it’s incredibly informative). I thought they added nicely to our discussion of social networks. While we’re mostly focusing on Twitter and blogging for this class, there are so many other options out there that you can use to build a bigger, better online persona.

The first article, Social Networking for Writers – How to Network like a Pro, and Why Every Writer Should, is fairly self-explanatory. Robin Parrish discusses using the sites to create your brand and get the notice that you deserve.

The second site isn’t an article, but a list of the Best Social Networking Sites and Message Boards for Writers. This list is extensive and I only knew of two of these sites before reading it. There are many message boards and communities out there where writers can post their work to get feedback and constructive criticism, which can be hard to find outside of a workshop-centered course or a writing club.

I hope this is helpful! I sincerely think everyone who is thinking of a career as a writer or considering going to graduate school for writing should take the Professions class. It’s a special topic 1 credit class that runs for only 5 weeks, and so far I feel like I’ve learned more than I have in some of my full 15 week classes. Our class website is here if you’d like to see what we’ve been covering.

Cheers and happy networking!


Social networks for creative people

While exploring the Twittersphere for my Writing, Research and Tech class, I came across a link to article called The Top 10 Social Networks for Creative People by Mark McGuinness. Writing is considered creative, so I thought I’d read it over. The article started out with a section outlining why you need to be involved with social networking to survive in a creative profession. The author’s points are strong and encouraging. It was a strong start.

Then, I encountered something that I don’t usually see: in each section of the article the author focused on a certain social network, and each section includes snippets from creative people in different fields talking about their experience with the social network in question. Real people! There aren’t any full interviews, but there are short bursts from people who seem comfortable in the networks they choose to use. I thought it was really neat to see people in different fields discussing what social networking has actually done for them. It’s easy to think of popular Twitter handles or LinkedIn profiles as an entity on their own, but it’s important to remember that each profile is run by a real person, and through their social media we are getting to know a small part of that person.

Since this article is aimed at all forms of creativity, not only writing, so some sections and snippets aren’t explicitly related to us as writers. I still think we can learn from this article and see a small sample of information from the people who use the sites effectively, no matter their specific creative field. Definitely worth a read.

You can follow the author of the article on Twitter @markmcguinness. His other contact information is scattered throughout the article.

The link that I saw was tweeted by Joanna Penn (@thecreativepenn) who runs a blog about writing, self-publishing and marketing. Check out her blog out if you haven’t. She also offers a great information package on self-publishing called The Author 2.0 Blueprint. It’s free!


Facebook vs Twitter: Friends vs Followers

(note: This is rambling and slightly off-base.)

When I was younger, my freshman year of college specifically, I joined Facebook. This was back when the layout was unfriendly and people still thought Pokes were a cool way to communicate. For the first few months I avidly played around with the status updates, some games, and sending people whatever Facebook suggested I send them (like a virtual pie, pet, flaming bag of poo… the works). I even played Farmville for about a week. After the novelty wore off, I moved to just status updates, pictures, and the occasional posted link.

As for Twitter, my relationship with that is odd. The first time I made a Twitter account on my own I started so I could follow people that I admired. Eventually, I started following some friends and tweeting here and there, mostly things I deemed unworthy for Facebook. This was before I used this medium for class, mind you.

About two years ago, I decided I hated both Facebook and Twitter. It was like a switch went off in my head and I noticed how absolutely narcissistic these things were. Who cares what you ate for breakfast? Does anyone really want to know which sitcom you are? Who wants to see 10 pictures of your cat a day? (Okay, I still kind of enjoyed that last one.) I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts, but two weeks later was bullied by “friends” who I never saw in real life to bring them back online just to talk to people. I tried to pretend everything was okay, but it was a struggle for me to post anything on either because a little voice in the back of my mind just kept saying, “You sound so narcissistic. Who cares? Would you get annoyed reading this?” Continue reading


Twitter vs. Facebook:

As an avid Facebooker, it feels almost unfair to put these two social media sites next to each other; you may have heard me say only a few weeks ago. Now that I also use Twitter regularly, I now see the pros and cons for both sites.

With Facebook, I’m heard by an audience I chose, people I (mostly) know and who have agreed with me that we would both like to hear what each other have to say. If it is someone I feel is more important than the others, I can flag them as such and will be notified if anything at all happens with their page (Mike just changed his background from white to off-white!). While this is fun and helpful for keeping in contact with relatives, especially due to the private messaging feature, it can also be a hassle dealing with all the different things you’re required to update (Do I want to change to the new timeline? Huh. I wonder what that- WHAT HAPPENED TO MY FACEBOOK?). If I want to speak to the audience I choose than I’ll definitely go with Facebook.

On the other hand, Twitter is me speaking to the audience that chooses me. Yes, it is often common courtesy to follow those who follow you, but if you really don’t feel like it it’s not a social law. These people who follow me follow my words for my words, not who I am. Because if you get tired of the whining of someone’s posting (oh-em-gee I cannot believe this girl is wearing this #omgicantbelievethisgirliswearingthis), it’s as simple as a click and you don’t have to deal with them anymore. Sometimes it’s hard to get your word out with Twitter because of how many people are doing it, but that just means you have to tweet more and make them count. Twitter followers will only follow you until they are tired of you, so keeping them entertained will keep your followers up.

Although I personally think both of these sites are a complete waste of time, I still sit (with both of them open in separate tabs) waiting for my next Facebook notification or the next idea for a clever Tweet.


Twitter, Facebook, Spaces, and Limits

Twitter has always seemed to me to be the height of egocentrism. Why would anyone, even my close friends, be interested in what I’m thinking 24 hours a day? That’s why until this class, I fervently stuck to Facebook alone, and even then I went months at a time without logging on.

I told myself Facebook wasn’t like Twitter because there were so many more ways to interact with people. But really, instead of Twitter being a boiled down Facebook, I think Facebook is a glorified Twitter. For the longest time imaginable (until about two weeks ago) I absolutely refused to believe that any sort of serious writing could take place on either one. I’m willing to admit I was wrong.

I once took an autobiographical writing class in which we had to come up with a “Six Word Memoir” that summed up our entire lives. Mine, appropriately enough, was “wrong many times, admitted it once” (though, now I suppose it’s twice.) Trying to summarize my entire life in six words was one of the most interesting writing projects I’ve ever encountered. This is one of the biggest advantages of Twitter, and I would say the biggest disadvantage of Facebook.

Twitter forces you to be concise. Anyone can do that, but as a writer, you must also find ways to be witty, original, and provocative. You should make every Tweet meaningful and as intriguing as a six word memoir; even though your writing is confined, it should be crafted well enough to gain followers.

Facebook doesn’t place this limitation on you. You can ramble on for ages, and I must admit, the moment I see someone has posted something longer than a paragraph, I typically check out. Because of this lack of limitation, Facebook is a breeding ground for false information (way too many of my friends post way too many chain letters.) The one place I have to give Facebook credit is the Notes section. The ability for a writer to share a piece of creative writing, a personal story, or just some information with specific people is a great tool. You can draft, edit, repost – it’s a miniature blog on your Facebook, except most people don’t post consistently, and instead of trying to get followers, you decide who you want to see it by tagging them. This is the one advantage Facebook has over Twitter, the ability to share longer, drafted and revised works with a carefully selected audience. Twitter is challenging with its 140 character limit, but there are times when larger spaces are needed.


Facebook Vs. Twitter

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When I found out that I would need to make a Twitter for class I was a little hesitant. I already have a Facebook, why do I need a Twitter? I thought as I entered my information into the white rectangular boxes on the Twitter homepage. I slowly click the yellow sign up for Twitter button. I stare at the page with a blank expression. What now? I manage to change the background color and attempt to make my first tweet. I’m not sure if my hesitation to Twitter is because I don’t know anything about it or because I am content with Facebook. Random people can follow me and see things that I am tweeting is slightly strange to me. In the Facebook world you can pick and choose who can see your status, profile, and photos. I am a daily Facebook user and check my Facebook at least three times a day, sometimes more on my phone. Facebook allows me to chat with friends, message people privately, upload photos, like photos and comments, create and respond to events, and so much more. 

Is anyone else having this Twitter hesitation?

Any Twitter lovers want to share their insight to the Twitter world.


Do People Still Read?

“People just don’t read books anymore.”

I was walking down South St. with a friend, and my legs had stopped moving. Atlantic Books was utterly empty. Abandoned. Immediately, I pulled out my smart-phone and – attempting unsuccessfully to guard it from the rain – I googled “Atlantic Books”. The whole chain went under a year ago, apparently while I was buried alive in some used bookstore somewhere. It may sound like an extreme overreaction, but I began to panic. How did I miss this? Who will sell books down the shore? Is B&N next? I’m all for indie-shops and second-hand, but they have to come from somewhere.

“What’s wrong?” my friend asked.

“I didn’t realize Atlantic Books closed down,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said, “People just don’t read books anymore.”

Is he right, do people not read books anymore? After I graduate with my degree in Writing Arts, I’m going for Library Science. I’m going to spend my life writing and caring for books.. or at least, I thought I was. Can I still do that if only a few select others care about them, as well?

My friend later clarified to me that he meant only paper books. But whether he meant people don’t read anything anymore, or people only use e-readers, the fact is it’s just not true.

The Pew Research Center found in April, 2012, that “80% of Americans 16 and older say they read at least occasionally for pleasure.” USC Dornsife in conjunction with the LA Times also concluded in April, 2012, that 86% of Californians who owned e-readers still read physical books, and 4 out of every 5 Californians had read a book for leisure in the past month from the date of the survey. Oh, and people must still be heading to their local libraries for paper books, because the majority of US citizens aren’t aware that you can take out e-books now from most locations.

The e-reader is a fantastic technological and social leap, which is increasing in popularity. But paper books aren’t going away quite yet. The important thing is, whether you’re reading from a page or a screen, people are still reading.