Thoughts on our Digital World

What a semester it has been! I have really learned so much from my digital communications class in terms of how increasingly important it is for all of us to be literate in the various technologies of the digital era. Because we are living in a world where we are expected to have a digital presence, it is important to understand how to best use the resources available.

The Tools

Over the course of the semester, we were provided with various tools to help guide us on the path towards digital literacy. These tools allowed us to learn more about the different types of platforms that we should be familiar with including

  1. A professional website – having a professional website can attract future employers and establish credibility
    • In creating our personal website we
      Creating personally branded websites helps young professionals to establish credibility in their field.
      Creating personally branded websites helps young professionals to establish credibility in their field.
      • presented digital representations of our resumes and examples of our work
  2. A working proficiency of video editing – being able to edit videos in a way that effectively conveys a central idea and uses the principles of storytelling helps you establish a digital presence
    • When editing videos we
      • included B-roll and a variety of shots to break up the main footage
      • made sure the music and additional special effects added to the video and didn’t take away from the main message

An understanding of all these tools is important to digital literacy because they promote a variety of different platforms and means of expression that are commonly used in today’s increasingly digital world.

My Multimedia

Not only have I learned a lot about digital literacy this semester, but I also learned how to cater to the variety of audiences present in the digital world.

With my blog, I have learned to write with scanability in mind. Many readers scroll through articles, scanning them to get the main points, making the inverted pyramid style of writing important in conveying a message.

Additionally, being clear about your video message is important in filming. Before filming, our group video on international students at Furman, my group and I didn’t have a concrete idea of what the video was going to be about. However, we quickly caught on after a few rounds of re-filming. After a few rough cuts, I am happy with the way it turned out. However, we could have added more J-cut video of international students’ involvement on campus.

In conjunction with the group video, my  group also made a podcast specifically about the challenges international students face at Furman. With this portion of the project, our goal was more straight forward but there were a few technical issues with the microphone. Regardless, the issues were fixed and the final version turned out great!

Now and Then

Before this class, I was digitally illiterate. I had a very basic understanding of video editing, personal websites, and blogs but for the most part did not understand how to use them effectively. As I transition into the professional world, this digital skill set will help me promote myself in a professional manner and communicate with customers and clients alike using my marketing and digital skills.

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Social Responsibility and Ethics

In today’s world of news where anyone with internet access can be a journalist, but we all have an unspoken social responsibility to be moral in our internet presence. When creating content for our websites, blogs, personal social accounts, etc we need to consider how the content will affect those who view it.

The chapter “Moral Claimants, Obligation, and Social Responsibility” from Thomas Bivins’ Ethics in PR outlines several ways in which our decisions affect others. For starters, anyone who is affected by our decisions is known as a stakeholder or moral claimant. Bivins outlined four claimant groups including:

  1. Clients/customers
  2. Organizations that people work for
  3. An individual’s profession
  4. Society as a whole

These claimant groups can extend even to our work as informal internet journalists. It is important that whether we’re using social media or a personal website that we create an organized method to deal with stakeholders and potential moral claimants. This in turn can also help us sort out our ethical obligations to our audience. Considering the consequences of our actions is the first step in sorting out these ethical obligations.

Links are Everywhere

According to the organizational systems theory, organizations exist and thrive in environments that are relevant to their survival. In order to survive, these organizations are linked to different parts of their environment to perform necessary tasks such as obtaining necessary resource and providing an outlet for their product. Educator James Grunig highlights the four key linkages in society as

  1. Providers – they offer authority and control the resources
  2. Suppliers – they provide materials and any other source of needed input for the organization
  3. Associates – since organizations with similar interests face similar problems, its important to have connections to organizations in similar situations as a guide
  4. Issue defined constituents – these arise with issues and are groups that are not normally officially associated with the organization

Obligation

Overall, the reading highlights the fact that a social obligation exists whether or not we acknowledge it. Philosopher T.M Scanlon mentioned that “what we owe to others” is determined by what they expect from us. This goes back to the age old lesson learned in grade school: treat others the way you want to be treated. Treat your audience and coworkers/bloggers with respect and they will in turn respect you. Sounds simple right? For more information about general ethics in Public Relations, check out the Public Relations Society of America.

Healthy Eating: A U.S Creation?

Healthy eating is an important part of a healthy lifestyle in the United States. There is a revival of eating locally grown organic produce that minimizes our carbon footprint. Yet elsewhere, this style of living is just part of everyday life.

I recently attended Furman University‘s International Food Festival organized by FUISA, the Furman University International Student Organization, and talked to a few international students about food from their countries. There was an overall consensus that because the United States had so many unhealthy options, there arose a need for a “healthy food movement”. However this healthy food movement is not as prevalent in other counties.

Gawon Kim, an international student from South Korea mentioned that the foundation of South Korean food is healthy “Our side dishes are made up of a whole bunch of veggies and we don’t use much butter, only a small amount of oil.” Kim also described the prevalence of rice in a typical Korean diet along with Kimchi, a traditional fermented Korean side dish that consists of vegetables and a variety of spices,”Kimchi is always at our table!”

Kimchi A traditional fermented Korean side dish, Kimchi is a unique part of the Korean meal. It consists of fermented vegetables and a variety of spices and is served with most meals. 

Additionally, Fangzhou Wang, a student native of China, states that “We don’t really think too much about eating healthy” she adds “we try to achieve a balance in our diet.”

Even on the other side of the world, international student Brooks Musangu from Zambia says “It’s only in America that I am conscious of what I am eating. Most of our work is hard labor so we are able to work off what we eat.”

What’s in the future

With the globalization of food products, we could be seeing a change in this in the near future. The World Health Organization organization provides recommendations for healthy diets and physical activity, but while its important to encourage healthy living around the world, we must also keep in mind the difference in cultures and lifestyles. Healthy living may be a movement against our bad eating habits and sedentary lifestyle. Maybe we should take a few pointers from the diets and healthy habits of other countries.

Check out the slideshow of pictures below from the International Food Festival!

A Community Meal: Furman Style

When asked why they chose to attend Furman, many students respond with comments about the gorgeous campus, the rigorous academics, and the sense of community. The Vista House, located just just down the road from Furman, really fosters this sense of community through their promotion of religious exploration, appreciation for the arts, and the popular $4 Sunday Night Dinners which are always vegetarian. The sense of community is good for both Furman’s image as a home-away-from-home and for student’s health overall.

Part of Furman’s Mere Christianity Forum, the Vista House was created with the idea of community in mind. According to Rimes McElveen, the executive director for the Vista House, the $4 dinners were created as an opportunity for students to learn how to cook well and as a community. The dinners also promote and teach students about the idea of sustainable cooking. “We have kind of a slowfood, local food ethic of really trying to practice the theology of sustainability…being good stewards of the Earth that has been entrusted to us.”

The Vista House even has an organic vegetable garden which is managed by the students living at the Vista House and community members. The organic garden grows seasonal fruits, vegetables, and herbs which are often used in their $4 dinners.

The Vista House promotes plant based sustainable diets.
The Vista House promotes plant based sustainable diets.

The idea of fostering community and promoting sustainable healthy living is crucial on a college campus. Research suggests that participating in an intentional learning community such as the Vista House enables students to create a supportive network of peers that will help ease the transition into college life. Through an intentional faith learning community, students are being taught that they should be stewards of the environment and respect the Earth that they were given, while being a part of a community that supports their personal growth at Furman.

I recently visited the Vista House for one of their Sunday Night Dinners to capture all the hard work, planning , and fun that goes into making a Vista House dinner.

In addition to the $4 dinners, the Vista House also hosts other events such as

  • Periodic brunches during major events – homecoming, family weekend, Christmas, finals
  • Readings with community leaders
  • “An Evening With…” – an interview series in which a small group of students engage in meaningful conversation with a community leader or Furman faculty member

The Vista House is a beloved part of the Furman community and will continue to be a great educator of the crossroads of Christian faith, sustainability, and a wholesome, healthy lifestyle.

Back to Basics: Video Production

Today, videos are an integral part of our lives. We use them for entertainment, information, and overall to help us interpret the world we live in. With the widespread availability of modern technology, almost anyone with internet access has the ability to produce video content. However, meaningful videos take time to plan, produce, and edit. Putting time into refining and planning your video content can make it stand out in a good way!

The article Video Production Primer by Todd Chappell emphasizes the importance of dividing video production into three phases – pre-production, production, and post-production. Following the guidelines around these phases ensures that the video is well-organized and conveys the intended message in the most efficient way possible.

Pre-production

According to Chappell, “Filmmaking is storytelling.” You want your film to tell the best version of the story possible. Therefore, Campbell advises that the video producer spend the most time on the pre-production phase to ensure that any small errors are eliminated before filming starts. The article advises organizing the film into beginning, middle, and end and adding details of the scenes and the characters so that you can visualize how each part of the film will appear. A few things Chappell emphasizes about the pre-production stage are:

  1. When writing a script for the film, make sure its in present tense
  2. Don’t lean the story too heavily on interviews. Alternate interview clips with other relevant content.
  3. Plan and scout out the locations where you plan on filming. Take note of the lighting, presence of background noise and if you need permission to shoot there.
Pre-production is important in planning out your video.
Pre-production is important in planning out video content, even in the professional news world.

Pre-production is one of the most important stages because it creates the foundation for your filming. With efficient thoughtful planning and organization, your video can be more efficient in delivering the intended message.

Production

Production is usually the main part of filming we think about when it comes to making a video. One of the most important things to keep in mind while filming is different shooting angles. Varying the shots can add more depth to your film as well as making it more interesting and visually appealing. Here are a few shots that Chappell recommends:

  • Subject Shot– A medium close-up (head and shoulders only) of your subject. These are often used in interviews.
  • Establishing Shot– A shot that establishes the story of the video and where/when it takes place.
  • B-roll– Any shot related to the main idea of the story that isn’t of the principle subject or action.

Post-Production

Most of the post-production work is in editing and exporting content from the production phase. When editing the video, follow these simple steps to edit down your video content while still effectively telling a story:

  1. Cut down the interviews.
  2. String the interviews and B-roll content together in a way that is coherent and conveys the main point of your story.
  3. Base your editing around a few key images or videos that are crucial to your story.

Following these steps will help you to achieve video success and will set your well-thought out videos apart from the rest.

Using Multimedia and Motion

Getting Started

We’ve all been to those obnoxious websites where pictures literally jump out at you from every angle. In cases like these, graphics and animations can annoy the reader and distract from the main message, However, adding motion to web projects can also entice readers, reinforce a message, or instruct viewers in a complex procedure.

Before adding motion to a web project, think about the message you are looking to convey and how you want the reader to feel and interact with the content. Chapter 4 from Writing for the Web by Linda Felder explains different ways to effectively plan for and add motion. Felder encourages the artist to plan out and develop the project before adding the multimedia component, so that the artist can better understand how the multimedia elements will work together.

Developing the Story

One way to go about planning your web project is through story-boarding during which the creator organizes ideas for the project on paper with a timeline. Developing a storyboard has many important benefits including:

  1. Providing a plan of action
  2. Persuades stakeholders
  3. Creating a working agreement between all parties involved

Not sure how to start your storyboard? It’s always a good idea to begin with the basics – a brief introduction to describe the goals of the project, the target audience, and the objectives. This can all be organized into a basic word document or a more complex spreadsheet. Looking up some example storyboard templates can help you get started. Animations should also be incorporated into the storyboard through a series of hand drawn scenes that vary in perspective. If you’re not a published artist, no fear; stick figures can also convey your general ideas.

Storyboarding gives a visual of the story you will be telling through your video.
Storyboarding gives a visual of the story you will be telling through your video.

Another way to plan out your project is through rapid prototyping. For this method of planning, the creator quickly creates a rough draft of the final production. This method works to:

  1. Give preliminary design feedback
  2. Give a big picture critique – ignores the small details
  3. Encourage team/client participation – makes others feel like they had a role in the production

With rapid prototyping, the creator should emphasize that the draft is still a work in progress that is open to feedback.

Both of these methods allow the creator to plan out their projects and effectively incorporate multimedia elements into the projects in a way that is coherent to the audience. When used correctly, multimedia elements, including animation can really enhance web projects and make your message come out even stronger.

Practices of Looking

Image Collage

Images are important. As far back as human history goes, we have been using images to make sense of the world around us, whether that be with cave paintings, frescos, drawings, or figures on porcelain dishes. With the proliferation of the mass media, we are an increasingly visual culture that associate meaning with images.

The problem with images is that we don’t all see the same messages in images. In the 21st century, a lot of images grab our attention through advertisements but there is always a chance that different audiences will see the ad differently and thus attribute different meanings to it.

The article Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture by Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright suggest that the different ways of interpreting advertisements might come from social factors such as age, class, gender, and

The cast of the hit TV series M*A*S*H
The cast of the hit TV series M*A*S*H

regional and cultural identity. They give the example of viewers watching M*A*S*H; the show was set during the Korean War but referenced historical events from the 1970s. Therefore, the show would resonate differently with a US soldier who had lived through these events and a viewer in a South American country who didn’t fully understand the show’s context.

The article also presented various theories to point to where we derive meanings from. One of the ones that resonated with me came from the French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu. Bourdieu’s theory revolves around the idea that we derive meanings from images that reflect our concept of beauty. His theory also suggested that there are institutions such as museums that strive to “not only to educate people about the history of art, but also to instill in them a sense of what is tasteful and what is not” (49). In this sense, we develop our sense of beauty based on the images portrayed by public institutions such as museums and thus develop our biases and interpretations for other images in society such as advertisements.

However, not all images are open to our interpretation. Many images contain context clues to lead the viewer to a certain interpretation. This is known as the process of encoding and decoding; all images are encoded with a certain meaning when it is created and it is up to the viewer to decode these images. Stuart Hall, a cultural-theorist and sociologist, came up with three possible positions viewers can take as decoders:

  1. Dominant-hegemonic reading – viewers unquestioningly identify with the popular position of an image or text
    • Ex: A popular television show
  2. Negotiated reading – viewers question the dominant meaning of an image or text and assign a new meaning
    • Ex: A campaign poster
  3. Oppositional reading – viewers disagree with the dominant meaning or reject it altogether
    1. Ex: Artists copying old works but giving it a new modern meaning

These different positions we take on as decoders of the images of the mass media help explain why there are many different perceptions of ads around the world. What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts below!

Debunking the Myth: Comfort Foods

The Myth

It’s no secret, I have a history with desserts. My family has pictures of me when I was three years old, standing on a step stool “helping” my mom make cookies. We all have foods that just make us feel more at ease; foods that we can count on for comfort.

One of the first thing healthy eating experts suggest when making the shift towards a healthier lifestyle is to cut back on these so called “comfort foods”. It’s always a struggle at first, but you tell yourself its for the best. If you’re like me and trying to hold off on the desserts or another favorite comfort food, I have a few words of motivation for you; comfort foods are overrated.

Cutting it Out (mostly)

A recent New York Times wellness blog post titled The Myth of Comfort Food states that while foods higher in sodium, fat, and sugar activate the brain’s reward system, there is no evidence of significant mood changes. So will you feel better after eating a bowl of ice cream? Probably, but according to studies done by the American Psychological Association, eating comfort foods actually doesn’t give you much more pleasure than eating a healthy alternative. I found this disconnect between “comfort” and “food” interesting since I had always associated those words with my guilty pleasure, desserts.  The Myth of Comfort Food also suggests that we’ve just branded certain foods as comforting in order to establish a reliable source of contentment when things go astray.

Even if you just can’t seem to let go of mac and cheese, there is hope! Recently, Food Network came out with their versions of comfort foods, just healthier and packed full of nutrients. Here are a few of my favorites:

Food-Collage

Try them out and let me know what you think!

Sources: Spinach and Artichoke Macoroni and Cheese Picture

Smashed Potatoes with Greek Yogurt and Scallions

Healthy Whole-Wheat Pizza with Arugula

Welcome to my Healthy Living Blog!

Welcome to my blog! This semester I’ll be talking about the healthy lifestyle and the secrets behind eating right and exercising regularly. This will be my first blog and I’m excited to learn about blogging as an art form while discussing a topic I’m passionate about.

I decided to blog about this topic because I really enjoy living an active lifestyle. I’ve played volleyball for the past few years and have been involved in sports since I can remember. On the more professional side, I interned for Navy Federal Credit Union‘s social media department last summer and got to experience first hand how to blog in the corporate world.

My interest in healthy living really took off after coming to Furman and having a freshman hall full of girls who were committed to the healthy lifestyle, acting as my motivation to go to the PAC (Furman’s on-campus gym) and choose the healthy options in the Dining Hall. Now, as a junior, I am president of the culinary club and use my position to educate students about healthy living in college.

Over the course of the semester, I’ll be taking on a few different topics within the theme of healthy living such as:

  • events hosted by the culinary club such as healthy cooking workshops
  • on-campus events and resources that promote healthy living
  • news about topics relating to healthy living
  • what the town of Greenville has to offer in terms of healthy living

I don’t claim to be a professional health blogger, but it is something I’m passionate about and I hope you’ll enjoy the posts and engage in the discussions!