If my website is a culmination of my classwork, then it is best represented by content and not design. Reviewing the content produced both individually and as part of a group, is a satisfactory representation of a semester’s work. From the deep-dive theory presentation to the final public service announcement video, I delivered fully-developed well-executed projects.
Writing for the web
Writing content to be read online is more in my wheelhouse than writing for academia with the proper citing of references and formatting. Last semester, the struggle was real. But as with anything, practice does make a task more manageable.
I was glad to use WordPress this year because while I am familiar with CMS, I’ve never built a site in WordPress. While the site is solid in construction, I’d like to explore a bit more, including different themes and plugins — for instance, my current site uses a plugin called “Site Origin Builder,” which I have modestly experimented with.
While I understand that the nature of specific projects is collaborative and dependent on various skill sets and areas of expertise, I was mindful of the weight given to group projects. In the execution of each project, I contributed in multiple areas, from crafting content to handling the post-production (which I loved doing). For the most part, I was satisfied that the group projects achieved successful outcomes.
The Google Analytics Certification was probably the biggest challenge. Surprisingly. I wasn’t unfamiliar with the analytics dashboard going in, and I completed a couple of training modules, leading to some confidence in my level of understanding. However, it took multiple attempts to pass.
Despite developing an audience persona, I was never entirely sure what I wanted my site to be or do. I didn’t want a traditional personal portfolio site, in part, because I don’t have a snappy given or surname that I would want to construct a URL on. Additionally, I prefer both the anonymity and public face of more of a studio or business site. Even if in truth, it’s really a one-person show.
Moving forward, this seems the best scenario for developing my website. As I am entering the latter part of my career life, I have been giving some consideration to building a post-retirement freelance work and a clientele base, and my personal/professional website will be a key component of that.
When you text and drive, you put yourself and others at risk. The average time it takes to answer a text is five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that’s like driving the length of a football field…with your eyes closed.
No one wants to be responsible for injuring another. Most people agree that texting and driving is dangerous, but do it anyway. We think it won’t happen to us, but statistics don’t lie.
Don’t be a statistic. It can wait. Don’t text and drive.
The ethics of data gathering [and Google Analytics]
It’s clear that our rapidly changing technology has outpaced privacy and antitrust laws that protect personal data.
Most of us log onto the internet multiple times a day — from our work or home computers, tablets, and smartphones. Not only checking social media and online news sources but purchasing a good portion of the goods we consume daily. Our credit card, banking, and medical information is now on the cloud. Easy to access, but vulnerable to savvy hackers who may or may not want to do personal harm.
But it isn’t just the hackers we need to concern ourselves with. It’s big tech and monopolistic organizations that have easy access to our personal data, tracking our habits, purchases, and more.
Each time we land on a website, the banner ad at the top of the page correlates with a recent search – It’s equal parts helpful and creepy. Mostly creepy.
But data gathering, mining, and surveillance have ethical implications and our legal system needs to catch up. Mainly to save us from ourselves. Because let’s face it, we love the ease of internet life. Even the ease of familiarity, like using Google to search, when there are some other options that won’t surveil us. But, we are so used to using Google, that we even call internet searches “googling.”
And while analytics, now a booming business and requisite for any online marketer, is certainly helpful for e-commerce, do we really want to be tracked at all times?
We need laws and a legal system that can keep pace with emerging technology, especially as it is related to personal information and expectations of privacy. Because left to our own devices? We don’t stand a chance.
Career Connect is a “by students for students” podcast series dedicated to career exploration. In each episode, our student host interviews a professional working in the field, from anthropology to zoology. So join us on Career Connect, as we invite you to pursue your passion.
Check out our latest episodes
Part One: Episode 1 Using communications in the sales field
In episode one, student host Mackenzie Mahoney speaks with graduate Caitlyn Ennis, who will talk about her work in sales and why communication matters.
Part One: Episode 2 Social media in a traditional industry
In episode two, digital media maven Juliana Wright joins us to talk about how she has made a name for herself in a traditional field, the grocery industry.
Part One: Episode 3 Blazing your own trail
In this episode, we hear from She’Bria Gordon who will talk about her nontraditional professional path, and why a career in digital media is right for her.
Career Connect is a weekly podcast dedicated to career exploration. Each week features a student guest host currently enrolled in the graduate program at SUNY Oswego. Our guests range from recent grads to seasoned professionals who talk about their career paths, offering advice and insight. Join us for this informative journey as you pursue your passion.
Children’s literature provides many examples of animal protagonists that undergo life-and-death challenges, often at the hands of human captors or tormentors, that inspire sympathy and support. Animals orphaned at a young age: Bambi, Dumbo, and Elsa the lion cub in Born Free; pigs and their clever relationships with other animals, including Wilbur and Charlotte the spider in Charlotte’s Web, or Babe (the pig) from the 1995 film, who after losing his mother to slaughter is adopted by a maternal herding dog named Fly.
In all these instances, we grieve with the animals for their losses and cheer when their actions and relationships transform their fate. Similarly are the stories that go viral of the cow escaping the abattoir or the pig or chicken jumping from the slaughterhouse-bound truck. These animals are hailed for their bravery, and we advocate for their freedom.
And then the confessed “animal lovers” who volunteer at companion animal shelters and donate to rescue abused and neglected animals and consider their “pets” no less than beloved members of the family.
Our feelings about animals are complex and often altruistic.
So, why do we so easily ignore the wretched plight of billions of sentient animals who, every year, pass through the factory farm system? Animals who are little more than babies, with natural life spans exponentially cut short by the brutality of the mechanized complex of torture and neglect?
With found images (and a late-in-the-process discovery of We Animals Media), I wanted to document the typical life of a piglet born on an industrial hog farm. I wanted to create an essay that would demonstrate living (and dying) conditions in the industrial animal farming complex while also trying to capture the spirit and agency of these same animals as sentient, complete beings.
A piglet’s life begins much as her mother’s life did, via artificial insemination.
Gestation crates are the industry standard for breeding sows. During repeated cycles of forcible impregnation, female pigs are confined to crates so small that they are immobilized, unable to lay down comfortably, turn around, or stretch their limbs.
This intensive confinement leads to bone, cardiac, and muscle damage and severe mental distress.
As they are ready to give birth, mothers are moved to farrowing crates. Similar to confinement in gestation crates, sows are immobilized, unable to reach their offspring, and deprived of exercising natural habits like nesting, grooming, and bonding.
With the farrowing crate limiting the mother pig’s mobility, newborn piglets must navigate dirty and crowded conditions during their nursing period.
One in four piglets is stillborn or dies in the first few days after birth usually due to perinatal hypothermia or starvation.
On the farm, newly born piglets have their tails docked, teeth filed, and ears notched and male pigs are castrated without the use of an anesthetic, painkiller, or antibiotic.
Once removed from the farrowing crate, piglets are housed in groups in concrete pens.
A typical pig pen has no windows or openings to the outside, and indoor lighting is rarely used.
Dead and dying piglets are a common sight on hog farms.
Baby pigs are curious, social, and playful by nature. Recent evidence suggests that pigs, like apes and other animals, display object discrimination, time perception, memory, and an understanding of symbolic language and gestures.
Piglets on factory farms have no enrichment or access to sunlight, fresh air, or bedding.
Transport to slaughter is one of the most stressful times in a pig’s short life. It is also likely the first time they have experienced sunlight.
Crowded and inhumane conditions on transport trucks, that provide little in the way of climate control, subject piglets to injury and extreme weather conditions.
These harrowing transports often exceed 30 hours during which 6-month-old pigs are deprived of food and water.
Young pigs jostle for space and footing as workers use electric prods to move them from the truck into the slaughterhouse.
Animal Rights activists worldwide “bear witness to the suffering of animals in transport and outside of slaughterhouses” as part of the Save Movement.
Approaching the transport trucks, they provide water and comfort to dehydrated and stressed animals.
In the U.S., pork plants are allowed to slaughter 1,106 pigs per hour, although many large producers want to do away with any speed limitations.
In 2012, Julia gave birth to 16 piglets three days after being rescued from a factory farm. Unlike her previous litters, Julia was allowed to care for her piglets in safe, peaceful, bucolic conditions. Julia lived at Farm Sanctuary for the remainder of her life.
Farm Sanctuary, founded in 1986, was the first of its kind, focusing on the rescue, care, and advocacy of animals raised for food. Today, there are hundreds of farm animal sanctuaries throughout the world.
Although WordPress is described as a multibillion-dollar business, Cabot credits the company’s success to the user community and WordPress’s bottom-up philosophy, pointing out certain principles that have helped sustain WordPress as the most-used CMS on the internet, including:
Reliance on community buy-in
Non-profit foundation (inspired by Mozilla, et. al.)
System of meritocracy for contributors
Utilizing one-size-fits-all model
Engaging large users to “give back” to the mission
Flexibility and scalability
The democratization of web content and access is a continual struggle with the traditional market powers. From the battle over net neutrality to the proliferation of online “news” outlets, the internet still provides an open and accessible platform with low barriers to entry. The downside is (natch) without the traditional gatekeepers, consumers of information must be diligent as they vet for themselves information found online, or shift through a lot of “bad” content. In this case, platforms like WordPress help ensure that content remains (somewhat) decentralized while also ensuring laypeople access to the means of production.
Although Cabot suggests that WordPress developers are presenting a one-size-fits-all solution, the scalability and flexibility of the platform indicates responsive making it suitable for a variety of enterprises. While customization is available, non-technical users may be limited to presets of the software. This brings us to the next topic…
WYSIWYG, the enabler
In her paper, Styling the Self Online: Semiotic Technologization in Weblog Publishing, Elisabetta Adami asks whether online platforms, in this case, WordPress, actually stifle authentic expression because of the built-in options that also make the platform user-friendly. She suggests they do. “Self-styling,” as she calls it, is framed by the platform parameters, especially for non-technical lay people who lack the expertise to access and manipulate the code.
“We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”
– Marshall McLuhan
Making the case for Web 2.0
In Adami’s example of the evolution of the food blog, The Diary of a Frugal Family, she rightly points to the transformation overtime and the eventual conformity to an expected or conventional aesthetic (Web 2.0), while also seeming to suggest that this adherence to trendy styles diminishes the blog’s authenticity. However, in the span of that four years, the blog evolved from a homespun personal diary to an “influencer” site with thousands of readers and sponsors. It isn’t surprising that the author would employ expert help to expand her now-viable business venture. To look “more professional,” because now, she is.
Bad design hurts everyone
Additionally, one could argue that the aesthetics of this particular blog, and other sites across the internet, have evolved in much the same way that fashion, cars, and entertainment have. The internet does not look like it did 30 years ago, just as computer processing doesn’t look like it once did. The 1s and 0s have transformed into flashy interfaces that are user-friendly and designed for ease and performance. At some point, the techno-geeks got into bed with the design snobs who brought their cascading style sheets and typography rules, forever transforming the expectation of what a website should look like.
While there might be a homogenizing effect, much of web design is based on valid principles of readability, organization, and other time-tested design principles.
In her concussion, Adami argues:
“Beyond the single case, with personal blogs relying on web publishing platforms for their design, the naturalized mainstream/hegemonic styles result in self-regulatory practices, a reduced diversity in aesthetics, and, ultimately, a reduced freedom/agency in using all available semiotic resources for self-expression; in banal terms, regardless the purposes for blogging, everybody tends to (want to) look professional, with professional being equalled to certain layout/font/colour/image combinations.”
Adami reinforces her argument by suggesting that it is the medium itself, in this case, the publishing platform, that is essentially self-limiting.
“In this, the innovative potential of the participatory character of web design production in WordPress is disempowered, because the platform-as-a-semiotic-technology conceals difference and foregrounds mainstream uses and taste.”
Adami isn’t wrong, but isn’t she simply describing the evolution of taste? Shifts in internet aesthetics are akin to shifts in fashion aesthetics. If Adami is right that WordPress “foregrounds mainstream uses and tastes,” then it is no different than how J. Crew or any other large retail purveyor of clothes also “mainstreams taste.”
We tend to covet or like what we see, and we often look to gurus who set the style and tone. Sure the internet may sport a somewhat homogenous look these days, but it’s less the limitation of the medium or platforms like WordPress and more about deference to “what’s in.”
Adami, El. “Styling the Self Online: Semiotic Technologization in Weblog Publishing.” Social Semiotics, vol. 28, no. 5, 2018, pp. 601–622., https://doi.org/10.1080/10350330.2018.1504713.
J. Cabot, “WordPress: A Content Management System to Democratize Publishing,” in IEEE Software, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 89-92, May/June 2018, doi: 10.1109/MS.2018.2141016.