What is writing in the 21st Century?

Writing in the 21st century comes in a variety of modes, each of which we have grown to develop an understanding of how best to use. This understanding is not something that is most readily recognizable when we feel less inclined to communicate certain messages through certain media, or when we have a preference of a certain mode for communicating. To make meaning of the most commonly found inclinations toward certain media, I have selected a few of the modes that I use most regularly and tried to imagine how the genres established by the history of their use affect the way one approaches communication through them. I have created scenarios that will demonstrate the instances where the choice of medium for the message communicated was not the best, with sensitivity toward how one’s approach to different media will play a part in what they expect to see from it and why. The different elements of the section below will show how someone might react, and why, when receiving news typical and atypical for the genre of mail, text, and Facebook.

Typical, Atypical


The genre of letters is one familiar to anyone who has a mailbox. The most common expectancy is to find bills, advertisements from local businesses, subscriptions, and professional/casual correspondence. The arrangement of information in the contents of these types of letters is often the same; There is a formal/informal greeting, a body of alphabetic text(sometimes with images), and a signing off.

– Typical –

– Atypical –

Typically in a letter, the tone set by the design of the packaging or the introduction within the body creates an expectation of the type of information to follow. In the first example, seeing a letter from an organization whose competition was entered created anticipation, and the first line delivers the positive news to be elaborated on by the rest of the text. In the second letter, the structure and design of the letter deviate from the expectation established from the first few lines. Seeing a letter from a loved one feels like a sweet gesture, with “momma loves you” on the packaging and word of celebration with family setting the tone, but when the arrangement of text takes an unexpected and unprepared turn it negates much of what was pleasant about receiving the letter.


The genres of texts are few. Either they’re an informal reduction of a conversation that would be had through another medium, or they’re a way to share information and media quickly without much effort. A noteworthy affordance of text is the ability to send information in a way that can reach its intended audience almost immediately, because of the likelihood of the recipient both having their mobile device on them and having an alert feature turned on to indicate the arrival of messages. Expectations for text messages often are to have prompt responses and clear, brief messages.

– Typical –

– Atypical –

An area that lacks support from the mode’s afforances is emotion. Though it is certainly possible to convey emotion in text messages, it is highly reliant on punctuation and emoticons due to the lack of contextual indicators such as packaging or introductory remarks. Even then, interpretation of a message is not always entirely predictable. In the first example, texts were used to extend an invitation to an outing. The exchange of information happened within minutes, with both the sender and recipient responding quickly. In the second example, the sender of the first message is experiencing impatience due to a lack of response on part of the recipient. When the recipient is distracted and does not return any message, it is clear the sender has become frustrated and would benefit from any type of notice concerning the recipient’s pending response, but the recipient has no clue of there being this type of urgency to the conversation. In their exchange, there is no recognition of the upset that happened for the sender, so he will have gotten what he had initially set out to have returned to him, but he will also be left alone in his unresolved frustrations.


Facebook is a mode with several genres. A non-fan page/band page user of Facebook can communicate with others indirectly by writing a status, they can communicate directly by commenting on a post or image, and they can write private messages to one another. Through these many methods of communication, Facebook can fit the genres of self-promotion, forum-style discussion hub, soapbox, and an archive of one’s contacts. A combination of these genres yields a very active display of shared information containing items of varied significance and high predictability.

– Typical –

– Atypical –

With the versatility of Facebook as a mode of communication, one will find all types of information shared across it. In both of the examples, someone is sent an event invitation to something of which they weren’t aware of prior. In the first example, the invitation is to a Halloween party and the recipient is someone who expresses great interest in attending. Generally when you become aware of an event on Facebook, the questions you’d ask yourself prior to deciding whether or not to go are “Is this something I would be interested in?” and “Do I have time to attend this event?” In the case of the second example, the person at their computer is made aware of the death of their grandmother through an event on Facebook. None of the expectation established by event invitations prior could have prepared him for it. A subject as sensitive as the death of a loved one would typically be handled much more personally and carefully, rather than through the social platform of an Facebook event invitation.


Proposal for assignment #3

What is writing in the 21st century?

Writing in the 21st century is the use of one or more of the various modes of communication with understanding of how each mode will affect the interpretation of the ideas expressed.


The way I am demonstrating writing in the 20th century is by showing an analysis of the potentially different meanings that people could gather from receiving the same message, but through different mediums. There will be two different messages, one of tragic news and the other of great news, shown as received through text, and letter(and more if I can think of something else that I use regularly).


I am going to be using video, audio, images, and alphabetic text organized into a post on the course blog. The video and audio will come from the English Department’s Zoom recorders as well as a microphone that I have at home(AKG 214). The video will demonstrate some of the scenarios where someone would be receiving good or bad news. The audio will accompany the videos, in the form of environmental sounds and music I’ve made or found. The sounds that aren’t recorded will come from Soundjay, ssYouTube, Jamendo, or any other creative commons free sound/music sharing site. The images I use will be from screenshots. They either will be placed within bodies of text in the blog, or used in the videos. The images will show the good or bad news in the format it would be received by a person, so as to eliminate alphabetic text passages that attempt to describe what would be a natural affordance of image. The alphabetic texts will be used to deliver the analysis of how these bits of news would be molded to the conventions of each form of writing. The format will be an introduction to the different messages, and the significance they carry before being intermingled with the connotations of each mode of communication. Then there will be a list of each, with video and text or images and text under the bold names of each mode.

I plan to have a detailed list of what examples will work best with video or image by Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving, I can use the weekend to record video and audio for each of my examples. Also during the weekend, I can organize these elements alongside their alphabetic text analyses within my blog. Then early during the week I can fill in the introductory and conclusory alphabetic texts.

Motivation through Fear(Assignment #2 Re-Revision)

To exploit fear in people is to provoke reaction. In the sources analyzed below, an appeal to fear of a horrible future is used to direct a population to preventative action which is defined only by its symbolic contrast. The sources are three videos: one of which sets the example for the horrible future as depicted in George Orwell’s science fiction novel “1984”(“2 Minutes of Hate”), one of which is created to market a computer(“Apple Macintosh´s Superbowl Advert – 1984 [ Ridley Scott ]”), and another which repurposes the computer ad to make a political statement(“Vote Different”).

The first source, “2 Minutes of Hate,” provides some context to the other source materials. This video demonstrates a facet of the extremity of consequence implied by inaction against a power governing with malicious intent. Prior to reading the synopsis of George Orwell’s “1984,” the meaning I made from the video “2 Minutes of Hate” was that there was a mundane gathering which quickly turned into an exciting moment, where the pictured crowd was experiencing a moment of very unified catharsis in the anger they were expressing toward the images on the large screen. What fed this interpretation was the title, the extremity of volume made from the amount of people shouting, and the tense movements and facial contortions of the uniform people in the crowd(Orwell, 0:21-0:38). The title “2 Minutes of Hate” gave me the impression that the subject of the hate, as attended by the crowd, was the person pictured on the screen as well as the substance of his speech. When the crowd is egged on to shout(Video 1)(Orwell, 0:17-0:36), I get the impression that something is not sitting right with them.
Video 1

Most of them are in uniform and look bored at first. This, as well as the dark setting and decoration of the stage with the screen lead me to assume they are at a mandatory work-related gathering, and the figure on the screen is trying to exert and unwelcomed dominion over them. Because of the way the scene is arranged, it seems at first the crowd is shouting at the request of the projected person, but there is a moment soon after that suggests disobedience when a woman hurls what appears to be a book at the screen(Video 2)(Orwell, 0:58-1:08), which is met with a scorned look from one of the few non-uniformed people present.
Video 2

Upon reading the synopsis for “1984,” the context of the story changed my interpretation considerably. The knowledge that these people are brainwashed residents of a totalitarian society ruled by terror and overseen by “Big Brother,” one of the men on the screen, the uniformed people seem to be joining their overseer in an intense session of guided hatred.

The meaning I make from “Apple Macintosh’s 1984 Superbowl Ad” is that it is portraying a public that has submitted its individuality to totalitarian control, and the Apple Macintosh computer is necessary for that public to fight for their liberation from IBM and their monopoly on personal computers. All of the people shown in this ad, with the exception of the hammer-weilding model, blend in with the dull dark colors of the setting and are either heavily armed and moving in formation, or in uniform and immobile in a seat with their complete attention on a large screen showing the face of a man delivering a speech(Apple, 0:38-0:42). The people moving in formation are looking forward, into the backs of each other’s heads, while multiple telescreens show the man from the larger screen observing them(Video 3)(Apple, 0:05-0:14). The symbol the man represents is “Big Brother,” an omnipresent ruler who imposes on the actions and thoughts of the people he monitors. The men focused on the large screen are all expressionless and sitting in the dark, representing a public which has been robbed of their freedom and awareness of choice.
Video 3

The speech praises Information Purification Directives and a Unification of Thoughts which will cause enemies to “talk themselves to death.” Clearly, from the lack of evidence as to any expression of freewill from the people in the crowd, the intentions of “Big Brother,” or IBM, are shown to be drastically out of line from what the public needs. A model dressed in a white tank top, with the image of an apple and a computer on the front, and orange track shorts breaks the monotony of color, motion, and expression as she’s shown running toward the screen with a large hammer in hand(Video 4)(Apple, 0:51-0:55).
Video 4

This portrays Apple as a protongist, coming to liberate the people. Armed guards follow far behind as she reaches the area with the seated crowd, and she hurls the hammer to destroy the screen, which causes a flash of blinding light to wind through a now shocked seated crowd. The blinding light and reaction to the destruction suggests that the people will be overcome with clarity once the oppressor IBM has been struck down.
The Apple Macintosh Superbowl Ad utilizes an extreme dramatization of the future state of the population in order to superimpose the hopeless nature of the people in “1984” over the people who have been enjoying the Super Bowl, personal computers, and not having the impression that their purchase of an IBM personal computer will ruin society. It presents the Macintosh Computer as the single source of hope for liberation using a beautiful woman, contrasting colors, and the chucking of a large hammer. These things do not offer suggestion as to how one is better to the other, it offers succinctly that one is the solution to the problem that is the other.

In the 2008 Vote Different campaign ad, I could understand it to mean that Hillary Clinton’s views and plans are being forced onto a public, and Obama is what they need in order to safely invest in their future. What’s particularly effective about this remix is the arrangement of media over the visuals. The men walking silently in formation, and the men sitting expressionless in the dark are what you see when Hillary is saying, “We haven’t stopped talking,” and “We all need to be part of the discussion.”(Video 5)(Vote, 0:00-0:09, 0:51-0:55)
Video 5

It seems as if these men have never had a word in any discussion. As Hillary names the qualities of the people she wants to govern, “honest, dedicated, hard working, patriotic,” the focus is on the woman with the hammer who represents the other party. The image on her shirt, which was of the Macintosh computer before, now shows Obama’s logo.
(Image 1)(Vote, 0:28-0:37)
Image 1
It enlightens the viewer to the contrast between image of the public she has superimposed on the brainwashed crowd, and the actuality of those qualities in the people of the other party. In George Orwell’s “1984,” a lot of this type of contradiction is what the world around the protagonist is made of. Big brother is watching and he will have his people sent to the Ministry of Love, where they will be subject to unspeakable tortures if they have any thoughts that go against him or his authority. The people seated are in no way expressing any engagement is what Hillary claims to be team conversation, and the superimposition of her over the “1984” theme gives the impression that she will punish anyone who does not agree with the fake image of teamwork that she has constructed through her speech.
The woman with the hammer, even though she is representing Obama, could be observed also to be the only other female besides Hillary in this group of over 100 people. It may present the image of the power that females have over men, in the very different roles of herion for their cause or as an authoritarian over their lifestyle.
The “Vote Different” Anti-Hillary Clinton ad uses the same images of a hopeless people for the purpose of relating the future to that which is feared of the Orwell novel, but it now gives a face to the authoritarian responsible for the chaotic state of government. The target audience is likely not the most politically aware, as is the case of the ad airing during the Superbowl, but universally they are in tune with the belief that they will not be governed by fear. Hillary Clinton’s words are tainted by her placement within the reference of “1984,” which makes it easier for those who are looking for political guidance in avoidance of a “1984” outcome to look to the well contrasted figure symbolizing Obama, but telling nothing of his campaign beyond that it is the solution to the problem that is Hillary’s.

Because of the reliance on outside references, alternate interpretations of any of these videos are possible as well(as shown in my interpretation of “2 Minutes of Hate” prior to reading of the novel). Without the proper references, meaning can be made of the ads in a much more arbitrary way. One possibility is to view the Hillary Clinton ad as the power struggle between people with hair, where even though the hammer woman embodies all that Hillary feels is productive, she still wants to set her back a couple grand with the chucking of a hammer. Another view could be the poor quality of security under Hillary’s ruling. As she’s giving a speech, where there should be plenty of security, someone gets by with an enormous hammer and outruns armed guards. Maybe it’s a proposal for lighter security uniforms, comfortable chairs, and more durable screens.

“Orwell 2 Minutes of Hate.” YouTube. July 18, 2008. Accessed December 2, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4zYlOU7Fpk.
“Apple Macintosh´s Superbowl Advert – 1984 [ Ridley Scott ].” YouTube. October 6, 2011. Accessed December 2, 2014. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwT6mgXsZvU.
“Vote Different.” YouTube. March 5, 2007. Accessed December 2, 2014. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6h3G-lMZxjo.


In Noah, there is a heavy manipulation of time as an element in the story. Kairos within the story of Noah is delivered in the form of Facebook messages, texts, and Omegle video chat, which show drastic influence on Noah’s mindset by how heavy message arrival times and accessibility of people are over the internet. Because he is unable to reach his girlfriend in a matter of minutes, his messages to his friend show him growing increasingly paranoid, and his actions at that point, refreshing his girlfriend’s page in search of a confirmation of his suspicions, show his mind making leaps to justify his impulse to break up with her. Later on, when he meets an attractive woman over the random-pairing chatroom Omegle, he shifts from having a relaxed and friendly conversation with a stranger, to unsettled when she announces that she will be signing off without any way for him to contact her again.

Arrangement in Noah works well to affect the mood of urgency and restriction. At the beginning, there is dialogue with his girlfriend and his friend over multiple media sights, with a big open view of all contents of his screen, and hints as to his distance and dishonesty in his friendships and relationships. When communication cuts off with his girlfriend, the visible scope of the screen shrinks significantly and moves in a more frantic manner. His dialogue and the movement along the screen affect a very involved discomfort, especially when weighed against the calm distance felt at the beginning. The story follows a path of loneliness and regret as we see him continuously checking if he has been unblocked by his ex-girlfriend, and passing up an opportunity to engage his friend in a game of “cod” in favor of chatting with strangers. By the time we arrive at the attractive woman near the end, we get a grasp of how at ease he feels that he has luckily found an effective distraction from his loneliness.

Making Meaning in Assignment #1

Meaning is made using the details revealed through the affordances of different modes of communication. The following is an observance of how I used the modes of communication presented in Slate’s Does the International Symbol for Wheelchair Need a Redesign? article and Roman Mars’ 99% Invisible – Icon for Access podcast to make meaning from each medium.

-When told the title of the podcast, there’s really not much to go off of. The title “Icon for Access” could, at best, vaguely prepare someone to be alert for clues on making sense of the title’s role as the podcast streams. What lacks in the title to adequately give a me any feeling of context for the first 4’40” of the recording is any sense of a position being argued. During that time the podcast functions as a historic overview of the symbol featuring a white stick figure in a wheelchair against a blue background. The description of the sign starting from 1:00 into the podcast creates a clear picture, “The International Symbol of Access… The blue and white logo with the stick figure in the wheelchair. Around the world, you see the International Symbol for Access everywhere: Parking spaces, on buttons that operate automatic doors, in bathrooms, on seats on the bus, at movie theaters, anywhere where there’s an indication of special accommodations made for people with disabilities.” The references to all of these familiar locations, as well as a final general point about what it represents solidified the symbol in my head, and everything that followed could be readily related to the symbol if necessary. Upon concluding the summary on the historical background of the International Symbol for Access’ history(c. 3’53”), the narration changes course to begin addressing the disagreement over the portrayal of the disabled people through this icon. At this point, I could gather from the contrast of historical progress solidifying the current symbol with the current disagreement on how it portrays the disabled that there would be an argument presented toward some type of solution. At around 4’45” that solution is given in the form of an argument for changing the symbol. “For our purposes, Sarah is the founder of the Accessible Icon Project. This movement… is made up of designers, activists, artists, academics, and disability advocates all trying to change the conversation about disability in their communities. And so for starters, the Accessible Icon Project has taken aim at the standard blue and white wheelchair icon. They’ve created a new icon that they hope will ultimately replace the ISO standard.” Here is where the argument begins, and the narrators begin making their case for why the new icon is better. The way that this meaning is gathered is first through their description of the new icon, which they describe in a number of ways which stress the more active and capable nature of people with disabilities portrayed by it. Without the help of a visual aid, my ability to adapt the memory of the previous icon in the ways that the narrators mention is limited. The impact of the design change relies more heavily on the narrator’s communication of its implications rather than my own process of inspecting the icon to make deductions through my own comparisons. The rest of the podcast is a bunch of fluff to tug at heartstrings, incorporating uplifting music, and testimonial from one of the movement’s advocates who is also disabled.

-The Slate article immediately oriented me in a position where I would expect to be weighing sides of an argument, beginning with the title “Does the International Wheelchair Symbol Need a Redesign?” The image of the sign referenced in the title is the first thing presented in the article, which is very efficiently giving me the tools I need to form an opinion of the International Wheelchair Symbol. Roman Mars’ “Icon for Access” audio is presented as a compliment to the article, allowing me to approach the purely auditory experience of the podcast with the ability to reference visuals from the Slate page. Before addressing the issue presented in the title, alphabetic text, accompanied by an image, describes the benefits of having symbols that are internationally comprehensible for ideas regardless of what people’s spoken language is. These modes of communication, in a matter of a paragraph and an image, provide me with an idea of the significance behind a universal symbol, and why the issue the article wishes to address is important. Details on the history of the symbol include links to websites on the organizations important to its establishment, and to an earlier version of the currently accepted standard. Having this reference gave me an idea of the progress that created the current image, as well as the scale of the activity which brought it to where it is now. A quoting of the Americans with Disabilities Act puts into perspective the significance of efforts on behalf of the disabled prior to the passing of this bill. The meaning I’m making when I reach this part of the article is impacted by the implication of these people having been living under unfair conditions prior to the passing of the act. Next is the mention of how the sign is felt not to appropriately portray the disabled. Here is where the expectation of debating sides of an argument meets information vital to its process. An image of a sign proposed to replace the current international symbol for access is pictured, with a caption beneath it identifying it as the proposed replacement, and an outline of the significant differences between the symbols is listed in alphabetic text after it. Each difference listed is identified by a label in the image. The affordances provided by image and alphabetic text present me with clear visual sources to make the comparison essential to the question presented in the title.
What’s described next is the way that this symbol is being pushed to gather widespread favor over the current standard. The image that accompanies this shows a man spraying a surface over which he has lain a stencil in the design of the altered symbol for access. Unfortunately, the affordances of this image and the paired text give no reference as to how prevalent activity similar to what’s pictured is occurring, nor on what scale. The man spraying the stenciled image could be changing the symbol at a Wal-Mart, where it would be given the attention they seek, or he could be spraying it in an abandoned parking lot, where authorities are less likely to collar him for vandalizing public property. Neither of these assumptions can be verified, and because of that, I cannot understand the scale of their “grassroots” efforts to change the accepted signage. Another example is presented in an image of the modified sign sprayed in orange over the standard sign. My impression of the significance in the color scheme to the image is a confused one, as though orange helps with highlighting contrast of the newer symbol, it confuses the idea of a new standard that these attempts are meant to establish. The initial image of the adapted sign was of a white stick figure against a blue background, then immediately after is an image of the same stick figure, but blue and against a white background. The introduction of images showing the stick figure as orange distract from the text referring to these placements as attempts to popularize a new international standard symbol. None of the text throughout the rest of the article addresses this matter.
The rest of the article is a more generalized discussion touching upon the idea of change being a vital part in telling “the clear story all over the world.” An image of a sign showing a dead bird is displayed with the caption “ISO symbol for poisonous gas,” preceded by the point that universal symbols can save lives at the least. The meaning I gather from the conclusion of the article is that regardless of whether or not the symbol changes, what it does for society is significant.

I will be substituting the phrase “economist of attention” with “less frustrated gynecologist” in this blog.

Duchamp was a less frustrated gynecologist because he examined the ego-inflating mentality that lay beneath artistic expression in his day, and he used the bizarre and attention-grabbing tactic of presenting a joke in the context of art to exploit the expectation of greater significance people assign to objects in an art exhibition. He invited art enthusiasts to attempt to interpret his joke and its significance, to which, amidst the litter of redundancy, Richard A. Lanham gladly asserts Duchamp’s response to be in the nature of, “It’s just a bicycle wheel, you silly jerk.” Here is a picture of a urinal.


What made Andy Warhol a less frustrated gynecologist was his insistence upon there only being surface-level significance to his work and lifestyle. It was a mechanism that effectively begged observers of his lifestyle and work to search for deeper meaning. One of the more well-known examples of Warhol being a less frustrated gynecologist was his work with Campbell’s Soup cans. In its time people had little clue of what Warhol was intending for his audiences to interpret from his work. He, like Duchamp, exploited the art-appreciating public’s need to uncover deeper meaning in something that was being presented as art. Here is a picture of a can with no soup in it.

Empty Worhole

Christo worked to bring to light the idea that “stuff” is given value by the “attitude surrounding the contents, the spirit in which it has been sent or given.” The example that the author revels in is of Christo’s Running Fence. Christo proved himself a significant(ly) less frustrated gynecologist by investing his trust in his belief that the grand spectacle of the Running Fence, regardless of the amount of work needed to maintain it, would serve him the ultimate benefit of garnering attention of an equally large scale. The amount of work he put into creating this massive artwork effectively drowned out the search for its significance with an appreciation for what it was and where it was. Here is a picture of a wrapped bridge.


Here is a picture of a gynecologist.