Monday, January 14, 2013

How the Digital Age is Changing Public Discourse

The topics of literacy, rhetoric and public discourse have been the beginning points for several of my classes this semester.  The following discussion came from the first chapter of Understanding Digital Literacies by Rodney H. Jones and Christoph A. Hafner.
I wanted to delve into a discussion focused in our generation – the age of technology.  There are multiple arguments as to how digital media will change the way people interact in the future, along with how it has already changed the fundamentals of relationships presently.  Public discourse, defined as a communication or debate on topics to persuade, should offer individuals a way to connect and have a better understanding of one another.  Is gaining information from websites, constructed of hypertext, video and audio challenging the benefit of higher education for students?
In an article by the Dartmouth Institute for Writing and Rhetoric, Karen Gocsik discusses the effect media will have on literacies, composition, and public discourse.  She states that new media is creating a new definition of writing; a technology-driven environment that enables interaction with readers and authors.  She goes on with the idea that:
“New media composition encourages writers to move their attention from their own writing practices and to their audiences’ reading practices.  To compose with media, writers must consider what audiences expect from a particular medium genre and craft their arguments accordingly.  They must study the various media with which they are trying to compose and learn to operate within them.”
Students in this age tend to feel that composing with multimedia matters, and that the composition has power that others do not.  The audience is more interested, and the arguments presented in a multimedia manner are more likely to gain attention.  Jones and Hafner reason that “one of the most powerful new affordances of digital media is that they make written language more interactive so that writing of all kinds has become more and more like having a conversation,” (13).
I feel that our generation will and needs to continue embracing media, enabling discussion on a grander scale, and captivating our audience through new and perhaps even more effective means.
In your opinion has media helped or hindered public discourse? What effects do you see occurring the future?


  1. I tend to agree, as you said the majority of current students do, that the media has greatly improved our high school/college experiences. The internet, for example, in addition to providing endless information resources (what it is most often cited for), also supplies a more multimodal experience when gathering that information. Instead of simply reading about something, we can watch a video about it alongside, comment to the author, and discuss the information with other readers. This gives us a more rounded picture (or at least the ability to get a more rounded picture) of whatever we're studying, allowing us to write more informative papers, discuss more aspects in class, and just get a better gist in general.

    Not only is the information and experience better, but the tools we use for school are better too. I don't know what I'd do without e-mail and Blackboard, honestly. The ability to download assignments, articles, rubrics, and whatever else on my own time is invaluable. Likewise, without being to correspond with my professor and fellow classmates through e-mail, I would be left with so many unanswered questions about class, it's not even funny!

    I truly believe that technology has improved our schooling experience to make it more flexible and valuable.

  2. I think media has definitely helped public discourse. It has opened new ways for students to communicate with each other, and their teachers. I think the fact you wrote this in a semi-public forum, and I am able to respond to it is a perfect example to the benefits of media and public discourse. Students can have quiker access to materials and conversations that occur virtually anywhere. Ideas themselves can travel from one end of the country to the other in a matter of seconds. Media within the public discourse gives everyone a chance to connect in a fast efficient way without the hassle of trying to find the time to connect in person.

  3. I like the evidence you give here. I find the new definition of writing by Gocsik to be fascinating. I mean a new definition of writing? It’s weird to think of media molding itself into our writing, or becoming it. I think this comes from being from the older half of our generation—at least I feel like the older half because I still remember learning in the 4th grade how to type with Microsoft and use older technology. But we are constantly seeing the media becoming more important in public discourse and what we—as students and English majors—are learning a lot about. At least I feel this is what I have learned a lot about in the last two years or so. For me the importance of the old definition defined how I wrote and thought.

    Having said that, I see where Jones and Hafner come from when they say digital media gives writing more of a variety to be interactive and more communicative. But can’t we say the same thing about a book? I don’t know. Maybe I am getting the wrong impression and going the wrong way with this, I don’t know.

    To answer your question, I would say that media has helped public discourse in the fact that it is more engaging and reaches out to people more (how can I not say that as I write my response to you (:). At the same time I think we lose what we had in the past to an extent. We can learn about it, comprehend it, but not use it in that way. This is one of the things that sadden me, but at the same time we have to embrace the technology because we use it all the time and will continue to use it in the future.

  4. I think that media has greatly improved public discourse. Media has enabled students and others to interact with one another easier through out school. One example that has really helped me throughout my college career would be blackboard. I would be lost without it and think that it is really helpful to be able to find all of my homework assignments in one area.

    However, I could also see how media has hindered public discourse because people aren't communicating face to face as much any more and are relying on technology to communicate with one another.

  5. I think that new media outlets have allowed for a wider variety of people participate in public discourse. Before the internet many people were limited to writing in to newspaper's opinion columns, but today anyone who can find a computer with an internet connection can participate in global discussions about millions of topics. This allows for a wider array of opinions and perspectives which can lead to new ideas and greater understanding between people and cultures. Of course there are still many people without access to such technology, and this has to be taken into consideration.

    Of course very few benefits come without any negative consequences. With so many different topics discussed important issues can get lost, and with so many people discussing them with so many different opinions sometimes issues can get lost. However I think that the benefits outweigh the risk.

  6. I agree that media and technology has changed the way public discourse is conveyed. We can reach a larger audience. We can touch on subjects across cultures and different opinions than those who sit in out back patio on their own laptops. There is opportunity for expansion and for growth. However the matter may be taken with good intentions, it also has some drawbacks. For instance the idea of writers altering their style to fit what the audience wants is a little strange to me. I understand blogging has become somewhat a show or a personal spectacle for individuals to be discovered or even a business. Our society is always trying to "one up" each other to excel financially. However, by gearing our work towards what readers want solely is a little discomforting.

    This is where technology can be taken a less dignified road. A blog that continually abuses a 14 year old girl. Calling her a slut or a whore. Saying crude, untrue things came be one damaging factor. Another source of media continually feeds the popular tragedies of the Connecticut shooting rather than reporting the news of other events. It stead, it draws life to this event over and over again kicking the crime meter to a higher setting than necessary. Media creates fear in things that are dis-proportioned and that is a firm demonstration of how media using public discourse in inappropriate fashions.

    What I am relaying is as writers if we always mold ourselves to entertain our audience all the time it can have some pretty big consequences. I think it is important for writers to take in what readers want to not only have their work read, but to make their readers better individuals.

  7. Gocsik's quote about catering writing to the needs of the audience really caught my eye.

    “New media composition encourages writers to move their attention from their own writing practices and to their audiences’ reading practices. To compose with media, writers must consider what audiences expect from a particular medium genre and craft their arguments accordingly. They must study the various media with which they are trying to compose and learn to operate within them.”

    What she is describing here is basically a cornerstone of what's been repeated to me in the university's English and COMM departments over and over again. In order to effectively engage in discourse, the writer must be willing to craft his writing to suit the needs of his audience. It just so happens that this now means limiting yourself to making your point in 140 characters or less.

    I see this as nothing more than times changing. If you want to remain relevant, you adapt. It's as simple as that.

  8. In your opinion has media helped or hindered public discourse? What effects do you see occurring the future?

    I think media has helped public discourse. Now more than ever people are a large scale may find out what is happening around the world in an instant. I think there are many positive aspects that media allows, but I think at the same time people abuse media. Then when something bad happens they use it as an excuse. Example: Oh my child doesn't like to play outside because he/she wants to play video games. I think when it comes down to individual use it is up to the individual to set limits for themselves and really educate themselves on advancing media.