February 2010 Archives

Health and Human Services Case Study

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The case study presented by Ginny Redish of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's website displayed important and core issues with websites. One of the first things visitors want to do when they get to a website is complete the task they have set out to do. Users do not want to shuffle around a website attempting to find the link that will answer their questions or help them find the information they seek.

Redish proposes five functions a website should accomplish:

1. Identify the site and establish the brand
2. Setting the tone and personality of the site
3. Help people get a sense of what the site is all about
4. Let people start key tasks immediately
5. Send each person on the right way, effectively and efficiently

One example of a website that does not meet this criteria is thomasedison.org. When going to the website, there is no identification of what this website is or who is providing it. The tone of the home webpage is extremely difficult to navigate, which creates confusion. The tone of the website is hard to define due to its difficult navigation, and the by reading the texts, users get the feeling that they should know more before they click. These are only a few of the core issues, but it only takes a few issues to make a website un-user friendly.

Web Reading

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One of the things I love the most about web-reading is the ease of nonlinear reading. According to Nielson, websites should use about half the word count online as in other contexts. Fortunately, most websites seem to follow this general rule - or, the information is broken into smaller sections. Information in this format is easier to skim and quickly read. Additionally, most websites incorporate bolding and easy to read text choices. While I am not always a nonlinear reader, I find that is most convenient.

I usually use nonlinear and linear reading in a combined fashion. Usually, while I am online, I am researching specific information. Before I truly read the text, I skim to find out if the website actually has the information I need. If I find this information, I will use a more focused linear method. I think this is a practice that many people enlist. It would be difficult to use only linear or only nonlinear reading for everyday online use.

Is the book here to stay?

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I have to admit that I am very biased about "the book." Growing up, I always had a book in my hands. Today, I feel quite passionately about traditional books. My library consists of first edition, leather bound books. There is something that is picturesque and homey to the book. As long as there are people who share a similar idea about books, they will remain in print.

Bolter wrote that, "printed books are portrayed as closer to nature" (43). This statement leads to other questions, such as: Why do we mean by nature? In this context, it seems safe to say his point is that we do not view electronics as part of the natural order of things. Of course, we could say this about almost any form of remediated text. None of it seemed natural at first, but we eventually embraced the new methods. The full remediation of books will not as easily be embraced or accomplished though. Books through electronic means is more isolated to certain situations, which is exactly why it will be difficult to live in a society with no printed materials. Bolter reinforces the ability for printed books to be used in places where computers are not available and uses the example of the great out doors (43). Printed books do not run out of batteries or need to recharge. They do not get a glare from the sunlight. There is a sense of accomplishment when you can see the place of the bookmark. Overall, there are two parts to the story of why books will not be completely replaced with electronic formats: (1) we hold an emotional attachment to the image of the book and (2) technology isn't always the more convenient choice.

For a comical and dramatic take of how avid book lovers may feel about this issue watch the Book. vs. the Kindle.

Impacts

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I am quickly realizing that the question of technology's impact on communication is never going to go away; the conversation will sound the same. Of course, the specifics must change according to the newest technologies, but overall, I believe this question will be indefinitely here to stay. What is the impact of technology?

Technology has truly done great things for our communication. we have all heard at one point the expression "What a small world!", but now, it is a small world. China, Ireland, Austria...they are all at our fingertips. In this way, technology has changed and determined how we think and communicate. We go throughout our day knowing that we are not isolated to those we see in person, but we can communicate with literally a whole world of people. This has clearly changed how we think about our boundaries and abilities.

If the question of technology's relation to communication ended there, I could say that I believe technology does drive the way we think, read, and communication, but the question continues.

So often when this matter is discussed, we hear lots of speculation and personal experiences. I do not discount what others have experienced, but I do believe that their beliefs may be misguided. When reading the article "Is Google Making Us Stupid?",
I found the perfect example of the misguided concept that the many are beginning to believe.
When discussing the impact the internet has had on his reading, Bruce Friedman claimed, "I can't read War and Peace anymore...I've lost the ability to do that." I have read similar responses in other interviews concerning this topic, which makes me worry about this issue even more. The idea of "Digital Natives" losing the ability to read a book is very sad and does not reflect well on how technology has impacted us, but I am not fully convinced that we have "lost" our abilities. This is where I think this conversation often goes wrong. Early on in Carr's article, the idea is presented that we read differently due to the internet. We have become "skimmers." While there are aspects of this that may be true, the argument seems to be far to dramatic for me. How could we have lost the ability to read a book? How have we lost the ability to read three paragraphs? Clearly, the ability has not diminished. From the time that we learn to read, we are able. I think that we may be focusing our questions in the wrong direction, because the issues that I see are related to patience, diligence, and a hunger for knowledge.

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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