February 2010 Archives

My preferred usability

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Are you a "linear" or "non-linear" reader? How does your experience compare with readings for this week?

I believe I am a non-linear reader. It is interesting to me because I did not read this prompt questions prior to reading the selected readings for this week. Thus, it was a great exercise for me to review three sites talking about the given topic, without knowing that I was going to answer whether or not I was a linear reader or not.

To support why I think I am a linear reader, I want to explain how I viewed the readings. For the first reading, I went through and read the subheads, and also noticed that there was a chart I was going to review. It was interesting because after I initially skimmed the site, I went back and started reading it. The first paragraph was about how I, as a reader, would skim the text and look for bold words and sub heads. I then went through the chart, and chose which one I thought was the most readable. I choose the combined text as my first choice, and the scannable as my second. I then noticed that there were percentages next to the options, and that my first choice had the largest percent usability. It seems that I review websites and text very similar to other people since I initially scanned the website, and also chose the most popular web format as the most pleasing to me.

To support that I scan websites before I read through it in a linear fashion, I am going to include an example from the website with the eye patterns on it. Before I even read the opening paragraph, I went down to the photos and looked at them. It was interesting because I tried to decode what they meant by looking at them before I thought of reading the descriptive paragraph above them. After the photos interested me, I was very interested in reading about them. It proves that I must prefer learning visually, and that perhaps a website that has descriptive photos would be the most beneficial to my learning style.


http://www.directcreative.com/blog/eye-tracking-websites

This site relates to this blog, and shows further examples of eye tracking and usability for websites.

A book's Life

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Do you think the book is here to stay?

"Hypertext seldom exists as pure text without any graphics. Today, hypertext is usually hypermedia, as it is on the World Wide Web, and hypermedia offers a second challenge to the printed book." (Bolter).

I took this quote from Bolter because I think it supports the answer I am going to provide for this question. I want to first touch on the fact that it is very true that hypertext generally does not exist without any images to support it. I think this is the case mostly because images supporting text has become very appealing to people. In fact, I find myself often looking at the images on a web page and maybe a small description below them to decide whether or not the surrounding text is what I was looking for.

I see how this can be challenging the printed book because, with the exception of recently published books, books generally are not overly filled with images. It is difficult in a book to remember where you read an interesting quote, or where you found a paragraph you want to use for a paper unless you are very diligent at marking it down. With the Internet, you can simply bookmark the page, or copy and paste the link and desired text to a word document for later review. Books will never have this capability, unless they are being reviewed on a digital device such as the kindle. Coming full circle to answer the posted question, I think the book is here to stay. However, I think that traditional, must read books will be the books of choice for most. This type of book is one that you would gain a different experience from reading a tangible copy in a cozy chair, rather than reading reviews on the Internet about it. Other than this type of book, I can foresee us finding anything we need on the Internet. As a lasting comment, I also think that book publishers should stop trying to add too many pictures to books to simulate the experience one can find on the Internet. I do not think this will extend the life of the book, as people are not looking for an "Internet" experience when they decide they are going to read a book; they are looking for that stable, comforting experience, in my opinion.


http://tashian.com/carl/docs/compbook/ (Here is a link that provides information relevant to my blog post. It is interesting because this article looks more like it came from a book rather than a posting on the internet. It lacks any extensive visuals or hyperlinks).

HOW has technology changed the way we communicate?

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To me, the obvious answer as to whether or not technology drives/determines the way we think, read, and communicate is, "yes, of course." However, I think the more difficult question is how does technology determine or change the way we communicate and portray our thoughts? I am not confident I quite know the exact answer to how technology determines this, but I do have a couple of insights that I would like to share that begin brainstorming an answer to this question.

The first thing I would like to touch on is the lack of patience I find myself having when required to read long articles or chapters in books. It's odd because I have spent my whole life continuously enrolled in school, thus one would think that reading long articles or text is something that is so second nature to me, that I wouldn't mind it. However, I hate to admit it, but sometimes this is not the case. I find myself become a bit anxious towards the end of a long article, sometimes feeling the need to skim the rest. In the article, "Is Google Making Us Stupid," this idea of us no longer being able to read lengthy material with ease is touched on. The most interesting part of this phenomenon is that I actually find the articles I read for classes very interesting, generally always keeping me attention in the category of interest. So, I find myself in a battle of whether or not my interest of the article can override my anxious feelings of it being a bit lengthy. I have no answer to why this is or which one prevails over the other, it's just something that has come to mind upon reading this article.

One comment made in this same article by Nietzsche read, "We are how we read." I think that this may possibly be an idea to answer the question of how technology changes how we communicate. I come up with a very different end result in my work if I am writing in a notebook versus on a computer. Perhaps having a screen in front of my face or the lack of a pen in my hand somehow alters the way I produce work. An analogy of this might be how the clock changed the way people felt about time by adding such a structured format to it. Overall I think that we definitely have an altered sense of communication now that the use of technology is becoming more second nature than picking up a book to read.


*An article with a similar topic to the one I commented on to further the thought on this can be seen at:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7459182.stm

Refashioning technology, or our mindset?

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In Bolter, it is explained that writing space is a combination of what materials you are working with along with the cultural choices and practices. "Moreover, each space depends for it's meaning on previous spaces or on contemporary spaces against which it competes (12). I am including this quote and paraphrase to preface the rest of my entry. Each writing space we have utilized throughout history has been less advanced than the one to follow, creating an upgrade as each new space is created. An example of this is used in Bolter by the comparison of the hierarchal order of the scroll, to the codex, to the written book; each was an upgrade from the previous. An example I personally might use would be an upgrade from written work, to the typewriter, to the computer. However, although we could compare several forms of writings spaces to another and argue which is an upgrade from the next, I think the more important stream of thought to consider is that found in a quote in bolter.

"Writing, even writing on a computer screen, is a material practice, and it becomes difficult for a culture to decide where thinking ends and the materiality of writing begins, where the mind ends and the writing space begins. With any technique of writing--on stone or clay, on papyrus or paper, and on the computer screen--the writer may come to regard the mind itself as a writing space" (13).

Bolter suggests that although the form with which we choose to record our thoughts down on might change, the writing space itself--the mind--does not change at all and in fact stands as the writing space throughout history.

With these thoughts laid down from my writing space, I am now going to answer a more interesting question. What does hypertext refashion? I think that hypertext refashions a technology, and not a writing space. Hypertext just allows us to move from one web page to another in a speedy fashion, while steering us directly to an image, table, or page of information that we wanted to gain more insight on. (This example is described in Bolter between pages 33-34). With this being said, I see the hypertext as refashioning the previous webpage that lacked the usage of direct links. However, I do think the idea of hypertext follows the reformation of a new writing space--the way we think about things in our mind. Nowadays we want to move to from one thing to another with great speed; hence I think we are refashioning our technological options to fit our refashioned writing spaces in our minds.

To further understand the definition of hypertext and relating vocab please visit:
http://cyberartsweb.org/cpace/ht/htov.html

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