Writing for New Media

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As this six-week assignment is coming to an end and we are about to focus on creating websites, I found it most accurate to summarize what I learned this week about content for such a platform.

CONTENT

The content must be relevant; not out-of-date. When writing content, be concise. Try to narrow it down to the smallest amount of necessary words as possible. This will be easier if you as a writer know what purpose you have and you aim to make that clear.

Your content should match the design, so choose it well. Why? It increases your credibility. What else is good for credibility? Use graphics, links to other credible sources (which also shows how well-read you are) and write well. A great program for checking grammars is http://www.grammarly.com. Paste a text and they check it for you!

Think about the fact that this is new media, not printed. People want scanable material. There are several tricks for that:

  • Lists.
  • Short paragraphs.
  • More graphics.
  • 50 % shorter texts, and again, not more words that you have to.
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Concerning the language, it is always best to go for familiar words and terminology. You should aim to speak directly to the reader and use a steady style. Keep it simple in all ways.

Doesn’t this make sense? Next time you read an article online, think about its format and the content – does it align with all above?

This module has allowed me to practice it all. Now, I not only feel more confident writing and expressing myself in English AND for “new media”, but also well equipped for the making of an excellent website.

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Orality and its enemies

 

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All that I am conveying on this blog, is through words. Written words. Every letter you read (hopefully) makes sense in your literate brain, in your linear cognitive system. This week’s in “Irish Folklore” we covered oral tradition and culture.

Ireland has a long and solid oral tradition. Not only stories, proverbs, games, and mythology were passed down through oral storytelling, but also general knowledge and family history.

My generation probably has trouble relating to those times, us being literate and digitally biased.

Does your family ever sit around the fireside, listening to your parents’ stories about adventures that even your grandparents learned from someone older? I never did, and this used to be such common customs.

So what happened?

Many things, but there is no room for an essay. The Industrial revolution and the Great Famine both caused a lot of all Irish speaking, often illiterate and uneducated, peasants to die or leave the countryside. The vacated area was quickly filled with middle-class English-speaking literates.

It fascinates me how being literate can inhibit us from experiencing the genuine, authentic oral culture that used to be everything decades ago. It will never come back because we now get are knowledge through words and labels.

 

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There has been numerous efforts to preserve the stories, with many emphasizing the need to hurry because the only tellers left are old, many dying. The Irish Folklore Commission has now saved thousands of stories, for example.

I find it very hard to imagine the future of the preserved stories. When recorded, they are told in unnatural settings. When transcribed, and even translated, one person’s version is prioritized over another. And in this digital era, we do get further and further away from the fireplaces, funerals, and the intellectual enjoyment of orality.

 

Great read: “Locating Irish Folklore” by D.Ó Giolláin.

Catching the reader at first sight

 

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So far, I have barely mentioned my “Feature Writing” module. Having learned some interesting ways of writing the introduction to different feature articles, this week will have a journalistic theme.

The introduction is the most important part of the feature. It aims to answer the “who” and the “what”, and sometimes even the “when” and the “where”.

These are the types:

  • Delayed introduction: With this technique, the author consciously withholds the central identification of the person, the place or the group in question.
  • Statement of fact: As the name indicates, facts are stated in the introduction.
  • Descriptive introduction: A vivid picture of the atmosphere is painted at the beginning of the piece, setting the atmosphere.
  • Using a question: This is an efficient way of getting the reader involved because they have to think.
  • First person introduction: The author can involve herself/himself. The technique is rarely accepted in news writing, but it can work in a more “artsy” way in features.
  • Surprise introduction: This comes off as a tease, catching the reader. It is important not to mislead but to deliver what the surprise does promise.
  • The strong quote: A very common way of beginning a feature. Don’t use the very best quote first, though.

To write the first paragraph is an art. Being that journalist, the one who can deliver a strong quote, or an eye-catching fact; controversial statements or surprise us all…takes talent, timing, research. This was an inspiring week because words always fascinated me. Learning about how fewer words can have greater impact, if you are good at it, gives me a new challenge. One that I am ready for in my process of becoming an extraordinary writer.

Right way of writing online?

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A timeless topic for philosophers is the one of ethics. Now – adding hundreds of other professional titles who need to concern themselves with the topic, maybe more so, seems legitimate. As a writer, why do I need to?

Firstly, we need to define ethics: what are they? A complex notion giving rise to quite a few theories. Let me start with dear old Immanuel Kant, one of the greatest continental philosopher of all times.

  • What he calls Kantianism, or ”Categorical imperative”, basically means that we should act the way we want other people to act, what we ought to do. So a universal norm, a very rational one. Where Kant does not take into account the fact that humans are also emotional beings, another theory covers that for us:
  • ”Subjective relativism”. As the name reveals, it is not absolute such as Kant’s theory. It is based on the very situation, rather than mere reason. One flaw here is the grey zone between doing what you think is right and doing what you want. Justification is an adequate word.

(Now, there are many more theories that I simply cannot get into, theories probably more expedient to writers. For in-depth knowledge, I highly recommend Michael.J Quinn’s ”Ethics for the information age”)

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Why do writers need to bother about ethics? Well, it does provide us with a basis for justifying our actions. And since writers often write for other people – it makes sense to have an audience in mind. We should never aim to harm another being.

The reason this subject has caught my attention this week is because it is just as confusing and relative as it is crucial to be aware of. And when all theories contradict each other and we don’t know in which direction to go – awareness is our best tool.

The art of associating

 

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As a scholar, one can easily end up wondering ”why am I learning this?” or sighing ”I will never use it for anything”. Does that sound familiar? I lost count of how many times I have studied for nothing but the sake of passing my exams. Without bothering to collect knowledge for future usage.

Therefore, I felt high when realising that this entire semester actually makes sense. Here is why:
•    I can draw parallels between the courses.
•    The knowledge comes in handy in my everyday life and also for my future work life.
•    It is even enjoyable and interesting.
I find myself acquiring knowledge that I consider nearly obligatory for my final degree back in Sweden. Yet, my class’ modules are different. So close for myself to not obtain any of this, I can feel nothing but relief. For choosing the ERASMUS-year, for choosing these modules.

Media and journalism are the two areas in which I focus, subjects that come with a lot of writing.
I sit with this blog and words like ”user created content” and ”produce + user=produser” appear in my mind from the module about social medias – making me aware of this very blog being a part of contemporary ”participatory culture”.
And I sit with the blog for that other module, feeling like copyright, file sharing and piracy is more spot on than ever. ”Intellectual property” means just as much to writers in new media as it does to game developers. ”Verifying media” is very important when users generate content online, but also when writing features. Yes, the range of my modules is somewhat broad.

To sum this up – my theory is that the more I learn at the University, the more the subjects seem to correlate. Now, isn’t this every teacher’s dream?

The theory of life and games

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Living is more or less built up around rules. What one may and may not do, what one may do under certain circumstances and what one shouldn’t do but have to in order to…survive? When rules intersect one another and when one takes action, consequenses may occur – exactly which depend on the combination of rules one acts out. Whatever happens one will feel it. It can give a sense of relief, fury, euphoria, sadness or something else.

Does this sound abstract or can you actually relate? As much as it seems like pure philosophy – or law – the theory is in fact concerning something different. Games modelling design. When learning about the MDA-framework for game design, I couldn’t stop myself from approaching it as a life model. But back to the game design version. What does MDA stand for?

  • Mechanics
    When one creates a game, rules need to be set up. Where, what, when, how and more. But without a player in motion, mechanics are nothing but these words.
  • Dynamics
    This is what happens when a player plays a game and uses the rules in different combinations. It is the general goal of the game and different actions have different outcomes – consequences.
  • Aesthetics
    Many people mistake this for the design, the looks of a game. It is not. As opposed to life, aesthetics are the player’s emotional responses to what happens.

See what I mean? Creating games is serious business and now I know why most contemporary games are so well-made and plunge the player into a state of flow. Reality is the core to which they apply magic. Magic in many different senses. What kind of game could my life be turned into, I wonder?

Dia ‘s Muire dhuit ‘s Pádraig ‘s Bríd!

Being the start of Imbolc, the second season of the Irish calendar, and one of the greatest festivals of the year, I would have thought to find signs by every house and on every street. Yet the way I got to know of it was through a University module in Irish Folklore. Isn’t this fascinating? I came to Ireland as a non-tourist, hoping I could dive straight into theimg_20170213_145311 ocean of the authentic Irish spirit. To take part in the festivities, pray to St Brigid – the Goddess of light – and forge Celtic crosses. But things aren’t as easy as that, are they? One cannot simply merge with traditions that are hundreds or thousands of years old, nor get invited to Irish homes where families have had their traditions for many generations.

So learning something the academic way is what I have to settle with. My module allows me to stand on the side, to look at collected objects and to read stories that somebody was nice enough to turn into records. To analyse them from psychological and sociological, historical and ethnological, demographical and geographical angles and every other angle that has valid references. To hope that ‘Traditional Irish Breakfast’ doesn’t really mean ‘Traditional Irish Breakfast Tourist Edition’, and that I can sneak off-track during our arranged bus tours around the country.

‘Irish folklore’ is something to hold onto, my one portal into this lovely country. Though it is my belief that something pure and authentic goes missing when information is received this way. Intellectually, without sensations and feeling. Then, I wonder – how many families actually still honour St Brigid, also the Goddess of Fertility, on this beginning of spring feast: leaving objects out for her to bless, turning crosses into rushes, trying to have babies more than any other time in the calendar?