In class, we talked a lot about online communities and how they have the potential to completely consume people to the point where they lose touch with reality. An interesting example we brought up was the online gaming community called Second Life. Within this virtual world, participants are able to interact with each other by using avatars. Also, residents can explore the virtual world, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade virtual property and services with one another.
I found a personal testimonial that described someone’s experience using Second Life (here’s the link: http://imthevilprincess.hubpages.com/hub/SecondLife-addiction). This person shares how she lost touch with her real life once she started playing Second Life:
“I stopped answering my phone, which, it doesn’t ring anymore. I rarely answered my text messages. I have friends I’ve not seen in I don’t know how long. My best friend would complain to me non-stop about me living in my virtual world and I thought she didn’t know what she was talking about. She barely speaks to me now.”
If these things are true and happen often when using online communities, why are they still so popular? In her testimonial, the Second Life “player” says:
“I had landed myself in trouble in my real life and it was a nice escape into a world where no one knew my real life issues. I threw myself into the game, obsessed with making lindens, having a sexy avatar, dating the sexiest male avatar, which turned out was a girl! I have beautiful homes in my inventory, I have animals in my inventory, you name it, Secondlife has it.”
It’s scary to think about how detrimental online communities can become for some people. Honestly, I feel like this can happen within various online communities as well. Maybe not as severe, but I think that online communities (now more than ever) have the potential to affect peoples’ face-to-face interactions and communication.
For the readings, I mainly focused on Haas’ Wampum as Hypertext, and I have to say that I had some trouble getting through the text. What I gathered from the article was that American Indians were the first skilled multimedia workers in in America. Haas brings up how wampum belts have been used as hypertextual technologies in Native American culture, and that this culture is significant for its rhetorical functioning.
I found it very interesting that wampum was first used by coastal Indians, but the resource “traveled to the interior and western regions of the continent.” It was even used as currency in Colonial America. This goes to show that wampum had the ability to travel to different cultures through trade, as did many other materials during the time period. Haas makes some important observations about the similarities of Wampum and Western hypertexts within the article. The examples she sets forth made me realize that hypertext is not necessarily unique to Western culture.
A feature of both Wampum and Western hypertexts is digital rhetoric. Here, Haas talks about how certain methods within these hypertexts are used to communicate information to “readers.” American Indians would string wampum shell beads as a form of a code. This type of technology could be represented as 0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0 (I’m a little confused what the zeroes signify). In Western hypertext, digital coding for computers is represented as 0|0|0|0|0|0|0|0|0|0| (again, not sure about the zeroes). The code signifies a “string,” which comes together to form information for readers. Also, I found that the visual rhetoric for these hypertexts was really interesting to read about. Haas talks about different wampum bead colors (dark purple and white) that inscribe a message through a certain pattern. In Western civilization, we are able to do this through digital coding. Digital coding can dictate features such as “font, layout, information design and display” to communicate a message.
Although the readings were a little difficult to get through, I found that I was very interested in reading about how similar Western hypertexts are to that of Wampum hypertexts. It really made me think about how Western communication gives little to no credit to the American Indians communication features.
Yergeau’s lecture talks about mental disability and rhetorical displacement. She refers to “mental disability” as any disability of the mind or brain, which includes anything having to do with psychiatric, developmental, learning, or attention. Yergeau’s main focus in the lecture is about “audience and what bodies we signal, center, and ignore in the construction of our professional and virtual spaces.” In the video, she mentions how frustrating it is to be a disabled person and to observe mental disability that connects to violence and lack of rhetoricity on the part of mentally disabled people.
After the Newtown, Connecticut shooting, Yergeau found news articles that related mental disability to violence. Over a three-day span, there were over 64 articles that connected the two. With these, she explains that the media made assumptions regarding audience, authorship, competence. Yergeau explained how they heard feedback from parents, siblings, psychologists, and politicians with theories to reconstruct the mental health system. However, she did not hear an opinion from anybody with a mental disability. Her findings send the message that “people with mental disabilities are incapable of functioning as rhetors, never mind audience members, and the only folks who are truly affected by mental disability are the ones who don’t actually have a mental disability.” The disability rights slogan is “nothing about us without us,” and it definitely brings to light the issue that there is not much disabled representation in matters that concern disabled people.
Yergeau discusses the “able-bodied default” and how it is not a practical audience for this type of content. She says that when disabled people make accomodations for their needs, they have to think about how it will affect others around them and how they are imposing on other people. This situation may identify mentally disabled people as “special.” Also, Yergeau uses a conference flyer from Nisonger Autism Institute as an example. The flyer’s theme related to accessibility, but no one listed on the document is disabled and there is no reference for people with autism to attend. These examples do not welcome disabled people, and as a writer for this type of content, it is vital to include that disabled people are most definitely welcomed and their accommodation requests are encouraged. Yergeau’s lecture made me realize the importance of direct referencing and welcoming a specific audience.