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Weekend assignment: Learning WordPress

Because we’re jumping into the group blog project next week, now is the time to make sure you are familiar with WordPress, the basic content management system (CMS) that we’ll be using. (As I mentioned early this semester, I have toyed with using other kinds of blogging software—including Tumblr—but feel that WordPress gives us the most flexibility and bang for our buck.)

So, this weekend I’d like you to take a practice spin through WordPress doing the following:

1) Set up a blog—whether you keep it up after this exercise, it’s up to you. But it can be a dummy blog.

2) Add at least 2+ widgets, including an RSS button.

3) Make 3+ posts on a consistent topic, and all with appropriate use of links

4) In one or more posts, use a photo with caption … as well as an embedded video in at least one post

5) build an “about” page

6) practice tagging and categorizing everything

7) finally, leave a comment here on your experience, making sure to include a link to your blog so we can see your work

And, not to worry, but I don’t think this will take you as long as it sounds, particularly if you’re already somewhat versed in WordPress. (By the way, if you already have a WordPress blog, then just continue to use it during the weekend in the way I’ve described above.)


The “living syllabus”

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while: to move my syllabus and class-prep material to a publicly available Google Docs page. This way, it becomes a truly “living” document that changes with us as we go through the semester — as I add new readings, line up a guest speaker, etc. Plus, at the bottom of the page you’ll see the schedule for your “Teaching Moment” presentations this term.

Here’s the link.

Weekend assignment: learning Twitter

As I mentioned in class yesterday, during the next week I’d like you to explore Twitter—and if you already have an account that you use regularly, great! Just make this an “advanced Twitter” session for yourself.

Here’s the rundown:

—get familiar with using Twitter by checking out Sree’s Guide to Twitter for Newbies & Skeptics (obviously, you don’t need to follow all of those links, but look closely at parts that seem of most interest/value to you) and Mashable’s guide to Twitter (again, just skim this stuff);

—then, and more importantly, read this short piece with tips for using Twitter as a journalistic tool;

—now, go forward posting 3 times/day during the next week—focusing more on “mindcasting” ideas and sharing interesting links than simply “lifecasting” your day;

—start following at least 25 people and 5 lists;

—and in your tweeting use the class hastag #j349, so we can track each other’s tweets;

—lastly: search using the hashtag to be able to find and follow each other during this week.

The ‘present’ of journalism: diagnosing problems

For Tuesday, I’d like you to read two pieces that will give you an overview of the “state of journalism”:

1) The Reconstruction of American Journalism

2) State of the News Media 2009 (and by that I mean the overview and the major trends)

On Thursday, we’ll move from discussing the “problems” to focusing on proposed “solutions”—not that we’ll cover everything in just one week, but you’ll at least get a better idea for the lay of the land here.

As usual, please leave your analysis in the comments section below.

[p.s.if you’re interested, listen to Alex Jones discuss “Losing the News”]

Here Comes Everybody

In class this week, we focused on tools (open architecture and Web 2.0 applications) and culture (of participation, collective intelligence, etc.)—these two facets of convergence that are driving the internet we know today. Think of this part of the course as scaffolding work: once we understand how the Web works, at a conceptual level, then we can begin to figure out best strategies for doing journalism in this new context. It’s about speaking the language of the Web—and that requires some fundamentals up front.

So, our next step is to investigate what this convergence/digital culture means for (1) communities, social action, and information-sharing at a broad society level; and (2) for journalism in particular. In other words, how do these changes in tools and culture play out in the media realm in which you’re going to operate?

Here Comes Everybody.jpg

Clay Shirky’s book Here Comes Everybody is perhaps the best book to answer that question. For Tuesday, read chapters 1-5 and come ready to discuss the key principles and how they apply to media/journalism. In the meantime, in lieu of a comment here on the blog in response to this reading, I’d like you to experiment with doing your response in another forum—on your own personal Tumblr or Posterous blog.

Yes, this leads us to this weekend’s social media assignment. It’s pretty simple:

1. Sign up for Posterous and learn how to use it (hint: it’s dead-easy blogging). Create some content (photos, text, whatever suits your interests), and otherwise just try to get the hang of it. Perhaps just think of it as a public diary, and try posting at least once a day for 3-4 days. Play around with different forms, with links, etc.

2. Ditto for Tumblr, which has a slightly different structure but offers some similar easy-to-post options and other ways to incorporate flows from elsewhere (like your Twitter feed). Guides like this might also help. The key here is just to become familiar with both blogging options.

3. IMPORTANT: Of your posts on either blog, make at least one in response to the Shirky reading, just like you normally would have done so here on this blog.

4. Then, in the comments section here (below), please drop a line that includes links to your Posterous and Tumblr sites so we can see each other’s work.

Finally, keep up with your RSS readings as you go … in fact, I would encourage you to take cool items you find via RSS and integrate them into your blogging streams, if you can … OK, have a great weekend!

The culture of the Web

Today we covered some of the basics of Web 2.0—how the tools of the internet have changed, and why that’s significant for the creation and circulation of media content (of all kinds, not just journalism).

On Thursday we complete the circle with a discussion of how these tools get bound up in a particular cultural ethic—in other words, a “digital culture.” We find this in two pieces I’d like you to read: the first chapters of “Convergence Culture” by Henry Jenkins and “Media Work” by Mark Deuze (in that order). I’ve put both PDFs on Blackboard for you.

You can catch Jenkins discussing more of his work here, or visit his blog. For Deuze, check out his blog, read this interview, or watch a clip of Deuze discussing his research:

As you read Jenkins, I’d like you to ask: What does the blending of production and consumption, of professional and amateur, through the digitization of media and the tensions that creates … well, what does it all mean, exactly? What does it mean for media industries at large? Journalism in particular?

As you read Deuze, think: What is the present and future of working in/with the media? How does work, play, and “life” get mixed together in today’s world, and what are the implications of this change?

Deuze writes in the preface: “The aim of the book is not only to prepare media students to become competent media practitioners, but to also enable students to become competent citizens in a media-saturated ‘hyper-reality,’ where meaningful distinctions between public and private life, work time and non-work time, local and global, or lived and mediated reality are fading.”

In other words, knowing how to function in this digital culture is going to be essential going forward—whether or not you plan to work in the media industries. The key takeaway here is that we need to understand what it means to have “cultural competency” in this digital culture. Do news organizations have that kind of cultural capital? Why or why not?

A few additional questions to get you thinking, on both readings:

—What is convergence culture? What is digital culture? Are we talking about the same thing, or not?

—What does it mean to develop relationships with media? Where does the “real” end and the virtual begin?

—What is the emerging “workstyle” for the digital media worker, and how do you feel about it?

—What does it mean to be connected and have a sense of community in today’s media experience?

All in all, think of how digital media and culture are changing (or not) your own life and the future of our field. I look forward to your responses for Thursday. And … bear in mind that I’d like you to be analytical—that you should approach this with the eye of a critic, forming an opinion about what you’ve read and using evidence from the reading to illustrate your point. Sharp thinking.

Questions? Just let me know…

Weekend assignment: Learn

Because social media tools are a part and parcel of today’s online journalism (whether to find sources, promote your work, or listen to the community), many of our “weekend assignments” (see the syllabus for the explainer if you’re confused about those) will involve learning something new about the social web.

We’ll begin with social bookmarking—in particular, Delicious. If you need a refresher after my overview in class, try this:

Your assignment:

1. Bookmark at least 10 articles of interest to you.

2. Use the “share” function to share some of those articles with others (e.g., via Twitter, or look for a Facebook integration)

3. Just experiment, explore, and have fun getting familiar with this tool.

4. Post a comment to include a link to your public Delicious feed.

p.s. We may get back to this later in the term when talking about link journalism, but check out Publish2—it’s like Delicious built for journalists.

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