Monday, December 7, 2009

It Makes Me Wanna Stomp!

Step It Up (S.I.U.) is the University of Virginia’s first co-ed non-greek step team on grounds (campus) whose mission is to inspire an appreciation for the art of stepping at the University. As a past member of the team, I have always found it necessary to promote the team in any possible way; however, with the busy lives that SIU’s members have outside of step in addition to the varying level of technological background of members, it’s very common for members to neglect the team website. For a student organization at UVA, a website can serve as one of the primary liaisons between an organization and its supporters, on and off campus.My aim in creating a site for SIU was something updated, new, innovative, fun, and easy to navigate. I decided to create a new website in the form of a blog (short Internet jargon for a weblog in which users produce a series of posts and receive feedback from visitors in the form of comments). Below is a screenshot of the homepage of the site:

When creating a new site for the team, I sought to create a page that would facilitate the characteristics of a standard web 1.0 page with the ingenuity of web 2.0 applications. My audience heavily influenced which types of applications I incorporated into the site. In 1964, McLuhan discussed the ways in which media engages its audiences, specifically emphasized by his statement: “the medium is the message.” McLuhan asserts that the choice of medium has as much significance as the content. Based on that principle, I was very meticulous in the choosing the theme, layout, and content of the blog so as to integrate certain traits of web 1.0 and web 2.0 applications.

During the process of creating content for the site, I learned that old media forms are still relevant, especially in attempts to promote a student organization, there are basic pieces of information that new media doesn’t accommodate. Old media, in the form of basic websites provide a surfaced perspective to viewers, allowing them to observe and learn about the team, which may deter them from visiting the site again. New media, on the other hand dispenses the information to visitors while utilizing innovative and interactive ways of drawing them in, allowing for frequent visitors. New media, such as “blogs” (weblogs consisting of short posts), YouTube (video sharing site), Flickr (photo sharing site), Twitter (short status updates fed through a timeline of those “following” you), or Facebook (social networking site), targets the audiences of those particular sites by placing the step team’s content within one of the aforementioned realms. For instance, if someone delves into every aspect of Facebook, they will be more likely to access SIU’s Facebook page or if someone enjoys photos, but isn’t really interested in other content, they can access step team photos on Flickr without the interruption of other content.

In designing the SIU blog, the process has taught me that in order to target all Internet users, you have to be able to accommodate them, which is an attempt at lessening the gap of the digital divide. In choosing a theme for the site, I chose a wordpress theme that provided tabs, which I felt were an extremely useful trait of web 1.0 which would augment the functionality of the site while maintaining the standard web-look of a page. The use of tabs makes it easier for a team member’s parent to access basic information about the team through these tabs. On the contrary, a web 2.0 Internet user could navigate through the site using more advanced methods, such as the “tag cloud” (a visual depiction of word content on posted in various places on the site) (seen below) or by commenting on posts on the homepage.

In creating each page and presenting information about the team, I was always aware of whether or not the form of medium I chose conveyed information about SIU in a succinct and concise manner. In order to ensure the merge between new and old media functioned well, I embedded a Twitter and Flickr widget on the side of the page (both externally link to their respective pages, shown below) in such a way to invite audience members who are familiar with those sites to use them, but not to distract viewers. This was yet another aspect of the process which made me aware of the interaction and interconnectedness new and old media have, despite the fact that new media is becoming more prevalent.

Keeping in mind the blog would eventually be maintained by a team member who could possibly have less background with html code (web language) than me, I decided the blog was indeed a better choice over the standard website because it could alleviate issues of the website being neglected yet again. The use of new media via a blog enables the average team member to become a producer of content in a few steps.

The ongoing process of this project exemplified in many ways how the principles of new media have been built upon those of old media, while also proving how both forms of media remain connected in attempts to target audiences. Moving away from McLuhan’s era when content was solely produced unidirectionally, new media encompasses various means of production, both by the producer and the consumer. This mutual relationship between the two addresses some issues of the digital divide by closing the gap (depending on how the media is used) to accommodate varying levels of Internet savvy. This project has also taught me about the indispensable use of new media in promoting content because of its wide array of users. The fusion of new and old media attests to the fact that the medium is the message—the way in which content is present will affect its promotion, distribution, and consumption by others.

No comments:

Post a Comment