The (Recent) Evolution of Folk Art

What has happened to folk art in the past two decades? Has its meaning changed as far as the general public concerned? What we consider to be folk art has definitely changed over time, and will continue to evolve as does our culture.

Let’s start with the definition of folk art, According to a page on the website for the Museum of National Folk Art, it is “the art of the everyday…rooted in traditions that come from community and culture.” The page also defines this type of art with the following statement:

“Folk Art encompasses a range of utilitarian and decorative media, including cloth, wood, paper, clay, metal and more. If traditional materials are inaccessible, new materials are often substituted, resulting in contemporary expressions of traditional folk art forms.”

It, in my opinion, is art by the people for the people, made from local and regional materials.

Folk art tells a story. It represents the culture of its creator. But, in the past two decades, folk art has shifted from being that entity to having a different meaning. After the industrial revolution when we learned that we could copy and mass produce something, art lost some of its essence. Especially regional and folk art. I feel that in the past few decades that circle has started to close, with people feeling the need to get back to unique, individual, hand made items. We are so distracted by all the bells and whistles of today’s technology, though, the original intent, reason, and meaning of folk art has not been fully restored.

Another form of folk art, and possibly the most recognizable, is folk music, which has changed and taken on many new forms and influences over the past few decades. Author Lindsay Abrams writes about the changing face of The Newport Folk Festival, held in Rhode Island, in her 2013 article posted on theatlantic.com. Abrams states

Susannah Bay, a long-haired former folk icon, is left behind as the times go a-changing, abandoning the peace and love themes of her heyday to try to keep up with the changing trends of the next decades.”

She goes on to discuss the evolution of the festival and its participants”

“Like the aging Bay, who scarcely resembles “the winsome hippie girl in the poncho” in her later years, little of the legendary Newport Folk Festival any longer looks like those early days of folk. Appreciation for the type of music it champions hasn’t diminished, but it has changed. The bands and singer-songwriters who took to the festival’s three stages last weekend in Newport, Rhode Island, were “folk,” though they rarely played anything the fictional Bay would recognize from her own time…Still, the festival has remained true to the genre’s spirit in the ways that count: I caught the occasional whiff of pot in the air, and booths hawked beaded jewelry, vegan purses, and peasant skirts.”

In another article written for The Atlantic, author Sarah Boxer writes about our hunger to return to art created for the people, and our want for outsider artists – those creating modern folk art. She writes:

“At this moment, the universe of outsider art is huge. And it’s being enthusiastically embraced—one might say swallowed whole—by the contemporary-art world. Art fairs, biographies, retrospectives, and collections are springing up in the name of outsider art. Insiders are borrowing outsider art for their installations.”

Now, how would such a modern, independent artist spread the word about their work and gain a following? I would recommend employing every facet of social media as a vehicle to spread awareness and samples of whatever it is that you produce. I would network, use connections, and make an appearance at any and every event with an audience, Tweeting, Posting, and Instagramming are the communication paths of the future, and the fortunate.

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Memes – What Are They Trying to Say?

We’ve all seen one. Some of us have even wasted minutes upon hours looking at them. Some of us may have even created our own. Note passing back and forth turned into emailng back and forth which then became memes. They can be political, satirical, or just plain funny. People create, re-tweet, and post statuses about memes that reflect their personal beliefs, systems, and likes. They can represent the hot topic of the moment, a person or event, or just some random thought or observation that its creator and audience find true or hilarious. This is my crack at it.

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As evident by this post, anyone can make one. But why are they so popular? Kevin Ashton writes in an article posted on theatlantic.com about the Harlem Shake phenomenon, and how it became a meme and gained popularity. Ashton quotes Richard Dawkins:

“Bits of information, memes, propagate from brain to brain through imitation, are subject to selection and can be regarded as living structures, he says, “not just metaphorically but technically,” because new information changes our brains. They are often made deliberately–think catchphrases, slogans, melodies–and makers may try to propagate them as fast and far as possible, or make them go viral.”

So, are memes more textual, or do they get the message across in a more visual fashion? I think they can be both. Memes such as this describe an event or action (a funny, but cruel one) with little text. Others rely heavily on text:

linguistics meme

(this one quite literally relies on linguistics) to get the message across to viewers.

I think memes are just the latest and greatest way we communicate with one another through the vast, ever growing community known as the world wide web. They offer us a good laugh, and allow us to express thoughts and feelings. Memes are an extension of personalities, like clothing or our favorite movies can be. You can tell a lot about a person by the memes they create, or share. Mine, for example, you can tell that I am a college student about to graduate, and I chose to express that sentiment through the pop culture icon know as Sweet Brown, whose viral video I find hilarious.

So, take a crack at it using a meme generator like the one I did, and see if those around you get a kick out of it!

Transmedia Storytelling: Is It for Art, or Profit?

First of all, what is transmedia storytelling? Think of it like this: Remember when you were little, and you used to write page numbers in books, sending some poor curious reader on a wild goose chase looking for some transcendent message? Well, transmedia storytellers kinda do the same thing, just with a goal in mind. Another example is a special edition of a novel or a comic book series that directly ties into an upcoming movie. But, the question becomes: “Is it for the sake of art?” Or is it for the sake of participating in the rat race, the finish line meaning more profit?

I feel that shows like The Waking Dead participate in it for the sake of art. Even early on in the series, the creative team heard viewers asking questions about minor characters and events within the show that were not fully addressed, or perhaps just mentioned. They created webisodes, for example, to show how one of the first walkers Rick encounters after waking up became a walker. Sure, as the show went on it became about furthering product placement and what not, but I really do think these little mini shows were for the viewers. Transmedia as far as The Walking Dead goes doesn’t end there. There is even a talk show about the show, which allows viewers to call, tweet, take part in polls and quizzes, and even hear from the stars and creators themselves about what has happened so far, and what’s to come.

Now, for big blockbusters that are out to get into our wallets, transmedia storytelling is all about profit. Take, for example popular teen movies that go on mall tours, and make stops at stores that- you guessed it- are selling movie merchandise.

You can have the best of both worlds, though. For instance the mega blockbuster Harry Potter franchise. There have been spin-off books (and soon to be movies) and even theme park dedications to expand the wizarding world. Yes, they are after a profit there, but i believe that there is also things created for fans of the series that grew up reading the books and watching the movies, that did not want to say goodbye to the fantastic world that they matured in. Pottermore for example. I really do feel like this sensation was born out of a need and a want to keep hardcore fans pleased and coming back for more.

So, what do I think is a contemporary property that could benefit from a little touch of transmedia? Jurassic Park. Yes, you read that right. Jurassic Park (a not so obvious choice, but an all time favorite franchise of mine). You might be saying HEY! This is the fourth movie about to come out, and they have had merchandising, advertising, and even sections of theme parks, similar to Harry Potter, dedicated to that world. And you’re right. But, with the right kind of transmedia storytelling that world could get one level deeper, and garner more fans. Fans, for example that have been asking since the release of the first movie “What happened to the scientist at the beginning with the raptor eggs?”

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I for one, would love an interactive experience where you explore the islands that are the setting for the various movies, and uncover fossils of the dinosaurs that lived there. You could visit iconic sets from the movies, discover items belonging to characters from past films, and learn what they have been up to. This could tie in with the novels that inspired the movies, combining plots readers already read with new ones from the movie creators. There would also be a chance to promote upcoming sequels even more, giving explorers the option to seek out and view content that gives a sneak peek at whats to come.

Transmedia storytelling is the future of movies, as new technologies allow us to connect more and more with our favorite characters, new and old.

Television in 2025: Will it exist?

Hard to imagine television sets used to look like this, right?

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That was long ago, and for people like me in their early 20’s, seemingly impossible to wrap our technology saturated minds around. How far has television come in just the past 10 years? Where will it be in the next 10? With something new (like curved 80′ screens) what’s next on the horizon? A 3-D internet browsing 4K 100′ ultra curved screen in every home? Wow, that’s scary.

As mentioned in one of my previous postings, families no longer sit down at 8pm Friday night to watch the hottest show on tv. As far as the future concerning what is broadcast on out tv’s, that is a hard one to call. We have seen in the years since shows like American Idol revolutionized interactions between viewers and creators, networks are devoting an increasing amount of time to entertainment, and hard news is being pushed out, even on a local level. Fluff is here to stay, because it’s what we want to hear, and it’s what big companies are willing to pay for if it results in them making any kind of impact or profit.

You may be thinking “Well sure, they talk about entertainment on the news, but only for a minute.” Think about it this way- a news break has roughly 30 minutes to an hour to cover local to national news, and that’s not including commercials. Or special segments like sports, or a special story a reporter has been working on. From that perspective a minute or two is precious time taken away from hard news, and given to what the network wants to hear.

But, back to the future of television. I feel that in the future, less and less will be based on what is broadcast to us, and will be more about what we want to watch personally. In an article on wired.com, author Issie Lapowsky discusses the future, according to Netflix. Smart tv’s will be the norm, as they are becoming today, your tv will be personalized and custom to you, advertisements will go away, and broadcast tv as we know it will change fundamentally. The internet and streaming will take the reigns, and our attention, from networks.

Finally, let’s talk about production and marketing manipulation (which if you ask me could be a whole new post on here). Product placement is everywhere, as if commercials were not enough. There is nothing that annoys me more than tuning into a good show, and then being forced to watch commerce creep its way onto the screen. We’ve all seen it. Bringing it back to American Idol, an example everyone can recall. Through it all, auditions, the final 12, and then the crowning of the winner, was Coke. Even though the deal was just recently terminated, for 13 long years there was Coke, through the good and the bad, the ups and the upsets, and the favorites. With the cups on the judges table never turned away from the camera. Sure, shows need money and sponsors, and support, but must it be shoved down out throats for an hour?

idol coke

So, where do you think broadcast tv will be in 10 years? We sure have come a loooong way since the days of tiny little black and white screens in boxes that took up half the wall. Who knows where the next decade will take us.

Convergence Culture

Convergence Culture…..where to begin? If you are asking yourself “What does this term mean?” think about it. You know what convergence means, and you know what culture means. The definition of the term, coined by Henry Jenkins, is right there in the combination of the two words. Basically, I view the term to mean the coming together of various platforms and technologies because of the demand from consumers. Jenkins describes it as this in his appropriately titled book:

“Some common ideas referenced by the term include the flow of content across media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, the search for new structures of media financing that fall at the interstices between old and new media, and the migratory behavior of media audiences who would go almost anywhere in search of the kind of entertainment experiences they want.”

Jenkins goes on to say that:

“Perhaps most broadly, media convergence refers to a situation in which multiple media systems coexist and where media content flows fluidly across them. Convergence is understood here as an ongoing process or series of intersections between different media systems, not a fixed relationship.”

Convergence culture is an ongoing, ever changing, rapidly evolving entity. Audiences are dictating what they want to see in this fast paced world we live in today where there are a million and one avenues to voice an opinion.

Jenkins weighs in on the voice of the public with this statement:

“In the world of media convergence, every important story gets told, every brand gets sold, and every consumer gets courted across multiple media platforms. This circulation of media content—across different media systems, competing media economies, and national borders—depends heavily on consumers’ active participation….convergence represents a cultural shift as consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content.”

People Tweeting about their favorite show, posting about the most recent episode on Facebook, every time a fan creates and uploads a reaction video to Youtube, we are creating the content we want others to see. And we are splashing it out there across multiple mediums. Anyone with something to say and access to the internet can be an active producer in this converged culture we currently find ourselves in. People around the globe, depending on access, can use the internet and smartphones to have new information at the speed of light, and businesses big and small use the internet to connect with consumers, We the people, in return, use a myriad of technologies at our fingertips to tell them what we want.

There are many examples out there that represent our culture, and show that we participate in convergence. The most recent example I can think of involves people watching good old fashioned television, and taking to social media to react. In the 21st episode of the 11th season of the popular show Grey’s Anatomy, an event occurred that fans won’t soon forget. Now I’m not going to spoil the plot here on my blog, and if you aren’t caught up, DO NOT click on the above hyperlink. All you need to know is that fans took to Twitter in droves to express their opinions and emotions following the episode. Some fans even tweeted directly to the shows creator.

In an article written for Fortune.com, the author discusses social media changing the tides in Hollywood. He states:

“For everything from summer tentpoles to made-for-TV movies, studios are tapping social media-savvy talent in order to better target hashtagging viewers. The trend has become so pervasive that social media managers, with their services increasingly in demand, are even finding seats saved for them at casting sessions.”

It is clear that in this new world of instantaneous feedback, people in charge are noticing. The public has a larger voice, over many platforms, and control of their own content. Such feedback plays a hand in decisions made in the production stages of everything from a new product about to hit the shelves at the local grocery store, to the newest blockbuster about to hit movie screens,

Should Twitter be Censored?

Have you ever been browsing through Twitter looking for the latest trending topic or hashtag and seen something that offended you? Censorship has been on the forefront of issues concerning the public since the dawn of social media, when we began to share everything there is to share with one another. But, does that mean that because an image or video is considered offensive, graphic even, that no one should see it?

There is a great divide between those that support Twitter, and sites like it, as they made decisions concerning what the public can and cannot see on their feed. Twitter announced back in 2012 that it would begin censoring tweets on a country to country basis, stating:

“As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression…Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world.”

Months after that announcement, the world witnessed the the results of the above statement: the first official user block. The ban only applied in Germany, and the censored account and tweets could still be viewed in the United States.

As you can imagine, there have been plenty of voices out there criticizing efforts to block offensive tweets from the public eye. Some even question the finality of the process. Representatives for Twitter have, according to an article on techland.time.com, stated that there is a loophole of sorts to reverse the act of censoring your account, Users can, if they feel need be, take the matter to court in an attempt to overturn the ruling made by the site. It is also stated in the same article that while a post can be banned or taken off the site, it is only the original post that is affected. Retweets and tweets quoting or using a piece of the original tweet are not taken down.

Of course, not only do you have individuals speaking out against censorship, there are also groups such as Project Censored that are against internet censorship from the point of view of freedom of speech. And, you guessed it, the project has a twitter account. It is stated on the about us page of the website that

“Project Censored educates students and the public about the importance of a truly free press for democratic self-government.  We expose and oppose news censorship and we promote independent investigative journalism, media literacy, and critical thinking.”

More recently, there has been debate concerning whether or not people should be able to post and retweet content revolving around terrorist groups and their activities. In an article posted on economist.com, about “Islamic Snuff Videos,” the author makes a point that Twitter should not get to pick and choose what political warfare it gets itself into, stating: “At least in America, the suppression of disturbing or offensive content, if it does not incite violence, is a direct violation of our principles of free speech.” The author claims that Twitter does not have the authority to make decisions like censoring such videos, and, concerning the censoring of the footage of slain journalist James Foley, goes on to say that

” It is true that extremist groups have been known to use social media as a means to circumvent the checks media organisations employ to stop the spread of propaganda. But the video isn’t only propaganda. And since when has that label been sufficient grounds for censorship anyway?  The amount of online content that could be wiped from social media if this reasoning was applied uniformly would be staggering.”

So, with all the debate about Twitter, and other forms of social media, being able to ban, or block offensive posts and tweets my question becomes “Can something truly be censored once it is out there for all to see?” If retweets and other posing about a flagged tweet are not taken down when the original is, does the image or video ever truly go away? I agree with those that support the freedom of speech, and I believe that it is up to an individual, not a corporation, to decide what is and is not offensive.

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What Has Happened to Television?

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Do you still sit down with the family on weeknights at 8pm to watch the start of nightly sitcoms? If you are a modern family I can guess the answer is no. With all this new technology at our fingertips, and in come cases our mousepads, chances are you have not done so in a while. My parents are old school so from time to time I sit down and watch programs with them, and for the most part they have a set schedule of their favorite shows and sit down to watch as they air. I on the other hand, like most Americans these days, don’t have the time or opportunity to sit down and watch shows as they air on tv. Because of work and night classes, I have to either record my shows, or catch up on the internet. And then there are those that would rather stream their favorite shows later, or get comfy and watch on a laptop. Then, of course, you also have the wildly popular shows like Transparent, or Orange Is the New Black that are not distributed through traditional methods and are not on a studio or network schedule.

What has all this new technology done to television in the traditional sense of the word? It has changed completely, and I don’t just mean the move to digital in 2009. In a timeline that surveys the changes that came to television decade by decade, it is stated that with the introduction of TiVo in the 2000’s, “No longer were people tethered to their couches living by the network’s times. They were free to watch what they wanted when they wanted.” This trend was further popularized with the introduction of things like Netflix, and streaming capabilities.

Sarah Rainey writes for The Telegraph that binge watching has changed the way we view our favorite shows. She states:

“There used to be a time when, once a week, colleagues would gather around the water cooler to discuss the previous night’s episode of a certain television show. When you would be left, mouth gaping, as a bombshell was dropped at the end of an episode of your favourite series; knowing you had to wait a full seven days to find out what happened next. When nobody but TV critics could publish spoilers; when all anyone could talk about for months on end was how on earth that season’s drama was going to conclude.

Those days are long gone.”

We spend hours on end, days even, watching most of, if not all, of the buzzed about shows. No longer do we have to schedule our lives around network airings, we schedule them around whether or not we want to watch one more episode or get out of bed and eat. What started with buying a box set of DVD’s has revolutionized not only the way that we watch tv, but the way the industry works.

Because we can stay home and binge watch, the demand for new content is at an all time high. We want more, and we want it now. In the same article for The Telegraph, it is written that “According to the US-based TV Guide app, 24 per cent of its users watch more than 40 hours of TV per week, up from 17 per cent in 2012.” Even the way shows are being made is evolving. There is more continuity to story lines, less “:cliffhanger” endings, because producers know that viewers can just go right into the next episode. There is also a changing social atmosphere brought about due to streaming and binge viewings. What used to be a weekly discussion about what is hot on tv has gone away, and the social stigma surrounding staying in all weekend and watching tv has also for the most part gone the way of the dodo bird. Binge watching hour after hour of shows so you can be the first in your social circle to see all of them is now the “cool” thing to do.

Ken Auletta writes in a piece for The New Yorker “Today, the audience for the broadcast networks is a third what it was in the late seventies, lost to a proliferating array of viewing options.” He goes on to say that:

“In 2011, Amazon made its streaming-video service, Instant Video, available free to every customer who signs up for its Amazon Prime program, which, for seventy-nine dollars a year, also provides free two-day shipping. The arrangement inverts the traditional advertising model: instead of forcing you to view commercials, video is the gift you get for shopping.”

Services such as Prime Instant Video have forced advertisers to come up with new, inventive ways to gain airtime and attention. Viewers are likely to skip advertisements if they can, why sit through them if you can press a button and get back to the show? Concerning advertisers and modern viewing methods, the article states:

“About fifty per cent of viewing households use a digital video recorder. Between half to two-thirds of those households skip the ads, and new features, such as those on the Hopper, a DVR with the Dish satellite network, allow viewers to do so instantly on select shows. Every viewer who skips an ad, or who leaves a broadcast or cable channel to watch Netflix or another ad-free service, is evidence to advertisers that television airtime isn’t worth what it once was—a conclusion that will eventually mean less revenue for broadcast and cable networks.”

What does the future of television look like with everything moving to the internet, and shows being streamed instead of aired? One thing is certain: these days anything can be a tv. A phone, a tablet, a computer. Does this mean traditional tv screens will become as obsolete as the first home desktop computers that took up the whole desk? I don’t see tv’s going anywhere, at least not in my home. Unless major events like news broadcasts, The Olympics, the Superbowl, and live event coverage moves completely online, there is always going to be something that we have to gather around the tv in the living room and watch. Television will continue to evolve, sure, but disappear? No. Call me old fashioned but I love sitting down in front of the tv and tuning in. Sure, I watch my favorite shows online when I miss them, and I have taken part in the Amazon Instant Streaming phenomenon, but to me there will always be joy in late night re-runs.

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What is Art?

What is art to you? Does it have to be in a fancy frame in a posh gallery with a high price tag on it to qualify? Or do you consider art to be something that is all around us- on the street, in the gutter, in our yards, in a cloud, hanging on a kitchen fridge, maybe even on the kitchen table? I firmly believe art can be anything, in the eye of the beholder. We as humans apply our knowledge, past experiences, personal aesthetics, emotions, and individual tastes when looking at an object, therefore art cannot be confined to a uniform and universal definition. It all comes down to a simple concept- what we each like and don’t like.

Judith B. Herman compiled various answers to the conundrum concerning what constitutes art. In the opening of her article she writes:

“To Plato, art was imitation of nature, but in the 19th century, photography took over that function, and in the 20th, abstract art overturned the whole notion that art was about representation. And although art meant skill early on, conceptual artists elevated ideas over execution. So what is art? Does it have to be beautiful? Expressive? Original? Uplifting? Intellectual?”

To me, art can be literally anything. Nature is art. Performing is art. Creating something is art. And skill, although appreciated, is not necessary. Do we not proudly hang on the fridge finger paintings that our little kindergartener labored over for all who pass by to see? I mean sure, they may have chosen what colors to use, and dictated where the lines or dots they were making went, but at what level of skill can their art be evaluated? Still, I would call that art.

An artist can be defined as one who makes art, yet we cannot clearly define what exactly art is. There are few revolutionary artists throughout time that stand out to the general public, who had a hand in changing what we assigned as art. Take Andy Warhol, for example. Most everyone knows of at least some of his work, but before he came along, would we have agreed to categorize the objects he used to create pieces as art? On boundless.com, it’s stated that: 

” it is clear that even the basic meaning of the term “art” has changed several times over the centuries, and is continuing to evolve during the 20th century as well. Most people would not have considered the depiction of a Brillo Box or a store-bought urinal to be art until Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp, respectively, placed those objects in the context of art (i.e., an art gallery), which then associated these objects with a way that art could be defined.”

So then, does it take an artist putting something in a gallery for us to call it art? Maybe for the general public to agree that an object or creation is art, that action needs to take place. I, however, do not agree that as individuals we need to see something in a museum or gallery to call it so.

Is the definition of art restricted to what an artist creates? Can a leaf on the ground be called art? Is the creation of the leaf itself art? Is the human body, and all it can do, art? To me, performing is the highest form of art. If you can successfully entertain someone by singing, dancing, acting, on stage or even on the street, that is the purest form of art. Think about all the things that have to go in the right order and at the right time for life to be created. I would consider the human body art, whether or not we see our own bodies as so. Biology, chemistry, life itself is an art form.

Some say art, boiled down to a simple concept, is communication. Anything that communicates something is art. A photograph, for example, no matter the subject, is an attempt to communicate an emotion, a feeling, a scene. Similar say, to a painting, but with a different form of technique, photography captures all that surrounds us. In the article mentioned earlier concerning the various responses to art, one of the answers is as follows: “The imitator is a poor kind of creature. If the man who paints only the tree, or flower, or other surface he sees before him were an artist, the king of artists would be the photographer.”

We look for meaning in art. We look to art as a form of immortality for ourselves, for the human race. The cavemen who painted on cave walls did not know they were creating art, much like the modern creator may not be aware. You create art everyday, in differing forms, artist or not. The words we speak, the way we form a sentence is art. Whatever you personally define as art, we cannot deny that it is everywhere we look.

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Bloggers, Are You Out There?

Isn’t it ironic that I am creating a post about the future of blogging on my blog? So, do you think blogs will ever go away? Do you think it is still a useful, practical practice? If you are sitting at home, in the school cafeteria, or at the local coffee shop reading this, I think I can guess your answers to the questions I just presented.

In a post titled The State of Blogging in 2014, author Susan Gunelius discusses the rise and popularity of blogging last year. She states in the opening of her post:

“….Blogging has been around for over 20 years, and it shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, it’s more popular than ever with everyone from CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, professors at leading universities, and members of Congress to journalists, photographers, and crafters publishing content on blogs every day.”

As far as practicality is concerned, I think blogging is still very alive and useful. Blogs are a great way to reach an audience about a specific topic or area of interest. Some people even create personal blogs, a kind of online journal. Students, like me, can employ blogs as a vehicle to buiblog 1ld up an online presence, create a searchable portfolio, and perhaps even practice for a career online. There are a variety of blogs out there for you to peruse-anything from parenting, to cooking, to fashion, and technology. Business’ and even entrepreneurs use blogs to reach potential clients and get themselves out there in the public eye. It is clear from just these few examples that bloggers are out there in force, spreading the word about themselves and who or what they represent.

In the same article I mentioned earlier concerning the popularity of blogs in 2014, the author even presented statistics about this very website, WordPress.com:

“Nearly 14 million new blogs were launched on WordPress.com last year….WordPress.com is typically used by beginner bloggers and independent bloggers, so the debut of nearly 14 million WordPress.com blogs shows just how much blogging continued to grow leading up to 2014.”

Bloggers, old pros and beginners, continued to blog throughout the year. But, there are some that challenge the importance of blogs, as pointed out in an article on didit.comThe opening paragraph discusses the popularity challenges blogging faces, saying that:

“Because of the emergence of popular social media/micro-blogging platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, it seems that a fair number of Internet marketing experts aren’t exactly bullish on the blog/domain strategy. Blogs, it seems aren’t fashionable anymore.”

The author goes on to take a stance for blogging, discussing the transparency of depending on social media. Blogs are a great way to gain loyalty and to get more in depth content out there. You can share a lot more than a status update, or a 140 character tweet within the pages of a blog. Social media is flashy, popular, and the thing to be on these days, if not only to compete with other companies or those with similar goals presenting similar information. But blogs can better convey personality, professionalism, and content. The article author, Steve Baldwin brings things to a close by saying: “Social networks will come and go, and there will always be another “shiny object” to hypnotize the technorati. But don’t listen to their siren call — instead, take control of your online publishing destiny and build a home for your content that’s strong, enduring, and firmly under your control.”

So, with all the evidence said and done, are blogs really going anywhere? I don’t think so. Those of us who do not curate a blog, or keep up with reading our favorites, may see blogging as a dying art, but those of us who represent the opposite would disagree. I feel that blogging is going as strong as ever, and will not be usurped by the power of social media. I think that it is important to use a blog in tandem with social media, however, as I stated earlier, blogs are a better way to get information and content out there for eager eyes to see.

You wanna comment on this?

We have all been there, reading an article online – maybe it’s local news, maybe it’s political, maybe it’s about Lady Gaga singing at the Oscars – and seen comments that made our blood boil. It seems like some people exist to be a nuisance online, responding to criticism with “your mom” jokes. But, does that mean comments forums should not exist?

People who go online and make mean, usually unsupported and nonsensical comments aimed at anyone who will take the bait, are known as trolls. Trolls have a presence on any given website we visit on a daily basis, andtrolls like a disease, infect articles and videos with hateful words. Who would do that? Don’t they know they are annoying? Researchers in Canada have even conducted studies seeking to find a link between trolling and personality traits. The question becomes should online entities, in light of people like trolls, include a comments forum in their articles? I believe the answer is yes. I feel that to include a place where everyday people can add thoughts, comments, and relevant experiences, on any kind of online work allows for a full, rounded experience. Not every site agrees though, with some phasing out comments sections, and some prominent sites making it harder to find comments.

Some major sites have pushed discussions away from pages and articles, and onto social media. But that doesn’t eliminate the problem of trolling, does it? I feel that we should not allow one bad apple to ruin the bunch, as they say. If a prominent site can find the resources and supply the manpower, I feel that comment forums should be closely monitored, not just taken away all together. A former writer and editor for The Washington Post had this to say in an article published on poynter.org:

“Yet despite the angst comments cause and the resources they require, most editors are hesitant to eliminate them…They attract users, remain an important tool for reader engagement, and – in between the bile – still feature some productive conversations.”

Another question that arises when dealing with internet trolling on journalistic and news sites that still have a comments section- Should the journalists or reporters get involved themselves and post comments? I think that if they have the time, given a genuine concern, question, or observation, such individuals should respond and get involved. Of course, I don’t mean responding to every poorly worded and surely misspelled comment aimed at their career choices or their weight.

So, what has the power of anonymity done to conversations on the internet? It definitely gives people the confidence to say what’s on their mind- good or bad. According to an article on nj.comon sites where users can stay anonymous, the diction becomes more vulgar and hateful. Arthur Santana conducted a study concerning the tones of anonymous comments on news articles, and found that:

“53 percent of anonymous comments included language that was vulgar, racist, profane or hateful. By comparison, about 29 percent of comments on sites that require commenters to use their names were deemed uncivil.”

It is clear that internet trolls and the ability to hide your identity online can lead to some comments that you may not want to repeat back to your grandmother, but we should not let these things shut down discourse completely. Those of us with actual contributions to the conversation need to make our voices heard, and if what we say catches the wandering eye of a troll, take the high road, keep using the correct grammar, and do not respond.