Essay 2 – Experiences as an Online Publisher

I have always had an online presence, whether it was through a Facebook or Instagram account, there is no denying that I have been publishing my life online for quite some time. Upon reading about this class, Publications 101, it occurred to me that I have never written a blog or created my own public website. As much online activity and experience that I perceived to have had, it was apparent that understanding how to create, design, and write for a website was lacking. So, my interest was peaked and my creativity was sparked to expand my experience of being an online publisher.

As Erin Glass notes, “Let students, not the Edtech industry, debate and determine the emerging design of the space which will carry their voice…let them reimagine for the full possibility of speech.” (2015). Glass’ comment rings true to my approach and understanding of the class as it provided me with an opportunity to carry my own voice and reimagine the possibilities of public discourse. Instead of being in a strictly academic writing environment, the process of building and designing our personal blogs pushed our creative abilities and offered us a means to stray from common educational pedagogy. Furthermore, as discussed by Audrey Watters, the ability to have our own domain gave us the agency in what we want to publish for our site and online self and how we want to do so. We can demonstrate our learning “beyond the classroom walls.” (Watters 2015) and be able to have a better position in controlling our work, data, and self (Watters 2015).

I wanted to showcase these aspects of online publishing, as described by Glass and Watters, and highlight my creation of publication based on a distinct subject and design that I care about. I wanted to use this opportunity to carry a voice and reimagine the full possibilities of online discourse. This was done through my intentions of creating my blog as a public platform that brings attention to important issues of race, gender, and sexuality – all of which can be hard to publicly address offline. As described by Lori Hubbard from Chron, and Monique Sherrett from Boxcar Media, having a target audience is key in developing effective communication strategies as well as providing content that users can appreciate. The public that I envisioned for my blog were young individuals and groups of people who appreciate the arts. More importantly, I created this blog for the marginalized; I created it for those within the LGBTQ+ community, people of colour, and for those who want to learn, understand, and challenge the rigid social constructs set in place within society.

As noted by Michael Warner (2002) and Nancy Fraser (1990), the concept of the “public sphere” and what we consider to be public is often skewed – representing the “bourgeois society” and European “public concerns” and “common interests” (Fraser 1990 p. 58). This is where the concept of “counterpublics” arises in that I have created an online space that aligns with the notion where “members of subordinated social groups invent and circulate counter-discourses” (Fraser 1990 p. 67). I argue that this is a key feature for my blog and something that is possible due to the rise of public engagement through the Internet. This concept has become of value for me and hopefully for others, as it does not entail a focus on monetary value and simply falls down to challenging hegemony and the problematic and systemic social norms. Here, There hopes to bring people together and to highlight marginalized voices.

Apart from the overall concept of the blog, how I addressed my audience through the editorial design, and content, also aligns with my initial intentions for the creation of the site. What I kept in mind for the name, Here, There, was a mixture of simplicity and minimalism intertwined with a contemporary feel. However, l still wanted to be able to evoke emotions and meaning. I wanted to encompass the idea that voices will be heard from here and there and that there is no boundary as to who gets to be a part of this blog or who gets to be a part of society. Moving onto the design of the blog, again I wanted to create a space that was simplistic and contemporary with artistic elements to capture an audience of young, artistically driven individuals. I wanted to use soft colours and shapes that were inspired by contemporary designs, brands, and websites, such as Bouquet from Montreal, Poketo from the United States, and the website Them. I also wanted to capture the attention of a younger demographic recognizing that moving into the future, these are the people who will be leading society. The design of the hands for the header image supported my intentions of a contemporary and artistic theme. In addition, providing a visual element that connects to my message of coming together and connecting. With the implementation of music playlists, I also enhanced the ways in which I wanted to speak to an artistic audience. Pairing this with my blog objective, the playlists also speak to marginalized groups and for those who have a desire to challenge their understanding of certain norms set in place within society. Lastly, the content itself is directly related to what I aimed for in terms of my online self and publication and for whom this space would be for. By focusing my content on issues directly relating to race, gender, and sexuality, I hope that I can both connect individuals from afar whilst highlighting the importance of diversity.

Moving onto the data of our publication, the info gathered from Google Analytics was quite interesting. The presentation from Monique Sherrett from Boxcar Media was an eye-opening lesson on how to analyze our analytics and what to look out for. Keeping in mind the four aspects of analytics: awareness, engagement, conversion, and retention, it was possible to see how my audience and the public were interacting with my blog. However, since I did not share my blog widely, the awareness and engagement for my site were marginal. The views of my site did come in waves with periods of no activity at all and some moments with a spike in activity. This was most likely due to certain moments during the course when it was asked of us to look through our sites. The majority of users to my site were returning visitors, with the average duration and retention on my blog just a few minutes, around one to three minutes. In some ways, I wish I continued to update my blog more frequently in order to feel comfortable promoting it through other platforms, which in return would allow me to see more activity and data from users.

Throughout my time in Publications 101, my experience of creating online content has expanded. Although I always maintained a certain identity online by carefully managing my aesthetics and posts of my public profiles, such as Instagram, doing so on a blog proved to be quite different. I have not had experience with WordPress prior to this class, so, understanding the technical aspects were both challenging and rewarding, but also highly educational. Integrating my own voice and personality and publishing this through my site changed my perspective in that it is not an easy feat – it takes time, effort, and a clear understanding of the self and your goals to have it work well.

Beyond this course, I imagine my goals as an online publisher will continue to be the same. As an individual who has created an online self for a few years, the blog has helped to enrich my practice and experience of developing content online. This blog has sparked inspiration to continue to create an online presence and self that can challenge the norms of society, but it has also reminded me to be proactive in listening to diverse narratives online and offline. Currently, I am undecided if I will continue the blog as my schedule has been fairly tight. Continuing Here, There may be of a challenge, but because of its significant and meaningful topic (not just to myself, but hopefully for others as well), I believe that it will have importance towards the overall public discourse. Possibly, when I do have more time, pursuing the blog can be beneficial not just as a space to share knowledge and thoughts, but also as a rewarding opportunity to engage and have a public voice has been made possible through the Internet.

References

Fraser, N. (1990). Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy. Social Text, (25/26), 56-80. doi:10.2307/466240

Hubbard, L. (2018). Why is Identifying the Target Market so Important to a Company? Chron. Retrieved from https://smallbusiness.chron.com/identifying-target-market-important-company-76792.html

Glass, E. (2015). Why We Need Social Paper. CUNY Academic Commons. Retrieved from https://commons.gc.cuny.edu/papers/45249/

Sherrett, M. (2018). Publications 101: Marketing, Media, and Analytics. Simon Fraser University, Harbour Centre. Lecture.

Warner, M. (2002). Publics and Counterpublics (abbreviated version). Quarterly Journal of Speech, 88 (4), 413-425. http://knowledgepublic.pbworks.com/f/warnerPubCounterP.pdf

Watters, A. (2015). The Web We Need to Give to Students. Medium. Retrieved from https://medium.com/bright/the-web-we-need-to-give-students-311d97713713#.4d7j8rs6x

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