Welcome to Week Four!

Eng 231

“I’m not sliming you with a bunch of textbooks, so please know I am dead serious about these readings,” [David Carr] wrote. “Skip or skim at your peril.”

Last Week

Technology and Language

  • As a medium comprising one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many communication, the internet is a unique connective infrastructure and cultural forum on a global scale (Crystal, Axtman, Kuttner).
  • New communications technologies are an important aspect of changes in contemporary social life (Kuttner).
  • Extensive use of these thechnologies may be leading to decreasing face-to-face interaction and hence foster isolation, or may be creating a hyper-connectivity that widens interactions (Axtman, Kuttner).
  • The depth of the effects that technology based communication has on the brain is a concern (Carr).
  • It is the social uses of different technologies that may very well be at the root of all evils -- technology can't be faulted after all, it absorbs and spews out the very humanity that has created it.

Image: connectedworld.com

Must See: 7,000 advertisements printed in the United States from 1911 to 1955

This week

Advertising and Print Media

The Language of Advertising

Advertising is one of the most important, powerful uses of language today. Its seductive quality has sparked intense debates. It provides insight into some of the key social issues of our time: individual and cultural identities, and innovations in communications, to only cite these.

Questions for the week:

What are ads trying to do? Who are they for? What strategies are employed to sell a product? What do they reveal or conceal about an era?

Whether advertising triggers a "mental paralysis", "a state of confusion and vulnerability", Douglas Rushkoff claims that "it is a science" (385). For Charles O'Neill, "it is about selling a product" (371) to a "consumer [who] cannot take the time to focus on anything for long" (375). These positions should sound familiar: Keller condemned the numbing effects of PowerPoint; Kuttner referred to the Internet as "an awkward adolescent" (244); and Carr declared that "we have come to think of [our brains] as operating "like computers"" (513).

'Wrong', says Steven Pinker who, in "Mind Over Mass Media", derides naysayers for forecasting disaster through technology. He writes instead,

"To encourage intellectual depth, don't rail at PowerPoint or Google. ... habits of deep reflection, thorough research and rigorous reasoning ... must be acquired in ... universities, and maintained with ... analysis, criticism and debate" (526).

Goshgarian, Gary. (2011). Exploring language. (13th ed.). New York: Pearson.

In other words, let's not exagerate the causal role of technology -- the art of thinking critically is safe and sound -- provided that we continue to cultivate it in institutions designated for that very matter.

How advertising works - An Article

The Future of Print Media

"Will the Last Reporter Please Turn Out the Lights" (R.W. McChesney & V. Pickard); "Is There a Future Left in Print Media?" (Ted.com Conversation); "Newspapers Struggle to Survive in the Age of Technology" (Harvard Political Review). And the list goes on.

"In response [to the decline of print readership], major newspapers have made considerable changes. They’re attempting to combat diminishing reader interest by shortening stories, adding commentary, and most notably, using social media to their advantage.

With the meteoric rise of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, many people have claimed that we are entering a new age in which news must be delivered in 140 characters or fewer. It seems as if the golden age of Woodward and Bernstein, Edward R. Murrow, and Walter Cronkite is long gone."


In "Out of Print", Eric Alterman ponders whether "an Internet-based news culture can spread the kind of "light" that is necessary to prevent terrible things, without the armies of reporters and photographers that newspapers have traditionally employed" (406); Frank Watson asks that we "take a moment to think about [how the role of journalists will survive in this online age]", and "see how the limited future of journalists could eventually result in the loss of a number of their freedoms" (414).

Goshgarian, Gary. (2011). Exploring language. (13th ed.). New York: Pearson.

Media, print or digital, produce the words, sounds, and images that make up our popular culture and permeate our daily lives. Our goal this week is to explore the culture of print media in an era when that culture is being joined (and some of our authors will say, overtaken) by a culture that we call digital culture, or online culture. What does "print" mean in our digital age? Does one culture replace the other, intrude on it, or do they both join up instead? For our authors this week, digital technology is both a help and a threat.

Enjoy the readings and enjoy the week!