Archive for the ‘General Posts’ Category

By Rebekah Graham and Courtney Ryan

When you think of art, what comes to mind? Leonardo da Vinci? Sculpture? A famous photograph? These are the ways we have traditionally been taught to view art – they are our expectations. What we should realize is that art is not always a tangible object. Art can be more than paint, clay, or charcoal. Although it is difficult to break away from years of thinking inside the box, when we do a whole new aspect of creativity becomes available to us.

Evan Roth, an artist of F.A.T. Lab said, “We tend to make ourselves stronger by sharing.” This idea is the basic concept behind the online creative culture; things that are created are typically meant to be shared. When you have an entire community devoted to the purpose of creating, sharing, revising, and building off one another, amazing things can happen! The internet is a powerful tool for collaboration. Nearly everyone has access to the internet, making it an open space where an untold variety of minds can congregate at all hours of the day to work together on projects. Even though all of these people come from very different lives, online they seem to become an entirely new, almost independent community. Users have not only their online identities but also a unique, internet-based language. Take, for instance, the idea of memes. These viral symbols and images aren’t always something that just anyone can understand. Often, the reader needs to be repeatedly exposed to works of the meme community before he or she can fully appreciate the humor or meaning behind it.

Collaboration on the internet nurtures creativity as it encourages us to all learn from one another and work together. What one person makes may be used by another person for a different purpose. Sometimes this process encounters issues in regards to copyright, but those walls appear to be slowly coming down. The common goal of using one another’s old ideas to create something new is encouraging people to be more open about allowing others to build off of their own work. In addition to promoting their own work, the online creative community also has a passion for seeing others succeed in their ambitions. The following websites are examples of ways in which these people work together for creative purposes.


Kickstarter is an online crowd-sourcing website for creative projects. On it, people are able to present their possible ideas to the online community. If it looks worthwhile, people will fund it. In this way, online creators and enthusiasts are able to support one another and promote creativity.


F.A.T. Lab is an organization that uses technology and media to promote public domain content. They do not support secrecy, copyright monopolies, or patents in the hopes that creative resources would be available to all.


We Feel Fine uses key phrases from blog entries around the world to record, analyze, and store information about human feelings and emotion. That data then becomes an artistic, interactive interface that anyone and everyone can explore.


Creative Commons is a free service provided as a partner to traditional copyright laws. This nonprofit organization is devoted to the sharing of creative resources; it enables users to give customizable, public permission for use of their work.


I Waste So Much Time is a blog-type website where people can submit and enjoy internet-based humor or information. In it’s own words, it is a “collection of funny or interesting junk that we find online throughout our work day.” Followers not only read what is posted, but may also contribute.

Each of these websites represents the way in which the creative culture online wishes to share ideas and resources. Through collaboration and an open, giving attitude, online art is able to constantly grow, develop, and change. Creators who are passionate about this movement not only appreciate the ability to be inspired by the work of fellow artists, but also have a desire to share their own for the benefit of others. Perhaps their mantra should be the following quote from Albert Einstein: “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.”

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By Rebekah Graham and Courtney Ryan

Reddit… is it a website? A noun? A verb?

Maybe it is all of the above.

Reddit is an online community that began in 2005. Although considered a social news website, it serves a variety of purposes. At its core, Reddit is basically an online bulletin board. Registered Reddit users can post links, comment on the links others post, and vote links up or down depending on whether or not they like them. The more up-votes a link gets, the higher it appears on the list, and thus the more people are likely to see it. Reddit is a way of sharing useful internet resources and connecting with others; it’s a collection of people all seeking the same thing: help and inspiration from online “friends”. Reddit: it’s a place people meet and it’s a thing people do.

Reddit users can not only share links to websites or pictures, but can also simply ask a question if they want. In response, other Reddit users (Redditers) might flood the comments with nuggets of advice and suggestions. A plethora of subreddits exist to help separate topics into more manageable categories. People can go into these user-managed subreddits to find resources more relevant to what they are searching for. Each subreddit in itself is a little community – a place where people with common interests can come together and brainstorm. From veganism to pictures of birds, there seems to be a subreddit for just about anyone.

But… is it really for anyone? A unique aspect of Reddit is the curious gender disparity that can be seen. This, among other topics, is explained a little in this youtube video from PBS:

As the video says, about 72% of Redditers are male – that is a surprisingly high number! Look at it in comparison to Pinterest, a female-dominated version of the same basic concept of Reddit. What accounts for the gender divide that exists between these two sites? Both the video above and an animated video made by College Humor (in two very different ways) address the fact that women are targeted, sexualized, objectified, and harassed by Redditers. This is apparently no uncommon issue. As such, perhaps Pinterest was created as an outlet for women who felt a need for a female-friendly Reddit equivalent. Both sites allow users to curate and share ideas and topics, but with two unique audiences in mind.

The PBS youtube video also addresses the story of Reddit becoming involved in the SOPA blackout of January 2012. This movement was not organized by Reddit itself, but rather by the population that uses Reddit. During this time, Redditers pulled together around the nation and collaborated without any direction from authority. This united effort to work together against a threat is a good example of the power of social media. Redditers spoke, and the site managers heard them. Actually, they not only heard them… they listened. Online discussion boards are not only a place to waste time and exchange funny memes, they are also a platform that can be used to organize, plan, and dream. In this case, Reddit provided an ideal, easily-accessible space for web enthusiasts to talk with each other about what would be the best action to take against a threat to their freedom. From this effort stemmed an multi-site online movement, including websites such as Google, Wikipedia, and Mozilla.  Obviously, a little bit of conversation can make a whole lot of change.

Reddit is more than just a website where people can swap links. This unique site is a way of communication, a common space for people to come together from around the world. Its a place where people can speak and have a chance to make a difference. Instead of being a one-man show, Reddit gives users the opportunity to have a say in what is important… Reddit gives users a voice.

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By Rebekah Graham and Courtney Ryan

Twitter is an online social networking site that was developed by Jack Dorsey in 2006. On the Twitter about page, it claims to be “the fastest, simplest, way to stay close to everything you care about.” Twitter is a tool for connecting people – not just locally and personally but really in a more globally-minded sense as well. It is a “real-time information network” – something people can look at to stay updated at all times. Members can use this popular platform to vent, share, reflect, inspire, or learn. If what you have to say fits within the 140-character limit, you can say it. That is the basis of the idea. If words simply don’t do the matter justice, you can also choose to post photos and videos. Today, over 500 million people use Twitter to make their voices heard.

But what is the significance of this website? What makes it different from other social media? For instance, when one has the ability to post a Facebook status, what would be the reason to write a tweet instead? It appears that one main explanation can account for this difference. For the most part, twitter is something that is public. A tweet’s purpose is to be shared – to connect people, places, and communities to one another. It just wouldn’t make much sense to have a twitter account that only the user can see. Likewise, a tweet isn’t necessarily meant to be personal. This is where the idea of hashtags comes in. When a twitter user writes a tweet and uses hashtags, he or she is making an effort to connect with others using that same hashtag. It’s like an online gathering of sorts – a pool of thoughts, news, and ideas. The use of a hashtag automatically connects the tweeter to others who are also interested in the same topic.

At its core, Twitter is a conversation. Looking at it this way may make it seem little different from an online forum or discussion board, but this is not the case. Twitter is unique in that it is highly portable; one can even use it right from a cell phone. Additionally, the 140-character limit also changes the way users approach this particular networking tool. Whereas on a discussion board one can write an entire essay or monologue, on Twitter the user does not have this option. He or she must be succinct and concise. This style of sharing promotes a more realistic form of conversation that has a natural flow. In other words, it is more like a face-to-face conversation than writing entire letters back and forth.

Another interesting aspect of Twitter is the fact that it is a representation of various populations and as such can be used as a way to procure data for research, to provoke a social movement, or to gather information for various other purposes. For instance, Twitter has been known for its role in the Arab Spring and the 2011 Egyptian revolution. It has also been used as a source of information for workers in public health. Although these types of things are intriguing, they are not altogether unexpected. But, what about when a person uses tweets to create music? The video below is about such a project created by Britten Sinfornia, Peter Gregson, and Daniel Jones. Take a couple minutes to check out the uncommon way this trio chose to use the resources that twitter has to offer.

Twitter’s versatility, rapid growth, and ever-increasing popularity are evidence of society’s need to communicate in this convenient and effective way. Whether a person uses it to keep friends and family updated on his or her personal life or just to “follow” the everyday updates of his or her favorite celebrity, that individual is taking part in an important, formative social media movement. Twitter is about more than speaking out to a vast world, hoping one’s voice might be heard; it is about joining with others to turn a whisper into a shout. Twitter is a community of very different people with surprisingly common interests.

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By Courtney Ryan

The American Pixel Academy founded by David E. Carter, creator of the Telly Awards for film/video work, sponsored the fourth Annual Pixie Awards. Weaving Life received a gold Pixie for “innovative in the use of motion graphics, effects, and animation.”

The entire article is available on the MennoMedia news page!



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By Courtney Ryan and Rebekah Graham


Andy Carvin, social media strategist for NPR, is notably known for his “tweet revolutions.” Carvin connects with well-informed people, via Twitter, carefully curating reliable tweets. Carvin, who has earned his Master’s degree in Telecommunications science from Northwestern University, now spends his time accumulating news bits, filtering the information he accesses to be news-and trust-worthy.

During the time of the Libya uprising, Carvin tweeted nearly 1,200 times in a span of two days. To cue you in on how Carvin operates, he begins by gathering information from a person he knows to be reliable, or, if he comes across a person he’s never met before, he observes their online activity, acting as a judge of character and seeing if they capture the true action of the happening.  The Arab Spring allowed Carvin to combine two of his passions: social media and the Middle East. Working closely with Global Voices, he coordinated online resources promoting equal access.

During the time of the Arab Spring, Libya had limited access to the Internet. Carvin approaches social media as a tool to understanding this media as intimately as he can. Identifying himself as a writer over a reporter, Carvin’s work complements NPR’s standard reporting. But the question left unanswered is, does this (tweeting) represent a new role of journalism? And I think it does. Now, in the 21st Century, social media has become an extensive part of normal, everyday life, and not simply media professionals. Who is to say that Twitter cannot be used as a form of journalism, garnered it is done with professionalism and truthfulness. If tweets follow the same standards and guidelines accepted reporting and traditional reporting does, why not classify it as journalism?

Carvin explains his role as this: “I receive information from all sorts of people, try to keep up with it and mix those beats in a way that’s useful to people. You can’t necessarily dance to it, but hopefully you can learn from it.”

cover art

As of Nov. 30, Carvin’s most recent book is in the final stages of proofing and will be released in the near future.  His book titled Distant Witness, he self describes as “a gripping, intimate story of how social media and the Arab Spring have caused a revolution in journalism.” Be sure to check it out!

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By Courtney Ryan and Rebekah Graham


On Friday, Sept. 14, the local Harrisonburg Mosque was vandalized with spray paint graffiti containing vulgar racial slurs and inappropriate drawings. The Islamic Center of the Shenandoah Valley serves as a meeting place for weekly prayer and services. Amidst the graffiti, there also were about 30 cars parked on surrounding streets whose windows were smashed.

The community within Harrisonburg displayed an overwhelmingly supportive attitude throughout the process. Saturday, Sept. 15, a mere one day after the devastating happenings, an event at the mosque was scheduled to take place. Based on a public Facebook announcement, more than 500 attendees committed to go. Because of the exponential response, the Redeemer Classical School, also defaced, decided to host these attendees in their building.

An informal gathering transpired on Sunday, Sept. 16, in an event titled, “We Are All Harrisonburg.”  People of all faiths met at the mosque, offering their support to the community affected by the vandalism of the mosque’s exterior. In a message sent out by Brian Augustine, Board Chair of Redeemer Classical School, he writes, “The Golden Rule teaches that we are to ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you’… “. In honoring God’s command to love those who do us harm, he invites individuals to participate in the gathering, strengthening the Harrisonburg community.

The outcome the mosque received was tremendous; that so many people, and especially those of differing faiths, would come and stand in solidarity with both of these institutions. We are taught from a young age to love, but for many us that is never a real or demanding challenge. The vandalizing of the Islamic place of worship could have easily touched non-religious individuals or even those of different beliefs with indifference. Harrisonburg should be proud that it is made up of a community that is accepting, values others, and displays diversity.

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By Courtney Ryan and Rebekah Graham

A considerable part of the untruth’s spread during “Superstorm Sandy” on various social media sites was largely due to Twitter user, @ComfortablySmug. The Twitter blogger’s identity was released, revealing his real name to be Shashank Tripathi. Tripathi was, at the time, a hedge fund analyst and campaign manager for candidate Christopher R. Wright, for the House of Representatives.

A series of tweets containing false information began making it’s way through other Twitter uses and was even reported on by national media. The misinformation instilled unwarranted fear in many New York and New Jersey residents. Tripathi began his false statements, starting with “BREAKING.” One of the tweets recounted that the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) had been flooded and another one saying Con Edison, a power company, was planning to shut down all power in Manhattan. Tripathi has over six thousand Twitter followers. Many of his tweets were retweeted hundreds of times.

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While some of the information @ComfortablySmug tweeted was true, there was much that was not. For instance, ALL bridges to and from Manhattan were being sealed off.  There were bridges shut down because of the storm, but not all. And the subway was going to be shut down for the remainder of the week. This was also not true.

As a Senior Communication major, with a minor in Journalism, I, (Courtney), have written my fair share of articles which were distributed and available to the public. These articles required conducting interviews and quoting the source of my information.  Journalism demands truth and accuracy. While I am not much for cliché sayings, Stan Lee wrote in the first Spider Man movie script, “With great power there must also come great responsibility.” The person you are interviewing is giving you a part of himself or herself. They have entrusted their story to you and possibly even their reputation or image. I have come to understand the responsibility that is placed on me every time I interview an individual and relay what they’ve said, whether through direct quotes or summarizing.

Journalists follow the AP Stylebook as their guideline. Twitter, a fairly recent social media site, allows any individual with access to the Internet the opportunity to tweet and be tweeted at. There currently is not an enforced standard that Twitter users must follow when tweeting. With that said, I believe we each need to held accountable to what we say and in this case, write, whether it is for a news article or the popular social media site, Twitter.

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What was @ComfortablySmug’s driving motive to pass on false information? Was it for attention? Was it because of anonymity and the feeling of being able to say anything without consequences? Maybe. I don’t know.  In the end, his identity being revealed and he relaying a public apology served justice. “I wish to offer the people of New York a sincere, humble and unconditional apology,” his opening statement reads. Let this incident be a warning on the dangers of spreading false information and the importance of taking responsibility and pride in what you write, because who knows who might end up seeing it.

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