For Prof. Susan Gotsch’s GEN/PLSC/SOC-205-01: “Women and U.S. Politics”

In researching anyone in public office, their online presence is one of the most important and difficult aspects of their public personas to evaluate.

Below is the presentation delivered to your class by Anne Cong-Huyen, which offers an introduction to studying hypertext or hypermedia texts in new media environments.

 

To recap:

Media are channels or tools used for the storage and transmission of information. Though media has developed from pre-literate oral cultures to print, to electronic, and now networked and computer media, previous forms of media are still existing and relevant. What we find, however, is that older analog media become remediated in newer electronic or digital forms.

Texts are essentially things that can be read (books, signs, images, fashion, urban layout).

Analyzing a website means familiarity with analyzing all the above types of media (audio, visual, language, etc.) to examine the larger digital rhetorics at play. How are these candidates using digital media to represent themselves, their values, their labor, their engagement with the community, etc. 

Remember also, that these sites are carefully designed texts. The designers are trying to control the narrative on a hypermedia text that readers can enter, navigate, and experience differently based on individual reading style and interests.

Think about how that narrative is directed:

  • spatial layout
  • photographs (poses of individuals or groups, scenarios,
  • colors (and their associations)
  • repetition: of images, language, or items such as buttons or icons. Repetition often denotes emphasis. What messages are they communicating and how?
  • multimedia: videos, music, etc. What is the end effect?
  • hyperlinks:
    • Where are readers being led? Social media? Alternate media? publications? testimonials?

Also, remember that websites are but one aspect of an identity represented to the public. Other things that contribute to a public figure’s identity:

  • news media coverage
  • biographies (self-narration)
  • social media
  • advertisements
  • political debates
  • public engagement and interactions (town hall meetings, phone banks, etc.)
  • civic action (protests, grass roots movements, canvassing and pavement pounding)

One final reminder: The Internet is distributed and allows for almost anyone to create and disseminate information. We are no longer in the one-many model of mass communication associated with early press, television, film, etc. The Internet is much more open and the barriers to creating and sharing content are lower. The media representing politicians, therefore, is not limited to that created by and for the support of your chosen candidate. Remember back to our class discussion and the issue with domain names (wendydavis.org vs. wendydavis.com vs. wendydavistexas.com). Keep the larger digital ecology in mind as you go about your research and consider how your candidate may be trying to guide the discussion and curate a specific kind of identity to counter others that proliferate.

 


Works Cited

Landow, George P. “Hypertext as Collage-Writing.” The Digital Dialectic: New Essays on New Media. 

Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001.

Turkle, Sherry. Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.

 

Recommended Reading:

Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron, “The Californian Ideology”(link is external) (August 1995)

N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics, (University of Chicago Press, 1999)

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media and The Gutenberg Galaxy

Lisa Nakamura, Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet (Routledge, 2002)

—. Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet (University of Minnesota Press, 2007)