Thing 10: Wikimedia

The general consensus with Wikipedia is amongst students is that it is a source of information that we MUST NOT site in academic writing. We have often been told, due to the fact that almost anyone can edit and add to Wikipedia pages, we should not consider it as a reliable source. Any page is subject to the risk of vandalism which can skew the information provided. Also, I learned that about 87% of Wikipedia’s editors are male and under 30. This means that the people from which we are gathering information are writing from a similar perspective and thus generating a bias.

However… after looking at the various open knowledge projects Wikimedia as a foundation aside from Wikipedia, I would suggest that there are other various sources that students could draw from that I believe would be of use. Firstly, there exists ‘Wikibooks’ which provides a collection of free e-book resources, including textbooks, language courses, manuals, and annotated public domain books. It is often the case that students are unable to download e-books as they would have to buy a subscription to the website containing that book. Therefore, this would be a handy way to find the books that they need during their academic study. Secondly, ‘Wikiversity’ is a project dedicated to providing learning materials and research for anyone to refer to and use in their own work. It states:

‘Wikiversity is not limited to university (or tertiary) level materials but is open to materials and communities of all learner levels. The way it can facilitate learning activities and communities are still being explored but is centered around the model of ‘learning by doing’, or ‘experiential learning’

Wikimedia Foundation 2017

 

In addition, Wikimedia provides an online travel guide called ‘Wikivoyage’. It is available in 17 languages and is written by volunteers.

There are many other ongoing projects associated with Wikimedia that I believe to be of use to people that aren’t necessarily in their field of vision!

So go check it out!

 

Thing 9: Google Hangouts

Well, who knew Good Hangouts were a thing?! I certainly didn’t.

What I like about them is the layout. It is a very accessible tool and, although other platforms exist that are similar (Skype, facetime etc), Google Hangouts are available for a lot of people as one only has to have a google/hotmail account. So I have invited various friends to join me on Google Hangouts and they had very little difficulty in accessing it as well.

The only issue is, not many people are aware of its existence. Furthermore, because there are such platforms as skype and facetime available, it may be difficult to see its unique use- value. However, what I also like about Google Hangouts is how it has the potential to be utilized in a professional setting or for general meetings. Currently, my university lecturers are on strike and so it has become difficult to meet with my peer group to discuss the course content. This has led to people feeling somewhat out on a limb in terms of guidance and support. What I have suggested is using Google Hangouts with various peers whom I have a group project to complete by the end of the semester. Hopefully, having this digital tool will facilitate group learning in this way.

 

Thing 8: Facebook

Having been a Facebook user since 2009 (?!?!), I have become quite familiar with Facebook groups. I have been a member of various groups over the years, but the ones that are the most active for me right now are ones that concern my extracurricular activities. I am a member of Edinburgh University Women’s Association Football Club (EUWACF) and the associated Facebook group is used every week to update players. We are informed of upcoming fixtures, events, training sessions. Without this group, I would have no idea what was going on. There is a social page that comes alongside the official group which is also used regularly for updates and events.

One of the given articles stated that one of the major benefits of Facebook groups is that they allow for controlled distribution of focused information. This is extremely useful in that, it becomes easier to search for information regarding a certain area of life. Also, personally, when I receive a notification that someone has posted on a group, I will automatically pay more attention to it as I know it will be relevant and something that I will probably have to contribute to or be aware of. This filters the useful information from the not-so-useful information. For example, I tend to pay less attention to notifications like ‘James posted for the first time in 3 months’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thing 7: Twitter

Thing 7 was a difficult one for me as I have never had a Twitter account. I had previously not believed I could gather information from Twitter that I wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere. Furthermore, I was a little reluctant to immerse myself in online conversations that are usually contentious and opinionated. This probably stems from being a bit of a wuss when it comes to conflict though. Finally, I have never been confident in the idea that my opinion would be worth sharing (Ohhhh the irony of writing this on my personal blog).

BUT, after having a little look at what is available on Twitter – despite not having an account – I have noticed a few things:

  • Twitter is usually where news of new phenomena trends first. From the worldwide trends this morning, the one taking the top spot is a song by GOT7 called ‘Look’. Now I know that I would not have caught onto this song had I not seen it popularised on Twitter. So, I suppose from an information gathering/ networking perspective, Twitter can be beneficial in terms of keeping up-to-date with international trends of information. It is important in the professional sense to keep in tune with surrounding socio-political conditions.
  • This also works for spreading information quickly. Twitter is a great way in which to gain momentum for a particular movement or a piece of information. This can be advantageous in the professional world when looking to branch out and raise awareness of a new business model or service, for example.
  • In terms of finding the people who you find most influential either politically or for your own personal development and interest, Twitter is one of the main avenues in which to do this. Twitter also offers the opportunity to contact these people, which can contribute to one’s branch of networks.

The above conclusions have all been gathered without possessing a personal account. This proves Twitter to still be a valuable information outlet that can be accessible to all members of the public.

 

Thing 6: Accessability

Most mornings, what I tend to do (like the obnoxious middle-class student that I am ) is read the Guardian online, in bed, with a cup of coffee before dragging myself to the library for another day of alternately looking at my screen and daydreaming about when the sun was shining that one time 4 years ago.

It was sat in bed, that I decided to engage with Thing 6! We were presented with case studies of people who suffered from various impairments that meant they would need assistance when accessing various information on the web. There were some elements to how websites are laid out that I found surprising! For example, I had never considered that having images containing red and green colours would be difficult to decipher for someone who is colourblind.

I was also pleasantly surprised, however, by the range of tools one can use to navigate websites more easily. For example, Kareen – a teenager who is both deaf and blind has the following amendments:

  • screen magnification software to enlarge the text on websites to a suitable font size;
  • screen reader software that displays text on a refreshable Braille device;
  • large computer screen with high resolution and high luminosity (brightness)

‘Web Accessibility Initiative’ – 2017

Alongside this, she has a portable electronic braille notetaker which includes a calendar, e-mail, web browsing, and note-taking functionality. I thought this was all very impressive and I had not previously been aware that these facilities were available.

I was then given a link to an online tool which assesses the accessibility of websites; again a tool I was not previously aware of but impressed by! So I then plugged in the URL to the current guardian webpage I was on. I assumed there were be few errors considering it was such a widely established and frequented news outlet… But I was wrong!

The following errors came up:

  • ‘Adjacent links go to the same URL’  – this meant that there were an unnecessary amount of links going to the same place. This would make it confusing for people who had assistance in following up each link on a webpage.
  • Within the heading, there were buttons with no content.When navigating to a button, the descriptive text must be presented to screen reader users to indicate the function of the button. Otherwise, people who have trouble clicking may be going to the unnecessary effort
  • ‘Heading level skipped’ – ‘Headings provide document structure and facilitate keyboard navigation by users of assistive technology. These users may be confused or experience difficulty navigating when heading levels are skipped’ – WAVE

Having discovered this information, I feel like I will be more mindful of more obvious accessibility errors in the future, such as the diversity of the type of information offered on websites (i.e. an image alongside information, transcripts for audio presentations etc). However, I think given the complacency and ignorance that comes with being able to navigate such things with (relative) ease, I fear I will gradually become less aware of errors. It will only be in the event of creating my own webpage, that I will be more attentive to accessibility.

Thing 5: Diversity

Thing 5 posed quite an interesting question; one that I hadn’t previously taken the time to think about which was:

‘Are diversified emojis only worsening the problem of segregation?’

One article on this topic seemed to think so. It argued that having options of ‘race’ within emojis are being used for further discrimination against race. It further stated that it brought into question the issue of race when it was otherwise not needed.

I have two thoughts on this. Firstly, I think yes – having more options given for skin colour can open up the door for racial discrimination and it will no doubt, unfortunately, happen. But this is nothing to do with the diversification of the emoji, this has to do with wider societal issues of prejudice and inequality. The intent of the diversified emoji is to widen scopes of identity and to demonstrate inclusivity. Therefore, we should not condemn it because of people who use it for their own discriminatory means.

My second thought is if we were to reject the diversification of the emoji and go back to the standard yellow colour, then we are only to adhere to the idea that one colour is the ‘norm’ and therefore, every other colour should be considered outside of the norm. To naturalise this idea is dangerous.

As for the Bitmoji, I think it is a good idea to personalise one’s online presence as we are increasingly using such mediums where emojis are involved. So if we can identify as much as possible with the emojis we are using, then this is a good thing.

However, after spending 20 minutes deciding what my Bitmoji should wear and what my hair looks like in cartoon form, I concluded that maybe it is the idea behind Bitmoji that I appreciate the most and not so much the process of creation.

 

Thing 4 : Digital Security

My fourth thing involved having a look at how to use my smartphone safely. Although smartphones are incredibly exciting devices that are becoming increasingly versatile in the way we use them (i.e. for email, social media, online banking etc), and changing the way we are interacting with the world, this is not without risks. As we are relying more on our mobile devices, a lot of our personal information is being stored on them; making them more valuable and so present higher consequences should our phones fall into the wrong hands.

Thing four, therefore, guided me towards documents regarding how to keep my device more secure. The most important messages I gathered from these documents were:

  1. When Apps are asking for information, these are called ‘Permissions’ and you should only accept them should they fall in line with the function of the app. Otherwise, it is not necessary for the app to use the information it’s asking for.
  2. Record your IMEI number so that, should your phone go missing, you can state this number to your phone company in order to block anyone using your smartphone. (I didn’t say how to do this on an iPhone in the given document so I had to google it. Go to settings, ‘General’ and ‘About’. It’s near the bottom 🙂 )
  3. ‘Background App Refresh’ does not need to be on! A good way to save battery. Click on any app to turn this off.

 

I was also encouraged to use ‘MyPermissions’ to see which apps presented the most ‘risk’. Although, when it gave you the option to remove ‘high risk’ apps, it would only allow you to do this once you’d agreed to pay a monthly subscription. So I’m not sure how useful this is.