There are two (or more) sides to every story.

As we continue to be consumers of information and followers of the mass media, it can be difficult to sort through the quality, or not, of the information that digital media hubs continuously provide us with. As defined by famous American writer and statistician Nate Silver, we can often sort the information we receive in our digital world into two distinct categories: “signal” or “noise”.

Signal is in essence a bit of factual information that builds toward knowledge and a real understanding of the ways in which the world operates (i.e. learning about financial markets and their policies signals the ways in which social and fiscal inequities exist throughout the world), usually in an objective context. “Signal” information travels from Point A to Point B, with minimal distortion. “Noise” is information categorized as a deviation from the facts, such as in the role many social media outlets can play in passing information from Point A to Point Z. A lot can be lost in translation when relying on Noise for the facts, as there are an incredible amount of hands in the pot.

All of this being put together, the truth is we live in a world where any individual, given the resources necessary, can create and interject their opinion into a discussion through use of the internet. By definition, lots of this information can be defined as Noise, as there is little to no fact checking when it comes to the processes of posting on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter.

As for why I care about the voice and accuracy of today’s digital rhetoric, in high school I had a few year gig as a YouTube partner, for reviewing video game products. I would post in weekly or bi-weekly intervals most months, and would take pride in providing my honest opinion on the latest and greatest Nintendo products. In all, I love the process of video editing, there’s no single hobby that I care for more. And being able to earn money in exchange for something I love doing really struck a chord for me as a teenager. Overall, my content reached 2.7 million views across five different YouTube networks, and I’m pretty satisfied with a 0.89:1 like:dislike ratio that I hold on my content.

But as with anything, there are two sides to every story.

I cannot stress enough that no one individual is perfectly impartial to bias, and this is particularly true in the video game reviewing industry. By the time I started to receive tens of thousands of views per month on YouTube, I was receiving my games for free, sometimes weeks in advance, by companies interested in having me share their products with my audience. As much as I said I was immune to the bias bug, I don’t think that receiving my games for free hurt my developed image of the product I was reviewing..

And so, was I contributing to the mostly objective set of Signal information, or the largely subjective Noise that the internet provides a constant stream of? 89% of viewers “sided” with me..but what about the 11% who did not meet me eye to eye? You can’t please everyone, sure, but did my digital rhetoric not pursue a worthwhile venture in gaming for these viewers? I guess I’ll never have that answer for sure. All I can say is, when sitting there at my desk recording my reviews, I said it like it was.

Reviews are inherently subjective, I know, but the difference between a good or bad video game is very nearly black, or white. And from where I’m watching now, I ask everyone to be careful about what they read online, particularly given the added financial incentives reviewers have to say positive things…

How Tos & Digital Rhetoric

I have a midterm today on the communication revolutions–from the telegraph to the telephone, radio to the Internet so it seems only fitting that today’s blog post would be on digital rhetoric. As communicative technologies evolve, so does digital rhetoric. The Internet, though we think of it as indistinguishable from digital rhetoric, may also become antiquated like other forms of digital rhetoric. As a communicative technology, though, the Internet has completely changed the way we think about digital rhetoric and has opened the playing field for a variety of examples.

The form of digital rhetoric I’ve been most interested in lately are “How-To” videos by vloggers on YouTube. The one below is a “Working From Home” video, featuring tips on how to stay organized and motivated when you’re in a familiar/comfortable space such as your home.

The majority of the video features Ingrid Nilsen walking through a typical day working from home. She offers insight into how she stays focused–taking naps, keeping unnecessary technology out of reach, and creating to-do lists. The video is quite long at nearly eight minutes, but Ingrid incorporates aural, visual, spatial, linguistic, and gestural modes to keep the viewer engaged. This multimodality is also effective for viewers who prefer to learn visually or orally because, instead of having to choose between the two and missing out on content, Ingrid speaks and shows exactly what she is doing at the same time.

Throughout the video, a pleasant jingle plays while Ingrid is shown cleaning her apartment and typing on her computer. Even while Ingrid explains her day, the music continues. I’ve found that the music makes me stay focused on what she is saying. Though I do not have trouble focusing or doing work at home, I am always interested in hearing how other people organize their time and take small breaks during the day. Many viewers in the comments section state how helpful the video is, and even put out requests for future videos. Thus, the Internet and digital rhetoric have allowed Ingrid to remain in direct contact with her fans.

While it is not present in this video, most vloggers include a CTA (call-to-action) at the end of their videos. It can range from “liking” their video or posting a similar DIY on Instagram and tagging their accounts. While I prefer not to actively engage with How-To videos or post content from videos, many viewers actually do, which shows the pervasiveness of digital rhetoric in Ingrid’s videos.

Making such a basic topic appealing and engaging is difficult, and I think that’s what makes how-to videos successful examples of digital rhetoric.