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…

Pentametron

One of my newfound obsessions is the twitter account, Pentametron. Using a formula I will never understand, it searches all of twitter and finds tweets (probably) unintentionally in iambic pentameter. Think Shakespeare, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” (unstressed, stressed/ unstressed, stressed/unstressed, stressed/unstressed, stressed/unstressed, stressed). The account retweets two tweets at a time creating incredible rhyming couplets from two random twitter accounts. Sometimes the two tweets connect, sometimes they are completely unrelated but the result is somehow always beautiful. Besides being entertaining, Pentametron reveals something larger.
strained connection
People often don’t realize the artistic impact of their words, even if it is on a platform like twitter which isn’t necessarily for artistic purposes. The focus is mostly on the deeper meaning of our words, ignoring how enjoyable the music of speech can be. Pentametron shows this often ignored beauty. It is not immediately obvious,
reading both tweets is kind of necessary, but doesn’t appreciation strong connectionof all art require some effort? The example, “I never pay attention anyway/I’m gonna go ahead and hit the hay” could be lines from a poem. Even though the account users had no intention of writing poetically, they did, as shown by Pentametron. There might not be a connection in “Free stray umbrellas EVERYWHERE today/If only heaven was a mile away,” but maybe there is. Maybe there’s a metaphor in there, maybe something larger is going on outside this couplet, I don’t know. But it makes you think. It makes you consider that it could be something bigger than what it was probably intended to be. Even if it doesn’t mean anything deeper, hearing the meter is enjoyable.
Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 11.54.49 PMThere are so many good couplets and the rhyming alone makes it fun to read. It almost doesn’t matter if each couplet makes sense or not, the inherent pleasure in hearing rhyme combined with the larger impact of finding artistic merit in places where almost no one would think to look makes Pentametron effective. There are some inappropriate retweets because it filters only meter, not language. But the ones with swear words are equally amazing. Some are extremely emotional or just funny. What impresses me is that random twitter users are able to elicit emotion from followers like me. Maybe they will never know what their seemingly simple tweet has done, but they collaborated with another account to create images or stories. Each couplet can be personally interpreted by each follower, there is not right way to read it or definite meaning. “I’ve never even smoked a cigarette/ I haven’t even carved a pumpkin yet,” could be an existential crisis for someone or it could just be a list of Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 11.54.35 PMthings someone has never done. Maybe someone’s perfect night really is turning off the lights and turning on the disco light. Who knows. The point is, words have impact. Intentional or not, every time someone puts words together, whether it is while writing a novel, poem or tweet, readers are impacted. Everyone’s thoughts and words could reach an unintended reader and impact their lives. In the case of Pentametron, the impact is mostly just a chuckle, or occasionally the stimulation of deeper thought. But for some readers, a couplet might really inspire them. In short, reassurance and validation of everyone’s writing courtesy of Pentametron.

Ice Ice Baby

I got my idea for an example of digital rhetoric from Brie’s post about non-profit organizations, so I guess forgetting about our assignment until now had its advantages. I don’t know how many of you know what the Ice Bucket Challenge is, but for those of you who don’t…

The Ice Bucket Challenge promotes awareness of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and financial support for its research. A participant in the challenge gets a bucket of ice water dumped on his head and then nominates others to have the same done to them. If you do not complete the challenge within 24 hours of being nominated, you have to donate to fight ALS. Donating is obviously encouraged even if you do complete the challenge. If you’re like me, your brother nominated you to complete the challenge because (1) his fraternity’s philanthropy is ALS and (2) he can’t resist the opportunity to dump 5 gallons of ice cold water on your head. So on August 12, I completed the challenge:

My Ice Bucket Challenge

After I completed the challenge, I remember reading this article. Between July 29 and August 12 of 2014, over $4 million had been donated to the ALS Association, which is four times the amount donated in that same period in 2013. According to the ALS Association’s website, they have now received over $115 million since July 29. Why is the Ice Bucket Challenge so immensely successful?

Easy. Because of its digital nature. It exists almost entirely through Facebook. People video themselves completing the challenge so they can post the video on Facebook and tag their nominees, then their nominees post their videos on Facebook and tag their own nominees and so on and so on.

Screenshot of my Ice Bucket Challenge Facebook post

The challenge basically went viral. A promotion of this sort is only possible through a medium like social media and so is a great example of digital rhetoric.