As an avid social media user and prospective educator, I am passionate about learning and conversing with others about technology and its influence on our daily lives. My publication was born from these two interests. Using “Black Mirror” as a common medium, I aspire to engage fans of the dark science-fiction anthology series in a discussion about humans, technology, and society. This imagined public consists of casual viewers and super fans of “Black Mirror” who seek to dive deeper and learn about episodes beyond a form of entertainment. Each episode of “Black Mirror” reflects the systems and behaviors that govern and corrupt society, hence the blog’s tagline, “The Dark Side of People and Technology.” In every review, I analyze an episode with a critical lens, interpret the underlying meaning of the story, and present my findings to the reader. My perspective is valuable because although I may be wrong, and some people may disagree, it is a catalyst for discourse, and social interaction is an essential part of learning and community building.
The content is the bread and butter of my blog; it is what keeps people coming back. According to my Google Analytics, 25% of my audience within the first month were returning visitors. However, to attract people to stay on the blog and read the content, I need a strong design, because “Content drives design and design augments the content,” as Gertz (2015) suggests. When I set up my blog, I focused on designing a website that emulates the dark, philosophical nature of “Black Mirror.” The user interface received praise from my peers who expressed appreciation for my attention to detail as demonstrated by my choice of typeface and monochromatic color scheme. In addition to aesthetics, functionality is imperative to user experience; thus, I found Mauve Pagé’s lecture about web design very informative. Not only did she guide me to create an accessible and appealing blog, but her insight has helped me evaluate other websites as well. Recently, my sister showed me the website of a startup company that she was applying for, and I was able to quickly identify its weaknesses, such as its hidden menu and full-screen low-resolution hero image. This was off-putting to me as the visitor and made me question its professionalism, which further solidifies the importance of a good user interface design.
I felt proud of my blog, but somewhere along the way I lost my motivation for blogging. Darren Rowse calls this “blogger burnout” (2019). After weeks of blogging, it had begun to feel tedious and repetitive to watch an episode of “Black Mirror” and write a review about it every week. Furthermore, I had improved the web design to the point that I did not know what else to change. Rowse (2019) attributes blogger burnout to a number of reasons, but the ones that resonate with me are those related to goals. My objective with this blog was to dissect and discuss “Black Mirror.” It was not intended to be a monologue, though. At the end of every review, I tried to engage readers by asking them a thought-provoking question and encouraging them to leave a comment, but I have yet to receive a comment. In his talk about publication, Matthew Stadler (2010) emphasizes the role of reciprocal dialogue in cultivating a public, an audience that cares about my work. Without a public, I had difficulty maintaining the momentum to write.
I relate with the sentiments Hossein Derakhshan expressed in his article about cross-sharing blog posts on social media platforms (2015). I felt uncomfortable sharing my blog on my social media profiles, and I believe this reluctance was the main reason for the lack of engagement on my blog. Looking at my Google Analytics, I had 75 visitors within the last 30 days, which was an increase of 435.71% from the month prior, but none of them wrote any comments and the majority of them did not stay long as the bounce rate rose by 173.33%. In retrospect, I could have promoted my blog on more anonymous social media platforms like Reddit that hosts a large community of “Black Mirror” fanatics. Initially, I felt apprehensive about the idea knowing that anonymity online can lead to trolling and hateful comments. Now, I feel regretful knowing that I could have established community guidelines and monitored the comments section to protect me, my audience, and my content.
At the beginning of the term, I thought of publication as the production of formal, written work, such as books, academic journals, and newspapers. However, publishing has changed drastically with the times. The digital age has given rise to various types of publications and a plethora of channels to showcase one’s work. I started to develop this awareness during the first class wherein we discussed whether YouTubers, Instagrammers, and Podcasters are considered publishers or not. As the course progressed, I learned that publication extends beyond literature; it encompasses all forms of artistic expression within a digital and/or public space. A photo on Facebook or even a video on TikTok can be classified as a type of publication. The concept of transmedia storytelling as a means to expand my publication piqued my interest, but I realized that my options are limited because there is only so much I can do as a “Black Mirror” review blog. It would be easier to do with original content. This led me to question the longevity of my blog.
I do not foresee myself continuing this blog in the future, but this does not mean that I will quit making content altogether. If I were to partake in digital publishing again in the future, I want to create something I can call my own instead of basing my work around someone else’s product. In addition to this, I would like to try publishing under a pseudonym because the anonymity will enable me to take full advantage of the online disinhibition effect. Being open and creative is something I struggle with, so instead of blogging, I would be better suited to start a digital garden where I can write whatever I want for myself and find something I want to cultivate over time (Basu, 2020). My goal is to establish an online persona that is unapologetically me because authenticity is a key to success (Thorn, 2012).
Basu, T. (2020). “Digital gardens let you cultivate your own little bit of the internet” MIT Technology Review.
Derakhshan, H. (2015). “The Web We Have to Save.” Medium.com. July 2015. Available from: https://medium.com/matter/the-web-we-have-to-save-2eb1fe15a426
Gertz, T. (2015). “Design Machines. How to survive in the digital Apocalypse.” July 2015. Available from: https://louderthanten.com/articles/story/design-machines
Stadler, M. (2010). “What is Publication?” Talk from the Richard Hugo House’s writer’s conference, Seattle, WA. May 21, 2010. http://vimeo.com/14888791
Thorn, J. (2012). “Make Your Thing.” http://transom.org/2012/jesse-thorn-make-your-thing/