Writing in Digital Environments

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CRAP! WTF? or Visual Design and Rhetoric for the Web

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As always, we have lots to do…

  1. Tech Presentation: Group #1
    • Photoshop
  2. Visual Rhetoric and WTF (Why this font?)
  3. CRAP and color and The Pioneer Woman 
    • Let’s look at how The Pioneer Woman uses CRAP  (Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity) and color.
  4. WordPress questions and blog work (if time)
    During your work time, please post the link to your blog and its name in the Canvas Discussion forum if you haven’t already.

Homework:

Read: Web Writing Style Guide, It’s Not Plagiarism If It’s on the Web, Right?, p. 53-57
Blog “About” and “Welcome” pages and Header image (Due Tuesday!) Here is a link to the beginner’s tutorial if you need it.
Blog Analysis (Due Thursday, Sept. 15)
1st Blog Post (Due Thursday, Sept. 15)

Blog Analysis Project Advice and Sample

Blog Analysis project advice

Below is a version of a blog analysis that you can refer to as an example if it helps you to look at a model. I know this sort of rhetorical analysis is a new form for many of you, so I offer the following as an example, not as an exact template that you need to follow.

If you have additional questions about the project, you can leave a comment here and I can reply here as well. This way, if others have the same question they can read my reply instead of emailing me individually. If your question is specific to the blog you are analyzing and you do not think the question relevant to the rest of the class, you can email me instead.

Now, here is my example analysis of The Pioneer Woman blog.

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The Pioneer Woman is the alter ego of Ree Drummond, a modern city girl turned cattle rancher’s wife, who blogs about her newfound simple life in the country. At least that is how she describes herself on the blog’s about page. She distills her biography down to three short paragraphs:

After high school, I thought my horizons needed broadening. I attended college in California, then got a job and wore black pumps to work every day. I ate sushi and treated myself to pedicures on a semi-regular basis. I even kissed James Garner in an elevator once. I loved him deeply, despite the fact that our relationship only lasted 47 seconds.

Unexpectedly, during a brief stay in my hometown, I met and fell in love with a rugged cowboy. Now I live in the middle of nowhere on a working cattle ranch. My days are spent wrangling children, chipping dried manure from boots, washing jeans, and making gravy. I have no idea how I got here…but you know what? I love it. Don’t tell anyone!

I hope you enjoy my website, ThePioneerWoman.com. Here, I write daily about my long transition from spoiled city girl to domestic country wife.

The rest of the about page reads similarly. There is no mention of Drummond’s media empire—her three cookbooks, series of children’s books, memoir that’s been optioned for a film. She is just a happy country girl, and that is a deliberate ethos choice [ethos is a Production Strategies/Rhetorical Appeal] that reflects her purpose and target audience[two parts of the Statement of Purpose]. It is clear from her post topics—confessions, cooking, home and garden, homeschooling, entertainment—that her purpose is to draw in women who are longing for the simplicity of mythical 1950s domesticity. The confessions category is comprised of posts about her pets and the oddities of life with her kids such asher son’s inability to say the letter “J”, thus rendering “juice bag” (a Capri Sun) “douche bag.” Her cooking section is filled with recipes for comfort food such as pot pie, and brown sugar oatmeal cookies and “cowboy food”—steak fingerspotato skins.

Not that Drummond hides her money and success. She doesn’t have to. Her target audience is women living middle class suburban lives. [What follows is an explanation of the context—the attitudes readers bring to the blog.] They simultaneously aspire to richer, classier lives and to lives of simple, old-fashioned domestic pleasures. They lust after the yuppie kitchens in the William Sonoma catalogue and dream about days filled with cooking and child-rearing. Drummond taps into the paradox of 21st century womanhood, which valorizes both the sophisticated, college-educated working woman and the domestic goddess who keeps chickens, pickles everything, and homeschools her eco-friendly children. Her readers see no paradox in a woman who claims to spend her days single-handedly keeping house for a family of six while finding time to make millions from her writing.  And those women from the previous generation, feminists of the 60s and 70s turned homemakers who gave up their big-city dreams long ago, they can connect with Drummond’s surface claim that she is happier spending her days at home in the country: “My days are spent wrangling children, chipping dried manure from boots, washing jeans, and making gravy. I have no idea how I got here…but you know what? I love it. Don’t tell anyone!”

[What follows are examples of visual and verbal arrangement—number four in the list of requirements. The primary modes of delivery discussed are words and photographs—number three in the requirements list.]

Her blog has a deliberately amateurish look and feel. The overall design is busy and cluttered in contrast to current web design aesthetics that privilege simplicity and ample white space. I would liken her design to the just-rolled-out-of-bed look of the hipster who spends hours styling his unkempt beard.

Pioneer Woman Homepage

The Victorian fonts and header image with gilded picture frames and ornate floral elements look like they would grace the prairie home of the cartoon cowgirl Ree uses for her profile picture on the right. However, this clutter masks a well-planned, logically organized navigation system that allows users to quickly find what they are looking for in this massive archive. Each of the main menu items leads to a page that subdivides the content for quick access. The one uncluttered spot on the homepage is the large photo slideshow that highlights the most recent posts in each category.

Pioneer Womans Most Recent Post

The logical organization of the navigation, reinforced by the strict color coding of each category page, makes the site extremely usable, while the ornate visuals reinforce the emotional appeal to everyday domesticity. The combination of the two support Drummond’s ethos as a first-rate, accidental domestic goddess. This combination is reinforced in her writing. For example, in her cooking posts Drummond is overly enthusiastic about what she is cooking and is self-depricating about her cooking and blogging abilities. She starts her post on spinach artichoke pasta this way:

I love spinach artichoke dip. I’ve loved it for over half my life. And I’ll love it till the day I croak or become allergic to artichokes. Whichever comes first.

I posted my Spinach Artichoke Dip here over the (long, hot, thank goodness it’s over) summer, and it’s tremendously terrific. But a couple of weeks ago I decided to take a walk on the wild side and make a pasta version.

And then I died from bliss.

She connects with readers by stating her love of spinach artichoke dip, a staple at every chain restaurant in America, and jokes about trying to get fancy with the staple dish. The post opens with the following photos. The first establishes that this is a fancy pasta dish and the next reassures readers that this fancy dish can be made with standard grocery store name brands.

Showcasing the Spinach Artichoke Pasta Sophisitication

Common Grocery Store Ingredients

In reference to the ingredient photo, Drummond writes “The Cast of Characters: Butter, garlic, spinach, canned artichokes, flour, milk, cream cheese, Monterey Jack (or mozzarella), Parmesan, salt, cayenne pepper, and (not pictured because I’m an airhead) seasoned Panko breadcrumbs (my emphasis)”, which reminds readers that she is just like us regular folks and is just a housewife sharing her favorite recipes. But, of course, her incredibly detailed, logically arranged, step-by-step instructions assure us that she knows what she is doing. Every step of the instructions is punctuated by a mouth-watering photo designed to balance the logical arrangement with an emotional appeal to our assumed love of cooking for our families.

[This conclusion meets number five of the requirements and is a thesis statement of sorts that could be used more traditionally at the opening of the analysis.] Every element of The Pioneer Woman blog is designed to support Drummond’s online persona as a blissfully happy ranch wife who stumbled upon blogging in an attempt to share her life with others. This may have been how it all started, but now the blog is the centerpiece of a media empire and maintaining that simple country girl image is an essential rhetorical strategy that allows Drummond to maintain her connection to her middle class audience even as she makes millions.

Blog Analysis: The Pioneer Woman

Pioneer Woman

Today we will discuss the Blog Analysis project, audience, purpose, context, ethos, and your About and Welcome pages that are due next Tuesday. We will use The Pioneer Woman’s website/blog as an example for our discussions today.

  1. First, open a Word document and write a one-paragraph (no more than one double-spaced page) summary of Amanda Fortini’s article on Ree Drummond and her blog. What is Fortini’s assessment of Drummond’s persona/ethos? Include at least two examples from the article. Put your name on your summary and submit it to the Canvas Discussion forum (WTL #4) or print and turn it in.
  2. When finished with the quiz, read The Pioneer Woman’s about page, and then skim the most recent posts on the site (they are highlighted in the scrolling photos on the homepage). Then explore other sections if you have time.
  3. Review the mini lecture (in the ‘Class Notes’ Page of Canvas) on the design plan approach to production and analysis: focus on statement of purpose and production strategies.
  4. Get into groups of four to analyze the site according to the guidelines for the Blog Analysis project. Focus on statement of purpose and production strategies. Choose someone to take notes for the group. The note-taker will share the group’s analysis with the class. You will return to this group Thursday when we examine visual and written arrangement.
  5. Login to your WordPress account and go to your blog dashboard. We will create a welcome page and set it as the homepage for your site.
  6. Upload our design plans to the Canvas Assignments page
  7. Wrap-up and questions

Homework: