Web Rhetorics for a Digital Age: The Medium AND the Message

By Jason Snart, College of Dupage


The following exercises are designed to get you thinking about the many different "writing situations" on the Web. You will also have the opportunity to write in these situations yourself.

• Situations   • Facebook Rhetorics   • Wiki, Twitter, Blog Rhetorics   • Choice   • Autobiography And Medium   • Interactivity   • Rhetoric Of "Community"   • Customizing   • Dynamic Content


The changeable web:

A tag cloud is a visual means of indicating the relative popularity of certain “tags” that have been applied to the content of a particular Web site. A tag is more often applied by Web users than it is by content producers. The size of each label, or tag, in the graphic above indicates the frequency with which that tag occurs. So we can see that content that has been tagged with the label “Education” occurs relatively more often than content that has been tagged with “Illustration.” Usually, each tag in the tag cloud is a hyperlink to content within a blog or other Web site. If this were a tag cloud for a real site, clicking Education, for example, would take me to all of the blog posts on the site that have to do with education.

A tag cloud is thus a useful way to illustrate graphically the popularity or frequency of one kind of content relative to another.

But more importantly, a tag cloud is responsive to user input. As more Illustration tags are added to the site, for example, the word “Illustration” in the tag cloud will increase in size.

The tag cloud reflects one primary aspect of the Web that is very different from conventional print mediums. Web content is easy to change and it can be flexible. Print, on the other hand, is relatively static. Once a book has gone to press, it is difficult, and costly, to make changes.

Your task is to find other examples on the Web of this kind of “flexibility.” In other words, find situations on the Web that seem to take advantage of just how easy it is to change content or to have Web material reflect user input. Choose the one that interests you the most and make changes to the content. Describe why you made your choice, what kind of changes you made, and how they contributed to the content or user experience.

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