As a young child growing up in the 2000’s, I became quite interested in blogging through frequent exploration of the developing internet. When I was 10-years-old, I set up a blog of my own, as I admired the idea of having my voice heard by other people like me. Now, as an adult in university, I have been able to experience online publishing in a similar but also unique way, and from a new perspective. Creating my own domain this past semester has been an enriching and rewarding experience for my personal growth. From an educational standpoint and through a more professional lens, I feel as though I have truly established my online presence through my blog (Watters, 2015). I have developed in many ways that will be useful as I step into a future career.
A Look Inside My Publication Process
Initially, when first establishing my domain, I was unsure of what my key topic should be. Through introspection and reflection, I was able to determine a prominent aspect in my life of importance to me, which was my mental health. I wanted to create a site that, in a way, reflected an “online diary” (Chittenden, 2010, p. 505). My idea was to generate a vulnerable space where I could share the thoughts “inside my mind”, as well as coping mechanism and tips for others in regards to anxiety, self-help, self-care, self-love, positive self-talk, and ultimately living a positive life. I thought that this would be well-suited for me, as I am someone who enjoys helping others, but often put myself to the side in the process. By establishing my online presence in this particular way I would be accomplishing both of these things, as well as de-stigmatizing an area of mental health discourse. These aspects alone illustrate the value of my site to a range of people, and its significance in our current society. I also made the right choice in tailoring my blog towards a topic that I was passionate about, as I never struggled with editorial topics, and design elements fell into place. All of these components were key in the creation of my site, and I am confident that I have established a well-developed blog for myself and many others.
Addressing My Audience Through Content and Design
Establishing an imagined public or audience was an interesting concept to me. Firstly, I wanted my site to follow the concept of a “digital garden”, which Basu (2015) identified as a curated medium with a specific theme, that highlights various topics. Using this idea, I was able to create and mould an audience who I imagined would be seeing and connecting to my content (Warner, 2002), and I tailored my site to appeal to this certain group of people accordingly. Specifically, the public that I imagined were females in their twenties or in their late teens, who were able to connect to me and my feelings, were potentially feeling anxious, and were looking for relatable content. Although I realized that my real audience could vary in gender and age, I think it was useful for me to establish an imagined public in this way, as I was able to produce similar-themed content for a specific group of people.
A specific editorial decision that I made on my site was to include “linking out” (Dembo, 2021) to other sources. Derakhshan (2015) in his article emphasized the importance of hyperlinks, and the way in which they connect mediums and enrich content. I always chose to link to sites that would enhance my writing and content, and also sites that would be helpful to my audience. For example, many of the hyperlinks I included were local or accessible mental health resources. Additionally, my intention was to utilize repetition in order to appeal to and maintain audience attention (Bernstein, 1998). Repetition on my site existed in the connectivity of blog topics, as well as the design elements that I chose. My blog design was consistent in its colour-scheme and typography, which complimented my written content and vice versa (Gertz, 2015). In these ways, I was able to establish a consistent brand for myself.
Furthermore, I tried to enhance my site by utilizing different forms of media. When visiting my site, one would see many photos throughout, as well as a video and a playlist. These additions make the visiting experience more pleasurable for any audience. Additionally, I specifically designed my cover photos to appeal to viewers. For my process post covers, I used similar clipart, colours, and typography. In regards to my blog post covers, I often utilized serene images, like sunsets, to match the peaceful aura of my posts, as well as photos of myself to make the posts more personal and show vulnerability. Gertz (2015) in his article emphasized the importance of cover photos, as they “give us a hint about what’s inside, and tease out our emotion, begging us to read the rest” (para. 87). This concept by Gertz (2015) informed my thinking process, and I ensured to utilize it throughout my blog. Ultimately, I feel as though I have done an exceptional job in connecting my site design to my content.
While I have discussed my imagined audience above, I have also been able to look into my prospective real public using Google Analytics. Although I do not currently have data regarding age group, I have been able to see that most of my viewers are from North America, especially Canada, and are female. It has been uplifting to see that my imagined and real audience overlap, and that I also have many new visitors to my site. These aspects give me hope for the future of my website.
Reflecting on the Past Semester and Moving Forward
Taking PUB 101 this past semester has been a pleasurable experience. Not only have I learned a lot about myself, my writing, and my design capabilities, my thinking has changed regarding publication and my own potential. In January, I recall thinking that I wouldn’t be able to create a successfully functioning blog, figure out WordPress, nor be a strong publisher with a specific online presence. These ideas are quite ironic to me now, as my online identity is centred around qualities of being confident and using positive self-talk. Nevertheless, I am glad that I remained determined and put copious effort into my domain, as I am pleased with my evident growth throughout the semester, and the product of the site that I have established.
Moving forward, I want to expand my online presence. In terms of goals, my hope is that I will eventually be able to appeal to a wider audience. Additionally, as I continue my publication, I intend to encourage my viewers to use my comment sections. My vision for the future is for my site to become a space where my public is able to share their own experiences, after reading my own. Hopefully my platform can continue to be a space that breaks the barrier regarding conversations about mental health, and that this vulnerability will expand my site. I have always enjoyed the concept of blogging, and I am looking forward to continue developing my curated website.
Basu, T. (2020). Digital gardens let you cultivate your own little bit of the internet. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/09/03/1007716/digital-gardens-let-you-cultivate-your-own-little-bit-of-the-internet/
Bernstein, M. (1998). Hypertext Gardens: Delightful Vistas. Retrieved from https://faculty.washington.edu/farkas/TC510-Fall2011/BernsteinGardens.pdf
Chittenden, T. (2010). Digital dressing up: Modelling female teen identity in the discursive spaces of the fashion blogosphere. Journal of Youth Studies, 13(4), 505-520. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13676260903520902
Derakhshan, H. (2015). The Web We Have to Save. Retrieved from https://medium.com/matter/the-web-we-have-to-save-2eb1fe15a426
Gertz, T. (2015). How to Survive the Digital Apocalypse. Retrieved from https://louderthanten.com/articles/story/design-machines
Warner, M. (2002). Publics and Counterpublics. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 88(4), 413-425. Retrieved from http://knowledgepublic.pbworks.com/f/warnerPubCounterP.pdf
Watters, A. (2015). The Web We Need to Give Students. Retrieved from https://medium.com/bright/the-web-we-need-to-give-students-311d97713713#.4d7j8rs6x
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