Generation Y – Wondering Why

Digital Literacy – What’s important in communication today?

Being literate and being proficient in communication are two very different skills. Our global environment demands much more of us than reading and writing. Digital literary encompasses the ability to communicate effectively on a platform that can reach any screen in the world. Being aware of the vastness of digital communication, both stretch our capacity and diminish our efforts. Glynda Hull, a Professor of Language and Literacy, Society and Culture at University of California Berkley defines this newfound phenomena of digital literacy in her article “At Last: Youth Culture and Digital Media: New Literacies for New Times” as a command of technology, awareness of self and a sensitivity of communication.

To maintain this coveted “digital literacy”, a few essentials are:

  1. Grammar
    • As more informal mediums like texting primary modes of communication, it is essential to retain a fundamental understanding of grammar. I support breaking of the grammatical rules to advance an idea. However, without respecting a base system of order, your work’s message will be lost in time. Articulation is key in storytelling. Therefore, grammar infiltrates virtually every digital platform
  2. Attribution
    • Being sensitive to what you tell an audience and how you attribute your sources is paramount to being taken seriously. A storyteller who does not to cite, link and understand copyright will not be able to maximize the prevalence of their story. There are too many fact checkers, Googlers and trolls to assume that any inflated yellow journalism will go unnoticed.
  3. Branding
    • Having an identity is essential to personal well-being and integral in maintaining a strong online presence. Whether it is font consistency on a website or the pictures you choose for your Facebook account vs. your Linked In Account, connecting your purpose to your content will determine your success.
Photo Credit: Katie
Website picture – keep the positivity | Photo Credit: Katie
Image 15
Different medium, same smile | Photo credit: Katie

Through my Digital Communications class, my understanding of articulation, attribution and establishing identity grew exponentially. Within my projects, I have sharpened my ability to execute these principles. Through concentrated revisions of my blog posts, my storytelling became more concise and effective. Before my blog, I had little knowledge of how valuable linking to sources can be. Creating my own website forced me to assess and choose what is most valuable about me. Making the decisions of what experiences and work of mine would be most impressive to future employers gave me a reality check of career compatibility. The podcast produced with my group members turned out to be the most gratifying collaboration. I conducted the interview which gave me control and agency over the direction of the work. My video editing skills have certainly improved by being a secondary editor in my group project. Watching my group member edit and being able to give her feedback has enhanced my own ability to create.

With these newfound avenues of digital literacy, I will upkeep this blog and my personal website. I’ve already used my Photoshop skills to create a Christmas card. Learning video editing allowed me to create a family vacation montage. I plan to use my base knowledge of web design to begin learning code. Knowing that I can utilize technology and define purpose gives me the confidence to try out my digital literacy to touch another human heart. 


Trees at Furman

If you’ve ever visited Furman University, you’ll remember at least one thing. We’ve got a gorgeous campus. Buildings, lake, and Bell Tower aside– our campus is most recognizable by massively beautiful trees.
Buzzfeed’s spread on Furman University

In a recent article, Buzzfeed Most Beautiful College Campuses in the World ranked Furman University as the nineteenth most beautiful college campus on the planet. Each of the featured pictures (above) highlights the trees and plant life.  If you Google search Furman or look on the Admissions site, you’re sure to see the massive oaks lining up the entrance of campus. Our trees are everywhere and they are huge. What these beautiful photographs fail to represent is that these trees are dying. In the recent South Carolina flooding, deemed by historians to be a 1 in 1000 year rainfall, several trees were uprooted in the center of Furman’s campus.

Fallen trees on Furman Mall
Author, Katie, standing beside uprooted tree on Furman Mall
Massive fallen tree on Furman's campus
Massive fallen tree on Furman’s campus










Thankfully, no one was hurt on Furman’s campus by the falling trees or the great windstorms that caused their tumble. However, the concern for Furman’s beloved trees grew as quickly as the trees fell. The destruction of these trees, by man or natural means, has been expected for quite some time now. When Furman University moved to its current campus on Poinsett Highway in 1953, these huge pin oaks were planted with a lifespan of only sixty years. Simple math with reveal that in 2015, we now have a problem. The oaks on Furman Mall, the long corridor of campus, are dying off. The weakened and rotting state of the trees made it possible for a storm to swiftly destroy the trees pictured above.

What is Furman going to do about this? Are all of our treasured trees going to be taken down? Get the full scoop from a podcast presented by KMC Media.

Thanks to KMC Media producers Casey Ryan, Mary Kate Mackin and Katie Foster (myself).

Construction of Self

Whether you are constructing a paper, a birdhouse or a business plan — all endeavors require the same fundamental elements. Each construction takes raw materials, a stratified location, associations and the essence of a determined purpose. Constructing identity yourself works in a similar fashion. You define who you are based on what traits and fates are naturally bestowed on you. You define yourself on where you’re from and where you choose to be at any given time. You define yourself based on the already formed groups like nation, religion and interest that you associate yourself with. And lastly, you define yourself, however consciously or unconsciously, based on how you want to be perceived.

It doesn’t take too long looking at my social media profiles (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) to pick up on a few of the things that I deem important in my life. My university, my hometown, my sorority, my sport, my friends.

Image 13 My Instagram accountImage 15

In a digital age our way to define ourselves is constantly changing. In her work, “A Networked Self: Identity, Community and Culture on Social Network Sites”, Zizi Papacharissi discusses how these new social norms change our we represent ourselves to the world. As our social circles grow, our privacy and our sense of intimacy shrinks. As digital producers we “introduce the self through the reflexive process of fluid association with social circles” by choosing what our affiliations represented on social media. If I am passionate about a certain store, I can “like” their page on Facebook. Whenever someone sees this, through a boosted post or on my own profile they can deduct a few of my values as they relate to that business. If I “like” TOMS, someone could infer that I’m philanthropic. All of these associations can be narrow, wide and misleading. As digital consumers, we are trained to look out for the markers on others’ profiles to determine – quickly and often incorrectly – who they are.

Now that we as a society are becoming more aware of this idea, we are starting to realize how ludicrously we often present ourselves. Videos critiquing dating profiles often gain much attention in social media. There will always be a backlash on those who seem to break this norm of social acceptability online, just like there have always been outcasts. As we work to understand what diversity brings to the table, the value and encouragement of being transparent with our differences online will grow. Being able to effectively manage your own profiles and in a sense, your image, is something that Papacharissi deems a “survival skill” in this day and age of such public and multi-faceted representations of the self. Work to be aware but always be yourself.

College, Confidence & Kanye

There is no denying that Kanye West is one of America’s top icons. He’s a prophet, he’s a pest. But there is no denying that he speaks out to the millennial generation.

I decided to listen to what the community of millenials at Furman University thought about Kanye West .

After interviewing students from across campus, I began to feel like the majority of them were missing out on the substance of Kanye West. Sure, each had opinions about Kanye’s rise to fame but they seemed to skate around his most newsworthy flaw: narcissism. Even we discussed his most outlandish acts, like the VMA incident or his presidential election announcement,  no one addressed:

Why is Kanye so confident?

It wasn’t until I spoke with one interviewee, Nick (last in order of appearance), that I began to hear about this confidence. Nick admits Kanye’s shortcomings but goes on to explain how Kanye encourages fans saying “everyone needs that voice in their head telling them they’re that special person”. When you break down all of Kanye’s rash behavior, profanity filled lyrics and grand antics, his value lies in self-confidence. His example of appearing self-absorbed gives the youth an illustration – in bold colors – of what it looks like to believe in yourself. It isn’t soft, politically correct, or always kind but his art is consistent throughout his music, fashion and even presidential endeavors. It is unapologetically confident. Because if you don’t believe in you — who else will?

Call it encouragement, ego-trip or a delusion. Kanye tells his listeners to believe in themselves. In college, especially a challenging environment like Furman University, everybody needs a little bit of Kanye in their life.

To the Kanye haters, consider giving him another chance. He isn’t blameless and he doesn’t claim to be. His lyrics move people and his theatrics confuse people. But Kanye is 100% Kanye. I believe, if you listen closely, you’ll hear that he’s telling you the same thing — just be 100% you.

Rap Battles for Elections?

America is still warming up to the idea of people of color and females holding positions of power. However, within the past year, another political minority caused some uproar.


They’ve shared experiences with police, given commentary on drug use, promoted sexual activity and provided the background music at parties. Now, some rappers want to run for office?

Just like rappers drop albums, I dropped a Flickr album explaining this new phenomena.

When George Washington gave his inaugural address, could his imagination possibly have grown as wild as the current U.S. political scene? Photo by: Katie, author
When George Washington gave his inaugural address, could his imagination possibly have grown as wild as the current U.S. political scene?
Photo by: Katie, author

On April 20th, 2015 – the unofficial weed holiday 4/20 – Rolling Stone released a video of Waka Flaka Flame announcing his run for presidency in the 2016 election. In the video (while smoking pot), he advocates legalizing marijuana, education, raising minimum wage and respecting women.

At the end of his VMA acceptance speech about confidence and artistry in August, Kanye West announced his desire to run in the 2020 presidential election.

How did entertainers like Kanye West and Waka Flaka Flame cross the political boundaries to announce presidential campaigns?

Taking a closer look or more aptly a closer listen to their messages, Waka and West demonstrated political interest long before broadcasting their candidacy. While it should be noted that Waka has not actively campaigned for 2016 and it is doubtful Kanye will fully pursue the presidency, their statements alone speak volumes.

Waka Flaka Flame’s debut album entitled Flockaveli inherits its name from the performer himself and Italian Renaissance political theorist Machiavelli. If you’ve ever heard “It is better to be feared than loved, if not both” or argued if a situation’s ends justify its means, then you’ve been in contact with Machiavellian theory. Pitchfork Media interprets Flockaveli as “survivalist reaction of the powerless, directed toward the threats of the immediate environment”. However vulgar or violent Waka’s lyrics, there is an underlying message of asserting your own influence. Waka’s run for president, however satirical or drug-laced, is still about dutifully creating an identity.

Being unapologetic about what you stand for is a value for which Kanye West should be crowned king. Kanye’s lyrics promote boldness but also often criticize political systems, like in the single “Power”. In his VMA speech, Kanye articulates how millennials should be establishing identity right before he announces his run in the 2020 election.  

“I’m confident. I believe in myself. We the millennials, bro. This is a new mentality. We’re not gonna control our kids with brands. We not gonna teach low self-esteem and hate to our kids. We gonna teach our kids that they can be something. We gonna teach our kids that they can stand up for theyself! We gonna teach our kids to believe in themselves!”” 

This relationship between political rappers and establishing identity is not inconsequential or accidental. Identity is powerful. Kanye and Waka are encouraging people to purposefully identify themselves.

Rappers first have power based on the amount of face-time and ear-time they have with the American public. But with their entrance into the political sphere, rappers show how important identity is – chiefly to millennials. Citizens vote for candidates with which they identify. Rappers’ messages shape illustrate and shape cultural identity. When enough people understand and identity with someone – even Kanye – they possess a powerful vehicle for political change — maybe even enough horsepower to make it to the White House.
Fan art from blog “Unphotogenic Philosophy” about Kanye’s run for the Presidency

Yeezus- saint, sinner of just entertainer?

Religion is selfless. It is about faith in some entity bigger than yourself. Religion is reverent. It is respecting the sacred. When someone assaults these things, even for the lackluster faithful, the impiety is upsetting.

Kanye West dropped his album Yeezus (sounding presumptuously like Jesus) in 2013 with the explanation that “ ‘West’ was my slave name and ‘Yeezus’ is my god name”. If that wasn’t enough to stir things up, Kanye brought a “white Jesus”, a man dressed up to portray Jesus Christ, on stage during a Chicago concert.

Kanye West’s album Yeezus and this display bring out reactions that fall mostly into two categories: disgust or camaraderie.
Kanye at this concert with “White Jesus” | Photo Credit: Clevver Music

Disgust. How dare he compare himself with Jesus? What a narcissist… He better watch himself because he is likely to get struck by lightening. Camaraderie. We are our own masters- there is no god! Way to mess with the system!

North West's Baptism. Photo by: @kanyewest
Kim and Kanye at their child’s recent baptism | Photo Credit: @kanyewest

While we all read performances differently, the way I choose to interpret Kanye refutes both reactions of disdain and disbelief. Kanye is not godless. His persona with the Yeezus album is not simply irreverence or rebellion. His display of Christianity reconstructs traditional concepts of religion by outfitting them with a modern drive. 

In an interview with San Francisco’s Wild 94.9 The JV Show, Kanye discussed how he spoke with a pastor before deciding to bring a Jesus lookalike on stage and praised Christianity for the ability to portray God. He concluded by saying the performance was intended to say “Jesus is my homeboy”. Being open about religiosity and relating it to hip hop culture is hardly sacrilegious. More strict traditions of Christianity tend to place distance between the sanctity of God and sinful humans- just read a bit of Renaissance author Dante’s description of the seven layers of hell in Inferno. However, much of Biblical teaching lines up with Kanye’s “Jesus is my homeboy” mantra. Verses like John 15:15 include Jesus speaking with regular humans saying “No longer do I call you servants… but I have called you friends”. 

In the music video for the song “Power”, Kanye shows a different religious mentality. Kanye stands in the center of the screen like a mythological god. Classical imagery of goddesses and warriors in ecstasy swirl around him with this refrain:

No one man should have all that power

The clocks tickin’ I just count the hours

Stop trippin’ I’m tripping off the power

(21st century schizoid man)

As you listen to the words, you realize that there is no way that he is asserting that he is some kind of deity. Instead, Kanye rants about the distortion of modern man’s power. He wrestles with a flawed prison system, greed, and mass media that detract from childlike creativity. Questioning the morality of the physical world is a markedly Christian principle. However, just taking a look at the notedly narcissistic things Kanye has said or reading how his values reflect on our generation will show anyone he does not to describe to “the meek shall inherit the Earth” Biblical mentality. 

Kanye West’s conflicting personas of openness about religion and extreme self-confidence raises the question – can you be self-centered and spiritual? Arrogant yet angelic? 

With so much access to information, we as millenials will take what we want from Kanye’s religious examples. We will worship our gods, find new ones or exalt ourselves. Whatever you choose, Kanye would tell you to put worth in yourself.

Feature Image: Collage: Katie | Angel Photo Credit: NY Daily News | VMA Photo Credit:

Can you hear me now?

Verizon marketed with it, microphones aim to fix it, and we all worry about it — can you hear me now? In a world of abundance information passing by us each second, it can inversely feel like you, me, we are not being heard. We us social media to shout — hey look here is me singing on YouTube! Listen to my hilarious SoundDub! Yeah you know you laughed at my Vine!

But with so much noise and so much clutter, our voice can become    l   o   s    t   .

Interviewing people with good, ethical audio techniques is one way where we can tell people’s stories in his or her own voice. In the article Sound in the Story, The Poynter Institute for Media Studies explores how good sound can capture an interesting story, a mind and a heart effectively. With audio, you have the opportunity to  create a virtual reality for the listener and illustration is key. The age old “don’t tell me, show me” is even more critical with audio because the subject is the one speaking. The balance of capturing ambient noises, their laughter and their environment versus having them speak about their experiences is tricky. As an editor and compiler, it is your job to choose what part of the interview best communicates their message. You could put in a joke that goes on for three minutes to show their sense of humor or an eight second bit of them whole-heartedly laughing.

However, with audio editing comes a weighty responsibility. Unlike photography or print, audio is linear not spatial. This means you should have a more dedicated purpose of guiding your audience through the message. You can’t realistically edit out much of the inner part of a photograph (Photoshop aside) but you can internally edit audio. This creates an ethical and creative dilemma.

Clinton’s confession (although mostly interpreted as false) here could have easily been edited on the radio to say “I did have sexual relations with that woman”. Obviously, something like this blatant would be unethical. (Fun Fact the National Public Radio Reporters are not allowed to “clean up” POTUS’s audio.) However, even more subtle edits can put you at legal risk and steer you away from the truth. If you are taking the time to interview someone, what they have to say should be interesting enough that you do not need to tamper with their message. 

Create compelling stories so that someone’s voice can truly be heard. When you capture this millennial generation’s flitting attention, you have the power to touch their hearts. When you hit a millennial’s heartstring, you have a very good chance of sparking a movement for change. Use your powers courteously, courageously and creatively to LISTEN and give the whole globe something worth the full volume.

Who wants to be like Kanye?

Why do so many millennials want to be like Kanye? Award winning rapper, fashion designer, head of record label GOOD Music, husband to celebrity Kim Kardashian. Yet, Kanye West remains the butt of pop culture jokes. He’s continually characterized as arrogant, testy and shallow. However, there is no denying that Kanye is a powerful figure in American culture. What does his popularity say about the values of today’s young adults?
Kanye West interupts Taylor Swift at the VMA’s | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Kanye’s career has been a massive equation of successes and failures.

He interupts beloved entertainer Taylor Swift for Video of the Year at the VMA’s, he marries into the idolized Kardashian Klan. He drops a hit song, he get’s arrested outside of a nightclub. Despite the ebb and flow of “good” and “bad” behavior, his influence on pop culture reflects our changing expectation of celebrities. He could easily be dismissed as crazy, irrational, the epitome of narcism but Kanye has continually proven that he will not be ignored.

West represents unapologetically fighting for your own people, beliefs and especially, standing up for yourself. He’s fiercely loyal. His lack of finesse and opinionated nature get him into trouble. And above all, his opinions about himself are known worldwide. 

“I feel like I’m too busy writing history to read it.” (Twitter in February 2015)

“I am Warhol. I am the No. 1 most impactful artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare in the flesh. Walt Disney. Nike. Google.” (Interview in 2013)

But in Kanye’s own book Thank You and You’re Welcome he not only shows the confidence he has in himself, he motivates readers to be bold.

“Believe in your flyness… conquer your shyness”

“Know your worth! People always act like they’re doing more for you than you’re doing for them.”

“Would you believe in what you believe in if you were the only one who believed it?”

These words challenge beliefs and strengthen the resolve to stand up for yourself. Through his book, performances and public presence, Kanye raises a question to millennials. How do we fight for our own and at what cost? Are we at our wit’s end with politeness and political correctness?

What does “Yeezus” tell us about spirituality, equality, power structures, race, politics, gender, and success? Does he have enough influence to motivate tangible change?

This blog is about Kanye and hip-hop culture. It explores how young people relate to the messages of power, artistry and prosperity. My posts will analyze how millenials can interpret a celebrity who is called vain, profane and irritable. As our generation progresses, it is integral that we understand our values. How we relate to Kanye’s message reflects what we believe about spirituality, equality, power structures, race, politics, gender, and our definition of success. What we chose to believe will affect our ability to motivate tangible change. Take a minute to think, do you want to be like Kanye? 

Featured image by: Living Civil and my own

Digitally Telling a Good Story

In Brian Carroll’s Writing & Editing for Digital Media, adaptability is essential to writing well on a digital platform. Old newspaper content cannot be thrown online but instead it must be combed through for an online audience. As our society transitions from push media (newspapers, broadcast) to pull media (aggregators , Twitter), journalists especially must stay vigilant in recognizing credible ways to disseminate news. Journalists, by being an extension of an democratic environment, should be independent. However, with such an overwhelming amount of information online, aesthetics, readability, and profitably tethers journalists to rules. The level of complexity of writing in America (4th grade, 8th grade, college graduate) published to the public astonishes even the well-educated.

This Surprising Reading Level Analysis Will Change the Way You Write

But the question still remains — can we write intelligently and be attractive to online “skimmers”?

In Writing for the Web, Lynda Felder refers to Aristotle’s idea of mythos or plot being the central element of a story. But how can opinion pieces and news coverage truly take hold of a compelling plot? Are op-eds, fashion blogs or Tumblrs worthless because their lack of identifiable plot? If Tumblr feeds with no identifiable theme still remain popular, does Aristotle’s words have any merit today?

Tumblr Feed
Tumblr Feed

Today’s stories grab us in a more fragmented frantic process than they once did. Tumblr is a viable source of snapshots of popular culture and specific interests. However, elements like hooks, cliff-hangers, ethos, and narration are key players of telling a more comprehensive story — even in the digital age. While as bloggers we must adapt content for an online audience, we must be grounded in the fundamentals of compelling story-telling. Blending the two mediums marks the best journalistic story teller.

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