Category: Vox’s Journal

A play off of Rorschach’s Journal in Watchmen (but less sentence fragments).

Essay 2

 

When I think about making a website and presenting it to the world, I think about the first scene of the Watchmen movie (which, as a side note, I’ve never seen).

 

I mean, isn’t this what usually happens? You naively put your stuff out there and blammo! the haters have found and annihilated you.

Of course this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes you put up your website and people love it. And…sometimes you make a website and hardly anyone sees what you do. Except the bots. The bots see all.

My website is about yarn bombing, a non-harmful method of graffiti. It’s for crafters and people who enjoy a bit of illegal craft work now and again. My real audience would be my talented classmates (seriously, how are you guys so talented??) and bots, according to my Google Analytics, lots of them. Out of my 309 pageviews, I’m hoping at least some of them were from passionate and crafty people. This is my imagined public.

I’m addressing my public through what is hopefully a fun and unique site. I try to make my writing no-nonsense, but I’m sure most of the time I come off as a self-absorbed hypocrite (this is fine, leave your complaints in the comments section.) I use a lot of images because I believe they work better than me just describing everything I crochet. Also, they’re easy on the eyes.

As for value, I believe most of the value of this website is going towards me. Yes, it’d be cool if other people got value from this site, but I doubt that’s happening. My site is for other people, yet most of the stuff I do really just helps me learn more about the web, gives me time to practice writing and editing, and lets me grapple with website building and design and finding the perfect funny widget that lets you fly a little rocket around my page, blowing things up.

 

 

I didn’t want my page to be too clean because what’s the fun in looking like a million other websites? This makes me think back to Travis Gertz’s article on how the machines are taking over because everyone uses the same website template. Whatever, man. People are just going with the flow to make a living, which is fine. People who have money and time or must find money and time for an obligatory publishing class website can make something fun.

To the four people who have given me website feedback, I thank you profusely. It really was helpful, and I made some important changes because of you.

Beyond this page, I’d like to continue to develop my Instagram crochet account and perhaps move all my work from here over to a free place like Tumblr or Blogger or something that doesn’t cost me $45+ a year.

Aside from all my reminiscing and reflection, there is one big topic I’d like to touch on in this essay. It’s something that’s been bothering me for a while now.

— — —

The more I think about yarn bombing and graffiti, I wonder is it really non-harmful? 

— — —

— — —

— — —

 

 

These comments seemed so weird to me when I first saw them. What? People don’t actually appreciate vandalism?

Well, duh, of course not.

1) That’s kinda the point of it and 2) it can be destructive and harmful. Number two can be a problem. That’s when I start asking myself some serious questions. Where do I draw the line? Should I have to draw it when it comes to graffiti?

I believe I should. And to figure out where to the draw the line, I’d like to look at some of the most frequent complaints of yarn bombing. From there, I will see if the complaint is valid or invalid depending on my experience as a yarn bomber, and sources from the web.

 

Yarn bombs hurt trees

They can. It’s true. Shannon Sperati asked the American Society of Consulting Arborists about yarn bombing trees. Arborist Marty Shaw replied that yarn bombing can cause mildew, mold, and insect infestations. Additionally, yarn bombs could hide tree defects that could later cause harm (imagine not knowing that a tree branch was severely damaged and could drop on you at any moment.) He also noted that depending on the yarn, toxins could leak into the tree and damage it.

Solutions: Don’t yarn bomb trees. Yarn bomb trees for a short period of time, and then take down your piece(s). Make yarn bombs that leave lots of breathing room for the tree. Yarn bomb trees only when the weather is dry and cold (this prevents bugs and mildew). Yarn bomb indoor trees. Make a small, non-intrusive yarn bomb for the tree.

Yarn bombs are ableist

In most cases, they are not. This concern stems from people who yarn bomb railings specifically. The website No Award tags yarn bombing as “ableism” in their article “Having a Yarn(Bomb)”, but does not explain this further than saying a yarn bomb “renders mobility and accessibility aids useless or difficult to use” (Barr, 2015).

This is a vast generalization, as yarn bombs come in many shapes and sizes and are attached to a variety of objects. On an inclined railing, such as one for a staircase, I can see this being a problem for a person who needs a better grip on a railing. However, crocheted or knit yarn can often have more grip than a wet metal pole. Further, the yarn bomb No Award pictures in their article (shown above) is on a level railing, which should not make it difficult to grasp at all. However, I don’t have a disability, so I’d be happy to change this based on a more experienced person’s view.

Another issue can come from yarn bombing reflective signs. It could cause danger to drives, which is serious.

Solutions: Don’t put yarn bombs on angled railings. Don’t put yarn bombs on important/reflective signage. Don’t restrict peoples’ accessibility with a yarn bomb.

 

Yarn bombs get “wet and grimy after the first rain storm”

Completely false. This is by far the most frequent complaint. Some even complain that yarn bombs go grey within a day. This is false. Here I will use my personal experience and a famous yarn creation as examples of the truth.

Three years ago, I turned a lot of scrap yarn into crochet flowers. I hung them up around my neighbourhood. Sure enough, many were gone within a few days. They were cute, so I assume people took them home for decorations. It warmed my heart. Anyway, two of my flowers (both hanging from trees) remained untouched.

Fast forward to now. Those two flowers are still in the places I left them three years ago.

One is still mint green with a little moss growing on it. It still looks like a cute flower. The other was made with grey yarn already, so it couldn’t really get any greyer. This one has more moss growing on it and a spider has moved in. Look at that, I unknowingly made a cute spider habitat.

Those yarn bombs have lasted for three years and are doing fine. Most of my yarn bombs are indoors, so I avoid this problem completely.

My other example is the creepy giant pink bunny that haunted a hill in Italy. The New York Times called it a “big, dead, rotting, silly rabbit.”

You see that orange blob on its belly? That’s an adult. This thing is massive. Look, here are people standing by its foot:

It was made by an art collective of four called Gelitin in 2005 with the help of many others. The picture above was taken shortly after its completion in 2005. The piece stayed pink until 2006. After that, it turned grey but its iconic shape remained for a few more years.

This is what it looked like three years ago:

So no, it doesn’t take one day and one storm to deform and discolour a yarn bomb. This bunny even lasted through snow. You can see other photos of its deterioration here.

Solutions: Yarn bomb indoors. Yarn bomb where there’s some protection from the elements. Remove your yarn bombs after they get grey/start to fall apart/get moldy.

 

Yarn bombing is a waste of time and resources

Maybe, but then so are most things. This is perhaps one of my least favourite arguments ever. “Why aren’t you doing something more useful with your time and resources?” The real question is why aren’t you? You, the commenter and complainer. What’s stopping you from learning how to knit and make dozens of blankets for homeless people? Why are you wasting your time on comment threads?

This is another big complaint that I find ridiculous. Someone pointed this out on the “Having a Yarn(Bomb)” article:

The co-owner of the website replied:

Erm, okay. I don’t even want to touch this one.

Solution: Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Yarn bombing does not send a deeper message

It depends. What counts as a deeper message to you? Many people believe that yarn bombing is all about the aesthetic and doesn’t have the same edgy message as other piece of graffiti. Sometimes, yes. People might just want to brighten something, or make it look pretty. But there are example of yarn bombs such as The Knitted Mile and the tank covered in pink that do mean something more.

Also, does something have to “mean something more” to send a deeper message? If a yarn bomb evokes a smile, on some level, isn’t the smiler interpreting a deeper message?

I believe they are. The person smiling is interpreting a message of love, care, time, effort, and vibrant beauty.

Sure, yarn bombs can be tacky. They can get dirty and wet and fade away to nothing. But if we really want a deeper message, wouldn’t we say that we too are just like yarn bombs?

Solution: Want to do it for the aesthetic? Then do it. Want to make a deeper message? Then do it.

 

Mandatory conclusion

Yarn bombing isn’t as evil and wasteful as people make it out to be. From this examination of complaints, I feel like I can move forward and make truly non-harmful graffiti. Hopefully some of it can be meaningful. Hopefully most of it will make people smile. I hope in the future I can continue to do this thing I love, and encourage others to join me in these silly acts of vandalism.

Oh, and improve my online presence. That too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Works Cited:

Barr, Liz. “Having a Yarn(Bomb).” No Award, 2 Sept. 2015, no-award.net/2015/09/02/having-a-yarnbomb/.

Gelitin. “Hase / Rabbit / Coniglio.” Gelitin.net, 2005, www.gelitin.net/projects/hase/.

Odyssey. “’Yarn Bombing’ Is The New Graffiti, But Is That OK?” Odyssey, 13 Nov. 2017, www.theodysseyonline.com/yarn-bombing-graffiti.

Sperati, Shannon, and Marty Shaw. “Q: What Are Some Thoughts on ‘Yarn Bombing’ Trees?” American Society of Consulting Arborists, 30 Dec. 2015, www.asca-consultants.org/news/267498/Q-What-are-some-thoughts-on-yarn-bombing-trees.htm.

Taylor, Tracey. “Berkeley Library Not Thrilled about Yarnbombing.” Berkeleyside, 6 May 2017, www.berkeleyside.com/2012/04/09/not-all-creative-contributions-welcome-at-library-reopening.

Process Post 12

For my website I developed one community guideline. I put it under my ‘About’ section and it says this:

“1) You can comment whatever you want, but if I think it doesn’t belong on my website, I will remove it.”

I feel like this is the best guideline I could make. In theory, I could come up with an extensive list of don’ts, but what would happen if someone wrote a comment that was completely fine according to my guidelines, but personally I thought it was a bad comment? Of course I wouldn’t post it. If I did that, however, what would be the point of guidelines that I wouldn’t always follow? I have no intention of lying to my audience.

That’s why the one guideline I settled on is broad. I welcome critique and harsh words towards myself on my website. Even if the critique is not critical and just a long rant about how I’m an idiot, I don’t really mind. That actually sounds kind of funny and I’d love to see that on my page.

Despite this, I do recognize that if my website were to get big, I would want firmer guidelines in place. The world is a nasty place, according to Jon Ronson’s TED talk on online shaming.

I should be careful, as Justine Sacco had only 170 Twitter follows and still got torn apart by the world. I don’t think that anyone could get too offended by yarn bombing, but you never know.

The Guardian also noted that the majority of abused writers on their website are women. It’s a good thing I’m not talking about feminism or I’d be torn apart. Perhaps because I’m doing such a traditionally feminine task no one is out to get me.

If there were many people on my site having conversations in the comments, I’d want better guidelines. I don’t mind people bashing me, but I would want to protect the people on y site and make it a safe area for them. My one guideline would still work in that case, but if I had many people mingling on my site, I’d need guidelines in place to regulate their conversations. One person doesn’t have the energy to moderate comments 24/7.

At the moment, though, I don’t think my website gets enough traffic from real people to need firm guidelines. And even if I did put guidelines, would anyone really listen to them? The Guardian has extensive community guidelines, but still face abusive comments on a daily basis. The best guidelines for me are the ones that give me wiggle room to assess comments on a case-by-case basis. Implementing my one guideline will be easy since I have control over which comments get posted. And since no one has commented thus far except Suzanne and spammers, I think I’ll be okay.

Process Post 10

This week I really liked the article about Pokémon. I had never really reflected on how transmedia worked, but the articles this week helped my thinking. I don’t really believe that YouTubers are ruining the publishing industry; they are just taking advantage of another medium.

Spreading your work out is important, especially when you’re catering to a wide audience. Videos, images, articles, and interactive elements work together to help you in the long run. The Pokémon article made me realize this. The card game, TV shows, books, movies, and video games all contribute to Pokémon‘s continued success. There is a love for Pokémon that carries on as a person grows up; this was intentional.

For my own blog, I use photos, words, and some small “videos” AKA gifs to make my website seem more alive. I don’t think I’d ever be able to videos by myself, but if I were to get a large group together, it might be fun to make a timelapse video of a yarn bomb.

Some interactive elements I’d like to pursue are quizzes and scavenger hunts. I downloaded a quiz plugin and I hope to make a “What Kind of Yarn Bomber Are You?” quiz before my time in this class is up. I also want to make a series of scavenger hunts around SFU campuses. I would put up yarn bombs and get people to find them, take photos of them, and then send them to me for a prize. I don’t even know if scavenger hunts appeal to people any more, but I’ve heard they can be effective.

Either way, I’m a strong believer in transmedia. And I know some people are angry about YouTubers making books, but I think it’s a good idea. For many people, books are a way to collect their best works and give fans something physical to hold onto. This reminds me of the “Humans of New York” photographer who eventually put his best photos together into a book.

Maybe one day I’ll write a book. I think it might be fun.

Process Post 9

My Google Analytics findings were mostly anticlimatic. I’ve looked at them twice and and only twice have I’ve seen “high” traffic of around 20 people. The bounce rate for both times was around 90%, so that’s not promising. It seems that bots like my site quite a bit, but not actual people.

I don’t mind this too much, honestly. After all, I’m having a lot of fun making my site, and also looking at the sites of people in this class. I’m really impressed by how professional some of them are, and I hope some people will choose to keep their sites. On the other hand, I hope none of them turn Facebook-level evil. But if they do, I guess it wouldn’t be so bad. They’d make a lot of money…

The articles this week touched on Facebook’s scummy behaviour, especially around the Messenger stuff. I find it funny that people still migrated over to Messenger after Facebook let up and still let you message from their main site. I don’t have either of the Facebook apps; usually I just go on it through a browser. This move was bold for Facebook, and we know their pockets are getting a little bigger because of it.

As for me, I’m not going to make too many changes based on my Google Analytics stuff. At the moment, I’m using this website to test different things out, see what I’m good at it, and figure out what needs to be improved. Aesthetic is a big thing I need to work on. I have an Instagram account for my crochet stuff (as mentioned before) and my theme is all over the place. I have troubles sticking to a colour palette, so my feed tends to disjointed.

To iron that out, I’ve been contemplating making two Instagram accounts, one for yarn bombs and one for crochet products. That way I could have a place for clean shots of items and grimy shots for my yarn bombing.

Another thing I wanna try is being less angsty. Of course, angst has been my signature throughout the course, and it is a great motivator, but it doesn’t come off as very friendly. Being friendly isn’t necessarily my intention, but then again even Rorschach found time between his angsty fits to pet the doggies.

Yarn bombing is often a solo task. That said, I’ve always wanted to be part of a crafting group. Maybe if I was less ‘grr’ and more ‘hehe hi guys i’m sooper friendly >w<~!’, my dreams could become a reality. However, I’m sure I could start a crafting group without changing my personality. That would be nice, too.

Peer Review 3 — Carelessly Creative

For this peer review, I’ll be looking at Mustafa Dewji’s website “Carelessly Creative.” My initial idea was that I’d definitely be part of his intended audience from my impression of his title. As someone who is also creative and (sometimes) careless, I was immediately looking forward to checking out Mustafa’s site.

I entered his site and couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. The photo of Alexandria that greeted me is beautiful, but the rest of his site is black on white and somewhat bland. To me, it doesn’t seem to give off the vibe of being “creative” necessarily, but more clean and professional and definitely not “careless.” My first impression is that Mustafa’s title is a bit of a misnomer, but I’ll look further into his site before deciding.

I first checked out his photography tab and I was immediately impressed. Mustafa does some excellent photography, and I especially love his “1950’s Rebel Shoot.” His long exposure photos are also very beautiful. I believe that if these were some of the first images people see when they entered his site, maybe in a slider, people would immediately understand what he means by being “carelessly creative.”

In his travel tab, I was blown away even further. The photos he features here are awesome. Unfortunately, it took me a moment to realize these were actually his photos; the only giveaway was the watermark. A clearer indication that Mustafa is the one who took the photos would have helped me be even further impressed by him right away. At first glance, they were so professionally done that I guessed they were stock photos.

If part of the aim of his site is to sell these gorgeous photos, I suggest that he make it a bit more clear that he’s the mastermind behind them. Other than that, I’m really enjoying the casual dialogue he frames his photos with. Now I’m getting more of a sense of his “carelessly creative” mind.

Moving on, I thought Mustafa’s music tab was also fun. I love Beirut, too! This section is a good addition, but I feel that it might be more effective as a sidebar/widget to his site. Then people can hit play as soon as they enter and perhaps hang around on his site for longer (because who leaves in the middle of a song? That’s just rude.)

Mustafa’s lifestyle tab has one entry, and it’s a short anecdote about journaling. It’s a nice thought, and it made me smile to read it. That said, I don’t think it should be isolated in a tab by itself. Maybe on the sidebar, he could do something called…I don’t know…“Mustafa’s Musings” (??) and write little anecdotes that people can look at and read while they browse through his other tabs. That way, if his audience is made up of other “careless creatives,” they might stay longer browsing through these little things that catch their eye.

His posiel tab also contains a gem: a lovely double exposure photo. This image is so eyecatching that I wish it was the first thing I saw coming onto his site, not one of the last.

Mustafa’s last category is his about page. He gives a very simple description of himself and his goals for his blog. I immediately wished there was a photo of Mustafa, or at least one of his wonderful photographs of other things. I also found it a bit strange to have the about tab at the end of his header. If he spiffed it up a bit and moved it to be his first tab, I think it would help people get a sense of his website more quickly.

I suggest that he should feature a few photos of himself. In our reading “For Many YouTube Stars, Next Step Is An Old-Fashioned Book,” I learned that people who follow big YouTube stars are willing to lay down some money for their books. I think this is because it’s their individual copy, their personal way of getting to know the star. If Mustafa’s website incorporated some more personal elements of himself in photos, I feel like the personal and creative feel of his website would be elevated.

Mustafa, your photography is amazing! I’m sure there is an audience out there who’d love to see it, and all you have to do is make it more visible on your site.

Process Post 8

No, I’m not going to monetize my site

Look, I understand. Completely. Some people, especially ones named Trevor Battye, become so desperate for cash that they decide to monetize their wedding invites. Obtaining a high quality of  life is hard. Getting a job that pays well enough to maintain that life is even harder. So if I too was desperate, I would probably monetize a lot of things.

That said, my website is about yarn graffiti, and as far as I know, most people don’t get paid for (admittedly mild) vandalism.

What I do is a hobby. Yarn bombing has never been a monetized endeavour. It’s just supposed to be . . . fun? Don’t get me wrong, you can have fun at a job and make money too. But just because what you’re doing doesn’t pay, it doesn’t mean that it’s inherently foolish or worth less of your time.

For example, I do sell the crochet toys and accessories I make. I’ve been casually running an Instagram account for two years, selling my wares to friends, family, and strangers. Sometimes I get requests for custom items, which I enjoy making. I’ve been to a couple craft conventions and made a small profit from those. It’s a side profession that I don’t take too seriously.

Yarn bombing, however, is a completely different story. I came into this class wanting to do something fun. My first thoughts weren’t “how am I going to make the money back that I had to spend on this site?” but “what can I do that will be fun, creative, and over the top?” So I went with a yarn graffiti site.

Ads are ugly and I had no intention of putting them on my site. I hadn’t even considered ads before it was brought up in class. Why would I have? The way our websites were talked about up until then was “they are your portfolios!” Do people usually put ads in their portfolios? I don’t know.

This week we read about The Toast shutting down, despite its attempts to incorporate ads. This was a site that needed to do this in order to support labour costs. I don’t have to do that, so I might as well not even bother.

Another way I could monetize is to sell my yarn bombing services aka put a price on my hobby. Think of a hobby you have; let’s say you collect bottle caps. Are you going to charge someone because you’re technically cleaning the streets of garbage? Of course not. It’s your hobby, and usually people don’t put a price on theirs. I can’t speak for everyone, of course. But no, I do not want to charge anything for my graffiti.

It defeats the purpose of the art and I can afford yarn with money from my real job, thank you very much.

As for data trails, my job requires me to Google lots of different stuff, and I rarely ever like/comment/share something on Facebook, the only social media I use other than Instagram. I doubt anyone is getting any useful data from me or about me, honestly. If I’m being naive and they are, well darn. They’ve yet to manipulate my mind as far as I know.

Process Post 7 (Remix)

Remixing a sculpture

 

Today I yarn bombed Geert Maas’ On The Beach that resides across from the Trottier Observatory on SFU’s Burnaby campus. It was for my remix assignment, and I decided not to charge anyone for doing it because I’m also not the kind of person who would put ads in my wedding invitations.

On The Beach was installed at the campus in 2002 and purchased from the artist in 2000. Maas’ work is displayed in more than 30 countries worldwide, so it’s kinda neat that we have one of his originals.

 

 

I wrote a piece about this sculpture and four other works of art around SFU for The Peak recently. This little brat is my favourite; I’m glad he has such a perfect orifice for yarn bombing. Unfortunately, I’ve shown this yarn bomb to two people so far and they’ve said it looks like a) a cigar or b) a flower phallus. I reasoned that a flower is pretty much a penis with pollen for sperm, but they didn’t listen.

 

My intention was to show nature reclaiming this piece in a vibrant way that contrasts the sculpture’s dull metal. Someone has even yarn bombed them before; these sculptures have been given cute necklaces and a hat/swimcap (??) thing. I think it’s important to not only appreciate art at SFU or make and display art at SFU, but to comment on the art already at SFU.

You know that giant painting above Images Theatre? This one I mean. It’s called British Columbia Pageant by Charles Comfort and it’s about the whitest depiction of BC’s history you could find. I remember when I first saw it I was like “Where’s the bloodshed, trauma, forced schooling, aggression, unrestrained violence, and thieving? Hmm…”

Other people were and still are thinking the same thing. Many have asked for this mural to be taken down. I think what happened instead was more powerful: art has been put up across from it in protest.

I won’t describe this art for you. I think you should go see it and think about it for yourself.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s important to question and work with the art you encounter. I love On The Beach, and I remixed it to add to it in this case, to make it stand out a bit more to passing students. However, if you find a piece you want to comment on, leave something behind that doesn’t harm the piece. No one likes book burnings. This follows the same principle.

I’ve considered crocheting some yarn blood to drape off British Columbia Pageant, but I think I wouldn’t be able to attach it successfully. Alas, I am short.

 

Process Post 6

Helen gave me some great feedback this week, and I made two changes based on it. First, I changed my byline to “by Vox” on my posts rather than “by Admin.” Second, I heeded her advice: “it is clear that VOX wants her audience to appreciate her for who she is [—] her honest way of design, no ‘Bullshit’ and that’s lovely in itself. If that’s the case, fuck my review and do whatever you want girl, but it is something to consider.”

The first part was a minor change that I thought was a smart idea (thanks Helen!) The second part is very important to me.

Helen made some very important observations about my site, especially about how there is a strong contrasting theme between gentle and harsh that doesn’t necessarily work. I was originally worried that I might lose marks or scare away people from my page because of it, but I soon decided not to care. I was having a lot of fun with the juxtaposition and didn’t want to change it. Helen noticed this too. She told me that I should consider her feedback (which I am), but also to fuck her review if I want to just do my own thing.

In this university atmosphere, I think it’s important to remember this kind of sentiment. Since I entered SFU, I’ve become very self-conscious in lectures and tutorials. In my English classes, I feel a definite strain in the atmosphere. People are scared their answers will be wrong, their analysis will be weak, and their essays will be torn apart. There’s this unspoken expectation that you have to act really intellectual. It’s kind of ridiculous. And then the TAs just stand there like

What are you waiting for? That’s the big question in uni. What do you want us to do? How do we do it best? What do you want from us?

Whenever I get back an essay, I immediately flip to the feedback and try to parse out what I need to do to get a higher grade next time. I tuck the paper into my “Shit Writing” folder, crack my knuckles, and begin to write another one that’s hopefully worth the next letter grade up. But who really gives a shit what we do at the end of the day? Yeah, we have to get through uni, but that doesn’t mean we need to pass our work off as garbage because a few people don’t like it. Grades are like the Slap Chop. Everyone thinks it’s really cool, but if you think about it for more than five minutes, you realize it’s a useless piece of junk that doesn’t really make your life that much better.

One thing we looked at this week was Jon Bois’ “What Football Will Look Like in the Future.” I didn’t really like it, after reading the first segment. That said, I though it was amazing. It was unique and weird, and Bois obviously had a lot of fun making it. I’m having a lot of fun making this ranty post no one will ever read. Life is great.

But fuck what I think. I’ll leave you with the wise words of Vince Offer as he skinned an onion with the Slap Chop: “Life’s hard enough as it is, you don’t wanna cry anymore.”

Essay 1

How trial and error, not coddling, taught me how to recognize fake news

 

Last year, I got totally bamboozled by a fake news story.

In my defence, I’m usually great at catching on to when something is fake/satire. Nowadays, I check sources, cross reference, and refuse to share a news story until I’m sure about what kind of news it is. But on August 11, 2017, I woke up, started scrolling through Facebook, and came across this:

 

I instantly believed it. I know, in retrospect I was a complete idiot. But I had just woken up and my sleep-addled brain fell for it. I don’t tend to share things on social media, or even like people’s posts. That day was no different, though I did tell my mom and sister about the story. Neither of them believed it, of course. But even after I clicked the post and went onto their website, I was still confident it was real.

It’s ridiculous that I fell for this satiric story, but how many others did, too? In what ways can this post be perceived as believable? And why exactly did I end up falling for it?

 

 

You just don’t know

Maybe you’re young and you haven’t gone out a lot. Maybe English isn’t your first language, or you don’t know the geographic layout of Vancouver well. Most native speakers know that cougar can mean an animal or an older woman who fancies younger men. Most city slickers don’t know how impossible it is for a cougar to get all the way to Granville Street. People who club every weekend are probably aware that The Roxy is known as a cougar bar.

You need this kind of basic knowledge to immediately pass off this article as satire if you first saw it in a little shared block of text on your Facebook page. This is something that Mike Caulfield discusses in “Yes, Digital Literacy. But Which One?”

If you don’t have this innate knowledge of things, though, you’d want to look at the article more closely. I know that Caulfield claims that “it’s not by doing something, it’s by knowing something” we can reach a conclusion as to whether or not something is fake news. But I think that’s ridiculous. We need to do research and fact-checking if we want to gain knowledge. We don’t just inherently know everything when we age, as he implies. To check a source, all you need is a chunk of time and the ability to type things into Google.

The first thing I did that morning after seeing the article and telling my mom and sister was Google “Cougar attack Vancouver.” When nothing other than the Burrard Street Journal immediately showed up, then I got suspicious. I didn’t have to paste the link into Snopes (which wouldn’t have worked anyway because Snopes didn’t cover this site).

 

 

 

After being questioned on whether or not this was real, I simply had to stop, think, and wake up a bit more to find the answer.

 

Let’s look closer

If we wanted to pick apart this article further, there are simple steps we could take. It’s a fairly recent article, and it looks like it’s from a reliable news source, the Burrard Street Journal. But even looking slightly closer at that, you can see that a shorter form of that would be the BS Journal which should send off red flags.

 

 

Clicking on the article takes you to their site (which, coincidentally, has almost the exact same layout as one of my favourite news sites). You might notice the article has hyperlinks, but each one leads to a disclaimer that the journal is all satire. This is stuff that I could easily catch if I wasn’t still half asleep. Also, Justin Trudeau standing beside a sign that says “Welcome to Peopleitoba” seems a bit sketchy, too.

“In reality, most literacies are heavily domain-dependent, and based not on skills, but on a body of knowledge that comes from mindful immersion in a context,” Caulfield says.

But I didn’t really need to mindfully immerse myself in anything. I clicked two things to get the answer I needed. That’s a skill, not some wisdom I could have only acquired if I was an old man. He also says that “It’s by learning [digital literacy] on a granular level that we form the larger understandings.” Look, Caulfield, I don’t have time to learn anything on a granular level anymore; I have a full-time job and take three university classes. Every day, I make mistakes and learn from them. That’s all I have time to do.

 

I was sleep deprived (what’s new?)

The first thing many people do when they wake up is go on their phone. 66% of them are young people aged 18 to 24, according to a survey done by ReportLinker. Of course, many people wake up groggy. If they’re picking up their phone and scrolling through Facebook, there’s a high chance they’ll come across a shared news story. (Or at least there was a high chance before the algorithm changed. More on that below.)

This was me last year. I wasn’t lacking some sort of incredible wisdom. I was just tired, as many of us are. A recent Aviva study reported on by Global News and CTV News tells me that Canada is the world’s third most sleep-deprived country.

 

Why we can’t have nice things

It’s no surprise that after Trump won the election and people started pointing fingers at who was resposible, Mark Zuckerberg decided to bundle up Facebook families into little isolated homesteads and cut them off from news with his new algorithm. Instead of posting a simple list of precautions someone should take before sharing a news story as real, he cut us off from news altogether, and now all I can see on my feed are my Hungarian relatives selling their furniture and petting their dogs.

Sure, it’s crazy that people believe some of the crazy stories that are being spread across the web. Maybe everyone’s just too tired and busy to check if a news story is real or not. Or maybe it’s just that “between reality and the bubble of fantasy news stories, these are tough times for satirists,” as a Maclean’s article describes.

Satire is a powerful way to ridicule society. In some ways, it can be just as important as any other news. But when we read Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal in class, people thought that Swift was serious about eating babies. Why? My guess is that people have been exposed to so much news, fake and real, and a lot of the fake stories are just as ridiculous as the real. I mean, how can this possibly be real?

 

 

I can imagine Swift turning over in his grave.

Reality is ridiculous. And so are fake news stories. But I still want to read both. Now that we’re aware that misinformation can be spread around just as quickly as information, we need to be able to look at both and think critically about which is which. I don’t want Facebook to censor news from me. I want all kinds of news popping up on my feed so every article I come across can be a critical thinking challenge.

I also don’t want to be told that I need to study how to recognize which is which on a “granular level.” All I need to be told is think before I share. Be critical. I don’t want to be coddled by Facebook or walked through digital literacy one baby step at a time. I need to learn these things myself. We all do, even if it’s through trial and error.

America already elected a yam to hold office. We are more aware of fake news now than ever before because of this event. I shared fake news with two people before I realized it was false. I was ridiculed. But I’m glad I thought a real cougar walked into a Vancouver bar a year ago, or else I never would have learned how to be diligent about fake news.

~

Works Cited:

Caulfield, Mike. “Yes, Digital Literacy. But Which One?” Hapgood, 19 Dec. 2016, hapgood.us/2016/12/19/yes-digital-literacy-but-which-one/.

Joseph, Rebecca. “Canada Third Most Sleep-Deprived Country: Study.” Global News, Corus News, 29 Oct. 2016, globalnews.ca/news/3033503/canada-third-most-sleep-deprived-country-study/.

ReportLinker. “For Most Smartphone Users, It’s a ‘Round-the-Clock’ Connection.” ReportLinker Insight,    ReportLinker, 26 Jan. 2017, www.reportlinker.com/insight/smartphone-connection.html.

The Associated Press. “Is Satire Still Possible in an Era of Fake News?” Maclean’s, Rogers Media, 1 Feb. 2017, www.macleans.ca/society/is-satire-still-possible-in-an-era-of-fake-news/.

The Burrard Street Journal. “Panic At Vancouver Nightclub As Wild Cougar Wanders In Forcing Evacuation.” The Burrard Street Journal, 8 Aug. 2017, www.burrardstreetjournal.com/vancouver-cougar-attack-shock-in-nightclub/.