Thursday, November 19, 2009


From the issues covered in this blog, I understand now that responsibility and ethics are critical for the modern blogger. Opinions of bloggers carry weight and can impact the blogosphere in unexpected ways.

The semiotic significance of any image, written language or other signifier must be properly understood and explained to the public.

For a document designer, the globalization of information translates to an exuberance of new user generated content, delivered via new media. The blogopshere is important in both the vertical and horizontal transmission of this information.

Design for print should follow principles as outlined by Reep, but online media, with various multimodal interactions between different media, requires special principles as outlined by Walsh and Nielsen.

Blogging can be done for personal enjoyment, but it can also be an empowering tool for social change. In fact, blogging is a very flexible and versatile platform; different blogs can play multiple roles, or specific ones , depending on the audience.

As a person who is fond of writing, it was difficult at first for me to apply visual design principles to this blog. However , realize now the importance of New Media Literacy, and online design principles. These are valuable tools for making the words readable and interesting. Therefore good design complements good writing, in order for the message to be delivered.


Kress, G & van Leeuwen, TV, 2006, Reading images: The grammar of visual design, 2nd edn, Routledge, London

Nielsen, J 1999, Differences Between Print Design and Web Design, Alertbox, viewed 15 November 2009, <>

Walsh, M 2006, ‘The 'textual shift': Examining the reading process with print, visual and multimodal texts’ Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, Vol29, No.1, p.24-37

New Media and Citizen Journalists

Citizen journalists are people without professional journalism training. They utilize the tools of modern technology and the global distribution of the Internet to create, augment or fact-check media on their own, or by collaborating with others(Glaser, 2006).

Citizen journalists can take up alternative niches that coexist alongside the professional journalists, such as gatewatching (monitoring mainstream media content) rather than gatekeeping, report with multiple perspectives on affairs of global importance, and publish stories which are routinely overlooked or ignored by mainstream news services (Brun, 2006).

Urban Malaysians utilized New Media tools such as websites, blogs and SMS, to circumvent tight government controlled media in order to disseminate alternative news and viewpoints, particularly the opposition(Oon, 2008) .

The traditional media, particularly vernacular newspapers, played a part in informing the rural communities, who in turn supported online bloggers such as Jeff Ooi in the election.

Each had its niche and has distinct roles to play with room for collaboration. Another model would be the OhmyNews website with collaborations between professional and citizen journalists to create content.

Citizen journalists can carry out grassroots reporting which the mainstream media takes up and develops as a pool of tips, sources and story ideas. News Websites from Indymedia to Slashdot can do this more effectively than the mainstream media as they are decentralized and non-profit driven.


Bruns, A 2007, ‘Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation’, in Proceedings Creativity & Cognition 6, Washington, DC.

Glaser, M 2006 Your Guide to Citizen Journalism, Mediashift website, viewed 10 October 2009

Oon, Y. 2008, ‘What role did New Media play in GE 2008’, The Edge Financial Daily, 12 March

Blogging Communities


According to White (2006) there are numerous types of blogging communities, made up of many people with common interests. Some examples include Nufnag, Global Voices and FreshNetworks.

Rowse (2009) suggests a few ways to build your own online community. These include interacting with bloggers in the comments section, provide and encourage membership, posting topics of interest and having reader centric posts.You should also be an active participant in the community and contribute often.

An online community, while virtual and without face to face interaction, is nonetheless a powerful tool for communicating, making new friends and aggregating people and products together under a common theme or interest.


Rowse, D 2009, "8 Tips for Building Community on Your Blog," online, retrieved 18 November 2009, from

White, N 2006, 'Blogs and Community – launching a new paradigm for online community?', The Knowledge Tree, viewed 18 November, .

Privacy issues on social network groups


In November 2009, an activist group called Control Your Info (CYI) claimed credit for taking control of 289 Facebook Groups to expose how vulnerable shows the vulnerabilities of social media, especially identity tampering. (‘Control Your Info' activists hijack Facebook groups, 2009)

This could lead to spammers using a Facebook account and identity to express ideas and opinions that are not the users. This is a form of identity theft and invasion of privacy.

CYI claims that Facebook Groups suffer from a major security flaw, that is anyone can take over the group if they register as a new administrator. The usurper then had authority to change anything, including pictures, descriptions and settings.

Ragan (2009) states that unless you actively define your privacy settings on Facebook, you have very little protection; this is true for almost any social platform online. A rogue group administrator can release an application that steals up personal information or spreads malicious code.

In a large group, even a small percentage affected could mean thousands of people. Millions of people are exploited monthly, thanks to criminals turning a trusted source against them (Ragan)

I believe that social networking groups are mainly platforms that people utilize without understanding the underlying architecture. They are not aware of potential of the network to be manipulated, or the negative effects such as invasion of privacy and identity theft. In Malaysia, cybercrimes are on the rise (Patrick, 2009).

There are numerous other issues with social networks as outlined by Solove(2008). These include threats to privacy and reputations, rumour mongering, and ridicule, especially if a video of you doing something silly is blown out of proportion on Youtube. Also, companies collect and use our personal information at every opportunity.

Even Google researchers in a recent paper (Davis,2009) have warned of privacy issues on social networks. These include unwelcome linkage, lack of control of activity streams and making a profile of a person, by comparing his activity on all his friends network pages.

I concur with the Google researchers in their recommendation that users should be empowered to remove events and activity streams, and that application creators must also be held responsible to inform the user of the details of any program which is being run on their pages.


Adelaide Now, 2009, Control Your Info' activists hijack Facebook groups,, viewed 17 November 2009,22606,26335072-5005962,00.html

Davis, L 2009, Google Warns of Privacy Issues on the Social Web,, viewed 17 November 2009

Patrick, S, Cybercrimes on the rise: Calls for dedicated court to handle such cases, The Star 16 January 2009

Ragan, S, 2009, FUD: Facebook groups were not hacked and no one is at risk, The Tech Herald, viewed 18 November 2009

Smith, A.D. & Rupp, W.T. 2002, 'Issues in cybersecurity: understanding the potential risks associated with hackers/crackers' Information Management & Computer Security, vol. 10/4 pages 178-183. Full text. Available Emerald management xtra, viewed 22 January 2007

Solove, D.J. 'Do Social Networks Bring the End of Privacy?' scientifc, viewed 17 November 2009

Print vs online newspapers


Print newspaper readership is slowly declining. The majority (74%) of Americans, or nearly 171 million people, read a newspaper in print or online during the past week, according to a new report by Scarborough Research (Sachoff, 2009.

However, this does not mean that print newspapers are going bust completely, rather the statistics show that print newspaper are adapting. However not enough are utilizing social media online to interact with their readers.

Malaysians relied on the mainstream media for information on corruption but they were concerned with biased reporting on the issue (Center for Independent Journalism. Online newspapers such as Malaysiakini and Malaysian Insider are popular as alternative news sources, especially on politics (The Malaysian Insider, 2009).

The advantages of online newspapers is that they provide information that is updated constantly, as opposed to print newspapers which have only limited number of additions per day.

There is also large amounts of space on online servers, so a story can be reported in more detail and carried for longer than in newsprint.

There is also the interactive element where the readers can leave their comments on the website. It's also much cheaper to host on web servers than publish on print. Online newspapers can aggregate together a large number of related articles from many sites.

They can also reach a global audience through the Internet. The disadvantages are the danger of altering and manipulation of online publishing by hackers or crackers, and inflammatory remarks posted in the comments section.


Centre for Independent Journalism 2009, Public want media to be more effective in reporting on corruption, ,, viewed 17 November 2009

Sachooff, M 2009, Newspapers Not Effectively Using Social Media,, viewed 17 November 2009

The Malaysian Insider 2009, About Us, viewed 2 October 2009

Design for print and designing online


Online design differs from print, in that the human mind reads and processes details differently on the computer than when reading in print. Firstly, there is background illumination that emanates from the computer which strains the eyes. Colourful or cluttered backgrounds that must not detract from the text.

Using an example of Time Magazine, the print version has the iconic cover with a striking image partnered with engaging text, this is new media literacy (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006)creating a powerful message.

The online design uses more multimodal formats and this effects the design (Walsh, 2006). All the different elements, including hyperlinks, videos and boxes, must be placed so that the readers scannability of the document is improved. Other difference are that print is visualized in 2-dimensions whereas web designs are ‘1-dimensional and N-dimensional’(Nielsen,1999). This encourages readers to scroll up and down, rather than left to right as in print.

As in print, headings are important for breaking up text (Reep, 2006). Online readers tend to read in F-shape, online text should be smaller than in print and paragraphs should be shorter and split into “chunks” for easier reading.


Kress, G & van Leeuwen, TV, 2006, Reading images: The grammar of visual design, 2nd edn, Routledge, London

Nielsen, J 1999, Differences Between Print Design and Web Design, Alertbox, viewed 15 November 2009, <>

Reep, D.C. 2006, ‘Chp 4: Principles of Document Design,’ in Technical Writing, 6th ed., Pearson Edu, Inc., New York, p.173-190.

Walsh, M 2006, ‘The 'textual shift': Examining the reading process with print, visual and multimodal texts’ Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, Vol29, No.1, p.24-37

Suharto and The Last Supper


The late second president, of Indonesia, Suharto, who ruled as a military dictator, died on January 2008 in the country’s capital of Jakarta.

In conjunction with his death, Tempo magazine published in its 4-10 February 2008 edition an image of Suharto and his family in a representation of The Last Supper. The original painting by Leonardo da Vinci depicted Jesus Christ and his apostles having their last supper before Jesus’s crucifixion.

With Suharto depicted as Jesus Christ, unsurprisingly Christians were outraged and protested vehemently against the publication. The editors claimed that they used the picture for its design qualities, unaware of the religious connotations.

Paradoxically, numerous parodies of the last supper featuring cartoon characters and dubious personalities, are widely available online, and are somewhat tolerated more, in Christianized Western cultures.

This issue highlights several points. Kress & van Leeuwen (2006, p.36) state that the electronic media, multiculturalism and globalization, change the semiotic landscape, and therefore the intended message as well.

In creating a document, especially involving images of deities, icons and other items religious significance, there must be research done on audience effects so that there is no backlash from the public, especially minorities, to avoid offending cultural sensibilities.

By putting the image online, the documents message was exposed to a vast audience, most of which they probably did not cater for. This definitely increased the risk of further cross-cultural miscommunication (Shriver, 1997).

Ironically, the original message of the document, which was a critique of Suharto (his family members are depicted as his ‘apostles’ (beneficiaries) while their plates are empty (symbolizing their pillaging of Indonesia’s economy for their own ends), was lost in the maelstrom of criticism. The message unintentionally morphed from political to religious. By Weber’s (1995) standards, the editors were ethical in their apologetic response.

I suggest that all images used in documents, especially those reaching a multicultural, multinational audience, must be accompanied with footnotes carefully explaining the symbolism and semiotic meanings contained within the images.

This is to retain the original context; so that the intended meaning is transmitted to whichever audience that encounters the document.


Indonesian weekly apologises over Last Supper Suharto cover 2008, ABC News, viewed on 11 November 2009,

Kress,G & van Leeuwen,T 2006, Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Communication, 2nd Edition, Routeledge, New York

Schriver,K.A. 1997, Chapter 6: Dynamics in document design: creating texts for readers, Wiley Computer Pub., New York

Weber,JH 1995, ‘Ethics in scientific and technical communication’ Wisenet Journal, vol.38 pp. 2-4

Google Library Controversy


The internet search engine company Google launched Book Search in October of 2004. Its goal is to digitize published works and allow searching of their contents online. This provides access for publishers to find more customers, and allow greater access for the public to such works. (Allen, 2006). Publishers and authors are against the Books Library Project and flied two lawsuits, for copyright infringement, against Google in 2005.

Authors and publishers are worried that Google might make the service subscription based, without properly remunerating the copyright owners of the works. The business model is that Google sells advertising space on the search page and pays a share of these profits to publishers under the Books Partner Program contracts.

But no remuneration to copyright owners is planned with regard to the profits derived from the Books Library Project. Google has claimed that all its actions fall under the ‘fair use’ terminology. In September 2009, Google made some concessions to European publishers regarding this issue (Kendall and Harvey, 2009).

There are several questions raised by this issue. One is the different laws and their interpretations regarding copyright and ownership. Google based its policy on a U.S. law, but the materials that they scan cross national and cultural boundaries. French publishers focused on the predominance of the English language and Anglo-Saxon and American thinking, and that this will increase the dominance of this culture on the world stage (Support for EU 'digital library', 2005).

Also, who owns published material online? Is it the public, corporations like Google, publishers, or the authors of the material? Should online users have freedom to access information, copyrighted or not, for free, seeing that the internet is supposed to be a forum for freedom of access to all information?

Incentives for publishers and writers of books, scientific papers and such, would be reduced substantially, and would de-motivate them from producing new works. And most importantly, is Google, a huge multinational corporation, in effect monopolizing all information by incorporating print media into its virtual archives?

I personally feel that more research must be done into this system. After all, digitally scanned works can be manipulated and the content changed. Letting one huge corporate entity control distribution of all forms of information sets a dangerous precedent. It could affect the integrity and accuracy of all information in the near future.


Allen, R 2006, Google Library: why all the fuss?, Australian Copyright Council, viewed 17 November 2009,

BBC, 2005, Support for EU 'digital library' ,, viewed 17 November 2009,

Kendall, N 2009, Google makes concessions to European publishers,, viewed 17 November 2009

How are blogs classified?

Blogs are documents that have a fluid format, both in terms of content as well as design. There are several systems of classifying blogs. In A taxonomy of blogs (2008), blogs are categorized as pamphleteering, digest, advocacy, popular mechanics, exhibition, gatewater, diary, advertisement and news.

Many of these functions overlap, for example a blog could be a diary as well as exhibition blog. To me these functions are for a more sophisticated blogging culture, where many niches and sub-themes can exist.

For example, in politics, for Australia with its shadow government, liberal, left wing and right wing variants of political blogs can exist. In Malaysia, a division between government and opposition is probably enough so as not to confuse voters.

Wikipedia (2008) classifies blogs according to five categories, which are personal, corporate, genre, media type and device. These also can overlap in function. In terms of differentiation, the media type blogs stand apart from the rest due to their popularity and branding.

These include vlogs (video sharing) and photoblogs (photo sharing). Personal microblogs such as Twitter also stand out due to the ability to record specific moments in time.


Wikipedia 2009, Blog,, viewed 17 November 2009

The Media Report, 2008, A taxonomy of blogs,, viewed 17 November 2009

Who blogs, and why?

There are many reasons to blog, and these reasons are as varied as the people who write blogs themselves. Self-expression is one, whether to write an online diary or critique issues of interest to the blogger.

Blogging is a useful tool of participatory democracy; by transmitting their views online, bloggers encourage democratization and decentralization of authority (Scholz, 2008). In Malaysia, the 2008 general election result was heavily influenced by bloggers. They helped the opposition defeating the ruling coalition by blogging on alternative news(Tan and Ibrahim, 2008).


Scholz, T. 2008, ‘Market Ideology and the Myths of Web 2.0’, First Monday, vol. 13, no. 3, viewed 29 September 2009

Tan, JE, Ibrahim, Z, 2008 Blogging and Democratization in Malaysia, Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, Petaling Jaya

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Document design

Rothman (2005) states that good technical writing involves relaying specific information directly and literally, should be specific, and include all relevant details. In this aspect the following two diagrams, which deal with definitions of very specific concepts, are unclear. Firstly the definitions of metafunctions (Fig.1) relies on word descriptions only, which results in an oxymoronic situation of vague definitions. It would be better if constructed using new literacy principles, i.e. utilizing pictures and other visual aids, perhaps as examples in a social context, in order to convey the complex concept of metafunctions.

Secondly, even though an explanatory diagram to illustrate metafunctional layering has been added (Fig 2), the meanings in the diagram were lost in translation. Schema theory (Putnis & Petelin, 1996, p. 238) suggests that readers need prior knowledge and experience of the subject (in this case linguistics) to decode specific meanings such as ‘rheme’. The level of schemata required here is too extensive for the casual reader.

Kress and van Leeuwen (2006) elaborate on the current importance of visual literacy, whereby a picture can stand on its own, in delivering a message. However, Fig 3 proves an exception to this rule. The symbolic meaning of the rabbit in the bottle is too open to interpretation, aside from vague connotations to reproduction and contraception. As Schriver (1997) suggests, in certain contexts some integrated prose would help in clarifying the documents intended message.

Reep (1997) states that proportion, such as size and placement of texts, is an important design principle. In Fig 4, the slide looks crammed and disproportionate as the space between the heading and body text is too small, the typeface is identical , and there is a lack of contrast between the background and text colour. The typography, which influences the reader's approach to the document (Shriver, 1997) is too conservative and could be changed.

Reep (2006) states that headings direct the readers’ attention to the subject, and separate the main points so that readers’ understand the flow of the document. In the first three slides there are no headings, therefore the subject is not clearly framed to the reader. The fourth slide’s heading accurately frames it and leads to a logical flow in the slide points.

Minor grammatical errors, such as confusion between past and present tense (point 3) indicate mechanical problems, and do not conform to accepted business conventions (Putnis & Petelin, 1996). The writing could be of a higher standard in order to enhance the professional credibility of the document and the document creators.


Kress, G & van Leeuwen, TV, 2006, Reading images: The grammar of visual design, 2nd edn, Routledge, London

Putnis, P, Petelin, R 1996 ‘Writing to communicate’ in Professional Communication: Principles and Applications, Prentice Hall, Sydney

Reep, D.C. 2006, ‘Chp 4: Principles of Document Design,’ in Technical Writing, 6th ed., Pearson Edu, Inc., New York, p.173-190.

Rothman, S 2005 What Makes Good Scientific and Technical Writing,, viewed 2 September 2009

Schriver,K.A. 1997, Chapter 6: Dynamics in document design: creating texts for readers, Wiley Computer Pub., New York


This blog is for tertiary students and working adults interested in the principles of document design, and how  these principles can help influence the creative process and appearance of  quality documents that they use in their daily lives, and in communicating messages and information effectively.