DEC Scan Journal : February 2011
The premise that underlies any study of persuasion in digital contexts is that we live in a participatory culture rather than a spectatorial one (Jenkins, 2005). In other words, students are no longer passive receivers of the information available online (Web 1.0), rather, they are participants in online culture and therefore partici- pants in texts (Web 2.0). They are content producers. Each comment on Facebook, response to a video, sound track, article or upload of an image is content. Advertisers and marketers have long understood this and very cleverly exploit the way in which young people and adults use the web and participate with social media sites and tools. They also understand that social media is about developing an online identity, a way of distinguishing yourself from others or a way to become just like everyone else in the tribe. A promotional website is just the start of the story. No website can be thought to be of the moment without links to its social media and being embedded with associated YouTube videos. The story or product therefore continues across various platforms with the capacity for the consumer to interact and participate in different ways. Young people are very good at moving from one platform to another through transme- dia stories. They expect to find stories morphing into multiple forms of media; movie, blog, Facebook page, website, game and YouTube for example. Personalisation What is important when considering these manifestations is that the purpose of websites, communication and social media applications becomes fluid and mixed. For example, you could say that purpose of social media is to connect people and to aid in communication. However, if you consider the ability to embed a favourite YouTube video in your home page or wall and to include like links to particular products, the purpose of social media becomes mixed. Is it persuasion, entertainment, communication or identity creation and enhancement? It is all of these things, but the most seductive of all is the ability of users to personalise their experience and use of the site. The dynamics of the web and the ability to personalise your interaction with it is one of the distinguishing feature of Web 2.0. Consider the difference between the Google and iGoogle search engine pages. iGoogle encourages users to create their own search page by providing a wide selection of tools to display on the page which reflect the users own interests and needs. These widgets update automatically and can be swapped around at any time. Is this persuasive? Yes, it is. Any empower- ment of user experience is persuasive. It fosters the illusion of control and individuality coupled with the ability to stay aware and informed. Once a search item is typed into Google the persuasion game continues. Most commercial sites employ search engine optimising techniques to ensure that their site gets to the top of the list once you hit the enter key. Keywords, links and website design can all be manipulated to perform better in search engines. The impor- tance of individual words and their placement is paramount in creating the most findable link. Surely this is a skill often overlooked in teaching students to write, if writing for the web is taught at all in schools. Of course, no matter what you search for, ...social media is about developing an online identity... Scan Vol 30 No 1 February 2011 16 Persuasion in digital contexts ersuasion is certainly a hot ticket item in light of the announced National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) text type to be tested this year. While it may look as if I am on the persuasion band wagon, this article and the workshops that have driven it were conceived long before the text type was announced. Persuasion (in its various forms) and the way in which it is taught in schools could do with a serious extension to include the ways in which it works online. There is a considerable array of persuasive texts, processes and digital products available to teachers for use in the classroom once they are aware of how it all works in this context and have the language to deal with it. P Prue Greene, Senior Curriculum Support Officer, K--12 English, Curriculum and Learning Innovation Centre, discusses how advertisers and marketers have reacted to the participatory nature of social media sites to promote products, and the need to make students aware of the persuasive strategies used to manipulate online users.