Creating Your Own Web Presence
Unlike other mass media, the internet is two-way. You can express your own views, publish your photographs and videos, etc., and have what is called a "web presence". Here are some ways to do this.
1. Moodle and Weblogs
Sophia university offers all students the opportunity to set up a weblog on Moodle. To set up your own blogsite, click here. This is a good way to publish yourself, but of course it will all end when you graduate! If you want a more permanent place to express yourself, try one of the regular blog sites, such as Blogger.
2. Social Networking
In Japan, a lot of people use Mixi, but this is only available in Japanese, so I won't include it here. I recommend Facebook and Twitter. By default, you will see the Japanese pages, but if you want to develop your English I recommend you to switch to an English interface and give your name in romaji.
3. Discussion Groups, Mailing Lists, etc.
These can be a bit of a minefield. You can find a lot of discussion groups here, some of them monitored (i.e., messages are controlled, and unsuitable messages are either removed or checked before being accepted) and some unmonitored. Unmonitored groups get disrupted by what are called "trolls" (people who post things just to annoy and irritate people) and "flame wars" (people getting very angry and insulting each other). For this reason, I have stopped using such groups, though you are welcome to try them if you like!
These discussion groups are basically for people with an interest in a particular subject. If you are a fan of the Beatles, for example, you can find a group where people post messages and ask questions about the Beatles. These groups are useful, but they are mostly used by enthusiastic amateurs. For more professional and specialised information, you may want to try a mailing list. The one I use is called Listserv. It has lists for all sorts of topics (mainly academic). It's very useful if you want to be in touch with experts on, for example, a particular aspect of English literature. Messages sent to mailing lists are distributed as e-mails to everyone on the list. Sometimes people send messages that other people complain about, but anyone who is obviously abusing the system (i.e., "trolls" and "flamers") will have their account suspended.
4. Create a website!
You may think that what I am doing - making a website for students - is terribly difficult. In fact, with some simple software you can create a website very easily. I use something called Macromedia Contribute. It costs about $200, but it's well worth it. It's a WYSIWYG ("what you see is what you get") programme, so you don't need to work with HTML (the language that computers use to create websites), although I do use HTML for some features that are not included in Contribute.
If you don't want to spend money at this stage, you can upload files to the internet free with FFFTP. To use this effectively you will need to learn how to use HTML and, as you can see, there are plenty of websites that will help you with this. You will also need a suitable piece of software that will allow you to create HTML pages for publishing to the web. I recommend HTML-kit, which is free and very easy to use.
In fact, with these three pieces of software I can do almost everything that could be done with Dreamweaver, which costs twice as much as Contribute!
Whatever software you use, though, you will need to have somewhere to put your site. This is called "website hosting". You will also need a domain name (that's the URL address at the top of a web page). There are several companies that offer these services. I use one called GoDaddy (yes, really; I don't know who thinks up these silly names!).
If all of this seems rather complicated, you can take an online tutorial and find step-by-step information. there's plenty of choice - just take your pick! Some sites even offer free hosting and allow you to do your own web design online.
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