More often, narrative is employed for the sole purpose of portraying perspective. Perspective is one of the major characteristics of narrative. The perspective approach describes the mindset of an author of interactive narratives. A website is a type of interactive narrative where perspective is used. Websites are increasingly becoming popular among the youth. They have a great impact on the tastes of the youth. Young people’s experiences are also influenced by their social background. This paper seeks to examine the narrative perspective of the NSW Government’s website for the youth. The paper will identify the techniques used to design the website including the language used and the general design features of each page. There will also be an appraisal of the website and recommendations on how to improve the website. The paper will also look at the principles of designing a good website.
Traditionally, narration was spoken, that is, it only came from the voice of the narrator (Bearne 2003). However things have now changed with narratives having multiple narrators and visual narration too. Websites are such types of narratives. They are commonly used by the young people and shape their literate skills and practices. In this respect it is important for websites to be well designed and portray the right perspective (Polya, Laslo and Forgas 2005), so as to have a positive impact. Bitler, Rankin and Schrass (2000) establish that websites and internet technology for that matter form a crucial part of young people’s educational life. Today, universities and colleges provide their students access to electronic resources and web browsers (Spitzer & Warters, 2002).
Various internet sites employ different styles, techniques and languages in order to communicate to their audience. Smashing Editorial (2008) asserts that it is important that a website relies upon flow in order to be considered engaging. The flow of ideas and thoughts should be uninterrupted and interactive to maximize the experience. The paper will take a critical journey of the NSW website and analyze whether there is an uninterrupted flow of ideas in the site.
Statement of Research problem
The primary research problem of this study is to evaluate the narrative perspective of the NSW Government website for youth. The main issue here is to assess the manner in which this interactive narrative influences the literate skills of the youth. The other question to be addressed is whether the website has met the necessary standards of a good website. The question that then begs for an answer is; how does the NSW Government website adequately convey its narrative perspective to the youth?
Significance of the Paper
The study is significant because it has been proven that websites especially those meant for the youth have far too much influence on them (Bulfin and North 2007). Chickering and Reisser (1993) assert that the literate habitus of the youth is an important national issue. This is why it is important to scrutinize the NSW website, in order to identify the narrative perspectives in the website and whether their impact is positive.
Research Methodology and limitations
The study is library-based and the main method of data collection is secondary. There has also been extensive employment of the cyberspace in examining the website and gathering other relevant data. This approach of data collection was deemed appropriate due to the limited time available and the resources available. The risk of incorrectness of data has been minimized by the use of observations. These observations have been made from the NSW website.
This study does not provide a comparative study of other youth websites. It is only limited to scrutinizing the NSW Government website for the youth. The paper does not also delve into the other factors that influence the literate habitus of today’s youth.
Findings and discussion of the NSW Government website for youth
This part of the paper will focus on the layout of the website and a critique of the design feature of each page. The home page is very vital in that it conveys the first impression of the site (Snyder 2002). It presents the various pieces of information available on the site and various links to be followed to get more information on anything. The current NSW home page is more engaging to the audience than what was previously displayed. The page has explanations on how a reader can get more information by following the links provided. The narrative is explained by a narrator who is semi-omniscient. Information is only provided without the author involving himself. The site also takes a second person narrative point of view where anyone accessing the site is referred as ‘you’ for example they say that you’ can visit this site or ‘you’ can apply... The site invites the audience to participate in the activities, have their say in issues affecting them, and benefit from a number of things like scholarships. The visual effects are also attractive to young audiences. The language used is user friendly, objective and formal. There are not many showy designs that are confusing. Information is easily retrieved and is up to date. The only fault in this page is the fact that the information does not flow. It is sketchy and does not connect.
The ‘Young People’ page does not contain any narrative. It is just a list of links and resources. The link on arts, media or culture is however informative. The visual display is attractive and relevant to the youth. The language used is youth-oriented, for example H2W2 (how to, where to). The information is well presented in a manner that is easily accessible. However the information is also detached. If one needs comprehensive information on anything they cannot access it. They would be put through a long process of following many links and eventually get confused. Navigation is too complex and it would make one give up the search process.
The ‘Minister’ page is sketchy and most of the information is not easily understood and irrelevant, more so the minister’s biography. This makes the users engage in a lot of unnecessary thinking which may not be good for the website. The ‘Grants and Funding’ page contains a list of links that one can follow in order to obtain the information that they are looking for. The many links could discourage someone because they lead to more links. This could prove tasking and time wasting. Nielsen (2003) explains that scrolling down too far on a page could also lead to audiences not accessing the information they require. The site also has the ‘Youth Advisory Council page’. The page like all the others is sketchy and requires one to follow given links. The information is however short and precise giving only necessary information.
The main feature that can be seen throughout the website is the lack of an interactive narrative. The website simply gives information without engaging the reader. They might have been trying to be precise and straight to the point but the youth may not want to access the website if it is laid out in that way. If the narrative lacks an interactive perspective, it is likely to have a small if any impact on the youth.
Meadows (2002) explains that stories or narratives are used to portray the realities of life. The NSW Government website for youth has not been an exception to this. From the site’s Home page one could discern that the youth need academic scholarships and also like to participate in various competitions. In the ‘Young People’ page, there are a number of activities that showcase the preferences of the youth in Australia. The links provided on the page show the various issues affecting the youth including relationships, work and money, drugs and alcohol among many others. In the link on things to do there are many suggestions including arts, media and culture, sports and recreation, volunteering, among others.
From the visual display on the arts, media and culture page, it is clear that music is one of the popular arts choices among the youth. The language used on this page is youth-oriented. The links also provide more information on the relevant arts that youth are interested in. For instance, there is a link on ‘artstart’ which is described to be an initiative for young people aged between 12 and 24. Latest news on ‘artstart’ is also provided for those who are interested in participating in any of the activities. In the ‘artstart’ which is a biennial festival, youth are allowed to express themselves through art and showcase some of their work. The page on the Australian Theatre for Young People is very colorful, very attractive and gives details of some of the work shown in the theatre.
Other links in the site also provide the status quo of the youth in the country. In this way one can say that the website influences the activities of the youth and helps them sharpen their skills (Holloway and Valentine 2003). It also gives them the forum to address such issues as relationships, drugs and alcohol and others, which they may not freely discuss with their parents.
Spitzer & Warters, (2002) explain that website technology is an integral part of a student’s academic life. Web resources are more and more being availed in student libraries in colleges and universities.
There are different sociological frameworks including habitus, capital and field. These frameworks provide an understanding of the outcomes and role of literate skills in the life of a student (Carrington V. & Luke A. 1997). This was also reiterated by Frow (1987).
LeFauve,( 2001) suggests that the web gives its users exceptional navigational control. In this way the reader is not forced to read through material that is not relevant to them. They could just click on a link that could lead them straight to the information they require.
The practices in schools in relation to literacy are no longer reflected in the outside community especially for young people. There is a great difference between texts from outside school and the rigid and often printed literate study programs adopted by many school systems (Carrington, 1997).
This paper has presented a number of issues with regard the NSW Government youth website. There has been a critical examination of the layout of the site. It has been noted that the site has a lot of positive features but it also has some negative ones. The most important aspect is that it tries to address the major issues affecting the youth (Lankshear 1997). It provides information through links and other websites and also provides visual displays to make the site more youth-like. The biggest disadvantage is most of its information is detached. It does not flow. Some of the links are also cumbersome to follow because they lead to more links. The site is also based on second person narrative perspective which makes the reader feel like the author is not part of them. In my opinion it would be better to use first person in order to appear more engaging to the reader. The site is also a reflection of the youth, their preferences and areas where they require government’s help. The site just like any other technology strongly has influenced the habitus competence of young people (Kress 2003). This site is definitely one of the literate practices that the youth are engaging in so as to participate in the society. Elaine (1997) also recommends development of literacy policies in order to avoid lack of literacy skills among the youth due to new technology.