Playing the algorithm: How it can backfire

On YouTube, there is one universal rule for all creators: eventually, you’ll have to make an apology to address a controversy you may find yourself embroiled in. These scandals can range from mostly harmless missteps to being involved in actual criminal offenses. A very recent example of this is David Dobrik, who released two separate apology videos addressing a sexual assault incident he both facilitated and filmed, along with a variety of other allegations.

Like many creators, Dobrik knew that addressing the controversy could lead to more fans finding out about it. Therefore, he released his first apology, title “Let’s Talk” on his least followed channel, disabling likes and dislikes. More than likely, he was hoping that this would be enough of a response for fans asking for him to address the allegations, but not be seen by most people.

David Dobrik looking stupid

A screenshot from one of Dobrik’s apology videos. Notice how he left in him crying and how he is sitting on the floor, common tropes in the youtube apology genre.

Unfortunately for him, the video ended up on the YouTube trending page, and his clear attempt to manipulate the algorithm led to more people speaking out about the issue. He eventually had to make another apology, which still met some controversy. Dobrik has now lost all sponsorships and had to step away from his app, Dispo.

As Timothy Laquintano and Annette Vee discussed, automated systems greatly affect our writing and communication systems, and I believe this is a great example of this. Dobrik has thrived off the algorithm. He even sold merchandise with “clickbait” on it, showing how he works to manipulate YouTube’s automatic system. His name or face attached to a project automatically makes the algorithm more favorable to a piece of media, and he has famously not responded to scandals in the past to avoid negative associations with his name.

a red hoodie with the word "clickbait" on it

This has clearly led to his downfall, however. By playing the algorithm to boost his name recognition, Dobrik has made it even easier for others to call him out. He cannot hide his apology, even from automated systems. In my opinion, he is finally getting what he deserves.

Vaccinations, Public Health Rhetoric, and Snapchat Stories: How Online Writing has Affected Vaccination Efforts

If you live in Ohio and are currently located in the Columbus area, you may know the struggle of getting a COVID vaccine. Just look at the map below to see how the distribution of appointment unavailability is concentrated in Columbus. Compared to other large population centers in Ohio, Columbus is by far experiencing the most shortages. Even with places like the Schottenstein center having delivered over 79,000 vaccines, the demand for vaccination in the Columbus area is higher than the supply.

A map of ohio that highlights vaccine availability

But why is this? As discussed in Week 12, the pandemic has caused an increase in coalitions and relational literacies in regards to health on this specific issue. We in Columbus, especially those who attend OSU, are lucky to have a close relationship to health information via the Wexner Medical Center. They provide so much information on health and wellness, and many students and alum value their writing greatly.


With the integration of health information so strong in the Columbus community, it seems to me there has been an even greater response to vaccination. Even in my personal communities, everyone I know is actively trying to book a vaccine appointment or has booked an appointment. We, as OSU students and community members, are more aware of how important getting vaccinated as quickly as possible is, and we, therefore, have a much higher demand for vaccine appointments.


This increase in availability may be more of a reflection of trying to support rural and minority communities, who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks. This increase in appointment availability will hopefully help these rural communities get over some of the vaccine hesitancy presents there. Unlike in Columbus, many people in rural communities may not be able or willing to take a vaccine appointment time that interferes with their work or life schedule. There will also need to be a bigger push of public health writing and rhetoric to decrease vaccine hesitancy, and it will need to target the specific fears and hangups each community has.


Unfortunately, this lack of appointments means people like me, a 22-year-old college student, have a much harder time accessing vaccines. We want to be able to celebrate our graduations safely, but this means we need to be vaccinated within the next week if it’s not already too late. But fortunately, social media has helped many people access the vaccine in an alternative way. While you shouldn’t be posting your vaccine card, posting about getting a vaccine is a way of sharing support for a public health issue. It also makes others aware of how they can get vaccinated. I personally found access to a vaccine through social media. While it may be used to push anti-vax rhetoric, social media also has the power to get us back to normal even faster.

Literally Literate: How the idea of literacy has spread beyond the act of writing

Literacy Meme

A literacy meme that says “oh so think literacy is just reading and writing?” across the top and “tell me how that’s going for you” across the bottom.

Whether in class or in the real world, we have all heard terms such as “digital literacy”,  “financial literacy” or even moreAlberta Education defines literacy as “the ability, confidence and willingness to engage with language to acquire, construct and communicate meaning in all aspects of daily living”. In this definition, we see how the idea of literacy has expanded beyond just the act of writing.

Examples of types of literacy

An image depicting types of literacy, such as information, technology, and data literacy.

Literacy has become shorthand for being able to navigate the complex systems that surround us. While in schools we still emphasize reading and writing the most, it is well documented that we need many literacies to become socially engaged citizens. As seen in Scribner and Cole’s “Literacy without schooling: Testing for intellectual effects”, literacy has long been entwined with schooling and therefore cognitive development. Researchers such as Scribner and Cole have pushed back on this, but in the modern American education system, one needs literacy to pursue education.

Student with book

A student being handed a book by a teacher.

So what does the extrapolation of the term literacy say about how we culturally view the act of literacy? First, it emphasizes the connection between literacy and schooling. The idea one has to be “financially literate” in order to grow your financial resources is just one parallel to this theory. With this new definition and new terms, we see an even greater conflation of literacy and schooling. To be literate in a topic is to be educated on it as well as being able to navigate complex situations surrounding a given form of literacy.

Second, we see an increase in the divides between traditionally literate and non-literate persons. As many of these types of literacies still need reading and writing skills to learn and use, one has to be traditionally literate to pursue many of these new types of literacy, especially those lower in socioeconomic status. Digital literacy can be economically uplifting, but one has to pursue knowledge via already established literacy skills, such as reading tutorials or blog posts. With the internet, we see a greater challenge for non-literate people to overcome.

What does this mean for students? Does this evolving definition mean that students who are being taught literacy have more on their plate? In my opinion, I think this rather shows people opening up the “right to literacy” to more skillsets. We all need a complex understanding to navigate our increasingly complex world, and everyone has a right to learn these other types of literacies as well. This is why we see iPad tutorials for elderly populations, or financial advice nonprofits. Like traditional literacy, arming people with these skills allow them to transcend the barriers that keep them down, and become politically and socially aware of the world around them. People have a right to knowledge of the systems around them, and the expansion of the term literacy is just one example of that growing belief.

Tiktok and Its Evolving Approach to Writing

Can an app for making viral dances point us to our next steps in how we communicate with each other?

In the digital era, we are seeing a push to leverage the new technologies we use to better communicate. From comics to social media, many experts are showing that the limitations of pen and paper can be circumvented online if we only take them seriously.

Our writing can go beyond words. We have already have been sharing emojis and memes to communicate meaning for years. While some apps like Twitter are changing how we write, we are seeing a resurgence of ideograms and symbols from apps such as TikTok. Apps like these use audio, visual, and writing at the same time to communicate meaning. For example, this TikTok’s meaning can only be fully grasped with sound, visuals, and writing.


Here we see what Scott Mcleod was talking about in reference to comic books and graphic novels: expansion beyond what physical media can give us. But, these new combinations of media open up an entirely different problem: accessibility. People with disabilities may find it hard to grasp the full meaning or create media like this. But, many users and Tiktok itself work to address this issue, such as creators who work to caption their videos or the new speech to text feature.  Here are examples of both these features being used on the app.

As one can see, social media apps like TikTok are expanding what we consider writing and how we use the tools in front of us to communicate. By making it easy to combine multiple forms of media, apps like these show what language in the digital age can look like, and how we can better increase accessibility for all.