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The Web Portfolio

The Web Portfolio as Postmodern Narrative Connection

In the web design tutorial, A Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, Lyotard (1999) argues that all aspects of modern societies, including science as the primary form of knowledge, depend on narratives to exploit and represent knowledge. On the macro scale, “grand narratives”, stories a culture tells itself about its practices and beliefs (Lyotard, 1999, pp.18-20), are rejected by postmodernists as failures.


These failures include examples such as Marxism, communism, and fascism and are prime cases of socialist approaches to defining a grand narrative which ultimately resulted in failure. The postmodern viewpoint as expressed by Lyotard and expanded on by Webster is that historical change and its “pretension to discern the truth has lost its credibility”, meaning that what we are not destined to believe a truth as it is told to us by society in what Lyotard’s grand narrative scheme. More importantly, to the case of the Web portfolio and its inevitable place in postmodern society as an agent of change for knowledge workers, “Totality”, and the view that there is one evident and defined truth, is highly rejected by postmodernists such as Lyotard.


The postmodernists believe that there can only be versions of the truth, represented by what Lyotard called “mini-narratives”, stories that explain small practices, local events, personal accomplishments, rather than large- scale universal or global concepts (Lyotard, 1999). These mini-narratives are being delivered through Web portfolios.


People will want to be defined in the postmodern age by creating their own identities rather than masking their skills, abilities, talents, and creativity behind the identity of a company or organization. Web portfolios are becoming required for educators in K-12 higher education. And due to state education department requirements, Web portfolios can be associated with the concept of the e-portfolio becoming a grand narrative of the information society.


As well, mini-narratives will serve as the content base for the grand narrative evolved out of e-portfolios. People will update their Web portfolios as their lives change and their accomplishments and identity grow. Content on the Web portfolio will mirror the appearance that the knowledge worker wants to display to the world. When people started willingly working for others, the personal visit and conversation were the first communication methods and strategies used in work for hire situations. Meeting the business owner on personal recommendation, b riefly speaking with him about capabilities, discussing wages/arrangements, and shaking hands constituted the job seeking and job securing processes. The proximity of jobs was limited to the local town borders.


Then, industrialism changed all that. Too many people, too many companies, how will they connect? The answer was mass media and the power of communication technology in the forms of radio, television, and print, and, the development of mass transportation with the steam engine. With media and technology, there always is a market that results due to involvement of a public also known as an audience. Mass media helped to create the “job market” and the way people connected with jobs and companies changed. In the industrial age, jobs were posted in mass media and applicants needed to visit, but only to fill out an application. Securing employment using the application stayed, but only in lower level scenarios or in bureaucratic situations which control needed to be enforced.


The application does not lend itself to creative thinking or narrative. It lists items using chronological order, true, but the application merely uses this as order, not necessarily as narrative. The resume emerged as the instrument of the professional job seeker as technology gained momentum and modernism came through for the job seeker with the typewriter and the ability to type a resume and have it copied or printed at a print shop. The resume allowed expansion of the personal narrative to more than the application. The resume explained someone’s history in print. The resume is a mini-narrative, but is still lacking unique personal expression. Along comes the electronic era and new media is born. The Internet becomes the newest media of choice for the new age worker, also known as the knowledge worker.


The Web portfolio trumps the resume. The Web portfolio will ultimately evolve into a staple instrument for work for hire communication transactions in the knowledge age. The Web portfolio evolution is emerging now and will continue to be fostered by third party conduits that connect people with other people to transact work for hire. These third parties are in the form of employment agencies and online job search databases such as Monster.com. The Web portfolio is expanded by creative talent agencies such as Aquent.com, who carry the Web portfolios of their work for hire artists, designers, and copywriters.


Another site that posts Web portfolios of knowledge workers is Guru.com, the name says it all. This brings up another case for describing the Web portfolio and all electronic portfolios as knowledge age narrative that is built for telling the story of the knowledge worker to th e work for hire audience and public, whoever they may be. In her 2004 web design tutorial, The Wisdom of Storytelling in an Information Age, Dr. Amy Spaulding’s thoughts on the importance of story and narrative thinking present a clear path to the use of the Web portfolio as a new media narrative with persuasive power. Dr. Spaulding (2004) makes reference to the impor- tance of imaginative creativity on the outcome of wisdom.


She explains: This kind of creative thinking is fostered by narrative, which encourages story listeners to consider several of the very differ- ent possible outcomes that might proceed from particular cir- cumstances. Narrative develops sequential thinking and pro- motes the idea that someone can choose how to react to circumstances — and that different responses produce different outcomes that are worth thinking about beforehand — either as goals worth being pursued or as fates best avoided. I think that the Web portfolio qualifies for a good example of portraying wisdom through the use of narrative based on the description put forth by Dr. Spaulding.


The Web portfolio is a vehicle that is interactive and nonlinear in design, but can be developed to be intuitive in guiding the user down a sequential path towards information that yields reaction. In the case of the Web portfolio, the reaction can be a successful work for hire connection, showing that the Web portfolio is a medium that connects people through narrative. The development of the Web portfolio will therefore build imaginative thinking, demonstrating the power of skill building and learning that comes with the Web portfolio process.


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