What I Wish I Knew

1. Your capstone project will somehow, someway come together at the end of the semester.

I don’t know if you believe in miracles, but if you don’t… then check out my website because there is no way in hell that I thought I was capable of doing all that, even if I had an entire semester to bring it all together. I doubted myself more than I can remember, and you will most likely, too. Your project may change and morph and see itself transform iteration by iteration. You might think to yourself that you’ve gotten yourself in over your head— that there’s no way you’ll have enough time to slap your work onto a website without it looking like a hot mess. But you will figure it out. Maybe it’ll be because you have all this new free time to fill once you’re forced to move home mid-semester and your only source of entertainment is making subpar TikToks, but I digress! 

2. The only way to do a project of this scale is to break it up into bite-sized tasks.

I’m talking minuscule. Don’t plan to record three podcast episodes in three days. Don’t assume you can tackle your annotated bibliography in an afternoon. This project seemed more manageable each time I listed out small, reasonable goals for the day. Think: transcribe ten minutes of audio or add captions to pictures. My absolute favorite thing to do is make long lists of trivial tasks, and while this may not be effective for short-term deadlines, it helped split up what seemed impossible and kept me productive each day.

3. Your voice is not nearly as annoying to everyone else as it sounds in your own head.

It may sound ridiculous but my biggest reservation about creating a podcast was the idea that my voice would be circulating the world wide web for anyone to tune into. My too deep, too nasally voice plagued with the occasional stutter. But each time I shared audio clips I was praised with how professional it sounded (granted, there was a lot of editing done to get it to that point). And each time I shared it in class or let friends and family listen in, I became more comfortable with the fact that my voice would be a forever artifact on the internet.

4. Use your mentors. They’re a requirement for good reason.

I hated the idea that I’d have to share my project with more people than anticipated, especially during the draft phase. I hated the idea, even more, when I couldn’t do it in person. Even if you don’t plan to meet with them on a regular basis, these are the contacts you can reach out to when you have no idea how to export as an mp3. Your mentors can change as the circumstances change, too. Some of the best advice I got was from letting my parents give a second and third pair of eyes on my website.  

5. You’ll be so grateful to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

I could have easily made this project as simple as words on a website. Don’t get me wrong, that would have been difficult in and of itself. But I’ve done variations of the same in the past and the best way for me to lose interest would have been to stick to my comfort zone. Taking on a new medium kept me interested throughout the entire semester and offered a new challenge.

6. Shit happens.

And on that note, global pandemics happen. We live in uncertain times and if this whole thing hasn’t blown over by the time Fall 2020 rolls around and you’re forced to live your senior year with two unexpected roommates (i.e. mom and dad), I feel you. If the majority of your social interaction in and out of the classroom is through a camera on your computer, I feel you. But this course is not meant to add to the anxieties and unknown that comes with this curveball. You have the power to tailor your project to whatever it is you want to commit your headspace to. Change it as many times as you wish. Take the day off. Take a walk. Take a breath.

Call to Action: Introducing Not Your Mom’s Travel Guide

This semester has been anything other than a clear, linear path. It was manic and fragmented and interrupted. But that is what our world is now: interrupted. In times of incredible catastrophes or depressions or pandemics, one thing is certain amidst all the uncertainty— change is inevitable.

Our world is more connected than ever with every country just a flight away. But, that ease of travel was the catalyst for this pandemic, and it is bound to be rethought.

These days I’ve been trying to look for the silver linings in things. I’ve been able to spend more time with my family. I managed to escape a Michigan winter and found solace in the South Carolina heat. I’ve been thinking about the silver linings that exist outside of my personal life and the small bubble I live in, too.

This is the perfect opportunity to examine not only how to make travel safer but to also consider sustainability in our travel. How do we travel consciously? I’ve found comfort in the idea that all this destruction could allow us to reimagine the travel industry, to think about the intersection of cultural, economic, and environmental impacts.

It makes me think of my project in a new light. Not Your Mom’s Travel Guide is not just a podcast that explores my own traveler’s guilt. It is not just a series of conversations discussing the past. It’s a call to action. How can we address the negative impacts of travel? How can we learn from our mistakes and use our guilt as a force for change?

Explore. Reflect. This is the sign you’ve been looking for. This is Not Your Mom’s Travel Guide.

Where We Are and Where We’re Going

Here I am, knee-deep into the semester and there’s really no turning back now. If you told me freshman year that I’d be making a podcast before I graduated, I’d probably laugh in your face, with an eye roll and a, “yeah, right.” I’ve never been the type to fully push myself out of my comfort zone (and audio is nowhere near that realm).

But this is where we are.

My podcast will be an exploration of traveler’s guilt, inspired by my semester studying and living abroad in Barcelona. I’ll be having conversations with other students who had the privilege to study abroad to delve into issues like gentrification, overcrowding, overdependence on the tourism industry, the depletion of natural resources, and more.

But what better way for me to introduce you to my podcast than by sharing the trailer with you all! This is Not Your Mom’s Travel Guide.

Over the next month and a half, you’ll all be with me on this journey to see this idea through. I’ll be speaking with four guests about their time living in four drastically different countries: Australia, Italy, South Africa, and Spain.

Can’t wait for you to see where we’re going.

Commitment Issues

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I have horrible commitment issues. So pitching ideas for a project that will more likely than not occupy my head space for the next four months is tough to say the least.

OKAY, MEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

It was tough to flush out four ideas to pitch in class. I thought I was in the clear to hold off on decision making for a while, but I know that I’ll blink and the proposal will be due.

When I wrote my pitches, I admittedly was just brainstorming to get something on the paper and writing because I knew I had to, not because I was extremely passionate about any of my ideas right off the bat. Coming into class and having to stand behind my pitches and explain why they’re important, why I feel like the time is right to devote my attention to them was the first time I think I got excited about the any of my ideas. Speaking to others made me want to fight for the pitches that I previously thought might not be good enough to craft into a formal proposal. Now here I am. With four ideas that I’m not just willing to pursue, but eager to devote my attention to, when I thought I had none. And all it took to get me there was to have two heads nodding back at me encouragingly, reassuring me that the things floating around in my head are worthy enough for others to care about them.

And

Here

Come

The Commitment Issues.

1, 2, 3 or 4? What if we could combine 1 and 2? Make 1 more of an introduction to the greater topic of 2. What if I pick 2 and get in so deep only to lose interest? What if I wan’t to explore all of these ideas, but I’ll never again have this time to dedicate myself to them? What if I won’t be able to write about 4 the same way as I can now through the lens of an almost-graduate? So many what ifs.

Is it too early to ask for an extension on the proposal????? Lol jk

… maybe

Dear Prospective Minor in Writing Applicants,

I was hesitant to apply to the Minor in Writing because, well, I didn’t really know what it was. It was introduced to me with an email forwarded from an older friend without any real explanation. As I searched the Sweetland Center’s website I understood the structure of the program, but I still had unanswered questions. How much freedom do I have to write what I want? Am I just going to be studying grammar and punctuation all day? What will the classes be like?

I wished I could have seen students’ work, their progression, their struggles. I wished that there was a glimpse into the program other than the descriptions of courses and historical syllabi.

Over the course my time in the Minor in Writing Gateway, I’ve developed an understanding for all of these questions. And so, I wanted to share my experiences to show you, the prospective applicants, my struggles and progression, my missteps and successes.

An accumulation of my experimentation can be found here, in my Gateway ePortfolio.

You’ll see a discovery of my writing process, how I learned to think again. You’ll see the progression of my voice and how I learned to highlight it throughout various genres. You’ll see how I developed a strong sense of different audiences, and how they might react to assorted techniques.

And hopefully, you’ll see how I plan on continuing to experiment and question my ideas from now, until my final Capstone course, and beyond.

Happy reading, prospective students. Send in that application; you won’t regret it.

Best,

Ashley

The Happy Medium Between Science and Personality

For my past experimentation, I took a more scientific approach on a personal experience. While, the insight gained from this process was extremely useful, something was missing when the information was presented in a purely scientific format. The voice and personal experience that was cultivated through the series of diary entires was lost. So, for this next experiment, I plan on combining the personal experience of the diary entries and scientific basis of the literary review paper into a comic. I think this will be a great platform, because in cartoons and comics, authors convey current events, controversies, or historical events in a comedic or personal manner, which amplifies a reader’s reaction to the piece.

Traditional comics have relatively the same overarching characteristics of creating an argument or claim, usually through humor. They are usually published in online or print magazines and newspapers, and therefore lend themselves to an intended audience of people who are interested in the subject, so scientists, professors, and students for scientific comics. However, I think comics are so powerful because their audience invoked is so large. Anyone who reads the magazine or newspaper where the comic is located is exposed to it, whether they are originally interested in it or not. In fact, some people skip straight to the comic section in the Sunday news.

Here are some traditional comics that caught my eye:

After researching some examples for formatting a comic, I found that there are a few variations in the genre:

  • Color vs. black and white
  • Multi-strip vs. single strip
  • Comment blurb vs. words throughout

This helped me narrow down what I want to do for my piece. Looking at different examples, I find the color comics more eye-catching and will use that technique in my own piece. I believe that my message will be better suited for a single strip, rather than multi, comic. Also, having words throughout my comic will flow better than containing them to blurbs.

While many comics use humor to further their claims, I feel like this might be inappropriate to talk about such an impactful disorder like depression. Therefore, for my experiment I am choosing to go against this norm of the comic genre, and instead attempt to draw deeper and more emotional reaction from the readers, while still keeping the same formatting structure.

I think what I hope to emulate is more along the lines of a project that my friend, Kathryn Rossi, a student at FIT, created for her math class which she shared via her Instagram @kathryn_rossi:

 

Research Papers

I have always hated research papers. Always. Throughout high school I bullshitted my way through every research paper I wrote, rarely ever concluding anything worthwhile or unique. Once I even wrote a 15 page research paper in one day and got an A. That’s either an insane skill or my teacher was just oblivious to how little effort I actually put into the assignment. Either way, research papers were, and still are, the enemy.

But you know what they say: keep your enemies close. So, I guess that means I’ll take a stab at a research paper for this experiment (Ha, get it? Stab the enemy?).

But, in all seriousness, for every high school research paper I wrote, I was missing a crucial component: research. Research for a topic, no matter how simple it is, cannot all be collected and analyzed in a day’s time. When I did this, I undoubtedly compiled a couple of worthwhile sources, but definitely did not find multiple perspectives in order to deduce anything significant. So, after my K-12 education plus my short time at college, I have decided that research is indeed important for a research paper. Who would’ve thought?

Research papers usually have a few more consistencies, regardless of topic, such as:

  • An abstract, or a summary of research project
  • An introduction, with a clear purpose
    • Including a thesis statement, usually at the end of the introduction
  • Body paragraphs, with a strong argument, a stronger argument, and a strongest argument, accompanied by in-text citations
    • Including a review of the literature and how it supports the claims
  • A conclusion and/or discussion, with a summary of the arguments and how they connect to deduce a significant claim
  • A call for further research, when there is a need to delve into a topic further
  • A bibliography, to cite the sources used

Looking at aspects other than formatting, research papers often have a professional, formal tone in order to appeal to the norms of academic works. Often, they work off of already existing research and are a stepping stone for research in the future.

The following examples, while differing in topics, all include the components of a research paper stated above, and I plan on using these as templates for my own work:

  1. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/18/
  2. https://kucampus.kaplan.edu/DocumentStore/Docs11/pdf/WC/Sample_APA_Paper.pdf
  3. https://depts.washington.edu/owrc/Handouts/Hacker-Sample%20APA%20Formatted%20Paper.pdf

My research paper for experiment two will focus on the effects of heartbreak on mental and physical health. Many people think of a break up as something that you just have to get over, but, coupled with depression and other health effects, it isn’t as easy as it seems. I hope to call attention to this  phenomenon as a stressor for health, rather than a simple hiccup in one’s personal life. I hope to build on my diary entries from experiment one which tried to highlight this, but lacked the research to back-up my claims in any significant manner.

And, yes. I promise to put more effort into this research paper than the ones I wrote in high school.

Analyzing Modes of Communication in Everyday Texts

While reading the Writer/Designer textbook I was challenged to pay particular attention to the unique ways in which information is been presented to me, in order to compare and contrast how different texts use modes to communicate ideas. Sitting in class, I looked at the different ways in which teachers display their lessons. Scrolling through Facebook, I looked at the different mediums in which I learned about the latest news from friends, family members, and even businesses. I even spent more time analyzing videos, fliers, and stickers on computers.

The first text that I noticed was chapter from my Writer/Designer that I had just finished reading. It is formatted as a textbook, with visual aids throughout the paragraphs. Throughout the chapter I noticed these modes being used:

  • Spatial
  • Linguistic
  • Visual

I’ve attached an example of a visual aid used within the chapter to describe the topic of multimodality. The spatial mode accounts for how the authors arranged the text, using a circular visual aid on the right, with accompanying text on the left. This decision makes me believe that the authors wanted to describe the aid first, giving insight on what it is depicting since a reader usually looks from the left to the right. The linguistic mode accounts for the author’s word choice that is relatively basic and informal, which is indicative of the broad audience of those attempting to better their writing skills in an educational manner. The visual mode accounts for the images chosen to represent information, which in this case is bright and colorful, looking to draw and retain the reader’s attention.

I continued to look at texts other than my textbook in the same manner. On a Facebook page called Jewlish, a media source for both modern and traditional Jewish recipes and food-related news, I watched a video on how to make Apple Challah because of the recent High Holiday, Rosh Hashanah. While watching the video, found at https://www.facebook.com/sojewlish/videos/856792114478285/ , I noticed these modes being used:

  • Spatial
  • Visual
  • Linguistic
  • Aural
  • Gestural

The spatial mode accounts for how the bowls, spoons, and ingredients are arranged throughout the video, in a visually appealing and neat manner. The visual mode accounts for the black background, gray table, and clear bowls that are used in order to not distract the viewer from the actual food. The linguistic mode is less prevalent with this medium and is only used to allow the viewer to read the ingredients and amount being used for the recipe. The aural mode accounts for the background music that is light and fun, as well as the exclusion of sounds that would be made if someone were actually cooking. The gestural mode, in this case, is the hand motions of the actor making the food uses throughout his cooking, that are precise and professional.

In an online flier for the Mass Meeting for an entrepreneurial club on campus, called InnovateUM, I noticed several modes being used, despite its simplicity:

  • Spatial
  • Visual
  • Linguistic

The spatial mode is seen with the arrangement of the words in order to draw attention to the club name and the reason for the flier, the mass meeting. I think this decision of arrangement is used because if the reader is interested in the club and going to the mass meeting, then they will read on to see the date, time, and place of the event. The visual mode accounts for the color choice, using maize and blue as a homage to the University of Michigan, and the choice of using a gear and lightbulb in order to represent innovation, the basis of the club. Although there are only a few words on the online flier, they fit into the linguistic mode and show a precise use of language.

Over the weekend I read a review article for a product, called SafeSound Personal Alarm, I was looking into buying. The alarm acts as a substitution for pepper spray in states that it is illegal to carry. The article gives a personal account from a user as well as facts on the product and can be read here. I noticed these modes throughout the reading:

  • Spatial
  • Visual
  • Linguistic

The author of the article, in my opinion, had little consideration for the spatial arrangement of the information. Text and pictures, as well as hyperlinks to other pages were crowded throughout the webpage, making it hard to read as there were many distractions. This was a problem for me with the visuals on the page too, which were important to include because they showed the product, but too large which also distracted me from other information. The linguistic aspect was a series of choices that led to a more informal tone, even when presenting facts, which I thought was important in order to appeal to the audience of mostly women looking to purchase a product to put their minds at ease from attackers.

While scrolling through Facebook and stalking friends of friends this weekend, I came across my a picture my sister’s friend from high school posted. It was of her and her husband on their wedding day. In the picture I noticed these modes at work:

  • Visual
  • Spatial
  • Gestural
  • Linguistic

As a picture, the visual mode is indicative of most of the information being presented. Even though she did not write, “I just got married,” that is the news that is brought to light. From a spatial and gestural perspectives, the arrangement of them as a couple and how they are interacting with each other, shows their love for each other. At first glance, I didn’t notice a linguistic aspect to the picture, but after further examination, I realized that the signage in the background gives key information of the place, Buffalo. In addition, the watermark in the bottom right corner shows the viewer who the photographer is.

Looking comparatively at each mode used to convey information, I noticed that there was much crossover between what the perceived genres are and the modes used. For example, every text includes visual, spatial, and linguistic modes regardless if it is a video, photograph, textbook, article, or flier. It was just the extent of the use of the mode that differed. The only modes that were unique were aural, that was only included in the video from Jewlish, and gestural, that was seen whenever people were physically involved such as the cook from Jewlish and the man and woman in their wedding photos. However often each mode appeared, they all gave further insight on the subject they were attempting to explain.