In Class In-Process Reflection

After hearing some feedback on Wednesday, I realized that I have a lot more work to do still to really accomplish my end goal.  I need to start imagining my final design and was shocked that other peers of mine were already so far ahead. I feel like I am behind the rest of the class. At the same time, I am happy with what I have so far – I just need more. A common piece of advice I received was that I need to perhaps explain what MS or invisible illnesses are as a preface to my piece. I do not know what I want to do with this advice yet.  Part of me thinks that the point of my piece is almost to intrigue readers to google and do their own research on MS and invisible illnesses. It should peak your interest and you should educate yourself.  I like this concept because I think doing your own research is so important and any website will be better at explaining MS than I ever will be.  On the other hand, I don’t want this lack of prior knowledge to be detrimental to the impact of my piece. My new question is what do you guys think works better? Providing some context or just going straight into my confessions?  At the end of the project, I want it to be organized like a Buzzed or Odyssey article, complete with gifs and a witty layout.   I want to add about 10-15 more confessions to reach a total of 15-20 confessions.  Is this too much, not enough, just right? Any thoughts on length?

Re-Purposing Project: Blogging Your Process

I am happy to say that I finally feel confident in my re-purposing project.  The past few class meetings I found myself questioning my purpose, my goals, and what the hell I was even trying to say.  So let me try my best to do so here: I will be re-purposing my original piece of writing (a comparative analysis on invisible illnesses and portraits) to become a personal narrative titled: “Confessions of a College Student: My Mom Has MS.”  It will read similar to how an Odyssey article might read.  I want to confess what it is like to have a parent with an invisible illness while in college.  I think I can do this with a sense of humor which will make the tone of the piece so much different from my original essay.  See a similar layout here.  Here are just a few of the confessions I have been playing around with:

  1. When I was a freshman, a guy I had been seeing asked me over text to tell him something about myself.  I told him my mom had Multiple Sclerosis (first off, nice going Anna you really know how to get the boyz) and he replied, “woah I have scoliosis i think” We didn’t last long.
  2. I have faked limped after parking our car in the handicapped parking space just so people do not give dirty looks to my mom. I wish I was lying.

I have yet to start my actual piece because that would mean that I have my life together.  So naturally, I have yet to start writing.  All I have right now are ideas and an annotated bibliography (which surprisingly was very helpful to make).  BUT, I will begin writing soon – and by soon I mean after I turn in the two papers that are due on Monday.  I think my biggest roadblock right now is formatting the piece.  I want to make sure I am not remediating it and that I am solely repurposing it.  Let me know if me making my re-purposed piece into a potential article is actually the worst thing to do and not re-purposing at all.  I can always shift away from that format and stick to traditional style writing.

If I am allowed to play around with this idea of making an Odyssey article come to life, I will have to then learn how to format the page and how to incorporate photos to add to my tone.  As I begin to think more about this, I can envision my finished product turning out similar to the “Shadow Syllabus” in the sense of its format and style. This stylistic choice would no longer mimic an Odyssey article so if that was considered “re-mediating” I would be in the clear. (Again, someone let me know if that’s a real concern).

Overall, I am happy about what I am re-purposing.  I am excited to see how it turns out and I am looking forward to changing the tone of my original piece into something more witty yet effective.

“Choosing a Genre & Pitching Your Project” – Researching Your Project Idea

I have been questioning exactly what it is that I  want to do for Project 1. However, for the purposes of the assignment at hand, I will continue exploring the realm of children who have ill parents.  More specifically, those who are children of parents with Multiple Sclerosis and/or Parkinson’s Disease.  I want to keep the forum open so I looked for texts concerning any disease that is incurable.

  1.  The first text I stumbled upon is one that I never read as a teenager but perhaps should have.  It is posted on the National Multiple Sclerosis website.  Can you guess what it is?  It’s titled, “When a Parent has MS; A Teenager’s Guide.” Find it here if you wish.  It is structured as an advice pamphlet. Broken up into what resembles the steps of grieving, its intended audience is obviously teenagers who have just found out about their parent’s diagnosis.  Now, when I was 16 I had already been living with the stark realization for about 4 years so perhaps this pamphlet wouldn’t have done me any good.  However, as I read each page I have found myself resonating with much of what is being said.  There are testimonials from other children, teens, and adults whose parents were diagnosed when they were around the same age I was.
    • The multimodal design of the pamphlet incorporates both visual and spatial modes.  I found that the use of a deep red speaks to the professionalism of the pamphlet due to its association with the National MS Society.  The incorporation of pictures, presumably of those who gave testimonials, offers a breakage in the text itself.  While I question just how real each photo is, it is nice to have something else to look at.  The spatial arrangement offers 2 columns of text carefully spaced from one another.  It is easy to read and find certain themes as there are headings above each topic.
    • The what relates to the how here as the pamphlet works as an advice column for grieving and perhaps frustrated teenagers.  It aims its audience at a crucial age in development; one where you begin to mature and understand just how significant the diagnosis is.  It is offered on an online platform as I am sure it is in a physical document which makes it accessible to anyone at any given time.  If this text was presented as an essay, it would lose its sense of purpose because it relies on the efficiency and accessibility that the pamphlet layout provides.
  2. The second text I want to insert here is an article written for the Odyssey, an online forum that often has college students write for them.  This text can be found here. This read differently than the pamphlet mentioned above because it was raw.  The author writes about her mother who has MS.  She walks us through the process of diagnosing, the fear she felt, and the support she wants to offer.  I love what she says here, “For those of you out there who have a parent who has MS, cancer, ALS, lupus, or anything that can only be treated but not cured, you are not alone.”  It speaks to what I hope to create with my online portfolio.
    • The author uses mainly linguistic and visual modes here as she begins her piece with a picture of her mother and her.  The article is organized is a very traditional way; separating each new thought into a new paragraph.  It differs from the pamphlet in its organization and tone.  She sacrifices incorporating new media (i.e. videos of her and her mother, more pictures, links, etc.) for raw linguistics.  I felt compelled to read her piece but only because I am also the daughter of a mother with MS.  If I was not, I would not feel the need to read the piece. She fails here to spread awareness due to the constraint of her audience.
    • The what and the how are related in the sense that she writes about her personal struggle with the diagnosis of her mother by facilitating an open discussion for other college students who may have parents with incurable diseases.  I find it compelling that she used the Odyssey as her outlet as many people often share articles written on here.
  3. The third and final text that I am going to introduce here is a story featured on BBC News.  The story is told through a video as well as a short summary text beneath.  Watch the video here. A mother speaks about what it is like to have MS and parent. This gives a different perspective on the topic I am interested in as it focuses on the parent’s struggle rather than the child’s.  Her emotional testimony is heartbreaking and reminds us all to be grateful for the life we live.
    • This is the most multimodal project out of the 3 texts I have provided.  It uses all 5 modes of communication: linguistic, aural, visual, gestural, and spatial.  The video shows snippets of the mother’s life raising her son as she speaks about it.  We cut back and forth from these video clips of her son playing and pictures of them to her sitting in a chair talking to the camera in an interview-style set-up.  The incorporation of the summary below the video provides a quick read for those who cannot watch the video in its entirety.
    • The what and how is related here in the same sense as the other texts except here we have the use of video.  The message is much better conveyed when we can put a face and a name to the disease.  Especially when we can take an inside look at the daily life of a parent with MS. She talks about how she gets tired easily and cannot do what she wishes she could.  She cannot play with her son as much as she wants to, she cannot take care of him on her own for very long, and she cannot stand the idea of his life being not as full because he has her as a parent.

The third text inspires me the most to continue researching this topic.  Perhaps I can incorporate video of my mother into my ePortfolio.

What are Multimodal Projects?

When I first heard the word “multimodal,” I thought it was going to refer to a very specific style of writing.  I was expecting guidelines. I was surprised to find out that multimodal projects exist everywhere.  I see them when I am browsing Facebook, when I am researching for a paper, when an ad comes on Pandora – literally everywhere.  A multimodal project is what it sounds like: a piece of work that has multiple modes.  In this piece, I learned that there are five specific modes of communication in multimodal projects: linguistic, visual, aural, gestural, and spatial.  Today I will be exploring a few of my favorite multimodal projects – some new and some old.  I am excited to reverse engineer each project as each has resonated differently with me.

LA Times

The first multimodal project I want to draw your attention to is a piece written by the LA Times last month.  I could spend the entire blog post writing about this piece – as there is so much to say and reverse engineer – but I will refrain from getting into too much detail here for the sake of variety.  You can find the entire story here.   In short, the piece is a 6-Part Mystery about a PTA mom who was framed.  The online article is interactive and has actual 911 calls, videos, pictures, and testimonials from the case.

Actual 911 call that plays when scrolling down the article. The text is highlighted when it is spoken. Click the box to hear and watch the call take place.

 

What I thoroughly enjoyed about this piece is that not only was it super interesting to read, but it had an overlap of every mode of communication: spatial, visual, linguistic, aural, and gestural.  When they referenced the 911 call in the writing, I was about to Google it to see if I could find it online to hear it.  Then the audio started playing as I scrolled further to read the transcripts.  It was effortless and yet so effective. Without the addition of the audio from the 911 call, the transcripts highlighting as they are read aloud, the videos of actual testimonies at trial, and the various other forms of incorporated media – I do not think that this story would be as powerful or as interesting as it has now become. I highly recommend that everyone go check it out.

 

youtube-logo-full_color

The second multimodal project that I want to draw attention to is Youtube.  I do not know how many of you are active Youtube viewers, but I watch my subscriptions every day and it has become part of my daily routine.  I actually go home looking forward to curling up in bed with No Thai and watching Youtube videos for hours.  The Youtube community has taken off in the past 5 years with many Youtubers now able to make their living solely off of the ads on the videos.  I am not entirely sure on what all factors into how much a Youtube makes, but I do know that views on videos plays an important role.  This being said, many Youtubers have been accused of using ‘clickbait’ to gain viewers.  For example, titling their video “ARE WE BREAKING UP?” when the video is not at all about their relationship actually ending.  Viewers have grown more and more annoyed of this craze, especially after finding out how much Youtubers make from views.  Trisha Paytas, a Youtube who I have watched for years, is famous for doing this – so much so that her audience has learned to take nothing seriously.

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-4-50-28-pm
The photos above are the thumbnails of the videos before you click to watch them.  Sometimes a thumbnail may not even be from the video at all.  Rather, Youtubers will create a thumbnail to draw more attention.  These are multimodal projects because they combine linguistic (the title of the video) with spatial and visual (how the thumbnail is organized).  One could also examine the aural aspect of Youtube videos as well as the gestural.  The gestures being made in the above thumbnails are very distinct from each other and suggest different things.  For example, Trish uses emojis to edit her thumbnails.  If she would have used a laughing face rather than a scared face for her “WE WERE ALMOST MURDERED!” thumbnail, we would know that something funny happened in the video (or perhaps not because clickbait, but you know what I mean). We are able to read the texts with different emotions even if the titles/thumbnails are clickbait.

Lastly, I would like look at a multimodal project that has taken comedy to a new level.  GIFs have taken over the internet and I am not complaining.  One of my favorite things to do is tweet something and then use a GIF as my reaction.  For those who don’t know what a GIF is – let me change your life.  Imagine adding your favorite line from a TV show or movie to explain how you feel – but rather than just playing the scene aloud, you can watch it happen over and over again without the need of audio.  Often times, a GIF will use subtitles if they are needed.  Twitter’s multimodal project of  incorporating GIFs has changed the Twitter platform for good.  They have even made it easy to insert a GIF by creating a dropdown menu sorted by reactions for all your GIF needs.

The dropdown box on Twitter that allows you to choose a gif to add to your tweet.
The dropdown box on Twitter that allows you to choose a gif to add to your tweet.

 

I love the use of linguistic, visual, and gestural modes here. GIFs give users the ability to make “moving” images that play in an infinite loop.  Rather than a static image, the gestures have movement and thus are easier to interpret.  What is interesting about GIFs is that the same GIF could be applied to thousands of words.  For example, the GIF below is associated with 2016 as a whole but I could also use it to explain how my weekend went. There is so much hidden meaning in using GIFs and the comedic aspect has made them popular among internet users.

200w_d

Before reading “What Are Multimodal Projects?” I was unaware of all the texts that I use in every day life.  I never thought of audio recordings or Youtube videos or GIFs as anything more than forms of media in their truest form: audio or visual.  There is so much more that factors into how we perceive certain texts and so much more that goes into crafting those perceptions.  It is fascinating just how many different modes of communication can be found in one multimodal project.

 

 

Planning Project 1

I was in sixth grade when my mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. These are words I have typed before and I will continue typing for the rest of my life.  I will never type the words, “My mom was cured” and coming to accept that has been a challenge on its own.  Having gone back and forth between deciding if I wanted to make my ePortfolio professional or personal – I realized that I will get so much more out of this course if I follow my heart and write honestly.  I recently read a piece written by Maya Wileke, a MS warrior, that addressed the disease head-on.  Needless to say, it was my jam.  This open letter is something that I want to emulate. I also find it to be excellently written and crafted in such a powerfully artistic way. You can find her piece here.

Multiple Sclerosis.

You’re here. 

Why did you choose me when there were so many other people you could have picked?

Wileke opens with the million dollar question that I have been asking for 8 years. Why my mom?  What did she do to deserve this? The spatial arrangement of her words adds so much to the way I read the piece.  I take a pause after each line and there is a purpose behind every word.  There is something so powerful about having You’re here stand alone. Multiple Sclerosis takes over your life.  It is never invited.  MS is the pessimistic, mean, and life-sucking uncle that no one wants to come to Thanksgiving dinner.  But he shows up every year. And every year he brings a worse side dish.  You’re here.

I enjoy this piece because it reminds me of my mom.  Here’s the truth about MS but here is also her truth: she is not MS.  Wileke transitions from roasting MS to sticking up for herself and declaring her victory.

You don’t own me MS, you don’t get praise for having me. No matter how bad you treat me in the future, I will own you instead.

You’re you and I’m me. One thing I will never lose is the knowledge that I conquered you. Perhaps not physically, but mentally I am stronger than you.

You’re here to stay, but I won.

I won yesterday.

I win today.

And I will win tomorrow also.

Personalizing MS makes venting a little easier.  Again, Wileke’s spatial arrangement has transformed her words into triumphs.  She speaks to the past, the present, and the future.  We cannot dwell on the fact that MS has no cure, we must instead continue fighting and continue living. That day in sixth grade was hard.  Sixth grade was also when “ur mom” jokes were popular.  Let’s just say it was poor timing for a fad.  But you know what?  MS has not destroyed me – it has given me a mother who continuously inspires me to live unapologetically and fearlessly.  I won. I have her.

I can hear my mom when I read this piece and I think that’s what I admire so much about it.  I plan to read more open letters addressing MS as I plan my first project.  However, I do not want to write anything that has been written before.  I want to spread awareness of this awful disease, but I also want to create a place where children of other MS warriors can come and feel understood.  Let’s see what I can do.

My mom and I at this year's MS Walk in Lansing.
My mom and I at this year’s MS Walk in Lansing.

 

How Writing Leads to Thinking

When I was writing my college writing sample for UofM, I thought that I was going to test out of the first year writing requirement. I didn’t.  Not only that, but the first year writing class that I signed up for (Salem Witch Trials) ended up just being the normal English 125 course. To this day I have no idea how that happened – but we will get to that.  Needless to say, I was confused and a little annoyed that I was going to have to write what I thought were “high school papers.”  Can we take a moment to laugh at freshman year me?  Who did I think I was?  At 18 years old I had already decided that I knew all there was to know about writing.  I thought that there was no room for improvement.

The papers I wrote in that plain old English 125 class are some of my favorite pieces of writing – not because they are amazing and extremely cohesive, but because they are not.  They are messy.  They are real.  I wrote about my mother’s diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.  I wrote about my insecurities coming from a small town and transitioning to a big school.  I wrote about the first time I broke a bone.  But most importantly, these pieces of writing were written at a time in my life when I was realizing just how much I didn’t know. Lynn Hunt writes, “[O]ne is not born a writer but rather becomes one.” I came into college thinking that my success in high school would automatically carry over to college. My freshman year, I failed a class.  I turned to English 125 to vent.  I invested my time into writing because I could not bear to open up my chemistry textbook. I learned how to write without constraints because of my constraints. English 125 became my safe haven.Realizing that there was so much more to writing than meeting the word count and getting an A, I began to respect the process of writing.  I began writing drafts; something I never did in high school.  I began revising and revising and revising and revising. But I have since stopped.  Now comfortable in all my courses, I no longer turn to writing classes for shelter.

I want to continue this process of revising and reconstructing in the minor in writing program.  Now a junior, I find myself cutting corners again when it comes to papers because I believe I have the equation down.  There is always more to learn when it comes to writing and I need to remind myself of that. It is easy to get comfortable in a routine and I find myself fighting the urge to settle. I need to stop looking at papers and thinking, “It’s good enough.” The goal of this journey in writing is to improve my process. Whether I am writing a paper about ethics or a poem about my mom, I need to get comfortable with the notion of, as Lamott says, “shitty drafts.”