damn guys awesome job! + a few responses to portfolios that i thought were dope

Wow. Hugely impressed with everyone’s project. I honestly wanted to respond to all of them, but since writing 3500-4000 more words for this class isn’t something I am physically/mentally able to do right now, I picked three that really stood out to me when I first skimmed through the list. Also although this is already obvious, I want to stress that what I picked is very subjective and reflects my own interests and aesthetic preference.  I really thought everyone did an excellent job. Finally, I want to say that I seriously learned a lot and made significant strides in my writing working with you all throughout this past semester and throughout the Minor. I wish you all the best moving forward!

Responses

1. Lisa Miller-
The design and organization were the first aspects of your portfolio that caught my eye. This is where personal bias comes in, but after using Bootstrap for a while (and for my own portfolio), I am really drawn to sites that use it elegantly. I really like the vertical-scrolling-with-nav-bar layout because it allows all of the content to be readily present and accessible. Really nice customization! Visually I also thought your use of graphics were really appealing in that they were not overused, colorful, and gave a good sampling of what material was to come.

Speaking of material to come, your project is among the most informative I’ve seen. The use of graphs to illustrate the points you make does a great job of both dividing up the blocks of text and explaining them. The way you separate each misconception clearly presents the information despite the density of the topic. Although the political nature of your project, you did a good job of presenting the facts even if your bias is still present. I think that bias shows voice; after all, this is your project and thus includes a argumentative aspect that while subtle is effective. Great work!

2. Kaitlyn Byrne-
Since all I know (or knew, before your project) about Game Theory was its mention in A Beautiful Mind, this is the context in which I started to read your project. Soon, however, I realized I had also forgotten what Game Theory actually was besides an explanation of why to avoid blonde girls, and therefore this project was a great refresher in that regard. In addition, it was also a really interesting personal narrative, and the way you managed to weave the two together made it an exceptional piece. Your use of the future/conditional second person tense is one of things that really hammers this home. The tone felt like an angel/devil perched on my shoulder- I didn’t know what was manipulative and what was just clever, but it was all compelling. I also found the transitions from narrative prose to thought experiment and theory a great way of both explanation and dividing up the text (similar to how the graphs functioned in Lisa’s project like I mentioned above). Finally, I also thought the navigational structure of your portfolio was really straightforward and intuitive. It was very enjoyable to read!

3. Brooke Gabriel –

I’ve always thought the concept of tying together recipes with personal narrative was a cool idea, but I’ve also always wondered how its execution would look, and if it even could be pulled off. Well, Brooke, I know now it is possible to do, and to do really well. First off, I’m vibing heavily with the wood paneling background, I feel like I could be in a 70s-80s style home kitchen, about to chop it up with grandma. After the home page, I went right to your Capstone Project, and immediately liked the continuation of the theme. The intro reminding me a sort of menu introducing your work, and then the recipe cards as a more in-depth look, linking to your content.

Content-wise, all around your writing is compelling. What was cool for me was to have a choice of what to read, even if you didn’t intend for this to be the case. What I mean is that sometimes I was just content simply whetting my palette with the brief recipes you provided, but other times I wanted more and continued on to the essays. I’m not sure who I was rooting for between Jeff and your vegan diet, but you probably picked the healthiest option by splitting with both. Overall, I had a lot of fun reading this. Awesome work!

 

Capstone Project Ideas: Thoughts on the value of art

Last semester I took English 225 and made a mistake I don’t want to repeat. Okay, it honestly wasn’t that bad, but let me explain. The whole course was centered around a thirty day experiment in which we could choose to immerse ourselves in any sort of community that we wanted. Afterward we had to create a multimodal project based on the experiment, present it on a panel, and write a research essay about it- a lot of work. To make a long story short, I somehow ended up asking professors and students about their opinions on taking gap years, which wasn’t something that I initially intended to do, and it wound up being pretty dry. In the end, the motivation to finish was hard to muster up. This is a problem I’d like to avoid, if possible, with my Capstone project this semester.

Among the consequences of poor planning, one key mistake that hurt me in 225 was choosing a topic I assumed to be “practical” over what I was actually emotionally and intellectually invested in. This led to a teeth-pulling-esque writing process as I tried to convince myself that what I was doing was important for me, when now I can see that I actually didn’t fully believe in it.  This is also something I plan on changing.

So, onto the topic. I am still in the very beginning stages, but, as someone who loves the arts (music in particular) more than most things, I have been thinking about looking into the concept of art and artistic creativity. In particular, I have been interested in the philosophical and ethical side of things: What is the purpose/value of art in our societies? Is it ethical to devote one’s life to artistic pursuits? Is artistic talent/creativity innate or can it be learned? I could examine these questions from a more theoretical stance, such as in the light of the Effective Altruism movement, but I also see a real-world applicability, such as fund allocation in educational departments, or the practical decisions that both established and aspiring artists have to make in their careers. I think combining these ideas (eventually through a more specific lens) and maybe adding some creative work of my own could make for a challenging, argumentative project.

blacksquare

Writing FAST

Okay so the ironic thing here is that I have five minutes to write this- well actually four now before I am being forced out of my apartment and won’t be able to return until the deadline for gamification submissions has passed. And that means that I don’t have a lot of time to carefully craft my sentences like usual, and be politically correct, so I’m going to be brutally honest. I need to get this one in, well, for points, but also because I have an important message to share. A message about something I have learned to do quite well this semester in Writing 220: write fast. I’ll be blunt. This semester I was swamped most of the time, and, in combination with my unique knack for procrastination, this led to me rushing to meet some already generous deadlines. So I was forced to adapt. I had to hurry, but I had to do good work. I wasn’t about to compromise. So I forced myself to do both! It was a struggle at first. I fell back into old habits, like reading through my work a billion times, or leaving critical proofreading errors. I shouldn’t say much more in case I’m guilty of that here. But I definitely think that I have improved, mainly, because I’ve been forced to. It’s been a really valuable skill. And I thank Writing 220 for teaching me.

True Web Writing

Okay, this is a little late in the game, but in counting up my gamified points I just realized that I never did the blog post about uploading an artifact as true web writing. In retrospect, it may be better that I waited until now to do this post, because now that my portfolio is complete I have a wide range of examples of how I present my writing online. Here are three that you can find in my e-portfolio.

1.Linking to another HTML doc – Why I Write

When I finally got the styling right, embedding my Why I Write essay directly into another HTML document and linking to it actually turned out pretty nicely. I decreased the margins and increased the font for easier readability. This website gave me some inspiration.

2. Linking to a PDF – Repurposing An Argument

This method was super important because it preserved the formatting of this essay, which had pictures, different fonts, and a bibliography that would have been very time consuming to recreate using CSS. One downside of linking directly to the PDF was that the navigation bar disappears, but it still opens in a new tab, so in the end not much damage is done.

3. Combining PDFs and HTML – Repurposing Drafts

Not gonna lie, I was pretty proud of myself when I got this to look decent. I used a StartBoostrap template originally as a one-column portfolio, but where the pictures would normally go, I embedded PDFs of my repurposing drafts. On the side bar, I included a short description of each draft by just writing text in the HTML. This was the solution that made the most sense for this artifact.

As you can see, different methods of displaying my writing online worked better in different scenarios. Using them introduced me to the degree that appearance affects the content of web writing, something I took into consideration when crafting the rest of my e-portfolio.

E-portfolio wooooo

eportfolio pic

Working on my e-portfolio has been a roller coaster ride of HTML success and failure. But now, after presenting it at the showcase today and finishing the Gateway class, I can definitely say it been my most rewarding experience in this course.

For one, it taught me so much about HTML and CSS, and how powerful each of them are. I learned concepts that I didn’t really grasp when just going over tutorials. Secondly, it forced me to review my projects for this class both individually and as a whole, the later of which I rarely get to do for writing classes. It was interesting to see my progression as a writer – the changes in style and tone – but also my progression of ideas. In this class I found myself experimenting a great deal with how I write, and I think this is reflected in the contents and creation of my portfolio, especially through the drafts of my work. At the same time, I feel as though at the end of the semester I have found aspects of my writing that work and those that don’t. I’ve begun to develop certain styles and methods of approaching ideas, which is exciting.

Though it was a huge learning experience, developing a finished product for this portfolio was hard work. Obviously there were coding issues (shout out to my roommate for helping me through a number of these), but also issues of placement (the order and structuring of my artifacts) and reflection. I really had to spend time thinking about my takeaways from my work, and this could be tedious at times.

In the end I am proud of my final e-portfolio product I will probably continue to play with the code as a way of keeping my newly developed HTML skills refined. I also plan on revising the artifacts even after the semester ends, because I really want it to showcase my best work.

Codecademy

Codecademy Badges
Some of the badges I earned doing Codecademy tutorials.

I saw Dylan’s post a few days ago about Codecademy and realized that I should probably blog about my experience with it too. I started going through the JavaScript tutorial with it freshman year because I was interested in learning some core programming concepts. ‘Writing code’ had always been something shrouded in mystery to me (and still largely is) but I wanted to pull back the veil just a little bit. There are a bunch of cool things about Codecademy, one being that it starts in a very simple and intuitive way, and introduces jargon slowly and clearly. Also every time you finish a few exercises, you are rewarded with a badge, and that feels awesome. The gamification and pace of the JavaScript courses led me to learn about variables and functions and loops, and later things like data structures and objects, which I’d most definitely have to review today.

When it became time to make my E-portfolio, I chose the hand coding route largely because I had some experience with HTML/CSS (I went through these tutorials over the summer). I was most definitely over confident (see this post), but ultimately the knowledge I acquired from Codecademy, as well as some wiser opinions, led me to using a Bootstrap template to make my portfolio, which is now on its way to completion. Learning a little bit about programming through Codecademy has given me an appreciation for the work that goes into all things internet as well as practical knowledge to apply in many different areas of my life.

Finding My Blogging Voice…and Making it Look Good

Over the course of this semester I’ve really worked on finding my blogging voice. I started off writing in a more formal tone, using descriptive vocabulary and long, complex sentences. Then I experimented with a super informal, conversational voice. Neither seemed that natural. And, now in writing this at the end of the semester, I think that sounding natural and genuine is the essence of a good blog post; I’ve started to embrace the idea that it’s all about being “in the moment,” and I think that this medium of writing is best suited to capturing what the writer is thinking now. It’s well adapted for spilling your thoughts. That’s not say that a good blog post has to be a stream-of-consciousness jumble of text or ramble. It can be organized and thoughtful. But it’s a reflection of your thoughts in your voice – you don’t have to mold it to someone else’s standards.

This paragraph might seem slightly unrelated, but it’s late and I have another thought about blogging and just writing in general on my mind. It might be just me, but do the aesthetics of a writing ever affect the content of what you are saying? Like, for example, does the fact that this blog’s font is Georgia ever cause you to write a certain way? It does for me. I think it actually helps a lot because it looks really clean and professional. Kind of like how I’ll definitely write better if I have a sharp pencil versus a dull one. I don’t know, maybe I’m just a very visual person. But the aesthetics really matter to me, and making writing look aesthetically pleasing also does a lot for the content that I end up writing.

Revision

I think my writing process is different than a lot of people’s: I tend to have a short attention span, so I’ll typically start writing something, get tired of it, and then come back to it later. The thing is, every time I do this I usually have to re-read and revise it, which takes a while (I just caught myself doing this right now). Also this strategy allows for a lot of procrastination: I’ll start a bunch of things but then put off finishing them. If I have enough time, this usually means that the final product is polished, but if I don’t because there’s a deadline and I’ve taken too many breaks, I’ll often have to rush the ending to finish on time.

My compulsion with revision probably stems from the fact that I hate releasing something publicly that may have mistakes in it. I want it to be my best work. But as I’ve gone through school, and especially college, I’ve realized that this is definitely a balancing act – at some point you just need to be done and move on. I think I’ve gotten better at this, and honestly some of my most fluid writing is stuff that I’ve written quickly with few breaks and less full revisions. At the same time I think there’s also positives to constantly revising as you write. It obviously curbs grammar and diction mistakes, but more importantly it helps bigger ideas stay connected and on topic. Plus, when I do go to actually give someone a draft, there is usually less work to be done on the reviser’s end.

This semester, being busier and having more responsibilities than I ever have before, I’ve really been faced with how to revise when time is a limiting factor. I think the most important strategy I’ve learned takes place before the revision process even starts: planning. If you can map out the general ideas that you want to present, whether on paper or just mentally, the revision work will be a lot lighter and more time can be spent generating new content. Revision will always be important, especially as a way for other’s to share their ideas about your work, but it can be less of a burden and more effective if you know exactly what you’re trying to communicate.

Admitting Defeat And Starting Anew

intervention

Two nights ago was a turning point in my e-portfolio journey. Since the beginning, I had been excited about the customization aspect of the project. I chose to be ambitious and code it myself, building off a bit of HTML/CSS knowledge I had acquired through Codecademy tutorials. In my head, I saw a glorious display of minimalism, complete with a flashy title and and a simple table of contents that would link to my artifacts. As I began to bring my website dreams to life, the progress was slow, but the small victories kept me going: centering an element, changing the font. There were tough times, too. My lacking coding knowledge led to me to believe that including an overlay feature would be a good idea. It wasn’t. One class I spent the whole time trying to make the title a cool GIF. Also probably not a great idea. But through the good and bad, my determination remained steadfast. I wanted my e-portfolio to be as personal as possible (and, honestly, to stand out) and coding it completely myself was the way to do that.

That was, until two nights ago. Coming home from a long day I sat down at my desk and decided to show my computer science-majoring roommates my website concept. It makes more sense now, but in fishing for compliments, I was hit with some pretty harsh critique. Quotes heard include, “I’d rather watch replays of the Michigan State game than look at that” and, bluntly, “This is what computer science over the past decade has been working to prevent.” They even hated on the purple white-noise background. At first I tried to defend it. A few tears welled up. But then I began to accept that I needed a change, and through the veil of criticism there was a glow of encouragement. Their intervention forced me to grapple with the truth of the matter, that I was at an impasse and that this was keeping me from accomplishing more important parts of the project. We reasoned ways I could move forward, such as using a template like Wix, or even still coding it by hand but using a template like these Bootstrap ones. Overall, the experience was less traumatic and more constructive. Now I can still apply my original structural ideas without stressing over more superficial aesthetics and formatting. Sometimes, in our personal quests for achievement, we lose sight of reality. This e-portfolio intervention was a much needed reality check, and I, as well as my instructors and transcript, will be more thankful because of it.

Scriptwriting Surprises

This re-mediation project is my first venture into the world of podcasting, so as way to get comfortable with the genre I have been listening to some short podcasts that I enjoy. One is This American Life, a radio show on NPR which has an archive that I’ve been streaming here. In the past I’d always listened to This American Life with the content of the show in mind, as I assume most people do and its creators intended. But since I started my project I have been instead listening for the strategies employed that make this content interesting and natural: how topics are introduced, transitions are handled, vocal tones are changed, etc. It has been eye-opening to discover what makes listening to ten minutes of someone talking such an enjoyable activity.

Just from my limited pre-recording experience, I’ve realized that, maybe obviously, the podcast is all about the script. Or maybe, more accurately, the podcaster’s relationship with the script. In other words, you have to decide where to follow it verbatim and where to diverge from what’s written down, all while simultaneously sounding professional and natural. Listening to experienced podcasters, I’ve always taken the difficulty of this task for granted. I definitely think that being invested in the subject matter of your podcast goes along way to pulling off this balancing act.

To tie it back to earlier discussions in the year, one aspect of writing that making a script has really brought to light is the marked distinction between written and spoken word. At the beginning of the Gateway class I stated that I wanted to become more comfortable writing in a less formal tone. So far, the script I have been crafting has been challenging me to meet this goal. When I originally looked over the sketch of my podcast script, it seemed fine. But as soon as I started to read it out loud, and apply a personal tone and inflection to it, it seemed awkward. I had to spice it up with interjections, contractions, and informal phrases that, interestingly enough, are usually frowned upon in academic writing. As I go forward into the recording process, I am curious to see how the interpretation of the content is affected by how I present it, and what kind of overall tone I end up constructing.