More reading, more writing, more parenthetical citations!

It’s obvious that I need to do more research on how women perceive womanhood. This isn’t because I don’t feel comfortable making assertions within the introduction. But I know that quality and quantity of information is what gives theories and claims validity and reliability. For that reason, there needs to be more parenthetical citations at the end of my sentences. Being an undergrad, although I’m a senior, makes me conscious of being perceived as something other than an authority. A bulk of the written work will be conveying to an audience what I’ve unearthed through the interviews and the process of transcribing them. While the other 25% will be grounded in other people’s research. I don’t want that small, although important, section to give me anxiety about what I’m doing in my own research. So to confidently move forward I need to feel like my introduction and literature review are strong and thorough and well written, but also an accurate representation of my own processing of information and the trajectory of my project.

Through my research synthesis I realized that media texts about women/womanhood, and sometimes manhood, are incredibly helpful because they too are doing what I am seeking to do: meshing narratives/storytelling with definitions/embodiments of womanhood. Although these are portrayals of womanhood, or in some instances mother-daughter relationships, they tell me a lot about how identity is in conversation with structure, with objects, and with the inner self and psychological processes. How identity relates to structure specifically isn’t always a function of how we act or dress in public spaces, but also how we’ve come to conceptualize ourselves over time.

The most important thing that my research taught me is that womanhood really is a process, which has a component of inevitability and certainty. I think that element is either incredibly apparent or obscured. Caitlyn Moran makes it seem very apparent, but I think many people I’ve interviewed struggle to locate the line between the two. So what’s at the heart of our struggle with womanhood, is perhaps the coercive nature of change. Growth is often uncomfortable (physically in terms of the body, or even in relation to societal expectations and interactions at certain ages). I think what I might struggle with in my interviews as a result of all of this, is challenging the idea that we were passive in the past during our transitions or even now. Those transformative moments and relationships were as agentic as naming for oneself what womanhood is.

Questions writing a draft introduction has raised:

1. What literature exists to provide a working framework for my sub-hypothesis that a spiritual transformation underlies how women talk about what womanhood is, what it feels like, how it relates to their with their mother?

2. Would it be beneficial to make the literature review and introduction more narrative? I thought about this in relation to my exploration of media texts, like visual art work and film.

3. Where is it best to insert personal narratives about myself? (Introduction or Methods where it’s traditionally appropriate to talk about relationship to subject matter).

4. Can interviewees bring their childhood into adulthood through their understanding of their relationship to and remembrance of their mother/grandmother? Or is this something I will discern for myself through transcription and listening to the audio.

To have a solid first draft by March 10th I need to do a thorough analysis of how literature reviews are put together. As Jake mentioned, I need to review the references in the research I’m reading for my project. I also need to transcribe the interviews I have done so far in order to pull out initial themes and start researching what literature exists that make sense of the results. This blog post was perhaps more helpful than writing a synthesis or introduction. It felt easier to access my thoughts and make connections. I probably need to to more low-stakes free writing (like the draft development assignments) to create stronger drafts of my project.

Returning to Claudia Rankine, my patrons, will hopefully help me get back to the basics of good writing. Perhaps where some hesitancies lie within translating research into synthesis is in the quality of that translation, but also the impact. Rankine is a master at making experiences come to life. What feelings those experiences hold become tangible on the page.  It’s inspiring to read, but mostly to dissect how she uses words to narrate. I need to return to fundamentals, as Tharp suggested, to feel confident writing something I’m usually reading (aka research articles). Rankine also gives us all permission to be really daring in our work. I’ve been hesitant about what’s exigent about my project’s subject matter, in part because I’ve researched and read pieces that use the ability to define something for oneself as oppressive if it excludes another. Navigating this has been particularly tricky. Solnit really talks about the power of naming things. So I feel a little stuck, not necessarily in terms of moving forward in my project, but in relation to ethics and compassion.

Paralleling the podcast is the idea that season 2 is a re-pilot show that reintroduces characters in an organic way. Both episodes of the podcast work to humanize TV and Hollywood, like West Wing might do with politicians (idk though, I don’t watch it). We listen and learn about how commercials affect viewer perception or hear actors revisit their own learning experiences on set. We’re so often only consuming the finish product. But Sorkin challenges the idea that a finish product even exists. He considers his writing as comprised mostly of first drafts. He insists rewriting is only necessitated by production. However, it can also be rewritten by the interpretation of actors, their body language, their costumes, etc. We understand this more clearly through Emily Procter’s experiences.  How may outside factors, besides professor/ peer suggestions, compel us to rewrite? Do you have concrete examples? I think we can also apply revisitation to people and the narratives we tell about ourselves. What have we encountered that compelled us to create a new narrative about ourselves? Where do we encounter these thins? And is that something we can somehow use to inform our writing decisions when we are attempting to be persuasive? Perhaps it’s a deep interrogation of ourselves we experience when we encounter competing arguments that represent generous listening. If we’re not doing that interrogative work, maybe it’s a sign that we’re not witnessing a balanced argument.

In some ways we can interpret “not knowing how it will end” vs. “knowing how it will end but not what’s in the middle” as inductive versus deductive reasoning. A concept in the scientific method has manifested itself in writing and the arts. This may help us think about the interdisciplinary nature of our world, similar to the spirituality Tippet brings into her conversations. We can use this as inspiration for our own projects when we’re seeking to engage in writing in a different way.

Sorkin believes that if an episode ends up being important it just turns out that way. I interpret this as a call to action. It’s an invitation to take risks. When we think about success, we might see it as antithetical to doing something are unfamiliar with. We face what seems like inevitable failure. But failure is what challenged Sorkin.

Sorkin provides us with a blueprint for being brave by encouraging risk and humanizing those we may disagree with. But where do we draw the line between humanizing groups of people/thinking of them as individuals and normalizing something we may think is toxic and oppressive? How do we accomplish this?

Tbh: Reflective Writing is Hard

I don’t like eportfolios. They’re too much. It’s so hard trying to reflect when you’re far away from the process. I wish we could’ve written reflectively and purposefully for the eportfolio right after we finished our projects.

That being said, I’m very happy with the photo on my site. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I designed the entire site around it. I’m happy with how most pages look, besides repurposing. if i could change anything I would make that page a slideshow of documents/screenshots with edits in the margin. I completely gave up on not having a lot of text. Hopefully I’ll master finding the right balance in the capstone course.

The process is odd because you have to build a consistent infrastructure before you do anything else, but at the same time have enough wiggle room for different things. And that infrastructure has to be aesthetically pleasing and be representative of who you are as a person. Well it doesn’t have to do any of those things, but I want it to! That was probably one of the most time consuming parts.

I achieved my purpose of presenting myself as a writer. Did I do it well, I’m not sure. It was hard to create a theme or guiding principle behind the site, because it’s not real. Like we’re inspired by things and we write about them and they are linked because of the topic. But incorporating why i write and outside work makes it very hard to thematically link everything together. So that took a lot of brainstorming. My theme came about when I was trying to create a cover page/home page. I didn’t have a photo that didn’t use text (because there would be too much text if I added my name underneath or on top or below, which I ended up not doing anyway). So I had to improvise. I got pretentious. I wanted to say something amusing like the profile that starts off  “stuff i wrote” or the life’s a bitch/beach one. So that’s where that stemmed from. And that awkwardness continued into my faq page. Which is embarrassing but very me, and very inspired by Baratunde Thurston’s How to Be Black site.

Overall I’m not happy with the reflective writing. I think I was just unable to grasp that part of the assignment. I want to work on reflective writing, because it’s kinda hard. We don’t learn to do that all the time. We learn to write the stuff we write the reflection on.

Advice & I Can’t Believe It’s Almost Over

First, I hope you have a successful and fulfilling semester! Second, get ready to do a lot of reflection (of every kind).

I think the minor is meant to make you think holistically about composition and rhetorical situation. You start to think about what writing is and what elements constitute effective writing. You have to make a lot of deliberate choices. It’s fun and challenging, because everything is on the table in terms of what you can do.

Choosing an original source: Get a feel for what the major themes of your potential pieces are. Or choose an assignment you had that you wanted to explore differently. I think the key thing to remember is that what links your original source and your repurposing project is thematic or conceptual. So the connection can seem loose, as long as those aspects are evident. Find something you can expand on in many ways. I chose something that was personal (a letter to my friends), but related to a lot of different facets of academic life and campus life.

Repurposing & Remediation: I’m sure a lot of minors have said this, but do take risks! I learned to do things I’d never done before. It’s one of the only times someone is giving you permission to be risky and encouraging you to do so. I wish I had time to experiment with everything: podcasts, websites, videos, etc. If you need a lot of time to complete something jeopardous, choose to make the remediation project your riskiest endeavor. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time editing or formatting will take, so try and take that into account.

It is a small class, and some people are writing about personal things, so you will get to know your peers through writing. The minor truly brings together a diverse group of people, so take advantage of these opportunities to make connections.

To conclude, DO NOT underestimate the e-portfolio. Also, the minor is really all about you. It’s self absorbed work, in the best way possible.

P.S. In case you were wondering, I created a Michigan Daily article for my Repurposing projecting, and a website for my Remediation. 

So. Much. Formatting.

Remediation: I finally found someone who is willing to help me with Photoshop! Because I’m preoccupied with quality, I hope this assistance will help me have more confidence in my work.

These Photoshop endeavors have truly been a challenge, but I’m glad this class has pushed me to grapple with new software. Although its arguable that every class at U-M can give you skills you can put on your resume, this is the first time the takeaway has been concrete and objective.

I’m shocked by the amount of time I spend formatting EVERYTHING on the website I am creating. So much of the content is shaped by the design and vice versa. I’ve been struggling with the more subjective parts of my project, where I get to be choosy. It is hard for me to feel like I’m making the right choices at all times. I’m also an inherently indecisive person, so that doesn’t help. 

I didn’t expect that I’d put so much thought into controlling and shaping the way my readers navigate my site and encounter information. Design used to seem enjoyable, but now it feels tedious and almost stressful. There’s almost too much control. Overall I’d say I’m focused on making sure everything is as effective as it can possibly be. Making sure there isn’t too much of this or too little of that, or that links are obvious and that the information they contain is relevant enough and worth my viewer’s time. Etc. I’m also focused on making sure I’m doing enough work, not only for this project to be considered legitimate, but also in terms of achieving my purpose.

me when I found a generous soul to help me with photoshop
me when I found a generous soul to help me with photoshop

Why I Write: I knew going into this class that this assignment would be one of the hardest assignments I would complete in college. I could write 100 Why I Write papers, and all would be valid, yet different descriptions of how and why I write.

I knew I wanted to tell stories and use some figurative language, or at least some informal language. But I struggled not telling ALL the stories. I also wanted this paper to be a maximum 3 pages, and that was a struggle.

I wish I could write two papers: why I write, in relation to the work I’m doing in this class, and then another one that is more emotional, and abstract, and filled with sentence fragments. It’s hard to balance the personal and academic (or maybe I should say requirements). But I still got to do some figurative work, and I’m grateful for that. I also think it reminded me of why I write, which was inspirational. Drafting certain parts of this piece didn’t feel like school. It felt like pastime. I love when that happens, and I’m grateful for that too.

I feel like I’ll never be happy with this piece because it could go in SO many directions. I would have to write every possible draft, then choose the one I think is most fitting at this point in my life, to be happy with the work I do for this assignment.

Writing Ambitions

In my application I definitely mentioned poetic language, or at least figurative language. I think I only engaged in a version of that during syllabus week when we did the aleatory writing. As of now, the Why I Write project is probably the best project for this kind of language, at this point in the semester. Right now that seems like an easy thing to do, which is why I’m not sure I want to devise a plan to implement more unconventional styles of writing into an essay like piece. I was hoping to play with conventions of the academic sentence. But then I think about okay how well does this kind of language, and that kind of style, and that kind of genre fit together? If I’m modeling a piece without that style, or if I want my writing to seem cohesive, where do I draw the lines? I think before stepping foot into writing 220 the first week of school, I thought pushing ourselves and thinking “outside of the box” was going to be almost at a sentence or paragraph level. Something within that tangible form of writing. 

Also, I think my writing ambitions were also related to volume. I wanted to walk away with a lot of writing, a much larger body of work. A lot of classes have 3-4 papers. But I can usually get inspired from little writing assignments that I revisit when I’m doing something similar to repurposing. It’s interesting to think about how often we repurpose our writing without attaching that label to it, because I would argue it’s a frequent occurrence. Sometimes I think there’s a strong relationship between quantity of writing and quality. Like you have t o write a lot to get better at it. But I want interesting prompts that prompt good writing. I feel like the more I’m exposed to those, the better I am at producing something to that effect. I’ve seen other classes kind of work though things on the board like we have, but they were more related to certain aspects of writing rather than revolving around rhetoric. I tend to return to these kind of exercises over the course of my collegiate careers.

It’s likely I’ll fulfill any “writing ambitions” in Why I Write, but even more so in the capstone course.

Developing as a Writer

I didn’t automatically link these pieces to Sullivan’s. However, I did link Ong to Orwell and even a little bit to Didion. Ong stating that grammar rules live in the unconscious was similar to Didion’s metaphor, that grammar is a piano she plays by ear. Both pieces seemed to suggest that writing is a compulsion, whether it’s a a certain style (Orwell) or the act in general (Didion). While Ong states that speech is unconscious, whereas writing is artificial, he does claim that it is “utterly invaluable and indeed essential,” which speaks to this drive to write.

Orwell resonated with me, more so than Didion’s piece. We both wrote at young ages. I wrote more when my little brother was too little to play with, so that isolation was also similar. Unlike Didion, I think my connection to writing is abstract. Though I want to tangibly capture those words, I find much of my interest in writing is related to my interest in thinking and theorizing about mundane things, usually though a sociological perspective. I think Orwell touches on a similar idea when he says he shaped a continuous story, like a diary in his mind. Writing is such a mental thing, that the cross over between intangibility and tangibility is an interesting one. I think it compels me to write, if anything so I can remember my thoughts. I found it odd that there wasn’t a significant focus on other works being inspiration for why Didion or Orwell wrote. When I read a good piece of writing, I am inspired to write.

Side note: The first story I remember writing was about a zebra. Considering Orwell wrote about a tiger, I wonder if animals are very common subjects for children to use.

In terms of this semester, I’ve discovered that my definition of “developing as a writer” is very grounded in ideation and executing ideas efficiently. I’m taking a seminar in professional writing through DAAS and the professor is anal about grammar. While grammar is obviously a component of effective communication and execution, I know I will barely grow as a writer in that class. I will always be too focused on fulfilling requirements and less on my argument. So for me personally, developing as a writer is about being uncomfortable with a new genre and receiving a lot of critical feedback (which NEVER happens in my seminar). That’s probably why I don’ feel like that much growth occurred from the repurposing draft to the final. Criticism really gets me to look at what I like and why I like it. Or even how to work within the constraints of X suggestion, or the constraints of both X and Y suggestions. I did a lot of this in my creative writing class. Revising a poem is one of the hardest things I have done at Michigan. But I will never forget how happy I was with the revisions, considering a week before I was too attached to remove more than two lines.

And that’s how I know I’ve developed as a writer. Attachment. I used to be so attached to words, sentences, whole paragraphs. Revision felt less like a tedious process, and more like a painful division between mother and child. But with the repurposing project, I felt much more comfortable with removing things. Most of the attachment I feel now is about being unwilling to sacrifice something for the sake of time.

Lastly, I measure how far I’ve come by something my creative writing teacher told me. It’s quite cliche. But she said the goal of that class was to take a common or universal idea or feeling or subject and find a new and unique way to say it. I try to make sure my pieces do that. My repurposing was okay. I do think I made the familiar strange by talking about a staple like tailgating, and bringing in late 1800 controlling images of race. I like my remediation idea about concessions. It’s an interesting framework. It’s something that came to me last second, and that seems to inspire a lot of my writing. If it’s sudden and improvised, it’s probably gold. Sorry this was so long.

Photoshop Pros & Cons

The greatest thing about photoshop is the fact that it is now a verb. That’s when you really know that you’ve made it as a product.

I’m not entirely sure what support resources means, but Adobe does have tutorials, which are not that helpful for novices. I have a few friends who are photoshop gurus who may be willing to teach me their ways over the weekend. Since photoshop will not be the bulk of my project, I’m not too concerned. I want visual aspects to enhance what I’m saying though, and if they turn out high-quality, then maybe they will become the focal point. I will probably use wix to display whatever it is that I create because I’ve already used Pages, and Indesign seems to have a steep learning curve.

Wikipedia defines Adobe Photoshop as a raster graphics editor, and the fact that I don’t know what raster means, may be a sign that I shouldn’t be using this software. So far I’ve learned about selection, layers, “airbrushing,” and implementing text. That’s really about it. Everything else I am very very confused about. Even after watching tutorials, there always seems to be a mismatch between what I’m doing and what the videos are doing. I think it’s the volume of options and checkboxes and buttons that make it so intimidating. I’m never quite sure how a tools name is indicative of its function. Usually when I am confused, I don’t know why until a text box pops up that gives me hints while simultaneously being condescending. That being said, I like that users can have multiple tabs open. I like that users can save their work as an image (and in many different file types). It’s definitely flexible in that sense. The ability to select items and create a synthesis of images is key to the visuals I want to include in my remediation project. In this sense, Photoshop is coming in handy. It wasn’t expecting Photoshop to be extremely accessible and straightforward, though I was hoping that it would get easier to use after about an hour of tinkering around. That was not the case.

The takeaway: I might have to use something else, maybe even handcrafted, visual art, to achieve what I want. It may be more hassle than help to use Adobe Photoshop. If anyone has suggestions for other graphic design software, NOT GIMP, please let me know.

Conceptualizing Remediation

Podcasts have always been really appealing to me, so I’m thinking of using that as a medium. The interesting thing about podcasts is that they seem both like a new digital form, but radio, if you think of it it as its predecessor, is such a traditional form. And perhaps that’s what scares me about this form of communication, is that so many people think audio that isn’t musical is a dying form. So I feel like from the get-go, I will put a lot of mental energy into making my project, if it is a podcast, not feel boring. Also, I hate my voice on audio recordings and I could get distracted by self-presentation rather than content. Im not sure how to remedy these anxieties though, especially because I love to talk.

All the podcasts I listen to are really long, and its not that I’m hesitant to do a lot of work (smiling face with open mouth and cold sweat emoji here). I just feel like its hard to a) put a podcast together, so making it longer is even scarier, and b) things could get boring. I’ve definitely started listening to podcasts and then just stopped because I thought they too boring or not what I thought they were. So finding a good length will be difficult, but perhaps it will reveal itself. I also just kind of want to combine a lot of interviews rather than having people sit down (or I guess in the real world they like call in or something) to have annoying constructive conversation because that seems beyond the realm of possibility. But, it could be possible. Constructive conversation may not seem as inviting, but it also seems more organic. I really am unsure which route is better. I wish I had the time to to both and then choose.

In every podcast I’ve heard, everyone comes to implicit conclusions because their topics are so debatable. But I’m scared that I won’t come across that in the typical podcast-y form. So I think I almost need to so something more like This American Life where they are introducing stories, and thus can control the production. That’s why I used it as a model. Harper High School is one of my favorite episodes. It was eye-opening for me, and actually ensured me to pursue journalism. I feel like the audience is learning because they are hearing about a world they are unfamiliar with, which is how I want my listeners to feel. But hearing the kids, hearing the everyday experiences as a backdrop for the story being told makes it all feel tangible.

Hearing people’s voices can be very persuasive, at least empathetically. And that’s my larger goal with my project, a lofty one that I kind of abandoned with repurposing because I focused on game day. But it could be a goal I can feasibly accomplish if voices are included and real people are acknowledged as encountering racial tensions, both cultural and implicit, and social and explicit.

Amandla Loves Alliteration, Hates Appropriation

Amandla Sternberg’s video Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrow’s is an example of compelling digital rhetoric. It is informational, relevant, and has over a million views on youtube.

I think the primary and intended audience is the general, nonblack public, unsure as to how a mere hair “style” could cause such controversy. Her argument is organized in way that starts off small (referencing black hair) and ends with police brutality and the subsequent, yet telling, silence of appropriators. Thus, she builds her argument from micro to macro, from cultural specific to universal, kind of like a layer cake.

The piece is compelling due to her contrast of photographs and videos of black and nonblack celebrities. Of course, the substance of her argument shapes the contrasts of the visual elements. Because the video is comprised solely of a headshot of Amandla in front of a light orange background, speaking directly to her audience. Images break up this monotonous view. Although simple, it provides no distractions from what she is saying. Instead the audience is compelled to focus on her words. Amandla’s soft voice yet pedagogical tone engages her audience. Her youthful face mitigating tensions between the viewer and the contentiousness of her argument. She does not sound like she is talking down to her audience (okay maybe a little bit in the beginning), but offering an explanation for general curiosities or questions people have thought but not asked.

The orange background, reflected in the glow of her skin, creates a warm inviting space for viewers to listen rather than judge. Even though the film is of a lower quality, this may actually help her convince her audience, or at least educate them. She doesn’t resemble the institutionalized version of authority and knowledge. Rather we see that she is a human being who understands the experiences of others.

What’s interesting is that this video has been turned into a gif set with the standard white text/black border you see on memes. And those gifs are almost as effective as the video. Gifs are moving images and soundless videos. Their bold text elucidating whatever the subjects are saying. However gif sets are not effective for longer messages, rather they function like the large quotations within Atlantic arguments that summarize main points and provide limited context. The last part of her argument has been reproduced many times, and is perhaps her “thesis”.

What’s absolutely fascinating, is the backlash Amandla received from her tweets regarding cultural appropriation. I think when her face is on something, when people are confronted with a face rather than text, the empathy is greater and so people were less likely to call her angry. Of course, Twitter offers direct communication between users, while her video was a general explanation about cultural appropriation and hair (perhaps promoted by Kylie’s cornrows, but I am unsure), it did not have this direct element.

I do believe a video is the best option for this message. Amandla is able to be confrontational without being condescending. She can engage people, audibly and visually, but still hold onto the personal touch that a PowerPoint or text on a page does not.