Hotline Blogging?

I wish we could’ve spent a little more time talking about blogging because I would claim that they have been very influential in shaping American millennials, and in turn impacting industries and institutions in America. Twitter and Tumblr, and perhaps Vine as well, have provided a new source of entertainment for our generation. Instead of monopolistic media companies providing entertainment, every day users of these social media platforms, a lot of which are forms of microblogging, provide entertainment for their mutuals/followers. For instance, Drake recently released the video for his Hotline Bling single. I have seen a plethora of videos where Drake is seen dancing in the video, but to another song. Most of these posts include the hashtag DrakeAlwaysOnBeat, which at first applied to Beyonce. This phenomenon is culturally ingrained in this twitter/tumblr/vine world of entertainment.

These platforms are a space for people to share what react to cultural relevant productions, usually in relation to the entertainment industry, but in an active rather than passive way. The humor found on these sites, maybe less so vine in this instance, is quick. That’s part of the appeal. Kairos is extremely important, especially on twitter. Its fleeting relevance is what adds to its appeal, popularity, and hilarity. Unfortunately, the humor is also usually insulting, but sometimes also subversive. This is typically accomplished by inverting a user’s initial attempt to insult another user. But it can also be purely conceptual and not targeted at a user of the site.

What is so great about Twitter, especially Black Twitter (an interesting phenomenon in and of itself) is that it is a cultural mecca. If aliens came to the planet and needed to understand humans, I would suggest turning to tweets. Its the perfect place for someone unfamiliar with certain cultural aspects to become indoctrinated in them. Its fleeting nature ultimately enables users to understand how culture applies to different situation, to understand where a certain community generally falls in relation to an issue. Its the ultimate fusion of personal + cultural + societal. Like that article on blogging suggested, it has its own rules.

What initially got me interested in social media platforms as this cultural tool was a post I saw on tumblr about grammar. A user was attempting to reprimand another user for not using punctuation. But the defense pointed out that the lack of punctuation was intentionally, it was a microblogging convention that conveyed that the text was meant to be read as merely a thought. That the way in which bloggers drop or add punctuation in a nature that is ultimately incorrect, shapes what and how the message is conveyed. There was something very intriguing about the fact that a social media platform could create a set of rules that challenge and expand our conception of grammar was incredible. At least in that moment.

For the Love of Revision

In my original source I used the second person. It is definitely a tendency I tend to have, especially when writing something to my friends or to an audience that I would categorize as my peers. I took Academic Argumentation last fall and our professor challenged us to use I in academic writing. Although, the second and first person are different, they both are considered more informal and less authoritative. But the implementation of the second person within writing that is attempting to “help others understand better”, especially when one is attempting to make others feel as if they are in someone else’s shoes. It felt like I was fighting the tendency to write you in almost every sentence.

So that has been a challenge, abandoning these personal aspects. Diversity initiatives should be improving the experiences of its minorities. How do you share experiences with others when it’s necessary to avoid words that are innately personal?

On another note, concerning syntax. Starting off sentences with But and Yet and Thus are definitely my go to’s. Even if it doesn’t show in my draft, which it does, I know this. I’ve become lazy with the way in which I contradict, refute, complicate, or condition statements. I also didn’t include any new words. As a sociology major, I have to be conscious of acronyms like PWI, or terms like “discourse” or “social construction”. I don’t think of these words as jargon, because they are used across disciplines in college, although some may be more relevant to sociology than others. I think I attempted to explain concepts that would be subject to the usage of latinate diction and abstract terms, which i have a tendency to use. Vocabulary is definitely something I need to work on, but it will be easier to make these choices when I receive feedback regarding the effectiveness of descriptions and academic evidence.

The original source I was modeling included a lot of quotations, so their syntax and grammar were very dependent on the content and form of the words being quotes. I however, did not have that many quotations because I was not confident in my ability to conduct interviews that didn’t include leading or double-barreled questions. This is something I may consider during my revision process though. Ultimately, I am unhappy with whatever voice my draft has right now and I am not sure I can focus on style and syntax until I make revisions regarding content, because these things are so dependent on what constitutes the meat of one’s argument.

Researching for Repurposing

Establishing what needs to be done within my project, aka narrowing an audience has impacted my research. How does my research intersect with my intended audience(s)? Its interesting that people see a non-black audience of college students and an audience of black high school students as being too different. Obviously they are not the same, but what they don’t know about being black at a PWI is the same. While I wish I could target both groups, my initial research proves that this may be too much to handle, and possibly something to explore separately via remediation.

I’ve also realized that I need a good mixture of traditional and popular research. however I am not sure that all these forms will manifest explicitly as cited sources in my writing. For instance, many people are averse to the idea that cultural whiteness exists. But, within a University of Michigan classroom, I have read research that explored multiracial girls’ experiences growing up in culturally white environments. The whole concept of cultural whiteness was eye opening, especially in terms of my own experiences at a PWI. So that is probably what I am most excited to learn about, finding validation and documentation of these instances that leave my peers feeling so uncomfortable at an institution.

It will be a challenge to find sources that introduce cultural whiteness in a way that is just as valid (or perhaps credibly executed) as this research article was. Because the topic of race has such a strong basis in personal experience, I think it is necessary to engage with more traditional academic research. Finding research that isn’t too much of a stretch in terms of content, and seems relevant is necessary. I also think it’s important to keep in mind the historical differences that different decades have in regards to racial representation on campus.

Another challenge I have encountered while doing research is attempting to discover why an argument is compelling, separate from confirmation bias and the initial excitement of finding sources that work well within the repurposing project.

The biggest challenge, hands down, has been finding pieces I can point to and say “I want to mimic this“ because it was so effective, and will be effective for my topic. I truly believe that the way an argument is delivered is second to, almost tied with, content.  As long as you aren’t saying something crazy…

Reviving a Hashtag

My repurposing project begins with a letter I wrote to my friends about a black woman’s experience at white parties. My intention is to create an op-ed like piece, that one would see in the Daily or the Atlantic that explores what the #BBUM campaign is actually about, beneath the social media aspects, the press release, and the negotiations with the demands. I haven’t decided yet if I want it to be expository, because I think there is too much potential for drama.

#BBUM. for those who don’t know, was/is “a social media campaign geared toward highlighting the unique experiences of black students on campus.” I want to get into the intersections, tensions, and challenges of what it is like to be black here. This project is similar to Coates’ piece in that it is inspired by my brother’s adolescence. I get to reflect on my experiences as a black teen, as he goes through that journey. It doesn’t matter if the institution is collegiate or secondary, there is an intersection of identities: race + campus culture + idiosyncrasies + SES, that shape our experiences. As he thinks about college, I think about what truths I need to tell him before he buys into a false dream.

The first piece of writing I’ll be mapping is actually an Atlantic article about stereotype threat by Claude M. Steele. It searches for an explanation for the underperformance of black undergraduates. Steele’s piece is meant for a general audience, probably of American adults, who show a general interested in race or education. He refrains from use high diction, and keeps the piece rather accessible. The context is around affirmative action debates and topics related to these debates. He refers mostly to the assumption that middle class blacks don’t suffer from disadvantages of race due to their SES. Steele wants educational institutions to mediate for stereotype threat. The research findings that Steele and his colleagues unearthed through experiments prompted him to write this piece. Constraints are probably the place of publication and those who strong and unyielding opinions regarding affirmative action, race, and standardized testing. Steele’s writing is straight forward and convinces the reader that stereotype exists, and thus we have a window into the lives of black students. I hope to accomplish something similar.

The second piece I’ll map are the 7 demands that the Black Student Union released in 2014, sort of in culmination of the #BBUM campaign and a history of racial injustice on UM’s campus. It was composed, most likely by all members of the executive board of the BSU and maybe with help of their academic advisory. While its composer is unknown, it is presented as if the former statement is true. The subject is a delineation of the unfilled promises the administration made to black students. The context was a) that it was MLK day when the speech was made, and b) that the racial tensions on campus & the challenges black students face at a PWI had been exposed with the #BBUM campaign. Its audience is UM’s administration but also the students of the university. The medium is actually a speech that has been transcribed. Its exigence is the administration’s passive aggressiveness over the last 40 years and the inability for the BSU to continue to be passive in light of recent events. I hope to mimic this piece’s ability to speak, at first, as one man within the black community, yet still call to action change that would effect the masses. Because the speaker’s exigence is almost palpable, even in written form, there is a sense of authority present. 

Commercial + Personal = Professional?

No blog outside of academia is something everyone should read. I don’t even have a favorite blog. But I do follow too many Instagram users who have beautiful blogs. Asiyami Gold is one of them.

Asiyami has a good ratio of text to media (usually video or high quality photos). But what makes her blog accessible is the range of topics she covers. This accessibility may be tailored towards a demographic of 16-35 year old females (considering she’s 23 year old woman).

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She is the quintessential twenty something who got famous on instagram (33k followers), because of her eye for photography, ability to travel, and connections built along the way. She is the woman that aesthetic art heauxs of tumblr want to be. At least in terms of her online/social media presence & authenticity.

She posts about fashion, hair, recipes, others artists, etc. Asiyami keeps most texts posts relatively brief when they are solely about her daily musings. She is very fond of visuals, and refers to herself as a visual storyteller on instagram. Thus, she triumphs visuals as a medium over words.

That being said. I think there are two kinds of blogging: those based on content and those based on visuals. We are intrigued by an image and then start to care about the people in or behind the photo. Or we relate or laugh at text and care about the person behind the words. For Asiyami, the pull is visual. She uses media to do a little of what Sullivan mentioned: hyperlinking. I would label it a form of networking though.

Below is an image of Asiyami’s collaboration with Allison Rhee of Flower Crown Society and Sawyer Baird.  Asiyami / Sawyer Baird / Allison Rhee of Flower Crown SocietyIts a beautiful image that exemplifies what most “popular” blogs do: advertise. Most popular bloggers are constantly photographed with products or writing posts referring to products they use in their daily life. So a “good blog”, is one where we care enough about the people behind the words, behind the photographs, and even behind the advertisements. If popular is mutually exclusive with good is a whole other topic.

Asiyami ties her personal stories and musings in with the advertisements though, in a way that is both convincing, entertaining, and, thought provoking. This video on hair, confidence, and cancer is an example. You don’t have to watch it.

She even did a post about collaborating with Merit, who once had roots in Ann Arbor! The interview actually touches on her childhood memories. Her ability to fuse the commercial with the personal is in its own sense professional. Which leads me to my next point.

I categorize her blog as a lifestyle a) because she labels it as such, and b) because her blog is a holistic reflection of the kind of life she lives. Asiyami fits into that young yet uncharacteristically wealthy creative type,  that internet users frequently encounter. Because she capitalizes on what a large percentage of my generation seeks to do: profit off of the intersections of our personal, professional, and social media identities, she serves as a model. Her blog is inspiration for these models of success that are fairly new and quite nuanced, yet somehow ubiquitous due to the world wide web.

Writing is Affirmative Synthesis

Writing is a form of communication. It is a physical creation that is composed of words, meant to be consumed by someone at some point. Brandt touched on this in a literal sense, that people sell their writing, or people are paid to produce writing, its part of their job description, etc. Ong’s message about audience lends itself to the fact that writing is in relation to consumption, without being necessarily commercial. After this it gets messy. In class a few people touched on how the word writing has different meanings based on if we think of writing as a verb (process) or a noun. These variations demonstrate the complexity of writing as a subject we seek to define. Brandt’s emphasis on writing as a form of labor, which I initially was hesitant to accept, seemed to show up in our gallery. All of the photos of products or ads or tickets.

Perhaps my favorite claim from the reading was that writing relates to the human condition. This is what writing has to do with me, and I guess everyone, as different forms of writing point to our different intersections with the world around us. The most interesting claim that I read, was that there is no such thing as natural writing, that writing is a convention. This gives writing a lot of freedom. It ties into the idea that writing is this organic form. It’s like a piece of clay, and you want to mold it into a specific form, and there are various techniques and tools you need to do that. Brandt revealed that writing is able. There is tremendous potential within writing. Thus, there are many forms (commercial, personal, etc) and many intersections (with graphic design, with screenwriting, etc). It’s also why it is subject to regulation and arbitrary rules created by editors and teachers. Writing is crafting words into a narrow field, despite the endless choices available to us.

What I’ve concluded, especially in response to what this has to do with me, is that writing is about affirmation. Ong and Brandt pointed out that there’s a permanence and an authority and validity to writing. It physically exists, and that alone is assertive. I love art, so I really value creation as a concept. Affirmation was a word that showed up in my aleatory writing piece, and was a major theme in my application. I guess I’m not surprising that I drew such a message from the reading.