Brb, Swimming in Sources

To be honest, I almost didn’t do this project. I was really hesitant to repurpose a journal entry. I was afraid that I would not be able to extract a solid argument relating to it. However, looking back at that now, I’m really glad I went with my heart and chose it. The entry was a contemplation comparing the ideas of ecological competition and human competition for communal memory. I reminded me of this overarching idea that science (in this case the science of our mortality) works against us. I want to argue otherwise by focusing on the humanities and sciences as academic and career fields. My main argument is still that the humanities are sciences are more compatible than people seem to believe. So far I’ve gone as far as looking at a lot of articles that go for and against the idea that “the humanities are dying.” In addition, I’ve started my rough draft by putting down ideas form my reading that resonated with me and building off them with my own opinion.

It’s worth noting that I changed the genre for this text. I originally wanted to construct my argument through writing a fictional short story. However, I’ve now fiction that fiction may not be the best realm for my argument. I considered what we discussed in class about choosing a genre that would be the most effective in reaching the intended audience. On one hand, I think it would be great if my story could support as well as be an example of the collaboration of humanities and the sciences. But at the same time, not all of my audience would be willing to read a fictional piece. Instead, I chose an Atlantic article for my genre, mainly because it’s a format used to reach a broad audience. The structure of this kind of article is simple and I think it does a good job at emphasizing main points in the text visually and spatially.

I’m finding a lot of inspiration in these articles. They are making my vision clearer. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to approach this, since just the idea of combining science and the humanities is just so broad. I think I want to keep my main focus on the career and educational perspectives of these fields. I plan to also touch on the personal enrichment from both as well.

There were a lot of article that I found arguing that the humanities should be valued more. This is

Steven Pinker is a psychologist and the author of an article I read this week. He is coincidentally also the same Pinker that wrote A Sense of Style.
Steven Pinker is a psychologist and the author of an article I read this week. He is coincidentally also the same Pinker that wrote A Sense of Style.

especially relevant to now because there seems to be this push for STEM. But there is another side to this argument that also shows the reluctance for people in the humanities to also engage with the sciences. This probably won’t be emphasized very much because of our culture and the ways science is valued. But I think that arguing the other side will balance out my argument. Steven Pinker argues this very well.

I want to convince people that both are necessary for personal and professional enrichment of the individual. So I knew that I needed evidence to support that the two fields aren’t as different as people tend to believe. While scouring the Internet for more articles to support the science side, I found a wonderful article about how they are united by the pursuit of understanding. And it was backed with evidence! Yes! This is just what I needed.

At this point, I feel like there I still so much I should read. The articles hyperlinked in my sources so far, the hyperlinks of those, and so on. But I realize that I will need to focus. I will not have time to look at every text on the subject.

At this point, the outline of my article will be like so:

  • Address some assumptions made about the humanities and the people associated with them
  • Address some assumptions made about the sciences and the people associated with them
  • Why do these assumptions exist, how did they come to being, and how do they affect our views
  • Combining the sciences and humanities in the individual and the benefits

I would like some feedback on the structure of this outline if possible. But if you do have some suggestions, I would appreciate it!

Overall, I’m really excited to see where this project goes. I’ve already learned so much about my topic this week and it’s allowing me to think deeper about what I think of this topic. I can’t wait to learn more about all of your re-purposing projects as well, and I hope you’re having as much fun with them as I am. Happy writing!

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Consider the Audience (and the Writer)

In the past, I had not really felt a sense of connection between my readers and myself as a writer. I’ve only experienced it to the extent of occasional peer proofreading and grading. I’ve avoided blogging (I guess I couldn’t avoid it forever) for fear of regretting what I post and didn’t show any of my journal writing outside of class. Having such a limited scope of audience has caused me not to consider the idea much. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned from “Craft of Research Reading”, it’s to really think about what my audience expects from me.

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I still don’t show people my journal writing…

It’s one thing to make your ideas come across as clear, but it’s another thing to give the audience what they’re looking for. In general, the author lays out this concept very neatly. To see the kinds of things that my readers would expect and what kinds of things I could tell them categorized makes the subject much easier to think about. I especially liked the idea of the role, and how the readers and writer each have one. The author claims, “In fact, writers cannot avoid creating a role for their readers” (page 19). It makes conversation seem much like teamwork, less solitary. It’s akin to a theater performance. The actor/writer expresses something and waits for their feedback. Meanwhile, the audience looks out for what they should expect, according to what the actor/writer lays out. So in a sense, it is important the actor/writer and the audience work together and end at a point of understanding each other, maybe not agreeing with each other, but understanding.

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All the world’s a stage and so is paper.

After taking notes on the section of the reading about taking notes, I realized if this assignment were in a different context, they probably would have seemed to be written poorly. The notes were not cited, nor were they even made in complete sentences. To that end, I don’t quite agree with the point about reading until you understand the writer, judging, then taking your notes. I often find that taking notes themselves is what helps me understand something. I first take general notes, make an interpretation, and then check if my interpretation aligns with what the author says. From there, I agree with the rest of what the author says: “But once you understand the source, you are free to disagree”(page 95). Finally, I make my own conclusion and opinion about what the writers says. I believe that the process of coming to this point varies. Personally, I tend to write notes to understand, either on the text itself or on a separate sheet of paper.

That aside, I liked the idea of being open to whatever sparks your interest very comforting. One shouldn’t be married to a statement and look for ways to support it already when taking notes from resources. After all, the process of research writing is a learning experience. At the same time, the process of writing itself, though manifested in the form of note taking, I believe is a process of thinking through things.

An Excuse to Get on Tumblr? Yay!

When I read that we needed to collect texts throughout this week for our assignment, I immediately curled up in a comfy chair in my room and spent a good hour or two on the Internet. After a good bout of searching, I’ve come up with a rather extensive list, perhaps more extensive than necessary, which can be found at the bottom of this post. I have no regrets.

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(Me in my natural habitat)

A text, usually referred to as a piece of writing, is generally a piece of work that communicates a message. Overall, I collected nine texts, four of which had all five possible modes. Modes are elements of a text that assist in getting a message across to the audience. The five modes are linguistic (based on words), visual (based on imagery and color), spatial (based on organization), gestural (based on body language), and aural (based on sound). The others I collected covered three out of the five modes: spatial, linguistic, and visual. Some of the others contained gestural modes, but none of the four contained the aural mode, making it the hardest mode to find.

As for the texts that covered all five modes, all of them were videos. I suspect they are all in this format because video is the easiest way to have the aural mode incorporated into a text. They all came from the Internet and were all published recently. This is because I found them in the feeds of my most frequently used social media platforms: Facebook and Tumblr, with the exception of the political video I watched in sociology class. They all evoke some kind of emotion, good and bad, in addition to sending a message across. About all aim to evoke more than one emotion.

The two that are most similar to each other are the videos “Ahmed has a Clock,” and “The Broads Must Be Crazy.” Both of these have political messages about the discrimination of certain groups of people. In this case, it is women and Muslims, or more generally, Middle Eastern people.

“Ahmed Has a Clock” is a video to supplement the I Stand With Ahmed movement, a collective aiming to support Ahmed, a 14 year-old boy that was arrested earlier this week for creating a clock that his teacher believed looked like a bomb. The text is a video that was embedded in the Tumblr, with related tags attached to it. This covers the spatial mode requirement. As for the visual mode, filmography is a dominant feature. The skit takes place in two places, in a house with the boy and his uncle and in a room full of telephone operators. While the fact that people are talking fulfills the linguistic mode, a certain example emphasizes the point of a stereotype being used by comparing the situation of a child playing with a clock versus a child named “Ahmed” playing with a clock. While playing with objects is a normal activity generally for kids, once the operators know the child’s name, there is a completely different reaction: panic. This is where the music comes it, making the aural mode a strong aspect. No music plays at the beginning when the uncle sees the child playing with the clock. But once the name “Ahmed” is mentioned, suspenseful music begins and the situation suddenly becomes urgent. As the child continues talking, the music intensifies. Likewise, the gestural mode comes into play with this change in behavior. The operators go from typing calmly to shouting with their heads in their hands while the uncle goes from being calm to clutching the phone in panic.

 

The Broads must be crazy

http://www.cc.com/video-clips/09yfp5/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-the-broads-must-be-crazy—belittled-women
“The Broads Must Be Crazy” is a satirical piece targeting the stereotype of women being very emotional, and therefore unfit to fill political positions. The host begins with several examples targeting Hilary Clinton for showing emotion certain emotions deemed “inappropriate” for the context. He furthers to give a myriad of examples men expressing the same emotions, and more. The organization of the page the video is on is like that of a YouTube playlist. The video is the most dominant element of the page, occupying the center of the page a little off to the left. On the sidebar on the right is a collection of related videos, so that the viewer can pick more to watch if he or she desires. Visuals are very important in this text, particularly the clips that the host uses to exemplify his points. Without them, he would have a harder time of supporting them. Rather than explicitly point out that the men were showing the emotions just as women were claimed to be, he sarcastically gives them excuses for the emotions and even false praise. In this way, the linguistic mode is made evident to be an important aspect of the video. While there is no music in this, laughter is the main aural mode, further supporting that what the false praise the man is giving is sarcastic and should not be taken seriously. Rather, to take it seriously is a silly thing to do in the first place, further expressing how obvious it is that both men and women can express emotion and still be in politics, and how women are being unfairly punished for what men in politics get to do. The gestural mode, I believe, was the most powerful one of the five. It’s primarily shown in the clips. The emotions that the political men express are so evident, that it solidly supports the points of the host. Secondly, the gestures of the host further indicate that that he is being sarcastic. Rather than send the message of this being serious and true, it sent the message that it’s ridiculous how males in politics get praise for emotion and not women.

Rather than make the case of “men shouldn’t be emotional in office” or that “”women should be able to be emotional,” the host only points out that there is discrimination at play that there should be no unbalanced ways of treating men and women candidates doing the same things, expressing the same emotions. This leaves the message a little open ended, allowing the viewer to think for themselves what should happen to stop this discrimination.

Rather than discuss the issues in the serious tones usually used, these videos used sarcasm and satire. I laughed heartily at them. The reason why, I believe, they were made this way was to point out something that is very obvious, but easily overlooked. While these examples are both videos, I acknowledge that not all texts that contain all five modes are videos. It just so happens that these were accessible to me and were published in a time period where they were more in my reach. In addition, they were the one that interested me. This experience of surfing the Internet for once has made me realize more how there is no one, right way to spread similar and even the same message. The idea that people shouldn’t be judged based on one part of their identity is expressed in in different in the two videos I talked about. We are not limited to a single word document, 12-point font with double space. There are so many avenues with which we can make our own expressions uniqueness ours to share, and I find this very encouraging.

 

Other texts that cover all five modes:

Wes Anderson – Mirror Effect

 

StoryCorps – Marking the Distance

 

Texts that don’t cover all five modes:

Jeff Wysaski’s Tweet via Hank’s Tumblr

(Spatial, linguistic, visual)

http://edwardspoonhands.com/post/129355914023/pleatedjeans-you-should-follow-pleatedjeans

 

Word Count

(Spatial, lingusitc, visual)

http://www.wordcount.org/

 

They Pretend To Be Us While Pretending We Don’t Exist

(Spatial, lingusitc, visual, gestural)

http://www.buzzfeed.com/jennybagel/they-pretend-to-be-us-while-pretending-we-dont-exist#.lb3JBRDwg

 

An Animator’s Advice – Words by Chuck Jones

(Spatial, lingusitc, visual, gestural)

http://zenpencils.com/comic/chuck/

 

Microbeads – the Very Tiny Troublemakers

(Spatial, lingusitc, visual)

http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/09/15/microbeads-the-very-tiny-troublemakers/

 

Beauty and the Theme

Personally, I don’t gravitate much towards the mystery genre. Many years ago, I read quite a few Nancy Drew books. I have not picked up a mystery since. However, this last summer, I ventured to the bookstore and scoured its shelves for something new. Eventually, I found myself by a table, where couple copies of The Secret History by Donna Tartt were neatly stacked. Having seen pictures of the book floating around on the reading community on Tumblr, I flipped through it. It seemed to read so much like a classic book that I didn’t even realize that it was a mystery. I guess you could say I was tricked. With just secret-historya few skims, I could tell that it was description-heavy, the kind of book that I like, even though they can be a hit and miss with me. I love details, flowery language, and the romantic. But when it is used too often and without purpose, I end up not enjoying the story as much. Despite this, I decided to take my chances on this book. I’m glad I did.

Not only is the book full of description and beauty, it is actually a huge theme of the book. Right off the bat in chapter one, Tartt’s main character Richard Papen begins with, “Does such a thing as ‘the fatal flaw,’ that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature? I used to think it didn’t. Now I think it does. And I think that mine is this: a morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs.” Richard is a transfer student at a small liberal arts college, at first contemplating studying Greek because he excelled at it. However, after observing a mysteriously small group of Greek students, he pursues the study out of curiosity. On the surface, this group of four seems very close-knit and intelligent. Their dynamic is beautiful, and Richard is both intimidated and fascinated by it.

The book amounts to an incident described at the beginning of the book, in which the group murders one of its members. The rest of the story then backtracks to the beginning, and the unraveling of the how and why begins. This dominantly drives my desire to get inside the minds of the characters. By invoking this desire, Tart succeeds in making it very clear that the details in this book is not useless, but important. The beauty of the group and the situation was broken down, individual by individual. There was so much background behind all of the characters. Many times when I thought I could predict what a character would do next, Tartt would flip over another stone and show me another side of him or her that I did not expected. For example, there is one instance in which Richard contemplates the group’s knowledge of the modern world. He explains, “Once, over dinner, Henry was quite startled to learn from me than men had walked on the moon. ‘No,’ he said, putting down his fork. ‘It’s true,’ chorused the rest, who had somehow managed to pick this up along the way. ‘I don’t believe it.’ ‘I saw it,’ said Bunny. ‘It was on television.’ ‘How did they get there? When did this happen?’” The group seems to be so closed off by the rest of the world, and Richard can’t help but stay within the circle to find out why. Neither could I help it.

With Richard as the narrator, I am kept lost, not a step ahead of him in the plot. The deepness of the characters reminds me that you don’t need a lot of external action in order to keep the reader in suspense. Sometimes it’s the lack of action, the lack of dialogue, and what goes on inside the mind. I want to be able to write like this, to be able to keep description in purposeful ways. There are ways in which description can be used poorly, but in the case of Donna Tartt and The Secret History, this was the opposite.

Writing Is a Trust Fall

The color white is intimidating on a computer screen. There will always be something better to fill that space, but there will never be enough time for all of those possibilities. The first way of managing time is stopping myself from looking for more information and inspiration. In her article “How Writing Leads to Thinking,” Lynn Hunt states, “Reorganizing you notes is a form of house cleaning; it might make you feel good about yourself as a tidy person, but it will not produce a chapter or even a page. Only writing can do it.” But wait, I think, this can’t be right. Maybe I’m missing a point in my notes that can lead me on. More input means more output, right? I cling to this idea because I don’t trust myself enough to know how to continue. A comforting mindset is thinking that the brain works on its own during writing, as Hunt explains later in the article. It’s as if there is another entity working alongside me rather than blocking me. This is a trust fall. If I let myself write, the thinking from the brain will follow, and I will be rewarded with moments that remind me that I am not empty of ideas.

Likewise, detaching myself from my finished work is another trust fall that can help in the writing process. In doing so, I can gain a better sense of authenticity. Lynn Hunt received great advice about this from a prose writer and poet Donald Hall. She explained, “From him I learned that writing requires an unending effort at something resembling authenticity. Most mistakes come from not being yourself, not saying what you think, or being afraid to figure out what you really think.” If I think of myself as external to my writing, I will be less self-conscious about my arguments. This can lead to being more comfortable with sharing my writing with others, whose perspectives can provide great insight. In addition, I will also be more welcoming of influence from other writers and how they express their authenticity.

I am in a constant fluctuation between trusting and not trusting when it comes to writing. The Sweetland Minor in Writing will challenge me to increase my trust in the idea that writing will lead to thinking. This will come in many manifestations: teaching me to think critically about my writing and the writing of others, encouraging me to share my writing with peers, and having me question why I write certain things. My main goals are to get better at trusting the writing process. It can difficult, but each step towards it makes it feel a little more possible. No matter how hard it can be, I will always look forward to the reassuring black replacing the white on my computer screen.