Capstone Portfolio Play

I  started playing around with Wix to create my capstone portfolio site, and I had forgotten how fun this is! I really liked my Gateway portfolio, and I looked back at it for inspiration and ideas for the Capstone one. For a minute I thought about using the same portfolio template again, since I was such a fan and spent a ton of time on it, but I figured I might as well go ahead and make a new one. I mapped out what I tentatively wanted for my portfolio, and then I started looking for themes on wix that might work well with my “vision.” Naturally, I decided it would be a good time to sort through an excessive number of pages of potential website templates to find a good one (I got to page 37, guys. And there are 6 templates per page, so that means I picked through 222 templates before I made a decision. Wuddup term paper due this week that I should’ve been working on 222 templates ago… #priorities). Anyway, I picked one and have been playing around with it and planning out which artifacts I’m going to include, and where they’re gonna go, and what fun fancy apps and widgets and all that will work with it. I chose a super minimalist theme that is just a white background with small, black writing, and minimal black lines. I plan to use a lot of photographs through out the portfolio to tie things together across the pages, and I think the use of photos against the minimal background will make them more impactful and provide for an engaging experience for my readers. I’m having a ton of fun so far with it! I’m really excited to keep building up my portfolio now, and I want to try lots of cool ways to integrate my assignments. I just figured out how to embed a powerpoint into my wix page, so that’s pretty awesome. I had a lot of trouble with all this website making stuff when I used Wix for the first time during the Gateway course, but I think it’ll be much better this time around since I’m already more familiar with the site builder and how to add all kinds of fun stuff. I also ended up going back through more old assignments to look for things that might fit together for the portfolio, and I found a project I did freshman year that I had totally forgotten about, but that’s kind of related to my Capstone project, which is awesome. Right now I’m feeling pretty positive about this portfolio (in case you couldn’t tell), and I’m excited to show it off in a couple weeks as a more refined product.

My Project Pitch

Here’s the pitch letter that sums up my Capstone project. I think it (hopefully) gives a pretty good idea of what this project is going to look like, though really the interviews will dictate a lot of it. Anyway, without further ado, my letter:

We all have more in common than we think. Every day we go to work or to school, to meetings or events, to activities or responsibilities. Whether we realize it or not, we’re all playing our own parts in a bigger system. On a massive public university campus where tens of thousands of students, faculty, and staff spend hours each day, it’s easy to forget that everyone has a unique voice and a personal story. My project will attempt to explore the threads that link us together and the differences that set us apart; it will display the stories of a number of different individuals and comment on the over-arching conclusions that can be drawn from their stories.

This essay will combine investigative journalism with personal narrative to provide a broader look at the University of Michigan, as seen by the individuals who contribute to it. It is intended to be a written series of interviews that, when combined, give insight into the community as a whole.  It could be published by the Michigan Daily as its own column series, but the final work should also be able to stand on its own as a complete chapter. It will be approximately 20 pages in total length, including a number of interviews of 2-3 pages each, plus an introduction that discusses the connections and broader themes of the combined set of interviews. This introductory brief will give readers an opportunity to synthesize ideas and make their own connections as they consider the interviews both individually and as a group.

The audience for this piece on a specific level is the University of Michigan community, many members of whom will be inherently interested in hearing the perspectives of their colleagues. Though this community is only one specific educated group, anyone with intellectual curiosity would be a prime audience for reading this piece and exploring its deeper roots in not just the University of Michigan system, but in the higher education system as a whole.

Studs Terkel wrote a book called Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, in which he compiles dozens of interviews into chapters. Each chapter speaks volumes on its own, and the full compilation illuminates the state of labor in the country at the time the book was written. The work was highly praised and well received, and a similar piece in the present day on the University scale has the potential to be equally influential.

Ultimately, although I’m coming into it with only my own limited angle, I am open to connecting with different perspectives and different people in an attempt to discover how they work together. As a senior undergraduate at Michigan, I have access to members of the community and can use my connections to reach out to others at the university. I’m coming in to it with an open mind and an open interest. I sincerely appreciate your support, and thank you for your time!

Letting Someone Else Make My Decision

Guys, I have a confession to make: I have serious issues with making decisions. I know a lot of people say this, but I’m pretty sure I take the whole ineptitude thing to an extreme. The other night, it literally took me almost 2 hours to figure out what to do for dinner. I wasn’t sure whether to just go pick up take-out, or to cook something, or what to carry-out or cook, or whether it was worth going to the grocery store for ingredients that weren’t in the fridge… Eventually I realized that I’d spent so much time trying to figure out dinner plans that I was not only VERY hungry, but also I had totally wasted the time I intended to use to get my reading done (I ended up getting a burrito from Pancheros, in case anyone was wondering). I wish this little story wasn’t true, but I’m ashamed to say that it is. I really am that bad.

Anyway, as you can imagine, I was SO excited to have someone else to make decisions for me in this brainstorming activity because I had no clue what to focus on for this project. I talked to Joe a lot about my research and mentioned my BCN major as potential topics to explore, and he brought up the idea of maybe writing a fictional story that relates to the research I’m doing in some way, but after thinking about it a bit I realized I’m already spending so much time on that stuff that I don’t think I want to use it as inspiration for my capstone project. Another big idea that came out as a potential starting point was my gateway project, which was all about fostering collaboration and relationships through music. I really enjoyed doing it, and I ended up making a podcast, which was a lot of work, but also a ton of fun! Joe brought up the idea of maybe doing something musical, or making a podcast again, which I totally considered, and think would be really cool. As I reflected on all these different big ideas, I was still totally stressin about what I would actually decide to do. This is a pretty big project, after all, and no matter what I pick I’m going to have to spend more time on it than I did on that dinner the other night, so as you can imagine, I’ve just been totally in my head. In my attempt to make a decision between a bunch of ideas that had already been chosen for me, I started doing other little things that I convinced myself were relevant, but really it was just me procrastinating. I started to organize things. I worked on making folders and subfolders and I started writing out some of my ideas so I could pick a track to start with, and suddenly it came to me: instead of following any of the great ideas I’ve already got, I’ll make an organizational guide about how to keep life organized in all sorts of ways. I’m definitely big into organization and making detailed calendars, color coding things, keeping everything really precise and neat, so what better thing to write about than organization and structure. I know it sounds insanely boring, but I think it’ll actually be kinda fun and definitely useful in the future to keep as a means of helping myself and others with organizational skills.

So that’s where I’m at for now; I came in with a bunch of interesting and creative ideas and ended up with something that kinda sounds like the total opposite (but in my head there are all sorts of cute directions it could go, I promise!). So I’m excited now to see where this project takes me, and I’m hoping it’s organized enough that all my decisions just fall into place, though there will probably be a lot of unavoidable choices to make. I’ll keep you updated on how that goes…

It’s really the end of the semester already?

I actually can’t believe this semester is over. It has been a LONG one, but at the same time, so short! I’m feeling pretty good and settled about things right now because I just turned in an 18 pager and I feel like a huge weight is lifted off my shoulders. And now that I’m officially “turning in” my e-portfolio too, I’m living in a delusion of being done with all my work for the semester. (Those exams next week don’t count for anything, right?)

I’m pretty happy with the way my portfolio turned out. I originally had a wordpress blog started, but a few weeks ago I switched to using wix instead. It took some playing around with, but I’m definitely much happier with the aesthetic and I was to integrate some pretty cool stuff into my site! One thing in particular I was excited about is on my last page. A while back when we were just playing around with blog sites and looking for cool blogs other people set up, I talked about a blog I saw that used a feature where if you scroll over a picture, you see text. I didn’t know how the site owners did it, but for some reason I just though this was a really awesome way to have an image AND text while keeping things pretty simple and visually appealing. It turns out that using wix I was able to do this (semi) easily which was very exciting for me!

I think my portfolio turned out pretty successfully for me. The “theme” of the whole thing is basically about knowledge, and how our knowledge evolves but at the same time, the more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know. So I formatted it so the tabs go from “newest” to oldest in terms of my knowledge, because I wanted to show that knowledge progress backwards starting from where I am now back to where I started from. I know this is a little counter-intuitive, but I thought of it like using the past to inform the present, so that (hopefully) the further back you go, the more it makes sense as to how I got to my end point. Now that I’m trying to write it out and explain myself, I’m not really sure if I’m making any sense.

And I keep saying I’m done with my site, but really this blog post has taken me like an hour to write, just because I keep noticing tiny details that I want to tweak on my portfolio every 5 seconds. But I’m really actually done now.

So thanks to everyone for all your help with writing this semester (especially to Julie)! It’s been fun getting to learn with all of you 🙂

And just in case you missed it, here’s another link to my portfolio:


My E-Portfolio Attempts…

So I’ve started working on my e-portfolio a bit and have picked out a theme I like and everything, but I haven’t uploaded any of my writing to it just yet. I still want to tweak a couple of my assignments from this semester, so hopefully I’ll have a bit of time to work on that over Thanksgiving break.

I think I’m mainly going to try to just have my portfolio focused on my assignments for this class. I’ve been debating what else I would add, and if anything I think I’d like to put assignments related to the stuff I talk about in my papers from Writing 220.

In my “contextual introduction” to the blog, I talk about research and how the type of thinking involved in doing research translates into the kind of thinking I do when writing. I think that idea will do a good job of changing the way my portfolio comes off, but also I definitely don’t want the whole idea of research stuff to take over the entire thing and become the focus.

One thing I’m still struggling with is trying to figure out what background images to use! The theme I chose allows for a photo as the background for pretty much everything, and I really liked that, but now I’m having trouble deciding what I want to use as my photo. Right now the background image is a picture I took of a bicycle. I chose it because it’s super colorful and eye-catching, but other than that it doesn’t have a whole lot to do with my portfolio. But maybe that’s okay. I don’t know.

After re-reading my blog post I think the gist of it is that I still pretty much have no concrete idea of how everything’s going to turn out.

Bet you didn’t know that I…

I’m sure you’re all SUPER curious about what it is you don’t know about me. After almost a whole semester and a bunch of assignments, you might be thinking “Pfff, I totally know everything there is to know about this girl, nothing could surprise me!”

I mean, what else could there possibly be to learn after all of 3 months?

Well guys, I didn’t want to say anything before, but actually I’m an undercover FBI agent and I’ve just been monitoring the “Gateway to the Minor in Writing” course for super-top-secret confidential reasons.

OK, so that’s not really true. Sorry to let you all down after building up the mystery. I know you’re probably pretty disappointed.

And yeah, I’m that bored/desperately trying to procrastinate.

But back to the important stuff: what’s something you still don’t know about me, even after reading my papers from the semester. Well, I’m a BCN major and I spend a lot of my (free?) time involved with research here. I work in a research lab and I’m basically there everyday (except Saturday and Sunday, gotta have some break time). I’m super interested in learning about how our brains work, and lately I find myself specifically interested in memory stuff. I think research in the psychology/neuroscience area is sooo interesting because there really is SO much that people don’t know yet, but there are all kinds of really cool new technologies and techniques that are helping people to figure it all out. I want to go to grad school for neuropsychology or something (there are all these slightly different names for slightly different fields that are really all doing similar stuff, so I don’t know exactly which one), and I want to keep doing research in that area. Despite the fact that I devote much of my time and energy to this stuff, I really haven’t discussed it at all in my writings for this class. In my repurposing piece, I briefly included a source from someone who did studies on how music affects that brain, but that was hardly the main point of my paper. I’ve tried to stay away from writing about psychology stuff because I already write about it and learn about it and work with it every single day, and I wanted to stray from that and do something different (but also interesting) and less strictly researched in this class. And I think I’ve done that, and it’s been fun. But I definitely felt like the same curiosity and questioning that is such a big part of lab research was also important to me in this class, and I found myself thinking and asking questions in similar ways here, even though it was about different topics.

So that’s something.

I just found a wordpress site that looks way cooler than my e-portfolio will…

…It’s by this guy, Olly Sorsby, who does web design stuff (so I guess it makes sense that a web designer can make a better site than me. His website was technically made using the wordpress platform, but he’s made it work for him and his company/brand. Basically, he designs websites, logos, and even print resources.

And I found that all out just by looking at his main page.

I liked that the main page was pretty simple, with a picture of a guy at his computer and the words “Digital Craftsman” written across the middle of the picture, though those words slowly fade away as you scroll down (I’m definitelynot sure how to do that on wordpress…or anywhere).

One thing I really liked though was that below that picture, there were images of projects he’s worked on. When you scroll over the pictures, words pop up over the picture that say what it is. This is what I thought was really a smart idea organizationally for the blog.

I liked that the page was still pretty minimal looking, and that it included a bunch of pictures. But rather than just having pictures and leaving people unsure of what the pictures are, or just having text which isn’t exactly exciting to look at, there’s both. By making text appear when you scroll over a picture, we get an explanation of what we’re clicking on, but we also see a pretty picture.

I don’t know how easy it is to do that with wordpress, but I thought that was a pretty cool way of presenting resources.

“Hey, did you hear that?” It must have been my re-mediation project!

Sorry that I have super corny, awful titles for my blog posts….

For my re-mediation project, I’m making a podcast! I’ve actually had fun with it this week. I rented some fancy audio recorder thing and a microphone from ISS, and I recorded a bunch of things I want to use for this podcast, though really most of it is just me talking.

Josh has volunteered to co-host the podcast with me (read: I didn’t give him a choice), so that way the whole thing won’t just be my voice. Also, side note: I realized when listening back on my recordings that it’s excruciatingly awful to listen to your own voice talking. I mean, really, is that what I sound like?!

Okay, so anyway, it’s been fun. All this recording stuff is pretty new to me. I’ve gotten lots of recording done, now all I have to do is edit everything together. Which is going to be VERY time consuming if I want it to sound good, I can already tell.

I’m going to use garageband to do the editing since it’s a pretty simple, user friendly program, or so they say. I watched a whole YouTube video about how to edit a podcast on garageband, which was pretty helpful, and now I’m eager to get started. The only issue is that I don’t have a mac and garageband only runs on macs, and I don’t really feel like posting up in the Ugli basement next to a bunch of strangers and awkwardly editing together sounds for a trillion hours. Sooo that part of it is annoying, but I’ll figure it out.

Wish me luck!

It’s like a science lab…but inside your radio.

I’ve grown up my entire life watching tv. Once I was four or five, I could sit in front of one of those giant (or actually pretty small) boxes and just watch hours and hours of whatever crap was on. But even though I’ve grown up on tv, I think there’s something really cool and captivating about radio.

NPR has this cool podcast called Radiolab, and basically each month they pick a different “sciencey” topic and do a whole show about it. But it’s never some super long complex monologue about intricate processes, and the topics they chose are things that most people would probably find semi relevant/interesting. Most of them have something to do with brains or why people act a certain way, but instead of just droning on and on about neurochemical processes (which I would be totally cool with, but maybe not everyone would enjoy), the podcasts consist of individual stories that are somehow related to the overall topic. They’re usually really cool explorations that don’t necessarily answer a direct question, but instead get you to think.

I can picture a podcast similar to Radiolab as a great format for my repurposing/remediation project. The way I wrote it, there are a few different stories involved, and they all come together as different instance of musical collaboration and connection. I have zero experience with recording (or editing, for that matter) so I doubt I’m actually capable of putting together a podcast as cool as this one, but I would really like to try making a podcast!

If any of you have any experience with recording/editing at all, I’ll definitely need tips 🙂

Writing Strategy

In my 15 or so years of education, I’ve learned my fair share of writing strategies but I find that most of them just over complicate the writing process for me. I’ve tried making all sorts of flow charts, venn diagrams, and graphs and I’ve even drawn some pictures. I’ve done a bunch of different types of outlines, from writing out a bunch of topic sentences to creating bulleted lists, but ultimately I end up wanting to tear my hair out half way through the process. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely think it can be helpful and important to get ideas organized before I start writing, but in most cases I find these strategies to be more trouble than they’re worth.

My favorite writing strategy is to first schedule out a time to start writing, and promise myself that no matter what I will write during that time (and yes, it has to be scheduled and marked into my google calendar and everything, because otherwise it would never get done). Once that writing time arrives, I start writing. Usually I can’t help but think obsessively about my topic before I start actually writing it– what exactly am I going to say? What type of tone do I want to convey? How will I support my argument?– but during this assigned writing time, I make myself just write. No thinking. No nagging. No structuring necessary. I guess this is pretty similar to the shitty rough draft idea. I just write whatever I’ve been thinking about in my head since getting the assignment.

Usually I try to make the free-writing last for at least a half hour or more, just so I end up with a bunch of information, but once I’ve decided I’m done, then that’s it. It’s over. I like to read over what I’ve just written afterwards and maybe make a few adjustments and comments really briefly (and I mean it. No more than a few minutes of skimming and fixing the things that I just can’t bare to leave as they are).

A few days later (usually at least a day but no more than a week), I come back to my original writing to start the assignment for real. I think of it as starting over with a totally blank slate, but instead of feeling daunted by the notorious blank page, I’m already ahead of the game. I already have a whole bunch of stuff written and I can pull from that to start this new paper. Sometimes I use small segments from the original “freewrite” material, but other times I end up using the free write work as the main body of my paper and just end up adding in little details here and there. Obviously I prefer it this second way, but honestly I think that just having something to work with makes a world of difference.

For me, that’s the most effective writing strategy.