Dear Prospective Minor in Writing Applicants,

I was hesitant to apply to the Minor in Writing because, well, I didn’t really know what it was. It was introduced to me with an email forwarded from an older friend without any real explanation. As I searched the Sweetland Center’s website I understood the structure of the program, but I still had unanswered questions. How much freedom do I have to write what I want? Am I just going to be studying grammar and punctuation all day? What will the classes be like?

I wished I could have seen students’ work, their progression, their struggles. I wished that there was a glimpse into the program other than the descriptions of courses and historical syllabi.

Over the course my time in the Minor in Writing Gateway, I’ve developed an understanding for all of these questions. And so, I wanted to share my experiences to show you, the prospective applicants, my struggles and progression, my missteps and successes.

An accumulation of my experimentation can be found here, in my Gateway ePortfolio.

You’ll see a discovery of my writing process, how I learned to think again. You’ll see the progression of my voice and how I learned to highlight it throughout various genres. You’ll see how I developed a strong sense of different audiences, and how they might react to assorted techniques.

And hopefully, you’ll see how I plan on continuing to experiment and question my ideas from now, until my final Capstone course, and beyond.

Happy reading, prospective students. Send in that application; you won’t regret it.

Best,

Ashley

The Happy Medium Between Science and Personality

For my past experimentation, I took a more scientific approach on a personal experience. While, the insight gained from this process was extremely useful, something was missing when the information was presented in a purely scientific format. The voice and personal experience that was cultivated through the series of diary entires was lost. So, for this next experiment, I plan on combining the personal experience of the diary entries and scientific basis of the literary review paper into a comic. I think this will be a great platform, because in cartoons and comics, authors convey current events, controversies, or historical events in a comedic or personal manner, which amplifies a reader’s reaction to the piece.

Traditional comics have relatively the same overarching characteristics of creating an argument or claim, usually through humor. They are usually published in online or print magazines and newspapers, and therefore lend themselves to an intended audience of people who are interested in the subject, so scientists, professors, and students for scientific comics. However, I think comics are so powerful because their audience invoked is so large. Anyone who reads the magazine or newspaper where the comic is located is exposed to it, whether they are originally interested in it or not. In fact, some people skip straight to the comic section in the Sunday news.

Here are some traditional comics that caught my eye:

After researching some examples for formatting a comic, I found that there are a few variations in the genre:

  • Color vs. black and white
  • Multi-strip vs. single strip
  • Comment blurb vs. words throughout

This helped me narrow down what I want to do for my piece. Looking at different examples, I find the color comics more eye-catching and will use that technique in my own piece. I believe that my message will be better suited for a single strip, rather than multi, comic. Also, having words throughout my comic will flow better than containing them to blurbs.

While many comics use humor to further their claims, I feel like this might be inappropriate to talk about such an impactful disorder like depression. Therefore, for my experiment I am choosing to go against this norm of the comic genre, and instead attempt to draw deeper and more emotional reaction from the readers, while still keeping the same formatting structure.

I think what I hope to emulate is more along the lines of a project that my friend, Kathryn Rossi, a student at FIT, created for her math class which she shared via her Instagram @kathryn_rossi:

 

Research Papers

I have always hated research papers. Always. Throughout high school I bullshitted my way through every research paper I wrote, rarely ever concluding anything worthwhile or unique. Once I even wrote a 15 page research paper in one day and got an A. That’s either an insane skill or my teacher was just oblivious to how little effort I actually put into the assignment. Either way, research papers were, and still are, the enemy.

But you know what they say: keep your enemies close. So, I guess that means I’ll take a stab at a research paper for this experiment (Ha, get it? Stab the enemy?).

But, in all seriousness, for every high school research paper I wrote, I was missing a crucial component: research. Research for a topic, no matter how simple it is, cannot all be collected and analyzed in a day’s time. When I did this, I undoubtedly compiled a couple of worthwhile sources, but definitely did not find multiple perspectives in order to deduce anything significant. So, after my K-12 education plus my short time at college, I have decided that research is indeed important for a research paper. Who would’ve thought?

Research papers usually have a few more consistencies, regardless of topic, such as:

  • An abstract, or a summary of research project
  • An introduction, with a clear purpose
    • Including a thesis statement, usually at the end of the introduction
  • Body paragraphs, with a strong argument, a stronger argument, and a strongest argument, accompanied by in-text citations
    • Including a review of the literature and how it supports the claims
  • A conclusion and/or discussion, with a summary of the arguments and how they connect to deduce a significant claim
  • A call for further research, when there is a need to delve into a topic further
  • A bibliography, to cite the sources used

Looking at aspects other than formatting, research papers often have a professional, formal tone in order to appeal to the norms of academic works. Often, they work off of already existing research and are a stepping stone for research in the future.

The following examples, while differing in topics, all include the components of a research paper stated above, and I plan on using these as templates for my own work:

  1. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/18/
  2. https://kucampus.kaplan.edu/DocumentStore/Docs11/pdf/WC/Sample_APA_Paper.pdf
  3. https://depts.washington.edu/owrc/Handouts/Hacker-Sample%20APA%20Formatted%20Paper.pdf

My research paper for experiment two will focus on the effects of heartbreak on mental and physical health. Many people think of a break up as something that you just have to get over, but, coupled with depression and other health effects, it isn’t as easy as it seems. I hope to call attention to this  phenomenon as a stressor for health, rather than a simple hiccup in one’s personal life. I hope to build on my diary entries from experiment one which tried to highlight this, but lacked the research to back-up my claims in any significant manner.

And, yes. I promise to put more effort into this research paper than the ones I wrote in high school.

Analyzing Modes of Communication in Everyday Texts

While reading the Writer/Designer textbook I was challenged to pay particular attention to the unique ways in which information is been presented to me, in order to compare and contrast how different texts use modes to communicate ideas. Sitting in class, I looked at the different ways in which teachers display their lessons. Scrolling through Facebook, I looked at the different mediums in which I learned about the latest news from friends, family members, and even businesses. I even spent more time analyzing videos, fliers, and stickers on computers.

The first text that I noticed was chapter from my Writer/Designer that I had just finished reading. It is formatted as a textbook, with visual aids throughout the paragraphs. Throughout the chapter I noticed these modes being used:

  • Spatial
  • Linguistic
  • Visual

I’ve attached an example of a visual aid used within the chapter to describe the topic of multimodality. The spatial mode accounts for how the authors arranged the text, using a circular visual aid on the right, with accompanying text on the left. This decision makes me believe that the authors wanted to describe the aid first, giving insight on what it is depicting since a reader usually looks from the left to the right. The linguistic mode accounts for the author’s word choice that is relatively basic and informal, which is indicative of the broad audience of those attempting to better their writing skills in an educational manner. The visual mode accounts for the images chosen to represent information, which in this case is bright and colorful, looking to draw and retain the reader’s attention.

I continued to look at texts other than my textbook in the same manner. On a Facebook page called Jewlish, a media source for both modern and traditional Jewish recipes and food-related news, I watched a video on how to make Apple Challah because of the recent High Holiday, Rosh Hashanah. While watching the video, found at https://www.facebook.com/sojewlish/videos/856792114478285/ , I noticed these modes being used:

  • Spatial
  • Visual
  • Linguistic
  • Aural
  • Gestural

The spatial mode accounts for how the bowls, spoons, and ingredients are arranged throughout the video, in a visually appealing and neat manner. The visual mode accounts for the black background, gray table, and clear bowls that are used in order to not distract the viewer from the actual food. The linguistic mode is less prevalent with this medium and is only used to allow the viewer to read the ingredients and amount being used for the recipe. The aural mode accounts for the background music that is light and fun, as well as the exclusion of sounds that would be made if someone were actually cooking. The gestural mode, in this case, is the hand motions of the actor making the food uses throughout his cooking, that are precise and professional.

In an online flier for the Mass Meeting for an entrepreneurial club on campus, called InnovateUM, I noticed several modes being used, despite its simplicity:

  • Spatial
  • Visual
  • Linguistic

The spatial mode is seen with the arrangement of the words in order to draw attention to the club name and the reason for the flier, the mass meeting. I think this decision of arrangement is used because if the reader is interested in the club and going to the mass meeting, then they will read on to see the date, time, and place of the event. The visual mode accounts for the color choice, using maize and blue as a homage to the University of Michigan, and the choice of using a gear and lightbulb in order to represent innovation, the basis of the club. Although there are only a few words on the online flier, they fit into the linguistic mode and show a precise use of language.

Over the weekend I read a review article for a product, called SafeSound Personal Alarm, I was looking into buying. The alarm acts as a substitution for pepper spray in states that it is illegal to carry. The article gives a personal account from a user as well as facts on the product and can be read here. I noticed these modes throughout the reading:

  • Spatial
  • Visual
  • Linguistic

The author of the article, in my opinion, had little consideration for the spatial arrangement of the information. Text and pictures, as well as hyperlinks to other pages were crowded throughout the webpage, making it hard to read as there were many distractions. This was a problem for me with the visuals on the page too, which were important to include because they showed the product, but too large which also distracted me from other information. The linguistic aspect was a series of choices that led to a more informal tone, even when presenting facts, which I thought was important in order to appeal to the audience of mostly women looking to purchase a product to put their minds at ease from attackers.

While scrolling through Facebook and stalking friends of friends this weekend, I came across my a picture my sister’s friend from high school posted. It was of her and her husband on their wedding day. In the picture I noticed these modes at work:

  • Visual
  • Spatial
  • Gestural
  • Linguistic

As a picture, the visual mode is indicative of most of the information being presented. Even though she did not write, “I just got married,” that is the news that is brought to light. From a spatial and gestural perspectives, the arrangement of them as a couple and how they are interacting with each other, shows their love for each other. At first glance, I didn’t notice a linguistic aspect to the picture, but after further examination, I realized that the signage in the background gives key information of the place, Buffalo. In addition, the watermark in the bottom right corner shows the viewer who the photographer is.

Looking comparatively at each mode used to convey information, I noticed that there was much crossover between what the perceived genres are and the modes used. For example, every text includes visual, spatial, and linguistic modes regardless if it is a video, photograph, textbook, article, or flier. It was just the extent of the use of the mode that differed. The only modes that were unique were aural, that was only included in the video from Jewlish, and gestural, that was seen whenever people were physically involved such as the cook from Jewlish and the man and woman in their wedding photos. However often each mode appeared, they all gave further insight on the subject they were attempting to explain.

This is me, Caroline, asking for help!

As we chatted in class yesterday about our “Tips for Success” in terms of the Capstone project, I thought about my tip:

“It’s okay to ask for help or to admit you don’t know it all.”

For as long as I’ve been in school (shout out to my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Judy), I’ve always felt embarrassed to ask for help. I’m not sure if it has to do with the idea of feeling inferior to my fellow classmates or the mere act of speaking up in class, but not asking for help has been a habit I’ve been trying to break for at least 18 years of my life. It’s only been in the last two years that I’ve experienced firsthand the distinct difference in the quality of an assignment when I ask for help, compared to when I don’t.

Mean Girls GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

So this is me…Caroline…asking for help from all of you! Specifically, for my capstone project.

My project is essentially a business plan for an online platform that connects fashion brands, fashion bloggers/influencers, and fashion magazines. Right now, there’s immense competition between influencers and magazines, and the goal of my business plan is to provide a platform that allows these three major players to collaborate, not compete.

Here’s where you come in.

Although I know which brands, influencers, and magazines I engage with the most, I want to get a wider variety of examples for my platform. I have a few short questions that I would love feedback on as I create my platform:

 

  1. What is your favorite high fashion brand?

  2. Which fashion brand do you shop at the most?

  3. Do you read fashion blogs or follow fashion Instagram accounts. If so, which ones?

  4. Do you read print fashion magazines or visit fashion magazines’ online sites? If so, which ones?

Please feel free to provide as much or as little information as you want! Your responses are incredibly helpful as I “move towards the mountain” that is my Capstone project.

Back 2 Bloggin’

Hey, Capstone People! My name is Caroline Rafferty, and I couldn’t be more excited about writing posts on the Sweetland Blog again. After looking back at my last post from the Gateway (in December of 2015…yikes) I felt inspired to dust off the cobwebs and get to writing! However, after sitting at my laptop for 20 minutes without writing a single word, I realized that getting back into the swing of things was easier said than done.

When I first heard about Mini Assignment 1, I had no idea what Julie meant by the term “writing communities” and feared that perhaps I had never been part of one. It wasn’t until I started reading Hunter & Ketter’s case study that I discovered that I have been part of different writing communities pretty much since I learned how to form coherent thoughts and put pen to paper.

Most obviously, I do a lot of academic writing and shared Erin Peterson’s sentiment of academic writing as “constraining and formulaic,” excluding the Minor in Writing’s classes, of course. I’ve always fought against the idea that essays must have an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. I felt that this strict structure left little room for creative license and showcasing a writer’s voice–two aspects I believe distinguish great writers from good writers. While I recognize that much of the purpose around academic writing, such as research papers and theses, are to communicate an idea and argue its importance to a field of study, it makes me wonder: why must there be such a distinct (perceived?) difference between academic writing and creative writing?

This question brings me to another writing community I belong to that I feel lets my creative juices flow a bit more freely–and even pays me! For close to two years, I’ve managed the blog of a startup company in Chicago. In addition to writing blog posts, I have the privilege of reading my coworker’s posts and offering some suggestions for how to take their writing to the next level. I remember one of my high school English teacher’s telling me how important the peer editing process is for making oneself a better writer, and this has definitely held true in my professional writing community. Though I still rely on my boss’s input for the pieces I write, he gives me a lot of creative license to write what I want in any form or style I choose. This freedom has made me view my professional writing community in a much more positive light than my academic writing community, which I will say is a bit upsetting. I wish that more academic institutions recognized the importance of creativity in a writer’s process. I’m sure if I had the ability to write what I want in any way I want that my view of academia would transform from one of disappointment to one of inspiration.

While I initially struggled to recognize the writing communities I am part of, I found that reading about Erin Peterson’s communities and the boundaries existing between the two of them helped me distinguish my writing communities. However, I still have lingering questions about why the case study only discusses being part of two communities. Personally, I think that every individual is involved in at least two, but I’m sure many people are involved with many more than that. I would be interested to see if any of you had the same question, and I look forward to reading about everyone else’s writing communities.

Because who doesn’t love food?

I think it would be really cool if I could write for my own personal food blog. Food is pretty central to my life because it is, after all, one of the many things that could always make my day better. It is pretty amazing that people get PAID to eat delicious new food, take pictures of it, and critique it. I am really apt to try new things, so I would love to find the little places in the world that sell the most obscure food. In general, food blogging is a new feature to my generation that I would love to become a part of.

Blog 7: Remediation Station

I would like to preface this blog post with a personal complaint about the state of my laptop, which is currently horrible. Apparently my “startup disk is full” and I’ve been putting off dealing with this for ~6 months now, and so I’m basically watching documents crumble and crash right before my very eyes. I should probably get to the Apple store, like, yesterday. On a semi-related note of remediating my laptop files into versions compatible to store on an external hard drive, I turn to the topic of remediating my project. I’ve been thinking a lot about my theme: humor, and how it’s emotional connotations are easy to connect to humans and their personal stories. That being said, my original idea for the remediation project actually came to me before I had completely honed in on what I envisioned for my repurposing project.

Considering human emotion and effective storytelling, I immediately thought of a blog I feel truly captures both of these concepts impeccably: Humans of New York. My idea for my remediation project is to take the way the photographer, Brandon, conveys such a deeper/ more meaningful story behind the blurbs and still shots he posts on his blog and mimic that. For my project, I’m thinking of doing a “Humors of Ann Arbor.” Originally, I thought I would be able to run around Ann Arbor, eavesdrop on conversation, listen for a cue of laughter and ask what the person was laughing about. However, after fleshing out this idea with several other students and myself, I realize this might not be the most effective way to extract the “story behind the story” idea that I’m going for. Instead, I’ve started compiling a list of questions surrounding themes that deal with humor such as comedy, laughter, etc. As of now, my idea is to roam around Ann Arbor, explain to people what I’m doing, take their photo and ask them one of the following questions:

1. What makes you laugh?
2. When’s the last time you laughed?
3. Do you have a fake laugh?

4. How do you make others laugh?
5. When’s the last time you laughed so hard your stomach hurt?
6. Who makes you laugh the most?
7. Tell me about the time you laughed so hard you cried.
8. Tell me about the time you laughed so hard you peed.
9. Tell me about the time you laughed when you were uncomfortable.
10. Off the top of your heard, what’s the funniest joke you know/ have ever heard?
11. Tell me about how you feel about the idea that, “laughter is the best medicine?” Do you agree/ disagree, and why?
I’m not sure if these will be the most effective questions in getting people to open up and reveal things deeper within their psyche, rather than just the surface level answers some of these questions elicit. However, I’m planning on further researching how exactly Brandon goes about asking people things and how he gets them to admit to such interesting snippets of their lives. It might be mostly in subject selection, or perhaps he has a formula for getting individuals to open up. Whatever the case, I hope to be able to capture and project the emotions and stories of individuals in Ann Arbor, with humor as a guide, but uncovering emotion beyond that.
Gif courtesy of giphy.com
Gif courtesy of giphy.com
My audience will be fairly similar to the one it reached in my repurposing project, in that I plan to create either a digital blog or Instagram account or both. (Mirroring Humans of New York.) It will reach the millennial audience of my repurposing project, but this audience may stretch a bit beyond millennials into both younger and older demographics who utilize Instagram or surf the blogosphere. I’ve never really had much experience photographing or interviewing people, so I’m excited to challenge myself with this task. Hopefully, it will further benefit both the quality and caliber of my writing and my writing experience for the future.

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).

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 10.50.31 AM

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.

RookieMag

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 8.34.29 PM

Rookie mag (http://www.rookiemag.com) is one of my favorite blogs, and I’ve been an avid reader from its inception. Tavi Gevinson originally started fashion blog when she was a sophomore in high school. It was a pretty standard fashion blog in format, but the international fashion community became enthralled by this pint-sized fashion prodigy. She traveled to countless fashion weeks, and met with the fashion world’s most coveted icons. Yet in 2013, she started rookiemag, a new franchaise in which she completely reinvented her blog to resemble something that looked much more like an online magazine publication.

Each month there is a theme, and all of the articles put out that month have to do in some way with that particular theme. These themes range from ‘mulitiplicity’ (this month’s) to ‘up all night’ to ‘trust.’ The articles incorporate these themes in a vast variety of ways, some expected and some a little less clear in their connection. Readers can click on each issue and read the articles posted each day for that month, or they can click through the “category” section in which they have articles written under categories titled things like “beauty,” “dear diary,” or “live through this.” Some of the articles are written about current cultural phenomena, some are written about fashion and beauty, and others are articles of advice. The entire publication is geared toward young high school and college aged women. Though there are many different writers who contribute blog posts, the publication has a really clear voice directed toward young women. None of the articles feel preachy (which I feel frequently when I read Elite Daily) or too dry. There is a really nice range of articles from different categories, all of which feel relatable to my particular demographic. I also like the fact that there is a nice mix between serious articles about sensitive topics such race, abuse, or politics, and fun blog posts about music and fashion. It captures the complex range of interests that any young woman might have.

In addition to the content, the blog is incredibly well designed, featuring hand-drawn icons and a vintage color-palette. The illustrated icons next to each article really attract the reader and the entire publication is overall aesthetically pleasing. Ultimately, I like this blog because I think it speaks to a very specific audience in every way – both through content and design.