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.

THIS WEEK’S ISSUE: Ad Evolution in the Making

As we move into week six of the semester, my capstone project is in the works, but with so much leftto be done. After project pitches and project proposals, I have settled on formatting my project based off of the design of the website Ad Week, a site I spend far too much time on. Though the content of my site will be entirely different than that of Ad Week, the blog style format with a navigation menu both at the top and right side of the site will organize the points of my capstone project in a clear, cohesive way.

Originally, when I proposed the idea of researching the evolution of advertising, I had planned to organize my site into four distinct pages: “History,” “Departments,” “Evolution” and “About.” After sitting down with my professor to discuss the aspects of my project, we came across the conclusion that the “History” and “Evolution” of advertising pages would become too similar in research and that the “Departments” of an advertising agency page would become a separate project in itself. After some thought, I have decided to remove the “Departments” and “Evolution” pages and go with a different approach.

Though I still plan to keep the “History” and “About” pages for context, upon entering my site, readers will be directed to a series of advertisements (in the blog format) on the landing page. If they click to “read more,” the advertisement will open, explaining specifically how that particular advertisement has progressed in its advertisements over the years. This, for example, could feature a Coca-Cola print advertisement from 1917 and a Coca-Cola digital advertisement from 2017 and explain how it has changed over the years, both in terms of creation and format.

Though these ideas are still very much so up in the air, this should allow me to fully engage with the pages of my site, making it more interactive for my readers by avoiding repetition and overwhelming content.

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.

How Do You Overcome Writer’s Block?

Sex and the City

It could be that I’ve been watching a lot of Sex and the City recently or that I’m still not over having written a 15-page paper last semester, but I can’t get the idea of writer’s block out of my head. I’ll start by sharing my own personal definition of what I believe to be “writer’s block.”

(noun) The maddening inability to translate one’s thoughts into words, or to even form these thoughts in the first place.

While I can’t pinpoint an exact instance where I suffered from writer’s block, I know that many of my peers have–including my roommate currently sitting next to me staring blankly at her computer screen, waiting for “inspiration to strike.” She feels creatively blocked, as if her brain is resisting any urge to form coherent thoughts. To me, this sounds physically and emotionally painful. And as I watch her opt for procrastination instead of perseveration, I wonder…how do you, as writers, overcome writer’s block?

Perhaps this post is a preventative call for help from fellow Minors before I dig even deeper into my Capstone project, but I do wonder if anyone would be willing to share their go-to process or activity for overcoming this terrifying condition–one that infects all writers: fiction and nonfiction, professional and amateur. It could be anything from meditating for 20 minutes (as I suggested to my roommate), going to the IM building for a quick workout, or even staring at your computer endlessly waiting until the thoughts start to flow.

Meditation

Any and all tips are appreciated (and I’ll be sure to share them with my roommate).

Lights, Camera, Action!

It struck me while writing my proposal for my remediation project, which initially was going to be doing a TED Talk-style piece, that I miss my camera. I dabbled in photography a little bit in high school but since coming to college, I haven’t taken any real pictures–unless Game Day pictures or embarrassing pictures of my roommate on my iPhone 5 count. This remediation project seemed like the perfect way to get back into photography and push my creative limits.

Girl Behind Camera

My goal is to take photographs of students on the Michigan campus, in all black and white, and create a website around the photos. It’s sort of like Humans of New York meets art gallery meets blog. As you can see, I’m having a difficult time actually categorizing my project, since it is such a hodgepodge of so many different forms.

What I do know is that I will need to become very familiar with operating my new camera (shout out to my mom for letting me use hers!) as well as Photoshop and Squarespace (the platform I will be using to create my website). I know how to handle a Canon camera on a pretty basic level, so the hardware of actually operating the camera and creating photographs that are up to my perfectionist standards may pose the largest problem throughout this process. I also have very limited knowledge of how to use Squarespace from my job and absolutely no knowledge of how to use Photoshop except for the one time I attempted for a high school project and absolutely failed. However, over the last few days I’ve been spending a lot of time tinkering with photos I’ve taken previously just to see how they turn out. So far, I’m liking the direction that I’m taking but I have a feeling that it is going to get a lot harder when I actually start taking the photos and compiling them in a meaningful way.

Speaking of difficulty, creating my website for this project is something that I am looking forward to the most but am most afraid to begin the process of creating it. Even as I have begun to do my mock-up, there are so many templates to choose from and adjust to fit my needs that I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I guess it’s better to have too many options than not enough? Also, I’m starting to discover certain things about websites, like getting a domain name and inserting alt code, which are things that I am not familiar with but will become more familiar as I work with the platform *she said with unwavering hope*.

If you can’t already tell by my rambling and delirious organization of this blog post, I’m both terrified and thrilled with the prospect of creating a collage/gallery/website/blog/thingy for my remediation project. Stay tuned for an update on my mental state as I attempt to edit yet another photo on Photoshop (this one is of my dog…yes, I’ve hit a new low).

Jimmy Fallon Puppy

Perez is in, Paris is out…

The definition of a blog, according to Google search, is “a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.” I cannot say that I religiously follow any blogs. However, when I think of one who blogs one person comes to mind. That is the television personality and famous blogger known as Perez Hilton.

Perezhilton.com is a main hub for acquiring juicy celebrity gossip. Although this blog will not teach you how to dress or how to bake a seven layer chocolate cake, it will keep anyone updated on the latest celebrity news. For many this blog may not have important meaning, however, anyone who has the guilty pleasure of following celebrity gossip has heard of Perez Hilton.

Marios Armando Lavandeira, a 37-year-old male from Miami, graduated from NYU, and began his career doing some freelance writing. He began blogging because he thought it “seemed easy.” Perez provides his readers with a constantly updated look inside the lives of popular people in the media.

Perez ruthlessly attacks any figure in the public eye. In a way, his blog serves as a mode of connection between ordinary people and celebrities. The blog is not all negative. Perez does find time to compliment and endorse those figures who he is a fan of. The name of the blog itself mocks celebrity and notorious famous-for-nothing starlet Paris Hilton. This blog is a funny and easy way to consume popular culture and keep updated with the latest celebrity gossip news. Although the main focus is celebrity coverage, Perez will write about anything in the media that he feels deserves to be mentioned or made a mockery of. The site consists of multiple sections which allows the reader to search, limit the genre of posts, and see what is currently trending.

I would say Perez’s blog is targeted for young adults above the age of 17, due to inappropriate content. The main audience attracts those interested in popular culture. I think that pop culture is the best descriptor for a genre of this specific blog. It covers everything from celebrity fashion to updates on celebrity trials.

Another aspect of Perez’s blog consists of tabloid photographs, which he doodles on. He attempts to not only exploit public figures with their wrong (or right) doings, but also add his own comedic twist to ordinary photos that could be seen in a magazine.

As Hilton’s blog became to grow in popularity, he began to make appearances and gave his opinions on celebrities and their behavior. Perez’s blog is extremely consistent. In an interview he once mentioned that he was in his blogging chair for over 12 hours, which is why I think it is so good. Although the validity of the information can be unclear, Perez serves as the link between the ordinary and the famous.

What happens on the internet stays on the internet…scary

Clark argues that the internet and more broadly, the computer, is a collaborative tool; I agree to some extent. On the one hand, it allows people to comment and share their thoughts on different pieces of writing instantly. I can publish a blog post or publicize a website and anyone with internet access can comment on my writing. Also, with platforms like Googledoc, writers have the ability to collaborate with people anywhere in the world without actually having to be near them. But as the internet continues to advance, individuals’ need for human contact decreases. Instead of asking my friend who has an obsession with polar bears how much they weigh, I’ll type it into google. This lessens our need to collaborate with other people in order to get answers because all the information we could ever need is a mouse click away.

While I don’t agree with all of the collaborate advantages Clark argues for, I do see the internet’s other benefits. For one, it allows anyone with access to get something published.  If I want to publish a blog or a website, I don’t need to go through a publishing company, I just press a blue “publish” button. I also agree with Clark’s assertion that ePortfolios provide a huge advantage to their paper portfolio counterparts. With the advancement of online portfolios, people can send their work out to an infinite number of people, and it takes almost zero effort. Maybe more importantly, creating a portfolio online allows people to constantly change, improve, and grow their repertoire of work.

While I enjoyed the majority of the Clark reading, her section on blogging stood out to me the most because in one paragraph, she encapsulated what blogging makes me feel: pressure.  I know for Writing 220, blogging gets graded more on completion than correctness of content and does not make up an overwhelming part of our overall grade, yet I feel my heart racing every time I read we have a blog post to complete. Clark’s reading helped me understand why: blogging is high-stakes. The second I press that blue “publish” button, my work becomes public. Anyone with internet connection could access it and hold me accountable for anything and everything I write. What if I wrote something when I was really tired one day and didn’t mean it? Tough luck, because as every adult has told every 20-something at one point in their life, once something is on the internet, it’s there for good.

Metablogging

Blogging as the digitization of thought.

After rereading Sullivan’s Why I Blog, I once again can lament on my feelings towards blogging, and ironically, express these feelings through blogging itself. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea. When LiveJournal started to become popular in middle school, and with the explosion of music blogs my friends were discovering new music with, I shied away from ever having to record my thoughts onto an online forum for all to read. I occasionally perused the blogosphere and found myself hooked on Perez Hilton‘s celebrity blog during my pop culture obsessive phase. Hilton’s blog read more as a news site with his comments rather than the use of the term we’re getting at in this class as thought-provoking and substantive prose. If I were to read a blog like Sullivan’s, I feel like I would be invading onto his personal space and thus reading something or learning something intimate that I shouldn’t be. The thoughts and ideas of bloggers are instantly transported from their minds to cyber space for anyone to tear them apart, offer suggestions or praise or to even share their words with others. At any moment a stranger can be learning about you through your writing style or what you choose to talk about or link to. The blogger knows this.
Now, I see blogging as our societal move to the digitization of everything, and for me, blogging has come to symbolize the digitization of thought. While Sullivan discusses the phenomenon of being able to say what you want to say in real time and allowing for immediate reader feedback, he does not offer much of a space for voices who see large audiences as dooming, and that the more they say what’s on their mind the less value their work feels. At the moment, that’s what I feel about this new media form of writing.
Perhaps it is my personality that suggests as to why blogging makes me uncomfortable. I don’t rant on social media and if you want to know what’s going on in my life, I’ll talk to you about it, not relate it over texting or a phone call. I value my privacy and feel my stream of consciousness should remain a private affair. Blogging opens up the possibility to extract these thoughts out of my mind and into the open, which I have only done before orally and with close friends. If Anne Lamott compared the writing process to pulling teeth, for me it is laying my personal thoughts out into the world that gives me great pain as of late.
There’s lots of topics I’d like to blog about that permeate my brain and keep me up at night, but if I publish something like that, for who and what am I really writing for? While there is a diary-like quality to a blog because it is most easy to write about yourself, I cringe at the idea of people I don’t know reading about what’s on my mind or what I have to say on a certain subject. They don’t know me and I don’t know them, and why should they even care what I have to say if it’s probably not all that important anyway?
I’d much rather sit at a roundtable and have a face-to-face discussion with someone versus post in an online forum. It’s not old school, it’s my preference for a physical conversation. While Sullivan reminds us that blogging brings out the personality of the blogger and that’s how blogs become successful, this personality emits from a computer screen. It can build a reader-blogger relationship, but I don’t know how that could compare to a best friend or someone you are close with who really knows you and you know them. Perhaps the scale and stage of blogging opens up a new way to form relationships and I’m just shying away because of the grand size of it all is something I’ve never had to deal with before.
I’m still reluctant to see if blogging this semester will allow me to embrace the art more or still see it as a frightening way to reveal something about myself through my writing. But if writing this metapost is any indication, I’m likely on the former track.