When your research expectations don’t match what’s out there

Over the last ten days, I have begun thinking more seriously about my Capstone Project. After creating my production plan, the logical step was to begin research for the content of the project. Unfortunately, all of the information I anticipated finding is nowhere to be found anywhere on the internet or in a scholarly journal. My search terms all yield millions of results, but none of them are quite what I am looking for.

Specifically, my project has to do with the discrepancies between gender roles and gendered characteristics when it comes to living arrangements. As per my production plan, my tasks this week included psychological, historical, and interview-based research about the ways people develop gender attitudes and the reasons they hold the attitudes that they do. However, almost all of the information out there, including housing policies, blogs, articles, etc., are about housing that is designed to or should accommodate those who have some kind of gender identification issue, or a housing concern related to sexual orientation and similar issues. These are not areas I am intending to cover, as my project is centered on those who choose to live with those of another gender for social, economic, convenience, or other practical concerns. I am not looking at all at groups who are marginalized, and I definitely don’t want to approach this from a civil rights perspective. As far as media research, I was able to find only one TV show about my type of living arrangement, no movies, and no books.

My professor, Ray, has suggested that I widen my research to include these other aspects of gender and cohabitation, while at the same time narrowing my research to include only one perspective, such as media representations, that consider scenarios different from my own.
This week, I am hoping to make more progress on this front. While the holdup has derailed my production plan a bit, I plan to spend the week working from this changed perspective and catching up in time for our next workshop session.

Core, Anti-, and Proximal Audience

Minor Item 4: Capstone Project Audience

At first, I struggled with the following questions: How does the topic of your capstone project relate to people other than yourself? How will you make your project interesting and relevant to the larger public? In choosing a topic as specialized as magazine journalism- print magazine journalism for that matter- the answers to these very questions were initially hard to come by. It is evident that journalism, or content production/ consumption, is a specialized topic in it of itself, let alone the print side of the industry.

Core Audience:

People in my core target audience are those involved or interested in print journalism, specifically feature/magazine writing. They understand that print journalism is at risk, however, value it as an influential and significant source of information. Furthermore, people in my target audience are those who also prefer digital journalism over print journalism, and are unaware of the value of the latter. I hope to change these people’s beliefs, or even simply further their knowledge on the matter. Lastly, I hope to target those generally interested in journalism, information, or news, and those whose consume or interact with such content on a daily basis.

Proximal Audience:

When I tell people I want to pursue print journalism as a profession, they often and automatically respond with disappointment and doubt. It is clear that print journalism is a dying market, as today’s content is predominantly produced and distributed through digital means. Even still, print journalism does not stand alone: there are other markets and industries experiencing similar situations. Consider the book publishing industry, or even the record industry, both of which have been overtaken by either technology or digital media.

In this way, my proximal audience will consist of people not in my immediate target audience, rather, just to the left or right. These people are the “book publishers” or those in the record industry, who are experiencing vulnerability, just as I am, when it comes to their professions and passions. Though they may not be interested in feature writing or print journalism directly, they have an interest in a field of study or profession that is either undervalued or losing value overtime.

Anti-Audience:

People that I will rule out of my audience are those who do not care for information consumption, news, or journalism in any matter. I will not be able to reach people who have no interest whatsoever in the industry, let alone those who are interested in print feature writing. I am aware that my project will not reach/make an impact on everyone, however, I will do my best to reach the audience members I know I am capable of reaching.

Personal Paradox

So, for this week we were asked to discuss competing thoughts which were at least partially contradictory as far as our evolution as a writer. These thoughts manifest in the evolution essay and are something that we must grapple with to create a solid, meaningful essay. I have two that go hand in hand.

Revision is important vs. I’m good enough to not revise.

It is a self identified fact that my biggest writing flaw is a lack of revision. I don’t go over my work nearly enough. Because of this I end up with dumb mistakes and shallow messages. Sure I can make this mess pretty, and someone might not realize that I didn’t put extra thought into the piece…but writers know. I know when I look at the piece again. My teachers know when they grade. I’ve gotten a lot of messages that are summed up as: this is good work, but needs more revision to connect and string through theme, or where exactly are you going here, and this is close to potential, but needs more thought. I always seem to come up a little short because I won’t go back and do the necessary re-writes and edits and final polishing and teasing out of a central theme and bringing that theme out through an entire project. I guess I am a lazy writer sometimes. I think I am also a bit vain at times. I do actually feel as if I’ve written a perfect draft after five hours of typing a paper (beginning-middle-end). There are many times that I don’t even go back over this rough, rushed draft…and to be honest it usually works out. However, once I got into upper level writing the chinks in my armor were exposed. I was specifically called out in my evaluations for lack of necessary revision. I still attacked my papers with the same attitude and as a result received the worst grade I ever have in an English or writing class. The kicker here is that my dad has the same problem…and I’m pretty critical of him for not revising like he should. He has published two books, and is about to release his third ( a sequel to the second book).  While I think that he is a good story teller, and I credit him highly for constructing a story that spans 300+ pages and connecting the dots, I think he could be so much more. I know for a fact that he has read literature from all over the world and from many different times. He knows what good writing is, does, feels like, and looks like. He is smart enough to produce writing that at least moves in that direction. And yet, after writing a book for nine months he gives it a two month break and then revises for about a week, maybe two. And bear in mind that he isn’t a professional writer so the actual revision that is happening isn’t two weeks of nonstop revision. The effort into the rough draft is completely imbalanced to the work that goes into the final, he also spends the revision time making the book cover! I’m not knocking my dad, but just pointing out my own problem on a larger scale…5 hours of writing to 5 minutes of revising is basically nothing. Moreover, it’s even worse on me because I know better and I know that it is my primary problem in writing, and yet I still don’t revise like I should. I’m working on it! One great thing about this capstone class is the high stakes which will require the revision or else risk embarrassment and failing grades.

My love for writing vs. Only writing for school

These two connect in the phrase “I guess I am a lazy writer sometimes.” I think writing is potentially the thing I can be best at. I play music and have good reviews by people who here me, but I don’t really like to brag because there are so many better musicians. I was okay at sports. Understanding high level writing at a young age, through reading, and then eventually starting to form complex metaphors and messages in my own writing made me feel gifted. That is the one area that I (at least used to) brag about. Of course there are countless writers out there that are better than I am, but I truly feel like someday I could have my name in a book with them. Maybe not, and who cares either way, but I think I’m good. Even with that confidence and passion though, I don’t really do a lot of writing outside of school assignments. I populate my free time with friends and video games, and an array of social events to the point that I don’t really give myself the free time necessary to write. This is a huge problem. On one hand I don’t feel too bad because I like my life and the people in it and the way I live (mostly). On the other I feel like  I could have written a book by now if I followed this passion and shut out the other stimuli. For this reason, I am very excited for the capstone project. I will actually be forced to apply myself to a writing venture of my choosing, that I am interested in, and that will require the work and level of thought to make it a high quality piece that I can be proud of. I am grading against my own expectations and ambition, not a rubric. I feel that the capstone project will help me to fix…or at least find a path through my writing deficiencies.

Pixar and the Spiral

I am thinking about the capstone project and what I can do. I have been leaning heavily towards an analysis of Inside Out alongside other Pixar movies. I want to analyze the movies and give a commentary about the way emotion and memory interact and play into growing up.

I have this idea of a spiral of interaction between emotion and memory. Think of it in terms of some significant event happens. At the time of this event the memory is formed, and along with it an emotional attachment to the memory. This is probably sounding a bit like Inside out, but bare with me. At another time, let’s say a week later, you think of the event again. This reflection looks back at the memory and the feeling, and inevitably it will be a small bit different, but maybe not too different at only a week. Now go a year later, and this event will be viewed much differently than it was before. Some parts of the memory might be gone, or changed, and the emotion surrounding it will likely be different as well. Now, five years, ten years later and so on, this even continues to transform and have new meaning and different impact. The spiral is a metaphor for the way the memories and emotions  change and build on each other to help define who you are as a person.

Now memory and emotion don’t define a person, but I think they say a lot about how a person sees themselves. Do you agree? What are other aspects that are relevant and should be considered for an idea like this?

I want to talk about this interaction of emotion and memory, and specifically I want to explore nostalgia. I also want to analyze the Pixar movies to find what they say about emotion and memory, and also about growing up. Finally it is my ultimate goal to weave the spiral, the analysis, and some personal experience into a cohesive story about growing up. More than just a story about growing up, I want to comment on how we learn about growing up, and how that impacts the way it happens.

If this sounds like a cool idea let me know! If you have any ideas for me to consider, or comments on what I’m doing let me know! Anything helps!

 

inside-out

And We’re Off!

Seeing as how I had very little clarity about my Capstone project, any sort of activity or aid that might help spark some inspiration in my brain was more than welcome.  Receiving this assignment to browse the web for possible topic ideas proved to be just what I needed, as it helped me to hone in on areas that interested me, and on subjects that I definitely wanted to stay away from.

Initially, I was drawn to the broad headings of “Business,” “News & Current Events,” and “Social Sciences”.  Since a lot of my undergraduate career has revolved around social sciences and business, I would love to do a project that would actually benefit my professional goals, but that would still allow me to stretch my talents and learn new skills such as graphic design and Photoshop.  Because of this, I thought it might be interesting to do some sort of ad campaign for a new product or for, say, a new and upcoming musician at the University of Michigan.  Being able to work on something from start to finish that would be along the lines of what my career goals are could help me to test the waters and gain relevant experience.  I want to do something completely different from my gateway project, and this type of campaign could be just the thing.

Alternately, the anxiety that the headings like “Engineering” and “Government, Politics, and Law” gave me was sign enough that no project of mine would ever revolve around these fields.  Although I may not have entirely figured out my project through the rabbit hole search, I have definitely narrowed down the list and found glaring subjects to avoid.

Overall, through this process I have come to realize that I would like to stick with a subject area that is relevant to me and not do something completely random that will not be applicable or useful to me in the future.

Looking forward to seeing where the semester leads and what kinds of ideas everyone comes up with!

a (self) discovery

While I hoped to uncover some viable topics for consideration into the Capstone project through my browsing of the Library Research Guides, I instead found valuable information regarding the Espresso Book Machine (or EBM) we have in plain-view at the Ugli. An entire research guide is devoted to teaching us how we can (almost) instantly print a book for a very small fee! That means material in Open Source, materials with the permission of the copywriter holder, and your own writing!

Image courtesy of MLibrary.
Image courtesy of MLibrary.

I immediately started to think about 3-D printing and the printers on North Campus when learning about the EBM, and the ability to make something just appear in such a desirable form. Then I thought that I need to start writing a book or a story ASAP just so I can test it out. Everything a self-publisher wants to know about the process is up on the guide and ‘self-publishing’ tab. One thing that it makes a point of is to stress that the service doesn’t offer an ISBN number, but you can get one through contacting Bowker, the official ISBN provider or the U.S.

It’s likely that many students do not know about the EBM, along with many of the other amazing resources available to us on this campus. It was not until winter term of my sophomore year I learned I could check out video equipment, camera equipment, or laptops from the ISS Media Center for a short period of time.

I’m really excited I got to learn about this obscure resource for publishing on campus. While the rest of the Research Guides may not have been as useful to me, this worthwhile discovery was something I wanted to pass on to my fellow Minors.

Capstone Project & Accountability

October is coming and going before we know it and I have a feeling that the end of the semester might creep up on us. So with that line of thinking, it should be natural that I’m a bit concerned that with other midterms and assignments both in and out of the minor, I haven’t had a chance to make any progress with my Capstone project. I mean any progress. Not even research. When I decided to check in with my production plan deadline I originally created, to say I was behind would be an understatement. While, nobody should ever doubt the amount of work a college student can catch up on when a deadline is near- I definitely don’t want to let this project get away from me.

First, we are all excited about our capstones and when we share ideas we are obviously passionate about learning something about ourselves and the topic we have chosen. It would be so frustrating to me if I handed this in at the end of the semester and it didn’t represent the best I could’ve done. I have to try.

So, I decided- what is the best way to make sure that I actually get the ball rolling on this project? I decided to create a new “production plan” in the form of a to-do list, where the deadlines aren’t as overwhelming to look at when I haven’t done them yet, but better lays out more specific tasks for me to slowly check off and accomplish.

Why should you care that I’m writing any of this? Part of this post is for me. If I say that I’m thinking and trying to work on my capstone and it is October 22, then it better not be November 22 by the next time I work on it. This post is holding me accountable to start checking things off my list- publicly. This idea is also one I wanted to share so that if anyone else needed a little boost, a way to hold themselves accountable towards getting the project done then they can feel free to do the same!

Photo-Capstone Project To Do List

Workshopping Works #RayRay

A couple of quick thoughts…

Today’s discussion and some of the peer reviews I’ve gotten have been really helpful for my project in terms of both the introduction that I presented to the class and the direction that I need to take for the project itself. It seemed like everybody had fun talking about Harry Potter—I mean come on, who wouldn’t?! However, that also gives me slight anxiety about the fact that I have a lot to live up to. I don’t want to disappoint people who are expecting this amazing creative piece from me, so I guess I have to live up to those expectations and work my butt off over the next month or so! One of the best pieces of advice I got today was that I need to write this exactly how I want to do it. In any piece of artwork, whether it is a drawing, painting, film, novel, anything, there are always going to be critics. I do struggle sometimes with not wanting to let people down, but I think I have to keep in mind throughout this process is that I can’t please everyone. People are interested in what I have to say, not what they expect me to say.

There was some hostility in the room on whether my current approach—writing as if I were a “Muggle” who stumbles upon the scene where Lord Voldemort is being resurrected—is the correct way to do it, or whether I should be myself within the story itself (i.e. a Healer at St. Mungo’s when Arthur Weasley is brought in after his snake bite). The thing that stood out to me, and something that I had never thought of, is that being a “Muggle” inherently forces me to lose a lot of the context about the magical world I’m describing. This definitely is a challenge and is something I’m going to have to work through in order to appease the readers imagination.

I think the mission now is just to dig in and start writing. I have never written anything of this magnitude nor as imaginative/fictional as this project is about to be. And truthfully, thinking about that fact stresses me out. The only way to combat this is to dive right in and just start writing. I have a feeling that through the process of writing it, I will learn more about myself as a writer and how I want the story to go than to just sit there and think about it.

Thanks again for all of your help everyone!! Y’all rock.

Ummm, about these micro-assignments…#RayRay

I’m going to come out and state the obvious…I’m writing this blog post as a way to get points. There, I said it.

I’m putting that out there because I have spent the past day doing everything I can to rack up some points before we head for spring break. I did, by my count, four micro-assignments to snag some points, with the intention to do a couple more tomorrow.

My intention is not to make you feel bad that you aren’t doing this either; rather, I want to say that I AM STILL SO STRESSED OUT ABOUT THE POINTS WE NEED FOR THIS CLASS. I literally spent hours today doing these assignments for, what, maybe 100 points? For 1/20th of the grade I need to earn an A?

I know the goal of this class, and the Minor, is to not worry about grades as much and focus more on the writing process, on stimulating yourself as a writer and thinker, on engaging in different forms of media, but I can’t help it. I have academic goals (GPA, graduation honors, etc) that I don’t want to miss out on by not completing these micro-assignments that are staring me in the face. Yet I feel like I am ignoring the more important things for the class–the Evolution Essay, building out my portfolio, the Capstone Project–to focus on gaining points with micro-assignments that aren’t always applicable to my project. I’m trying to strike the correct balance between the two, but it just seems like I wasted a day that could have been spent perfecting my Evolution Essay or even getting a head start on my project.  And, with just about a month left after spring break and before everything is due, I am feeling increasingly panicked about not getting the # of points I need for an A. I want an A in the class AND to produce outstanding work, but I’m really struggling to make it work.

I know we talked about it in class, but is anybody else feeling this way? Any suggestions on how to make me feel better about myself?

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