Digital Rhetoric with RSA Animate

After our class discussion on the digital rhetoric collaborative blog carnival pieces I couldn’t stop thinking about a video I had seen freshman year in my Sociology 102: Culture, Markets, and Globalization course. It turns out that the video I was thinking of is one of many produced through RSA Animate (click to check out some of their other videos if you’re interested!). The specific video I had seen in class presents the crisis of capitalism by David Harvey and thanks to Katie’s tech challenge (!!) I now know how to show you the video right here:

I absolutely love this video as an example of digital rhetoric. It combines audio, video, drawings, and text in a unique and entertaining way. It also reminded me of the sort of “disconnect” between academic essays and digital media we talked about in class. In my mind, this video is just as informative and effective as an academic paper. However, I wonder if a student wanted to turn in something like this to a history or polisci class what the professor would think. I wonder if one day we will reach the point where instead of requiring a paper, teachers will just give assignments in which the student can argue whatever is asked of them in any form of new media or traditional text form they desire.

Well, this is Scary

Okay, so does anyone else feel like throwing up (in a good way maybe?) when they think about this project? I really hope I’m not alone on this one, because this project is scary.

Anyway, here are the 3 ideas I copied from the email I sent Ray last Thursday night:

1)   Exploration of New and Social Media as a “playground” for fiction writers (I’m particularly interested in supernatural horror fiction and “strange tales.” Research could lead to a number of projects, but I’m thinking of a fiction piece that would be designed similar to a viral marketing campaign or something similar that makes use of a variety of media and modes of transmission.

2)   Riffing off the theme of supernatural/horror/speculative fiction, criticism has been made about the lack of a monster that resonates with contemporary audiences: we keep appropriating monsters from the historical past (ghosts, demons, vampires, zombies, etc.) rather than creating ones of our own, that belong to our present. So, what would it take to for a monster to have the same cultural impact as the aforementioned enjoyed? What would this creature (is it even a creature?) look like? Why would it engender fear on a widespread, cultural level? What societal anxiety would it speak to, and to paraphrase Jeffrey Cohen’s 7th thesis on monsters and culture, what would it say about us? These questions could drive research that would culminate in an academic paper or maybe even a piece of fiction

3)   Working again from the idea of new modes of fiction production, it may be really rewarding and interesting to try to conceptualize, design, and potentially even implement a sort of magazine or ezine (or maybe even a hybrid) for writers experiment with new methods of narration and storytelling to submit and publish their works. Maybe a generalist approach would work for this, or maybe I could even narrow it to a particular genre or type of experimental writing (likely horror or spec fic related).

Now, I’ll come right out and say that I crapped out that third idea because we had to have a third idea. Fortunately, in the shower on Friday before class, I remember I really enjoy gaming in all of its forms (board/card/video/mobile/flash/whatever) and that got me thinking that maybe I could do something with games related to idea 1, and I think I mentioned this in class already. So this is where I’m currently at with my conception of the project, and it’s admittedly vague.

To simply what’s going on in idea 1, I’m interested in the ways we can use things like New Media or non-traditional media (like board and card games) to tell stories in ways that haven’t really been explored that much, in ways that force a reader to change how he or she reads and experiences a work of fiction, that is specific to the medium or various media an artist/writer/developer/designer constructs for him/her. While people have written flash fiction with the help of Twitter, for example, the endeavors I’ve happened across have felt forced or gimmicky, and I think this is because these writers are trying to adapt social media to the ways the already know how to write. This makes perfect sense and I don’t begrudge them for doing things they way they tried. But I’m interested in how these new and rarely explored avenues can shape the way we write and more importantly, tell and experience stories. I want to create something like Ted’s Caving Journal (which will terrify and anger you should you choose to read), or  Journey, or Marble Hornets does.

This is where project 4 (also known as shower project) works its way into the post:  I would like to look at some successful (and not so successful) attempts to create these news ways of telling stories, and perhaps design a story of my own. I foresee a number of challenges that come along with this project, including but not limited to technology and personal learning curve limitations, available time to commit to the project, the issue of creating a convincing story and then presenting it in a convincing medium, avoiding gimmicks and other negative buzzwords that rear their heads in scathing reviews of bad movies/music/tv/anything/everything, etc. It may even be possible for me to work bits and pieces of idea 2 into this project; a monster story where the medium is the monster could be an interesting (the more I write the more pretentious this gets) way to approach the “story” of the project. Who knows? Gotta start somewhere. At the end of the day though, I’m interested in the intersection of narration, reader experience, story, and new and non-traditional media.

For me personally, being able to design, write, implement, and publish a horror story through something like a cooperative/collaborative flash or mobile phone game that makes use of a variety of media to not just help the story move along, but to create the entire experience, would be a really cool way to end this minor and my time at Michigan; it would combine some of the most important experiences and thoughts I’ve had in these last four years into what I could honestly say would be a capstone. In retrospect,  every step I’ve taken in my long, winding, and oft frustrating journey through my undergraduate education has pointed me toward this project.  But that doesn’t make the idea any less terrifying. I’m happy with the seeds of ideas I have here, but anything anyone can add to help them grow would be greatly appreciated.

Break and Social Media; Or Why I Never Left High School

Break is a time for reconnecting with old friends one has been separated from by the cruel forces of colleges in other cities. It is for catching up, meeting up, and making time for the old high school gang. Of course, this gathering is probably less absolutely vital since the advent of social media; I can keep track of Emily, Clayton, and Jen from my own computer every day I’m in Ann Arbor. And for this I am thankful. New media is excellent for staying connected (Thanks Captain Obvious). But it is also excellent for pettiness, gossip, and fighting.

In my new media essay, I talked about how new media enables a constant stream of conversation, and how that would be great, except sometimes the conversation isn’t worth having; like when a whole bunch of commenters use the space under a kitten video on YouTube to hate on Justin Beiber. I don’t like Justin much myself, but seriously guys, his fans should not all be shot along with everyone who clicked the “Dislike” button. As much as those conversations frustrate me, they are nothing compared to drama created online by people I actually know.

For example, one friend, who shall remain anonymous, told me that she uses her Twitter account to talk about how she really feels; stuff she can’t put on Facebook. I would love to explore the norms that have evolved around which statuses belong on Facebook, and which make better Tweets, but for now I’ll stay on topic. She has been having  a conflict with another girl who is a follower of her Twitter. So Girl 2 can see everything Girl 1 posts about her, all in the spirit of catharsis. Why does my first friend feel the need to express her annoyance with people on Twitter? Why does the Internet need to know? (Asked the girl currently writing a blog post about her high school friend drama)

These same friends had an all out battle on Google Plus a few months ago, like full on Cyberbully nonsense. Foursquare, that inexplicable Smartphone mechanism which allows you to “check in” to various locations (so people can track your every move?) has also played into their fights. When one girl claimed to feel ill to avoid seeing the other, she checked into places on Foursquare, contradicting her earlier assertion that she was staying home. When these two make up, Facebook is full of back and forth Wall Posts saying “I HEART YOU BEST FRIEND” and such.

Why am I chronicling such utter nonsense? Well, honestly, because I’m frustrated, and like Girl 1, I feel better when I put my frustrations on the Internet (Someone should study this. Seriously.) and I know neither of my friends are likely to stumble upon this particular corner  of WordPress. Also, I think examining what new media is being used for, and the new ways people can fight, and express themselves, is interesting. Before all of this media, would my friends even be fighting? Probably. But maybe they would have to confront each other head on, rather than resorting to the cloak and dagger dance of social media.