Solutions: Repurposing Project

My repurposing project is giving me more trouble than I thought it would. For this project, I am repurposing a research paper on salsa into a magazine spread. At first, I took bits and pieces of the research paper and modified my argument. The initial argument of my paper was how salsa has diversified into a food that has adapted to different cultures around the world. This argument, in my opinion, seemed a bit too “research-ey” for a magazine article. So, I changed the tone of the paper. As I wrote, I came up with a better idea: a guide to help housewives or chefs “spice up their life” in the kitchen. I offered a variety of recipes to add change and innovation into the same old routine meals they cook for their husbands and kids each and every day.

However, after completing my first draft, I felt my repurposed argument was all over the place. Did I want to offer readers with a history of salsa and explain how it became such a popular, versatile food? Did I want to offer tips in the kitchen/new ideas/new recipes for housewives who were bored with their elementary cooking skills? Did I want to talk about the different types of salsa (texture, spice levels, etc) that can me made? All of these arguments were in my repurposed paper, and I felt it was a bit scrambled.

After speaking with Professor Silver, she helped me come up with a solution: create a magazine spread on salsa, dividing it into separate parts. Each part would spotlight a particular argument I was trying to make. I now plan to break it up into three sections: “A Brief History,” “The International Cookbook” (containing international recipes and how each plays an important role in the cuisine of its country of origin), and a last section that will work as a guide to people who struggle in the kitchen, and whose skills are elementary (will show them how simple it is to make salsa!)

Repurposing Ethnography

The paper I want to focus on for repurposing was an assignment for my cultural anthropology class freshman year. The paper was an 8 page long ethnography – an anthropological term that basically amounts to a study of some group or culture. Think of it as a content analysis of a group. The researcher is supposed to, through direct contact, learn about and explore the group or culture in question. The group I chose was an online community called Nerdfighteria that was formed around the video blogs of two men – John and Hank Green. Their Youtube project started out as one year of communication between them solely through these video blogs. They slowly amassed a following  and this following came to be called Nerdfighters. I wanted to choose the group for the ethnography assignment because I was a Nerdfighter and wanted to explore the community and the experience more deeply.

I chose this paper to repurpose because, to be honest, I wasn’t really happy with the way it turned out. I think it could have been a lot more interesting and engaging if it were formatted in a different way. The ethnography turned out more like a research paper, and I would have been happy just writing a more informal and informational paper. One specific thing to change would definitely be to get rid of the concrete sections (hypothesis, data, reactions, etc.) and to reformat the paper entirely in a more informal/less scientific/academic way. I’m honestly not sure what genre I could change it into, maybe an informational news article or something like that. It’s something I have to keep thinking about, but I definitely want it to have a less academic feel.

blogging and repurposing

“A columnist can ignore or duck a subject less noticeably than a blogger committing thoughts to pixels several times a day. A reporter can wait—must wait—until every source has confirmed. A novelist can spend months or years before committing words to the world. For bloggers, the deadline is always now. Blogging is therefore to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.”

I feel like this quote sums up the work blogging has done for me as well as what separates it from other genres, as well as what separates the other genres from each other. Blogging differs in its casual demeanor and informal tone. Bloggers write to appeal often to an audience who wants to read blogs because they don’t sound like the New York Times or Seventeen magazine. They are more personal. During class blogging thus far, I have read a lot of interesting ideas and thoughts from my peers, casual and more in depth. I enjoy reading blogs because the voice evokes a personality of a conversation with a friend, rather than an esteemed professor or columnist. I feel like I can write back and that my opinions are more valid, even if the topic is the same. Blogging makes me question credibility as well, simply because it is easy to. Hyperlinks and photographs and already being on the internet while reading a blog makes me a more invested reader, wanting to know more, and being able to find out more about the topic at hand.

My repurposing project is turning a rather fluffy magazine article into an informative, very business oriented piece for the Wall Street Journal. Blogging has helped me realize what I need to do in terms of audience. Since, in blogging, whether there is personal motive or the need for extra points, I want people to respond and be interested in what I have to say. Therefore, if I really wanted people to read things, I would tailor my blog posts for a specific audience. This need for specialization has made me think more about the specialization I will need in my repurposing project. I have to figure out what business people want to hear/read about, what vocabulary, what graphs, etc. I feel like blogging has better prepared me for this project…And that it might be kind of fun…

Ma, This Blog Post is Going on the Fridge

Just in case my new blog group members have not read my previously enthralling posts, which is somewhat unimaginable (sorry I use a fair amount of sarcasm), I spent a lot of time lamenting the effect that technology is having on our generation’s writing quality. I was essentially arguing that in this day and age, with the advent of Twitter and text messaging, younger people are constantly ensconced in a brutish form of writing that disgraces the art form that it truly is. Read More

Blogging

Before I read Andrew Sullivan’s piece, I’d seen blogging as just another way to get one’s opinions out to a general public. I perceived blogging as a personal endeavor that bloggers rarely intended to go public with. I might have thought this due to my own reasons for blogging before this class. I’d been blogging mainly for myself and also for my family and friends whom I kept updated through my blog posts. I also had never given much thought to the level of interactivity that a blogger anticipated and even appreciated from a blog post.

However, Sullivan’s description of his experiences with having continuous discussions with his readers prompted me to evaluate bloggers’ intentions when they publish a blog post. It seemed that Sullivan needed constant feedback from his readers in order to write posts which were relevant and interesting. This challenged me to rethink the way that I thought bloggers planned their blog posts. Sullivan’s piece made me see that many bloggers, in fact, set goals to reach out to specific readers and to initiate discussions and debates with their readers, instead of simply to reach an audience which was passive and was accepting of everything the blogger writes.  My own experience in blogging in this minor blog had also taught me that there could be friendly opposition in responses to a blogger’s opinions and that this opposition might be a very helpful aspect of blogging as it could help inform a blogger. Sullivan also touched on this (in reference to a much larger scale of blogging) when he wrote that “a blogger splashe[d] gamely into a subject and dare[d] the sources to come to him.”

This is what I imagine some bloggers to feel after hitting 'publish' to make public a post about a controversial issue. Photo credit to: hoax-slayer.com

I think that blogging, unlike most genres and modes of writing, gives a writer a lot of freedom in the speed at which he or she can share his or her thoughts to a wide audience and receive feedback almost instantly. Unlike authors who have to wait until their books hit the shelves and become read by a sizable audience before the authors can receive feedback from critics and readers, bloggers only have to wait for a short period of time to hear ­­from their audience. Sullivan highlights this in his piece when he writes, “Now the feedback was instant…”

Another way in which blogging differs a lot from other modes of writing is in the audience that it attracts. Published books are usually read by an audience that intends to read about a particular subject. A book reader isn’t likely to pick up a book about a subject that doesn’t interest him or her. On the other hand, a blog reader can easily stumble upon a blog post that challenges his or her opinions as long as the reader has access to the Internet. I think, in this way, blogging affords a bigger and more varied audience to a writer.

The types of audience that blogging affords is a part of what I look forward to in my repurposing essay. For my next essay, I am going to work on repurposing an argumentative paper written as an open letter to my peers. I want to reach out to a bigger audience by writing for an online magazine that has a broader range of audience. I plan to make my article informative and persuasive, and I also expect to get feedback from my readers. I think that in some ways, the article is much like a blog post as I expect it to generate discussion among readers.

Thick Skin Necessary

After a few weeks of regular blogging, I am not sure if my style has really changed all that much. I don’t necessarily think that this is a bad thing, as my understanding of this form of writing is still essentially the same as it was at the commencement of this class. While Andrew Sullivan’s provided me with the challenges of blogging, mainly the high octane nature of the art, it really didn’t cause me to reevaluate the reasons as to why I blog. Although, the more that I invest into blogging, the more I respect those who are able to do this for a living. Obviously I respect the tremendous amount of work that goes into constantly finding the latest story, but the level of scrutiny that bloggers are constantly under is borderline ridiculous. Read More

I did not know how writing about this topic would affect me

and if I had, maybe I would not have chosen to write this. For those of you reading this post who do not know what I am writing, my paper is a legal brief written in support of using the music collection of an alleged rapist as evidence against him in court. I got the idea from a paper I wrote freshman year about rape culture, and from a case I talked about where a perpetrator’s actions mirrored the lyrics of his rap idol, DMX.

I have been having a hard time writing this because at first, I did not have the details of the case, and had to make something up, which is repugnant for a variety of reasons I suppose you can imagine. I looked up more articles, and found many because the perpetrator was recently in the news because he was going to be deported from Britain after his prison sentence but was allowed to stay in the country because of his rights to family and culture or something. Because this happened this year, there were a variety of articles with different levels of information about the original crime.  I finally found one that outlined exactly what happened, and seriously, using the real information would be so much worse than making up a story. The account literally made me cry, as did information I have gathered throughout my researching Michigan’s sexual assault laws, and the controversy surrounding sexual violence in popular music.

As writers, sometimes we distance ourselves from the reality of what we are writing about. I definitely did when I wrote the paper freshman year. This is necessary for crafting an evidence-based argument. However, finding yourself faced with horror, the horrible things people can do to each other, say about each other, use as a defense in court, and be idolized for, it can be difficult to write a balanced, no-nonsense, academic paper. Distance can make for a good paper, but it can also numb the writer to the truth, to the pain of the real people involved, to the insensitivity of trying to write someone else’s horror story for a grade and to the desperate, desperate need for change in the world.

I am going to finish this paper, because even though I am finding that I am far from a lawyer at this point (who knew you should probably know where to find Michigan laws before writing a paper about law?), I want to become one in the future in order to join the fight for change, and to get down into the real world where I cannot distance myself. Distance may provide the cool attitude needed to write eloquently, but proximity gives you the passion to create change. And I am not going to be able to cry if people come to me with their stories and ask to be represented in court. This is difficult, but it is still what I want to do with my life, for better or worse. I have to buckle down and finish, keeping in mind that I cannot become distant to the pain I am writing about, but that I also cannot let proximity keep me from writing something that could help alleviate, in any small way, that pain.

Sitting in a Library with Demi Lovato, Wondering Where It All Went Wrong

Here I sit, writing this blog entry from the Grad Library, listening to Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper” for the umpteenmillionith time. Oh yes, I’m at that level of hopeless.  I think I’m starting to lose my mind…I just paid $3.75 for a bottle of juice. That’s ridiculous. But the bottle says it’s natural, and will help me think better. Lucky for the Naked juice company, I’m a desperate sucker, and it seems to be working.  I predict more over priced juice smoothie beverages to come in the near future.

Naked Juice bottle.
I wish I knew how to quit you. Source: my phone.

Honestly, this paper is bummin’ me out.  I can’t seem to get it right.  When I start, I hate what I’ve written, and I do the worst thing you can do – delete everything on the page. I have little fragments that look like they’re starting to come together, but I’m underwhelmed with my progress, and overburdened by the task at hand (which is totally my fault…writing on zombies? seriously?).  It’s funny, I had the exact same problem with the first iteration of this paper; it was the most difficult writing assignment I had done in college up until now.  I was hoping to know how to navigate my way around it better a second time, but here I am, struggling just as much as I remember. I’m satisfied with my idea, the audience I have in mind, and the sources I’ve got to back up what I want to say. So why can’t I seem to write this damn thing? Why is writing about something interesting always so much harder than it should be?

Fall break is less than a week a way. I’m not a religious person, but hallelujahs are in order. Those two blessed, completely free days are just the thing I’m going to need to get this paper to the level it needs to be, and where I want it to be.  Some extra, uninterrupted time to sit down and write is going to be a vacation. Had I had more time for the paper I’m adapting from for this assignment, I think I’d have felt way better about how it turned out. I feel like I failed this paper the first time I wrote it, even though it got an A.  Somehow, that actually made me feel worse about not having the paper up to my standard.  Here I’d written something I felt completely ashamed of, and somehow managed to get rewarded for it.  And I’m pretty sure this wasn’t a case of the creator being overly critical of his or her own work…the paper was bad. Bad enough to warrant italics and bolding (look at all the emphasis in these last few sentences – I must be tired).

I really don’t want to end up feeling the same way about this paper (though I severely doubt I’d get an A for such a deplorable piece).  I don’t want to feel like I’ve failed myself again, and then have to pick up the remnants of a project that crashed and burned to build something new again. I don’t think I can handle the disappointment in myself again. I know it sounds narcissistic, but I really couldn’t care less right now. I know I don’t want to mess this up again, and the fact that I feel like I am is upsetting me. I hung a poster in my room for just this type of situation this year, and I’ll end on its wisdom, for both the sake of inspiring myself and as a gift to you, fellow writing minor 2011 cohorts. If you spend as disgusting an amount of time on the Interwebz as I do, you’ll propbably recognize the meme as Courage Wolf.

Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it.
Apparently, the quote is from a woman named Ella Williams. I'm disappointed that she was in fact, not a wolf. Source: http://www.memedr.com/images/43-courage-wolf-bite-off-more-than-you-can-chew-then-chew-it.jpg

Happy writing.