Challenge Post #3: When to do the time

So, now it begins. Now is the time where I put my money where my mouth is, and start actually creating a podcast series.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the project that I have planned. I am actually looking forward to sitting down with the people I plan to interview, my friends and peers, and hearing their thoughts on competition here at the University of Michigan and how it affected them. Despite the serious topic, I think it will be an overall fun experience, one where I learn more about the culture here at the University of Michigan and where I place myself in it, as an individual and as part of a collective whole.

I’ve also never created a podcast before, so I am really interested in fiddling around with the medium and playing with its capabilities. I think the end product is going to turn out to be something that I am proud of, and will be a phenomenal way to conclude everything that I have learned as a student in the minor in writing program. It will be rewarding and fruitful, I have no doubt about that.

But the research…

Yeah. Not exactly that thrilled about it (Also been re-binging Breaking Bad, so this felt apt).

The thing is, I decided upon this particular project for two reasons: it is a topic that I am very much interested in but have not done much research on, and it is going to be created through a medium that I have never done before. It was the novelty of these two aspects that drew me to decide upon this project, so it makes sense that I should do some research on the subjects. Yet, I don’t want to be bored of podcasts by the time I have to record them; otherwise, then the project loses the flare that drew me in and the ultimate product will be less than stellar in nature.

But we all have to do the time. At the end of the day, there has to be at least a modicum of academic merit with the piece in order to make it substantive, to make it be more meaningful than my own random thoughts and ramblings. The question is how to go learning about podcasts without having my interest in them wane.

To that end, I am going to take a page out of a project I did in the gateway course (I believe it was the repurposing project?), where I decided upon creating a satirical video for a topic that was dear to my heart. With that project, there was certainly an element of research involved with it as well. But rather than bog myself down in the dry literature of television shows and satire, I decided to watch some examples. The next few days I was roaring with laughter from The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight, and jotted down notes of what I found to be captivating with the shows for the script. I did basic research into how to record a video and eventually filmed the piece at the recording station on North Campus. It was only during the editing process of the video that I started to dive into the technical and dry literature of video production and satire. With this method, the passion was still very much a part of the project, and could be seen with the video I recorded. As for the editing, it was done over the course of a few days, so I could have time to distance myself from the dull parts of research and return to it reinvigorated with the initial passion I had.

So I’ll just do that with this project. I’ll listen to a couple of podcasts while walking to class or cleaning the apartment, and scribble down what I find to be fascinating with them. I’ll use the notes I have to craft questions for the interviews and, before I start the more mundane research, interview and record the people for the podcasts. If I do this early enough, then I’ll have plenty of time to go through the less than lively literature on podcasts and still retain the passion I have while editing the project.

Am I pushing off the necessary work and hardship for future me that should probably be done earlier so I can enjoy the rest of my senior year? Probably. But I’d much rather push off the research and have fun starting the project than do the research now and dread my final project for the minor in writing. It’s all about having fun at the end of the day, so let’s have fun throughout the project’s entirety.

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.

Let the research begin!

For my remediation project, I plan to create a fake issue of SHIFT (SHEI’s digital magazine) with the theme of “slow” based off of a research paper I wrote in High School on the Slow Fashion Movement. To begin my research, I started to look for online magazine templates to make sure that it was possible to pursue this idea. It wasn’t easy, but I finally found a template on Lucidpress.com that will work in mimicking an issue of SHIFT. After playing around with the template and exploring the different features it had to offer, I soon became very excited to dive into my deeper research.

When researching this topic three years ago, I did not find an immense amount of information on the Slow Fashion Movement itself. In fact, I struggled to find enough examples of brands and companies that represented slow fashion. But when researching it today, I am having the opposite issue. There are so many articles about this movement and brands that are so-called “doing it right” that I don’t know how to choose!

However, one particular piece of research I came across that I am finding useful is the official Slow Fashioned website. This website most definitely did not exist three years ago and it is giving me great ideas of what I want to include in my issue. The website states the mission of the Slow Fashion Movement and even includes a pledge to “slow down” that individuals can sign. It contains countless interviews from several different designers and companies and links to articles related to slow fashion and its growing popularity.

I plan to continue exploring the official Slow Fashioned website and come up with a list of questions to ask to students at the University of Michigan to further my research and discover how knowledgeable college students are on this topic. I also eventually hope to narrow my research down and pick only a few brands and designers to discuss in my issue!

When your plans have to change

One thing we discussed in class today was the circumstances under which your plans for the project have to change. For me, this change of plans arose with a set of interviews I had intended to conduct as part of my research about people’s attitudes about gender and gender roles. However, after finishing my psychology and history research, I realized that these interviews would be redundant and unnecessary in this section of my project; the larger studies cover the information that these interviews would produce, but on a much larger and more reliable level. In addition, it was noted in workshop that the project focuses too much on me personally, and that some distance would make the project more interesting and engaging. As a result, I decided to cut the interviews out for now.

However, interviews can provide things that research cannot, such as nuance and the ability to interact with or contradict the research. Hopefully the interviews will ultimately be able to provide this, but in a different section of the project. In Ray’s words, I’m hoping this change of plans has a transformative effect, rather than an eliminatory effect.

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.

Separating Self from Character

For the nonfiction portion of my project, my style hasn’t really had to change. I mean, it is significantly less formal in tone than I was in my original essay (maybe too informal at points). But overall it’s my voice coming through in a discussion with the audience as equals. At least, since peer reviews are impending, let’s hope so!

Far more interesting to me was the persona I took on for my first vignette. I decided to write in a bit of a hybrid point of view—3rd person mostly limited with just a dash of stream of consciousness. This blend allows me to highlight the perspective of the main character for this vignette (an arrogant religious tyrant who wants to stymie progress), while still being able to take in the surroundings as a proper narrator should. Also though, I was trying really hard not to fall into a trope for this character (i.e. hoping it’s not too similar to the Lord Ruler (pictured right) in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series).

lord ruler
“deathless despot of a dying dominion”
Art Credit: Inkthinker
Character Credit: Brandon Sanderson

This was my first “college try” foray into serious character writing/development. It was a little strange writing in a point of view so completely different from mine, as if they were my own thoughts. Not to mention in a completely pretentious register. It was more strange when I had a couple friends read it to make sure it came together alright. It’s really easy for me to get caught up with what I thought I wrote rather than what actually transpired on the page, so it’s always good to take a step back and reread/let someone else read.

Research: Different Types of Credibility

Because my topic is so culturally relevant, most of my research is found within “popular” forms of research, such as websites, blogs, TV shows, etc. However, previously published op-ed pieces and articles via The New York Times, Forbes for Women, or The Huffington Post have proven to be useful as well. I have identified that my research comes down to two categories that each have their own form of credibility.

The first category is articles or op-ed pieces that give non-fiction facts, perspectives, and opinions on sexism in the professional workplace today. I find these articles fascinating because they resonate so much with my personal experience as an intern within a start-up tech company. It excites me to find other writers who have as much passion for this topic as I do. I find these pieces usually have strict credibility regarding statistics or facts that can be physically sourced. I am most interested in the scandals that have occurred regarding sexism in the workplace – for example, a prominent female CEO being fired under uncertain circumstances. I am also really interested in articles that pertain to the interest of the employer. Because my audience includes women, men, and employers of companies, I need to have information that engages the latter of the three target audiences – employers. This is probably my toughest audience to reach, especially if they are male employers, and so having data to back up my claims is imperative in my argument.

The second category is personal anecdotes and stories that simply have innate personal credibility. These will include online blogposts or memoirs as well as interviews and surveys I conduct that account men and women’s personal accounts of how sexism has affected their lives. This category of research is especially important to hooking in and engaging the audience. Personal stories speak to any audience no matter their motivation to read the article because it resonates with the human need to connect with others. I am really excited to hear how my peers, professors, or other online sources have been affected by sexism and how this article could potentially make a difference in their lives.

As far as difficulties in my research, I do except some push-back from men that I talk to or people who dismiss sexism in general. I also think it will be tricky to find non-biased evidence of sexism because it is such a personal topic. Regardless, I am very excited to dig into this topic and will accept any challenges along the way.

(re)Searching for Distant Memories

I am trying to write a reflective piece that brings light to major and transformative life events, thus the research needed to conduct this task is not in the form of your standard academic writing research.  Rather, I have found myself contemplating interviews with my parents and siblings, as they have lived through it all with me.  I have also been scavenging through my old Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram posts to collect summaries of rather large events.  Most of my research includes efforts to restore memory.

There is a major roadblock in my research, however.

The problem with memory is that it is malleable.  Between my 5 family members and I, we would be lucky to restore the memory of a historical event to the exact precision of which it happened.  And when it comes to looking at old social media posts, who even knows how much I might have exaggerated the circumstances?

A story changes a little bit every time it is told.  If you tell it many times, how far from the truth can it get?

Similarly, everyone remembers and thus, experiences things a little differently.  For example, when 9/11 happened and I was just 4 years old, my take and experience on that day was a heck of a lot different from my 14 year old sisters.

I have come to this question in my project: Do I want to tell stories as they are skewed by my own memory, recalling things in a way that is through one view, and one set of eyes only? Or would I rather get multiple opinions and open the conversation up with my family, friends, and others to really try to identify the exact existence of an event of my history?  And which of these will leave me with a more touching piece to look back on in 20 or 30 years?

So, you asked “How’s the research coming?”

And I say “It’s coming.”

Image of girl sitting on bench. Text features quote:
I really should have just kept a diary when I was younger.

 

Research in Two Different Worlds

Because half of my project depends on the psychology of decision-making in sports, half of my research has been dependent on sifting through long, somewhat dry, academic research papers. It’s not that they aren’t interesting; it’s just that the layout in which the information is presented isn’t very enthralling. I feel like I’m lucky to have the background knowledge to know how to approach understanding a research paper, or I would feel pretty lost right now. In UROP, I had to read and analyze research papers all the time, including writing abstracts from time to time, so at least I have that part under control.

Picture of laptop and coffee.
This is what my workspace always looks like…except my coffee doesn’t look that fancy. It’s usually in a 20 oz mug instead. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

When it comes to the other half—the part that depends on choosing certain moments or athletes to explore—it’s been pretty fun. I really enjoy pop culture, and a lot of sports moments (like Hail Marys, buzzer beaters, and shootouts) that people love or hate are fairly apparent in pop culture. I’ve been searching Twitter for moments like these because it would be fun to include something more recent. I’ve also just been searching random phrases on Youtube, like “Hail Mary” or “insane shootout,” just to see what comes up. I’m still looking for one or two more moments, so I’m excited to find those and then really bunker down and look into them.

Twitter logo.
Twitter is actually a very, very helpful tool. I can use filters to find exactly what I’m looking for.

Overall, I feel like I’m gaining a great experience from doing research for this project. I picked a genre that allows me to do both formal and informal research and I think that the combination of the two is pretty cool.