Stuck in a Perpetual Feedback Loop

One of the things that really caught my attention when reading about designing our remediation projects in Writer/Designer was their idea of the “Feedback Loop.” I have never been too great at listening to other’s feedback. Chalk it up to a little bit of confidence and way too much stubbornness, but sometimes the ideas inside my head for my work are so sacred I shut all other voices out. I think my distaste for feedback also comes from the lack of effective comments from the dozens of peer editing sessions I’ve had in the past. News flash: “Great work!” is not constructive criticism.

Parks and Rec April Ludgate nightmare
I was the April Ludgate of peer editing.

All bitterness aside, feedback has just not been my cup of tea. But of course, Writing 220 forces me, yet again, out of my comfort zone by having TONS of chances for feedback at every corner; forcing me to not only give feedback, but to receive it with open arms. And I really have learned to love it. I love listening to what my blog group has to say every week through comments and peer review sessions. I love receiving feedback on Canvas for all of my writing assignments I love understanding what others liked about my work and their suggestions for further improvement. It’s all going splendidly.

However, feedback and I are in the beginning stages of our relationship and for some reason we can’t seem to move past that honeymoon phase. Instead of moving forward with the feedback given to me, I love to revel in it and ponder it and keep on revising with it. I am staying within this draft phase of my work; within a perpetual feedback loop. I guess you could say I am a little scared of commitment, scared of moving on to that coveted “final draft” stage.

As far as my remediation project so far, it is going well in the sense that I know what I am doing, but not so well in the sense that I am scared as heck to actually execute this kind of thing. I have never created a well-edited video and I am terrified of the amount of work and late-night hours this project will indeed create. But I am looking forward to pushing myself; challenging myself to go past the feedback, rough draft stage and going for a product that is final and awesome.

Website, Documentary, Point and Click, etc…

Last year in my writing 125 class, we looked at “Writing Spaces”. One of the pieces we looked at specifically was a stunning example of digital rhetoric. Welcome to Pine Point (I recommend you go full screen for this one) is an interactive web-based documentary about the people and town of a former mining community in Canada. Essentially, it discusses a very niche topic. However, the interaction of the viewer clicking to carry through the story, as well as the in depth personal profiles and anecdotes, helps to impact a broader audience.

This multimodal piece employs aural, visual, gestural, linguistic, and (of course) spatial methods to provoke the audience. I had to catch myself from saying “reader” there. Because really, you need all the parts to get the entire message. The audience takes on the role of a reader, a listener, a viewer as well as a concerned bystander, a younger person listening to an elder relative, and a fellow nostalgic.

Pine Point
Galleries on Galleries enveloped in tranquil sound

Now, this is a very specific example, and I noticed a lot of other people had more sweeping examples. To be honest, I’m kind of in love with this platform. It takes a while to get through, but that’s probably one of the points the author/designer was getting at–it’s strange to think of a whole town disappearing and only surviving in memory. That being said, does anyone know of any similar interactive web documentaries? I’d love to check them out.

Twitter is Weird

This may come as a surprise, but I’m pretty anti-social(and yes that’s the joke). Anyway, when I say that I am new to Twitter, that is no understatement. I had actually never been to Twitter before two, maybe three days ago.

Even so it seems pretty straight forward. I think that the only thing that will be slightly hard in this project will be emulating the voice of the characters through the Twitter format. I say character because I’m (stealing Shelley’s idea) of making multiple accounts for different character to make an online tweet war.

Something that I will need to research extensively is how to convert one character that I had in mind, seeing that he is…he’s complicated(racist) . The problem with this will most likely arise from the personifying of his ideas through a public outlet such as Twitter. I intended for him to support different organizations that are not so friendly(hopefully you get the idea), but I need to understand the pros and cons of that. I need to take into account the gain, as well as the possibility that it could horribly backfire. The very last thing I want is for my character to become a hate group’s personal mascot.

In terms of the reading, I don’t think that a story board is the best way to go, so I’ve been doing a mock up. Everything on there seems to point to fluidity in a website, which I am not entirely sure I can do that with Twitter, I still need to play around with it some more. If anything, the format of the site will stay the same, but it’s the content that’s important anyway so that shouldn’t hinder anything. I think that as long as the page is easy to follow by the Twitter standard(which I still need to figure out) it should be ok. Knocks on wood*.

Lets Review The Album Review

 

Online music reviews are a booming business of digital rhetoric, published for all to see and eagerly digest the opinions they enclose. Some of the time, album reviews are able to shed light on which direction the reader should point their ears toward. But mostly, those reading reviews are not perspective listeners but are just curious fans itching to know what critics had to say about their favorite tunes. But why? This was the case when a renowned music publication, Pitchfork, recently reviewed the new album by an obscure band I happen to like very much, Windhand, a femal-fronted doom metal 5 piece from Virginia.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 3.30.12 PM

Here is a link to the review and what the writer had to say about it.

Now I wasn’t reading the review to have it sway my decision to listen to it or not, oh no, you see I had already listened to it a dozen or more times.. respectively lol. So if I had already bought and listened to the record, and very much enjoyed the record, why was I here on this website reading this review from some journalist type who’s opinion, while perfectly warranted I’m sure, effected me almost no way at all?

I’m sure I, and other music fans, read reviews in search of some sort of external validation. Music fans read these album reviews  to investigate whether or not others have found the same enjoyment in a record that they as listeners had also found. As a writer and conveyer of digital rhetoric, the music critic has a unique job of having to communicate their opinion while simultaneously being relatable to the reader. Because if relatability is lost, then the readers identification with the critics opinion is lost, which leads to, “well why do I care about what this guy thinks anyways!!!”

But if identification is made, then the critic’s opinion is valid, and he can keep his job writing for whatever publication will have him, Grayson Haver Currin, I’m watching you.

Well did I identify with this critic then? Luckily I didn’t have to work so hard to find the writer relatable since his positive review of the album aligned with mine, thankfully. Perhaps I have decent taste after all.

 

There are two (or more) sides to every story.

As we continue to be consumers of information and followers of the mass media, it can be difficult to sort through the quality, or not, of the information that digital media hubs continuously provide us with. As defined by famous American writer and statistician Nate Silver, we can often sort the information we receive in our digital world into two distinct categories: “signal” or “noise”.

Signal is in essence a bit of factual information that builds toward knowledge and a real understanding of the ways in which the world operates (i.e. learning about financial markets and their policies signals the ways in which social and fiscal inequities exist throughout the world), usually in an objective context. “Signal” information travels from Point A to Point B, with minimal distortion. “Noise” is information categorized as a deviation from the facts, such as in the role many social media outlets can play in passing information from Point A to Point Z. A lot can be lost in translation when relying on Noise for the facts, as there are an incredible amount of hands in the pot.

All of this being put together, the truth is we live in a world where any individual, given the resources necessary, can create and interject their opinion into a discussion through use of the internet. By definition, lots of this information can be defined as Noise, as there is little to no fact checking when it comes to the processes of posting on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter.

As for why I care about the voice and accuracy of today’s digital rhetoric, in high school I had a few year gig as a YouTube partner, for reviewing video game products. I would post in weekly or bi-weekly intervals most months, and would take pride in providing my honest opinion on the latest and greatest Nintendo products. In all, I love the process of video editing, there’s no single hobby that I care for more. And being able to earn money in exchange for something I love doing really struck a chord for me as a teenager. Overall, my content reached 2.7 million views across five different YouTube networks, and I’m pretty satisfied with a 0.89:1 like:dislike ratio that I hold on my content.

But as with anything, there are two sides to every story.

I cannot stress enough that no one individual is perfectly impartial to bias, and this is particularly true in the video game reviewing industry. By the time I started to receive tens of thousands of views per month on YouTube, I was receiving my games for free, sometimes weeks in advance, by companies interested in having me share their products with my audience. As much as I said I was immune to the bias bug, I don’t think that receiving my games for free hurt my developed image of the product I was reviewing..

And so, was I contributing to the mostly objective set of Signal information, or the largely subjective Noise that the internet provides a constant stream of? 89% of viewers “sided” with me..but what about the 11% who did not meet me eye to eye? You can’t please everyone, sure, but did my digital rhetoric not pursue a worthwhile venture in gaming for these viewers? I guess I’ll never have that answer for sure. All I can say is, when sitting there at my desk recording my reviews, I said it like it was.

Reviews are inherently subjective, I know, but the difference between a good or bad video game is very nearly black, or white. And from where I’m watching now, I ask everyone to be careful about what they read online, particularly given the added financial incentives reviewers have to say positive things…

Quick and Easy Digital Rhetoric

Although I come across digital rhetoric everyday, I found it difficult to think up an example. As I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across something that I look at everyday. On a liked page titled “Tip Hero” exists several short videos of how to make certain foods. I am not interested in cooking at all. I can barely make a grilled cheese without setting the house on fire. However watching these videos everyday is somehow relaxing—and I cannot go a day without it.

How to videos of all kinds have changed the way people do things. The digital rhetoric that is delivered through video can be found to be more effective than just reading something. Providing an active visual and portraying the simplicity makes something like cooking seem so easy. It takes simplicity to a whole new level. From cookbooks, to shows with chefs, like Rachel Ray, now to focused how to videos. The videos are extremely short and provide a brief snap shot of what cooking certain foods is like and how the process should look.

The video of how to make a “Chicken Parm Bake” includes aspects of visual, spatial, linguistic, and spatial modes. There is text in the video to explain certain instructions that cannot be conveyed in the video content. As the video roles, light easygoing music plays. Each segment of video is short and descriptive enough to still be effective. There are gestural components within the video and acting out the making of the dish.

Uses digital rhetoric to highlight and illustrate how to make quick and easy recipes. The old cookbook just doesn’t cut it anymore. With the digital age taking over, being able to “see” the instructions in action is changing the way people cook.
Chicken Parm Bake on Tip Hero

Persisting Through Irrelevancy: A look at Myspace

I was too young to experience the hype surrounding Myspace during the early 2000s. I really only experience myspace through an ironic, joking lens. I actually probably couldn’t tell you the rhetorical purpose of myspace if you asked me right now. Is it a music sharing website? Is is a social networking site? Is it a place to post poetry about the dark spaces in your heart and your Naruto fanart?

I do know that, despite the confusing purpose of myspace, it continues to exist. Not only that, but it is still changing. There are graphic designers working to improve a website that, for the most part, is irrelevant. Why keep changing? Does this change help make poor old myspace hip again?

https://econsultancy.com/blog/2534-myspace-gets-a-revamp/
https://econsultancy.com/blog/2534-myspace-gets-a-revamp/

 

The New Myspace

We can glean a few things from this revamping. It would seem that myspace has clarified its purpose and narrowed its intended audience in recent years, gearing more towards musicians and music listeners. The site also functions more like a blog with social networking capabilities, instead of a site used primarily for social networking.

The evolution of myspace, however underhyped it may be, is a prime example of the flexibility of the digital rhetorical situation. The fluid nature of the Internet allows authors to readjust their purpose and exigence of their project with relative ease. On the flip side, once a project has been branded or established a certain reputation it is incredibly difficult to change/shed that image.

Digital Rhetoric Through a Lens

I noticed that another blogger already used Humans of NY as an example of digital rhetoric they pay attention to each day, but I couldn’t help but post about HONY as well.

I started following HONY on Facebook a few years ago. I would sometimes go on the page and go through 100s of photos, unable to stop. Some people looked ordinary and had extraordinary photos; some looked fairly unusual and led corporate lifestyles. It taught me a great deal about humanity. You never know how much a person has endured, and you most definitely can’t tell on just a surface level.

The photographer behind the campaign, Brandon Stanton, started it for fun, and then it quickly took off. He must have a gift, because he gets strangers to tell their biggest stories. I ultimately ended up ordering his first book for the coffee table, and it was fun to have some of his photos in book form.

HONY is everywhere, with millions of shares on social networks (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), but if you haven’t looked at any of his work yet, I would highly recommend taking a visit to the Facebook page: HONY

Here’s one of my favorite photos:

A boy tells the story of his experience with school.
HONY

 

UPDATE: Shannon made a comment on my blog about how she has an irrational fear that she would have nothing to say if she were to meet him. I definitely sympathize with that. I’m not sure I’m unique in a way that’s good for a short story…but I think the point of HONY is to prove that everyone has a story, so I’m sure he’s good at prompting the person he’s photographing. I also occasionally wonder how many of the photos he takes land on social media. Does he sift through them at night and then not post some of them because others are more interesting? I kind of hope not, because that takes some of the allure of HONY away.

Making my words REAL: Blogging About Remediation

When creating my repurposing project, I came across several things that I thought were interesting to explore in the future [which is upon us].

First, although a blog is a great venue for getting novel thoughts and ideas out into the cybersphere, there’s a certain stigma that blogs have that goes something along the lines of “no matter how credible the blog may seem, it is an unreliable source”. So even though I have tried to incorporate sources and research into my blog articles, they may or may not be regarded by the public as a good source of information. And in talking to my friends about blogs and my project in general (and I should listen to what they have to say seeing that they are my intended audience of college males), most of them don’t read blogs.   They’ll watch TV, go on social media, and even read magazine and newspaper articles. But for the most part they are unfamiliar with blogs, as I was too before I took this class.

So, while creating my repurposing project, I began to look at my work and ask myself how I can condense this information into a format that will be widely accessible, widely read, and contain information on fitness that won’t have to be taken with a grain of salt.

Second, in my blogs I wanted to include a lot of links to other things I’ve read online, and many times I found myself echoing a lot of prior research and articles. I don’t think this is completely a bad thing, because I do want to include the opinions of others. But I also want my blogs to be original and maintain my own voice and flair.

Finally, I don’t want to simply write about how to live a life that will help you stay in shape. I want to help people stay in shape. I don’t want to simply write about motivation. I want to motivate people. When you sit down and read my blog posts, you might feel more informed, have more insight than you did before you read them, or even feel uplifted. But will reading words on a computer screen resonate with you enough to go do something to change your lifestyle? I want to put in videos, music, quotes, social media, images that will drive the message home—this is another issue with my blogs that I’ve been struggling with.

Putting all of this together has been a sort of “mock up” for me. Elements of credibility, accessibility, originality, and relatability all need to be a part of my remediation project. So creating a multimodal design to reflect these elements was a potential challenge.   Fortunately, I realized that all of these elements could be combined in a way that’s already familiar to me.   As I pitched in class, I want my project to be a fitness version of “The Lunch Read”.

Creating a news based fitness email will hopefully be attractive to a college level audience. From the sense I get in talking with other students, I think people enjoy getting emails like “The Lunch Read” sent to them, which have articles already there for them, making news-access easier and more time efficient, which is important for a college student with little time on their hands.   People wanting to stay up-to-date on news will get “The Lunch Read”, and people looking for some current fitness news and weekly motivation will [hopefully] be willing to read my project.

I am struggling with how to create a rough cut/storyboard for this project. Something like putting articles together doesn’t really have much of a rough draft component. But one idea is to create a “rough draft” email for one week, and then based on the feedback I get, I could make a different one entirely for the next week and change things based on criticism.

Many of my peers asked if I was going to include my own articles. If they are relevant, then I would love to! Although for the most part I wanted to put in articles from well-respected magazines and newspapers, so fitting a blog post in there might be a challenge.

Also, I need a catchy name. People have mentioned TheSkimm to me, and other things like this all have creative, catchy names. I’m still brainstorming, but suggestions are definitely appreciated!

 

The Sciences + The Humanities + Comics = ???

The longer I study this debate about how we value fields of study, the more I realize how messy it is. It’s both fascinating and terrifying. The idea of taking my argument and this complex debate about it and fitting it into a series of comic panels that are easy to understand is intimidating. However, through this I hope to make the this debate and my argument more accessible to college students, so that they themselves can start thinking about it and what it means for the their futures and the future of society.

At the moment, I aim to be inspirational and have my comic invoke a sense of wonder and maybe even comfort. My main models come from a web comic I’ve been reading since starting college: Zen Pencils. The artist, Gavin Aung Than, takes quotes of famous people from all sorts of fields and creates comics that embody the quotes line by line. It’s quite beautiful.

HI_RES3
Gavin Aung Than: creator of Zen Pencils, fantastic graphic artist, quote junkie

While I won’t be as artistically ambitious as Gavin, I do like how he presents themes and the tone of the comics.

Here’s my favorite comic: Isaac Asimov: A lifetime of learning

Right now, I am contemplating two ways in which I can creatively compare the humanities and the sciences in my comic.

 

The sciences and humanities as the characters

This would be an interesting take in that it would give more life to the. It would reinforce my view that the fields are fluid and dynamic rather than static. My main concern about this is that while the fields themselves are a great focus, my argument targets the views and misconceptions that people have of them. This still could work though, as long as I keep the misconceptions and real representations distinct.

The sciences and humanities as the landscape

Here, the sciences and the humanities would be part of the setting. I would depict the fields as islands separated by water. I think that this would really get at the idea of these boundaries that we put up between the humanities and the sciences. My metaphor for flexibility would bridges, which would allow people to flow in and out of the islands at their leisure. I would also compare the relationships between the people before and after including the bridges in the story. The disadvantage here would be the limits of the setting. This way of structuring the comic would limit the kinds of things that characters could do and could be a little too abstract of an idea to be applied to important points, like the job market.

There will not only be organizational challenges, but also design challenges. I plan to use Adobe Illustrator, which I have only a little a long time ago. And while I will be drawing things by hand first and then finalizing on the computer, I fear that it might have more difficulty using it than I think I will. I have seen people work with it. Overall all, I think it will be worth it to challenge myself with a new medium, as well as gain a new skill. I will continue to research comic conventions and learn how to use Illustrator, and I will take advantage of the resources the university offers.

 

FullSizeRender (7)
I make stuff sometimes. But with the time I have and the relatively little drawing experience I have, my illustrations won’t be as realistic as this. (Expect more stick figure-esque.)

But for now, I will tackle some to-dos. The first order of business will probably be solidifying my re-purposing and using it to create an outline for my remediation. At the same time, I will keep researching comic conventions and start playing with Illustrator. This will be challenging, but also exciting. I think this could really turn out to be something really awesome.