A Picture Can Mean A Thousand Words. A Comic Strip Can Mean Millions.

Graphic novels & comic books are an interesting genre to explore. A lot of people (probably your parents) probably didn’t see flipping through these ‘picture’ books as ‘really reading’ like textbooks & literature, and that they perceived it as more of a past time than anything. You were having too much fun to really be reading & learning—but that is precisely the value of these graphic texts.

We learned a lot of morals and values through those super-hero comics, or Dr Seuss books, believe it or not. And as children with minimal attention span, being able to want to continue reading and not perceive it as the traditionally tedious ‘reading’ that we usually avoid is HUGE. Visually-saturated text masters the skill of grabbing your reader’s attention.

But with high reward comes high risk. Using visuals—especially if you choose to go completely wordless in your text—requires heavy perspective-taking and empathy-building with the reader to ensure that your metaphorical imagery conveys what you mean to convey. Here are some things to keep in mind as you lay out the story of your visually based adventure:

  • Shock your reader… occasionally. Experiment with using visually complex imagery that may challenge your reader’s predictability for what they expect you to do. Surreal and unreal art, when appropriate, can bring a lot of attention to the reader to an exaggerated feature in your imagery. Just make sure you don’t abuse this too much such that your reader is just left plain-out confused.
Source: http://images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium-large/1-montreux-jazz-festival-keith-haring-.jpg

It’s hard to not get drawn to Keith Haring’s exaggeration of this person’s elongated body. The simple depiction of an uncommon feature draws our attention.

  • Colours tell a story. Especially with black and white graphics, the colours you decide—from hue, brightness, and contrast—can invoke certain feelings and focus the reader’s attention on certain sections of the panel. Colours are a very subtle way to emphasise something with a low likelihood of confusing the reader.
  • Think outside the frame. Change up the spatial mode of the comic strip or organisation of your visuals. Add variance to the gutter (space between each frame) or the size, shape & organisation of the frames themselves. This is a great way to manipulate the reader’s perception of time on a still image (how long or short they read the panel).
Source: http://img09.deviantart.net/ec71/i/2012/289/e/7/unconventional_comic_pg__5_by_stargnome-d5i1wfn.jpg

One of the top image results for ‘unconventional comic’ in a popular search engine. Notice how panels bleed over each other, the dialogue that leaks outside the frames, the vertical organisation of the story progression, and the sizes & shapes of the frames.

  • Perspective-taking is #1. Because you won’t be as explicit in describing a character or setting, you need to empathise with whether a reader would be able to feel and imagine the same things you want them to through your more ambiguous representations.
  • Be very intentional. Like any text, take into close consideration what you are deciding and not deciding to include in your text. Unlike the traditional word-heavy text, though, you have a very small & limited number of panels to communicate your message versus a book’s tens-of-thousands of words. A reader is likely to spend half a minute just staring at one panel, trying to consume all the information, even.
  • Take advantage of visuals. You can now literally draw things of important value to a character or plot development without having to depend on slightly imperfect words. Focus on painting vivid panels, focus on drawing facial & gestural expressions to invoke feeling, etc. You can also better convey movement and action by drawing these in, making a still image come alive. Words should complement your visuals, not be your main focus.
Source: https://i2.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/newsfeed/001/204/462/8b6.jpg

This meme could be our metaphor for substituting heavy text with detailed imagery. Think of it like this: with less vivid visuals, the more you probably will have to explain via text what you want to convey, which just exacerbates the messiness of a panel and a potentially uninteresting paragraph to the reader.


The graphic & visual text genre is a massive genre with many underlying branches. Take a look at just a handful of the many graphics, including Keith Haring’s artistry to understand the importance of art form in graphics.

Keith Haring’s ‘Pop Shop Quad II’ (1988).

Source: www.haring.com/!/art-work/816#.W9OjNmhKiUk.

Consisting of a collection of four of Haring’s ‘Pop Shop II’ art pieces, this collection focuses on displaying an interesting level of surrealism in his art that is frequently seen in all his art pieces in different forms. Haring plays with the limitations of the human body by creating a four-legged figure, a hovering figure, an elongated & highly flexible figure, and two figures combining bodies together. By experimenting with the uncommon and unimaginable, Haring’s simplistic yet signature art styles draw the attention of many who are simply intrigued by this unusualness. The unsettling uncomfortableness with the unreal is visually attractive. Often times, these pieces also only include one figure (or one conjoined figure), showing that it is important to not create an information overload with too many moving parts in the visuals that may confuse the reader.

Keith Haring’s ‘Retrospect’ (1989).

Source: www.haring.com/!/art-work/822#.W9OiS2hKiUk.

This large collection of Haring’s works throughout his career as an artist displays the numerous techniques he uses to distinguish his artistry. He frequently includes straightforward pictures with a single anomaly to attract the viewer’s eyes (i.e. two figures in the portrait, except one of the figures is looped inside the other figure’s body that has a gaping hole in it). Haring’s simplistic yet bright colours also make the imagery easy to understand despite the surrealism, which is important when trying to ensure complex imagery is still easy to consume. Another interesting concept that Haring uses is his motion lines that help to show movement in the visual, such as a moving joint or limb. This is also highly significant for static imagery, since this allows us to convey moving parts to communicate a mini-story as the figure moves.

Frans Masereel’s 25 Images of a Man’s Passion (1918).

This popular wordless graphic novel exhibits the significance of choice in including certain imagery in each frame. For instance, some may include a highly simplistic illustration of only an individual supported by a black or white background, whereas others may include many individuals or objects in the portrait to explain relativeness or a de-focus on the subject and instead the environment & setting. With limited space to convey explicit detail and movement, attention is drawn to facial expressions and the gestural mode to show action. Black and white colours also allow Masereel to contrast the darkness versus light, which allow him to play with many emotions that this may connotate.

Frans Masereel’s The City (1972).

Similar to Masereel’s other pieces, he uses his black and white visuals to develop a story without linguistics. The City especially emphasises Masereel’s usage of intricate details and create a highly detailed environment for the reader to immerse themselves in. Instead of construing story and character information through many frames, Masereel creates complex visuals that allow the reader to get a highly detailed understanding of the context solely through one or two frames. This showcases the value of providing enough information, especially with a short comic strip, to quickly develop a meaningful plot without losing the reader’s interest.

Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (2000).

Persepolis is a graphic autobiography that describes a young child’s development to adulthood whilst in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. The black-and-white visuals effectively complement the text to communicate a fluent narrative that allows the reader to directly engage in the text through visualization. The colour choices in which sections were either black or white help to communicate ‘dark’ and ‘light’ in terms of what could be considered ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Satrapi’s mastery of colour draws focus and invokes feelings, crucial for any visually-heavy text. Additionally, the spatial organisation and size of the comic frames alter the reader’s sense of time in consuming the text and order (or lack of order) of reading it.






For me this project started out slow. I honestly didn’t know where I was going to go with the topic on bilingualism and at one point I didn’t think that I should stick with it Now, i’m at the interview stage of my project and I must say I’ve learned a lot about my bilingual friends. Some of their experiences of being bilingual are very synonymous to my experiences on bilingualism and some aren’t.

Recent break throughs:

  • emailed more people to interview (thanks T for asking around. You’re amazing)
  • i’m interviewing Fatima soon. Wooo!!
  • started typing up the interview transcripts
  • started outlining how my platform will look like

I think that as of now my only concern is trying to get enough people to interview. I plan on having about 6 t0 8 people to interview and so far I’ve only interviewed 3 people.

looking forward i hope to start creating my platform to present my project on. I can’t wait!!

i feel like everyone had a picture on their blog post so i think i’m going to follow suit and leave this here:     




The worst part about being a visionary is having too many visions. Too many ideas, too many hopes, not enough time. When I began this project I envisioned a small site, but as time went on I realized that my community needed so much more. I started to feel as though I would be failing my peers and those who will come after us if I didn’t put forth all of the knowledge and experience that I have. However, with that feeling came great responsibility and at this point in the project I think that it’s time to go at my draft with a big, red, ballpoint pen (it’s actually not a pen, it’s just the strikeout feature on Google Docs) and decide what should stay and what should go.

As we workshopped today I got so much great input on the wonderful places this project could go, but I also sought out input on what things should be eliminated to ensure that the project is as practical and useful as possible. Just from hearing people’s excitement about the video portion of the project, I was able to decide that I would like for this part to take a “front seat” and be a part of the project that the viewers see very early on. I think that I have a voice and perspective that will captivate my audience. As I reflect on today’s workshop and think about the things that I want to see in the project I think about young Sydni. What would freshman Sydni want? What questions did freshman Sydni go wrong? What does Freshman Sydni want to save the mini-Sydnis from?

The truth is, freshman Sydni needed guidance and direction and she needed it from someone who she could trust to lead her in the right direction. She needed someone to instill confidence and power in her so that when the journey got difficult her, her believe in her purpose would’ve waver. This is what I want to give to my audience. I want make this project more intimate than I previously envisioned, allowing the watchers to get to know me for who I am. My hope is that after hearing about my struggles and the struggles of those around me, they will be inspired to continue their journey!

I also received another piece of great advice: to consider taking out things that are not specific to the pre-medical community. This is an idea that I am greatly struggling with because I fear that doing so will exclude a large chunk of my audience seeing as the resources that are specific to pre-medical students (AMCAS, MCAT, application process) may not be as relevant to underclassman (because they likely aren’t thinking about these things yet). However, on the other hand I think that would make the project similar to one of my models, the Career Center’s Med App Ctools page, because although the information may not apply to everyone, it would encourage underclassman to look ahead to the future.  What do you guys think about this?




Read this to learn how to make a million dollars TODAY



But now that you’re here, I guess you have no choice but to read about my struggles so far in writing my novella for capstone. Darn!

My first struggle is that the middle of my manuscript has no plot. That’s because I had such a clear idea of what I wanted in the beginning and end of the novella. And now, I’m stuck in the middle.


I’m too ashamed to workshop what I have so far, mainly because I think it’s so cheesy that it’s not yet worthy of your minor-in-writing eyes. I know we’ve all felt that, so feel free to mentally snap in commiseration.

Image result for snap gif poetry applause

What I realized would be helpful is if I wrote out a summary of my novella so far. That way, everyone in class will at least know what’s happening each time I bring in my 35-page draft, and I will no longer be forced into an awkward state of dishing out vague, unhelpful descriptions.

Zach got me thinking more about what kind of character I want Death to be, which is awesome, because I’m not sure yet myself. Also, Sydney got me thinking about what illustration I’ll have on the cover, which is also awesome, because I’m also not sure yet. Note to self: think about these things later.

I’m going to be honest; I’m struggling to make this blog post longer. I think it’s because I always hated blogging, so I’m trying to get better at it. So I’m going to tell you about my Halloween costume.

I’m going to be Princess Jasmine, because the live-action for Aladdin is coming out this summer (which, if you haven’t seen the trailer, what are you doing still reading this?!
Go watch it-bye: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9g5knnlF7Zo).

My boyfriend is going to be Aladdin, but we’re struggling to find him a stuffed animal monkey to borrow for his costume. Every Aladdin needs an Abu, so if you have an Abu you would like to donate to me for a day, I promise I’ll take good care of it (seriously, my email is fshaidar@umich.edu, help a girl out):

Image result for funny abu aladdin

So many things to think about, so much more to write. Even though the draft was due yesterday.

Good luck everyone!

How is this already my 4th blog post?

Retrieved from https://thefinancialbrand.com/29263/bank-credit-union-outdoor-billboards-reviewed/

When I started developing this project I had a very clear vision: it would be divided into 3 parts (my intro, works I’ve used as inspiration, and my own work) and that would be it. But, as with pretty much everything in life, thing’s didn’t quite go as planned.

I started writing my introductory piece, but something felt off. I realized that in order to talk about the things I had outlined, I actually had to go back further – I couldn’t just talk about writing commercial storylines on long car rides without talking about the ad that ever inspired me to start writing them in the first place, and I definitely couldn’t talk about the significance of that ad in my life without giving deeper context. In short, I ended up writing a lot more than I expected.

Even more surprising, this project, which was originally pretty straight forward and relatively dry, has completely taken a new form. Rather than having three distinct yet related parts, I think I’m going to write one long personal essay in which all of the elements I wanted to touch on flow into each other. I’m still going to include a section which showcases my work, but I’ve realized that I want to put a greater emphasis on this personal essay.

I really have to thank Eva for this revelation; she shared her course pack with me from a previous writing class, and suggested I read a work called “Confluences.” I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of the author’s writing, and was inspired to rewrite my original piece. While my first draft was fairly dry and filled with cliches — something I’m really striving to overcome in my writing — my second draft is a piece I am much more proud of. Although it’s unfinished, I feel reinvigorated about my project, and am excited to see where it goes as I read more works from the course pack. Thank you again, Eva.

Additionally, I have to thank Sydni for her advice today because she helped me imagine what my final site will actually look like. The issue with my project, since I’m only planning to write out the storylines rather than produce them, is that there aren’t a ton of opportunities for me to include pictures or artwork. I am planning to imbed the video that inspired me to start writing, and I’m going to hyperlink any other videos I mention as well, but beyond that I was worried my page would seem pretty bland. Sydni suggested, however, that I include images of my work over the years. Even if these are pictures of abandoned projects or scribbled notes, it would be interesting to see my progression over time, and would provide the visual element I feared I would lack.

Beyond that, I don’t really have any more updates, but I’m interested to see how my project continues to change over the next couple of weeks.

P.S. I know the images I’ve been including in these posts may seem random, but I’ve just picked a couple of the ones I’ve stumbled upon through my research that I thought were interesting, so hopefully you guys appreciate them too.

A very rough cut

I’ve found that my unedited podcasts are a mess of tangents, mistakes, and attempting to figure out what Hanna and I are going to talk about next. So, deep in editing I don’t feel like I can see the big picture anymore–and didn’t feel prepared to constructively discuss what i’ve been working on and where i’m going next. The most useful parts of our meetings today was hearing about and feeling excited about Natalie and Brynn’s projects.

The rough cut for episode 2 is a mess, but the rough cut for episode 1 is much more workable and I would say is moving along nicely. I’ve been listening to a lot of other podcasts looking for a breakthrough (or maybe just excusing my own procrastination).


  1. The Daily
  2. Criminal
  3. Nancy
  4. A Piece of Work
  5. Song Exploder
  6. This American Life
  7. AND too many more to count…

photo sourced from: http://blog.leithbmw.com/make-roads-trips-bearable-with-podcasts/

But back to the episodes/my work…I’m trying to decide if our recording of episode 2 is worth salvaging or if we should give up and re-record it. Hanna and I are going to be recording episode 3 on Sunday, November 4th, so hopefully that episode is more cohesive and requires less editing! I’m thinking we might look at art books together during episode 3 and that might be helpful for grounding it a little more than our outline did in episode 2. I also think that our start and stop approach in recoding episode 2 caused more problems than it fixed. This might be a terrible idea, but I was exhausted when we recorded episode 2 and I’m considering drinking a bunch of coffee beforehand? My only concern is that I don’t want to end up so jittery that I talk too fast (although it would be fun to acknowledge my over-caffeinated state and I get really happy when i’m caffeinated haha).

picking a font is difficult

Over the past two weeks, Mia the turtle has gone from trying to clean up mud off of her floor to filtering through investor profiles for the perfect business partner. Today, I had the opportunity to speak with Eva and Zach to figure out how I can make this journey insightful for Mia and (hopefully) her future fans.

One of these developments was the use of different colors and styles of fonts to indicate vocabulary words or dialogue between individuals. I wanted to help definitions stand out on the page so readers could refer to the back of the book for further explanation. For example, the term patent might be explained briefly in a dialogue between Mia and the investment banker, Heather, but it would be discussed with more examples and specific in a glossary at the end.

However, I felt that simply bolding the term would remind students of their textbooks and make reading less enjoyable. So, based upon Geronimo Stilton (below) I will be using fun, descriptive fonts to introduce each new term.

The use of changing fonts can also help in explaining the dialogue between a few individuals, as each person will speak with their own color or font style (TBD which one will be used to define the speaker). Students can know who is speaking whether it is explicitly stated before or after the quotation, or skim a page to understand the main contributors in a conversation.

Image result for piece of writing geronimo stilton

I plan to have the complete draft finished by the end of the week (I am about 2/3 the way there), and then begin going back through to simplify language, create consistency in each character’s voice and add in the fun changes in font / color. After that, I will start finalizing the character drawings and scanning them into the draft.

My main concern is the drawings themselves. I find that as my story gets more complicated, there is greater need for illustrations which I might not be able to do perfectly. I might have to sacrifice some of the details on my characters so more obscure drawings (like the invention itself) do not seem out of place. I also need to figure out how / if I will still be adding backgrounds to each drawing as this might prove too time consuming.

One of my model texts, Mochi Queen, uses a style similar to how I draw cartoons right now, adding a little bit of shading to the brief illustration of what is happening instead of painting an entire background. Her art is seen below.


Image result for drawings mochi queen

I’ve Fallen In Love With My Teacher!

Yes, it’s true.

I’ve fallen madly in love.

I didn’t believe it at first. I couldn’t.

But here I am, entralled.

Who, might you ask?

Well, isn’t it obvious?

The one. The only.


That’s right.  Filip.

Who is Filip?  Filip is the video instructor on a few courses on DataCamp.com, a website I’ve recently subscribed to in order to learn more advanced R for my website and career.  He’s been there for me when I didn’t know the answer, he’s been there for me when I did.  And most importantly?  He’s been there when no one else was.

Oh, Filip


His charm, his wit, his DataCamp fitted polo T-shirt…

(NOTE:  I will not admit to stalking his linkedin.  How would I even find him?  It’s not like I know his name is Filip Schouwenaars…)

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To Whom It May Concern

Dear Whoever Is Thinking About Writing An Open Letter,

What’s on your mind?

I know that you’re probably confused about where to begin. This is something that is most likely new to you, so for that, I say hello and welcome! Personally, I have found that open letters are a wonderful way to express your feelings about a particular situation, most prominently ones that address a controversial or prominent issue in your life. Although they seem relatively straightforward, open letters are complex and are crafted with a great deal of thought and stylistic choices. Let me touch upon a few examples that I used to research this therapeutic genre:

An Open Letter…About Open Letters

I used this Inception-like piece to really focus on the genre content for open letters. In this open letter, Linton Weeks discusses the idea of how open letters have become, “the victim of its own success.” He says that calling something an open letter has become redundant due to the way our thoughts have become public over the years via social media. He explores this topic by hitting three main points: famous open letters, the history of open letters, and the skeptical questions on open letters. Using an open letter to discuss the topic of open letters invites the audience to truly think about the genre’s purpose and ability.

An Open Letter To Male Leaders In A #MeToo World

Henna Inam uses her open leaders to express her hopes and frustrations towards male leaders existing within our society and make a direct call to action. To get her feelings across, Inam makes direct requests to these men asking them to do specific things and to act in a specific way. She tells them to think about the women in their lives and to reach out to them to truly understand how they feel in our current day and age. This is what separates this open letter from the rest – instead of just talking to a specific person/group of people, Inam is engaging them by giving them instruction that reflects what she wants to see change. Even though I was not the direct audience she was targeting, it felt very effective and even made me want to reach out to the powerful men in my life (which really should not be my job, but seems as though it is).

An Open Letter To Harvey Weinstein

Tiffany Quay Tyson uses her open letter primarily to share the absolute disgust she feels towards Harvey Weinstein. To do this, she writes her letter with the intention of trying to get to know what Weinstein is thinking and why he did the things he did. She does this by talking through the different things that Weinstein and his team have said to try to excuse his action, addressing and attacking each point with a sense of sarcasm and rage. Tyson’s letter is unique in these two aspects – every single line is a criticism of Weinstein’s behaviors, and these criticisms shape the letter and create less of a call to action and more of a statement of what many women have been thinking and feeling.

All three of these open letters seemingly have very different intentions, which I find is one of the most values of the open letter. This leads me to my first tip on how to write one of these bad boys:

  1. Think about the impact you are trying to make. What are your intentions?

When I first wrote that rule, I originally wrote: “know what you want to say.” However, I do not think that wording is super appropriate because it’s okay to write an open letter when you are confused or conflicted about what to think or say. They’re a way to express these feelings of struggle, but the most important part is to have an idea of how it is you are trying to make people feel, what the takeaway should be. In order to accomplish this, you’re going to have to connect with your audience, which leads me to my next tip:

2. Ask questions

Is this something that you see a lot in day-to-day writing? What impact does it have on you? This was something that all of the open letters that I read had in common that I found to do the best job in pulling me in and getting me to really think about what the author was saying. An open letter is considered “open” because it is supposed to be relatable for many people and reach an audience in a public sphere.

3. Know your audience

Open letters tend to begin with “Dear (insert target audience here)” and while this oftentimes would seem like a bit of a cop-out in addressing an audience, it is important for open letters to be direct in stating who they are really trying to reach, although this does not limit who could still be impacted by the letter.

4. Play with tone

Depending on the topic, open letters can be written in a serious voice, a funny voice, both, or in between. This comes back to knowing your audience – tone can differ depending on your audience or depending on the message you are trying to get across. Tiffany Quay Tyson seemed furious in her letter to Harvey Weinstein but was able to use her sarcastic, sassy voice to emphasize her point even more. This leads me to my final tip…

5. Don’t be afraid to try something different. If you’re generally a calm person, write a letter about something that makes you angry. Write a love letter to your guilty pleasure. Step outside of your comfort zone, it will be worth it.

I hope that you have gotten something from this letter. I know that it may seem difficult, but with enough practice and patience, I know that you will be able to write a stellar and impactful open letter. You got this.


A student just trying to figure it out


How to: Make an Infographic

We all know what an infographic is – they are plastered all over our social media feeds and are featured as resources on websites.

infographic – (noun) a visual image such as a chart or diagram used to represent information.

Again, you already knew that. Infographics are everywhere.

What makes infographics so popular among content creators? Ultimately, infographics make complex data more accessible to non-experts, increasing awareness into topics that might seem insurmountable otherwise.  There is something about the way an infographic conveys content that holds people’s attention and keeps it. Infographics correlate with significantly higher content engagement compared to blocks of text. Now, it’s time for you to create your own! 

How to: Create an Infographic

Step 1 – Identify a topic that your target audience will be interested in.

This is just like how nobody can “write in general” – you need to have a purpose! To create a killer infographic, the first step is to come up with an original infographic idea. How do you do that? Well, you figure out what your audience wants.

One mistake that is commonly cited when creating an infographic is that people try to choose something that is generically popular rather than specifically relevant to their audience. Which is fine! But, keep in mind that the more popular a topic is, the more content is being created in that area. You might have a better shot creating a specific infographic for a specific demographic, and letting it play out from there.


Step 2 – Simplicity is key.

Another thing I learned wading through infographics online was that you can usually always tell when an infographic is made by a beginner. Sometimes, beginners try to load their infographic with tons of information in an effort to translate their data into visual form. Instead of being informative, their infographic becomes intimidating.


“Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities among Communities of Color Compared to Non-Hispanic Whites.” Families USA. September 22, 2014. Accessed October 21, 2018. https://familiesusa.org/health-disparities.

This infographic, published by Families USA, does a really great job of illustrating this point. It breaks down health disparity statistics among racial groups using a very clear and well-organized design. The simplicity of this infographic is key: it is used as a supplement to draw the reader in, and then transition to more text heavy resources later on the website page


Step 3 – Keep it visual.

Use the strengths of the medium in your favor! One of the best parts about an infographic is the freedom to play around with fonts, layouts, colors, spacing, and icons. This is something I had a lot of trouble with when creating my infographic – I could not for the life of me stop writing. Instead of focusing on relaying my data through visuals like charts and graphs, my first instinct was always words. I worked like I was creating a summary of data for an essay instead of an infographic, which made my infographic clunky and visually unappealing.

“LinkedIn – A Well-Balanced Blog.” Column Five. Accessed October 21, 2018. https://www.columnfivemedia.com/work-items/infographic-a-well-balanced-blog.


This infographic was created by LinkedIn’s marketing team to assist bloggers in creating content that has high engagement, especially in a time where there is high content saturation. My favorite part of this infographic is that, instead of providing a list outlining when to post certain types of blog content, LinkedIn uses a visual metaphor to present the information. This makes the subject matter significantly more exciting and eye-catching.


The conventions of infographics are hard to pin down. The foundational terms of a good infographic seem to be simplicity and originality (like most things). Because infographics get significantly higher engagement on social media compared to good ol’ text, we run into them a lot more often than we do academic papers. Infographics have a more casual, approachable tone compared to a block of statistical percentages in text form. I think the fact that they are so much more accessible is a chance to take information from academia and transition it to more general consumption.