Learning More About the Library than About Myself?

I can’t say I’ve ever done a “rabbit hole” process to brainstorm ideas about topics, but it was certainly an interesting experience. I started out looking into my comfortable field of study, English Language and Literature within the Humanities subset. One thing I was particularly drawn to was the Online Journals section. I was completely unaware of the fact that U of M has digital access to nearly 1,000 (for “English Language and Literature” alone) different publications and makes them universally available to students. There was also a pretty impressive section dedicated to books that have been added to the library’s resources.

MRW I go on the library website

I also happened to stumble upon an online exhibit about the significance of colors in mapmaking while poking around the “General and Comparative Literature” section, which actually turned out to be really interesting. Considering I have no background knowledge of mapmaking, it was cool getting to learn about the history of maps and the use of color in making maps.

Thumbs up for maps!

When I finally decided to incorporate another one of my academic interests by searching through International News, I discovered archived PDFs of New York Times issues dating back to THE YEAR 1851 (which I thought was pretty incredible, considering I didn’t even know that the NYT has been around for that long).

This is how excited I would be if Spongebob were the NYT.

Overall, I was a bit confused by this process and didn’t feel like it necessarily inspired me to think of any topics for my work for this class; however, knowing that I have complete access to every existing issue of the New York Times is simultaneously inspiring and terrifying in the context of picking something to write about, particularly if I decide to end up writing in a periodical or magazine format.

The End of an Era

With the amount of time I’ve spent trying to make this portfolio a masterpiece, I have to say that it’s a huge relief to finally be “turning it in.” Time management has definitely not been my strong suit with this project. Before last Thursday, all I really had done was establish the basic structure and upload six or seven blog posts from one of my classes. Fortunately, I took care of all of the reflective writing (except the reflection on the projects) last week; but I still left myself a pretty healthy workload for this past weekend. Or so I thought.

Inspired by another portfolio, I decided to include the first couple paragraphs of all of my writing samples on the portfolio itself and link the remainder of each piece in a Google Doc accessible to all readers. I thought it was going to take forever to upload all of the samples and connect them to their respective Google Docs. But at the beginning of the process, I realized a crucial fact: the hardest part of each piece was already finished. They were already written, so the remaining work laid in the tedium of uploading everything. Once I got it through my head that I really didn’t have to do very much work, it was a lot easier for me to just power through it.

One thing I’m most proud of with my portfolio is the extent to which it represents me without being totally kitschy. I intentionally didn’t use a specific theme, but not having that continuity worried me a bit in terms of my organization. However, when I look back on it now, I’m so glad I didn’t use a theme. The bluntness of my portfolio parallels my straightforward personality and does everything I wanted it to do to represent me.

That being said, thank goodness it’s over. One more thing to check off the to-do list! See you all tomorrow/Friday.

Slash check my portfolio out if you feel so inclined: dylanbaig.wordpress.com

My Blogging Style

Overall, I can’t say my blogging style has changed much over the course of the semester. I try as much as possible to structure blog posts the way I speak out loud (obviously with fewer “like”s and “um”s). I’ve also had to blog for several classes, so at this point I have academic blogging down pretty well.

The most prominent alteration I’ve noticed in the way I blog for this class as opposed to the way I blog for other classes is that this blog involves a lot of self-reflection. For my other classes, the posts were usually based strictly on reading responses or showing off projects to the rest of the class. We definitely do both of those for the Minor in Writing blog, but it takes things a little further than that because of the way we have to reflect on our writing processes (I can honestly say I’ve thought and written about my writing process more in the past three months that I have in the entirety of my life, without question).

However, I can’t say it’s a bad thing that I’ve had to think about the way I write. It’s actually been somewhat enlightening, especially with respect to noting patterns in what I do and revising. So in general, my blogging tone or style hasn’t really changed – it’s more like the content of what I’ve had to blog about has impacted the way I view my own writing process.

Spoon University at the University of Michigan Home Page

Other Writing Things

When I’m not busy working on projects for this class or reading/writing for my 4 English classes, you can find me editing articles for a new online food publication on campus called Spoon University. Spoon got started at U of M earlier this semester, so it’s relatively recent. But for anyone that likes food, reading about food, looking at pictures of food, or making food (or all of the above), this website is for you. You can also read entertaining articles written by your peers (like Hallie Parker, one of our Writing minor friends).

Through working at Spoon, I’ve learned a few things about my own writing, other people’s writing, and writing in general. One thing that was new to me when I started editing was using AP (Associated Press) Style in everything. I had never used AP Style before, so that took a bit of getting used to. But ultimately, the biggest influence it has on the articles I look at is eliminating Oxford commas, writing times as “1 pm,” and watching spellings for food-related words.

I’ve also been able to explore writing as a way to express myself while getting a point across. One of the things I really love about Spoon articles is the relaxed, conversational tone. It makes everything very relatable, easy to read, and (almost always) pretty entertaining. At the same time, one of the things we always talk about during meetings is making our articles meaningful and taking the significance beyond just delicious food. Balancing social relevance/importance with self-expression isn’t necessarily a challenge, but it’s something my fellow Spooners and I have to keep in mind when we’re reading and writing articles.

So if you feel like taking a look, I embedded the link above. Otherwise visit michigan.spoonuniversity.com and look around. (As a side note, I just wrote an article about body image that I’m pretty proud of. So there’s that).

My Take on the Storyboarding Process

I sincerely apologize for blowing up the blog, but I realized today how behind I am on the required blog posts. Therefore, let me offer you my insights on storyboarding.

I’m a very visual thinker, especially when I’m doing projects and things. For the past couple of projects in this class, I’ve had an idea of what I want my projects (Repurposing, Remediating, and the ePortfolio) to LOOK like planned out in my head before I’ve even started doing work on it. For the Repurposing and Remediating projects, where I’ve had almost exclusive creative control, visualizing my final product has helped a lot with planning. But with the ePortfolio, I’m a bit limited by what WordPress has to offer. I originally had an idea in my head of what I wanted my portfolio to look like, but the theme I chose didn’t quite allow me to accommodate my vision.

That being said, the storyboarding process has been both a blessing and a curse. With the ePortfolio storyboard, it was initially very beneficial to sketch out my entire vision and get a general idea of the layout of my portfolio; however, once I got into working with WordPress, I found myself unable to do everything I was envisioning.

For the Repurposing project, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do visually, so drawing everything out helped me get an idea of how I wanted things to look and how I wanted to visually represent my script.

So ultimately, storyboarding has helped me firm up the way I see things and has been relatively helpful with all of the projects we’ve had to do it for.

Codeacademy #techchallenge

To my pleasant surprise, Codeacademy was much less daunting than I expected it would be. I have a bunch of engineer friends, so I have a rough idea of what “coding” is and how tricky it can be. Needless to say, I was terrified going into my first coding lesson (especially because I accidentally clicked the wrong thing, which started me off building a website). Fortunately I found my way to HTML Basics and got started.

I learned all about tags and where to put them, in addition to more advanced (read: not very advanced, but I was proud of myself afterward) things like linking something to a picture. Everything was very step-by-step, which I appreciated, considering all this coding stuff is very new to me.

One thing I especially enjoyed about Codeacademy is that everything is in a gamified format. They give you badges and congratulate you after practically every step. It made me feel like I was doing a lot better than I thought I was. Also, because they take everything so slow, you really feel like you’re learning how to do things and eventually figure out that coding is a lot about repetition and structure.

Screen Shot of Codeacademy exercise
I’m usually more creative than “paragraph paragraph paragraph”

That being said, I recognize that there’s a lot more to coding than I’ve accomplished with HTML Basics. So probs to Margot and Joe and whoever else is planning to code their own ePortfolio. I salute you.

My Portfolio

 

I’m doing my portfolio on WordPress mostly because it’s the platform I’m most comfortable with. I wanted a layout that would allow me to include a background photo as well as a cover-style photo, but that was relatively minimalist when it comes to text and text organization (the theme is called Twenty Eleven, if anyone is interested). I’m including a Welcome page that will contain a reflective summary of the portfolio assignment itself, an About page that I’ll use to introduce myself, pages for each of the three major assignments for this class (Why I Write, Repurposing, and Remediating) and their draft structures, 2-3 writing samples from 5 of my other classes, a host of blog posts from this class and another class where I had to blog, and finally a resumé.

I really liked the idea of putting a resumé on my portfolio and being able to reference it as a source of writing samples in a job interview or a link to be able to give an employee (obviously I’ll make it available to my family and friends as well, but I want to be able to get more use out of it than just show and tell with people close to me).

I’m most excited about looking through all of my old writing samples and potentially adapting things to be more readable online (because let’s be real – who wants to read a six-page paper online?).

At this point, I’m not really struggling to figure anything out in terms of planning or navigation or organization or anything like that. It’s mostly just a matter of writing the introductory information for my writing samples and uploading and adjusting all of my samples. Essentially, I just need to devote time to putting things in the portfolio itself.

Take a look if you want! http://dylanbaig.wordpress.com/

Video Problems #stylechallenge

In our video group today, we talked a lot about transitions and the pros, cons, and logistics of using a b-roll. Transitions have been something that have been on my mind recently with my Remediation project, particularly when I’ve been collecting clips and making animations to illustrate certain concepts. With text, I’ve always been able to easily transition between ideas, using words to get me smoothly from one concept to the next. But with video, there’s not really room to use only words for transitions, considering so much of a video is visual. Therefore, one of the biggest things I’ve learned with regards to transitions in videos is that they don’t necessarily need to make a point, but also you don’t want them to be cheesy or too advanced. This is where the b-roll comes in. A b-roll (which isn’t nearly as dorky as it sounds, even though it always reminds me of Rick Rolling) is a way to transition between clips by using nondescript footage and sometimes voicing over the footage to move smoothly between ideas. For example, one of our group members is using shots of people walking through the Diag as a b-roll to transition between interviews.

Overall, I learned that transitions are key when it comes to making videos because they take the place of text transitions and make the video run smoothly.

GoAnimate #techchallenge

For my Remediating project, I’m making a video in iMovie which (so far) includes clips from YouTube videos and voiceover. However, to break up the clips, I want to include animated diagrams that will illustrate some of the different concepts I’ll be introducing. As I’ve recently discovered, there’s no feature within iMovie that allows you to animate a few simple stick figures (when I say “animation,” I’m not talking Flash-quality – I’m looking for more along the lines of inanimate stick figures that slide in and out of the frame). Therefore, I had to look elsewhere to take care of my animation needs.

First, I Google-searched “creating animations for videos” and stumbled upon a Mashable article that outlined a few different useful (and free!) sites for making animations. I chose GoAnimate mostly because it was first on the list, but also because I had spied it in the Google results for “creating animations for videos.” I signed up for a free account and took a few minutes getting to know the layout of the site. There are a bunch of available themes, including the “stick figure” format that I wanted for my video.

The format of the site is extremely user-friendly. At least it is at first. There’s a very clickable sidebar that allows you to add figures, text, backgrounds, props, sounds, or effects and manage any of those features. However, once it came to animating figures, I had a little bit more trouble. I resorted to individually managing the movements of elements, which took forever but ultimately produced the desired effect.

The GoAnimate toolbar

One negative aspect of GoAnimate is that you need to pay money if you want to make animations that don’t have the GoAnimate watermark behind them (kinda sucks, but whatever). In my personal opinion, the tacky watermark is overshadowed by the fact that you get to alter an animation to be exactly how you want it to. Total creative authority > watermark anyday.

E-Portfolio Storyboard

Initially, I was wary about doing this exercise. I found it productive to do a thought dump on paper when I was brainstorming ideas for my proposal. However, even when I was writing down my preliminary ideas, I was having trouble visualizing the navigational aspects. Once I started drawing the frame of my e-portfolio, I had a much better idea of how I wanted the page itself to look. When we had talk about the ideal aesthetic features to have on an online portfolio, one of the biggest ones that stuck out to me was minimalism. I knew I didn’t want to have a home page that was cluttered with images and brightly colored text. In addition, I had a much better sense of how I wanted my navigation to work after doing portfolio research. But drawing it out on paper was pretty challenging. Now that I have a drawn out, visual idea of what I want to do, I feel much more prepared to execute it online.

Oh boy.
Oh boy.