Love/Hate Relationships

I have a love/hate relationship with blog posts. Love because I enjoy the casualness of it all. I don’t have to use perfect grammar or impressive vocabulary—I can just put some words down on paper and that will normally suffice. Hate because I rarely know what to write about. Do I write about something that interests me, that I want to learn more about? Or do I write about something that other people will care about? Do I write about something deep and meaningful? Or something light and funny, in (failed) attempts to make people laugh? Mine have been a mix I think.

Love/hate relationship aside, It’s so crazy that this will be my last blog post. I waited to write it until today because I wanted it to be the last piece of schoolwork I completed at the University of Michigan. I have turned in all my papers and taken all my finals—the only thing left to do now is graduate.

I’m keeping this post short because if you have the time to read something long, I’d rather you look at my portfolio. Through a few quotes and brief explanations, it aims to convey who I am and what I care about. Here’s the link:

I also had a love/hate relationship with my portfolio. I really did love doing the research for it– learning more about capital punishment, about African American representatives, about Rebecca Solnit. I did not love using illustrator. If I had to do it all over again, I’d pick an interface that’s a little more user friendly. I also did not love how much I cared. I know it’s good to care, but it made me spend time on the littlest things: 45 minutes just to decide if I should center a title or put it to the side, an hour making sure all my spacing looked good. In the end thought, definitely more love than hate; I created a website I’m proud of.

On Being Almost Done

I know I’m required to write a blog post at the end the class, but I figured I should get a few thoughts down before that. In that final post (for class, not ever), I’ll write about “the journey”—the ups and downs, what I’m proud of and what I hate—or maybe something less cliché. Today, I just want to write about my Writing 420 class.

Collaboration is not a novel word to most University of Michigan students. I know personally, I’ve heard it in classes ranging from psychology and organizational studies to economics and statistics. I know that collaboration involves working with other people, and the end goal is presumably to improve or create work product. Collaboration sounds relatively simple, and even beneficial in theory, but what about in practice?

Well I think it depends. On the one hand, working with other people can breed new ideas. On the other, it can cause conflict, awkwardness, and as I’ve witnessed, occasionally tears. My experience tends to be with the latter (the negative in general, not the tears).  But not in Writing 420. I have never seen collaboration so concretely in action, never fully understood its benefits, until this class.

Each student at that long table in our North Quad classroom wants their classmates to succeed. We critique each other, compliment each other, and always provide ideas to supplement those critiques and compliments. If it weren’t for my classmates, this is a brief summary of how my portfolio would look (this will really only make sense to those of you who have seen it, I apologize for that and will hyperlink to my final project when it is completed): a confusing, meaningless homepage, an about page misleadingly titled “About me,” the presence of Wix website pages that I intended to be hidden, and no project. Without the help of a classmate, I literally would not have a project. My Map that I have spent days tweaking, hours moving little boxes to align the various aspects, could never have existed without collaboration.

So, I wanted to thank my classmates for their collaboration, for providing me with the tools to create a project I can be proud of. I hope all Minor in Writing students get so lucky.

Learning for Learning’s Sake

To those who know me, my Capstone project will say a lot, but not a lot of anything new. My family and friends know about my interest in the death penalty; they know what it stems from and they understand why its so fitting to who I am. To those who don’t know me, my Capstone serves as a representation- though a subtle one- of my identity. Despite its very specific, and seemingly un-personal, topic, I hope my capstone will encapsulate me better than any “about me” page I could come up with: my love of law, my belief that people deserve second chances, my morality that tells me why the death penalty is wrong, my rationality that tell me why it doesn’t make sense. My desire to both learn- from those more knowledgeable- and my desire to inform those who wish to learn more. My passion for learning about and arguing against the death penalty is a part of my identity- as much as my gender and values and religion may be- because it represents something that I care deeply about.

I love to learn- that’s another part of my identity. I don’t know how well I’ll be able to actually show how much I love to learn in my project, but I think my journey to complete the project will satisfy that desire. I’ve already s spoken to one UM law/psychology professor. She was older, and brilliant. She was captivated by my desire to learn for the sake of learning, so she talked for an hour- and I listened. I was captivated by her- by her beliefs and her ability to articulate those beliefs, by her dedication to sharing her knowledge with others. She talked about race. She talked about money. She mentioned abortion. Some aspects of our conversation pertained to capital punishment, some had absolutely nothing to do with it. At the end, she asked for my resume- she wanted to forward it along to the director of the Death Penalty Information Center (I had a little celebration to myself immediately after this).

I’ll let the resume bring me into my social media presence (while my resume is not at all social media, I think it constitutes media). I’m not really using social media anywhere in my capstone- which is intentional. I don’t like my social media accounts. I have a Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest (not really into Twitter). My Facebook and Instagram really just show pictures of my and my friends- nothing too exciting.  I do have a lot of followers, I think I’m at around 1,200 on instagram, and while I don’t fully understand why (my Instagram really isn’t special), I do think it’ll help me. Maybe it’ll show employers that I have a lot of connections? I’m still figuring it out. The purpose of my social media accounts has more to do with me wanting a place to keep all of my pictures and moments, than it does with me displaying my identity.

I thought I’d add my change to Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” I did it quickly, and poetry has never been my specialty, but I hope it will at least be somewhat entertaining:

I work myself, and teach myself,

And what I learn you shall learn,

For all knowledge belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I study and instruct my soul,

I marvel and wonder at my ease observing a professor in her element.

My mind, every atom of my brain, form’d from this place, this education,

Fostered here of information fostered here from information the same, and

information the same,

I, now twenty-two years old in process of learning begin,

Planning to cease not till death.

Emails and Philosophy

Hi everyone! Beginning with the basics: I’m Emily Kaplan and I’m from right outside Chicago. This is my last semester and I am not at all excited to graduate, but hoping to work in some law-related position for a year or two before I attempt law school. I love watching movies and reading, in particular when the stories involve crime. In terms of my writing experience, I actually have not had many opportunities to write outside of school; I’m not part of a newspaper and I don’t write for any online site. For me, writing had always been a nice break from scantron tests and blue books, but it was contained in a school setting– until I had to start looking for jobs.

Email has become an unavoidable part of my life. I have always used it as a medium to contact teachers, but it has now transformed into a first impression; it is how I meet potential employers. When I write emails, I focus on keeping them short and succinct- tell the recipient everything they need to know with no extra words. I’ll start by introducing myself, then get straight to the point. It normally sounds a little something like this: “My name is Emily Kaplan and I am a senior majoring in Organizational studies at the University of Michigan with a double minor in writing and criminal justice. I am writing because…”

How I start emails is actually quite similar to how I begin a philosophy paper, the other medium of writing that I want to focus on.  Unlike with English papers, where the goal is to show the reader where you’re going through your thesis, in a philosophy paper the writer must tell the audience exactly what he/she plans to prove. Last semester I took a philosophy class called Law and Society and wrote a paper about the regulation of freedom of expression. After defining a few key terms, I introduced my paper:

In this paper, I will argue that the occurrences at the University of Greater Discord, despite a lack of spoken words, also   constitute speech under the First Amendment and consequently, that Mill would hold they too should be protected by the First Amendment. I then engage with other philosophers’ views on regulation of speech, specifically Feinberg and Scanlon, outlining why they may argue the incidents under review at the University of Greater Discord, are exceptions and thus should not be protected. Finally, in light of this discussion, I will argue that the University of Greater Discord should regulate students’ speech when it impedes other students from feeling safe at school.

Just like with my email, I tell the reader exactly what I plan to do. Unlike in my email, this introduction takes up six lines. The major difference between writing for philosophy and composing emails is the extent to which the writer is free to elaborate. In an email, I give only basic details, with hopes to schedule a phone call or in-person meeting to delve further into my background. When writing a philosophy paper, on the other hand, I write absolutely every single thing that I can think to write on a topic. I ask myself “why” after every point, both in my head and in the actual paper, and then proceed to record the answer. This allows my readers to observe my train of thought, an opportunity not provided by my typical email.


Pattern of Proving Myself Wrong

The words that come to mind when I think about the ePortfolio process:

Tedious        Frustrating         Help         Gratifying         Confusing         Proud

There are definitely more, but those are the first I thought about.

I can’t believe we just finished our ePortfolios. Looking back to the start of the semester, I remember chuckling to myself about the mere thought of creating a website; there was no chance! Well, as I’ve done more than once in this class, I proved myself wrong…

 What I’m happy with: The final product. I know that sounds boring, and a little bit obvious, but it really is what I’m happy about. I kind of anticipated finishing this project thinking, okay it’s done. Now I can hide it, pretend like it never happened, and move on. Well I am thrilled to announce that that is not how I feel. Despite the kind of bizarre theme, I actually want to show the portfolio to people. I think it really encapsulates me, my experience in the minor, and why I write.

What I still want to work on: Considering it’s due in 18 minutes, I’m a little late on this question. But for argument’s sake, let’s pretend the project isn’t due yet. I think I would first play around with layout. While I like that “The Writing Trial” is simple, I feel like I could have figured out a way to make it less boring.

What the process was like: In a word, tedious. I am a perfectionist so ensuring that every single button and every single text box lined up was not an easy feat.

 How well did you achieve your purpose in presenting yourself as a writer: Hopefully, well. I tried to organize the portfolio in a way that the entire website would lead up to discovering why I write (to accomplish my goals, to eventually practice law, etc.) Looking back over it now, I think I did a pretty good job. But this is the link to my ePortfolio, The Writing Trial, so you can judge for yourselves!

Advice for your pre-minor self

Welcome to the Writing Minor! Congrats on getting in and get ready for a lonnnnng ride of writing. The gateway course to the minor in writing is challenging and liberating. It will push you to try new things (like make an ad campaign on iMovie or create a personal website) while giving you the freedom to write about essentially whatever you want. I have compiled some words of advice I wish I had going into the minor: read and enjoy the journey you’re about to embark on!

1. When you talk about why you write (which you will do, often) be honest. Don’t worry if it’s different from everyone else. Everyone writes for different reasons. You don’t need to love writing, you don’t even need to like it. But if you are here in the writing minor, you must have some connection to it. What is it?

2. Speak up in class. Everyone is nice. Everyone wants to hear your ideas. Don’t be shy.

3. When you go to repurpose a project (it will make more sense later, I promise) pick a topic you care about. You’ll be working with the topic for more or less the rest of the semester. You do NOT want to get stuck with a topic you don’t like/is boring just because you thought it would be easy to write about.

4. Get to know the people in your class. They are your sounding board. If you don’t understand an assignment, ask someone. If you’re freaking out about something you haven’t started that’s due in an hour, vent to someone. Don’t worry if you went in with no friends in the cohort, you will leave with plenty.

5. Finally, take advantage of the opportunity you have to write about essentially anything. There are next to no restrictions in the gateway course. You can write about anything in any way that you want. You can blog, write a research paper, make a movie. Just do something new and something interesting. You won’t always have this chance, don’t let it pass you by.

Good luck, and have fun!




Finally figured out Why I Write

People ask me all the time if I love to write. I’m a writing consultant, a writing minor, and english has always been my favorite subject… so I guess the question makes sense. But I’ve always struggled to answer it. I don’t love to write like some of my classmates do: I don’t blog, write for a magazine/newspaper, or even journal. I dread being assigned a paper in class and more often than not, it takes me days of frustration and staring into space before I get any words on paper. I’ve always been relatively self conscious about the fact that I spend so much of my day writing (five classes, all writing based) because I don’t actually love to write. But,

this class has helped me change that.

Now, when I go to start a paper, I don’t negatively compare my writing to my classmates. Everyone writes for different reasons and because of that, everyone has a different style and exigency for each assignment.

Despite my newfound acceptance of my writing process, when we were assigned our first paper for the class it’s fair to say I seriously struggled. I definitely knew why I didn’t write– I’m not an aspiring author and it doesn’t relieve any anxiety (usually quite the opposite, actually). I don’t feel empowered with every word I write and I don’t feel Maya Angelou’s agony when she expressed, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you” (although I really wish I did). But even though writing may not affect me in the same emotional way as it does some people, it will help me accomplish my goals. And,

this class has helped me figure that out. 

As I’m sure all of you know by now, I want to go to law school. I’m not sure where I’ll go from there, but I know I want to get a law degree and end up in the criminal justice system someway or another. I can’t do any of this without writing, and I can’t do any of this well without writing exceptionally. The writing minor allowed me to improve my writing and explore modes of writing that will help me throughout my life–even if that life ends up having nothing to do with writing.

I know the blog prompt didn’t ask why I write. I also know we’ve already written a five page paper on the matter. But,

This class showed me, and helped me come to terms with, why I write.

For that I will always be grateful.

What happens on the internet stays on the internet…scary

Clark argues that the internet and more broadly, the computer, is a collaborative tool; I agree to some extent. On the one hand, it allows people to comment and share their thoughts on different pieces of writing instantly. I can publish a blog post or publicize a website and anyone with internet access can comment on my writing. Also, with platforms like Googledoc, writers have the ability to collaborate with people anywhere in the world without actually having to be near them. But as the internet continues to advance, individuals’ need for human contact decreases. Instead of asking my friend who has an obsession with polar bears how much they weigh, I’ll type it into google. This lessens our need to collaborate with other people in order to get answers because all the information we could ever need is a mouse click away.

While I don’t agree with all of the collaborate advantages Clark argues for, I do see the internet’s other benefits. For one, it allows anyone with access to get something published.  If I want to publish a blog or a website, I don’t need to go through a publishing company, I just press a blue “publish” button. I also agree with Clark’s assertion that ePortfolios provide a huge advantage to their paper portfolio counterparts. With the advancement of online portfolios, people can send their work out to an infinite number of people, and it takes almost zero effort. Maybe more importantly, creating a portfolio online allows people to constantly change, improve, and grow their repertoire of work.

While I enjoyed the majority of the Clark reading, her section on blogging stood out to me the most because in one paragraph, she encapsulated what blogging makes me feel: pressure.  I know for Writing 220, blogging gets graded more on completion than correctness of content and does not make up an overwhelming part of our overall grade, yet I feel my heart racing every time I read we have a blog post to complete. Clark’s reading helped me understand why: blogging is high-stakes. The second I press that blue “publish” button, my work becomes public. Anyone with internet connection could access it and hold me accountable for anything and everything I write. What if I wrote something when I was really tired one day and didn’t mean it? Tough luck, because as every adult has told every 20-something at one point in their life, once something is on the internet, it’s there for good.

Storyboarding and Mocking Up

Working on two digital pieces simultaneously will definitely not be an easy feat. As I said in my last blogpost, I am seriously technologically challenged. That being said, the process hasn’t been as terrifying as I expected it to be. For my remediation project, I’m working on a video ad campaign. Initally, I was using a website called Viddyad and the process was going smoothly. Of course, the process became less smooth when I realized I would have to pay 500 dollars to record a voice over (as I had planned) and share the ad. New plan: iMovie. Fortunately, I don’t really plan to change my storyboard because iMove can do everything (and more) that viddyad can do.

Remediation Project Original Storyboard
Remediation Project Original Storyboard


My mockup for my ePortfolio did not come as naturally to me as the storyboard for my remediation project. For the first half of class, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to make the portfolio more professional–including my resume, other pieces of writing I’ve completed, and a link to my linkedin account–or more thematic. Part of me wanted to go the professional route; I’m going to be spending a lotttt of time on this, I might as well make it useful for more than class. But at the same time, I felt really passionate about continuing on with my criminal justice topic I’ve used throughout the semester. I went with criminal justice. I figured, my interests and all my papers for the minor revolve around criminal justice. If a future employer were to look at the portfolio in a professional style, it would still solely be comprised of things relating to criminal justice. 

Illegible categories include opening statement, examinations (direct and cross), and closing statement
Mock-Up of ePortfolio Home Page


This Should be Interesting

I hate technology. I still handwrite every paper before I type it and I refuse to read a book, newspaper, or anything else of that nature on the computer. I don’t dislike technology because I think it’s hurting our ability to communicate in person. In fact, I think technology is enhancing the world in more ways than one. I have a problem with technology because I have no idea how to navigate it; I am technologically challenged to the utmost degree. So, this project has intimidated me since I read the syllabus on the first day of class.

In class last week I said I wanted to create a tumblr about University of Michigan students and their thoughts on capital punishment. Tumblr is such a trend these days and seems to be accessible to anyone (my 13 year old cousin has her own page) so I figured it would be relatively simple. Well, after exploring it and seriously struggling to make my own, I decided to try a different medium: a video ad campaign.

A video ad campaign is definitely a bigger project to take on, if for no other reason than I don’t know anyone else who has made one (thus less people to ask for help). But I found a website, Viddyad, and so far the process of creating a video has gone smoothly. I can upload clips and images from the internet and Viddyad will string them together accompanied by a voice over (should I choose to make one).

I am having one main problem with Viddyad: price. Right now, I can preview a video I make for free whenever I want, but I can’t tell whether or not I have to pay in order to share it. If anyone has experience with this platform, I’d love some advice!