Pre Shitty First Draft :)

All in all, this was quite the shitty first draft reminder!! I hadn’t thought past the conceptualization, so physically creating turned out to be a new challenge. My initial question going into this writing was where the introduction belonged in my final product. Then I realized an introduction already implies belonging at the beginning… I suppose what I will decide is whether this piece will be the writing that readers first see before going on to my feature piece. Since it somehow morphed into a bit of creative writing, I wonder whether I will need more explicit explanation. Perhaps not… Anyway, this was quite tough for me to start. We’ve talked about conceptualizing this project for so long that I was at a loss for how to begin. To begin with, I didn’t know what tone my introductory piece would take. I began writing with a more journalistic, investigative tone only to realize it sounded way too much like what my actual product will be. So I started over – the only thing that got me going to was thinking back to why my topic matters to me. And so I went back to the night of the election and began describing. Once there, I understood the tone I wanted.

Writing a personal description of my experience during the election means that my liberal political leaning is most definitely exposed – I feel that this is necessary to the introduction, but also don’t want it to compromise my credibility when writing my feature piece. I try to show how I am aware of my own biases and the influence of my environment, but I’m unsure how this comes across. As I edit this piece I’ll work more on this aspect.

I feel that there’s a fine line between writing a somewhat investigative/research-based journalistic piece and exposing who you are as a person – this goes back to my credibility question. Once you add the knowledge of the all the flaws of personhood it becomes more and more difficult to take their word at face value. However, as my final minor in writing project it’s important to me to also explore why I felt a connection to this topic, especially one to which I wouldn’t have gravitated two years ago. When I feel stuck, it’s a great reminder that also helped me create my introduction.

To be prepared for the feature piece, I need to sit down surrounded by printed out research pieces all wonderfully highlighted and organized, and make an outline. I found that when I really sat down and focused on only creating, my writer’s block went away. An outline will aid in both my creation and my organization, so it’s a win-win. I also plan on rewatching Adichie’s The Danger of a Single Story – it’s been too long since I saw the entire speech and that is another “go back to your roots” reminder.

Blog Roundtable 2

We all chose different mini-assignments to complete but we all noticed common themes amongst all of the pieces we chose to complete. They all were important to laying foundational work in our projects and helping to organize our thoughts and feelings and how we can focus on specific word choices and concepts to guide us towards our final product. And in making these relatively small decisions helped to make much larger steps towards completing the projects as a whole.

Tyler’s Mini-Assignment

Tyler chose to complete the “Barn Exercise” and his piece looks at how a different perspectives can drastically change the way that we view even a physical part of the world like a barn. We may think description of something as neutral and non-controversial as this being static or fixed no matter who is looking at it. Just looking at this piece however we can see that this is not true. Our own feelings and emotions not just about that object but about the world in general can color the way that we describe and view the scene or object and our descriptions can differ greatly because of this.

Takeaways for Our Projects

  • This is an idea that applies to each of our writing. We are all trying to make a point, however which way we’re going about it. Emily is thinking through the effect of words on politics that have global consequences, Maddie is considering the future of science, and Tyler is exploring his identity. Any great argument has considered the other side, has premeditated any possible confounding points. The side by side comparison of the barn scene is a great reminder to know your audience. Our project is not a one-(wo)man show – the audience will be there to finish it off.

Emily’s Mini Assignment

Emily chose to expand on the definition of “danger.” Specifically, danger in Chimamanda Adichie’s use in The Danger of a Single Story. This assignment wanted us to challenge the assumed confines of a word definition and see how writing through a concept might lead to great ideas. Each project has a few keywords that define its purpose and direction. Specifically, Emily found more of a purpose for her project by thinking about how important this concept actually is to it. It also relates to our notecard activity. Which select few words did we choose to write down? How might we expand those? By writing through the word danger, Emily realized just how integral discussing its implications is in defining her project.

Takeaways for Our Projects

  • Before we try and write an entire paper around a single topic we should take the time to clearly define for ourselves what we think of that topic so we don’t confuse ourselves and our audience partway through by shifting our definition
  • Trying to define a word also forces us to make distinctions about what the word is not as well and helps to decide what words we will use for specific related but subtly different concepts in our paper

Maddie’s Mini-Assignment

Maddie chose the Branching assignment. She compiled notes and quotations from handouts we have read through out the semester and created a flow chart, while drawing connections between themes. She began with the concept of generous listening and the idea that we should habitualize our openness to new ideas and ambiguities in language, or in other words “to make the practice of recognizing the unconventional conventional.” This idea then spread to other ideas on the importance of establishing routines and practices, the downfalls of expertise and power of ignorance, the value of wonder and curiosity, and the idea that everything we create is an assimilation of our experiences.

Unlike Emily and Tyler’s assignments, her’s does not directly relate to the topic of word choice, however, it does touch on the idea that we as readers, writers, and human beings communicating with others in our every day lives,  should be open to subjectivities in language. We should practice the the skill of picking up on subtleties in language. Behind Tyler’s barn story is a man who lost his son or someone in love. Emily explored the meaning of a single word, danger. Words hold great meaning that might go undetected if we are not practicing this attentiveness to language.

Takeaways for Our Projects

  • The process of mapping can be a great tool for organizing your project mentally to see the relationships that already exist within your mind between different aspects and components of your project
  • It can reveal where ideas need more development or where further research is needed by where you want to create a connection but are unable to do so
  • It can also help show how you want your audience to navigate your train of thought and could thus inform some of the structure and composition of your argument

It’s Time

Where to begin…This closing post seems like some kind of a sick joke. I’m waiting for someone to say ha just kidding you are still just a budding junior in college, it’s okay!! I am going abroad next semester so this marks my final days on campus as a junior (junior, the only word less scary than senior).

This class encompasses a lot of my junior year. When I walked into class and Shelley started throwing around words like multi-modal text and personal website and aural vs. oral (who knew the word aural existed? I sure didn’t), I wasn’t quite sure what I had signed up for. Now, I can honestly say that creating my final ePortfolio has been the most fun I’ve had all semester. I really love how it has all come together in such a tangible way; never before have I taken a class where I can see the changes in myself and my writing so concretely. Once I figured out Wix’s kinks, I would procrastinate my other homework by playing around with it, telling myself I was doing work so it was okay. Putting together all of my assignments in an aesthetically pleasing way was so much more satisfying than I anticipated. And whenever I think it is finished, finally, I find myself constantly re-opening the page to mess around with it some more. It is a perpetual work in progress, and while the perfectionist within me hates that, this new writing minor persona within me loves it.

Besides the creation of the ePortfolio itself, my favorite assignment by far was my Why I Write. I also can’t image having had to write that first thing in this class. Yes, I had applied to be a writing minor and had definite interest in it, but I had never had to think about why this was the case before. I would have been clueless, and the resulting product would probably have been shit, with no guiding theme. However, the fact that it was a sort of reflexive piece after I had figured out that I am indeed capable of creating different genres and messing with different ideas, creating my Why I Write seemed to be a much more authentic process to me.

…Peace out gateway!!!

http://ekuchman.wix.com/eportfolio

Dinner Parties and Such

“[The blogger] is similar in this way to the host of a dinner party. He can provoke discussion or take a position, even passionately, but he also must create an atmosphere in which others want to participate.”

I thought I’d begin with one of my favorite points by Sullivan. This is an idea that I found to be lacking in Didion’s and Orwell’s respective “Why I Write,” and is also something I sought to engage heavily in my re-purposing. Here, it is obvious that one of Sullivan’s motivations to write stems from his wish to engage his audience beyond the simple, passive act of reading—he wishes to create a space where opinions can be voiced and from that, where ideas can be refined and furthered. I see a ghost of this idea in Orwell’s discussion of the need for a political motive. However, I am missing the bridge leading to the blatant idea of a safe, public forum for the exchange of ideas that Sullivan discusses. Therefore, is this idea really more ambiguous than I first imagined? Is it the modern, fast-response based forum of blogging that introduces this as a new concept?

Sullivan’s concept of the writer as the host of dinner party emulates how I hope my future writing to turn out. It is an idea that I’ve been working with regarding my re-purposing and re-mediation, that in sharing my own ideas and questions regarding a topic as controversial as religion, others will feel comfortable reflecting and sharing their own opinions and experiences. This way, writing becomes not a passive, individual activity, but an active, community-based experience. And why wouldn’t we want this? This is where blogging diverges from older forms of writing and former mindsets regarding writing’s purpose.

The question is…how best should the writer encourage the reader to participate? Is it by playing devil’s advocate? Also, as Sullivan points out, how does one maintain a forum that is safe from the snarky and oftentimes offensive quick-fire responses the Internet is want to facilitate?

Above all, all three writers write because they feel compelled to, compelled by a force that is not tangible nor completely understandable. And this force creates a place where ideas are activated and where people can engage with each other. I hope to be able to contribute to this same, sacred place through my own writing.

The First Eportfolio Thoughts

So, onward and upward to the elusive realm of the ePortfolio. I think it works out well that my ePortfolio will basically be a grander version of my remediation—it gives me some time to work out the website kinds before I have to begin all over again. This chapter lays out quite nicely the timeline of events that need to happen in order to create a good ePortfolio. However, it’s slightly intimidating in that it lists all these conventions I might include (the multi-media assets of graphics, audio and video, digital photos) but gives no insight into the inspiration of getting them in the first place! Not that that’s its job… I know that the inclusion of at least some of those assets will make a huge difference in the readability and interactivity of my site; I just need to hit on some inspiration regarding how I want my argument and theme in my ePortfolio to be conveyed. Visual representation is key to giving the audience an idea of what you expect them to find and how you expect them to view your product. It’s much like marketing; you are creating a brand for yourself made up of rhetoric and snippets of multi-media, and it is up to you what that brand conveys to others. Slightly scary, very exciting. My favorite part is that we have the revision process there for a reason; I have Mel and Nikki to stop me before anything goes horribly wrong! Lovely.

Through some of the questions towards the end, the chapter also made me think on how I am going to convey the overall purpose of my portfolio. Will it be to provide a little snapshot of myself as a person? Will I choose a different theme entirely? And then, what kind of style would I use to properly portray my theme? I feel that theme has to relate to overall purpose somehow, so what am I trying to get across to my audience? This chapter did make me realize that I have a variety of steps to get through before the final product and much room for trial and error. I’m pretty astounded they laid this project out so specifically, also. But as I mentioned above, as specific as it is it is also vague in the sense that I really wish they would provide a concrete example that was relevant to me. But then again, that’s why we have the prior student sample ePortfolios! I’m definitely going to have to do some exploring there to collect my thoughts and figure out what works and what doesn’t. I’m super excited to put something like this online—as a result of these two projects, maybe I’ll finally be classified in the realm of semi-technologically competent.

Insert Epiphany Here

The ball for this particular project has been rolling faster than I seem to be able to keep up… This semester is flying by and already we are on part two of this project. As for issues…well my biggest obstacle is my complete lack of technical skills!! I’ve experimented with WordPress and as I didn’t get very far, I think it is time to move on to Wix. Hopefully my success rate will rise. I am most nervous about figuring out how to make my ideas transfer both artistically and rhetorically well from my personal narrative to a website format. I suppose I will have to finish my personal narrative first to get to this step… It is all a work in progress as I figure out which ideas to focus in on (like my own personal experiences) and which ideas to cut loose.

The mockup, rather than the storyboard, sounds like it will be the best way to layout my possible web design. I will probably draw this on a larger piece of paper to help myself visually map everything out. I need to decide how best to set up this small website to encourage interactivity and whether I am going to organize sections based on specific questions on faith, or something else.

My biggest question is how I will make this topic appealing to readers. How can I make my own frustrations and questions relevant and modernized to those same feelings in other millennials? How can I develop the skills to effectively portray my thoughts through an online medium? This project is out of my comfort zone, so I know it’s working. I not only have to explore a topic in which I have no clear answer or argument, but I also need to test my (lackluster) creative and abstract/expressive abilities. I’m picturing the cover of this rather nauseating children’s book about religion my mother was particularly enthused about me reading entitled Hi God, It’s Me, Margaret, or something along those lines. The little girl sits staring up searching for an answer. While this book was a particular hatred of mine growing up, now I see something in myself in the story line…It would be great if God appeared and dropped the epiphany for this project into my lap. Really great. Not to mention it would clear up my particular ambivalence issue here.

Well, there it is…I’m still waiting.

Too Many Directions

Beginning this blog post as a place to structure my thoughts on this project. I sat in the library for an hour reading random articles on genre on the Internet and re-reading assignments hoping for some inspiration. Why were we cruelly given so much free reign!?! And then I just started to type…and interestingly enough, apparently I did have ideas and all I had to do was write them down.

I originally wrote my common application essay for the eyes of university admissions officers only. I had to be extremely careful about how I phrased my opinions, tiptoeing around a controversial topic. I want to be less nervous this time around about offending the wrong person or stating an opinion that might seriously degrade my college application. Initially, I was terrified that revealing my inner ambivalences toward religion would completely jeopardize my future. I want to write with more confidence this time and exercise my ability to insert my own writer’s tone without fear of being judged (because I know judgment will happen, it just won’t have the repercussion of not getting into the college of my dreams). And I want people to weigh in!! In this new casual format, I want to ask questions that I don’t know how to answer myself and receive feedback.

I’m considering the idea of creating a survey to targeted toward the University of Michigan student population, but I still don’t know exactly what questions I would want to ask them… Also, should I just focus on characteristics of the Catholic faith in this blog post, since I will be vastly expanding that in my final re-mediation? Or should I write about my experience with my own Episcopalian church? A lot of questions on what portion of my application essay I should hone in on, but I feel much better now that I have figured out a genre and see a final product somewhere in my future.

Also, I myself am very uncertain about where I stand in regards to religion. This makes it very difficult to have a strong opinion on the matter since I don’t like judging something I feel I don’t know enough about. I’m excited to do more research on both sides of this topic and in doing so, hopefully I will be able to come to a more educated conclusion. I need to decide how I am approaching the topic in general and must to choose a side to allow for devil’s advocate and the inclusion of my own writer’s voice.

I also needed to brainstorm my final project in order to be able to envision the entire process, so this helped as a place to flesh out my thoughts. For my final re-mediation project, I want to create a website with an interactive world map allowing the viewer to jump from country to country exploring the various beliefs (I am still very much avoiding the question of how I will technologically accomplish this). I’ll then create a sort of overview of each religion channeling The Skimm’s style, with a very casual and sometimes opinionated tone. Then, I’ll bring all the religions together with a discussion about faith and its purpose to the human race. Despite the major differences composing each religion, they are all based on the same concept of faith. What is it about the human race that makes us need faith so badly?

The Curious Relationship Between a Writer and a Reader

The main point ingrained in me after that reading is the importance of the reader ‘picking up what the writer is laying down,’ in casual terms. I have never stopped to think about how if the two perspectives don’t fit together, the reader will become super frustrated and the writer’s work will be pointless. For, after all, in research writing the writer’s purpose is for his or her work to be read, contemplated, and discussed. It might even stem new research from there. It is much different than a journal entry written to flesh out some personal thoughts, or even a blog that is written just as much to get the writer’s energy and opinion out there as it is to gain readership.

 

I kept thinking about my research project and about how I am still not sure about how to narrow down an audience or a mode… The author sums up the importance of these decisions quite nicely:

 

“…readers judge a writer, but a thoughtful writer has in advance also judged her readers, by imagining who they are, what they are like, what they know, what they need and want. And then she uses that judgment to shape what she writes” (18).

 

Obviously, I need to make these decisions before I begin writing, otherwise my writing will have absolutely no purpose and be lacking in distinct style or tone. I hadn’t completely seen this now obvious point before.

 

I also particularly liked where the author points out that researcher bias can happen even if you don’t consciously make subjective choices. Just before doing this reading, actually, I was trying to find a reading for another class with results that matched an argument I wanted to make for a music video’s content ramifications. I read the article but my ears mentally perked up whenever I read a sentence that I could use towards my argument. I would then skim the rest of the research until I found another corresponding sentence. Because it made my job so easy!! All I had to do was the use a bit of these arguments to support my claims, and I was golden. However easy that might have been, it obviously wasn’t a quality research method and I wouldn’t subject my readers to such inadequacy. Oops.

 

Although I did appreciate the advice contained in this article, I felt that it was lengthier than need be. I understood its purpose in a couple sentences and it did go on forever…. The evidence and examples were nice, albeit overdone and a little condescending. For readings on a topic like this, (minus his/her minute insight here and there) I would truly appreciate a condensed version. If it were truly written for someone attempting a huge first research project and busy students, whom would you expect to read all of this?? Not much free time allotted there for those brave souls…. But you can’t win ‘em all, and the author did a fine job acknowledging this.

Modes of Communication

I had trouble completely comprehending the types of things this assignment was looking for. I need more practice learning the different modes of texts in the first place before being able to actively apply them to rhetoric around me. But I will give it my best shot!

 

Primarily, through my schoolwork I see myself most often using both visual and linguistic communication through the heavy workload of readings I have stacked myself with this semester. But, in day-to-day life I use myself using all five modes of communication (linguistic, aural, visual, spatial, and gestural) because of my constant interaction with my cell phone. For right now, I am under the impression that it incorporates all modes through the texting feature, the talking feature, the interactive games feature, the visual images, and the ability to customize the spatial layout. At least, that is where I am out right now in terms of understanding the different modes. I will get there!

 

I know that my cell phone, however, is not the focus of the different modal uses for this class. We have, though, read about blogging, and that is where my next example will come from. I feel that the web gives us the greatest chance to use the most possible modes of communication effectively. It opens a whole new world for textual interaction and understanding, greatly helped by interactive tools such as hyperlinks and pop-ups. I see the most similarity between texts produced for the Internet in the last ten years. It was around then that writers began evolving and creating a new realm to express themselves and make their words stick.

 

In terms of comparing two very different texts, the first thing that came to mind was scholarly articles and Internet websites. However, I then realized that scholarly articles do also incorporate their own form of interactivity if the reader is so inclined. They always have a reference page that will send the reader on to many more areas of research, hugely expanding their spatial mode. No matter the text, there will always be tendrils reaching out to encompass a giant web of information and related texts.

 

On that note… I would love to learn some more about the types of texts these modes can contain.

Shooting of an Elephant

I have chosen George Orwell’s rendition of “Shooting an Elephant” to fulfill both of those criteria. Today was my first reading, and by the end I had to take a deep breath and sit back for a second. I found it interesting and baffling at the same, as it begins fairly innocuously reading as a simple, refined journal entry.

As the reader, I did not expect something in this format or immediate tone to pull on so many heartstrings or to have such stunning description. Looking back, I believe part of this is due to the big picture he incorporates, giving me a hint of what I will be looking after a couple paragraphs: “It was a tiny incident in itself, but it gave me a better glimpse than I had had before of the real nature of imperialism – the real motives for which despotic governments act.” From the creation of this big picture image, he zooms in on the streets of lower Burma where a nameless man lays trampled carelessly in the mud. From there he endures a march side by side with the reader, accompanied by a level of description that allowed me to almost physically feel the breath of the angsty crowd on the back of my neck.

At first, the most striking is the eloquent, heart-wrenching description of the elephant’s laborious death. Then the reader is left with a slowly dawning, terrifying realization regarding the power of the masses. Behind every act of power is an even greater pressure to perform, to impress the weaponless mass breathing down your back.

Orwell was able to literarily stimulated me, grab an interested in plot development, and leave me pondering the greater life lessons woven between the lines, and that is why I am so taken with it.

 

http://www.online-literature.com/orwell/887/