Video Trial

“Although writing often goes into the creation of a video or song, the video and song as an entity should not be classified as writing.”

This is quote a from my first blog post in the Minor in Writing gateway blog, which was written almost two months ago. As I now begin the process of remediating my creative nonfiction piece into a whiteboard animation video, I feel confident in saying my views of writing have broadened. I cannot, however, discredit the argument I presented in my first blog post; I had simply never been challenged to stretch my views of writing. But the gateway course has changed that, and I am particularly excited about this remediation project as it will surely challenge me in new and unexpected ways.

Furthermore, I began the remediation process–and it surely is a process–by writing a script for my video. The script is essentially a condensed version of my creative nonfiction piece, along with various new ideas and arguments mixed in along the way. My goal is to create a video that is more informational in nature than my repurposed creative nonfiction piece. I therefore cut out the personal anecdotes and strongly opinionated portions of the repurposing piece and replaced them with more concrete evidence and examples. This required researching various facts and trends to more holistically cover the topic of preventative healthcare. Fortunately, the research process was straightforward since I had already explored the topic prior to starting my repurposing project. Overall, I focused on clarity and simplicity when writing the script for my video in order to create an accessible, understandable argument for the audience.

iMovie platform on Mac
The audio and video segments must be aligned perfectly, which can be challenging.

The next step following the creation of my script and storyboard was to explore the hardware and software necessary to actually construct the video. I plan on using iMovie to edit the clips together because I have used this software before, and I remember it being rather simple. However, when I tried joining a few clips together this past weekend, I came upon many potential challenges. For example, the timing of the video in relation to the audio must be perfect in order to create a cohesive, professional video. Based on my trial run, I foresee this being the biggest challenge when it comes to editing. I look forward to further exploring new hardware and software in the creation of my whiteboard animation video.

Repurposed, and now Remediated

My transition from the repurposing project to the remediation project has been both slow and challenging, perhaps because I am relatively unfamiliar with digital rhetoric in an academic sense. Of course I am a regular consumer of digital rhetoric. I do, after all, use my phone everyday to read interactive journals and communicate with friends. But I have never had the opportunity to study digital rhetoric as a genre or construct a multimodal project with such focus in mind. Luckily the time is here, and I am very excited about the topic I will once again communicate: the pros and cons of preventative health care.

I plan on remediating my creative nonfiction piece into a whiteboard animation video, based on the hundreds of models seen on YouTube. The first model that tipped me off to this idea was the remediation project of former Minor in Writing student Christina Morgan. For her remediation project, she created a video in which she tells a short story while simultaneously illustrating the story on a white board. This single example of dictating over illustrations provides an excellent example of “whiteboard Digital Animation Videoanimation videos” as a whole.

Generally speaking, these videos utilize 4 modes of communication: linguistic, aural, spatial, and visual. The linguistic and aural modes are present in the spoken aspect of the video. The illustrations complement the spoken aspect, and when presented in a spatially dynamic manner, offer clarity and precision to the content of the video. This mode of digital rhetoric provides an efficient platform for communicating complex information, and is therefore well suited for the complex and often multifaceted topic of preventative healthcare.

For my video specifically, I plan to focus on the facts regarding preventative healthcare as opposed to the personal anecdotes I chose to include in my repurposing project. In that sense, my appeals will be more logical and less emotional in nature. However, all that is lost from the anecdotes will be more than made up for by the satire I plan to include. The inclusion of clever satire will allow me to freely express my style as a writer while also keeping my argument concise and limited to a reasonably lengthen video. These video are usually 2-5 minutes in length, and I will inevitably need to cut information out of my creative nonfiction piece to meet such standards. But while some information will need to be cut, I look forward to reassessing the various points of my original argument and condensing such points down into a clear and concise piece of digital rhetoric.

Digital Rhetoric and the Traditional Classroom

My high school implemented a new program this year requiring students to bring laptops to class every day. This change in policy came as shocking news to me, considering my high school days were spent sneakily texting during class and sporadically using the computers in the library for projects. I wrote all of my papers at home on my family PC, and completed all online homework at home as well. Technology did not play a major role in my in-class high school education. So what provoked such a dramatic change in my old school’s policy this past year? The answer is clear. Such changes were made in correspondence with the ever-increasing availability of digital rhetoric, specifically that related to education. This includes everything from interactive textbooks to Microsoft Word to Khan Academy. By requiring student to bring laptops to class, the school is arming each and every student with the resources necessary to succeed academically.

Students with Computers
Students now utilize technology and digital rhetoric in the classroom setting.

Perhaps the newest and most powerful source of academic digital rhetoric can be found in websites such as Khan Academy. This website is a relatively new online resource that contains educational videos and interactive study tools for almost every subject. For example, I have used Khan Academy videos to prepare for Organic Chemistry exams, and often watch Khan Academy biochemistry videos when I find topics confusing or overly difficult.

Khan academy utilizes all 5 modes of communication to relay information to students, and well represents the beneficial nature of innovative multimodal resources. The careful spatial arrangement of the website makes navigation easy and fast. The linguistic mode may seem most obvious, but is surprisingly overshadowed by the aural and visual modes of communication used by the site. Videos are the primary source of information on the site. Most videos are 10 minutes or less and focus on specific topics, even within a particular subject. The gestural mode is prevalent in the interactive activities the site offers as practice following the videos. Khan academy exploits the benefits of digital rhetoric by using every mode of communication. This multifaceted approach to education offers students a clear and concise alternative to traditional classroom learning.

So what impact will digital rhetoric have on traditional classrooms? Let my old high school be an example. Multimodal resources such as Khan Academy are flipping school policies on end. Like a new technology, digital rhetoric is powerful and always advancing.

Signs of Growth

I planned on using my fall break as an escape from my repurposing project, therefore freeing up some time to write a scientific research paper that has been hanging over my head for awhile now. But as I sat down to begin writing, I couldn’t help but think about my repurposing project. I was not necessarily thinking of the topic of my repurposing piece so much as I was the process of writing it. As I attempt to write the research paper, I found myself harping over the most detailed aspects of my writing and subsequently got very little done. It didn’t take long before I realized the construction of my research paper was an exercise of imitation, similar to that being followed in the construction of my repurposing piece. But this time, I was trying to follow the strict format of research journals without a guide-a model source. This was resulting in little progress.

I soon stopped writing and took the time to find a model source from my planned publication medium and began a process similar to that of the repurposing project. I took careful note of the sections needed for the particular journal and created an outline matching that seen in the model. After spending the appropriate time studying my model and planning my course of action, the actual writing of the paper went quickly.

In a more reflective sense, the act of mimicking a model source for the repurposing project has forced me to consider details of style and syntax more closely than ever before. That is not to say I am a careless writer. But when mimicking a model, the details of style and tone become even more critical, especially if you hope to create a truly representative piece. After all, I don’t often write in conventions following typical creative nonfiction pieces in The Atlantic. Furthermore, I can already see my work in the gateway course helping in other areas of my writing. This is a very rewarding feeling, and I look forward to continuing this growth as I progress through the minor.

How to Write a Creative Nonfiction Piece

Inhabiting a new genre in a new style has been challenging but rewarding. I chose to write a creative nonfiction piece written specifically for publication in The Atlantic. Ezekiel Emanuel’s piece titled “Why I Hope To Die at 75” was an invaluable resource in this process. I tried to mimic everything from sentence structure to argument development in my paper. While I faced challenges every step of the way, I am happy with how my first draft turned out.

I found the reverse engineering activity very helpful in initially picking apart the genre that is creative nonfiction. The Ta-Nehisi Coates articles were my first real exposure to this genre and writing style. I remember finding his articles very smooth and easy to read. Ezekiel Emanuel’s article seems to have the same easy reading quality. I believe this readability of the articles is the culminating result of specifically implemented structure, diction, and syntax. In my effort to create a creative nonfiction piece, I focused on these particulars of style as well.

Referring specifically to “Why I Hope To Die at 75,” the argument is developed through blending personal anecdotes and opinions with relevant facts and statistics. I noticed Emanuel constantly shifting his angle of attack (subjective vs. factual) in order to fully expose and develop his argument. This blending strategy also allows the piece to remain readable, and enjoyable. He includes the perfect amount of facts to gain credibility without losing reader interest. I found this blending act to be one of the biggest challenges while writing. My past assignments have been much more dichotomized: use facts in a research papers and eloquence in narratives. While combining the two was a challenge, I feel my final product (at least my draft) represents an entirely new side of me as a writer, which is fulfilling.

I attempted to first get my thoughts on the page before I became overly worried about diction and syntax. I felt that worrying about these finer details would prevent me from getting down on paper. However, once I had a fairly complete draft of thoughts written, I went back through and began adopting the style at hand. First, I attempted to eliminate as much abstract diction as possible and instead replaced it with more concrete diction. I felt this was an important step in creating the readability displayed by my model, as abstract diction often requires the reader to stop and think, re-read sentences, etc. This is not conducive to the causal audience of The Atlantic. The second major detail I focused on was sentence structure. My model used primarily simple and compound sentences in order to keep the ideas moving forward. I found out very quickly that my “go-to” structure is complex. It was quite the project going through my draft and changing some of the complex sentences to simple and compound. However, I feel varying my sentence structure will make me better as a writer in all genres, not just creative nonfiction.

I believe I will be spending a lot more time focused on the finer details of style in my editing process. We will see where I rank once my final draft is complete:

GQ Magazine cover: most stylish man alive edition
Cover of GQ magazine.

Lost in Research

Should the direction of my Op-Ed drive my research or should research drive the direction of my Op-Ed?

Alt = " "

I have been struggling with this dichotomy the past few days as I begin repurposing my old argumentative essay into an Op-Ed for The New York Times. On one hand, I know what I want to say and I feel I can find research to back such ideas. This is an example of my Op-Ed driving my research, and this is the path I initially thought I would follow. However, as I read more and more about the current state of preventative healthcare, I feel myself being pulled down more and more avenues. I have found some of these articles so fascinating that I even considered changing the argument of my paper to further the argument of the research. This is a clear example of my research driving the direction of my Op-ed. Amongst all this uncertainty I know one thing to be true: the research process is forcing me to find my own voice within the current preventative healthcare conversation.

The majority of the research I have done so far has been “popular” in nature as opposed to “traditional.” I fear traditional academic research would make my piece overly scientific and therefore uninteresting to the audience I am targeting. I have been able to find a surprising number of preventative healthcare articles in The New York Times, which is ideal. I have gained perspective on both the topic of preventative healthcare and the conventions of publication in this particular medium. These articles, while all from the same source, have displayed great diversity (the cause of my aforementioned dichotomy). While it can lead to confusion, I feel diversity in research leads to a more holistic argument and piece of writing.

I look forward to continuing the research process in the coming weeks and eventually getting my first draft written. I predict a lot of “repurposing” will be necessary to transform my original source into  the Op-Ed I am hoping to write.

Preventing the Inevitable: Are We Preoccupied?

For my repurposing project I will be discussing the role of preventative health care in our society, and how advancements in medical practice and research have created a preoccupied patient base. My “original source” addresses this issue in the form of an argumentative essay. I plan on repurposing this into an Op-Ed for The New York Times. The following three texts are all from The New York Times but address the topic of preventative health care and aging in a slightly different way.

  1. Jason Karlawish’s Op-Ed titled “Too Young to Die, Too Old to Worry” questions the role that
    Leonard Cohen
    Leonard Cohen, 1988

    preventative healthcare and cautious living has taken in our society. The piece is written for casual readers of The New York Times, and is written in such a way that does not limit the audience to only doctors or people interested in medicine. In that sense I hope to mimic this article in the Op-Ed I will be writing. The article is framed in the context of our societies growing obsession with disease prevention and subsequent preoccupation in some cases. Karlawish writes to reinstate the importance of day-to-day happiness and pleasures. May it be extreme, Karlawish exemplifies the triumph of day-to-day pleasures through Loenard Cohen, a famous singer who proclaimed his return to smoking when he reached age 80.

  2. Abigail Zuger’s article “A Pound of Prevention Is Worth a Closer Look” was published in the “Health” section of The New York Times and has a topic extremely similar to mine: the pitfalls of obsessive prevention. This article takes a different angle than Karlawish’s in that it focuses on the prevalence of over-diagnoses and over-treatment by medical professionals as opposed to over-obsessive lifestyles of the patients themselves. For this reason, I believe a more medically oriented audience will likely find and read this piece as opposed to Karlawish’s. Here is a thought-provoking quote from the article: “In the finite endeavor that is life, when is it permissible to stop preventing things?”
  3. Peter Bach’s article “When Care Is Worth It, Even if End is Death” was also published in the “Health” section. This article is interesting in that it argues last resort healthcare aimed at prolonging lives (even when the end is death) is worth the time and money of medical practices. The audience is likely the medical community and those involved in creating medical policy, and its context is modern day medical spending guidelines. In a time of budget cuts and economic spending shortages, Bach defends the value of prolonging life no matter what condition the patient is in.  This article added interesting insight into the forthcoming production of my Op-Ed as it essentially proclaims a very different argument than the one I plan to make. With that said, the contexts are slightly different and I support Bach’s goal of treating all patients.

In all, this process of finding and mapping articles related to my repurposing project gave me a better understanding of what I hope to achieve.

LifeHacker

I won’t lie; I had to do some searching for a blog I felt fit to share with the cohort. But when I stumbled upon LifeHacker, I felt more than inclined to share. In its most basic sense, LifeHacker is a blog for the creative, clever, and inventive to share their tips and tricks on how to “hack’ everyday situations—make situations easier or cheaper than you ever expected. As I skimmed the posts this morning, I saw tips on everything from making a more professional Gmail signature to ending relationship bickering to converting old paper clips into a charging station. LifeHacker literally has tips for just about everything…

892e9cda00a999729471b2645ab5b71a

Eric Ravenscraft’s blog post titled “Practice Frugality to Boost Creativity, Not Just Save Money” is a great place to start reading if you haven’t read this blog before. While the post itself is very short in length, I feel the overriding idea of this post well characterizes the blog as a whole. In essence, the tips found in the blog may or may not be realistic/useful to everybody, but the ingenuity behind such ideas makes the blog interesting to read. I find it very entertaining to explore others atypical solutions to very typical problems.

The creativity and resourcefulness displayed by the bloggers reaches out to two audiences simultaneously. The first group is that comprised of practically-inclined and perhaps slightly type-A people who read with intentions of using the advice. The second, and perhaps larger audience is that comprised of people intrigued by the inventiveness and originality of the posts. While finding a use for your old peanut butter jars may be useful, the real value (and fun) arguably lies in the creativity of the idea. This blog displays simple yet innovative ideas that rekindle practicality and a do-it-your-self attitude. As Ravenscraft states, “when you actively try to avoid solving problems by throwing money at them, you are forced to look for more creative solutions.” Everyone can benefit from thinking outside of the box every once in a while. In that sense, the instructional genre that LifeHacker falls under may fall short of categorizing the true essence of the blog. LifeHacker is a creative exercise. If you give it a try, perhaps the ensuing creative boost will transpire into all activities throughout the day.

In comparison to other blogs, the posts in LifeHacker are relatively short and concise. So any time you have a few minutes, I suggest checking out LifeHacker. The LifeHacker Twitter page isn’t bad either.

What Counts as Writing?

I found our conversation on What Counts as Writing to be very thought provoking. When I sat down to add my three screenshots to the gallery, I felt any form of words written thoughtfully or with the intention to communicate could be considered writing. For this reason I added screenshots of map directions, a research poster, and emails. However, the screenshots of art, videos, and sheet music found in the gallery made me reconsider my arguably simplistic view. Following the short discussion time in blog groups, I became satisfied with categorizing art, music, and videos as writing. After all, screen plays and songs involve substantial amounts of writing to produce. The full group conversation further pushed me to think deeper into the aforementioned examples.

The discussion point about communication versus writing proved to be a turning point and interestingly directed me back towards my original view. Although writing often goes into the creation of a video or song, the video and song as an entity should not be classified as writing. The “What is ‘Writing’ or ‘Script’” section of the Ong reading further solidified my personal classification of writing. As Ong states, notches on sticks led to writing, but did not constitute writing. Music, art, and videos can be thought to inspire writing (or be inspired by writing), but cannot inherently be classified as writing.

My goal for the writing minor is to become a more professional, effective writer through mastering control of language. While our What Counts as Writing discussion did not ultimately change my classification of writing (ie: I will still focus on writing words throughout the minor), it did open my mind to a broader range of writing genres and mediums I hope to explore. For example, I initially questioned whether the cut up machine exercise was actually writing but I now feel content classifying my jumbled sentences as such.