ePort Image of Myself

It seems standard for MIW folks to include at least one image of themselves in their ePortfolios. In my gateway ePort, I did not include an image of myself and, up until recently, I was planning on doing the same in my Capstone ePort. My Capstone project is all about the plight of full-time, poverty-wage workers and, to the best of my efforts, it is not about myself. Truthfully, though, a big part of the ePort, as an assignment, is to feature my own writings, so it does seem sensible, then, to include more autobiographical information than just my name. In fact, a picture might make sense, perhaps–if it is the right picture. This is after all, my ePortfolio. I still struggle with this, though, because to include any snippet about myself is to detract from the focus of this entire semester’s work, which the importance of the labor movement, a movement that I play only a small role in. But that’s an important nuance. I do play some role in the movement, so maybe I should include myself more, but I can’t just use any image of me; I need to use an image that solidifies my position as a firm member of the labor movement.

Me-FF15

I think this image pretty much hits the nail on the head. It confirms my ethos as someone who’s involved in the movement; I’m not just someone who knows about the movement. Also, I am not alone in the image. This is important. One of the most crucial messages I want to get across is that joining the Fight for 15 is all about working together for a living wage and the large volume of people in the image with me underlines that message. My only concern is that, because of the way the image is framed, it looks as though I am leading the march. In reality, there was a large mass of folks ahead of me. I was just another body in a massive march. I do not want it to appear as though I am some sort of leader in the movement. I am no more than a humble organizer, a cog in the machine of labor activism. I shouldn’t present myself as something I am clearly not.

As of right now, I have this image featured on the ‘About Me’ tab of my ePort: the only tab that features information about myself. I think, overall, the image sets up my ethos well and, more likely than not, it will stay where it is; however, I think it is helpful to talk through why it works and why it doesn’t work. That discussion can help me customize how I present the image, so that it creates the intended effect.

 

Who I Am Writing To

I recently scrapped my tentative draft for the Evolution Essay. Originally, I planned to craft a relatively generic narrative about my growth as I writer. I was going to use examples from my previous writings as evidence to back up generalizations, which best fit the narrative arch I was trying to achieve. The problem with this plan is more complex than simply being too boring–though it is, no doubt, boring. As I began drafting the essay, I quickly lost inspiration. The greatest problem, however, with this narrative, about my change as a writer, is that it detracts from my work in the rest of the Capstone course, as well as my work in a Psych class, in which I investigate stress among college workers, and my work within the the Gateway class, in which I argued for the priceless importance of skilled labor. That is all to say that this egocentric essay would take away from the importance of my labor-directed work. Additionally, placing an essay solely about myself and my writing amidst an ePortfolio designed to help poverty-wage folks has the potential to push away my target audience–those less educated and privileged than myself, those who don’t have the time nor interest to read about my writing experience in college. I need to create an Evolution Essay that–somehow–pertains to the importance of labor activism.

The solution I came to is complicated, but it can be done. I will write a how-to guide for joining a movement and planning an action. Now, this solves the problems of detracting from my labor-oriented work and pushing away my target audience; however, I am creating this ePortfolio (and associated Evolution Essay) for my fellow peers and faculty in the Minor in Writing. Talking about writing is important and that is what this assignment was designed for. Nonetheless, I believe I can incorporate my writing growth amidst a how-to guide about planing an action. In fact, I have already begun experimenting with moderate success. Furthermore, I believe this current, seemingly convoluted plan for my Evolution Essay will serve as a worthy adversary for my final writing project within the Minor in Writing and, as it turns out, my final writing endeavor in all of my undergraduate college career. The art is creating a single affective, coherent piece out two seemingly uncorrelated projects.

My audience has always been low wage workers. I have cared deeply about the rights of low wage workers for years and the Capstone course was always meant to be a forum in which I could create pieces that might help them. These folks have been the guiding light for multiple projects across a small handful of classes this semester and prior. I am thrilled to create multiple pieces in different genres and modes of production all for a single audience, which I care so deeply for. My audience stands to gain a lot from the projects I am creating–assuming, of course, I can pull off my ambitious plans.

“What I Learned 3D Printing My Own BB-8” Discussion

I wrote the following passage near the beginning of the semester and I’m pleased at how relevant the content remains (though my excitement over The Force Awakens has waned heavily)…

Having seen the new Star Wars movie twice since its release, I cannot help but be drawn to all things Star Wars. Prior to this film, I had never been a particularly big fan. I grew up with the subpar prequels and I always thought the original trilogy was good, but had aspirations beyond the technology of the time. The Force Awakens was a grand slam.

Back to the article … It’s very image-heavy, which is atypical of all of the writing I’ve done far, but with a recently discovered interest in photography, may very well be my go-to for writing in the future. There’s something very inspiring about reading/viewing this sort of piece. For one, it reads much more quickly than a text-heavy piece. I mean, for all intents and purposes, it’s a picture book for adults. Also, because it reads quickly, I felt as though I had accomplished much more than if I read an all-text piece in the same time.

The art of writing such an article comes not from creating images with words, but organizing real images in a meaningful way. Now, for a how-to, such as this one, the organization is relatively intuitive: you start with a bunch of pieces and progressively they come together to make a single, coherent thing. Organizing an image-heavy piece that tells a less structurally-conventional story becomes more interesting. For example, in making a profile within this medium, one would want to organize images based on the progression of the subject, which would not be as linear as building a model droid. The selection of a particular image depends heavily on the intended emotional response in the reader/viewer.

This particular article is interesting to me because Star Wars. But alternate applications of this medium could yield a universe of different pieces. In moving away from the typical, text-heavy essay, it is important to consider alternate media such as this.

Thought questions for discussion:

  • When you clicked on the link, what was the first thing that you did? Did you immediately start reading the text or did you skip right to the images?
  • How do you feel about the interplay between text and images? Does one work better than the other in this example? Is there too much of one and not enough of the other?
  • Overall, do you feel like an image-heavy article is more accessible or enjoyable or not?
  • Pick an example of metacommentary used in the text. What effect does this line have on the tone of the piece.
  • Consider the use of multimedia in your capstone project, evolution essay, and/or ePort. Does seeing this article change your thoughts on incorporating multimedia? How so?

Robin Queen and Finding Flow

What I found most inspiring from Shelley’s interview of Robin Queen was Robin’s discussion of her writing process. Robin made very clear that, for her, the most important barrier to get past is actually putting words on the page. That’s not to say she has no other prerequisites for writing. She mentioned that she does need to be–physically–in a certain place, i.e., not her office on campus, and that she prefers there be no sound, i.e., no pets around. However, the most crucial ritual for Robin is putting words to screen, even if the product, in its current state, is as she says “word salad.”

As a young, unpublished, relatively inexperienced writer, the above statement is very inspiring, especially coming from a writer who is both experienced and published. Coming into this talk, I expected to hear a lot of technical jargon about the writing process. I expected to hear about a thorough checklist for approaching any important writing. Instead, the advice that’s been instilled with me from Robin’s talk is simplistic and very human, but nonetheless, crucial: when writing, one needs to find flow. In other words, one needs to cut off from all distractions and simply let his or her thoughts pour out onto the page in a messy, beautiful quagmire.

I find it very discouraging when I stare at a blank screen trying to craft the perfect opening sentence and I just can’t find it; I keep typing then erasing single words at a time in hopes of finding the perfect syntax and diction on my first draft. What ends up happening is that I spend an hour working on one perfect sentence and, of course, I’m exhausted by that point. I don’t want to write anymore, but all I have is one line to show for my suffering. This leads to frustration and, eventually, I give up. In that same hour I spent toiling with a single sentence, I could have spilled out a few full pages of (albeit, rough) text, which I could later edit into something clear and meaningful. This latter, “word salad”/flow, drafting technique is really the only way an author could write an entire novel, but I think it is also important for writing shorter pieces (as I am akin to).

Robin mentioned an app she uses called “Write or Die.” This program uses negative reinforcement (in the form of an awful sound or by erasing what you’ve already written) to ensure that you keep writing–or at least don’t stop writing for more than 20 seconds. Though her mention of this app was quite anecdotal, I actually went right home and looked up the program before I forgot its name. Now, I have yet to try it out, but I am confident, the next time I’m approaching a new, lengthy writing endeavor, this app will do me some good.

The next time I write, I will search for flow and await the wonderful word salad it creates because, ultimately, this is the only way to flesh out who I really am and what I deeply feel.

Evolution Reflection

Yesterday in class, we addressed three questions before peer reviewing my evolution essay intro.

1.) What is your best writing?

Passionate and gritty–this sounds like how I would describe my favorite film characters, perhaps there is something to this, but I’ll have to revisit the idea later. I feel my best writing is that which is completely separated from any sort of prompt because these works are generally devoid of passion. My best writings are generally backed by extensive research on the topic, which ensures valid arguments, but the pieces are also injected with a strong sense of caring about the issue, which cannot be fabricated. This sense of caring comes from deep within, from years of involvement with a movement or after some moving personal experience. My best writing is so because it uses emotion to push a strong sense of urgency about a crucial issue.

2.) What will your project say about you?

My project will speak to this sort deep caring about an issue and, more importantly, a deep caring about the people affected by an issue. The goal of my project is to raise awareness to the reality of poverty wages for fast food and other low-income, ‘dispensable’ workers. Further, my goal is to get folks emotionally involved to the point where they want to enlist in the Fight for 15 movement. This is a tall order, given that people, more often than not, don’t give a shit about folks outside of their inner circle of family and friends–pessimistically speaking, of course. The success of this project will be measured by my ability to achieve this goal. I guess I am less concerned with what this project says about me than what the project says about my audience, in terms of their reactions and, ultimately, in whether or not they decide to action against the injustice of poverty wages. If those who view my project conclude that I am a caring person, then that’s just fine. I think so too. But if those who view my project conclude that they are, currently, not caring people–and thereby seek to remedy that–, then I’ve done what I set out to do.

3.) What do you still not know about yourself as a writer?

Ultimately, I know what I like to write about–issues of social justice. What I’ve still yet to fully explore is where my limits lie within non-written modes. In other words, “I don’t yet know if I can create an effective multimedia project.” My final Capstone project will be the measure of how well I have met that goal. I have only just begun to explore the world of compiling various sources of media and using video editing software to create a novel and emotional video. Effective video editing will allow me to bolster the emotional pull of my work and, thereby, create more moving and purposeful pieces. Combining music that I am passionate about with an issue that I am very passionate about will, I hope, facilitate a creative atmosphere in which I can produce a novel and effective video.

Addressing these questions gives me a strong sense of direction going forward with the evolution essay and my final project. I now have a solid set of goals to work within.

As we began to review my evolution intro, I was reminded of the importance of incorporating identity and, also, my Capstone project, which–in my case–are very closely intertwined. I seemed to have gotten a little distracted in describing my identity as a person and how that changed during my time in college and talked less about my identity as a writer. Truthfully, both are closely related, as I described, “Writing helps strengthen my identity as someone who lives to help those in need and, reciprocally, my activist identity serves as a constant source for content to write on. The two form a perfectly symbiotic relationship.” It is important to talk about the two together, but I should reverse engineer them in order to describe the times when my writing and personal identity were separate and how that affected myself and my writing. Lastly, on a technical note, I think it would be interesting and effective to hyperlink each assignment from my annotated bib that I will cite in my evolution essay, instead of just recapping each one as I go. Overall, I am very excited to move forward with both projects and I have a lot of creative space and helpful advice to do so.

 

Post-Storyboard-Peer-Review Feelings

Above is a link to a live recording of one of the two possible songs that I intend to use in my final video project. The other song, from the same album, is linked in a previous post of mine. Feel free to listen as you read, but watch too because the complexity that goes into orchestrating the song is remarkable. It’s a complexity similar to organizing a capstone project.

Beginning my storyboard meant digging for some good resources related to the Fight for 15 and the history of labor movements in America, which my project is interested in. This process pushed me to a point where I can actually begin construction of my video. In fact, as of a few minutes ago, there is now an iMovie project on my computer titled “Capstone FF15.” This is a big deal. But I digress, my storyboard took the shape of a 15-page word document filled with images that map out the chronology of my soon-to-be video. The first 8 or so show important historical labor actions, ranging from the mid-1800s up until the late 1990s. The next chunk of photos showcase Fight for 15 protests and rallies taking place in major cities across the country. The final few pictures–and these are the most important–are of workers speaking publicly about adversity they face living on the current minimum wage. Most of these people are parents and all of them speak with a great deal of honesty and emotion. These photographs are screenshots I took from brief videos posted to Fight for 15’s YouTube channel. These personal testimonies will be indescribably valuable for my video. Ultimately, this is a project I am undertaking for disenfranchised workers, so it stands to reason that these folks ought to have the center stage in my piece. The center stage will be represented by the climax of the song–the strongest emotional moment.

Today in class, we peer reviewed our storyboards/mock-ups. I was a bit anxious because I took a sort of unconventional approach: what I created served my purposes well, though it did not exactly fit the criteria for a textbook storyboard. Nonetheless, my blog group members provided me with a great deal of encouragement. I was affirmed that these still images alone were enough to evoke a strong emotional response. This comment helped push me to the point of beginning construction of my video. Constructive feedback came as a suggestion to more thoroughly explain the historical bits of narrative that I showed in images. This is perfectly sensible because people tend to have a fairly poor recollection of American history, in general–as do I,–let alone the specifics of important labor actions. I hope to interview a labor-savvy history professor and include audio of his or her tellings to include in my video. I feel this will be much more effective than myself speaking since this is a part of the topic that I’m not very knowledgable about. Further, talking with someone more knowledgeable on the history of labor could help me think of interesting ideas I might have otherwise ignored.

Overall, I’m feeling confident in my project and my passion for helping disenfranchised folks continues to push me towards creating the best product.

Project Pitch Evaluation

On Monday I walked into class confident in the fate of my Capstone project. The night before, during a heavily caffeinated homework binge, I had a moment of clarity. I saw my finished project. I was feeling inspired by an album I had just happened upon (Departure Songs by We Lost the Sea, for anyone interested in post/ambient rock). There’s nothing quite like listening to one of your favorite songs for the first time. As this song (linked below) began to play, I saw old pictures from the aftermath of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and other historical landmarks for the labor movement. I heard passionate rally speakers–from decades ago and today–riling up underpaid workers. I saw video clips of workers from all walks of life on strike.

This song samples an interesting monologue about engineering manned space flight. The speaker’s analogy about dreams tugged at my innards. When he speaks of the importance of seeing his hands, I envisioned the soot-black mitts of a post-WWII factory worker. Then I zoomed out and saw the structure of my complete artifact. As the song builds in intensity, we move closer to the present and discuss, with pictures and dialogue, the rise of the Fight for 15. Finally, as the song reaches its climax, I saw the driven folks I organize with reaching out their hands to offer the audience the chance to help.

More concretely, I will construct a video which gives a timeline of the labor movement in the U.S., from its origins up to the current state of the Fight for 15. The finale of the piece will give the audience the impetus to get involved. All this to say that my only concern having my pitch peer reviewed was that I wasn’t far enough along in producing my project to receive useful feedback. In other words, I was so confident in my plan that I didn’t think any outside feedback–that from anyone outside of my head–could help.

Truthfully, though, I gained a lot of insight from my peers’ feedback. For one, my peers helped me realize that I may be too ambitious in the amount of history I want to tell. The labor movement is a huge slice of all of America’s history and only so much can be condensed into the length of a song. I was recommended to be deliberate and specific in the timeline I construct, i.e., only include the aspects of the labor movement that explain the rise and success of the Fight for 15. Also, I was advised to interview the folks I’m interested in discussing and record those interviews to include in the video. Overall, I took away a sense that I should not be too quick to tie down my plan. It’s good to be prepared, but I shouldn’t necessarily commit to a plan just because of one manic brainstorming session. It may be the case that my final project looks much like it does in my head right at this moment. However, I will not hold myself accountable for doing so. There is much time between now and April and there’s much more inspiration for me to come upon before then.

Attention Workers and Activists Alike!

 

 

FF15

 

Next Wednesday, April 1st, from 6:30-8:30PM in 3512 Haven Hall a labor coalition composed of members of GEO (GSIs), LEO (profs), and undergraduate workers will ignite meaningful discourse on the current state of workers at this university in order to illuminate the plight of all low-wage workers throughout the country. Our hope is to get people talking. So, spread the word! Plenty of pizza will be provided. All, including those not affiliated with UM, are encouraged to attend!

Also, this April 15th, throughout the midwest, will be a day of mass action in an effort to pressure legislation that would raise the cripplingly low minimum wage to $15/hour–currently considered a “living wage,” i.e., the minimum income required to sustain oneself and one dependent–hence the date, 4/15 (for $15, in case you still don’t see it). On this day, massive protests are expected in Chicago and Detroit. In solidarity, we at UM would like to plan an action and our 4/1 event will serve as an organizing and recruiting venue for said action.

Again, spread the word and get involved! I hope to see y’all on April Fool’s day…

and that’s no joke.

Remediation: Amplifying My Narrative

In re-purposing this profile of mine, I so intimately engaged with the narrative (which I was already quite fond of), that I would  be unable, I think, to cut any of it away. This makes remediation tricky. How can I tell this story in a different media while remaining as true to my dear original narrative as possible..? This question has haunted my thoughts since the end of class on Tuesday.

A documentary could work; however, to make it good, I would need to re-conduct (and this time, record) the interviews with those cited. This could be done, theoretically, because these are all people who are family or friends, but, logistically, this may prove more difficult than I would like to bring upon myself. That said, this piece is very personal and, so, I would like to do it the upmost justice.

Clearly, more deliberation is required on my part, but this where I’m at right now.

To the Proletariat, at the Intelligentsia

Amidst planning my re-purposing work, I’ve reach a point of great clarity in who I am writing to, at, and about.

The about never changed. The original piece was a profile written about my cousin/employer/small business operator, Jeremy Wilhoit. On a more general level, this speaks of all other persons who have made success for themselves, not by pursuing a college degree, but through their own devices–more specifically, their drive in a specific field of work. For Jeremy, that field was landscaping and construction. My unique relationship, as both employee and blood relative, permitted me to fully explore the intricacies of his path to success. That is, being his only employee (and working upwards of 50-hour weeks from April to September), we worked side-by-side and shared a great deal of personal discourse and being blood relatives added a great degree of intimacy and, thereby, honesty to that discourse.

I’m writing to the future proletariat: the black-knuckled, working class. My argument stands to help those who would be better off (financially and mentally) going straight to work (public or private), community college, or military service. The trade-offs between attending 4-year college and not aren’t as one-sided as old school university proponents make it seem. University education is both more expensive and less rewarding than ever before. On the other hand, four years of full time work (even at $10/hour) is a staggering investment. This is the backbone for my argument and Jeremy’s story is the vessel for that argument. The Jeremy narrative, rather than being dissected for the intellectuals, ought to serve as a working (pun heavily intended) example for those like Jeremy–discouraged by the negative trade-offs associated with college, but willing to pick a field fit for them and work to no end.

Originally, I wrote to the intelligentsia: the well-off, college-educated, 6-figure income class. That doesn’t really make sense, though, because my argument stands to help those who aren’t cut out for college in the first place. I would like to modify my discourse so that I’m writing at the college-educated–not everyone with a degree, but certainly those who propagate the antiquated siren that “everyone ought to go to college.” I still want my original audience to be weary of my words; however, this time around, the words are not meant for them, though they can certainly follow. A manifesto for blue-collar-work-driven persons does nothing for the white-collar man, but it might put him in his place if he wants to protest that every young person is wasting his life if he doesn’t attend college.