Psi and Science

And here we arrive at the culmination of a semester of work–the completion of a capstone project!

(Found here: https://lauren1weiss.wixsite.com/capstone)

My capstone explores the intersection of psi (supposed parapsychological or psychic faculties or phenomena) and western science. I decided to approach this topic after reading Elizabeth Mayer’s Extraordinary Knowing. Through her book, Mayer highlights the incredible breadth of parapsychology research and the stunning data that is hidden deep within academic journals. With Mayer’s help, I came to recognize western science’s shunning of psi phenomena in the face of contrary, convincing data. My capstone asks questions such as, “Why are we ignoring rigorous and meticulous research into psi phenomena?” and “How do typical advocates or counter-advocates of psi express their beliefs? How do they interact with parapsychology data? Are we prizing dogma (specifically materialism) over experimental and experiential evidence?”

As a young scientist, this exploration is important to me. I don’t want to enter an industry that ignores data that challenges existing dogma–this practice is not what scientific inquiry is meant to breed. And as someone who has experienced psi, I’m also intensely curious about how these phenomena manifest. Are they tricks of the brain? Or is there some additional force that physics has not yet accounted for? Can we interact with matter and minds across time and space?

I approach all of these questions and more through my semester-spanning capstone–if you get a chance to peruse the site, I hope that you ask just as many questions of the material as I have.

Modifying Resumes

I hate writing them, you hate writing them (maybe you like writing them and you should contact me), and they’re full of boilerplate! It’s beyond me how an employer can judge a person based on a few pieces of paper and a list of achievements that may or may not be true. There are sometimes interviews involved, but they’re often a second step (the resume is what gets you the interview). Since life is a narrative, I’d want to create more of a narrative in my resume. I want employers to remember that these pieces of paper represent individuals. However, not everyone will be comfortable writing prose. My brother hates writing personal essays, but is a brilliant scientific writer. So to even the playing field, resume writing will be judged on honesty. The idea is to strip the document of boilerplate and offer specific truths under each “heading”. They don’t need to be beautifully crafted, just genuine. The layout would need to remain organized (split up into categories and headings), but the dates and locations can be integrated. This means that employers will have to read the resume more closely to get all of the information. And people should be able to write in first person!

Portfolio Categories: Lauren Weiss

Rating:

  1. Prose
  2. Voice
  3. Ideas/Concepts
  4. Composition/Environment

 

Ideally, I would like these all to be so meshed together that you can’t tell where one ends and one begins. But I don’t know where to start…to get somewhere close to fluidity, the composition of the website itself needs to be inviting. Once you draw the reader in,  elegant prose prevents the reader from getting distracted. A clear voice from the writer also helps the reader to engage and draws them into the world of the website and the writer. However, the stylistic aspects of the work are moot if the ideas and concepts can’t stand on their own…finally, as you transition from piece to piece, you want the environment to remain stable and inviting so that the reader continues through to the end of the portfolio. I think that my prose is avoiding awkwardness pretty well, and that my voice is clear in my writing. I often write how I speak, actually. But I’m worried about the solidity of my ideas and concepts, and about how inviting my website is. At this point, it’s kind of bland, and I’m not sure how to make the transition between remediation, repurposing, and Why I Write more gentle. Right now it’s pretty jumpy. And I really want to make the space itself more of a place for viewers to engage with ideas, but I’m not sure how to go about it.

 

I Read to Judge

Here’s what I learned about myself as a reader: I read to judge.

So…what does that say about my desires/preferences as a writer?

I want readers to sit down, read the text, and come out of it with something meaningful that’s not clouded by judgmental thoughts. Of course, part of this hope is motivated by my fear judgement. And so I write very carefully so that someone will not skim my work and then throw it in the trash. Another motivation is my desire to produce something that readers will enjoy, something that won’t sidetrack them by its flaws. I want readers to be able to immerse themselves and, again, get something meaningful out of the writing. There’s this subconscious (now conscious) notion I have that I can help people by writing, and writing well. As a reader, I’ve been helped by writers, and now I really want to do something for readers.

Mixed Feelings

I read Twilight at some point in my life, some low-ish point. The concept of the series sits just on the border of fantasy and realistic fiction, and that seems to me to be Stephanie Harris’ biggest accomplishment. You have Bella, the character in reality, and Edward, the character in fantasy. The two merge and get tangled so that you eventually can’t easily distinguish between the two. In retrospect, I think that is what pulled me into the novel, and the love story kept me going through the series. My young self wanted to know if happily-ever-after would come to be, and the romance was really tumultuous and hard to gauge.

I also hate[d] Twilight. (*Note: Bella keeps her mouth slightly open in all of the movies and I wanted to smack her on the head when I saw them). The prose itself is pretty bad, kind of careless. And the book puts on a feminist mask, but deep down it perpetuates heteropatriarchal norms: the strong man as the protector of the weak woman, the woman pursuing a violent man (illusion to domestic violence), etc. If you dig deep into post-colonialism and feminism, vampires can be ascribed specific meanings (i.e. conquerers, etc.). But that’s for another time.

The point is, I liked Twilight when I was reading it, and I’d probably still like some aspects of it if I read it now. But I also don’t like it (at least in retrospect) for many reasons as well, and the list of those reasons continues to grow and war with my Twilight-reading past.

Why I Write Analysis

Reading through these Why I Write essays, I realize the importance of avoiding Boilerplate (that words sounds so weird if you say it a few times over). There is such potential for cliché, but I think that the essays I found avoided it pretty well using various techniques. I skimmed over a few essays by writers online and found two to focus on. Oliver Miller (who I think Casey mentioned in her comment too) narrates his process of writing his Why I Write essay. I think that readers can use this to understand his writing process more generally. Ian Welsh (another author) uses an “everything on the table” tone in his essay, and it matches his content. Both authors get specific when they talk about why they write, and I think that’s one of the keys to making this type of essay work.

The MiW Why I Write essays that I read used this same technique, among others. Keith Cline and Area Haider both document their development as writers. Area also focuses on her evolution as a reader. Both writers are very honest, and in that way, the style of these two essays (and the other two that I found online) mirror Joan Didion’s style. I think that this technique, which tends to evoke reader trust, is also really useful.

Boilerplate!

So many boilerplates, so little time…here are two from separate applications:

–From my college application:

I’m a 21st century explorer. I experiment with things; many things. And sometimes I get lost. But the good kind of lost; like being lost in music, or a sports game.

Why did I include this in my application? To be honest, it sounded very…powerful at the time. Or compelling or something. I underlined the part that seemed the most “boilerplate-y”. I was trying to explain that I find something meaningful in my weaknesses/failures, and that there is something to gain from them.

–From my writing minor application:

I write because I have a constant urge to.

Oh man…uh…again, this seemed compelling this fall when I submitted it. The statement above isn’t untrue, it just doesn’t explain why I want to write at all. I mean, people do everything that they do because they have the urge to. What else stimulates a decision?

 

Is boilerplating a major/ how does one apply?

Remediation- Two Ideas

For my remediation, I’m leaning towards an adaptation or a complement style. My repurposed piece is grounded in the theme of silence and is organized as a series of vignettes. The vignettes follow a woman at different moments in her life as she experiences silence in various capacities (5 sections). I also offer another perspective at the end of each section from one of the other characters in the respective section.

This piece is missing silence. I mean, it is all words. So that is a big hole. And I think that, to avoid verbalizing this idea of silence again, I’m going to create a visual piece. Additionally, I am trying to encompass many forms of silence, and because different people experience totally different varieties of silence, I am failing by following only one individual. Or, partially succeeding. Can’t decide if the glass is half full or half empty today…

For an adaptation, I might create a video of people talking/interacting without sound. This would allow the viewer to focus on body language during these interactions. I would show a variety of situations with a variety of individuals. This minimizes the hole caused by my not being able to encompass many forms of silence through my vignettes. And this might be more successful if the individuals in the video are not talking at all…

A possible complement: a dance. Although I would only have one individual dancing, the individual is not meant to represent one entity. Instead, the dance is meant to draw attention to fluidity and movement. This would remove the “failure to encompass many forms of silence” hole. I would include music in this case- the dance is meant to represent the fluidity of silence, so the presence of sound should not affect the overall  message. The problem with this is that I’d need to find a dancer or perform a dance myself (not sure how that would go…). I’m going to try to think of other possible complements in the meantime!

Repurposing

Hi all- here are my thoughts:

Below are TWO ideas for the same original piece (because I’m indecisive, please help). Let me know if you think that one is more interesting than the other!

I wrote a creative nonfiction piece at the end of last semester called “The Sound of Silence”. It’s an investigative piece for which I remained silent for a day and documented my responses to this “lifestyle change”. I went on to reflect about it, and it wound up becoming a very spiritual essay. However, a lot of what I said became redundant. I’m sure this is because all of the ideas are coming from one perspective- mine. Therefore, I’d like to maintain this investigation of silence, but through different perspectives. A series of vignettes seems to be the best form for this. I’ve never written vignettes, so this will also be a nice exploration for me (get learnt!). I’d like the vignettes to be from the perspective of a variety of people in a variety of situations. They will be silent for different reasons- i.e. someone in solitary confinement, someone post-arguement at home with their partner, something broader like the silence of women, etc. These aren’t solid ideas, just examples. The point is- silence is a very universal notion that can elicit very individual responses (although it’s not really the norm). And by documenting only my own response, I feel that I’m not doing the topic any justice…

The second idea is to write a textbook description on silence that begins to take on a mind of its own. This explores the same idea- silence is universal and individual. So it would start of professional and slowly diverge into something less robotic.

I can’t wait to hear some critiques and ideas!

 

-Lauren W.