Elevator Pitch

Campaigns and elections are the cornerstones of social change. Within days of his presidency, Donald Trump has placed a ban on Muslim immigrants, and many are wondering how to fight back against feared racist policies. Understanding how to defeat candidates like Trump in an election is a key component in combatting a rollback of progressive policies. Trump’s use social media spoke to the current culture and political climate in a way that Clinton’s tried and true ad campaign strategies just did not. In moving forward, it is essential to understand how these communication strategies are only effective when looking at them within a larger context. By thinking about it this way, we can figure out how to design effective political communication in a way that will be well received by the audience of the moment. Ultimately, my hope is that learning about these tactics can inform strategic communication to help garner funds for nonprofit organizations, as well as campaigns of cultural activism like the Women’s March or Black Lives Matter.

It’s About Life, and Style is Just an Option

The quote in the title is actually about surfing (something I happen to be horrendously bad at), but I thought it fit into the context of writing too. Writing isn’t a lifestyle, it’s a life where style is just an option.

I can’t believe this semester is already over, it really felt like it flew by. The ePortfolio took more work than I imagined when I undertook the project. Mostly that’s because there are so many options it’s easy to get lost in designing your website for hours on end. The first difficult task was choosing a layout – but luckily Wix has tons clean and professional templates to choose from. I knew I wanted something clean and image-heavy that had a lot of white space.

Once I found the template, another difficult task was choosing all of extracurricular work that I wanted to add to my portfolio. I definitely wanted to be selective (especially with my academic work) but I also wanted to show that I am a well rounded writer who can write in multiple genres and disciplines. With the help of my peers, I figured out some stylistic situations that I originally felt hindered the audience’s experience. For example, I wanted a PDF version of my academic papers to open in a new window when the viewer clicked a particular image. Once I worked out these initial kinks, the rest was pretty straightforward in terms of design and layout.

Through the course of the semester I came to see the ePortfolio itself as a rhetorical composition, which made the project both challenging and really fun. I think the most challenging part for me ended up being the reflexive comments – I wanted to strike a balance between saying what I needed to say and keeping the layout clean and not bogged down by text.

Ultimately, I’m so happy with the way it turned out! I’m really proud of myself for conquering another technology and developing a new skill. I also think it was really rewarding to create a space for all of the work of done in the past 2.5 years, it really made me see how far I’ve come as a writer. I definitely plan on using it in a professional setting, but I hope that it also reflects who I am as person.

Check it out: http://ldiamond5.wix.com/laurendiamond

 

Dear Future Writing Minors…

Dear Future Writing Minors,

Congratulations on being in the program! Throughout the semester, you’ll grow as a writer and learn new skills. First off, definitely don’t procrastinate. There’s a lot due by the end of the semester (I’m in the midst of finishing it all up now) and you don’t want to leave any of it until the last minute.

Second of all, I encourage you to try something new. I for one, am not super skilled when it comes to learning new technology, and was so terrified of iMovie I almost just made a Prezi instead! However, it ended up being a lot easier to master than I thought, and while my video is nowhere near professional quality, it’s pretty good for an amateur. I’m really proud of myself for trying something new, and in the end it’s a new skill you can put on your resume and talk about in interviews. I actually really enjoyed challenging myself with a new type of media, and I think I learned a lot about maintaining a strong voice and sense of audience no matter what of type of creative work your doing. I think the best piece of advice I can give is just to commit to pushing yourself, and don’t just stick to what’s comfortable and familiar. The beauty of this course is that you have so much creative freedom you can basically do whatever you want. While that might seem daunting, see it as an opportunity to try something you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t had the opportunity to do so. Maybe you’ve always wanted to write a piece of fiction, or try your hand at photoshop. Don’t feel overwhelmed just because you’re not super familiar with a certain technology – there are tons of people in class who probably are.

You’ll come to see that no piece of work you do in this class ever really feels finished, and that’s okay! Re-writing is part of the process, and honestly I don’t think I’ve ever written anything that couldn’t benefit from yet another draft. Most importantly, have fun and write about a topic you’re passionate about (you’ll be writing about the same thing for an entire semester, after all). Good luck!

Best,

Lauren

 

Thinking About…

This week I have been thinking a lot about the ePortfolio. What I thought would be one of the easier projects of this semester has turned out to be quite challenging. I want my ePortfolio to be professional, and I websites tend to look most professional when they are clean and have as little text as possible. Yet I also want to be able to adequately explain everything I have put on there – particularly the repurposing and remediation projects. I think these pages will definitely have to be more text heavy than the other pages. Determining which extracurricular writing samples I will include has also been a challenge. I think the goal of an ePortfolio is to showcase our best work, and thus I want to really make sure that I have vetted everything properly. My ePortfolio is pretty image heavy – which was an interesting choice for me since I am by no means a photographer. However, I am personally drawn to sites with a lot of images, and I found a way to incorporate some images into my site in a meaningful way. For example, I have an image that correlates to each academic writing – like an image of the Supreme Court that can be clicked on to view a paper analyzing two Supreme Court cases. I’m still not sure what the main image on my home page will be – but I would like it to represent who I am in some way.

As for my remediation project, I feel as though I am close to the finish line. The bones of my piece are there, I just have to add a few more transitions and clean up some of the audio and visual aspects. This project was particularly challenging for me because I had never worked with iMovie before, but I think I’ve finally started to get the hang of it. Overall, I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished so far and I think this project will turn out well.

Branching Out

Over the course of this semester I have really enjoyed working on projects that are unfamiliar to me, or working in mediums I’ve never worked in before (like iMovie).

Lately I’ve found myself thinking about how I’ve improved as a writer through the course of this semester. While I think challenging myself with new project has allowed me to push myself as a writer, and think about audience, and tone, I’ve also been wondering about word choice and style. How is that writers come to develop their own writing style?

In the first and only creative writing class I’ve ever taken, I really enjoyed the fact that we spent a lot of time reading other authors’ creative writing. From work of professionals to that of our own classmates, we really got a chance to expose ourselves stop different writing styles, and thus were able to develop styles of our own as well. I’m not entirely sure how that same idea can apply to the minor, but I think it would be beneficial to read more work that mirrors the projects we have done. For example, I know many of us did creative nonfiction projects, so it would have been nice to read some different examples of that genre before we started the project. We spend a lot of time reading about writing, but I would like to read a wider variety of authors and styles, in order to learn about developing our own personal styles.

How and Why I Write

It is still difficult for me to call myself a writer, as I have always used that term to describe those who write professionally for a living, whether it be novels or journalism or blogs. That’s why I really connected with Joan Didion’s statement about how she is not a “good writer or a bad writer but simply a writer, a person whose most passionate hours are spent arranging words on pieces of paper.”

The operating phrase for me here is “most passionate hours.” I realized that no matter what kind of writing it is, I am most passionate about doing work that involved writing. Even if I am writing a dry research paper, and spend countless hours distressed about how the words sound on the page. I think this is what makes me a writer.

I have always loved Orwell’s piece Why I Write, and especially connect to the part in which he discusses how he would go through life thinking about “a mere description of what [he] was doing and what [he] saw.” I have always been fascinated by the fact that really good writers can describe mundane everyday occurrences in beautiful or strange ways, and this is what has always drawn me to certain books and authors.

In terms of my writing process, I think I have grown a lot as a writer throughout the course of this semester. I think challenging myself with new mediums has really pushed me think outside my own typical writing habits, and really emerge myself in an unfamiliar genre. Further, I think having feedback from the blog groups has pushed me add and remove certain pieces of my argument in order to make it as strong as possible.

Am I a Writer?

It’s has always hard for me to use the term “writer” to describe myself, as I would use that term to describe someone who write professionally for a living, whether it be novels or journalism. Since I am still a student, and know that I have a lot to learn about writing, it’s difficult for me to really see myself as a writer. This is why I really appreciated Joan Didion’s description of herself as “not a good writer or a bad writer but simply a writer, a person whose most absorbed and passionate hours are spent arranging words on pieces of paper.”

The operating phrase for me in this quote is “most.. passionate hours.” Throughout this semester, I’ve realized that while I may not be in the process of writing the next great American novel, the work in school I am most passionate about creating and doing has to do with writing. Through the repurposing project, I was able to write about a subject that is incredibly important to me, and that I put a lot of time and effort into creating. Yet even when it comes to writing a history paper for instance, I find that I care deeply about the way the words sound, what they mean, how they might affect the reader. That is what makes me a writer.

I have always loved Orwell’s piece ‘Why I Write,’ particularly the part in which he writes about dreaming up “a mere description of what I was doing and the things [he] saw.” I have always been fascinated with the way you can describe seemingly mundane life experiences in beautiful ways, and it is this type of language I am drawn to when reading books. I think this is a defining characteristic that most writers possess, and one that Orwell captures perfectly.

Overall, I think this semester I have come far as a writer simply by put together a piece of writing that I am proud of.

Exploring iMovie

This week I started playing around on iMovie, since that is the medium I will hopefully be using for my repurposing project. I am not very technologically savvy, so honestly I’m still having trouble figuring it out. However, I realized that one way I can make this project a little easier on myself, is by using mostly still images. In iMovie, there is a way to upload images and basically create a slideshow (I’m still working out the kinks but at least now I know it’s possible). There is only one segment of my video in which I would really like to use some clips I find from the internet. Hopefully, I will be able to figure this out because I think it would add a nice visual element to the video.

Creating my storyboard helped me realize that I can use the still-image function on iMovie for the bulk of it. This made me feel a lot more comfortable with the software and was honestly a huge relief! I will still have to decide which images, text, and background music (or sound) I will want with these images, but I feel like it’s a little more manageable than solely working with video footage. If I cannot figure out how to incorporate news clips, I realized that I can just use a still image with pictures of recent headlines, which will give essentially the same effect.

I found some iMovie workshops that are available this month and I think it may be beneficial for me to attend one. However, I worry that most of the workshop will entail editing video footage, which I am trying to avoid in making my video. Regardless though it could provide some helpful hints that will make me more comfortable with using the software in general. I think it would be most helpful to find someone who will sit down with me one-on-one and answer questions I have that may be unique to my project. If anyone knows of someone offering this kind of service let me know!

Overall, after trying out iMovie I am still a little nervous to use this software, but I think I will be able to figure it out with some help.

Thinking About Remediation

I am still pretty unsure of the direction my remediation will go. My first thought was to do a spin on some kind of political campaign or advertisement, and I found a video done by Planned Parenthood that seems to be along the lines of what I was thinking. However, I am NOT very tech savvy, and have really never made a video like this at all. I want my remediation project to look clean and professional, and I am worried about working in an entirely new medium because I do not want my project to look sloppy or amateur. So, I have been brainstorming other mediums through which I could get out the same type of message. Perhaps a podcast? Any other ideas would be much appreciated!

Either way, I think this video hits on the main points/exigence I want my remediation project to have. I really liked that it talked about some of the history behind Roe v Wade, old footage,  and then include some testimonials. I have audio recordings of the interviews I conducted, so I think it would be cool to incorporate that into my remediation project. I also like that throughout the video there was a definitive call to action, which I think was a big part of my repurposing project. I am not trying to change anyone’s mind about these issues, just to remind all those who feel strongly about fighting for a woman’s right to choose that the fight is long from over, and that we should continue to vote for candidates and policy that protect our rights. I think the video really captured that idea, and it is something that I hope to emulate in my own remediation project.

 

Digital Rhetoric Can Be Delicious

Cooking videos are prevalent on the internet, and they always grab my attention whether I’m on Facebook, Youtube, or a blog. Basically, this piece of digital rhetoric walks the viewer though how to make something in the kitchen. The way I think of it, these cooking channels are like modern day digital cookbooks, and they are incredibly compelling.

For one, just watching this banana bread being made makes me crave banana bread. I find this happens whenever I watch any type of cooking video, no matter the dish. Second of all the fact that I can watch this video in  three minutes, makes the viewer believe that the entire process is easy and fast. The chef walks the viewer through all the various steps, talking out the process as he goes. Sometimes, I find that it can be hard to follow all of the directions given in written instruction when you are attempting to cook something. Some directions can be lost in translation, and I have more than once found myself unsure of what Martha Stewart means by “ideal spreading texture.”

In using visual cues, the audience can actually see for example, what the consistency of the banana bread mix should actually be. I personally learn best through demonstration, so these cooking videos are a really good way for me to learn how to cook. Seeing someone’s technique helps me improve my own. Especially with cooking, I think the visual component really holds the audience’s attention and helps them learn.

It’s interesting to note that for this particular channel, SortedFood, they link their website where you can find all of the exact measurements used in the video. Why not just put the exact measurements in the video? One might argue that having too many details might bog down the video and take away from it’s entertainment factor. After all, some people view these videos as pure entertainment, rather than for pragmatic instructional purposes. Having the measurements in an external place also draws more readership to the SortedFood website, which benefits SortedFood.

Overall, I think these videos are not only practical and informative but also fun to watch, and that’s what makes them such  successful pieces of digital rhetoric.