why you should INVEST in my project on social impact INVESTing

I imagine that as a professor, you thoroughly enjoy watching your students grow, learn, and challenge themselves. Well, I can assure you that I will grow, learn, and challenge myself a great deal through this project, a project that has piqued my interest and will build upon my passions.

My curiosity is record-high, and there are many questions that I have begun to and are excited to ask. Intellectual curiosity makes the world of academia go ‘round, and I have plenty of (perhaps too much) intellectual curiosity at this moment. While it may sound overly optimistic, I also believe that there is potential for me to discover something new or something that was overlooked—or to see something in a different way.

Furthermore, this project presents an opportunity for me to make a difference in people’s perceptions, and to inform them of their abilities to be active, virtuous members of society. While I am only one individual, and it is inherently difficult for me to change the world on my own, I do intend to use this project and the research that comes out of it to make the world a better place (even if ever so slightly).

And, well, by investing in my project about social impact investing, you are subsequently making a social impact investment yourself —which, after reading my final paper, you will understand is an investment worth making.

Ta-Ta For Now!

I procrastinated writing this blog post because I couldn’t bear to admit that this semester is coming to an end. While I won’t deny my excitement about the napping, Netflix binge-watching, and sugar cookie overload that will soon unfold as I return home for the holidays, I am sad to say goodbye to the gateway course. But have no fear—we’ll be back for the capstone course in no time!

I don’t know what I’ll miss more about this course: our free-spirited classroom dynamic or the fact that Shelley’s emails would instantly brighten my day. Through Writing 220, I saw unparalleled personal, professional, written and multi-modal growth in myself and in my peers. What started as a class of twenty-odd strangers quickly became a close-knit cohort of students, all of whom are uniquely passionate and equally driven. I can’t pin-point exactly what it was about this course that made it so magical, but there was definitely magic in that classroom air.

I am very proud of my ePortfolio. What I’m most proud, however, is that it is nowhere near what I had envisioned it to be in the beginning of the semester. I feel that this is a testament to my strength as a writer; I was open-minded to revision, to cutting something loose and starting from scratch, to feedback and constructive criticism, and to risk-taking. Yes, this semester presented many twists and turns with regard to my writing, but in the end, my ePortfolio wasn’t what I had hoped it would be…it was BETTER! For that, I owe a huge thanks to Shelley and my Writing 220 team for cheering me on every step of the way 🙂

 

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Web + Log = Leap of Faith

It took me a while to start considering myself a writer. I used to say to myself, you’ve never published anything, so you can’t call yourself a writer. The Minor in Writing, however, helped me realize the fault in this belief. I now know that I am a writer because I like to write, because I am good at writing, and because I write frequently. Fortunately, this realization was more immediate when it came to blogging. In fact, this realization occurred the moment my first blog post was published for a student-run magazine on campus. I can still remember the feeling of thrill, pride, and of course, a little bit of terror.

Sullivan’s post is relatable to the Minor in Writing in so many ways. To start, he refers to metacognition through blogging, describing it as a “spontaneous expression of instant thought.” The Minor in Writing has encouraged us to practice our metacognition skills. As Sullivan explains, blogging is like writing about oneself in the form of a public diary. Doing so forces bloggers to “order and tidy and construct the story of their lives as they look back on them.” I’ve certainly faced this task in Writing 220. Most recently (as in yesterday), I recounted the story of a transformative moment in my writing journey; throughout the semester, I’ve constructed my story about my service trip in Armenia. Furthermore, Sullivan’s essay explains how blogging requires more than just absorption; it requires engagement. This relates to our comments in the MIW blog. These blog comments allow us to engage with each other, praise each other’s work, and push back on some of each other’s ideas. This exercise plays a fundamental role in creating a supportive blogging atmosphere.

When Sullivan mentioned the notion of a “blogger’s personality,” I quickly started to wonder about my own. I know that I have a blogger’s personality—how I write a blog post is completely different than how I write formal emails or academic papers. Nonetheless, I couldn’t put an adjective to this personality. Colloquial, perhaps, but I know it’s more than that. Hmm…definitely something for me to think about 🙂

 

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Lastly, Sullivan goes on to explain that points of his essay “have appeared in shards and fragments on [his] blog for years.” Similarly, points of my Major Projects, and my goals for the Minor in Writing in general, are scattered throughout this blog and my computer archive. I am excited to use my ePortfolio as an opportunity to string together these pieces in a cohesive and comprehensive manner. Yet I am even more excited to make this ePortfolio uniquely me, and to allow my true personality to shine through.

I’ll end this post with an attention-grabbing quote from Sullivan’s essay (which wasn’t hard to find as you can image). He says, “But blogging requires an embrace of such hazards, a willingness to fall off the trapeze rather than fail to make the leap.” Every time I publish a blog post for the world to see, I feel as if I’m taking a leap of faith. Thus, I feel that bloggers are the most vulnerable kinds of writers, and for that, I am proud to call myself one of them.

 

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To-Do Lists Galore

“Drafting and Revising Your Project” from Writer/Designer has given me valuable insight into not only my remediation project, but also my ePortfolio. For example, the screenshot of the sample rough cut was especially helpful because it gave me a good sense of what the rough cut of my remediation project should look like. I, too, will be taking a screenshot of the layout of my slideshow on iMovie. I will also present a rough draft of the 7-minute script to go alongside the slideshow in my TEDTalk.

After submitting my rough cut on Saturday, the next order of business on my “Writing 220 To-Do List” (which actually exists…I’m a to-do list kind of girl) has been to find a location (with a stage and projection screen) to film my TEDTalk. I spoke to Ellie after Monday’s class, and we plan to help each other out with our TEDTalks. Perhaps we could film each other’s performances and thus offer valuable, insightful feedback. I’m fairly intimidated by the idea of giving a speech to the camera for the world to see, so it’d be nice to have a fellow Writing 220 buddy to keep my company 🙂

 

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Until this week, I hadn’t put much thought into my ePorfolio, mainly because I’ve been so wrapped up in Major Projects 1 and 2. Nonetheless, I’ve started to brainstorm ideas for the general layout of the website, as well as draft a few in-process analysis responses. With regard to the guiding theme of my website, however, I’m a little lost. There are so many aspects of my life and personality that I could highlight in my ePortfolio, so where do I even begin!? I hope that once I determine the non-Writing 220 piece(s) to include in my ePortfolio, I’ll be able to see a see a trend among my writing artifacts, which I could then emphasize in the overarching theme and design of my website.

I also found it helpful to read this chapter’s description of the difference between a rough cut and a rough draft. I’ve always known that there’s a distinction, but I wasn’t exactly sure where the line is drawn. Arola, Sheppard and Ball explain, “Your rough draft should be usable in the technology and the medium that you will eventually distribute your project in.” That is, the rough draft of my remediation project should be capable of being played and viewed by my audience without any outside intervention. Similarly, my audience should be able to navigate the rough draft of my ePortfolio. I also appreciate the inclusion of a rough draft checklist in this chapter—again with my beloved lists! Bearing all of this in mind, I realize how much is left for me to do for my projects, so I better keep plugging away…

 

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So where am I at with my re-purposing project, you might ask? Well, I’m continuing to revise my open letter to Millennials, “Dear Millennials.” I’ve found that working on Major Projects 1 and 2 simultaneously has actually enhanced each project, as it allows me to draw from the light-bulb moments that I’ve had with each. It also allows me to ensure that I say everything (or almost everything) that I want to say between the two projects. More updates to come in the near future!

A Storyboard for My Story

To be perfectly honest, I’m more overwhelmed by my re-purposing project than I am by my remediation project. The daunting task of creating a website makes me quite anxious. I’m also finding it difficult to imagine an optimal end result, especially when considering the inevitable time and technical restraints. But more on this to come after my follow-up meeting with Shelley on Friday…

 

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On to my remediation project! Now this is right up my alley. I’ve made many video montages in the past—I even made the video montage for my senior class prom!—so I feel very much up to the challenge. My vision for the video montage will be much clearer after I create the storyboard, which “Designing Your Project” in Writer/Designer describes perfectly. On my storyboard, I will indicate which elements (i.e. photos, videos, audio, text) and actions (i.e. transitions) will occur throughout my video. With regard to the text, some of it will be informative, such as facts and narrations, while others will be inspirational. Kit suggested that I use black fill with white lettering for the text, so I will definitely give that a try!

 

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I’m especially excited about the photo/video aspect of this project. I love photography and its ability to tell a story. There are 712 photos in my “Armenia” photo album, so it’s safe to say that I don’t have a shortage of images. That being said, the act of choosing the most compelling and meaningful photographs will be undoubtedly difficult. With regard to videos, there is one particular video that I know I will include: a video of the Armenian grandmother thanking my volunteer group after our time spent rebuilding her family’s home. I reference this moment in my re-purposing project when I write, “I looked into the eyes of a 4’11” grandmother, with her bowed back and rotten teeth, as she struggled to utter one simple phrase while tears poured down her face: ‘Shnorhagal em,’ ‘Thank you’ in Armenian.” This written sentence is very moving, but to see the grandmother make her speech, hear the translator’s English translation, and witness the crying relatives in the background—now that is powerful. Even after four years, I still get the chills when watching this video.

As I mentioned in my remediation pitch, I also want to include photos at the end (or throughout) the video to serve as examples of other acts of volunteerism around the world. I want these examples to be as broad as possible, spanning various parts of the country, various demographics, and various missions. I want to highlight different types of service that are both “big” (such as building orphanages in a third world country) and “small” (such as organizing a lemonade stand or donating blood). Yet I would also argue that any act of volunteerism, and therefore kindness, is “big” in heart 🙂 My ultimate goal is not only to emphasize our selfless and giving generation, but also to display the vast number of volunteer opportunities that are out there for Millennials. I am concerned, however, that this idea is too closely related to my re-purposing project, in which I refer readers to volunteer opportunities based on location, disposable income, available time, etc. Or could this parallelism further enhance my argument? What do you think?

I recently read a quote from a graduated Minor in Writing student that said, “You have the chance to tell stories that could never be told without you.” I am excited to tell my story, and in the process, I hope to play a role in the birth of many other life-changing stories.

A Long, Rewarding Road Ahead

I felt pretty confident after submitting my first draft, but I was still aware of the long road ahead. Since I was so invested in the project, I had trouble seeing its underutilized potential. Yet when I sat down with Shelley and my blog group members, everything became clear to me. While there is a lot of laborious revision to be done, I am genuinely excited to begin the process. I am not only deeply passionate about this project, but I can also visualize the end result, and boy, will it be great!

My first step in the revision process is to create the website in which my re-purposed project (and eventually my re-mediated project) will live. Shelley helped me see that an original website is the perfect opportunity for me to achieve my goals. I will be able to demonstrate my unique writing voice and passion, showcase my memoir, and present my call-to-action—all in one online medium. Now, since I’ve never created a website before, this is a slightly intimidating task. Nonetheless, I’m excited to learn new things about the world of digital media and to find my individual style along the way. After creating this website and my ePortfolio, I hope to become more tech savvy than ever before!

 

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I am most excited about the multifaceted nature of a website. I now have the ability to turn my single blog post into several pieces and display these pieces in conjunction with menu headings. I will allot a few sections to “My Story,” a section or two to my call-to-action, and a section or two to my readers’ guide. The purpose of this “guide to the reader” is to provide suggestions for how Millennials can volunteer. I will organize these sections by criteria, such as money spent on the volunteer trip (especially for flights), time allotted to volunteering, communities served, etc. In doing so, I hope to make my website relatable to Millennials with all different interests, limitations, and cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. This will also be a great opportunity to take advantage of the hyperlink feature.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be focusing on making my website as personal as possible. By including both an “About Me” section and a letter to the reader that introduces my website, I will have ample opportunity to flesh out my personal experiences. As my blog group members advised, I should go into greater detail about the background of my trip: Why did I decide to go on the trip in the first place? What role had my heritage played in my life up until this point? What role did it play in my decision to go to Armenia? What had I hoped to gain from my experience? What did I ultimately gain from my experience? The list goes on and on. I think I underestimated the compelling power of my story, so I shouldn’t hold back when sharing it with my audience.

I also want to go into greater detail about the service trip itself. I want to paint a picture for the reader of my first drive into the devastating slums of Vanadazor, Armenia, and how I saw the helpless look on the children’s faces and the despair in their eyes. I want to further develop my experience with the grandmother who emotionally thanked me. For what was she thanking me? What had we done to make her so grateful? All in all, the possibilities for this website are endless.

 

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With regard to blog (and now website) conventions, I will add more photos, hyperlinks and graphic design to the piece. Shelley also made the fantastic suggestion of creating an info-graphic for my researched facts on global poverty. The more multi-modality, the better! I want my website to be as aesthetically pleasing as it is informative and moving.

I am confident that I will take great pride in this project. I want to share with not only my friends and family, but also the greater public. If I truly want to reach Millennials with my argument, then I must display it on the Internet for the world to see. Perhaps The Fuller Center for Housing could publish it on their webpage, or maybe the International Center at U of M could use it to help students find opportunities (or even just inspiration) to volunteer. Either way, look out for my website in the near future 🙂

Let’s Reflect

Hello world! I’m back for some more meta-cognition, and this time it’s about Project 1: Re-Purposing an Argument. This project has definitely been a work in progress, but as I reflect on where I started and where I am now, I’m pleased to see that I have in fact made some progress. When I first pitched my project to the class, I had a general sense of what I wanted the final product to look like, but there were still so many unanswered questions looming over my head. To start, I struggled with narrowing down my audience and choosing a genre. Thankfully, I think I finally found the answers to both questions (with the help of my awesome Writing 220 peers, of course!). I decided to cater my argument to Millennials and to present it in the form of a multi-modal blog post. I’m excited to get creative with this assignment and play around with its overall presentation (e.g. font, layout, links to outside sources, images, etc.). I hope the purpose of my project shines through after everything falls into place. Fingers crossed!

 

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The most difficult roadblock I’m facing right now is my overwhelming realization of the many moving parts of this project. I’ve thrown around plenty of ideas, but now I struggle with how to piece them all together into a cohesive project. I’ve also had trouble balancing Projects 1 and 2; I want to put everything I have into this project, but at the same time, I don’t want to exhaust all opportunities for re-mediation. This is the first assignment I’ve had in which the final draft isn’t exactly final. The fact that I can go back and change my re-purposed project again is both exciting and daunting, but I’m definitely up to the challenge!

My other concern relates to the issue of sentimentality. Even “Humans of New York,” a celebrated photo-blog, struggles with the criticism of sentimentality and its negative connotation. In fact, I even wrote a blog post last semester about some of these criticisms. I want to showcase my life-changing experience in Armenia in a meaningful and powerful way, but I would hate for my readers to perceive this as an attempt (intentional or not) to exploit global suffering in order to guilt Millennials into volunteering. But this is where you all come in! Your fresh set of eyes and keen perception will be much appreciated after my rough draft is complete.

I feel very fortunate to have so many photographs from my trip to use as inspiration. Flipping through my album brings tears of joy and sadness to my eyes, and I immediately feel the urge to share my story with everyone around me. Don’t worry—the next time I look through these photos, I’ll be sure to have a Word document open 🙂 I want to save most of these photos for my re-mediated project (which will likely be in the form of a video or slideshow), but I’ll definitely include a few of my favorites in the re-purposed blog post.

Overall, I’m less concerned about lacking ideas and more concerned about how my ideas will present themselves on paper. Will I make effective use of multi-modality in my blog post? Will my audience understand my purpose? Will my audience be narrow enough? If anyone else struggles with similar concerns, please reach out. We can take comfort in not being alone!

 

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An Audience vs. Ourselves: For Whom Do We Write?

After reading “Craft of Research Reading,” I see my job as a writer from a new perspective, and I’ve started to think about the reader-writer relationship in a very different way.

Chapter Two begins with the statement, “Most of the important things we do, we do with others.” I’ve always understood that writing isn’t a solitary act, and that the reader-writer relationship is an essential component to any good writing. Yet the authors of this chapter made me question whether or not I think about my audience as much as I should. Before beginning to write something, I usually ask myself: Who is my audience? What I fail to do is dig deeper and ask: What does my audience already know? What does my audience want to know? What does my audience need to know? The answers to these questions play a huge role in the genre, tone and argument of my writing, and thus are extremely important to address early on.

I definitely agree that it’s important to understand your audience and keep your readers in mind as you write. That’s not to say, however, that I think the audience should solely carry a piece of writing and dictate everything else that follows. As I wrote my original source for Project 1 (my college application essay), I was too focused on the audience of my essay. I cared too much about what my readers (i.e. college admissions officers) wanted to read, and less about what I wanted to share. In doing so, I may have lost my own writing voice along the way.

Some of the best pieces of writing are those that discuss topics that many people may not want to hear. Sure, most people are inclined to read about what they like, but it’s equally important for people to read things that are out of their comfort zone, challenge their thinking, and/or make them disagree with the writer’s opinion. Now that I have the opportunity to re-purpose my original source, I have the opportunity to step back from my writing and rethink my audience. I no longer have to adhere to the wants and needs of a college admissions officer; I have the freedom to share exactly want I want my audience to hear.

This reading also made me reflect on my specific audience for Project 1. After presenting my proposal to the class last week, several people raised the question of, “Who exactly is your audience?” While I felt inclined to make my audience the general public in order to reach as many people as possible, the broadness of this audience makes it difficult to tailor to any reader to all. As the authors of Craft of Research Reading point out, “…there are so many ‘you’s’ out there, all different.” It would be impossible to convince the entire “public” to read my argument and to cater to everyone’s wants and needs. Therefore, I need to be more specific about my audience before beginning the re-purposing process.

Lastly, this article encouraged me to let my interests and enthusiasm shine through my projects. My readers won’t want to hear what I have to say if it isn’t clear that the topic is important to me. I also need to be careful not to assume that my readers know everything (or even anything) about my topic. I may be somewhat of an expert on my topic after spending an entire semester on it, but that doesn’t imply that my readers are, too.

While this article offers many valuable pieces of advice, it also introduces an argument that I don’t entirely agree with. In Chapter Two, the authors say, “If you miscast readers, you will leave so many traces in your early drafts that you won’t easily fix them in the final one.” This statement contradicts Lamott’s main argument in Shitty First Drafts. My first drafts rarely reflect my readers’ wants and needs. In fact, my first drafts rarely reflect MY wants and needs; they’re usually just “shitty!” Therefore, I believe there’s still hope for a writer to adapt to his or her audience even well into the revision stage, and I have successful experience to prove it 🙂

 

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Should writers only write what their readers would “Like?”

Tell It Like It Is

From the moment I read the prompt for this assignment, I knew I would choose one example to epitomize both requirements. I hope to emulate every piece of writing that I find excellently written and intellectually/artistically engaging, because that’s what good writers do!

Yet to be honest, this assignment was especially challenging for me. To start, I come across pieces of writing that I hope to emulate almost every day, so it’s hard for me to think back to just one example. Secondly, I feel that most of what I wish to emulate comes from a variety of texts (memoirs, blog posts, articles, etc.), but not necessarily your average best-selling novel. I find myself wanting to emulate the articulate and insightful messages conveyed in speeches and TED Talks, but not necessarily George Orwell’s 1984. Perhaps this stems from intimidation, or perhaps it stems from my unwavering desire to find my own authentic voice.

 

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When working at this assignment, I tried to think about my goals for Projects 1 and 2. At this point in the planning and brainstorming stage, I notice myself leaning toward a project that has a socially conscious purpose. I’m not exactly sure how to convey this purpose just yet, but I ultimately hope to send a strong, potentially difficult-to-hear message to the world. I want to present a call-to-action, and force my audience to see something from which most people turn away. In thinking about my aspirations for this re-purposing assignment, I immediately thought back to a book that I read last summer: The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change. This book, written by Adam Braun, Founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization Pencils of Promise, does exactly what I hope to achieve. His book inspires its readers, and sheds some light on a difficult, but nonetheless present issue. One particular passage from his book that I hope to emulate, and that I also find well-written and engaging, is as follows:

“You may be safe, but I am free. Take advantage of the freedom that comes with your youth. Inhale life, exhale fire, and embrace the late, sleepless nights, because that’s when the magic happens—when everyone else is asleep and you’re awake thinking about the world as it is, and the world as it could be. Make the most of those moments […] And in the coming years people will tell you that you’re too young to change the world. I’m here to tell you, that’s fucking bullshit.”

One reason I choose this piece of writing is because it might not stand out to most people as the most “excellently written” piece in the history of literature. But that is exactly why I like it. It doesn’t use pompous jargon or unnecessarily wordy phrases. Instead, it gets right to the point and makes the reader believe that there is no better way to make such a point. The passage is inspiring, brutally honest, and poignant: everything I hope to achieve in Projects 1 and 2.

If I were to reverse-engineer this passage with Pinker’s wisdom, I would make note of the juxtaposition of “inhale life, exhale fire.” The phrases are short and abrupt, while the phrase immediately following, “and embrace the late, sleepless nights,” rolls off the tongue in a more poetic, fluid manner. I can picture change-agents like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malala Yousafzai breathing fire as they share their important message with the world. The following phrase, “the world as it is, and the world as it could be,” is especially powerful because it implies that the two are strikingly different. The world is not as it should be; the world is capable of changing, and it could be so much more. Similarly, the contradictory nature of “you may be safe, but I am free,” suggests that being safe and free are not one and the same. To be wholly free, must we first experience the feeling of being insecure and exposed?

By cursing at the end of this speech, Braun drives his message home with full force, and in the words of Pinker, he ends strong. He doesn’t sugarcoat his argument or tiptoe around reality; he tells it like it is. His apparent anger about the falseness of the preceding statement, and his unwavering belief in youth’s ability to effect change, empowers the reader to get angry and passionate, too. I hope to instill the same passion in my viewers for Projects 1 and 2.

Multimodality All Around Me

Over the past few days, I’ve been attentive to the many multimodal texts around me. Before reading the chapter What Are Multimodal Projects?, I never realized how many multimodal texts surround me on a daily basis. I made note of some of the texts around me in order to analyze and compare the modes used in each text.

The first multimodal text I noticed was in the Diag at the end of last week. I walked by a dance group performance in which all five modes of communication were used: linguistic, aural, visual, spatial and gestural. The dance routine, costumes, and performers are a few examples of the visual, spatial and gestural modes, while the music and lyrics are examples of the linguistic and aural modes. I never thought to analyze a dance performance is such a way, let alone consider it a text, until reading this chapter of Writer/Designer.

 

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While watching the Republican Primary Debate on CNN last Wednesday, I reflected on the prominent use of the linguistic and gestural modes. The linguistic mode, namely word choice and delivery, was heavily used as the candidates spoke about their opinions on key issues. Nonetheless, the audience was able to get a better sense of what each candidate was trying to communicate, persuade and/or instruct by observing their facial expressions, hand gestures, body language and interaction with other candidates (as described in Chapter 1).

As I scroll through my Pinterest feed, I notice that the website makes effective use of the visual, spatial and linguistic modes. The layout and size of the photos displayed across the homepage exemplify the visual mode, the arrangement and organization of the pictures exemplify the spatial mode, and finally, the captions attached to each photo use the linguistic mode to inform and entertain the viewer. All three modes greatly contribute to the overall presentation and attractiveness of the webpage.

 

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Lastly, I noticed many texts around me while shopping at Whole Foods this weekend. As noted in Chapter 1, grocery store shelves and aisles use visual information to grab our attention. Moreover, the words overhead, indicating what is to be found in each aisle, make use of the linguistic mode, while the arrangement and organization of consumer packaged goods showcase how the spatial mode is used. To my surprise, I left the grocery store with more than just the food on my “to buy” list; I left with a greater appreciation for the multimodality around me! This assignment also taught me to be more observant of my surroundings, which is a great life lesson in general.