#HelpFindJeb

If I’m being totally honest, I feel as if between my annotated bib, project mini assignments etc., I am becoming absurdly repetitive as we continue to work toward completing our capstone projects. I have introduce my patronus, Russell Kirk, on too many occasions either via my writing or directly to my class/blog group in a workshop setting. I thought, initially, that choosing Kirk as my patronus could be beneficial in helping me to better understand the original focus of my project. However, now that my project’s angle has shifted, I’m pretty much over Kirk and his “Ten Conservative Principles” (which eerily felt as if they mimicked the ten commandments).

Trying to write an introduction was reassuring because, at the very least, it confirmed that my interest in my new topic is genuine. By the way, rather than focusing solely on modern American conservatism, I am hoping to explore the impact of our frequent use of such terms to define the way people think in American society. One question I might ask myself as I continue my research might be: is considering yourself to be either conservative or liberal beneficial to the overall progress of American society? I would almost consider that question to be rhetorical, but I know many that might disagree. I still intend to interview these people. BUT, I’ve given up on the idea of recording these interviews with a video camera (it just did not seem practical).

I have a lot to figure out before I am ready to work toward submitting something on March 10th. Luckily, Spring “break” has arrived. I hope to use the upcoming week to answer questions like what form should my renovated project idea be presented in. Podcast? A series of think pieces? Memes? I am not too worried, though. As soon as I commit to one form or another, now that I have my questions/arguments set, I think I’ll begin to make some serious strides.

If I were to share a tentative plan of attack it would be this: continue to examine the effects of the Trump presidency (and more importantly the realization that the Republican party is made up of more than what should be considered to be conservative), as well as the accuracy (or rather the inaccuracy) of the terms and labels we use to define our political beliefs and values. Then, I just need to start writing stuff.

Why I Minor in Writing

I would summate my comparison between the ideas put forth by Andrew Sullivan’s “Why I Blog” and both George Orwell and Joan Didion’s “Why I Write”s by stating that there are two main aspects that would elicit very different responses from the latter two authors. I think that there is no denying the similarities of the attitudes of all three authors in regards to why each of them decides to write or blog. Sullivan refers to it as a “spontaneous expression of instant thought”, which correlates with both Didion and Orwell’s thoughts on why they write which revolve around self expression and accomplishing a goal that involves inspiring your audience.

Where I feel Orwell and Didion might both take issue with Sullivan’s piece is his claim that blogging “heralds a golden era for journalism”. Sullivan seems to believe that the spontaneous and boundless nature of blogging is to an extent, keeping journalism alive. He asserts that simplicity and conciseness appeal to what I might interpret as the new age, lazy reader. And although I agree that the innovative and convenient nature of the blogosphere is very appealing, I think that it is far different from a lot of what particularly Orwell asserts is most important and essential in writing. For example, he makes claims about the importance of his personal experiences and historical events of his time molding a great deal of the arguments behind his writing. Blogging almost feels too temporary and malleable for comparison. Perhaps though, all that means is that blogging is a totally different animal than writing as a whole, and not necessarily that Orwell and Sullivan have different takes on why people should write.

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As I continue to contemplate why I myself write, my thoughts revolve around two points both elicited by the writing of the authors aforementioned above. The first reason I suppose is obvious considering I am a political science major contemplating entering the political and government spheres. That would be the political agendas mentioned as one of the “four degrees in every writer” by Orwell. What I liked about his definition was that it asserted that political agendas do not always have to pertain directly to politics, but rather are more generally anything that seeks to push the mindset or beliefs of a populace of people. I hope to inspire change or force contemplation with my writing, regardless of what professional route I take in life.

The second reason for why I write is something that I suppose I have had in mind for far longer. This would be self reflection. In my opinion, there is nothing like going back to something you wrote long enough ago that you almost forgot, and reflecting upon your past thoughts. I feel as if self reflection is something that everyone engages in, whether it be an athlete tracking his progress, or a student observing their academic improvement. However by writing you are literally recording your thoughts on any and all matters that you could ever fathom talking about, leaving them for reflection at any time. I think that’s pretty cool I guess.

Drafting and Revising Your Project(s)

While reading chapter 7 of “Writer/Designer” (particularly the first few pages), I thought a lot about what the rough cut of my re-purposing project will look like versus the rough draft. I decided that I would ideally hope to include any potentially useful footage in a rough cut in my video, and that my draft would exist once I began re-arranging the order of the clips in addition to adding other stylistic elements such as sounds or visual elements such as text. I also imagine that as a video, the project will just be one on-going rough draft that is constantly being altered and tweaked.

Regarding my ePortfolio project, I would definitely have to say that I felt that the most useful sections of the chapter were the ones regarding planning your rough cut and moving from a rough cut to a rough draft. I suppose that is because the rest of the chapter referenced aspects of creating a project that we have already covered while working on our re-purposing projects, such as feedback and revision. As mentioned in my previous blog post, it’s all about that feedback loop.

I was surprised to learn that the creation of a rough cut actually would include the literal creation of our ePortfolio site. The “roughness” referenced by authors of “Writer/Designer” actually includes most of the visual aspects of our ePortfolio, including graphics, color schemes, and text styles. Sure, the site may not be interactive at this point, but it sounds as if our rough cuts will appear as websites with an appearance that just has not serve any functions yet. Reading directions on how to go about creating my rough cut got me back to thinking about what I hope my ePortfolio will look like visually. Earlier in the semester, when this assignment was first introduced, I thought of several potential ideas for what the overall theme of my ePortfolio should be. I am still determined to try to put together a visual appearance that pertains highly to the content in my projects, and that also relates to me on a more personal level. That may be difficult considering the focus of my projects so far are binge drinking on campus, but we’ll see where it goes I suppose. michigan drinking

Any draft of my ePortfolio will, in my opinion, essentially be a finished project that could be improved upon. It is supposed to include all my finished written works, music, and a navigable web menu which means that it will already be serving its true purpose of introducing myself and my works in the writing minor. I guess this makes sense considering it is ideal to have incorporated any and all ideas you have for a project prior to having it introduced to others for feedback.

Understanding now that my ePortfolio rough draft “should work” according to the instructions in “Writer/Designer”, I am realizing that my timeline is beginning to shrink. It’s important that I commit to one or two themes to base my ePortfolio off of so that I can look into design schemes and ideas that will make my argument clear to my intended audience. I feel as if the way my ePortfolio presents my projects is almost as important as the content of the assignments in regarding to adequately illustrating their purpose to readers. Like, if my ePortfolio design is boring or unrelated to my questions regarding blackout culture at Michigan, my audience may feel less inclined to take my argument seriously due to a lack of interest or cohesion within what is on the screen in front of them.

Approaching My Re-Mediation Project

I should start off by stating that I found chapter 6 of “Writer/Designer” to be far more helpful in regards to planning my approach to my re-mediation project than I had assumed it would be. Aside from clarifying the differences between storyboards and mock-ups for me, it mostly just presented information that I was already familiar with. And yet I felt as if going over such important aspects of a project like assets and timelines was very helpful in regards to the overall organization of my thoughts. This was huge for me considering how overwhelmed I was beginning to feel thinking of my re-mediation project while my re-purposing assignment is still in the revision stage.

Speaking of the revision stage, I thought it was almost funny how we are just getting assigned reading that mentions the feedback loop, which has obviously been such an instrumental part of every assignment we’ve taken on this semester thus far. Like, the feedback loop includes every step we intend to take toward the finalization of our re-purposing project with the exception of our initial idea pitches.

In regards to my re-mediation project, one issue I already see is that I’m not sure how I would go about creating a mock-up or a storyboard considering what I am intending to do with this project. I want to use unscripted footage of students explaining their take on why blackout culture is so big on Michigan’s campus, and string it together in a way that will make a cohesive argument. I don’t see how I could create that image as a visual in the form of a mock-up. I also don’t see how I can anticipate the responses I am going to receive to make a storyboard that would allow me to illustrate what I intend to show on screen in my video. I suppose I could just focus on the inclusion of what types of inter titles and transitions I intend to use throughout my video, but I am not sure how useful that kind of storyboard would be. I suppose I could just focus on writing a script of questions I intend to ask students, even if I do not intend to include them in the video itself. Additionally, I could definitely consider what kinds of soundtracks there might be in the background of the video in addition to the setting in regards to where I intend to go to interview students.

In regards to my assets, I think that I am more than capable of creating the type of video I have in mind using equipment I already have in my possession. My laptop has the iMovie app, which I became somewhat familiar with in high school when I took a media production course with one of the coolest teachers I’ve ever had. Actually, although this is totally unrelated, but I feel like doing him a solid and sharing his music here. This guy has actually become a homie since I graduated, and I think some of his work is actually awesome.

Anyway, I’d also need a recording device of some sort to make this video happen. I think my go-pro would suffice, right? I just think its sturdy and mobile nature is pretty ideally considering that I would prefer to interview a lot of students in more social settings such as football tailgates and the bars if possible.

Thanks brings me to my next point regarding my timeline for completing this project. There are only two football tailgates left in the semester, and so I’ve got to make moves in terms of gathering footage if I want any chance of having enough quality responses to get a quality argument coming from this project. Other than that though, as long as iMovie and my go-pro will suffice as my assets for this assignment, I think setting aside time to gather footage and edit it will be the only two major factors I need to consider in regards to completing my re-mediation project in timely manner.

Signing the Blackout Pact

So I should probably start by mentioning that I’ve decided to drop my old re-purposing project altogether to pursue a whole new idea. I am honestly not even sure if I would have been able to pull off a fictional narrative featuring some of the most famous mythical characters of all time. What I mean is I don’t know what aspects I would have introduced that could have made my own depiction of an epic tale anymore interesting than it already is. Like, two time academy award winning director Wolfgang Peterson already did in “Troy”. Not only that, but he also had Brad fucking Pitt starring in the film as Achilles.

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Anyway, I’ve elected to pursue another re-purposing idea. Last year I wrote a paper for my sociology class where I used observational field notes to compare and contrast my experiences at a frat party while intoxicated and while sober. I’d like to expand on some of those ideas and turn it into a personal reflection focused on the blackout culture that exists at Michigan and most other major universities. I just feel as if I would have a lot to say on the subject considering I live through these types of scenarios weekly, and also am passionate about efforts encouraging students, particularly those within Greek Life, to recognize the fine line between having a good time and slowly developing substance abuse problems.

I don’t mean to be a hypocrite about it either. I am just as guilty as any hyper-social college student of the type of antics that I’ll be looking to write about as I further my exploration of the new age blackout culture in question. I’ve woken up in strange places an unhealthy amount of times, and have forgotten meeting new people so often that its amounted to nothing short of an embarrassment. I guess what I’m looking to examine with my work is “why?”.

Why does working so hard in the library/classroom all week elicit the need to purposely get belligerently drunk? Is it really because we’ve pushed our minds to their limits and now this the only way we know how to unwind and let go of the stresses accompanying our 16 credit course loads? Or rather is it just about succumbing to the cultural pressures which instruct us to work hard, and play harder?

I thoroughly believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting reckless on Thursday nights at Skeeps. We’re in college and although our education comes first, there’s no doubt that many of us intend to live while we’re young. I know I do. But the fact remains that there’s an uncompromising difference between being an irresponsible college kid and making a conscious decision to drink yourself to oblivion the moment you walk out of that last discussion section on Thursday afternoon.

I suppose my personal thoughts and relationships with this blackout culture I keep referring to could make my re-purposing project a bit of a personal reflection. A reflection that I think a lot of people could relate to. But I’d also like to frame it in such a way that incorporates the thoughts of others. Either way though, I think the route I’ll end up taking will be a personal narrative on my experiences within social life here at Michigan.

And with that, I’ll sign off with a banger that proves the existence of a trend that actually encourages you to consume alcohol until you’re a liability to yourself and everyone around you. Oh yeah, and my social organization was almost responsible for bringing one of these degenerates to Michigan to perform his music. Sorry still not sorry.

 

Research Reading

The authors of “The Craft of Research Reading” introduced the interaction between a writer and their reader as being a social activity. This point set the tone for how I would receive the rest of the authors’ advice on writing. I was enlightened by the idea that as a reader or writer, you play a role that is nearly identical to the one you would play in any other social interaction. This includes acting (or writing) in such a way that will be understood by your reader, which also means anticipating their own behavior or knowledge similar to the way you would in any other social interaction. The concept of treating your writing like one half of a two way relationship provided great clarity to me in regards to the idea of recognizing my audience.

Another aspect of the text that helped me to see my job as a writer more clearly came in regards to its instruction on “managing the unavoidable problem of inexperience”. I great deal of what I’ll be attempting as student in the writing minor is foreign in that I have almost no experience with forms of writing that stretch beyond persuasive essays or research papers. Any fiction, visual arts projects, etc that I aspire to create are beyond my current capacity as far as I am concerned. But in addition to offering instruction on how to attack new forms of literary research, the authors provided comfort with their reminder that the struggle is ultimately, still, a learning experience. I very much feel that the first two points that I have addressed are ones that will help me formulate my approach to my first re-purposing project.

The authors of the text go on to say that “once you understand a source, feel free to disagree”. This statement comes following their emphasis on first fully understanding a source, and being smart enough to know not to use it if you don’t fully comprehend its arguments. Now although unlike the first two concepts I analyzed, I do not think this theory will apply to my fictional re-purposing project, I do believe that it holds great weight in regards to how I will consider possible sources in many of my other classes, all of which require that I use academic sources to present an argument. Their point regarding the importance of understanding your research reminds me of the fact that regardless of the quality of information, my ability to incorporate it successfully will ultimately rest on my understanding of it. I feel that having a firm grasp of the concepts I seek to present in my future essays will undoubtedly improve their overall quality.

Oh and in addition to the “Using Sources” chapter reminding me of the importance of understanding the information you intend to use, it helped me to recall the clutch nature of the citation machine website that I’ve been using since the third grade.

The only aspect of “The Craft of Research Reading” that I think I might have to totally disagree with is its suggestion of “dividing and delegating” or assigning specific jobs when writing as a group. I just feel as if having certain jobs when participating in group writing exercises limits everyone’s creative instincts because they are focusing on only specific aspects of the text. I’d say its a lot like having a basketball team, and instructing one guy to shoot, while another does the ball handing, and the remaining three players handle the defensive load. I see no benefit from that versus allowing everyone to contribute to all aspects of a piece in the works.

Describing Multimodality in Everyday Texts

Over the past couple of days I’ve obviously been exposed to an endless amount of multimodal texts. In fact, now that I am sitting down to write about it, I am sure that I’ve been exposed to far more multimodal texts than I could ever keep track of.

One type of text that I felt often utilized all five modes of communication was visual advertisements that are scattered across town. I probably came across more than I can recall, but one that comes to mind as definitely having used all five modes was a banner I saw at a football tailgate. The banner was an advertisement for NFL Sunday Ticket, a streaming service that allows you to watch football games that aren’t being nationally televised. The linguistic mode of the banner was of course the text on the sign, which included the name of the product as well as what purpose it served. The aural mode was minor and may be a stretch to even consider to have existed, but I would consider the explanations following the mentioning of a student discount to count because it elicited a certain tone of voice when I read the message in my head. The gestural mode was obvious which was the last line of the banner which instructed you to go online to sign up for the product. The visual mode of the banner included not only the sheer size of the banner, but the NFL Sunday Ticket logo which was included on the left side of the banner. Lastly, the spatial mode of the banner was the difference in text font size between the name of the product and its description in addition to the fact that the banner was hung up high on the roof of the house where many people would notice it.

I would say that although I cannot recall, most of the sign advertisements I’ve come across included most if not all five modes and that is because a combination of these elements make for the most effective ads. They serve various purposes whether it be catching our general attention, or informing us about the usefulness of the product. General patterns that are included in these ads include short, concise text and bright, eye-catching color schemes.

More text that I came across and read several times was in the form of pamphlets that were handed out in the Diag and undergraduate library vicinities of central campus. Hosting a great deal of foot traffic during the day, it is sensible to expect various student organizations and clubs to advertise their functions here where they are easy to distribute to mass amounts of people. However a quick analysis of these pamphlets yielded what I consider to be a pretty simple, yet accurate observation of them which is the importance of maintaining the interest of the student. The reality is that students walking through the Diag are typically very busy, and highly uninterested in what your piece of paper has to say. If and when you get someone to take one, it is important that your pamphlet design employs modes in such a way that keeps someone reading to the bottom of the page. Otherwise, most if not all people will either stuff that flyer into their pocket or toss it into the next available trash can.

For example, of the two pamphlets I remember seeing, only one mentioned receiving free pizza. Naturally, I was far more likely to read that text to the end, learning more information about dance marathon, than I was to continue reading about another topic that introduced itself by asking me if I liked history. Both flyers were visually appealing, including a bright colored paper base and pictures to associate with each subject, however it was with its linguistic mode that the history club flyer fell short. It failed to attract the initial attention of an average student and therefore was far less of an effective means of advertising.

The two types of text I have discussed thus far have essentially been advertisements, and the final type I would like to mention and the multimodality of is nearly a total opposite. I read out of my political science textbook, which failed to elicit any of the five modes in a way similar to the advertisements. However that is not to say that the modes were not employed at all. My political science textbook is a type of text that is not meant to catch your attention and reel you in like an advertisement or the first pages of a fictional novel. Of course a textbook is something you pick up with a specific idea of exactly what you are looking for and what you expect to find. Therefore rather than aiming to be multimodal in order to catch your attention, it employs mostly linguistic and spatial modes to appear credible and pass along information pertaining to its subjects.

It is clear that not only do multimodal texts exist everywhere, but they all employ several modes, regardless of their purpose, to succeed at eliciting a point to their readers.

I’m Convinced

I’ve decided to discuss the writing of an author who’s work I not only strived to emulate since first reading his it, but who’s success as a writer is illustrated by its impact on recent American history. I am referring to the work of John Yoo, the attorney who authored the so-called torture memos from the George W. Bush Administration. Whether you agree with the political ideologies of Yoo or not is irrelevant, and that is because his legendary power of persuasion and word manipulation render his argumentative writing abilities most impressive regardless. I’ve chose analyze a shorter piece by Yoo titled “How the Presidency Regained Its Power”, with which he makes a very convincing argument both explaining the actions of the Bush Administration and justifying the sensibility associated with increased executive power.

Perhaps the most important aspect of Yoo’s piece is how he appears to be effortlessly dismantling the arguments of President Bush’s critics by referencing historical events that support his own ideals. Yoo draws back to the actions of several past commander in chiefs, drawing correlations between their actions and those of President Bush, successfully minimizing the perceived amount of power seized by the white house during Bush’s presidency. He also uses events such as the Vietnam War and The Watergate Scandal to discredit Bush’s critics by labeling their view of the presidency as heavily skewed by the aftermath of these occurrences. It is difficult to argue with a writer who appears to have more than one response to each of the arguments of those who would oppose him.

Additionally, one can’t help but note the importance of Yoo’s sentence structure and the way he phrases his arguments. Most famously done when he wrote the torture memos that granted the CIA the power to use questionable methods while interrogating terrorist leaders, Yoo employed a certain vagueness in his writing that made his actual intent difficult to decipher while also proving difficult for congress to rebut. In this particular article, I noted the way Yoo describes the other two branches of government when mentioning the actions they have taken in the past to limit the powers of the president during the last 30 to 35 years. He refers to the judiciary as “energetic” and calls congress “bulked up”, insinuating that both have a tendency to act out in ways that exceed their constitutional mandates. To disagree with many of John Yoo’s points almost feels well, unpatriotic.

Yoo’s analysis of the Constitution, an accurate interpretation of which guides this particular argument, is particularly interesting as well because of how simplified and obvious its meaning appears to be as according to Yoo. A perfect interpretation of this 228 year old document has escaped judges and scholars since its enactment. And yet when John Yoo explains its meaning in his works, he produces an interpretation with only small voids which he fills by citing examples from his vast bank of American historical events. He quotes specific clauses from the document and offers a word by word interpretation of its meaning which leaves no room for dispute as his analysis pertains to his overall argument in favor of executive power.

John Yoo’s work may not serve much of a literary purpose, but I admire his writing all the same because the success of his persuasive writing techniques seems to be more of a fact than an opinion of mine. His work restructured the functions and purpose of our government in such a way that would allow Bush’s war on terror to ensue. He authored dozens of letters, executive orders, memos, and clauses that would grant the presidency the power it deemed necessary to keep America safe in the years following 9/11. These powers, many of which would be deemed irresponsibly great for one branch to wield, fell into the lap of President Bush thanks to the brilliance of his deputy assistant Attorney General, John Yoo.

 

Leave Your Fears in the Locker Room

There was a single line of Lynn Hunt’s “How Writing Turns to Thinking” which stood out to me above all others. I also felt that this particular message strongly correlated with Steven Pinker’s concept of “a child’s draft”. She wrote, “you cannot accumulate pages if you constantly second guess yourself”. As I thought about the meaning of her assertion, and its relevance regarding Pinker’s work as well as what I aspire to achieve through the writing minor at large, it all seemed relatable to my prior experiences on a soccer field.

Before stepping onto the pitch, my coach would always remind us to leave our fears in the locker room. He assured us that playing scared would only ensure failure. It was on us to be the aggressors, give it our all, and hope that it was enough to earn a win.

Now the way I saw these experiences as correlating with writing is as follows. As stated in both Lynn Hunt’s piece and Pinker’s “The Sense of Style”, you cannot second guess yourself when you sit down to write something. You have to believe that somewhere amongst all you are spewing out onto that page, is the spark that will inspire and fuel the rest of your work. However, just like before stepping onto a soccer field, you must first develop confidence; the confidence to sit down at a desk, unafraid of what genius you may or may not stumble upon as you go. To develop the confidence necessary to succeed between the sticks on a soccer field, I practiced hard with coaches and teammates who encouraged me, critiqued me, and made me a better player. Without them, surely I would have not been able to accumulate the mental fortitude necessary to win games.

In a way, I hope to attain a similar sense of confidence as it pertains to my writing through the writing minor. Hunt’s piece motivated me to use my time in the minor to obtain the tools necessary to be able to sit down in front of a blank computer screen, unafraid of what my words may produce. I expect that with hard work and commitment to the writing minor, will come the day when I sit down to write an essay, shoulders relaxed, and without fear of however many pages of garbage I may initially produce.