Let’s get some writer’s cabins on this campus!

Finding the perfect place on campus to write has been an especial struggle for me this year. I’m not sure if, over four years, I’ve just exhausted the regular corners, or if other students have discovered my secret hideaways, but the magic is gone.

I’m assuming a few of you have experienced similar frustrations, and have ended up walking around campus for 30+ minutes just to locate a cozy spot. I found a few neat sources that might inspire some thought on this.

Here’s  a tumblr of writers who seem to share my struggle, and offer some tips of places that work best for them-complete with pictures. And here’s another blog that explores the topic “Where Writers Write.”

These gave me a few ideas, but I still think we should propose that UM build some writer’s cabins around campus. Seriously–space is everything!

Readings

Hey everyone!

So here are a few readings that might give you a better idea about my project. The first one is John Jeremiah Sullivan’s essay

Upon This Rock. I’m thinking of adopting this genre for one of my pieces.

The next source is an article written in The Detroit News about the challenges that New Bethel has faced with street violence. The last article I found on mlive and provides some additional historical information about the church.

Thanks, guys!

help!

Howdy y’all.

Alright sooooo…my project has since transformed from being photographically based to being composed instead of multiple genres that include:  personal reflections about my experiences at New Bethel Baptist Church (in the form of  eleven, 1-2 page journal entries completed after each Sunday I attend), a lengthy narrative, 4-5 interviews (transcribed and recorded), perhaps a creative fiction piece, maybe a few haikus.

I’d like to use smaller pieces as fodder for a larger immersive piece which I think will explore the following vague concepts: bias, authority, identity, story-telling, voice, and translation. I’m not sure that this really makes sense. I’m also not really sure what I’m doing. I guess my primary mode of research is conversations with congregation members and pastors at the church. I’d like to learn about this particular community for lots of different reasons, (both personal and academic) but I think I’d like this research project to challenge the typical academic research model of relying primarily upon scholarly text. Instead, I’d like the perspectives, opinions, and stories of the people that I meet to inform my pieces. I will conduct a series of interview (maybe 4-5) and audio record them behind ONE photo essay (which I hope will include 50-70 photos).

I’d love your guys’ feedback on different genres. Has anyone taken any classes where you’ve had to write journal/reflective pieces, and perhaps can suggest a general format? Or perhaps someone has taken one of those neat RC oral history classes and knows a thing or two about ethical interviewing techniques? Or maybe you guys have suggestions of other genres of writing you think would be neat to incorporate into this? Really, any ideas would be fabulous.

Thanks everyone! See you tomorrow bright and early.

A Resilient Parish

New Bethel Baptist Church was founded in 1946 by clergyman and minister C.L. Franklin, father of the late Aretha Franklin, who recorded her gospel album, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism in the church. Once a beacon of hope and refuge for the faithful, New Bethel has tragically crumbled alongside of its once vibrant community. But much like the city in which it resides, tremendous energy of its congregation members has been revealed in its recent actions of collectively rebuilding through organizing efforts and political activism.

Methods & Research: For my project, I’d like to tell the story of New Bethel through the eyes of its congregation members and pastors. What might this church teach us about the narratives of our nation’s “Rustbelt” cities? What might this church teach us about the city of Detroit and its people? What might this church tell us about the resilience of Detroit residents? The main obstacle that I face in doing any type of immersion project like this is permission for access. I have made contact with a few pastors from New Bethel in the past, and will arrange to meet with them in person to discuss my objectives and receive formal permission. My plan is to turn over my photographs to the church for their use. I don’t foresee them having any issues with me visiting any and all church functions over the course of the semester, but earning the trust of congregation members is absolutely the key for this project to be a success. I will need to communicate why it is that I care about this church and why I am interested in telling its story.

Pastor Melvin Rogers

This main method I’d like to use for this project is a photographic essay and/or a short video (maybe 5-10 minutes long) similar to Anthony Suau’s essay, Struggling Cleveland  Additionally, I ‘d like to write an immersion memoir about my experience. Pieces classified as “travel journalism” seem to exemplify the type of style I’d like to adopt in my immersion piece. John Jeremiah Sullivan’s “Upon This Rock.”  I would like to conduct several formal interviews. These will all be incorporated into the recorded video, used as voice-overs for the photo essay, and quoted within the journalism piece.

That’s all I’ve got for now!

the unbiased artist?

We are all inherently biased. We all have preconceived notions about one another, and pass unfair judgments on a regular basis. We must acknowledge this reality of human nature, and try to reach beyond it to understand the source of our bias—be it ignorance, or fear—and to disprove it.

In essence, this is what my the photography professor told me when I spoke with him about a concern I am having in completing our final class project, for which we are being asked to essentially tell someone’s story through our photographs. We will be graded upon our ability to make the class sympathize with an otherwise complete stranger.

My initial reaction to this project? Completely psyched. I envisioned following around a few residents of Detroit who I have come to know through by volunteer work. I could capture their perspectives of the city, their living conditions, and their enduring resilience. How noble. How intriguing!

I’ve been meeting up regularly with one man named Ron, who volunteered to show me around the city, and welcomed me into his home to take pictures of him and his family. He had overheard a conversation I was having with someone about this class, and extended the invitation. I have been completely honest and transparent with him about my motivations for photographing him. I told him I’d like to tell his story because I’m interested in it, and because it’s something that no other Michigan student knows. He loves photography, and he’s flattered that someone is taking interest in him.

However, despite the virtuous element of social justice that this project is attempting to achieve, I have never felt so exploitative in completing a class assignment.  I am genuinely interested in Ron, and would definitely spend time with him even if I didn’t need to completely this photo assignment, however am I capturing his story through photographs because I think that it will raise consciousness, or reshape opinions and biases? No. I’m taking picture of him because I’m being graded for my ability to “move” my peers. I have to show them resilience, and strength amidst dire circumstance. Am I really capturing the true story of this man’s life, as I told him I was trying to do? Or are the aesthetics I find in urban decay, or the intrigue I have in poverty perhaps because I have never experienced it, shaping for Ron a story that is inherently biased, and perhaps untruthful. What does it take for one to be qualified to tell another person’s story?

This project has made me reflect on how we can reconcile our bias as photographers, or as painters, or as singers, or as writers. I’m not sure that we can overcome it, or that we should necessarily try to. Bias is perspective, and perspective flavors purpose. Perhaps all we can really do is reveal some slice of the truth—or at least what our own minds understand the “truth” to be.

I think I’ll give Ron the camera next time, and let him do the storytelling.

 

the unbiased artist?

We are all inherently biased. We all have preconceived notions about one another, and pass unfair judgments on a regular basis. We must acknowledge this reality of human nature, and try to reach beyond it to understand the source of our bias—be it ignorance, or fear—and to disprove it.

In essence, this is what my the photography professor told me when I spoke with him about a concern I am having in completing our final class project, for which we are being asked to essentially tell someone’s story through our photographs. We will be graded upon our ability to make the class sympathize with an otherwise complete stranger.

My initial reaction to this project? Completely psyched. I envisioned following around a few residents of Detroit who I have come to know through by volunteer work. I could capture their perspectives of the city, their living conditions, and their enduring resilience. How noble. How intriguing!

I’ve been meeting up regularly with one man named Ron, who volunteered to show me around the city, and welcomed me into his home to take pictures of him and his family. He had overheard a conversation I was having with someone about this class, and extended the invitation. I have been completely honest and transparent with him about my motivations for photographing him. I told him I’d like to tell his story because I’m interested in it, and because it’s something that no other Michigan student knows. He loves photography, and he’s flattered that someone is taking interest in him.

However, despite the virtuous element of social justice that this project is attempting to achieve, I have never felt so exploitative in completing a class assignment.  I am genuinely interested in Ron, and would definitely spend time with him even if I didn’t need to completely this photo assignment, however am I capturing his story through photographs because I think that it will raise consciousness, or reshape opinions and biases? No. I’m taking picture of him because I’m being graded for my ability to “move” my peers. I have to show them resilience, and strength amidst dire circumstance. Am I really capturing the true story of this man’s life, as I told him I was trying to do? Or are the aesthetics I find in urban decay, or the intrigue I have in poverty perhaps because I have never experienced it, shaping for Ron a story that is inherently biased, and perhaps untruthful. What does it take for one to be qualified to tell another person’s story?

This project has made me reflect on how we can reconcile our bias as photographers, or as painters, or as singers, or as writers. I’m not sure that we can overcome it, or that we should necessarily try to. Bias is perspective, and perspective flavors purpose. Perhaps all we can really do is reveal some slice of the truth—or at least what our own minds understand the “truth” to be.

I think I’ll give Ron the camera next time, and let him do the storytelling.

 

 

 

my last words. MEOW

And yet again, I sit wondering where the time has gone–3 semesters away from graduating and I still feel like a freshman.

Ok, maybe not. I’m pretty positive that Freshman Rachel couldn’t have done this. BAM!!! But to be real, I’m not sure how I feel about my eportfolio. There’s something about it that still feels like it’s a work in progress…maybe that’s a good thing?

(Also I just realized we have a beautiful slate of text colors to play with that I neglected all semester long...SHOOOOOOT). 

I noticed that an unintentional theme started to develop as I kept adding more artwork to it, and that’s mainly because the street art I included has a more profound message than I originally intended it to have . The street signs and the painted fire hydrant all have messages that are not my own, but are shared by people of the community. The graffiti is especially moving to me, because it was created by the homeless of Ann Arbor, and some of the words and phrases reflect their deep feelings about society and the role that they play in it. The brick walls of alleyways have become the medium through which they communicate to thousands of passersby…it’s kinda like new media writing in a weird way.

Their messages reflects my theme that “everyone has something worth saying,” and that new media writing is the most effective when participants enter into it with a genuine curiosity and a mind that is willing to be shaped and challenged by others. While most of the pieces that I posted on the portfolio are argumentative essays that I’ve written in the past, I’ve come to realize that it’s the dialogues that invite others in, and encourage them to speak up that are oftentimes the most satisfying to be a part of. I began this semester thinking that whoever can pen the best articulated argument shall rein victorious, and only realized that I’d be entering into a crowded room and a yelling match with that attitude towards writing.

Much like the pieces of street art, I think that my one and only goal as a writer is to provoke thought, or at least create the space for others to by asking questions. I don’t think that an argumentative approach towards writing always creates that space quite like dialogue does.

So my friends, to be EXTRA cheesy: say what you need to say–because the world needs to hear it.

The End.

Thoughts on Re-Mediating

So I just make some touch-ups on my Podcast and have a few thoughts on the process I thought might be worth sharing with y’all.

For this assignment, I re-mediated an argumentative journal article which might be found in Foreign Policy Magazine into a podcast which one might listen to on NPR, and specifically on “Talk of the Nation.”

The new broadcast retains the same title that I gave my journal article, Measuring Equality in a Globalized World: A theoretical approach to evaluating how the international community understands global women’s rights and advocates on behalf of them,however I had to change quite a bit about the information which was presented in the Re-purposed assignment to fit appropriately into this new medium.

What has been the most challenging about this assignment is that my thoughts have really been evolving quite dramatically as I’ve put more thought into the initial argument that I presented. I took a pretty strong stance in my re-purposed assignment, but did not necessarily propose any solution. I merely stated that I believe the approach that the US has taken towards improving the status of women is problematic and needs to be discussed.

As the semester has progressed, I’ve continued to do a lot more research on the subject of human rights, interventions of the UN and World Bank in development, and on women’s equality around the world. I’ve realized how incredibly narrow my article is! Granted, argumentative articles in Foreign Policy Magazine do not necessarily take on all objections and complexities of an issue, but I realized in my research that all my journal article really did was introduce a problematic issue.

I couldn’t ignore all these additional questions I was having regarding my subject matter. There is so much more that needs to be explained, developed, and tested, and the format of a journal article didn’t allow me to do this–but the Re-Mediated assignment did.

Initially, I thought that my talk-show would be an insightful dialogue between 2 visiting scholars who has opposite perspectives on the argument I presented. Then I though that such a drastic range of opinions would be awkward, and definitely not the type of broadcast NPR airs. So then I though I would just talk with two scholars who presented compatible ideas regarding the subject matter–but there was still something unsatisfying about this. It seemed too one-sided to be, and that is certainly not the style of NPR.

I decided instead to make the talk-show a presentation of a controversial research project. Instead of just presenting more arguments either in favor of my initial idea or against it, I decided it would be most appropriate to make the subject of discussion for the podcast an investigation to either prove or dispute my argument.

The title of the research project that the two professors conducted, and which they present on the show, is entitled “Measuring Gender Equality: Approaches and Incentives for Improving the Status of Women.”

I’m pleased with the Re-Mediation and with the approach I decided to take on it overall, but am a bit concerned about the tone of voice of my roommates when they read the script I gave them. Let’s just say they’re not aspiring talk-show personalities…but I think that this is probably a minor issue for the assignment. After all, not everyone can listen to podcasts, which is why interview transcripts or See Full Story is always included for the stories broadcasted on NPR’s website.

THAT’S ALL FOLKS! Holler at me if you need some Garage Bank pointers!

 

 

 

 

Uneasiness

I spent a good amount of time on Friday night creating my e-portfolio through WordPress, and I’ve gotta say, I have mixed feelings about it.

I think what makes me the most hesitant about new media writing in general is not knowing how my work may be perceived. Needless to say, none of the pieces that I will upload are near perfect. Sure, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and studying some of the philosophical arguments I’ve made in past courses, but I’m certainty not an expert and am pretty certain that most of the philosophy and political science papers I’d like to put up aren’t perfect. What’s even more concerning to me is that the subjects I write about are controversial, and have been discussed by many more qualified individuals. What makes me think my thoughts on these issues are important enough to be shared on my personal web page? Does sharing my work communicate that I think it’s really good, and that I’m particularly impressed with it? After ignorant, pretentious and arrogant is the last thing I want my writing to make me seem.

So yes, I am very excited about designing this space and using it to broadcast some creativity, however I am not confident that most of the papers that I have written are good enough. I think I’ll just have to perfect these pieces before I upload them, because new media is the future for aspiring writers.