Your Thoughts on Cloud Atlas….and also some of the actual prompt.

Yes…that’s a big picture. First off, I have to ask if anyone else is excited for Cloud Atlas to hit theaters this Friday. I plan on seeing it in IMAX and am really looking forward to it. I bought the book but haven’t had a chance to finish it because of schoolwork, but it looks like a ridiculously complex/awesome/thought-provoking extravaganza that I encourage everyone to check out. Also, if you take the time to watch the extended trailer I can’t see how you wouldn’t want to go see this movie (and that musical score, holy shit!). Here’s the link for the lazy (watch it in 1080p on youtube to really have your socks blown off) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWnAqFyaQ5s

Ahh, well, time to actually pay attention to the prompt. After reading the re-mediating prompt, I think I have a good idea of how I want to re-mediate my freshmen orientation pamphlet on the dangers of social media limiting one’s college experience. I think that an upbeat video would be something that freshmen might want to see, or rather experience than any other medium. I am planning on it featuring me, possibly at different dorms or parts of campus talking about how social media and the internet is really an awesome thing, but you have to be careful it doesn’t lessen your college experience, because, frankly, it isn’t worth it. I know that I have to make it informative-yet-brief as the attention span of today’s college student isn’t exactly very high (kudos to you if you are still reading this blog post). I think that it can’t be all dark and dreary tone-wise because I sure as hell wouldn’t want to watch some scare tactic video.

I plan on shooting it using my iPad 3, mostly because I’m excited to look like a big idiot filming with a huge tablet (not). No, actually, it shoots 1080p video so that’s all dandy, and I can purchase an iMovie app for like $5 that will get the job done, all with relative ease. I’m actually kind of excited about trying it out. We’ll see. But the real question is…will you see…Cloud Atlas? (couldn’t resist)

The Power of the Comments Section & Finally Pulling the Trigger on My Re-Purposing Topic

Re-reading Andrew Sullivan’s piece, “Why I Blog”, after blogging for the last month certainly reaffirmed some of his main points. Though I have “blogged” in the past (some various struggling tech websites that saw very few page views), I had never had the immediate feedback offered in the Gateway Blog. Specifically, there was a night where the members of my group, Sarah, Katherine, and I were all responding to each other’s blog posts at the same time. The result was far more conversational than I had anticipated, more back-and-forth. Sullivan’s point of how blogging offers feedback that doesn’t have to travel through a hierarchy of people, editors and such, before reaching the writer really hit home. Even in my English 398 course, when we write a paper, we can expect at least a week before we get any feedback. Sullivan points out that this sort of lag time doesn’t exist in blogging, and it really hold writers accountable.

That is another thing I have realized. Usually when blogging, I have music on. The mood is far less stressful compared to when writing a paper, and the words just seem to flow from my fingers to the keyboard to the screen. By the way, for anyone really serious about writing, I would seriously recommend a mechanical keyboard, I just got one, and though they are really loud and “clicky”, the feel is incredible. You receive tactile feedback for each keystroke, so it makes typing fast and furious really easy/satisfying/less error prone. Just a random side note. But back to the topic at hand, my writing doesn’t go through as many “filters” when I blog, and this can end up with lots of errors. For example, in my first paragraph of this very post, I found myself making plural words into their possessive form. I blame the insane amount of caffeine coursing through my veins. But Sullivan points out that although blogging is so “now” that it needs this brutal, fast, feedback. I have noticed in the numerous blogs I followed that silly typos are fairly prevalent  and in the comments sections there is always someone who has pointed it out before I could. Sometimes the author will make a quick edit and it’s done. Authors who make a trend of this are roundly ridiculed in the comment sections, with posts such as, “Wow, Gizmodo’s writing staff has really fallen through the cracks, can we get some bloggers who aren’t straight out of high school?”

Quickly toughing on the re-purposing project, I finally pulled the trigger on my topic. I chose a research paper for an informatics class sophomore year here at UofM, where I touched on the negative effects of students spending their free time freshmen year on facebook and generally holed up in their dorm rooms. Instead of being forced to leave their rooms for interaction or to keep up on current school events, they can stay seated. I love technology, but I have always thought back to what it would be like to attend UofM the same year as my parents did, in the 1970’s, and how different it would be. I think that we will start seeing a more socially awkward cohort of college students this generation, as real-time interactions are viewed as far more out of the ordinary than a text message or wall post on Facebook. I plan on re-purposing the project as a cautionary pamphlet for freshmen at UofM, targeting new incoming freshmen. We’ll see how this goes.

Who Will Be Your Audience? (besides the one that you have to have)

I decided to tackle the e-portfolio asking what is my idea audience? This is tough. On one hand, I already know who my first audience will be, that of my peers and instructors in the minor in writing. And this makes it a little difficult. A lot of writers enjoy the scope of publishing and the internet because of the way we attract niche audiences. Because there is such a large volume of written work out there, we tend to only be exposed to, or seek out, material that lies within our interests. Of course, blanket statements are usually a bad idea, so I should clarify that this is the always the case, but more of a trend. I happen to like books about heists and thieves in general (On a random side note, how many people think stealing would be so much fun? I mean, sure it hurts people and we shouldn’t do it, but how can you watch Ocean’s 11 and NOT want to try to strategize and execute a successful robbery?) I guess I live vicariously through them. And legally.

But anyways, what I mean to say is that having an audience that readily seeks out work similar to your own really cuts down on the negative feedback and possible embarrassment. I’m not one who is usually shy or easily embarrassed, but at the same time, I will always know that my peers and some instructors in the minor in writing will be looking over my e-portfolio. It’s almost like throwing some really specifically-themed little party at your house, and your roommate and his friend come home early and decides to ‘sit in’. You’d probably be scrunching your face like, “Urgh, I wouldn’t really expect you to get this, Paul [his name apparently], it’s more for people like us (as you motion around you)”. Of course, as much as I harp on this subject, I usually try to not take myself too seriously, and often tell myself to just “nut up” and take the leap. This has proven a mistake many times. But usually, it turns out the right choice. Say I want to target my portfolio towards a really, really nerdy audience. I am pretty sure that judgement is swift and on its way, even if it doesn’t affect my grade. But it’s still there. So while I really force myself to get over it, this project does make you at least think about who will be initially glancing at  your portfolio. I just mean that some people in the class may not put some things in their portfolio that they would put on a more anonymous or removed portfolio or blog elsewhere. This isn’t necessarily a good or a bad thing. But it is a thing. And I thought about it as I read the prompt so I thought I’d address it.

I think that I am going to target a slightly nerdier-yet-professional audience. Namely the tech industry. You get a lot of really, really nerdy people there, but they also like you to have the ability to present yourself in a non-alienable manner. You can know a shit ton about computer processors, but if you take on the tone of a know-it-all, nobody is going to want to read the valid information you have. So, I think I want to showcase knowledge of the tech field (only a few aspects, it’s a frighteningly vast rabbit hole), but keep it relatable, readable, and helpful. (on a side note, this spell check on WordPress is completely useless. It doesn’t register “strategize” “think” or “relatable” as words. I could just be wrong/hallucinating, you guys tell me). So that’s where I am at with my targeted audience. I would like to be able to reference this later this summer and after graduation to showcase my work. Or I might just use this portfolio as a test drive for WordPress, and then buy a WordPress domain and start my own blog once I get the hang of it, we’ll see.

Weighting Experience with Opinion

*Please note, the papers I talk about writing in this blog entry would hypothetically be read by the public.*

 

Hi everyone,

For this blog post I thought I’d expand a little on what I talked about in class, namely my thoughts on when it is appropriate to give your opinion in an academic paper. Thought I really like the idea of having a theoretical round table discussion with your source-material authors, bouncing ideas off of one another and engaging in some arguments back and forth,  I still feel like there is a time and a place for this in academic papers. During our class, and after going over Christina Haas and Linda Flower, “Rhetorical Reading Strategies and the Construction of Meaning” (I think), it seemed like the overall opinion of the class was that we had been hardwired from early education to never disagree with an author, or to view our opinion as unimportant. While I mostly agree with this, I feel this touches an another important subject in most literature classes; the idea that everyone is always right in their own way.

This is something I have struggled with in many English and literature classes. We’re dissecting a text or poem, and there’s one kid who comes up with a ridiculous interpretation and the teacher says, “Hmm, that’s really interesting, yeah, I can see how that could be the case.” Meanwhile, I’m sitting with a dumbstruck expression on my face, thinking, “How the hell could that ever be what the author was talking about?” or “No. No. NO. Please just say, ‘You’re wrong’ one of these times, because this kid is wrong.” Of course, this is partially due the fact that I’m  pretty quick to rule judgement, something I am working on, and that I’m usually pretty a-ok with be being blunt. I know the teacher probably wants everyone to feel heard, but I feel like everyone has experience an English class where a flat-out wrong interpretation of meaning is brought up. (Luckily, I think that was more a high-school thing). What I’m trying to point out is that there seems to be this pervasive idea in the study of literature that everyone should be give their fair opinion and that everyone should take their opinion into account, sometime as just as valuable as the more experience researchers they quote.

Following this topic down yet another rabbit hole, take modern newscasts. Somewhere in our society’s quest for “Fairness in Reporting”, we got into our head that this means a 50-50 split of devoted time to the different opinions on a news development. While this is all well and good for debating taxation or something that is fairly split in “proof” (most people can agree that theoretically, both political affiliations plans could work if executed correctly), this becomes an issue when there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Take, for example, Fox and CNN’s coverage of the Global Warming debate. This corrosive idea of “balanced news” has prompted them to offer equal time to “experts” on both sides of the debate. For example, they’ll devote 5 minutes to interviewing Bill Nye, who clearly states that Global Warming is a fact, and that there is lots of proof to this. Then, they spend the same amount of time interviewing another expert who says that there is no proof of Global Warming, when this is clearly not the opinion of the scientific community. The problem is, the scientific community is pretty unanimous that Global Warming is an issue that needs fixing, while there are only a few scientists who still do not agree. Instead of giving a proportional time slot to the mass-opinion of scientists, the news stations feel they need to be “fair and balanced” so they give the same amount of time to a fringe scientist who disagrees. Whew, sorry if I’m talking in circles here.

I just feel that there is this idea of giving everyone the same level of authority or gravity to their opinions, so we can be “fair”, when really this shouldn’t always be the case. For example, most people wouldn’t give credence to a deep-south, racist guy given a spot at a round table debate over the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate. Picture some news anchors, cabinet members, reporters, and this southern guy. I feel like this guy’s opinion should be given little-to-no weight in the scheme of the discussion.  Why? Because the evidence and general-consensus points overwhelmingly against his view point. Should he be allowed to speak. I guess. If not only for the sake of humoring him. But if you act like his opinion is just as important as say, Anderson Cooper or Hilary Clinton, then we have a big issue. We are giving the appearance to people that this viewpoint is more pervasive than it really is. People may think that half of America thinks Obama is lying about his birthplace if we give half the allocated speaking time to this southern guy.

So, tying this all back into our discussion in class yesterday. I feel like there are papers that I will write about topics that I have no authority on, where I can point out what author’s opinion seems to be best, or seems the most shaky, but I don’t feel I can offer myself up as an authority on the subject. If I’m doing a report on Stem-Cell research, I think I can discuss the different opinions of the scientists whose opinions I researched, but I can’t offer myself up as an authority in the paper whose opinion should be weighted the same as these men and women who have devoted their lives to studying the subject. Spending too much time on my opinion may have the same effect as the news casts, people reading my paper may think that my opinion has as much data or research in it as these brilliant scientists who have spent decades collecting and testing data. Just because I read their work does not mean my opinion is as valuable as theirs.

Turning Motivation into Words

It’s tough to put such a large feeling into words. As I began to write my own “Why I Write”, I found myself struggling to find the balance between writing a deeper explanation of my motivation to write, while not regressing into a stream-of-consciousness that nobody wants to read. The reason this is not as easy as I would like is the essence of the topic. It’s like someone asking you why you pursue a hobby you are incredibly passionate about, but restricting you to a few sentences. Most people, when presented with the opportunity to share their feelings on their individual motivations, allow their words to spill forth, often slipping into an unfiltered, grammatically-incorrect account about their passion. And sometimes you hear people end their bubblings with a weary exclamation, “Well…it’s something you just have to experience”, or “It’s tough to put into words”.

 

This is where I am at in my “Why I Write” essay. I want to write something clean, flashy, memorable, and emotionally charged. It’s not every day you are tasked with putting to paper such a personal desire like the desire to write. It’s almost like asking an extrovert why they enjoy the presence of people, why they feel the need to entertain others, or similar personal questions. It brushes on a deeper question, the question of deep fulfillment. I do have a central arc planned, however. One could almost say a missions statement (even though I’m not a huge fan of them). I want people to understand how I brainstorm ideas. I don’t sit in a chair and think. It’s a daily, monthly, yearly instinct. Whenever I’m listening to music, especially walking to class, I find myself visualizing my own movie trailers, which is slightly silly, yet I can’t seem to shake it. This starts the ball rolling for what the movie would be about, which eventually causes me to say, “Hey, this story would be awesome, I should write it.” And then, the next track comes on, and the process starts over. Multiply this by pretty much every school day, and I begin to filter the better stories, logging the better ones into my memory, and then I begin to write. I write because I want people to experience a story that makes them forget their reading a book. A typical writer’s goal, but I am really aiming for that immersible experience where hours pass by unnoticed. If I can relate this desire/feeling in my piece, I will be satisfied.

Why They Write

When reading both George Orwell’s “Why I Write” and Joan Didion’s echoed work of the same name, I found something peculiar and a tad bit, well, fun. Before those rolling their eyes over this impossible statement blow a head gasket in disbelief, let me explain. The act of reading their articles was still a chore, but their works still prompted a few responses that I found enjoyable.

When scanning their accounts of what and how writing deeply affected and fueled their lives, each time I recognized a reason for writing the author and I shared, I realized I was grinning. I can say with total conviction that academic reading rarely, if ever, prompts me to grin while reading it. Instead, I mostly picture myself as Gandalf in the film The Fellowship of the Rings, stern and concentrated features upon my face as I sift through dusty tomes.

This was not the case. As I read lines such as…

“From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer…I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books” (George Orwell).

…I found myself thinking, Hey now, that’s pretty much what I’ve been realizing the past four years of my life. And then Orwell delves into his early work pumping out poetry like a machine, and any trace of a grin was wiped from my face.

I don’t have any issue with Orwell talking about how poetry affected him and grew him as a writer, it’s just that I can’t relate to it. I guess that first paragraph had started me hoping that every reason  I had for writing he would share. This was not the case, nor was it very likely. His account on the self-narration of his life came fairly close, and although I didn’t find myself doing the same, I could relate and appreciate this habit. The way in which he broke down the motivations of writers seemed clever, if not complete, and the “sheer egoism” trait seemed to be spot on for most writers today.

Although I found much of Orwell’s account interesting and yet alienating (again poetry and his reverence for wordplay), it was Joan Didion’s focus on the “pictures in a writer’s mind” that resonated the deepest. I loved the way she walked the reader through the initial inspirations of her writings, and how often she didn’t even know much more than a character’s name and their location before she began a story. Somewhere I once read a quote by J.K. Rowling where she said something along the lines that the story of Harry Potter jumped into her mind fully formed. When working on my own prose, or dreaming up what I hope will be my first complete novel, I often become discouraged when I have gaping holes in the plot, or when I have only a series of scenes in my mind, with nothing tying them together. Joan Didion’s words made me realize that perhaps not all writers were as lucky as Rowling to have a story jump into their heads complete and with a bow on top.

I was surprised to read Didion’s point that the structure of sentences is informed and governed by the picture or scene in a writer’s head. The way she likened sentence structure to artistic camera angles was a “wow” moment for me. I had never thought about sentences like that, and it made me realize that perhaps I should.

Much of what I read in Orwell and Didion’s articles wonderfully put into words much of what I have always thought. As no two writers are alike, there were influences and reasons for writing that I couldn’t relate to, but I could at least try and appreciate. Either way, it’s nice to read about two people that acted on their deep-seeded impulses to become full-time writers, and they only strengthened my desire to write seriously and diligently in the near future.