Choosing my work for this semester-long journey

The original piece I chose to rework was very academic. I enjoyed writing the piece, but felt I had to hold back the personal, emotional feelings in order to remain “academic”. When asked to choose a work to revisit, this was the first I thought of. I was excited about the chance to add the emotions to it, however, actually adding those emotions was a lot harder than intended. It proposed many  challenges: First, recognizing my emotions; Second, making sense of those emotions; Third, putting those emotions into words; Fourth, making sure said words expressed on paper the same emotions I originally recognized.

Following an Author: Sophie Gilbert

Sophie Gilbert’s latest article in the Atlantic was about how television anticipated Harvey Weinstein’s moment in 2017. I thought this article was very interesting because usually when something of that magnitude gets a large news following, no one talks about it in the months after. Because the Harvey Weinstein incident was so horrible and had such magnitude on the larger community, I was not surprised that it was still gaining attention. I loved how Gilbert investigated how television shaped the unveil of his horrible acts, and I thought it was a really interesting perspective about the incident as a whole. It definitely made me think differently about the media I consume and how it affects the world around me.

Grappling With Tone

Tone has been something on my mind a lot over the past semester. As someone who frequently tends toward academic writing, I had never given it much thought. This became increasingly complicated as I made my podcast. I want to be direct with my listeners and to present formal information without it feeling stiff. In the interview with my guest, the discourse was causal and comfortable. I was unsure how I should parallel these two things. I tried to make my periods of narration short, informative, and light. Additionally, I tried to focus on the meshing of the narration and the interview. I paid a lot of attention to transition. This way, I can have tones that are a bit different but have them contribute to the larger feel of my podcast.

Tracking an Author: Vinson Cunningham

Cunningham seems to tend towards writing sports articles. However, what I appreciate is his ability to do so in a way that isn’t exclusionary to those who don’t watch the NBA (including myself). In many ways, he is a unifying writer- taking something niche and analyzing it in a more accessible light. I wonder if this is solely because he writes for a venue as high-volume as the New Yorker, or because it is truly a stylistic choice.

His most recent work examines the normalization of what NBA players do on a daily basis. Their athleticism, level of performance, and dedication to competition are important to many Americans. Cunningham makes comparisons to classic players and notes that our critiques of these players are probably a bit harsh. Given what they are able to do, we should be revering them all. However, that’s not how Americans or professional basketball works.


The Making of a Podcast

My final project is a podcast. I would never have guessed this had you asked me four months ago. In all honesty, it was difficult for me to create as someone who has never edited audio or video. The staff at the LSA Instructional Support Services were incredibly helpful in lending me the necessary equipment and explaining how to use it. The recorder proved easier to read than I expected. By the end of the recording process, I was extremely comfortable with it.

Next came the uploading and editing of my material. Uploading was easy- though I am not a tech-y person, I do know how to upload files. For editing, I was able to use iMovie, which is pre-loaded onto my computer. However, I regret not researching to find another program. Though the presentation is simple, I found it easy to mix up my audio files. It was difficult to keep them organized. About 30% of the way through editing, all of my clips were rearranged and shortened, which was extremely frustrating. However, I made it! My podcast is completely edited and uploaded onto my gateway website (in two parts because it was too large). Main takeaways have been to resist being intimidated by technology and to do my research ahead of time.

I Can’t Stop

As the semester ends and we near the due date and showcase for our final projects (aka it’s tomorrow), I find I literally can’t stop working on my website. I finished writing the content, the pictures are all in place and I am happy with the layout in its entirety, however I keep fidgeting with it. Whether I am changing a sentence, phrase or word or moving a headline a little to the left because it’s not quite centered, I continue to work on it. As I sit in front of my computer for the umpteenth hour, I am wondering if it will ever feel “done” to me. When I write papers, I always hit a point where I am happy with it and that nothing more I do will change the content of it. Yet, with my website, for some reason I feel like changing that one word or moving that headline actually will make a difference. With this mindset, I figure I will be tweaking this site until 2:59 p.m. tomorrow.

Overall Thoughts on the Course

Looking back on the past semester, I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed the writing minor’s gateway course. Truthfully, when I first heard that the bulk of the course would be dedicated to expanding on a piece we’d already written, I didn’t think the class would be too challenging — and I definitely didn’t expect to grow as a writer as much as I have. In that regard, this course greatly surpassed my expectations; I’m not sure if I’ve ever worked with a piece the way I was forced to in this class. Never before have I taken an idea and changed it so radically, and this process made me think about my original work, and my writing in general, in new and interesting ways.

Perhaps ironically, my favorite part of the class had little to do with writing at all. My favorite part of the gateway was the attendance questions everyone answered at the start of class. Usually they were hard (and it seems the harder the question, the earlier I was called), but it was so interesting seeing the different answers and approaches taken by my classmates. Even through these exercises, it was easily apparent how smart and thoughtful the rest of the cohort is.

My only complaint could have been avoided with better study habits: at times, the work felt a bit overwhelming. There were times when I had so many ideas and not enough time to organize them on paper, although I suppose that says more about my time management skills than the coursework. Overall, I enjoyed this semester and would definitely recommend the program to a friend.

Finding My Voice

One of the biggest problems I ran into when crafting my website was finding an appropriate voice for my content. In my original plan, outlined in experiment #3, I spoke about the need to maintain an authoritative voice free from my own opinions. Ideally, this would look like a history textbook or, for my intent of disproving myths about the South, an entry on snopes. I chose this route because I thought it would give me credibility as a historical writer because it would show that I’m not allowing my own biases to creep into my work. However, in practice, I quickly realized this is not the route I wanted to take. If rereading my writing sounded to dry to me (which it did before changing the voice), it would be certainly be too dry for anyone who may potentially be interested about the topic. Additionally, I felt an obligation to state how dangerous these misconceptions are, despite this inherently being based on my own personal opinions. You wouldn’t find a history book that accused confederate troops of being racists and terrible people (most of them would focus on objectivity and implicitly force their readers to consider “both sides” of the issue); however, I decided that it would be disingenuous for me to act as if that’s how I truly feel. Because this topic is so personal to me, I decided that I wanted to interject my own opinions in. As a result, the piece is perhaps less formal than other similar sites  however, it more accurately reflects my beliefs and values.

Tracking My Author

My favorite recently written piece by Sheelah Kolhatkar was titled “The Tech Industry’s Growing Gender Discrimination Problem.” The piece took a hard look at the low propotion of jobs held by women in Silicon Valley (the article even mentioned there are more men named Matt than all female employees at Tesla). It’s a real issue, and one I believe must be addressed. If the industry truly wants to make the world a better place, they must first have a workforce that is representative of the people they’re serving. However, I believe that everyone on the blog agrees with that assertion. As a result, I’m going to dedicate this blog post to the format of the piece as opposed to its content.

I enjoyed the piece so much because Kolhatkar told it by focusing on the experience of AJ Vandermayden, a female employee at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California. Her accounts of harassment and being passed over for promotions were well explained by Kolhatkar, and, ultimately, Vandermayden sued Tesla for gender discrimination. Although on the surface the piece appeared to be about one person, it was actually about an entire industry. Vandermayden’s story isn’t unique — a point Kolhatkar successfully drives home — and thousands of other women experience the same type of discrimination in their workplace. Yet, choosing one person to “focus” on was so effective because it humanized the situation much more than a collection of statistics would have.

Additionally, the piece had an audio component — which was appealing for separate reasons. At The Michigan Daily, we’ve been making a big push towards multimedia. This push includes podcasts, which is something my section has tried to implement this past semester (and hopes to continue to explore in the coming year). It may seem small, but it was refreshing to see a site as big as the New Yorker also taking efforts to improve their multimedia presence. This opens up their content to more people (for example, people listening on their commutes or the visually impaired), allowing it to reach a much larger audience.

Choosing Photos

In crafting my website, I decided the best way to format it would be to have one long scroll down page full of information. That way, readers first see why I’m interested in the topic, then read about the history of the south (the main chunk of my content), before ending with my thoughts on the present-day and future implications of the issue. However, the major drawback to this format is that my website appears as one long, intimidating scroll-down. In order to combat this effect, I decided to put in many pictures. I tried my best to make these pictures related to the content either immediately preceding them, or immediately succeeding them. Additionally, at times it was tough to find a picture that captured the mood I was hoping for. For example, I remember searching “Slave Plantation” on the Library of Congress’ website. Blown away by the amount of pictures available, I had to think about the overall aesthetic of the site (I even considered my recent use of a painting instead of a picture, so decided I need to add a black and white photo). Additionally, I tried more often than not to pick photos that incorporated stereotypes/misconceptions about slave life. This was because my entire site is designed to debunk these myths, and the photos (in addition to serving as “page breaks”) allowed me to showcase these misconceptions.