Introduction to the minor

Hi everyone. My name’s Sam, I’m a junior at the School of Information studying user experience design (among other things). The usual order of labels I assign to myself in an introduction is as follows—designer, student, writer, and (sometimes) technologist. If I had to describe my interests in one sentence this is that sentence: I am interested in the intersection(s) between technology, culture, and society. 

Although I enjoy the process of writing, I find that I am often hampered by my inner critic. I’m hoping this program will help me break out of some of the counterproductive behaviors associated with self-criticism while allowing me to retain and even sharpen the helpful elements of my inner critic. I became interested in the Writing minor as I learned more about the program’s multimodal and experimental emphasis. I thought it would be interesting to develop my writing ability in the context of projects that also make use of other skills I have such as graphic design and coding. I also thought the minor could be helpful if it provided a framework for receiving feedback in combination with a structure for developing a consistent writing practice. 

All in all, my brief experience with the writing minor has been phenomenal. I am thrilled that we are able to take a more self-directed approach to our writing. I think this type of autonomy and creative freedom will help bring out a higher level of commitment and effort to my work.

The origin piece I have decided to work with is actually the piece I used in my application for the program. The text was originally constructed as a “self-portrait” wiki page that was accessible to the students and instructors for SI 410: Ethics and Information Technology. I thought this piece was interesting because it allowed me to reflect on my own self-image and relate it to the image of myself portrayed on social media. My piece focused on the implications of persistence on our Facebook timelines. These timelines have become a (semi-)public display of our lives, visualized chronologically in the Facebook timeline. The conclusion of my piece reflected on the act of self-censoring my own Facebook profile and irreversibly deleting hundreds of old posts and comments since they no longer conformed to my current self-image.

I thought the piece would be a good origin piece because the content was interesting to me and it generated a lot of interest from others. I think there are a lot of people who are grappling with the psycho-social implications of social media in our everyday lives, and I think we as a society are still trying to understand all of the effects associated with the self-generated data, broader audiences, and persistent “self-portraits” associated with social media. I would be interested in transforming my piece’s text into a more sensuous form, making use of my interest and abilities in layout design and typography

Challenge Journal – Executing Transitions

After two months of brainstorming, researching, and organizing, I’ve finally put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and started writing. It’s relieving to finally see my vision take start to take shape, but it’s also presented me with a new set of challenges. Now, instead of wrestling with big picture stuff, I find myself wrestling with the little details – word choices, design elements, and structural framework.

Image result for it's always something GIF

Furthermore, because the piece that I’m writing is different from anything else that I’ve ever written, some of these challenges are new to me. For example, my Capstone project consists of a handful of stand-alone scenes that are meant to represent “protagonist thinking.” Instead of talking about protagonist thinking directly, however, I’m trying to show the essence of it through these scenes, which can each function independently as their own short story. Even though I don’t directly mention protagonist thinking, I still want the reader to be aware that the stories are grounded in this concept. To achieve this, I’m interspersing different artifacts from my research on protagonist thinking in between the scenes to help keep the reader grounded and give them a reminder of what the stories are meant to represent.

What I’m struggling with is how to present these artifacts in between my scenes. In addition to re-centering the reader, I also want them to be clear indicators of a break in my narrative. From a design perspective, I’ve been trying to figure out how to accomplish this. Last year, in my re-purposing project, I employed a similar tactic of using a quote in between the two sections of my paper. The quote spoke to the themes that I was trying to convey, and I dedicated an entire page to it, even though the quote itself only took up a few lines. I want to do something similar in my Capstone project, but since my project is on Wix (as opposed to Word), I’m trying to figure out the best way to do it. Some of the artifacts will also be video clips instead of written text, adding another layer of complexity to the design of these transitions.

I’ve thought about using featured images/backgrounds for each of the artifacts, so that the artifact takes up the entire screen when the reader scrolls down. Then, as they continue scrolling, the text below the artifact sort of “eats” the image/background instead of the image/background moving up on the page. I’m not sure exactly how to describe it, but I know that I’ve seen it before, and I think that it might be an effective way to go about presenting these transitions in my piece. If anybody knows what I’m talking about, or how to accomplish this on Wix, any advice would be much appreciated! I know that the answer is out there…it’s just a matter of finding it.

Project Update

Figuring out what I wanted to do for my final project was easy, but figuring out how I want to present it on my website is much more difficult. Originally, I had built a site on Wix that displayed a collage on the home page with images relating to my subject matter. My idea was that each image would link to a different tab on which some short essay (a few paragraphs) would discuss one of the several elements of my subject (i.e. bootycalls, “things,” romance in the media, etc.). Although I like the idea of breaking my writing up into segments based on content, I decided to create an entirely new site because the first felt disorganized, and didn’t represent my tone correctly. I think on this new site I want to have the tabs displayed on the homepage so readers can pick and choose which portions they’d like to read more directly. Currently, I’m debating whether I want to keep this collage format in any way, of if I’d rather just do a series of blog posts. The blog posts feel more fitting in a way because I want the tone to be conversational and personal, and I think with the images it could come off like I’m making some sort of statement or claim about how things should work, which isn’t my intention

Final Blog Post…already????

I can’t believe this is the last blog post I’ll write for the Gateway Course. It feels like yesterday that I was looking through previous ePortfolios and taking notes on the things I wanted to include in my own. It’s actually pretty funny to look back at the notes, because the things I wanted to include like “add in humor” or “keep it simple” ended up making it into my ePortfolio.

Overall, I’m really happy with how my ePortfolio turned out. I was able to balance making it a personal space while keeping it professional and clean just in case I decide on showing it to future employers. While I was creating it, I wanted to make sure that all images and text were in black and white, and I’m thrilled with how this theme turned out. Though I was a little nervous about being the only student in my class using Squarespace, I’m glad I stuck with it. It’s a site that I’ve had previous exposure to, so I knew I could play around with it and make my ePortfolio something I was extremely proud of and that fit my personality.

I also discovered a lot about my interests when I was crafting my ePortfolio. For example, I have a real passion for design. I like experimenting with how things look on the web and what they communicate about their creator. It’s made me start to consider doing more with website design, not only for the current company I work for but also in future endeavors both in and out of school.

My favorite part about my ePortfolio right now is my welcome page. I was feeling particularly inspired the day I took the photo on the opening page (it’s of my desk here at school!) and I love the way it turned out. It’s representative of my personality and my interests, and I think it’s an aesthetically pleasing way of welcoming my audience!

my desk

Finally, the best part about my ePortfolio is that nothing is set in stone. I can constantly tweak, delete, and add in things that I write or photos that I take. The ability to change things is definitely an affordance of having an ePortfolio, and it’s something I know I will take advantage of as my opinions and thoughts change about the topics I’ve written about.

While I haven’t decided if I’m going to link to my ePortfolio in my resume or share it with future employers, I know it’s something I am going to share with my current boss, my parents, and my friends. Like I mentioned in my “why I write”, I often have difficulty articulating my emotions, interests, and thoughts. Now, I have my ePortfolio to do all of the talking and that’s a really comforting thing for me to be able to use.

Thank you to everyone for such a great semester, especially my past and present blog group members. You guys are writing geniuses and I can’t imagine what my projects would be without you all!

adele thumbs up

Everything’s not for the audience

I have to admit that when I entered the minor and saw that we had to do an e-portfolio with online archiving, I had no real concept of what an e-portfolio was. I thought it would be something like a laundry list of our selected works in some sort of online personal data base thing that I had never seen. Obviously, I was wrong.

I think that I am excited about the idea of creating the medium in which we present our writing. The problem is I am majorly lacking in the creativity department. I always colored inside the lines, I didn’t have to be taught, I’m just that kind of person. In thinking about designing my own e-portfolio, I don’t have any ideas.

None.

Blank.

Zip.

Zilch.

Nada.

I guess I do know what I do and don’t like. I appreciate clean, organized, and a unifying theme. I dislike clutter, multiple different sized fonts, and cheap looking color schemes. In class on Thursday, we talked about making  your e-portfolio your own while still thinking about audience. I thought that pretty much everything we do is already, to some degree, for an audience. However, after more consideration, we pretty much do what we want how we want maybe within the limits, or confines, of a certain audience, but largely everything is still up to us. If I wrote a paper, composed a speech, or made an website strictly for a particular audience, the integrity and authenticity of me as the author or creator would be lost in my careful construction. No one likes a liar. I think that in every choice you make about design or font or color, you are showing a part of yourself whether you feel like you are or not. Another thing that I find overwhelming about the e-portfolio design is the sheer number of options out there. Like with the technology presentations so far, the possibilities are essentially endless and that is more terrifying than it is freeing or exciting to me.

http://www.google.com/imgres?q=shopping+aisle&num=10&um=1&hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&biw=1366&bih=622&tbm=isch&tbnid=4g2bTpW6bJ2BZM:&imgrefurl=http://dangerousintersection.org/2008/02/18/experiencing-the-paradox-of-choice-at-the-local-schnucks-grocery-store/&docid=SEjps85Vsm7cwM&w=2816&h=2112&ei=QGKTTpj7GMnw0gHqjIVY&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=270&sqi=2&page=1&tbnh=115&tbnw=153&start=0&ndsp=21&ved=1t:429,r:19,s:0&tx=86&ty=23
It's all just mustard, right?

It’s All About the Design

While browsing the web to find 5 of my favorite websites, I noticed a theme among the ones I chose. They are all very pleasing to the eye (and all about fashion, confidence, dating, and/or magazines). What can I say? I am drawn to these topics. One website I especially like is i am that girl. I chose it because of its fun, informal appeal, interactivity and use of photos. Each time you scroll over a new section, either a word or a picture, something happens. The words flash, the pictures light up, and there is a clicking sound in the background. There is also a cool transition each time you click on a new tab. I think all of these functions add to the appeal of the website by allowing the audience to interact with the website. This website emphasizes its visual focus by including a cute logo and effectively grouping together photos in a collage format.  I like how i am that girl is set up like a bulletin board. It’s a cute layout and design choice that draws in the reader and matches nicely with the site’s positive message.

Source: http://profile.ak.fbcdn.net/hprofile-ak-ash2/50556_25938310970_8138_n.jpg

Here are the 4 other sites I chose along with why I chose them:

Her Campus: Frequently changes, consistency in color, easy to navigate, tabs neatly organize topics into different sections

Shop Bop: simple, clean lines

Cosmo: good use of white space, consistency in all caps, big heading

Ed2010: easy to navigate, presents the material in a neat way by clearly labeling different sections, the use of blue and orange text against the simple white background is pleasing to the eye

Websites and You – Everything You Need to Know (probably not everything, but there’s a lot here).

Co-Authored by Katie Brown

What is the range of software options available?
When it comes to website building, there a number of different options that cater to a number of different levels of technical skill and time investment.  Some of the more popular methods and programs include:

Hand Coding (all operating systems), iWeb (Mac), Adobe Dreamweaver (Pay, all operating systems), Weebly (free online), & Wix (a free, online domain).

What is available for users with different levels of expertise?

Hand Coding (html/css) – Though time consuming and kind of difficult to get the hang of, this method offers the most range of freedom of any of the others mentioned here.  This method of creating websites is open to all Macs (through Text Edit/TextWrangler) and PCs (Notepad).

iWeb – Available to Mac users, iWeb makes building websites really simple.  The program has pre-formatted layouts for you to choose from and use as a starting point.  You can add pages, upload images and videos – it’s a really simple way to get a website up fast.  iWeb doesn’t allow for customizing the look of themes very well though, so you lose a lot of creative control with this option.

Adobe Dreamweaver – Dreamweaver is a bit of a hybrid of the last two technologies. You can choose to hand-code your site in dreamweaver or you can select from a pre-made template and edit the code to your liking. However, this still involves a working knowledge of HTML and CSS and may not be the best option if you don’t have the time to learn how to code.

Weebly – A free online resource, Weebly is probably the most friendly of the options thus far.  On the front page of the Weebly website you’ll be prompted to enter your name, email address and password.  After that, you can get started on your site immediately. Making a website with Weebly is a lot like editing a photo with Picnik; there are tons and tons of settings you can play around with. Weebly will also publish your site to the web for free : )

Wix- Another free online website builder. All you need to do is create an account and a variety of tools are at your disposal. It doesn’t take long to learn to navigate and the interface is user-friendly. Option to upgrade to premium membership, but the normal account is usually more than adequate and will allow you to publish your site to the web under the Wix domain. Also great for continuous editing.

Which options are supported by the University?

iWeb, Dreamweaver CS5, and TextWrangler, Fugu, and Fetch  are available on University of Michigan Macs.  Dreamweaver CS5, FileZilla, and Notepad++ are on all University of Michigan PCs.

What support is available online?

The web is full of awesome places to learn how to hand code, but some of the best sites I’ve found are HTML Dog  and W3School.   Both offer great instruction on how to use HTML & CSS to build your websites alongside examples where you can actually manipulate code on your own to see how it affects the layout of the page.

For learning Dreamweaver, Youtube is going to be your best friend. Search “How to use Dreamweaver CS5” and you’ll find a ton of resources to help get you off the ground. Google is always a good starting place as well.

Lynda is another great resource for learning about how to build websites and includes tutorial videos on iWeb, Dreamweaver, and general website design and development.  Some tutorials do require a subscription, however.

What are your favorites (and why), and/or what else should we know?

Josh’s personal favorite is hand coding HTML and CSS into Dreamweaver – it offers a lot of control and freedom in designing simple sites.  It can be a major headache though.

Katie’s favorite is obviously Wix! Takes almost no time to learn and I’ve used it in a variety of classes for a range of different assignments. Great if you are looking for a time-friendly option.

Also, a lot of these resources will help you make a website, but many won’t help you publish it without doing a little extra work.  If hand coding or using Dreamweaver or iWeb, you’ll need to push your site to a server space using an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program. Fetch and Fugu are available for Mac and supported by the university.  FileZilla is available for PCs and is supported by university computers.

You can buy domain names and space from places like GoDaddy, but each student has his/her own personal space you can upload a site to through the university, which can be accessed through this URL:

www-personal.umich.edu/~uniqname

http://www.umich.edu/~umweb/how-to/homepage.html will walk you through the steps.

Happy website-making!