Pushing Past the Traditional Timeline

Timelines have a relatively negative connotation compared to other, more multimodal forms of genres. They usually simply present information to the audience with informational purposes and a broad audience in mind, boring the students tasked with memorizing and analyzing them. But timelines are misunderstood. There is a story of humans being told behind all of those dates and events that every human can relate to. Having such a powerful idea at its core, means timelines deserve a more exciting, purposeful structure.

As I went about crafting my own timeline of the history of misinformation and fake news I constantly reflected to see if a story was being told. While the issue of fake news has gained more attention in light of recent events these past few years, I wanted to present larger themes about misinformation that have been constants over the course of centuries, showing how foundational this issue really is. As I went about studying the methods other timelines use to present information, comparing effective and boring timelines, my outlook on what a timeline could be changed. Here’s what I gathered:

  • Explain the meaning more than the events: Where a timeline has the opportunity to push past what is expected of it and become something offering a larger message is in the analysis of the events it has put in chronological order. A brief explanation of what occurred on the date is necessary to give educated and uneducated readers an even playing field, but the majority of the text on the page should be about offering insights into what these dates mean, and how they connect. Fleshing out larger themes of humanity is how we can make timelines relevant to the challenges we face today. When there is little to no analysis of the dates listed the timeline loses a major opportunity, instead becoming a backdrop for other more specific sources. Two of the articles I examined, both of which I would consider timelines, offered completely different academic experiences because of differing levels of analysis. “The Long and Brutal History of Fake News” didn’t have the traditional appearance of a timeline, instead taking article form, but delivered an incredible recount by jumping through the centuries, stopping to connect past and future dates. This allowed the author to make an argument about the sequence of events instead of just sharing what has happened with the reader. “American History Timeline” acts as a more traditional timeline, covering events over the past millennium. What the reader wants to walk away from it with is constrained by the page and their prior knowledge.

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/12/fake-news-history-long-violent-214535

http://www.datesandevents.org/events-timelines/14-american-history-timeline.htm

  • Separate the dates and events from any analysis: It’s worth noting that sometimes the reader is not looking for a sizable analysis of the dates or events given and instead opens up a timeline to just find a specific date. Consequently, a visually appealing and viewer-friendly timeline makes the dates/events the backbone of the text. The reader’s eyes should bounce from date to date, only diving into the subsequent analysis accompanying each date if they care to. In this way “American History timeline” outperforms “The Long and Brutal History of Fake News” as the latter makes it difficult for the reader to find the events/dates being highlighted. This also makes transitions easier to follow as when dates are separated by literal space on the page and not hiding within paragraphs, the reader can follow the story and make those crucial connections.

 

  • Make it multimodal: A large complaint of timelines, especially from young students, is that they are boring and hard to read. Adding images and videos can enhance the timeline experience. It not only adds color and structure to a bland, simple design, but it offers a visual for the story being told. The audience, who may have a difficult time picturing what a certain historical figure looked like or what a location looked like hundreds of years ago now has an image to build their imagined story off of. The interactive “United States History” timeline from World Digital Library exemplifies the power of adding images. The site gives users the ability to move back and forth between events, moving out of the traditional line format. In this way the user is moving through time, following patterns, mentally picturing history unfold.

https://www.wdl.org/en/sets/us-history/timeline/#2

All of these realizations about how to make an effective, unique timeline come back to the idea that a timeline is a story. Luckily we love hearing stories s0 there is no reason why a timeline should fail at gaining and maintaining the attention of a reader. Timeline creators just need to push past the traditional expectation of a long, straight line with a sequence of dates branching off to be successful. Timelines need to be dynamic because we utilize them for dynamic reasons. We open them up to tell the story of how we got here, find connections across centuries, and gather conclusions about ourselves. Since there is literally a history of everything, there can be a timeline for everything. It’s up to the creators of these timelines to continue to challenge the status quo on what a timeline should look like and tell a story which connects the larger recurring themes, moving forward and backward through time. In this way, as I found with the history of misinformation, it’s a circle more than a line.

 

    VS. Image result for bad timeline VS. 

source: https://venngage.com/blog/timeline-template/

source: https://www.fastcompany.com/1673264/an-epic-timeline-of-breaking-bads-wardrobe-colors

source: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/flint-michigan-water-crisis-timeline-how-all-started

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye

As my final chapter in the Sweetland Minor in Writing comes to an end, I wanted to introduce to you all what has been one of the most exciting projects I have ever had the opportunity to work on: Ad Evolution.

About the Site –

“Coming into this semester, I envisioned a sociohistorical analysis based project on advertising and with countless hours of research and help from professionals in the industry, I had the opportunity to follow that vision all the way through. Particularly, I wanted to understand the changes that advertising has undergone over the years. By analyzing a series of advertisements that were released over the years, I began to notice a pattern. The advertisements were not just staying the same, but they were instead evolving to correspond with the changing technology. With each new decade came bigger and better advertisements that responded to culture of the time. From the newspaper advertisements, to the Internet advertisements and everything in between, it was incredible to see how the course of history changed since advertising first began. I began to think of the industry as some sort of advertising evolution.

Ad Evolution was designed with these thoughts in mind. I had intended to both introduce audiences unfamiliar with advertising to the industry and to build upon the knowledge of those who already have experience with it. By combining two central ideas, the history of advertising and the creation of advertisements, I hoped that Ad Evolution would mimic the advertising website AdWeek, which more broadly touches on similar themes. I bounced ideas around that I found from navigating other popular sites like Ad Age and BusinessInsider, which helped me ground much of the information I present through the site. It is through this multimedia project that my questions were answered. Advertising is complex and is an industry that will constantly be evolving to respond to human behavior. Hopefully your questions will be answered through Ad Evolution too.”

The Sweetland Minor in Writing has truly been one of the most rewarding experiences that the University of Michigan has offered me. If you have any questions regarding the Capstone Course, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

THIS WEEK’S ISSUE: Ad Evolution in the Making

As we move into week six of the semester, my capstone project is in the works, but with so much leftto be done. After project pitches and project proposals, I have settled on formatting my project based off of the design of the website Ad Week, a site I spend far too much time on. Though the content of my site will be entirely different than that of Ad Week, the blog style format with a navigation menu both at the top and right side of the site will organize the points of my capstone project in a clear, cohesive way.

Originally, when I proposed the idea of researching the evolution of advertising, I had planned to organize my site into four distinct pages: “History,” “Departments,” “Evolution” and “About.” After sitting down with my professor to discuss the aspects of my project, we came across the conclusion that the “History” and “Evolution” of advertising pages would become too similar in research and that the “Departments” of an advertising agency page would become a separate project in itself. After some thought, I have decided to remove the “Departments” and “Evolution” pages and go with a different approach.

Though I still plan to keep the “History” and “About” pages for context, upon entering my site, readers will be directed to a series of advertisements (in the blog format) on the landing page. If they click to “read more,” the advertisement will open, explaining specifically how that particular advertisement has progressed in its advertisements over the years. This, for example, could feature a Coca-Cola print advertisement from 1917 and a Coca-Cola digital advertisement from 2017 and explain how it has changed over the years, both in terms of creation and format.

Though these ideas are still very much so up in the air, this should allow me to fully engage with the pages of my site, making it more interactive for my readers by avoiding repetition and overwhelming content.

True Life: I’m addicted to Facebook

I never thought this would hit me so hard. I couldn’t even count the amount of times I visited this page because it was so many. I am addicted to Facebook. I looked through my history, and if I am not even on Facebook it is still open in my computer. Half the time I am stalking someone’s pictures while they’re abroad, the other half I am watching those Tasty videos (which I am also addicted to). Holy crap, I need to get off Facebook. I don’t even like it that much, that’s why I am so confused.

Another huge chunk of my search history was related to internship searching. I am currently on the search and it has honestly consumed hours of my time. This search is so much better because at least it might (hopefully) pay off in the long run. If there’s a policy internship in New York City, odds are I have already looked up the job description.

Lastly, I check the normal stuff: Canvas, ctools, netflix, and youtube. Neither of these websites have a particularly high amount compared to the other. I had a lot of exams, so canvas was used a good amount.

If I am being honest, my history scares me. Note to self: get the hell off Facebook NOW.

History Paper Struggles

So I’m in the midst of writing my final paper for my History 202 class.  To give you a little background on the class, its called “Doing History” and it is required for all History Majors.  First of all, I don’t even know why I’m a history major, it just sort of happened.  Secondly, this class has probably been the busiest  I’ve taken at Michigan.  Its not that the content doesn’t interest me, in fact, that is the best part about it.  Its just that there is way too much work required for a 200 level course.  While the blogging for this class is all about reflection, the blogging for that class pretty much consists of writing mini-essays every night.  Nonetheless, I am now tasked with writing an 8-page paper on the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, and how President George H.W. Bush managed to keep the U.S.-China diplomatic relationship strong despite strong opposition from Congress.  I’ve been searching through old primary documents for hours and to be honest, I’m sick of it.  My rough draft is due tomorrow, and I’ve already written five pages.  The biggest issue I’m having is that I think my thesis may be too broad for what the prompt is asking for.  I know no one reading this can actually help me with that, but I’ve been crammed in this 3rd floor stack for hours and I just needed to vent about this somehow without annoying everyone else crammed in the stacks next to me.  I’m probably going to submit what I have pretty soon so that I can get feedback as soon as possible.  Hopefully my professor is happy with what I have and tells me to just keep going.  If not, I’m not really sure what I’m gonna do but I don’t know how much longer I can stare at the same paper.

Dismantling the Power Paradigm of the Academy’s Patriarchy

First, I just want to say that I really enjoyed this article – it was well researched, thought out, and most importantly, interesting.

Of particular interest to me was when he talks about how women may actually have been the genesis of the novel.  It’s such an interesting point to make. He rationalizes this claim by explaining that men were traditionally the ones to receive educations in rhetoric at schools and universities, while women, if they went to school at all, were taught subjects conducive to running an effective home or business.  So, when women start coming to the academy, they bring a completely new perspective to language and particularly writing – they’ve not been trained in traditional rhetoric, and thus it doesn’t hold as much importance for them, which is why the novel starts to rise as a legitimate form of writing; it allows for more freedom of form. You can still kind of see the echoes of this today, in that many popular or well known authors of novels are females: JK Rowling, Jodi Picoult, Barbara Kingsolver, Audrey Niffenegger, Suzanne Collins, and (*cringe*) Stephenie Meyer. Obviously, if Ong’s argument is true, then women have given to humanity a great artform.

Twilight
Twlight, a "book" by "writer" Stephenie Meyer. (Source: twilightsaga.wikia.com)

So then, it’s curious to me as to why academic institutions still favor a fairly patriarchal view on writing; non-academic writing still seems to be thought of as somehow “less” in an university setting.  In my peer tutoring seminar, we’re learning about different approaches to writing as well as how to tutor writing. We recently read an essay that applied Feminist critical theory to the idea of writing, which aims to equalize the role of tutor and the student; the practice attempts to dismantle the power hierarchy present in the traditional student/teacher paradigm, which the academy perpetuates by often times forcing students to learn “good” writing by making them conform to the abstract standard of an “ideal text” as imagined by academia. Since this “ideal text” is often a traditionally academic paper, filled with classical rhetoric, and since rhetoric is a subject that was created by men, for use by men, this ideal text is inherently patriarchal; it makes the writer conform to invisible, “acceptable” standards envisioned by men and only men years and years ago.

Ong’s text got me thinking about writing a lot more about what writing is, and more specifically, what “good” writing is.  Is it this generally agreed upon standard, or can it be something more?  Why is it so difficult to break away from the academic form instilled in writers from the time they’re taught to write? Why can’t fiction be just as effective a mode for delivering an argument? Why did I just make fun of Stephenie Meyer, if in fact, she may have written a very good piece of writing, and I’m just not seeing it fromt he correct perspective (this pains me to write, fellow writing minors; I just need you all to know that)? I’m not sure I have any answers to any of these questions, but the article definitely got me thinking about them.