1: The Journey Begins

Both for me and Amir, the main character of my novella/novel: Dying Man’s Wish.

 

The Orontes, or “The Green River.” This is a scene-to-be in Dying Man’s Wish. I took this picture of the Asi (Orontes) River near the Beqqa Valley, in Lebanon. (Excuse the poor quality of this image; this is just a screenshot of the actual image).

 

The coming-of-age plot centers around the son of a grave robber, Amir, as he begins to gain perspective on life and death in an ancient Middle Eastern society. The setting will bring to life some of the monuments and stories native to the Middle East. In this way, I aspire to both comment on and alter history through a creative lens, the way I imagine my ancestors interacted with the monuments, or lived the stories we now tell. It’s almost like re-writing history, the way I imagine it, to create a piece of historical fiction.

The plot is narrated by Death, an opinionated, all-knowing entity whose form is left up to the imagination of the reader. Ironically, Death offers comedic relief at times, and bits of experiential wisdom at others. Mostly, though, Death is the primary raconteur of the story.

Other elements I want to incorporate into the novel/novella include social and political commentary on issues that still impact the Middle East today. In this way, I hope to discuss modern issues that are really just continuations of ancient issues, such as women’s rights and political corruption. Doing this grants me a way to discreetly, but not innocuously, “show the world its own shame,” in the words of Oscar Wilde.

But I also want to show the world its own beauty. In part, that is where the image above, along with others, come in. I will incorporate a series of images I have taken in my travels abroad to serve as various settings. More on this later 😉

Thank you for reading!

Project Update

Hey guys! So I’m actually surprised that my project isn’t a total mess right now. I’ve been having a lot of issues with design for the most part, whereas I’m pretty confident with the content portion of the project.

One thing I’ve found with this project is that it’s really easy to sound corny when you’re putting your writing up on your site. My homepage is text based with color blocking, and one of the things that has been stressing me out the most is that I feel like some of the blocks of text and the emphases just seem cliche. I was told to make it look as I want it to read, but I feel like bolding and italicizing certain words has a corny connotation. Do you guys agree, or is this just something I’m making up in my head?

When your research expectations don’t match what’s out there

Over the last ten days, I have begun thinking more seriously about my Capstone Project. After creating my production plan, the logical step was to begin research for the content of the project. Unfortunately, all of the information I anticipated finding is nowhere to be found anywhere on the internet or in a scholarly journal. My search terms all yield millions of results, but none of them are quite what I am looking for.

Specifically, my project has to do with the discrepancies between gender roles and gendered characteristics when it comes to living arrangements. As per my production plan, my tasks this week included psychological, historical, and interview-based research about the ways people develop gender attitudes and the reasons they hold the attitudes that they do. However, almost all of the information out there, including housing policies, blogs, articles, etc., are about housing that is designed to or should accommodate those who have some kind of gender identification issue, or a housing concern related to sexual orientation and similar issues. These are not areas I am intending to cover, as my project is centered on those who choose to live with those of another gender for social, economic, convenience, or other practical concerns. I am not looking at all at groups who are marginalized, and I definitely don’t want to approach this from a civil rights perspective. As far as media research, I was able to find only one TV show about my type of living arrangement, no movies, and no books.

My professor, Ray, has suggested that I widen my research to include these other aspects of gender and cohabitation, while at the same time narrowing my research to include only one perspective, such as media representations, that consider scenarios different from my own.
This week, I am hoping to make more progress on this front. While the holdup has derailed my production plan a bit, I plan to spend the week working from this changed perspective and catching up in time for our next workshop session.

Core, Anti-, and Proximal Audience

Minor Item 4: Capstone Project Audience

At first, I struggled with the following questions: How does the topic of your capstone project relate to people other than yourself? How will you make your project interesting and relevant to the larger public? In choosing a topic as specialized as magazine journalism- print magazine journalism for that matter- the answers to these very questions were initially hard to come by. It is evident that journalism, or content production/ consumption, is a specialized topic in it of itself, let alone the print side of the industry.

Core Audience:

People in my core target audience are those involved or interested in print journalism, specifically feature/magazine writing. They understand that print journalism is at risk, however, value it as an influential and significant source of information. Furthermore, people in my target audience are those who also prefer digital journalism over print journalism, and are unaware of the value of the latter. I hope to change these people’s beliefs, or even simply further their knowledge on the matter. Lastly, I hope to target those generally interested in journalism, information, or news, and those whose consume or interact with such content on a daily basis.

Proximal Audience:

When I tell people I want to pursue print journalism as a profession, they often and automatically respond with disappointment and doubt. It is clear that print journalism is a dying market, as today’s content is predominantly produced and distributed through digital means. Even still, print journalism does not stand alone: there are other markets and industries experiencing similar situations. Consider the book publishing industry, or even the record industry, both of which have been overtaken by either technology or digital media.

In this way, my proximal audience will consist of people not in my immediate target audience, rather, just to the left or right. These people are the “book publishers” or those in the record industry, who are experiencing vulnerability, just as I am, when it comes to their professions and passions. Though they may not be interested in feature writing or print journalism directly, they have an interest in a field of study or profession that is either undervalued or losing value overtime.

Anti-Audience:

People that I will rule out of my audience are those who do not care for information consumption, news, or journalism in any matter. I will not be able to reach people who have no interest whatsoever in the industry, let alone those who are interested in print feature writing. I am aware that my project will not reach/make an impact on everyone, however, I will do my best to reach the audience members I know I am capable of reaching.

Picking a Topic was Hard, Starting Research is Harder

As soon as I chose my topic of goal-setting I knew I was going to come across a few roadblocks while researching. Since my topic is pretty intangible, I was immediately overwhelmed (see GIF below for reenactment) with the amount of information I would have to sift through in order to make my argument and establish my credibility. Did I want to start with online articles? Or maybe head to the library and ask a librarian? Perhaps I’ll check out the Netflix documentaries and see if there’s one that matches up. As you can see, I was struggling. Struggling big time.

Jon Stewart GIF

Initially, I thought the only type of research I would have to do revolved around the psychology of goal-setting. However, I’m starting to discovery that the history of goal-setting and why American culture in particular places such a strong emphasis on goals is more important for my argument. This shift is helping me to narrow my focus on certain aspects of goal-setting as opposed to attacking the entire subject.

Furthermore, my research will come from a combination of “traditional” academic research from scholarly journals and books in addition to more “popular” forms such as online magazines and websites. In particular, Forbes Magazine articles seem to have the most information on my topic that both agrees and disagrees with my argument. It seems like every time I scroll through Forbes.com, I find another article that I can use for my project. This is both a blessing and a curse because I feel like before I know it, I’ll have over 100 articles and no other sources. I will be making a conscious effort to diversify my sources to strengthen my argument.

Example Forbes Article

Finally, I’m most excited to learn about how other people view goals during my interviews. I haven’t decided exactly who I will be interviewing, what type of questions I will ask, or how I will conduct the interviews, but I am looking forward to diving into this. I think I am most excited for this part because I’m a people-person and love to share experiences with others. I believe experiential learning is the most valuable type of learning available. Thus, I want to use other’s experiences as a main point in my Repurposing Project, especially since goal-setting is an entirely human, and person-by-person, choice.

Some other things that might be helpful to know are that my topic is rather personal to me because I’ve always had an interest in the ways that goal-setting has inhibited me in my own life. However, I want to make my repurposing project relatable for all kinds of 20-somethings. Bridging that gap between too personal and too broad will be something I will discuss more in upcoming blog posts, so keep an eye out! If you have any questions for me, feel free to leave them in the comments below. All of your suggestions have been extremely helpful!

Puppy GIF

Down the Rabbit Hole I Go…

down_the_rabbit_hole_by_fit51391-d5m5uk0When I made it to the Research Guide page, I immediately clicked on the Humanities category. Some of the other sections interested me, but most of the courses I’ve taken in college are humanities-based and it’s become the field in which I feel most comfortable.

The Humanities category has a wide range of topics in it. I was turned off by the Communications and media links because I want to branch out and do something different in my project. I first looked at the Children’s Literature link. I think it would be fun to write a children’s book; it would be a new challenge for me, and compel me to approach writing in a way that I have not before. I’m not sure what I would write about that is applicable to my life or education and is accessible to children. Another hurdle is animation or art, which is almost always necessary to children’s books. My artistic talents do not go beyond the ability to draw a stick figure, so drawing pictures for an entire (albeit) short book would be very difficult.

As I was perusing the Humanities page, I found myself looking for a journalism link. I didn’t find one, but I think the fact that I wanted to says something about what I am interested in. On the first day of class, while speaking with my partner about potential project topics, I came up with the idea of a newspaper column. I –without any shame –am a big fan of Sex and the City, and was inspired by the protagonist’s fictional weekly column. The columns wouldn’t be quite as scandalous as those of Carrie Bradshaw, but I do think this project would allow me to incorporate humor into my project. As with the children’s book idea, I’m not sure what my topic or angle would be with the column, but the flexibility of such a project would enable me to come at it in different ways.

Overall, the rabbit hole activity was very helpful. The Research Guide didn’t necessarily point me to one specific topic, but helped me think about what I am interested, which is one of, if not the most important steps in choosing a project.

Workshopping Works #RayRay

A couple of quick thoughts…

Today’s discussion and some of the peer reviews I’ve gotten have been really helpful for my project in terms of both the introduction that I presented to the class and the direction that I need to take for the project itself. It seemed like everybody had fun talking about Harry Potter—I mean come on, who wouldn’t?! However, that also gives me slight anxiety about the fact that I have a lot to live up to. I don’t want to disappoint people who are expecting this amazing creative piece from me, so I guess I have to live up to those expectations and work my butt off over the next month or so! One of the best pieces of advice I got today was that I need to write this exactly how I want to do it. In any piece of artwork, whether it is a drawing, painting, film, novel, anything, there are always going to be critics. I do struggle sometimes with not wanting to let people down, but I think I have to keep in mind throughout this process is that I can’t please everyone. People are interested in what I have to say, not what they expect me to say.

There was some hostility in the room on whether my current approach—writing as if I were a “Muggle” who stumbles upon the scene where Lord Voldemort is being resurrected—is the correct way to do it, or whether I should be myself within the story itself (i.e. a Healer at St. Mungo’s when Arthur Weasley is brought in after his snake bite). The thing that stood out to me, and something that I had never thought of, is that being a “Muggle” inherently forces me to lose a lot of the context about the magical world I’m describing. This definitely is a challenge and is something I’m going to have to work through in order to appease the readers imagination.

I think the mission now is just to dig in and start writing. I have never written anything of this magnitude nor as imaginative/fictional as this project is about to be. And truthfully, thinking about that fact stresses me out. The only way to combat this is to dive right in and just start writing. I have a feeling that through the process of writing it, I will learn more about myself as a writer and how I want the story to go than to just sit there and think about it.

Thanks again for all of your help everyone!! Y’all rock.

Pants Off

So Emily and I walked around Ann Arbor to collect interviews on people for our Re-mediating project for the first time today. We ask two questions, take their picture, thank them, and then do little dances of excitement as we look at how our project is growing.

I am so pleasantly surprised that people are so receptive to participating. No one we asked has declined to answer our questions or pose for a picture and everyone has taken the time to think up a real answer to our question. In the few short minutes that we have with them, their answers have shown us more of them than I think they realize and it is rewarding to get their insight, hear their opinions, and many times, their unknown advice.

This is exactly what I wanted to accomplish with this project and I am so thrilled it’s pulling together. The insight that we get from just talking to people on the street for 2 minutes maximum has me thinking about things in ways I hadn’t considered. More than 15 times today I’ve done a double take while hastily typing their answers into my phone with numb fingers, because they have managed to frame something very beautifully and very concisely about themselves.

On the flip side, we just meet some hilarious characters. We wanted a picture of one guy with his friends and they told us he just got a M tattoo on his upper thigh. He says, “Do you wan to have it in the picture?” Laughingly, I say, “Sure, why not?” thinking he was joking.

He wasn’t.

He pulls his pants down in the middle of State Street so we can take a picture of him, in his boxers, with his M tattoo.

Go blue.

Remediation was the first problem, where to start is the second… (#techchallenge)

I would never categorize our remediation project as easy. In fact, I’d actually categorize it as just the opposite: difficult. However, difficult is not always a bad thing. In this case, the difficulty I am experiencing throughout the different steps of this project are actually teaching me most, second to writing and media, about the importance of decision-making. In transitioning from my repurposing to remediating project, I was unsure as to which medium form I wanted to use. I thought about creating a podcast, however, was unsure as to how I would organize my project in a way that wasn’t simply a script of my repurposing project. I also thought about creating an informational brochure on salsa, later realizing that the transformation from a magazine spread into a brochure would barely differ in terms of organization and appearance. All in all, I wanted to create a project that would enable me to guide my readers on a hypothetical journey across the world. I needed something more three-dimensional. That is when I finally came to a decision: a website. Websites offer interactivity, visuals, display themes, and most importantly, a virtual space for the organization and layout of my argument.

In beginning to design the storyboard for my remediation project, I am using PowerPoint to layout each and every page of my website. Although PowerPoint is limited in terms of its design features, font styles, header features, etc. in comparison to WordPress, it has allowed me to start at a more elementary phase and take baby steps toward the creation of a more complicated website. In creating my storyboard, I am getting a better sense of how my website is going to turn out. During the proposal stage of this project, I had a hypothetical image of my website lingering in my head: the colors I wanted to use, the themes I wanted to use, and the layout that I believed would work best in conveying my argument. However, because I am designing my storyboard on the computer rather than drawing it out, I am drawing upon the computer’s abilities and formatting features, rather than my own ideas. Therefore, I am learning, in actuality, and not just in my head, what the computer will and will not allow me to do, which fonts look best, which colors schemes look best, etc. The storyboard assignment is allowing my project to slowly come to life within reasonable parameters, which is exciting.

In conjunction with my decision to use WordPress, for my technology challenge, I have decided to commit to trying iMovie as the additional program that will aid my project. I don’t have a lot of experience with iMovie, and figured it would be a good program to create a “Lookbook” sort of feature for my website. I am picturing almost a running, continuous PowerPoint presentation of salsa images, ones that are visually appealing to online users. For instance, I could upload images of salsas with, for example, unique and atypical ingredients, salsa spread across lavish and fancy dishes, or even famous renditions of salsa prepared by famous chefs. I plan to create a short movie out of these images, which will offer a visually interactivity and a captivating way for users to “experience” salsa, rather than just read about it.

In downloading iMovie on my computer, I was able to learn a lot of basic information about the program in a short period of time. I put an old video I had downloaded on my computer years ago into the system, and was able to cut and chop up the video. I also taught myself about the transition features, which I noticed is similar to those in PowerPoint. There is also a microphone feature in iMovie, which would allow me to create a voiceover describing each image in my mini-salsa movie, if I wanted to. Lastly, I learned that I could also add text over the images of my movie, which would allow me to create captions describing them. I think iMovie will allow me to get creative with my website, adding video features of my own rather than simply posting videos on my website that were created by other people.

 

Apple-Updates-iMovie-Intros-New-iFrame-Format-2

Solutions: Repurposing Project

My repurposing project is giving me more trouble than I thought it would. For this project, I am repurposing a research paper on salsa into a magazine spread. At first, I took bits and pieces of the research paper and modified my argument. The initial argument of my paper was how salsa has diversified into a food that has adapted to different cultures around the world. This argument, in my opinion, seemed a bit too “research-ey” for a magazine article. So, I changed the tone of the paper. As I wrote, I came up with a better idea: a guide to help housewives or chefs “spice up their life” in the kitchen. I offered a variety of recipes to add change and innovation into the same old routine meals they cook for their husbands and kids each and every day.

However, after completing my first draft, I felt my repurposed argument was all over the place. Did I want to offer readers with a history of salsa and explain how it became such a popular, versatile food? Did I want to offer tips in the kitchen/new ideas/new recipes for housewives who were bored with their elementary cooking skills? Did I want to talk about the different types of salsa (texture, spice levels, etc) that can me made? All of these arguments were in my repurposed paper, and I felt it was a bit scrambled.

After speaking with Professor Silver, she helped me come up with a solution: create a magazine spread on salsa, dividing it into separate parts. Each part would spotlight a particular argument I was trying to make. I now plan to break it up into three sections: “A Brief History,” “The International Cookbook” (containing international recipes and how each plays an important role in the cuisine of its country of origin), and a last section that will work as a guide to people who struggle in the kitchen, and whose skills are elementary (will show them how simple it is to make salsa!)