You’ve come across my subdomain for a new media writing course, ENG221RW, that I took at Emory University taught by David Morgen during the fall 2017 semester. On this website, you will find several things of note: under posts, there are sketch assignments—weekly creative and reflective endeavors—and other posts, which include reflections about podcasts I helped produce. There is also a podcast page for links to those episodes I contributed to. The technology literacy narrative leads you through a chronology of the significant ways I have interacted with technology, primarily in terms of writing and reading. The code tab leads to a page where I display my rudimentary hand-coding skills, featuring a splash-page and a launch pad. Finally, the Equality of Opportunity project link takes you to a site where my classmates and I collaborated to create socially relevant data visualizations utilizing data collected on colleges and their economic mobility. I mostly worked on developing the “Unsung Heroes” page, manifesting my work through a narrative style visualization.
This website now serves as an archive; it showcases my skill development throughout the semester and tells a story that leads you through the struggles and triumphs I experienced during this course. Below this, I will unpack my experience in this class in greater detail, in order to figure out how this material fits into the greater scheme of my life. Read on if this interests you (or if you are Prof. Morgen)! If not, peruse the various pages—or exhibits if you will—of my portfolio, and check out some of my favorite sketch assignments (create a gif, recreate a movie scene, and music mix).
The first major task I had to complete was reflective analysis of sorts about my relationship to and experience with technology—especially in regard to writing, reading, and communication—up until the present (see technology literacy narrative). The prompt was intimidating not by the word count or the length but rather the fact that I was writing about myself, using evidence from my own experiences, and primarily, the fact that I was encouraged to use the words “I, me and my”. Before writing even my thesis, I first had to develop trust in my experiences, and convince myself that no matter how mundane, they were worth writing about and analyzing. From there, I found the free-writing questions to be useful in developing this trust and generating a tone and style for the writing on my website. When outlining my essay, I was drawn to the comfort and ease of the 5-paragraph essay format, however Prof. Morgen admonished this severely in class, so I forced myself to write with a different cadence.
A snapshot of my free-writing, which helped me develop my essay.
I still ended up with five paragraphs, but I think the structure and content reads significantly different than a classic high school essay. For example, my first paragraph describes the creative skills kid pix gave me, which then flows chronologically into describing emails, Facebook, and then newer social media, each paragraph with its own thesis about how the respective media affected my writing, reading, or communication. It isn’t until the final paragraph that I wrap up my examples into a single, defining “thesis” of the paper: “Every time it’s a new learning process to figure out the precise tone and style of writing to use, but my theoretical toolbox is continually being enriched with ways to navigate the evolutionary nature of technology.” Overall, this piece reminds me of my writing style before entering this class, with a few witty sentences thrown in and a smattering of 1st-person pronouns, which is to be expected of a benchmark assignment. From here, I can easily see the evolution my writing went through over the course of the semester.
One of the most challenging assignments of the semester was the production of the podcast. I have some pretty solid reasoning for why this is so: teachers often say that in order to become a better writer, you need to read quality writing. When applied to this class, the logic translates seamlessly into “you need to listen to quality podcasting to become a better podcaster”. However, I had no idea what a good podcast should sound like. Sure, I’ve listened to a few podcasts here or there, but I don’t consistently consume good audio writing. So, when it came down to tackling the podcast structure and content, it was no surprise I first used my methods of essay outlining. When it came time to verbalize those outlined words, I found myself stumbling over transitions and completely trashing points that I thought were necessary to get my thesis across. An even greater struggle was figuring out how to do it with another person without sounding like two people reading off essays to one another with occasional remarks of “yes, I totally agree with that” or “ah, great point!”.
Did I ever figure out a system of efficient drafting, editing, and final drafting our podcasts? Spoiler alert: not quite. But I gained enough insight into the process to realize that podcasting entails a different process of thesis development than does traditional essay writing, which introduced the dichotomy of new media and old media to me. Despite this, there are still inherent similarities within the writing process, including employing fluid transitions, developing a style, and perfecting the appropriate tone. To wrap that all up, while we were discussing and analyzing various forms of new media in our podcast, we were also, by that method of audio writing, learning about the new media landscape. In that way, we could directly apply what we were discussing in the podcast to the development of the podcast itself!
The penultimate project I worked on for this class was the Equality of Opportunity project, which required skills in Tableau, group collaboration, and new media writing, of course. One major hurdle we, as a class, had to overcome, was to try and identify focuses within the large amounts of data and figure out ways to delegate these focuses into distinct groups. Once, we hashed that out, I aligned most with the goals of the “Unsung Heroes” group, where we analyzed the ways in which colleges with good mobility rates were so successful, in comparison to and contrasted with Emory. I thought my skills would have been best put to use in forming a narrative of my own family’s college experiences for our page on the website, however, if I were to do this again, I might tackle the bigger data visualizations. I didn’t think my family data ended up being representative of our larger thesis, so my skills with tableau would’ve been more useful to craft more interactive visualizations for our page, which I think we lacked.
The Tableau visualization I create that delineated family income.
It was difficult to embrace the new media writing aspect of this project without more time, as we ended up having a rather linear form. Perhaps having more links, or pages within the page would make the page a bit more characteristic of a new media website. Playing around with different themes and widgets would’ve also improved the readability and interactivity of our site as a whole as well.
Finally, I’ll unpack some of the sketch assignments that were representative of what I took away from this class. Most of the assignments I’m going describe were formed in Photoshop, which was a program that I had no experience with at the beginning of the semester, however now I would consider myself a novice. The amount of basic tools Photoshop provides makes it an ideal software for applying new media concepts, since one can take an existing piece of media and remix it to make something new, with perhaps a different perspective than the original piece. For example, the gif assignment utilized masking, video editing, and color correction all to create an easily spreadable (i.e. small file size) gif. My original idea required me to film some footage of me drinking water:
And as you can see that was not conducive to gif creation. So, like any new media connoisseur, I went back to my older media and selected something from that library to create a new product.
One sketch assignment that I had issues with, and wasn’t quite satisfied with the product, was the data visualization using tableau.
A week where I tracked my friendliness.
The data collection itself was a blast, and with more background knowledge/skills, the visualization could’ve been unique and impactful, perhaps using a calendar or varying shades of color to designate higher values. However, the constraints of this class made it difficult to learn how to take raw spreadsheet data, and play with the formatting to create something other than a bar graph or pie chart. So, while the assignment was great in theory, I would’ve needed a better background in data manipulation and the tableau software itself, before being able to create a new media compatible product. However, it is partly my fault that I didn’t troubleshoot those issues myself, or draw on support systems within the class or university, as is necessary when tackling new media issues.
Coming out of this class, I can confidently say I have a better outfitted toolbox for English and writing in general. Below, I created an image that visualizes my new toolbox, with which I can tackle issues in my future courses and beyond. For instance, you might want to check out a blog I started as a result of this class: A day in the lab!