Category Archives: x12

Final Draft: Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind

My digital essay is about our place on the spectrum of non-digital to digital transition, with basic focus on book to e-book transformation. It’s about our imminent encounter with purely ebook reader generations who stand beyond this transitional spectrum; and about being encountered by them. By elaborating on our status as Digital Immigrants, this essay challenges the definition of  Digital Natives and highlights the digital generation gap that would occur between us and our students in near future. One of the main concerns is the adaptability of our non-digital skills ,of reading and writing, in our future digital classes and the possibility of using our unique background as an active knowledge rather than passive nostalgia.

Through our Digital Writing course, I have become a true believer in Digital Revolution. As a big fan of books who is becoming a small fan of ebooks, I have been observing and studying undeniable reasons, information and data that confirm the ultimate mastery of ebooks over books. I have started to believe in ebook revolution in the core of Digital Revolution. I have been thinking about digital generations who would start reading on screen rather than page, and about a hypothetical, but highly probable, time in near future that I should be teaching them. Therefore, I started this essay.

books

This is not a linear essay, it has not been written in a linear way either. The reader can start or stop reading it on any topic circle. The very last word of each post is linked to another post and by following them one could have a circular reading of the whole thing. But it’s not necessarily needed. I wanted to simulate the closed circle of non-digital texts by trying to keep my reader inside the circular blog. Therefore, I have not provided any external hyperlinks in my essay. On the other hand, I have been dealing with the playful but distracting nature of digital text. I have indulged myself with the pronoun “I”, personal references, colors, pictures, single line paragraphs, short block quotes, etc. It is fascinating to be able to adjust the form to the content.

The flexibility of digital space turns to be tricky. I spent a lot of time looking for an appropriate medium, before choosing the WordPress, and I tried to improve the aesthetic quality of my blog, after choosing the WordPress. Dealing with limited free options and their disappointments, I downloaded several harmful programs by mistake! My digital essay experience tells me that a digital author is not only a writer, but also a painter, musician, researcher, web designer, photographer, and computer programmer! I enjoy being all these but it would be exhaustive and also impossible. Moreover, as I was composing a non-linear work, it was difficult to move forward without losing the focus. I had to look at each post as a potential introduction, body or conclusion as my reader could read each post randomly. Although there are just six entries in my essay, the experience has been like walking into a labyrinth.

Shakespr: (Re)creationally Writing Hamlet Online

shakespr

 

 

Shakespr

Overview:

My project argues, through a case study on Hamlet, that tumblr users in the Shakespeare fandom have constructed their own Shakespeare that reflects both the demystification of the exception Author and the deconstruction of a monolithic, culture-controlling Academy. While tumblr users genuinely seem to enjoy Shakespeare’s work and value the texts immensely, they do not bring a sense of reverence to Shakespeare as typically presented in high school and college classrooms. They engage in the queer readings some academics pursue but that never reach a first-time reader of Hamlet. They place Hamlet next to Ke$ha without batting an eye. And they turn Hamlet‘s narrative into a series of emojiis. (Among other things). Often through collaborative writing , tumblr re-presents, remixes, and remediates Shakespeare. Along the way, the site recreates Shakespeare’s body of work as fun and flexible, and Shakespeare becomes Shakespr.

Process:

I suppose I can say that I started this essay (without really knowing it) before I started this course. I have been on tumblr for several years now, and I have been pursuing Renaissance literature (particularly Shakespeare) for about the same amount of time. So, before the course began, I had already had on my blog several posts from other users about Shakespeare. Posts I found fascinating to view.

When I began this course, I knew early on that I wanted to work with tumblr. As I’ll talk more about below, I think that tumblr’s interface – though it might take a bit getting used to – allows for variation in digital composition.

In looking at the Shakespeare posts, I first continued my collection work. I followed as many Shakespeare blogs I could find, reblogged a bunch of posts about Hamlet, used my tumblr at first to curate.

I then went through these posts to categorize the different modes users employed in discussing Shakespeare. It was at this point that I made the divisions: re-present, remix, and remediate. I organized the blog by dramatic vocabulary: preface, dramatis personae, three acts, an epilogue, and source materials. I then got a lot of excellent feedback from my group on how to guide my audience across these divisions.

Affordances:

For me, the main appeal of tumblr is the way in which posts are divided. A post can be text, photo, video, a chat, a link, a quotation, or any variation/combination thereof. Tumblr can be extremely visually appealing as it integrates all of these sources.

But, I would say even more than that, tumblr is immediately public in a way other blogging sites are not. If I tag a post “Shakespeare” the post immediately moves into the website tags, where anyone who is scrolling through or tracking the tag can see it. Users on tumblr also, then, read differently. They usually read in their dashboard – looking at tracked tags or what the people they follow reblog. Generally speaking, they do not encounter a blog by going to the blog home page, but by seeing one post by that user and then looking for more. The interaction this enables made me view my writing as much more public than I otherwise would (especially when I was writing my commentary directly on the posts of other users).

Constraints:

Tumblr is not designed for a linear essay. One of the constraints I dealt with was how to link clearly and easily across all of my posts so that users both familiar and unfamiliar with the site could navigate my essay. The other main constraint is in the writing process on tumblr; when things are posted, they are (generally) complete posts. So I did have to respond to one confused (and slightly aggressive) anonymous message about how my blog was working.

Overall, I have absolutely enjoyed this writing process and project, and might have already started a more long-term blog about being a graduate student more broadly…(plug).

I look forward to talking about my work and hearing about everyone else’s!

Final Draft: Remix as “Concept, Material and Method” in FYC

Overview:
My digital essay project asks what we stand to lose–as scholars, teachers, and students of writing–by insisting that multimodal composition and traditional academic writing participate in fundamentally different modes of making meaning. Though many other scholars have productively registered the dissonances between these two kinds of composition, in my essay I consider what we might stand to gain by listening for the resonances. Ultimately I suggest that the lens of “remix” can help us, and our first year writing students, to see academic and multimodal composition as founded on a set of shared intellectual practices– and so doing, help us to find new ways to bridge past and future, academic and public discourse, alphabetic and non-alphabetic writing.

If that didn’t convince you to check it out, in my essay I do close readings of the two texts below, and argue that they participate in very similar intellectual practices of making meaning. Don’t you want to see me try to make that move?

Todorov

Development:
This essay really developed out of a blog post I wrote for this seminar in response to Lawrence Lessig’s Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Though I was completely on board with his enthusiasm for possibilities of free, open, remix culture, I was troubled that he felt it necessary to argue that multimodal/digital remix is somehow more complex than alphabetic/academic writing. As I thought about it more and dove into the scholarly literature, I realized that Lessig made two assumptions that were widespread in discourse on multimodal comp: 1) that these are two completely different practices of producing meaning, and 2) that alphabetic (and academic) writing is our past and multimodal comp is our future. These realizations led to the first two parts of my digital essay: “The Same Refrain” and “History/Futurity.” The next two sections, “Textual Layers” and “Resonance and Dissonance” developed out of my attempt to define what I saw as the real similarities between the two seemingly disparate types of texts.

Affordances & Constraints
In my essay, the most obvious affordance I took advantage of was the ability to embed video, which allowed me to isolate and showcase pieces of the music I was close reading. (Close listening?) But I also tried to make strong use of links throughout my essay, which I found to be a much more elegant and rich form of citation than clunky scholarly citation styles. Also, although there are few images in my project, I tried to use them suggestively rather than literally, to correspond to the kind of theoretical/conceptual work I was trying to do. It’s something that seems to work in this medium, but would probably look ridiculous in print. Lastly, no other medium would allow me to extend this project over time in public as a website permits me to do. I’m really looking forward to sharing my remix-focused teaching materials and blogging about my teaching experiences in the fall!

The biggest constraint was trying to manipulate the architecture of my website. WordPress themes are incredible, on the one hand, because with very little effort, they make your work look polished. On the other hand, they are unreasonably difficult to alter or customize in any way. It reminded me how badly I want to become proficient at writing code (I took a couple of intro-level courses on Python and Java, and absolutely loved it). This makes me think that to get serious about digital academic work and making best use of its affordances, we’re going to have to get a lot more technologically proficient.

Turning Over a New Leaf

Link: Turning the Digital Page: An Exploration of Remediation and Online Archives

YB cover photo

Overview: In my digital essay, I aim to analyze the (method)ologies of online resources which compile and remediate archival texts, using The Yellow Nineties Online as a case study to examine the ways in which digitizing encodes form and content, and therefore changes the audience interaction. As per the site’s “Welcome” page, it logically centers itself not only around the study of decade of the 1890s, more specifically around the periodicals of that decade, and more specifically still about the particular periodical that gave the decade its “yellow” moniker–The (infamous) Yellow Book. My digital essay discusses these digitally re-born texts and deals with issues such as form, adaptation/homage, simulation/skeuomorph, and materiality.

Process: This project began its life as a traditional 20-page seminar paper I had done for a class in Fall 2012 so I’d already done a lot of research, writing, and thinking about digital archives in general and The Yellow Nineties Online in particular by the time I decided to revisit the topic this semester. The main challenge for me was taking that first incarnation and looking at it from a completely different angle–not that of “genres” of digital archive (my initial argument, tailored to said class), but rather looking at the ways in which the site frames content, form, and user engagement. These three themes are the one that I have tried to thread throughout each of my posts and which tie the digital essay together as a whole.

Affordances: This project works so much better as a digital essay than a paper that I’m profoundly glad I had the opportunity to transform it! Because I am working to analyze an online resource, it was helpful to work in the same medium–particularly as it is one that facilitates greater use of images (something I’m always looking to do since I work so heavily in visual culture) and enables the use of hyperlinks– these two affordances (or rather, the lack thereof) were the main constraints in writing this up as an seminar paper in the first place.

Looking back at my original paper, I also noticed that it formed less of a coherent argument than a series of observations about the site and its methodological moves. The project worked well enough as a traditional paper, but splitting it into sections in my digital essay not only helped me to re-think the different topics I was actually considering, but also allowed me to make those points much more succinctly without worrying over-much about whether I was presenting a unified whole–it was unified by virtue of admitting its nature as a looser collection of interrelated facets.

This project is something I hope to tinker further with and link to my as-of-now under-development professional WordPress site. I also plan to send the link to the creators of The Yellow Nineties Online (which I am simultaneously excited and terrified to do).

Constraints: The infelicities of my chosen Wordpress theme (including but not limited to problems with font size/color, spacing, linking, arrangement and display of pictures, etc.) did take some amount of time and troubleshooting to wrestle into submission (I won’t say all of that wrestling was particularly good-humored).

Besides technical difficulties, the second challenge (mentioned above) was how to “digitize” my original essay, particularly in terms of organization. I cannot even guess how many different subheadings I created and discarded, split, and combined as I tried to organize my themes as clearly as possible without feeling like I was spending too much time on one and giving short shrift to others. These many changes to page themes (and therefore titles) unfortunately also had the unintended effect that most of my body pages still bear now-defunct titles in their web address. This annoys me somewhat, but I don’t think there’s anything I can do about it now.

Overall, however, I’m really pleased with how the essay turned out, aesthetically and organizationally.

Several Layers of Writing about Writing. About Writing

Link: https://medium.com/bereavement-and-mourning/2f7a2f1dc473

Description:

“Telling a Story of Stillbirth: Accepting the Limits of Narrative” is my way of grappling with the discomfort I felt when I found out that my collection of essays, They Were Still Born: Personal Stories about Stillbirth, would come out in paperback this summer. I realized that, along with excitement and gratitude, I felt a startling dismay. I set three goals in writing and publishing my digital essay: first to work through my own ambivalence and to puzzle through why I found the story I had worked so hard to get into print troubling now; second to give voice to the way that grief and narrative changes over time; and third (probably the least important) to use a different platform to help publicize my collection and reach new readers.

medium front page

Process:

I began by writing some reflective vignettes. They came out in whatever form they wanted to. When I reached the end of one, I would just hit enter a couple of times and start something else. Of course, I can do that ad nauseam (and judging by the number of people who visited my essay on [Medium] only to flee when they saw an estimated reading time of 14 minutes, perhaps my final version is still too long!). But when I had a few thousand words, I stopped and starting trying to find the threads to weave together into a coherent whole.

I took the essay through four distinct drafts. Several chunks from my earliest drafting did end up in the final version. The hardest part was deciding how to navigate the disjointedness of writing about writing about loss. I wanted my readers to experience some discomfort, but I didn’t want it to be so much that they were completely thrown off.

Then the question arose of platform. I put the entire essay draft up on a wordpress site I created for general book promotion. But it didn’t work there, and visually it was too long of an unbroken stream of text. My peer group suggested putting it on its own site and then just linking as needed.

Finally, I ended up publishing the essay on Medium because I loved the simple, clean aesthetics of the site, and I also wanted the ability to add it to various collections on the site.

Medium screenshot 2

Affordances and Constraints:

Writing my essay online and on Medium specifically offered the ability to link,  to promote my work in a community, and to revisit and revise it later. I like the way the whole essay looks and reads. It’s like a beautiful, very pared-down magazine.

Interesting constraints came up when I tried to embed links in the essay. Medium’s simplicity does come at a cost; it was not possible, as it is in WordPress, to set links to open in a new tab or new page. So anytime a reader clicked on a link, it would take him or her away from my essay. I ultimately decided, rather than risking the loss of readers, I would place asterisks and then have a “links” section at the bottom of the piece.

The Badness Catalog

TBC Screenshot
Click This Image to Go There!

Description:

The Badness Catalog is a hybrid digital essay and ongoing project (more on that in “Affordances”). The project argues, in essence, that writing on the internet, and particularly writing that at first appears to be “bad” (unconventional, grammatically erroneous, et cetera) is actually performing serious discursive work, and often takes on a deeper, symbolic meaning than its obvious features. In short, The Badness Catalog argues that meme-phrases (things like “I can’t even”) point to deeper meanings, often unique to life on the internet. Instead of reading them as degenerate writing performances (basically, instead of disciplining them as bad performances), we might read them as deliberate rhetorical or discursive choices, indicating a specific phenomenon or signaling membership in an online community. The Catalog takes a serious, but often humorous, look at these phrases and tries to illustrate how they can be used.

Process:

In my head, I began with my impatience for “Grammar Nazis” on the internet–particularly when those lexical fascists are so fixated on a prescriptivist use of the language that they ignore that new meaning is made in “mistakes” (also, incidentally, I was frustrated by how frequently incorrect the Grammar Nazis were). So I rallied to the defense of these “bad” phrases, because in using several of them, I began to realize they serve an important function–they often describe phenomena that are the result of life on the internet, like “I can’t even”‘s breathlessly dorky enthusiasm, or the flat, perhaps sardonic tonality expressed by a lack of punctuation in certain contexts. I drafted a brief manifesto (originally entitled “The Mission”) and began writing posts. I didn’t necessarily want people to read this in a linear fashion, especially since I fully intend on adding new posts frequently, compiling a sort of menagerie of internet phrases and the phenomena they signify.

In a strange way, I knew the politics of the mission before I really had people or scholars in mind. The site acts as a sort of public pedagogy–a resistance to prescriptivist grammarians and those who imagine a literacy crisis. It took quite a bit of soul-and-hard drive searching before I traced the genealogy of my sentiments back to an interaction between Min-Zhan Lu and a bunch of other comp/rhet scholars and my cultural-studies/postcolonial training, and so I re-wrote my mission statement (now the “Why Do This?” page) to be the scholarly manifesto of my project. The “What Is This?” page is the general population explanation, the PR release–the “Why Do This” page is the scholarly heart of the matter.

Incidentally, I coined what I thought was a new term, “multiliteracy,” but it turns out other scholars beat me to it–and thankfully, they meant almost exactly the same thing I did.

Affordances and Constraints:

Because I’m not exactly a pro at web design, I had to settle for a pre-made WordPress theme–and it’s a wonderful theme, but it imposes a bit of a linear structure on a nonlinear idea. Ultimately, I had to make certain affordance choices in order to present The Catalog as something that continues on–it’s not a one-off WordPress site, but an ongoing project. This meant that I had to really emphasize the new content, which meant moving the manifesto off the front page, since repeat readers don’t need to see that every time. But, at the same time, I didn’t want to hide it from new visitors–hence my constant anxiety about “Why Do This?”, which got moved, renamed, and rewritten half a dozen times, with infinite thanks to the Woodchucks for reading it more than once.

Right now, the biggest constraint I have is organizing my project according to the theme WordPress gives me, which means there’s a way of thinking built in to the site. I’m big on multiliteracy, and so that made me “have a sad,” to quote the LOLcat.

Not to mention the fact that I can’t change the font size. I kid you not.

My face when I couldn't change the font size.
My face when I couldn’t change the font size.

What this form was wonderful with doing was treating and maintaining images–the format is .gif friendly, displays header images on posts without those images having to be in the post, and there’s not a lot of aggressive graphic design interfering with the presentation of the images. Embedding html elements gets a little wobbly, but WordPress and the theme I chose clings happily to practically anything visual. The form also allows a banner menu, footer elements (for categories) and categorical reorganization–meaning the reader can screen posts by category easily, helping with the whole nonlinear thing.

URL: http://badnesscatalog.wordpress.com/

Tweetku: a Digital Essay

Tweetku Logo

Link: tweetkudigitalessay.wordpress.com

Description:
My digital essay attempts to do three things: to consider the relationship between Twitter and poetry, to create a framework for understanding how Twitter communities function, and to tell the story of @TheTweetku and #tweetku. All of these ideas come together in my essay as a consideration of what value Twitter offers to contemporary digital writers and writing communities.

Process:
I began with a personal quest in @TheTweetku to popularize the term “tweetku” and to join what poetry and haiku communities already existed on Twitter. As I began to develop this identity into my digital essay, I did background research on Twitter in general and then in its use for community-building, especially through hashtags, specifically. At the same time, my journeys through Twitter’s #haiku communities led me to a growing micropoetry movement that had found purchase on the social media site. I decided to organize my essay around these two concepts in order to contextualize my personal experience with @TheTweetku and give a useful framework for analyzing the #tweetku community.

Though the writing process itself was particularly slow-going for me, I relied quite a bit on the feedback on my classmates through the pre-writing stage and revisions of partial drafts.

Affordances and Constraints:
Practically speaking, using WordPress allowed me to embed tweets easily, which I never would have been able to do in print and especially not with the interactive functionality.  I was also able to write in a more immediately accessible voice, aided by links to more blogs, websites, and newspaper articles than printed scholarly work.

Most of the difficult issues came with attempting to translate my traditional idea of an essay into digital terms. Organization was one area in particular that I struggled with as I tried to negotiate linearity and transitions between pages in my digital essay. The same is true of citations, although I actually had a lot of fun figuring out digital equivalents to in-text citations.