Tag Archives: affordances

Class, Fri, 5/16

E688 Spring 2014The Gang

Blog Stats

  • 174 posts [27 by JH (15%), 147 by class (85%)]
  • 583 comments

Process, Affordances, and Constraints (9:05—10:35)

Let’s talk about your experiences in writing your digital essays in groups of four, talk back, and then move on to the next group.

Arcade (10:45–12:05)

We’ll move up to the third floor, set up our essays, read, and talk.

To Do

Come see our garden in New Castle! 32 E 4th St

A Day in New Castle, Sat, 5/17, 10:00 am–3:00 pm

 

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Betty Who?: Social Media and the Construction of New Pop Celebrities

Link to project: Somebody loves this.

Overview: The basic premise of my digital essay is to explore the intersection of social media (specifically YouTube and Twitter) and proto-celebrities—those artists that are still relatively unknown but who already have a well-established, committed fanbase and the talent necessary to be “the next big thing.” On a more analytical/theoretical level, my digital essay explores how fans use social media and engage in digital participatory culture to construct celebrities from the bottom up—how we interpret, synthesize, produce, and disseminate texts, images, and meanings that surround our proto-celebrities of choice. I use Australian-born singer Betty Who as a case study to highlight how the digital mechanisms of participatory culture actually work by providing a close-reading of two specific online events related to her music: the viral video “Spencer’s Home Depot Marriage Proposal,” which features Betty’s debut single “Somebody Loves You,” and the release of her second EP Slow Dancing because of how her fans—the “Who Crew”—reacted to it on Twitter.

Process: This project developed, unlike some of the more “traditional” essays I’ve written as a graduate student, out of my passion for pop music, which I always thought didn’t have much of a place in the academy. I first began by collecting and synthesizing a wealth of scholarship that proved quite the opposite: that popular culture could very much be a valuable source of inquiry. The second part of my essay, entitled “Convergence Culture and Redefining Fandom” is essentially my trying to work through all of that source material and to create a theoretical framework.

Moreover, unlike most of the other essays I’ve written, the peer review process had a considerable impact on how I drafted and revised this project. Having to go through multiple peer review sessions forced me to take a more proactive approach with my writing process, whereas I normally would have left most of the drafting until very near to the final deadline.

Affordances: Although I would like to think that most of my digital essay could easily translate into a more traditional form(at), the fourth part entitled “The Twittersphere and the Who Crew” would not because of its reliance on the use of embedded tweets. By embedding those tweets into the body of the post, they become a much more participatory aspect of the essay, in that they provide important visual and verbal cues as well as enable readers to actively form a network between my blog and Twitter with a simple click, like so:

If I were to have written part four in a Word document, I would have had to reduce these tweets to static screen shots or worse, to summarize their content, neither of which would have had the same rhetorical impact.

Constraints: The one aspect of this project that I struggled with the most was, as Naghmeh aptly called it, its “digital flexibility.” I knew that a blog could be multimodal very easily, but I wasn’t sure how to achieve such multimodality without it looking contrived. In a way, then, I became overwhelmed by the sheer amount of the web’s affordances, feeling like I needed to include as many of them as I could. But as the “final” version of my digital essay shows, I decided to use multimodality sparingly and to concentrate it mainly in my case study of Betty Who, which I felt was the place that needed it the most (rhetorically speaking).

After reflecting on my digital essay in this post, I want to try to offer some semblance of an answer to Joe’s question, “What changes when you write for the screen rather than the page?” As I stated above, I believe that writing for the screen enables us as writers to create projects that have a liveliness to them that writings for the page do not. Likewise, we can more (pro)actively create a network among our projects and the work of other scholars, bloggers, users, etc., in a digital environment, whereas simply citing or quoting in a static essay cannot or does not.

But I also don’t think that everything has to/does change when we write for the screen rather than the page, that we don’t have to adopt huge fundamental changes just to “fit in” with digital aesthetics and values, or to “look cool” as if we “get” what everyone is trying to do. To me, that feels incredibly disingenuous. We can write as academics on the web and use very few of its affordances (as I showed with Henry Jenkins’ blog in my post last week), or we can choose to be more conversational and creative—something I think Tumblr is really great for; it all depends on what each of us is comfortable with. And if a work is sound (read: effective, compelling), then why should it have to include multimedia just to grab our attention if that media isn’t going to add anything?

I’d like to conclude my post with the official music video for Betty Who’s song “Somebody Loves You.” It not only feels more apropos, given the subject of my digital essay, but watching it will also (hopefully) give you all a feel for who Betty Who is as we anticipate our arcade on Friday.

x12: Presentations and Arcade

I’d like us to spend our last class meeting presenting your digital essays. Our closing celebration of your work will be in two stages.

Presentations:  Process, affordances, and constraints

I’d like each of you to offer a brief presentation of your digital essay to the class.  I’ll project your project on the screen. You should then plan to speak about it for about five minutes—no more! In the second half of the class, people will have plenty of time to read through your piece and talk with you about the substance of your work. So in your presentation, I’d like you to focus instead on what composing for the digital media allowed you to do, and what it made difficult. Please point to moments in your essay that help you talk about:

  • How you developed your project, from idea through drafts and revisions to final version (process).
  • What you feel you were able to express that you could not have done as well in print (affordances).
  • What proved difficult for you in working in this medium (constraints).

At the start of this course, I asked the question: What changes when you write for the screen rather than the page? This is your chance to offer an answer.

Final drafts: A digital arcade

Please post a link to the final version of your essay to this website. We’ll spend the last half of the class walking about the room, viewing and discussing one another’s work.

In the body of your post, write a version of your presentation of your project to the class. The written form of your presentation may be read by people outside this class, so you might want to:

  • Offer a somewhat more detailed description of your actual project—a “teaser” to attract readers;
  • Say a little more about the history of your project, how you developed it;
  • Insert an image from your project.

Please post your work to this site by 11:59 pm on Thurs, 5/15. Please use both digital essay and x12 as your categories.  I look forward to a fun last class!

Somebody Should Totally Just Stab the Research Paper!

Because of my own lack of digital proficiency, I don’t have my students complete any kind of digital writing projects. The closest thing to a “digital essay” that I assign them is the material culture multimedia project that serves as their last assignment of the semester. Now, I don’t mandate that they use digital media to transform their written narratives, but I’ve found that the students who opt to create original videos are almost always the most impressive.

Their “capstone” research papers, however, rarely are.

Which brings me to the moment in Cathy Davidson’s text where she discusses the term paper as a persistently problematic genre, especially when comparing it to digital writing: She claims that her students’ “writing online, at least in their blogs, was incomparably better than in the traditional term papers they wrote for the class. In fact, given all the tripe one hears from pundits about how the Internet dumbs our kids down, I was shocked that elegant bloggers often turned out to be the clunkiest and most pretentious of research paper writers. Term papers rolled in that were shot through with jargon, stilted diction, poor word choice, rambling thoughts, and even pretentious grammatical errors” (101).

Substitute “digital essayists” (which I’m using pretty loosely here) for “elegant bloggers,” and it’s almost as if Cathy Davidson is narrating my own difficulties with the research papers that I have to force myself to read through each semester in Critical Reading and Writing. And The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Writing—the text that we are “required” to use in E110 as beginning instructors—even has a term for all of that unbearable “jargon, stilted diction, poor word choice” and those “rambling thoughts, and…pretentious grammatical errors.”

Engfish.

Image
Not even a LolCat can make Engfish charming.

Before reading Davidson’s text, as I commented for the seemingly millionth time, “What exactly are you trying to say here?” on another research paper, I found myself asking questions alarmingly similar to one she poses: “What if bad writing is a product of the form of writing required in school—the term paper—and not necessarily intrinsic to a student’s natural writing style or thought process?” (101) I struggled to answer this question sufficiently, especially because my students’ in-class performance rarely, if ever, suffered the pitfalls of engfish: their comments were (and are) thoughtful, engaged, and always genuine (even if they were/are humorously off-base at times). So, again, what is it about a required research paper that has to be at least 2000 words that “invites, even requires, linguistic and syntactic gobbledegook?” (101)

Following her realization that her “best friend” and Queen of the Plastics Regina George has been disobeying “the rules of feminism” by bossing her and the delightfully absent-minded Karen around, Gretchen channels her anger into this hysterical diatribe against Caesar, in which she assumes the perspective of a fed-up Brutus. Although statements like “Brutus is just as cute as Caesar” are clearly inflected with the jargon of a teenage girl, there is something undeniably charming about Gretchen’s passion and her juxtaposition of high school drama with historical tyranny (oh, the irony!).

And at times, I wish that my own students’ papers had even a shred of this kind of verbal passion, even if it completely undermines the kind of “academic discourse” that we are supposed to be teaching them in E110. At least then I would be able to discern their level of commitment to the jargon that infiltrates their written work.

So Davidson’s text has got me thinking: what would a research paper look like if it was done entirely through a digital medium like the blog, from topic proposal to the final Works Cited page, chronicling every stage of the research process in between? Would we be able to transfer “traditional” concepts of the research paper to the Internet without making any changes? If not, what would those changes involve? And of course, the idea of proper assessment rears its ugly head as well. But who is to say that we can’t marry traditional concepts and rubrics with the affordances of the web?

I fear I’ve presented more questions than answers in my post. Alas.

Class, Fri, 2/28

Going Meta (1): Twitter

Standage, Writing on the Wallromans-200x150

Fastwrite: Take us to a moment in a post by one of your classmates that particularly interests or provokes you. Then, take us to a moment in Standage’s text that helps us think about that post.

Going Meta (2): Interesting uses of audio

Affordances

“Qualities that permit specific kinds of uses” (Gladwell 2002). [pdf]

x3: Responding to Davidson (video)

YTD Downloader and iMovie

hqdefault

Creative Commons/CC Search

Rhett & Link: “Squirrel Rights Song” (2010)

 

Digital Essay

Allison Carr, “Cooking School,” Harlot, Carr Harlot 20122012.

To do

  1. Tues, 3/04, 4:00 pm: Read Davidson, pp. 1–161. Post x3 to this site.
  2. Thurs, 3/06, 4:00 pm: Read x3s. Post comments.
  3. Thurs, 3/06, 4:00 pm: Tweet to #685dw.
  4. Tues, 3/11, 4:00 pm: Post x4 to this site.