Tag Archives: Digital essay

Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind

I am concerned about our magical-realism-like position in the transitional phase between non-digital world and the digital one. There are a few generations before us and there would be few generations after us who would experience such a transitional period in their own lives before the digital world conquers the whole territory. Regarding the crazy speed of this transition, I think in our lifetime we would encounter generations who stand in the conquered territory rather than the transitory one, and would not have any experience of non-digital reading and writing, whatsoever. In my digital essay, I want to talk about a probable time in the future when we will have to teach to generations that have never experienced reading printed books.

I wonder if we are going to have a sense of alienation, inferiority, indifference or even superiority in encountering generations who have never experienced our transitory phase and what existed before. What would be the use of our non-digital reading years in facing purely digital readers? Is our background going to be diminished to a fantasy story about recent-ancient times in which books were made of dead trees, to be told to our grandchildren who will not even need us to tell them stories? What could we take with us, besides our nostalgic senses, from the centuries of printed books and our personal experiences of it to the decades of pure electronic reading?

I intend to focus on reading experience more than writing experience as a touchstone to explore the digital generation gaps that would widen when our transitional period is over. I’m thinking about creating an interactive medium, with pictures, videos and hyperlinks, to stimulate the static form of printed books versus the dynamic potentialities of digital ones. I have not decided about the ultimate formatting yet. Do you have any suggestions for that?

To talk about the resources, I am already influenced by most materials discussed in DW685; however, I might get back to Baron and Standage for this essay. Merkosiki’s Burning the page : the eBook revolution and the future of reading , Sue Polanka’s No Shelf Required  (1&2) and John Palfrey’s  Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Nativescould be other primary resources of my work. Also, I would like to review Dr. Miller’s talk in UD, Habits of the Creative Mind, if I have access to its video or transcripts (Could I?). If there are any specific online or printed resources that you think I should see or read before getting into this project, I would be happy to take your advice.

I expect to write an exploratory essay, a mélange of imagination, prediction, and exploration; it might come up with more questions than answers.

 

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Give Power to the Fans: Social Media and the Construction of Celebrity

For my digital essay, I’d like to try to combine my interests in rhetoric/composition and cultural studies and explore the notion of celebrity in the digital age—how the proliferation of social media and the growing number of fans using that social media dramatically alter not just how we think or talk about celebrities but also how we construct them in the first place. I’d like to address a specific trend I’ve noticed in the little bit of research I’ve done so far on the intersection of celebrity culture and digital media, which is the tendency to focus on how celebrities use social media to brand themselves, creating Twitter accounts or Facebook pages that act more like blatant PR than genuine fan interaction. Ideally, I’d like to work with David Marshall’s assertion in Celebrity and Power (1997) that audiences possess a creative and generative power in the construction of celebrity and examine how social media enhances that power. Although Erin Meyers treads similar territory in her book Dishing Dirt in the Digital Age, she focuses specifically on celebrity gossip blogs, arguing that gossip bloggers occupy the paradoxical space between insider and outsider. But gossip bloggers like Perez Hilton are a special breed, in that they don’t necessarily provide the best way to look at how the “average fan” uses social media to construct celebrity, although they undoubtedly extend the information network for those fans.

But I’m aware that I couldn’t possibly tackle the entire scope of “celebrity” in the scope of this essay, so I’d like to focus on new or emerging pop stars like Betty Who and Lorde because, while their success varies in scope, they both owe that success to social media. Although Betty Who is still a rising star, she gained intense media attention after her song “Somebody Loves You” was used in the video “Spencer’s Home Depot Marriage Proposal” that went viral recently. Likewise, Lorde has gone from relative obscurity to selling out 40K+ concert venues all by herself in the span of a year largely because of how her song “Royals” went viral. (It might also be worth noting that both females come from “Down Under”—Betty Who from Australia and Lorde from New Zealand.)

To help foreground my topic, I’d like to describe a very curious phenomenon that was, and still is, occurring on Twitter as I did some preliminary research last night. Betty Who was “livetweeting” the release of and subsequent fan responses to her new EP “Slow Dancing,” which hit the digital shelves of iTunes around 8:45pm last night. One major component of this livetweeting is the series of screenshots Betty has been taking to express her happiness about her EP’s sales, the last and most recent of which she posted as I began writing this blog (although now much time has passed due to revisions):

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Going from #13 to #1 in less than 24 hours is pretty much the opposite of “slow dancing,” wouldn’t you say?

However obvious it may seem, it’s worth reiterating that chart positions on iTunes are based on sales and that the people most responsible for those sales are, well, the fans.

And as I followed my Twitter feed last night, the “Who Crew” (the charming name Betty Who has given to her fans, much like Lady Gaga’s “Little Monsters”) was in top form, tweeting furiously and plugging the EP as often as possible, insisting that their individual body of followers purchase the EP for themselves and become new members of the Crew. And the best part was seeing how many of these tweets that Betty has been retweeting (although she hasn’t retweeted any of mine, not that I’m bitter about that or anything…).

This lengthy story about the ongoing tweet-athon among Betty Who and her Who Crew hopefully gives you a sample of how powerful fans can be in creating and sharing new celebrities through word of mouse, a term I borrow from Jim Banister.

So, to co-opt some of Michael’s organizational principles from his post this week:

Key questions: how does social media afford fans the opportunity to actively participate in the creation of new celebrities? How does social media resemble, counteract, or enhance previous information channels within celebrity culture? What exactly are the contours, nuances, and dynamics of the participatory culture that exists among fans on social media?

My subjects: Betty Who and Lorde (although I’m open to additional suggestions!)

Texts: David Marshall’s Celebrity and Power, Erin Meyers’ Dishing Dirt in the Digital Age, Graeme Turner’s Understanding Celebrity, Jim Banister’s Word of Mouse, Paul Booth’s Digital Fandom, and plenty more (I’m also waiting to hear from the library on a few). I’d also like to incorporate close-readings of some of Lorde’s music to show how she references, explicitly or otherwise, her fans, digital culture, and celebrity culture.

Format: This is where I’m having the most issues. I initially was going to use WordPress, but I’m not sure if a single post or a series of short ones would adequately reflect my project, although I do want a medium where I’m able to incorporate links, videos, audio, etc. From an aesthetic perspective, though, I’d love to create something like the following page from Gee Thomson’s book Mesmerization:

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He may think we losing our minds to popular culture, but the man can create a stunning image-word web/map/thingy.

My fear with this option is that I’m not sure if a program exists that does this kind of work. I think Prezi might be the closest tool? If so, how complicated is it for someone like me who is ridiculously feeble with technology?

Expanding Texts, Collapsing Conversations: Multimodal Tutoring

Throughout the semester, we have been discussing how instructors are increasingly assigning both the consumption and production of digital texts. What we have not discussed, however, is how this alteration in classroom pedagogy affects the writing centers that aid these classes. In recent years, writing center tutorials have seen an influx of digital and multimodal texts. Because of this influx, tutors and writing center scholars have had to expand what they consider “writing,” or, in other words, what types of texts they consider appropriate material for writing center work. In addition to rethinking what writing is, we also need to rethink the types of conversations that writing center tutorials engage in. While these conversations were once purely academic, they now include elements of visual design, popular culture, and humor—just to name a few.

For my digital essay, I will examine how this shift in conversations alters writing center pedagogy. More specifically, I want to think about how the inclusion of digital assignments that span academic/popular conversations—e.g. blogs, “gif stories,” and mock-facebook conversations—change the conversations of the writing center tutorial. To accomplish this task, I will use the theoretical lenses of Kenneth Bruffee and Kenneth Burke to engage with current discussions of multimodal tutorials, such as David Sheridan’s and James Inman’s collection of essays Multiliteracy Centers: Writing Center Work, New Media, and Multimodal Rhetoric and Arlene Archers “Dealing with Multimodal Assignments in Writing Centers.” In addition to these scholarly works, I also hope to include video interviews of several UD writing center tutors on their experiences working with multimodal texts.

As of now, I am leaning towards wordpress as my format for this essay. Because this is such a multifaceted issue, I imagine each post dealing with different aspects. I have chosen wordpress because of the more conversational nature of the blog format. Because pedagogy is always developing, I do not want this essay to be a final word on multimodal tutorials. Rather, I want it to participate in a conversation that other writing center scholars can comment on and contribute to. I’m imagining my blog to follow a format similar to that of a specialty recipe blog. I want it to contain posts that are all different from each other, yet linked together under the same theme. So like this vegan dessert blog, my posts will all contain the same types of ingredients, but put them together in various ways to show different recipes writing center strategies.

Right now, I have two pressing (groups of) questions: first, do you think that wordpress is the best format for this project? What about my recipe blog analogy? How literally do you think I should take this analogy? Is there some other format that you think I should consider? And, second, because you have all been writing center tutors, are there certain issues that you think are really important for me to address? What were the biggest challenges that you faced when working with non-traditional texts in the writing center? What other conversations do you think multimodal texts bring to writing center tutorials?

 

The Horribly Static Codex

For my digital essay project, I want to engage with the dark side of having a published book.

Earlier in March I got the word from my publisher, Rowman & Littlefield, that my book, They Were Still Born: Personal Stories about Stillbirth, is coming out in paperback later this year. As Katie (who was in the office when I found this out) can attest, my initial reaction was profound relief and joy. The first print run of my book has sold out and now it’s going into a trade paperback printing. This is great for a lot of reasons.

But if it was all sunshine and roses and happiness, I wouldn’t have much to take on in a digital essay, would I?

I’m conflicted because the essay I wrote for the book is fine; it was true when I wrote it. It was “right” for the collection. But it’s not where I am now, or even who I am now. It certainly doesn’t capture the most important elements of what I learned from my daughter’s death.

Yet it’s what goes out between covers anytime someone buys my book. Amazon ships it out, people read it, and that piece of writing represents, in some limited capacity, the story of Beatrice and what I learned from her. (Not to mention that I was 26 when I wrote it. I thought I was so wise then. I imagine I’ll look back chagrined at my current self 6 years from now…)

Of course, I knew even at the time that I had to choose a particular entry point for my essay. It’s not possible, in a few thousand words, to show it all. In picking a specific angle, I closed the door to all the other stories I could tell, all the other shades of significance. I said no to a lot of things to say yes to one.

That’s why I’m so frustrated with the book form. I celebrate the book’s continued life, but I also resent it. I resent that it isn’t a website instead (though that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun to say as having a book!), where the stories could link to each other, and readers could add their own narratives. I wish the book was somewhere, like one of my book’s contributors prompted and wrote on her own blog, contributors could share where they are now, several years further down the road. This wouldn’t change the original stories, but it would enable some addendums and follow up materials to be published, too.

This digital essay is my space to do this work, to ask those questions, to write another story, to say yes to something else. This is the form I wish my book could (have) take(n).

  • Texts/Materials: My essay will take for its genesis the text of my book, They Were Still Born. I will also bring in collaborative text that is newly generated among myself and a group of the book’s original contributors.
  • This new project will take up the question of what happens to stories born of trauma after they have been published. What are those texts afterlives? How do writers relate to their words after they are cemented in time, unchangeable, and sent out into the world of readers? Is it possible to reopen those texts and do new things with them even if they are published in a form that is unmalleable? Can people collaborate anew and what kind of product might better reflect the ways in which our work has informed or conflicted with each others’?
  • I think that Google documents will be the most apt platform for writing some sort of shared document. I then envision doing short video podcasts reflecting on the process, and posting the longform reflection on WordPress.
  • Can you identify a text that could serve as an approximate model for the sort of piece you’d like to compose? No.
  • What questions do you have at this point for me and your colleagues? I mostly would love to hear any feedback you have about this idea. Is it too self-referential? What aspect of what I’ve written intrigues you and what aspect(s) could you do without? What would you most want to know about that I’ve alluded to here? Finally, and possibly most importantly, I haven’t done much significant collaboration before, so I’m not sure how to best capture the versions we write collectively, or even how to show that in the final product.

I hope you’re all enjoying your break, and I look forward to hearing back from you when you have the time to respond.