Submitted by Joe Daniels on Sun, 03/14/2010 - 16:34
Dear Reader, Thinker, and Content Developer:
Creativity in education has died. We are just going through the motions, to “get the grade” as if it were the definitive answer to our success. This trend begins early as parents try to get the best education for their children, but it quickly devolves into a game which is played between teachers, students, and parents. We seem to have lost the curiosity and passion in our educational system. We seem to wallow in a never-never land of stagnation. We do still create wonderful success stories, but more often than not we breed mediocrity. Our graduation rates are low, rates of remedial course work in college are on the rise, and the cycle of poverty continues. This lack of creativity embeds our primary, secondary, and even our post-secondary education. We just do not give space or opportunity for students to develop creativity in our classrooms. This all seems to present doom and gloom for our educational system, but there are some bright spots.
Upon my arrival to college, which is not typically the spearhead of classroom teaching innovation with lecture after lecture, it seemed as if this lackluster creative cycle would continue. However, with the beginning of my second semester I took part in a first year seminar that broke with convention, gave room for creativity and inspired me to try new things, develop new skills, and learn more than I could have in a typical lecture. The small workshop/seminar style class did not excite immediately with its rather prosaic title “Entrepreneurial Writing on the Web.” It actually was rather daunting, because I knew nothing about creating content for the web. I soon learned that this would not be a problem. The class would be structured in a way that would cultivate creativity for every individual. If you were great with the technical aspects of web content you would be able to display that skill. If you were a great writer you would be able to express and develop that skill. If you were a great reader you would be able to help others develop their work and share your ideas through discussion. The assignments would not be set in stone, but rather able to mold to ones creative endeavor consistent with their interests. This was the first time in many years that I seemed to be immersed in a place of innovation where we could learn as an educational unit at our own pace in the areas that interest us.
The key goal of the class from this perspective is to foster creativity, writing, and thought. In this light it has been successful. This exploration into “writing on the web” has been a new and formative experience for me as a writer, reader, and thinker. Creating content for the web has led me to think about what I write much more. I ask myself: Is this the message I want to send? Is this the most appropriate word choice? What should I reveal about individuals or myself? What should I protect? How can the web be a tool to self promotion, creativity, and engagement with the world? These questions and many more have passed through my thoughts over the course of the semester and have formed how I have created content from my playlist to my website. These questions have been both personal and communal as we share our problems through posting comments on each other’s work and class readings. There have been a wealth of philosophical and moral ideas that have enveloped the content of the class engaging me in the content on multiple levels; from my individual writing choices to the choices we make as a group of writers.
As a class, the discussion of Crowdsourcing, by Jeff Howe has truly opened up my mind to possibilities of interaction available on the web. It gives rise to the emergence of a world in which ones merit is much more important than the credentials or power they hold. This divergence of power from a centralized source can be an immense tool for those wishing to capture the advantages of a varied and diverse intellect available on the web. This gives rise to the most innovative solutions to today’s problems. Such influence may be creating a “flat” world to use Thomas Friedman’s phrase. This will mean competition will increase, but as Jeff Howe’s book reveals this will also mean more knowledge for all web users. This knowledge will be shared, manipulated, and transformed into ever more knowledge. This phenomenon combined with our increasing ability to create our own content will continue to create a world that is ever changing and evolving. This will create issues of intellectual property rights, issues of governance, issues of education, and many more issues, but it will also create a forum for solving those issues. These insights have given me a new understanding of the internet, which I treated as a place where I consumed content rather than creating content. The power to create content has changed the way I and others obtain and consume content. Now we have a greater say in what we view by just going to a new site. Such power is changing the way we interact with others and with corporations.
Being a content creator changes the formula for entertainment, information, and power. During the course of the semester I have been challenged (I use this term because every assignment challenged me both through the use of multimedia, but also through the exploration of new topics.) to create a playlist, podcast, and personal website. I will explore these in greater detail later on, but I want to touch on a few key features of these tasks which were most important to me as a thinker and writer. The most challenging aspect of using the internet as an interface for my writing was trying to convey messages in a variety of dimensions in spoken, written, and lyrical word. The audience of my message became a much greater component of my writing as it had not been before when it seemed detached, or when I was writing for one individual. I must understand my writing as a public work when I publish to the web.
As a whole body of work the playlist, podcast, and website represent a fundamental perspective from which I view life. I work to find what is less noticed, and present myself as insightful and thoughtful. I am a person with a wide range of interests based in my passion for learning (It does not matter the topic. I relish in innovations of any type.) My progression in the fulfillment of this life perspective has been at times slow and at other times quick. For me the technical aspect of working on the web and creating content has been a hindrance, but it has also highlighted for me the power of the written word. Great technical work is nothing without great content. The technical aspects are just a means to enrich the content. (This is an important challenge for me on my website.)
The second half of the semester consisted of the creation of a video, collage, final project, continued revision of prior work, and some other lesser activities. Where the beginning of the semester had a common theme in the less noticed, the second half of the semester had a common theme in innovation: finding something new. I explored new mediums of composition that I had not worked with before and I explored new ideas. The most important feature of these new mediums(especially video) became the implementation of time. The time could not be so short that an idea could not develop, but not become too long that it floundered in a sea of boredom. This became my toughest struggle, and while not all my projects turned out so successful in this regard I learned its importance and attempted improvements to my work, especially the video.
The beginning of the semester was much more focused on the philosophical aspect of the crowd, the internet, and the web, where as the second half concerned to greater degree the completion and revising of our work. This meant independence played a greater role in the work. We had to use our time wisely to get work done in on time, but it also was full of technical challenges that the prior semester did not present.
As noted later in the portfolio, I have come to a realization that this class turned out to be even more than “writing on the web” (as noted in first half of semester). It has become a true class of shared ideas. From our own crowdsourced problem solving on our website to the sharing of ideas in the class room, we have create a collaborative community, which will do wonders for innovation and success far and beyond individual effort. We became a working community, developing our individual projects in a communal effort. When problems popped up classmates were there to chip in and offer advise and service. Yes, many did get off track during class, but also there was much interaction and work being done and ideas being developed. While the “multitasking” experiment showed some of the inadequacies of these efforts, overall much has been accomplished. If not for the wonderful set of engaged classmates none of our projects would have turned out to the level that they have.
This class has truly expanded my own capabilities and has given me a new horizon to shoot for when writing, thinking, and reading. I have progressed in my ability as a writer and my creative output.
Thank you for reading and I encourage you to explore the world of the internet in new ways,
Initially, I had my doubts about the playlist assignment because believe it or not I do not listen to much music. It is not that I dislike music, but I actually feel bad listening to it sometimes. Why, you might ask? When I listen to music I tend to listen for few minutes and then move on to something else, tuning out the sound. When I do listen to music I want to appreciate the song, its lyrics and its sound, but when I fail to successfully do this I feel bad for tuning it out as useless noise. For this reason picking songs to create a playlist that represented me was very difficult. I do not recognize many songs on the radio and hardly know the names to any “popular” music. I agonized over what I wanted to share with the world in my writing and my analysis. Since my playlist choices were also to be a representation of myself my problems were confounded since I do not regularly define myself in terms of music.
Using myself as the starting point picking songs that represent who I am, was of much difficulty. How can any one song relate to a listener an attribute of an individual? There are so many songs out there that one may enjoy or like, but does that mean these songs represent that person. In my song choices I chose to focus on a few key attributes of my personality. Since I consider my musical background to be rather unusual I also took it as an opportunity to share with others new music that they may otherwise not have had the opportunity to listen to.
It took me a bit of time to choose the songs for my playlist but as an overall theme I chose songs that I felt represented optimism, told a message or create a message (that I believe) through the rhythm, beats, and vocals regardless of language. This assignment allowed me to write about a topic I had never written about before. This challenged me to use different vocabulary that I was not comfortable with before to annotate each song, and explain why each is individual, but also adds to the whole.
After submitting my first draft of the playlist and receiving feedback I had some critical information which I could use evaluate my first playlist. Many people liked my efforts to introduce them to new, unusual, or unheard of music. In this objective I feel I was successful. In terms of my descriptions of the songs the first few successfully discussed the lyrical, temporal qualities which the music adds to my personal feeling toward the piece. Towards the end of the playlist however, this element (a crucial) element seems to disappear. Knowing these details I set about editing the playlist.
I chose to focus my efforts on editing the written words and descriptions of my playlist rather than mess with the technical or visual aspects (which are not my strength). I chose originally to keep a very clean, uniform visual design in an attempt to not distract from my annotations. This meant that visually my second draft will not look substantially different, but I did attempt to solve gaps in the descriptions of the songs by including a more in depth discussion on how the musical attributes of each song add to the emotion or message I describe in my discussion. These revisions are present on nearly all of the last four songs. I also reread the entire work to fix smaller mistakes. I have found that in general writing on the web in the context of a social media type interactions leads to a more casual grammar structure and diction. Knowing this I want to present myself in a professional manner to prevent a casual form from distracting from the ideas presented in my playlist and other work presented on the web.
The playlist was the most complete project at the mid-term point. This means I have had to do little work to it, but I have changed some of the wording of some passages which seemed confusing. I edited for spelling and grammatical errors (though this seems more difficult to do on the internet for some reason). There was a suggestion to change the formatting, but I like the current formatting and felt changing it would hurt its present condition. I am not that savvy with HTML, so creating the current format was somewhat challenging. I thought about how it would flow if it were changed and I could not think of a better formatting method. I looked at a variety of other playlists and found formatting to be possibly more complex, but with greater complexity came reading difficulty. I feel the streamlined, simple formatting is working well and works best for me.
Podcast 1: Indian Youth
For the podcast the assignment was to take a song, album, or singer and create at 10-12 minute podcast about that topic. It was intended to be music centered, but knowing music is not my passion I decided to talk about Indian youth culture. Now, that without any context would seem both quite random and presumptuous of me (since I have no connection to India). However, I am taking another class on South Asian political geography which I find fascinating. It is so fascinating that I thought I could share what I have learned in my research and class with those not in the class, as a means of expressing a little talked about set of ideas. For me the topic of Indian youth culture was a relatively new topic, but I had amassed a collection of various print, and video sources that would work out perfectly without too much effort, or so I believed. It turns out that the podcast would present a whole new set of challenges that I had not expected.
The principle challenge with the podcast was the technical aspect. Just to give you a sense of the problems I faced I will explain some of my most frustrating problems. First I had trouble converting my files from their original format to a format acceptable to the Audacity audio editor. After spending a few hours obtaining all of my audio files the process to compiling the files began, albeit at a very slow and tedious rate. I was amazed at the power of the free software, but also daunted by the seemingly complex process to compiling and impressive podcast. Spicing together music files with speaking files of various kinds took time to create appropriate transitions, but the hardest part was recording my voice. I have never liked my voice on electronic recordings, because it seems to be too high of a pitch and too quiet. I did a variety of audio adjustments to try to equalize my voice, but I still am unhappy with it.
The most difficult aspect was translating my ideas, which I wrote out, into a coherent audio essay. I had to balance being completely scripted versus being completely improvisational. Ultimately this project became a exercise in the translation of a written idea into a spoken idea. Creating a comfortable, engaging tone was most difficult for me. Also, I prefer to write out my ideas, but translating this into speech proved difficult because as I read into the microphone and then replayed my words it sounded emotionless and scripted, but to deviate from the script meant the accumulation of more mistakes and hundreds of recordings. I would record the same phrase several times only to get to “ok.”
Finally the greatest obstacle that prevents this podcast from being something I can be proud of is the fact that I speak too much in an effort to explain every detail or idea I put forth. I came to realize that after the 10th or 12th minute everything else became rather prosaic, failing to retain the attention of the listener. My lack of time management leads to depictions that are unnecessary to my key exploration of Indian Youth. Understanding that time is and should be limited for this particular podcast it fails to live up to my vision of what it could be.
As a writer the podcast did the most to transform my impressions of creating content and writing for the web. It displays the multitude of writing challenges and styles that the web creates. It pushed me to understand creating a podcast as an essay which I did not perceive it to be before. I had to learn how to write for this medium and create the content I wanted rather than waiting for it to be created. Ultimately the ability to create content on the web is a means of empowerment for writers, speakers, and thinkers to challenge and explore what they can see before them in their world.
Podcast 2: Indian Youth
Surprise! I was surprised when I went to open my podcast that the only ones available to me for editing were the final pieces where all the files had been mashed together as one. I could not find my file with only the individual clips which made up the whole. As a result editing was much harder, since I was limited to editing only those areas with no music behind my voice. I did attempt to edit other areas where the listener would not notice such jumps in the underlying music, but I could not disaggregate the piece. This acted as a big reminder to me, to pay attention to how I saved the podcast files for this can make a difference in the ease of editing.
My second major was tedious, but seemed only marginally successful. I worked hard to decrease the time and focus my points to only what is necessary for a listener to grasp the ideas. I worked hard at paring down all speech areas, from my voice to the “guest” speakers. This resulted in a two pronged approach to my editing with the ultimate goal of making my podcast shorter (and therefore more accessible to a wider audience). First, I needed to target my selected clips from the “guest” speakers more accurately to draw out their idea and nothing more. Secondly, I needed to cut down my own words in much the same manner, but also not lose the depth of discussion. It seems this effort would lead to a merciless dissection of the podcast just for the sake of time, but I hope I avoided this while making the podcast less murky.
The second revision of the podcast reaffirmed the importance of time in this medium of expression. Unlike writing, where time is not as critical, it is crucial to the listener when presented with information in a podcast. Therefore balancing time with content became a central challenge for me during this revision. Once I came to understand the value of time I was able to focus my efforts on strengthening the arguments made in the collected audio clips and in my own speech. I worked to remove unnecessary contextual information from the audio to focus the listener’s attention on the ideas presented by the “guests,” which made their ideas clearer and more memorable. (On the technical level this was sometimes a challenge to do so successfully because a speakers voice may change and not flow as smoothly to a between statements stated at different times, and with different emotion.
As I looked to my own words, I tried to address awkward, staccato, or hesitant speech first. This proved to be difficult to get rid of and allow for a smooth progression through the piece at some points. The grammar in one or two areas has been stretched beyond typical use, but I believe in these areas it is passable at the current point. I removed superfluous explanation and examples from some areas, in an effort to cut the time, but also strengthen the ideas. This does so in this podcast by removing the fluff that surrounded the ideas making them stand out and become more memorable. This memory of the work is almost as important as the actual work itself and therefore I took considerable effort to make that memory clear and strong.
The problem that plagues the podcast the most, and which gave me the most irritation is the lack of a consistent voice on my part. Having recorded various clips over various days, places, and with different emotion (and health differences) I was having trouble evening out the tonal qualities in the various sections of the podcast. I tried amplifying the piece in various areas, normalizing the piece, and equalizing in some areas, but much of it was of little use. I may need some extra help in this area since my efforts seem of little result.
I believe the podcast is stronger, but it could still use much revision.
The podcast is probably the worst project of the year. I had numerous difficulties from the beginning. I made it too scripted and essay like, but if I did not stick to a script I could not articulate what I wanted to say. The volume levels are atrocious and my voice is horrible, but nevertheless I did learn a lot from the project. First, it gave me an appreciation for those who work in radio. Secondly, I learned what is a good method for delivering a message in one medium is not the same in various mediums. The podcast had to deliver a message with depth, but also without boring the listener. With this podcast I have to honestly say that I do not accomplish such a task. My work was further hindered, because I realized too late that I had not saved my work appropriately. In fact this occurred once and I recovered it only to loose my information again. The second time however remains a mystery. As a result little could be achieved by further revision, because to do so may solve one problem, but then a new problem would be created. For example, if I decided to edit out a line (of my speech), it would also mean editing out the part of an underlying song due to the overlaying of the sounds, resulting in a choppy sound. As a result the new product would end up sounding worse than the old.
I did attempt to solve some of the sound level problems using audacity, but I do not think it worked out very well. I tried to equalize the sound but, I guess they were far too different to work. I tried to amplify some regions and deaden others, but this too seemed only to make it worse. I tried to change the pitch. I tried every possible sound enhancement I could think of, but because the recordings were done at various times I could not get the sound levels to work as clearly or as well as I could have. Again the final product is not what I would want, but to make it better it would need a total redo. I decided to focus on other projects where I am having much more success in that manner.
As I said, I am most disappointed with this piece of my portfolio, but I did learn a lot in the process about composition with the new medium; learning its challenges, advantages (when done well), and its limitations. Overall the experience was beneficial, though difficult and ultimately unsuccessful.
The website is really the culmination of class discussions and our presentation of self through the web.
Representation of Self
The website continues the class theme of identity with the creation of our identity and presence on the web. Establishing ones presence on the web seems to occur on two levels. We nonchalantly create accounts on Facebook, Myspace, and other social networking sites establishing a file of “friends” and a presence on the web. We post status updates and reveal personal information on the web with little thought. For young people Facebook has become a staple of social life, but it is fundamentally different from establishing a presence on the open web. On the various social network sites we can limit the viewers to only our friends, but on the open web we are not provided this protection. What we put on the web is there for all to see. This means it is altogether an entirely different action. It is an immediate mark of self promotion upon establishing a personal website, but it also presents some challenges.
For me the creation of a website for myself was modeled off of the personal websites of some of my favorite intellectuals. They are mediums by which the individuals present themselves, their work, and their interests in a professional manner. I wanted to do the same. I wanted to present myself in a professional manner, while also including my work and my identity. However, I also have to balance personal security with providing enough information about myself to not seem like front for something else.
Every aspect of my website’s construction is carefully thought out because it is a representation of me and only me. From the domain name to the appearance I paid careful attention to every aspect of the website, because a deficiency represents something in me. This meant I wanted a clean and polished site because I could not be proud of it if it was not. My choice of content was also critical. I had to give information about myself, but just that would be a rather stiff website. I decided I would include a blog to share my thoughts, a book list to share my influences, and a page of my recent and past work to give individuals a sense of my interests. This content has been the hardest to implement because I need to find the time in order to do so. This creates its own problem as the website looks as though it is always in construction. As I thought of this I have come to realize that maybe that as life is always “under construction” then my website should be too. It therefore is much better to have quality content than a lot of mediocre content which does not represent who I am.
Influences of Class Discussion
The greatest influence in the creation of my website was through the community of my classmates. Not only did we all work on our own individual websites, but we spent class helping others through technical problems and spending time to discuss the “big ideas.” These ideas tended to focus on the ethical, legal, and moral dilemmas we all faced when developing the ideas for our websites, determined what the content material was going to be, and presenting our Ideas to a wide audience. Key topics that came up were security or privacy, the use of others’ information (such as submitted emails), copyright law and fair use, diversity over pure genius, and the power of the consumer to change their historic role into that of the “prosumer,” as coined by Jeff Howe. These key areas of focus not only allowed for active in class discussions (which I enjoy), but also for the creation of a website within the confines of a real world context. This gives limitations, but it also creates a since of freedom from over disclosure. Without the class discussion I may not have implemented some of the feature of my current website.
Class discussion most influenced my decision to create a personal website. Early on I did not know what I should focus my website on. It could have been a purely personal site where I just post my opinions and interests, but that seemed too limited. It could have been a purely professional site, but again that seemed too limited. I then wondered if I really wanted to share any information about myself with the world of internet users and thought about a website focused on an interest of mine, but with no reference to self. However, this approach would require the most work, and seemed futile since I have neither the time nor expertise to make the site what I wanted quickly. I therefore decided I would do a simple unified website that was both personal and professional with a lean in the professional direction. This is much in line with many of the professional sites I stumbled upon during my research. This also seemed to be encouraged by class discussion. Talking with other students helped me to cement the ideas for my website. I took in their suggestions and took account for my own comfort level to settle upon the current website role.
As a result I am quite content with my current website. Finding the time to update it on a regular basis is still difficult, but I have enjoyed the process. With all of the headaches I was encouraged to see how relatively easy it was to create a decent looking website in such a short time (especially when using an online website builder like Wordpress).
After spring break, work on my website ground to a halt. I only updated the site maybe once every two or three weeks. This would ultimately seem as though it was a failure of a project, but I do not believe it is. The website looks great, but just needs content. This has been tricky since I have many other obligations which pull me away from working on the web. I have invested a lot into my website, and want it to succeed. As a result, I plan to work on it over the summer with three ideas in mind: 1) streamlining, 2) ease of editing, and 3) value of content. In terms of streamlining. I believe the site should be streamlined down to only the essential. I need not include too wide a variety of information or pages, which hinder the flow and ease of use. I plan to make the website as easy to edit as possible. This means editing will become much easier, for I will have more fixed pages that need little to no updating. I will focus my pages that need updating on one or two pages, so that I need not search my website for numerous pages to be edited. Finally, this means content needs to be of high value. I will need to be very selective in the content I choose to promote the goals of the site, while providing a high quality experience.
The most important aspect of the website project that I believe has been totally successful is the learning process. Actually creating the website was somewhat daunting at first. It seemed so complicated, but after some searching of the internet I found that a basic website, such as what I have created, is more than doable for someone with only basic computer skills. You have to be willing to have some limitations, but as long as these limitations are not too great for you then you should be able to create wonderful websites in the future. Having learned how to build a website, I know now that such as task need not be daunting. I may even one day share my new skills with others or help a stranger build their own website.
Amateur Photo Commentary
One of the lesser, but by no means unnecessary projects was the evaluation of amateur photography from Flickr.com. This was intended to accomplish three things; 1) to make us more comfortable with a wide variety of social media, and 2) develop/learn the process for evaluating photography, and 3) to give us a taste of what the “prosumer amateur” can create (Howe). The site coincides with many of the ideas presented in the course from the creation of web content to social media. I wrote in my review:
As for the fact that this picture was taken by an "amateur;" one would never know that this was a shot taken by a non-professional. It seems to blur the line between amateur and professional, making the only true difference money. One gets paid for their work and the other does not (in a formal manner).
I was duly impressed by what I found on Flickr.com. The site is a treasure trove of photographs that boggle the mind in both scope and imagination. It is understandable that there are many good or even great amateur photographers out there, but by allowing for a social network that allows users to be as open or closed as they wish with their photography gives them the control as users to share as they wish. This control, combined with the ecosystem of social interaction, via the commenting system creates a universe of discovery, learning, and exhibition.
Part of that discovery, was an evaluation of a work by an “amateur.” I place amateur in quotes, because to call this person an amateur connotes an inability in some area. The only inability I would venture to suggest is that the person is not doing this for a business. However, is every person doing something they love, but not making money at it an amateur. In my opinion, if you can make professional quality photos it does not matter. The evaluation of the photograph I chose was an attempt to develop and strengthen my ability as a writer to describe an image, critiquing its artistic quality with a new vocabulary. However, since I am by no means an expert at artistic critiques I was also learning how to form sentences and words to describe an image, which has much greater power than I could possibly muster in words.
This small project was one of my favorite, for it allowed me to do what I do best; that is to research. I am an avid researcher, looking for all things, new, undiscovered, and innovative. While much of this research is not of an academic nature, it fills my desire for learning, and discovery. It gives me a vision into the future, and allows me to make great connections that others are unable to see. Flickr.com in this fashion allows for the continuation of that goal into the realm of imagery, where I had not ventured into before.
Mash-up Video: Walls of Society
My first attempt at creating a mash-up really became an “epic.” Ok, not really an epic, but for a medium that requires briskness I had utterly failed. My montage of video, music, and speech became a nearly 17 minute presentation. I use the word presentation because that is what it became. It was not engaging, rather it was boring. It was as if I had written an essay with video and sound, but not an engaging essay one would find in a pop culture magazine, rather it was one a high school student would find in an infamously boring history class. It was dry and too long. In my efforts to create the full story of “humanity's efforts” to build walls which divide, but which ultimately fall; I had lost sight of the power of the mash-up. I had taken a medium known for its quick, powerful message, and slaughtered it. From this description one would think that I hated this project, however that is far from the truth. Actually, I did enjoy the process, but I got carried away with it, wanting to be an academic, rather than a provocateur.
Why a mash-up? Since this course is all about writing (or rather composition) on the web the video seemed like a wonderful place to develop ones ideas as a writer and thinker. I chose to develop a video about a topic that has some real importance to me. In my experiences as a student and traveler abroad, I was struck by the walls that individuals, localities, and nations put up to keep others out. I was also struck, by the history that usually such attempts are at best misguided and at most thwarted by revolutionary action (i.e. Fall of Berlin Wall in 1989). As a result I chose to make a video that attempted to chronicle various notable walls that have been built in our society and the destruction of those walls. My interest in this subject however got the best of me as I attempted to include every wall imaginable in reality and in fiction.
Putting the video together was long, though relatively pleasurable experience. I had to view my clips, and chop them into their appropriate sections for compilation. I found however, that as always, I had difficulty narrowing my focus in each clip. As a result I used long clips and long audio files. While making the piece the length seemed not to bother me because, it seemed to be progressing in a logical and timely manner. This is where I found out that I should not evaluate my video for length, because what is interesting to me may not be to another (or anyone). Making the video in sections prevented me from seeing it as a whole. When I did watch the entire piece, what felt like a short time (17 minutes) due to the effort put into it, turned into a dreadfully long and drawn out video, ultimately defeating my purpose for a short, yet compelling composition.
As could be understood from both personal experience and from reading of technology publications, video as a medium of communication has exploded online in such communities as YouTube, Vimeo, and others. The means the importance of video as a means of communication has moved from the unidirectional version of television to a bidirectional version where the consumer can become creator. A dialogue can be created, with no monopoly on information. Such a powerful evolution has created a social media firestorm, where consumers dictate content, supporting others if the work is good, and denigrating it if not. This ability to dictation means that those who have a superior control over this medium will be very powerful as entertainers, politicos, or leaders for social change. I attempted to provide a video which presented my view on a social justice issue, and while there are positive attributes of the video, its length ultimately hurts its power and ability to call for change.
Mash-up Video: Building Walls
With my first draft complete, I realized that I had made the number one mistake a video creator can do. Just like a writer who must carefully choose their words to create a powerful, concise statement, a mash-up creator must choose each video for a precise need. It should not be there for “length” because that is unnecessary. The best mash-ups get their message across in the shortest amount of time. With this understanding in mind, I went back to my mash-up with the intention of improving it by making less lengthy. This was the number one complaint of the piece and one that I came to agree with after listening to it a few days after its submission.
Initially I thought this would be a daunting task. How could I possibly shorten this piece and include the entire storyline that I wanted (to show an understanding of the issue, which is great for an academic essay, but not a video)? I realized to attempt that goal would be foolish. Instead I made the decision that rather than have the complete story, this video should just state its message. As a result I chose to abstract the video much more, removing much of the historical storyline. I cut the video by about 11 minutes and removed speech that I felt was unnecessary. By doing this the video may have become more abstract, but the presentation of the mash-up is done in such a way that it presents a call for action in less than 6 minutes. While probably not an optimal time, it is a great improvement over the prior draft.
The video project was a unique opportunity to work in a medium of composition which I had not previously attempted, but it was a rewarding experience (certainly more so than the podcast). I learned most with the video, to trust viewers much more. Rather than just saying they didn’t understand my intention behind the video and not change it, I found it critical to listen to the comments. They gave valuable feedback which I may not have understood due to my personal efforts having been invested in the project. In this way a cooperative video could be a great future project.
I did make one final adjustment to the mash-up. I was still not comfortable with the continuity of the ending, but after looking at the comments on the updated version I new I could not stand to leave it as it were, so I did adjust the ending. I decided that the Chrysler commercial at the end felt stuck onto the video, with little consistency. As a result it seemed as if it were free advertising for Chrysler, which I did not want to do. I removed it and ended the piece with a quote that is in-keeping with the tone of the piece. (I am not condoning a particular political message by my choice in speakers, but I did like his quote.) The quote is quite inspirational and is a better complement to the mash-up.
I have to say; when we were assigned to create a “collage” I was not excited. I do not think of myself as creative in the artistic manner, so I was a bit worried. However, I knew that for the most part others in the class are not budding Picassos so I told myself that I should not worry about such things. What is of the utmost importance is taking the challenge to create a collage that represents our selves, or an embodiment of creativity. As a result, I had to think about how I would convey myself or creativity (or both) in an image that was not too cluttered with a mess of images, but not to bear as to be sterile.
I had thought presenting a message via video was hard, but to do so in one image, a collage was an even greater challenge. Not only had I not used any photo editing software before, but I had to mesh several picture into one coherent image.
I wanted to pull a few key aspects of myself into this collage. First I wanted to bring in something from my area of study, for it has affected how I see the world. Therefore, I pulled in the earth to convey my study of geography, however discretely. Even though I am an avid student I wanted to express a pitfall to the constant studying of the world through the lens of a book (secondary source). I write in my description:
…much can be learned about the world from study, but relegating learning to the isolation of books, computers, or other isolation inducing material possessions will ultimately lead you down of drain of misunderstanding. One must create the world they want to live in, and recognize their own world outside of the book or the computer screen. This will allow them to find who they are and where they want to go.
In this vein I hope the dark background allows the clean, simple images to pop vividly into the viewers mind. The image is very abstract, not attempting any form of realism. This was done, because to place it into the realm of realism would mean that the message, but be of a concrete understanding. I do not intend the message to be concrete, but rather nebulous.
As per discussion in class, I do have some reservations as to the merit of such a project in an “English class.” Of all the projects this one is the most distant in my opinion from the intent of the class. The only aspect of the project that seems to enfold it into the class is the very fact that writing about the image is of such importance. In that way any project could work in the class. However, if this is the intent the work itself becomes secondary to the writing. I am not sure if that should be done either. (A website or a podcast is different because writing is a vital part of those projects.) I believe much of the work in this portfolio is about composition, rather than directly writing. Thinking about work in this way allows me as writer to think about how I would present a message that I would want to make in writing into a different medium. In that sense this collage is just another way to expand on the theme of the class, but this may just be too many projects with little value added.
For my second revision of my collage I did not change much in terms of the content, for I felt this was the strongest aspect of my piece. I did however work to improve the scaling of the images collected in the collage as suggested by a couple comments. I too agreed with these comments. As a result I wanted to place greater emphasis on the two most important dramatic elements: the globes and the whirlpool. These two elements the basis of my message that I am attempting to project are integral parts of the image, yet they were left in rather minor positions in the first collage.
By taking the suggestions to work with the scale of the images I was able to create greater depth in the image while at the same time strengthening the image. No longer do the hand and whirlpool look as though they are floating by themselves. Rather, I have tried to have the hand emerging from the whirlpool. This gives much more continuity to the base of the image which was absent in the prior image. I also increased the size of the globes to give them a greater presence. I also had to work substantially with the layering of the images (a new way to think of a photo). This had to be done in order to (finally!) get a shadow on the globes which were missing in the first collage due to not knowing how to use the GIMP software. This subtle change instantly gives greater depth to the image, while also showing greater thought in the appearance of the image.
I am much more proud of this image.
For the final project, I went back to what I did best. I knew I had a strong playlist, so I stuck with a tried and true method, not wanting my thoughts or ideas to be muddled. However, I gave this playlist a bit of twist. Rather than saying what I like, or create playlist of songs, I created a play list of ideas. I am an ideas person. I am a vacuum of ideas, in that if I find something new I had not discovered before, I immediately draw it in and seek to share my new knowledge with others. As a result I am an avid TED.com browser. I search the proverbial rolodex of ideas compiled on that site weekly to learn and engage with the world’s top thinkers. However, I noticed that many of my fellow students did not know of TED.com or its vast wonders. This playlist is intended to share with the class (or anyone else) a set of ideas that I have learned from my exploration on TED.com. These Ideas I felt would be influential concepts for the next century and therefore deserved such a presentation. It is hard to narrow down the multitude of ideas to just five, but nevertheless if five is not enough you can check more out at TED.com.
Why a playlist of ideas? I have told you that I am an ideas person, but that does not seem like a sufficient answer to this question. I chose to develop a playlist of ideas because if I have learned only one thing in this course, it is that ideas can change the world. We have had discussions in ideas of ethics, morality, reality, and creativity. This class is essentially about the idea. I know the class title is “Entrepreneurial Writing on the Web”, but maybe a better title would be Idea Exploration on the Web: More than Senseless YouTube postings and Facebook chats. The course has been a thorough exploration of new ideas ranging from the work of the “crowd” to the merits of copyright law. Such a wide expanse of information in such a short period of time seems to boggle the mind upon reflection. I hope my playlist in its own way can add to that multitude of ideas. We form a wide variety of people. The ideas and individuals presented in my playlist will continue that support of diversity which is so important to idea development. Ideas are the stepping stones to progress. We have made some progress during this course. I hope I can provide some further jumping off points.
I chose to keep the format of the playlist simple, and clean (seems like a recurrent theme throughout). This allows for the reading and viewing experience, to be uncluttered and easy for a reader. The playlist is set up in such a way that you need not read the comments if you do not want to. The comments are there to justify the idea and expand my thoughts on the subject. In fact I encourage viewer to watch the videos first, and then read the comments, for they are much more important. Many ideas come and go, but I believe these ideas will have great influence in some form or another over the next century. If not, then I will be the first to admit I was wrong.
I will not go into the ideas here for I have provided much commentary on my final project playlist posting. I have also provided links for more information on some of the individuals ore ideas presented. I hope you learn a lot, just as I have.
I thought I would frame the wrap-up to this project as if I were asked by a first year student if I would suggest they take this course.
Student: Hey Joe! Should I take English 089: Entrepreneurial Writing on the Web with Dr. Dan Anderson?
Answer (Casual Version): Because you can call the professor by his FIRST name! (No, that is not why I would suggest the class to an inquisitive student.) No, that is not why you should take it. You should take it because you will do the most “work” in terms of number of projects you will ever do in any other class, yet you will think you were never working.
Unlike any other class you will have the flexibility to make the class your own. You will have full creative control, just as if you were working independently. You will be flooded, not with mundane busy work, but rather with engaging and substantial work that you will be proud to call your own. You will get to explore what the web has to offer from the power of open source to the power of social networking sites. You say you know the power of social networking sites now, but after this class you will have a whole new understanding of how your can be a “prosumer” rather than just a consumer. You will have power!
The professor (a great one by the way) is there to empower you in your ideas. I don’t recall him ever saying no to a student idea. Rather he encourages and empowers. You will be provided guidance and help when need be, but for the most part you will be creating a playlist, website, podcast, video, and collage all on your own time schedule (within reason) and out of your own ideas.
Student: Sounds like it would be “easy.”
Answer: Not easy, because you have to do lots of work, but you will not notice you are working. Plus why should you need to struggle to learn. Learning need not be a struggle, or painful. If it is painful then you may have made a mistake. This does not mean it should not be challenging, for this course is challenging. It will challenge you to develop creative ideas, to work with new mediums, and explore how you can have an impact on the web.
Student: What have you learned?
Answer: I encourage you to check out the course on the web at _____________ for there you will see the vast multitude of work that other students have done. You will also get a taste of what we have learned. I have learned many new technical skills including basic HTML, Audio editing software usage such as Audacity, video editing software such as Windows Movie Maker, or photo editing software such as GIMP. Aside from these technical process, you will learn many, many, many (did I mention many) ideas regarding a wide range of ideas. At times you will think the class philosophical and at other times hilarious. You will move between topics naturally and with ease. You will never notice that you were learning about the merits of copyright law and then latter were discussing the merits of mash-up creation.
I have learned about the crowdsourcing idea, an idea that you will become intimately familiar with in the course. It is a topic that I had little knowledge of and often ignored, but it is a powerful process constantly shaping the contours of the web and business everywhere on the planet. What else?
Student: How does this fit into English?
Answer: Great question. You will constantly be writing. “Writing on the Web” is not in the title for no reason. You will learn to evaluate your writing to make it more precise for easy reading on the web. You will learn how to adapt you writing methods for use in other mediums. You will constantly be writing to communicate ideas to other students. You will be writing explanations and reflections on you work. You will see how writing on the Internet is so much different. You will have to battle informality with formality, and you will grow as a writer and thinker. I know I have. I now think much more about what I write. I think about the type of medium I am writing in more often, and I think about who I am writing too. These are often over looked by writers, but this course will show you the necessity of such understandings.
The web presents some unique challenges for composition, because with its constant advancement text alone does not cut it. Therefore the term "writer" for the web may be ill suited for the internet as it is currently formed. You have to develop a composition that includes text, image, and sound. You must be able to adapt as a writer to new mediums which can be used to convey meaning, give variety, but also strengthen your ability as a writer. You need to be a composer; able to work with multiple instruments to develop one body of work. These are all vital for web writing and will challenge you (they sure did for me) every day to compose the best possible product.
No more questions, just sign up for the class before it fills up.