Clarissa Gordon: sharing her voice from Rutgers University

Clarissa Gordon is a sophomore Journalism major and Creative writing minor at Rutgers University. A good friend of mine, she was born and raised in New York City and we have always shared a passion for reading and writing. She currently writes for the Daily Targum, a student-written and student-managed newspaper and for Trim magazine, the fashion magazine on campus. Whether her articles take a journalistic approach or they include a version of herself I have always admired her writing. I chose to her to do my digital writer profile on because I hoped to learn about how she implements her voice and grows as a writer despite limitations and the influences and inspirations behind her work.

I began our conversation by asking Clarissa how she got involved in writing outside of the classroom

Clarissa: I took a basic writing for journalism and media class my first semester of sophomore year and realized I had a knack for reporting, especially with the current political climate and my overall interest in current events so I decided to pop into the Targum offices. It only took me two articles before they offered me a position as a correspondent and on the side I write for Trim.

Clarissa, typical to most New Yorkers, has always had a special interest in current events that deal with entertainment and pop culture. So even on a large campus like Rutgers she connects her interests by writing articles on a campus Spring Drag Show and Rutgers FORM (Fashion Organization of Retail and Marketing) fashion show showcases.

What version of yourself are you trying to portray online through your articles?

 Clarissa: Well first things first as a journalist I’m never to insert my opinions into my articles – maybe if I’m writing a review on an art exhibition or a fashion show, but even then, opinion is scarce. Trim is where I’m allowed to really be creative and use my voice: I mostly write for the love and lust column, and as someone who considers themselves a sex positive feminist, I try to empower my female readers, which I think is especially important on a college campus where young women might struggle finding or accepting themselves.

I admire Clarissa as a writer because I have always known her as a strongly opinionated person and she uses her voice to advocate issues that are important to shed light on.

What are some things you keep in mind when writing something new?

Clarissa: I mostly just try to showcase clear and concise writing skills while at the same time making sure my article is interesting and attention-grabbing.

And lastly I asked, what inspires/influences you as a writer?

 Clarissa: Ever since I can remember I’ve always liked to write – I used to sit down in front of my first laptop and jot down chapters of novels in like elementary school…so that passion has always kind of been there. More recently, I think I was definitely inspired by Lena Dunham and how she’s a great writer on so many levels – she can be a journalist and a story teller when she wants to be, but she’s also great at writing jokes and films and tv shows and basically anything she sets her mind to. I’m also inspired by young women I know personally who are writing for Vogue and the New Yorker. Their salaries aren’t the best, but when you’re a writer, money isn’t really ever the end goal.

 

A Poll in Attempt to Raise Awareness

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I tweeted this after a lot of thinking about issues in the world today and how they can be relevant to college students. A public and relevant issue to the entire world is saving our environment and our earth especially because this week is Earth Week and Earth day is nearing on Saturday, April 22nd.  Global issues like this make me think of how a smaller scale of people, specifically our UD campus, feels and can contribute to this greater cause. I think it is important to raise awareness on college campuses because our generation is often too caught up on what is going on in the world of Facebook, twitter or Instagram to the point where it is easy to overlook bigger issues that don’t seem relevant. I contributed to the earth week hashtag while directing a poll to my fellow students. My efforts were to raise awareness about Earth week and earth day. I also included an article about how college students can save the environment to show students that even they can make small contributions to a larger cause. My tweet was a call to action about earth week and my one question poll composed of asking UD students how they feel about earth week and saving the environment overall. With this tweet and attached poll, I was trying to get students to take a step back and realize that all they need to do is make a small effort. I was also curious to see who would be honest and say they did not know or did not even care about the cause.

 

Out of my 10 votes, 70% of students stated that they wanted to contribute, 20% reported that they did not care and 10% did not even know it was earth week and/or how to contribute. I wish I could have gotten more votes but I was pleased to see that 7 out of my 10 votes wanted to contribute to the cause. The anonymity of the poll allowed students to be honest and admit that they either did not know or did not care. I wish this article would have reached more UD students and I would have liked them to elaborate on their responses by replying to my tweet. I found that Twitter is platform where people can raise awareness about certain causes via hashtags but hashtags are so commonly used on this medium that they can just fall into the abyss of millions of hashtags used a day. However, I do feel that 10 more students on campus are aware of a cause and how they have the power to help. Perhaps even admitting that they do not care can later cause an epiphany about caring for the environment.

 

Don’t Point Fingers Regardless of Your Intentions

Ronson was onto something when he analyzed the Stanford Prison Experiment and interviewed the people involved. He thought he had debunked this widely known experiment but instead, his findings were still incredibly applicable to the observations he makes on social media and the viewpoints danah boyd shares in her book It’s Complicated. Specifically, they both discuss social media as an immensely powerful tool that can be used for good or bad but at the end of the day it is the person behind the screen who is at fault for their actions online.

Boyd examines the presence of bullying amongst teens on social media and Ronson examines the modern publicity of shaming. Regardless, both agree that about root of any good or bad and boyd explains herself when she says: ““People choose what to spread online, but the technologies that they use to do so are created to increase the visibility of content that will attract the most attention” (Boyd 146). Social media users decide what they post, whether it may be an insensitive tweet about AIDS or an attack in response to that. Nevertheless, this content is more public than ever because things like retweets, shares, likes and reposts exist. Just over a decade ago, this wasn’t the case; the only people who had a voice were people in the public eye but now “The silenced were getting a voice. It was like the democratization of justice.” However, some people may not know what to do with this newfound power or how to use it for good.

I think this goes back to Ronson’s discovery: study participant, Dave Eshelman, who played the role as a guard and seemed to have become irrationally violent admitted that everything he did was on purpose because he thought he was doing something good at the time. This directly relates to boyd’s position “The dynamics of drama and attention don’t unfold because of social media, even if teens can use technology for these purposes” (Boyd 147). Twitter is not to blame for the absurd tweets sent to Sacco about deserving to get fired and raped. Twitter users thought they were doing something good by addressing an inappropriate tweet but although their intentions may have been honest they were just adding to the cycle of violence.

I don’t know if this stems from my optimistic nature, but I genuinely feel that the vast majority of people are not evil to the core. Shamings happen because in a crowd every sentiment and act is contagious and teens bully because they are so easily influenced by their peers. Ronson observes the powerful phenomena of public shaming on social media and boyd picks apart the roles of social media and of its users. I feel that they too would agree that everyone has flaws but it is much easier to pick at someone else’s and forget your own.

Expression in Text vs Expression in Video

I know I am not speaking for myself when I say that I’ve always been more attracted to video and visuals than reading text. It is in the way us digital natives are wired – to want to learn and engage in something visual. When I am confronted with text such as an article or reading a textbook for a class I catch myself skimming through and only reading things that seem important like titles or captions to pictures.

Therefore, I really enjoyed the assignment of Concept in 60 because the visual and audio components added so much more depth to a concept that would have been harder to describe via text.

On the other hand, when it comes to reading and writing the mind has a lot more room for imagination which is sometimes hard for an author who wants to portray a specific idea. Whereas in video there isn’t a lot left for the imagination. For example, if Ashley’s video had not incorporated herself drawing with her explanation of what art meant to her – the viewer would not have known what type of art or expression of art she was particularly immersed in.

Video can express an idea or story with just images and music because that creates tone. Text can also express a certain idea or certain idea with the use of tone but it takes a lot more work for the reader and the writer. An example of these affordances of video is Graham’s video which relies solely on the use of music and filters instead of explaining his concept with audio. The viewer still grasps what Graham is portraying because of the tone he creates with music and his own expressions.

Another example of a video that would not have relayed the same message if it had been solely confined to text is Sam’s video on “How to make an entrance.” The humor within this video would not have been interpreted the same way through description within text because everything from the music to his own facial expressions and body language altogether in the moment came together to create a humorous tone for the viewer.

Sometimes text is easier because it comes to you just as your thoughts are flowing but this may be a constraint when you have a particular message in mind. It can be easy for text to paint a picture with description but if that picture is already given to the viewer there is no room for misinterpretation.

Social Media – Friend not Foe

As digital natives, it is in our nature to defend the digital world we live in. In contrast to Carr’s The Shallows, dana boyd takes our side and gives us detailed arguments for justifying and supporting something as prevalent as social media within her book It’s Complicated. Social media is not the end of humanity but simply a form of communicating and socializing. It is true for most teens including myself that social media channels can be simple outlets for expression. However, as the days go on, it is becoming increasingly evident that these different social media mediums/channels are the tools we may use to our advantage in order to fulfill a specific objective.

In Chapter 3 on Addiction, boyd talks about all the opportunities social media provides for all and how teens can gain the most knowledge from it. I heavily enjoyed all her points specifically on page 95 where she states that “…teens need to learn how to engage in crucial aspects of maturation: self-presentation, managing social relationships, and developing an understanding of the world around them.” We can do and gain so much more from social media outlets such as Instagram and Twitter instead of effortlessly posting the meal we ate that day. It is up to us to take control of our lives and realize how lucky we are that we can legitimately put ourselves out into the field of work we choose to work in by promoting ourselves online. Our presence/presentation of ourselves on social media can make or break future job prospects and it is up to us to know how to strategically maneuver ourselves around the online social presence.

Within the Look and Listen audio post, on The Anthropology of Social Media it is discussed how social media provides greater control in communication. Everything we post onto social media is purposeful. The audio post also touches upon the fact that we feel a pressure to have a social media presence. Similar to the high school student boyd interviewed, Amy, whom felt that technology was her way of connecting to a world expanding greater than the constraints of the walls within her house. Aside from our personal pressures and desires to have a social media presence, we must acknowledge that there is so much you can do with social media and the minor things where and when to post could actually be major in the long run. An easy example of social media being used for more than just a frivolous purpose is how we use it in our class. We have a class hashtag and with that we can attain and gather all sorts of information with any regards to our class. We must take control of our social situations and the platforms that are so easily at our fingertips.

Everyday Curators

An obvious take-away from Carr’s The Shallows is that the internet has changed the way we are wired. The internet has rewired our brains and it seems there is no going back. Carr makes valid points when arguing that the internet could and might be our ruin. We are living and working in a technology driven culture but it is up to us to be mindful of all the power we truly have and use it effectively. It is crucial for us to not become slaves of technology and to use the Internet as one of the many tools in our toolbox instead. Of course, we are the beneficiaries of the Internet and the web.

Our phones are grenades – with them we have the power to blow something up. Not in the literal sense but in the sense that creates a ripple effect within a medium that reaches anyone worldwide. In chapter 8, The Church of Google, Carr poses the overarching question of whether Google is helping or hindering. On page 166 Carr states: “With writing on the screen, we’re still able to decode text quickly – we read, if anything, faster than ever – but we’re no longer guided toward a deep, personally constructed understanding of the text’s connotations.” I believe that, regardless of the influence of technology, we are always thinking about what we are reading, what we want to get from what we read, what we write and every little thing that comes along with our search and usage of the Internet. As a former Communications major I learned the obvious, that, as human beings – we are always communicating. From my personal experiences, every time I find myself on Google, what I am searching is strategic and purposeful.

In my Newswriting and Editing class, Victoria Reitano, came in to teach us about the latest and best Google search tools for newsgathering. All of the tools she showed us are a testament to Carr’s argument that Google is all about efficiency. However, I came to the conclusion that we are often curators instead of creators. In the traditional sense, a curator makes decisions about what objects to select, conducts research and shares that research with an audience. Whenever we find ourselves on Google we are finding content from existing sources and building a piece based on our knowledge and research. All of these aspects give us the power to effectively tailor a specific message to a specific audience whether it is ranging from a Tweet or an article. Below is a screenshot of the Google Trends homepage.

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This is not necessarily what people are talking about but simply what they are searching for. The feelings on the topic are unknown and with this tool we have the power to influence our audience as well as know what they are looking for. Carr’s views on the Internet may be justified but it is essential to have faith in our rewired brains.