Class Favorites

One of my favorite written pieces for this class comes from Isabella. Titled “Everyday Curators”, this piece discusses the second half of Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows.” Isabella’s takeaway from the second half of the book that she discusses is that with internet, we as people have the power to designate what becomes relevant news and what does not. Moreover, the idea is that with social media in particular, we can share, post, and hashtag in a way that creates a story or brings attention to a particular topic. I feel that Isabella describes this brilliantly in her piece. My favorite line from this post is “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.” This is such a powerful statement because not only does it utilize a metaphor, but it signifies our power as users of the internet. The idea of “blowing up” a story can have both positive connotations, as well as negative as we saw with Ronson’s book. Isabella does a great job at pointing this out and bringing to light the idea that we are empowered by our technology—we curate our information and pick what we think is important and skip over what we think is not.

One of my favorite posts from someone who moves beyond writing was James’ Concept in 60 video, where he explains how to properly watch a movie. James really utilized the subtlety of comedy in this video. While never explicitly saying anything super funny, something he does quite well is show the viewer how one should watch a movie in a comedic manner. The actions in the video that go with the instructions for how to properly watch a movie is what makes it funny. The one scene in particular that stands out to me begins at 0:42. In this scene, James has described how one should get into the right mindset to watch their movie. Because James is demonstrating by watching Star Wars, he is decked out in Star Wars gear. However, this scene in particular made me laugh because of the manner in which James lights up the toy light saber. He has a straight face while doing this, and it is this subtle facial expression, or lack thereof, that video allows us to see. In writing, we would have to describe this and it might not be as funny.

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Remediation: Hudson River Blues

For my remediation assignment, I chose to take a poem that I wrote for my Creative Writing class last semester and utilize it in a video. The Poem, which I’ve titled Hudson River Blues, was actually first inspired by a photograph that I took on the Hudson River last summer. The following video is comprised of the photograph, along with an audio track of myself reading the poem.

If you would like to read the poem, here it is: Hudson River Blues. I hope you enjoyed it!

Writer to Writer, Friend to Friend

The person I chose to profile and interview is both somebody who I consider good friend of mine, as well as someone who I deeply admire as a writer. Katherine [Katie] Nails is a Senior Reporter for UD’s newspaper, The Review, as well as a freelance contributor to DelawareToday Magazine.

Katie is not only an immensely talented writer, but she is informative and fun to read as well. As a journalist, Katie is charged with the daunting task of keeping her text concise; providing sufficient material while keeping the reader interested and engaged. While I am personally not very adept at getting points across succinctly, the way that Katie writes makes it appear effortless. Moreover, Katie’s terse style does not detract from personal voice or style to the point of banality. Something she does exceptionally well is add flare and creativity to journalistic pieces. One of my favorite lines that she has written comes from a recently published column in The Review about her journey to her birthplace of Chicago following the Cubs 2016 World Series victory. It is the very last line of the piece.

This line epitomizes what it means to be an effective writer: It incorporates voice and creativity without drowning the reader in a sea of words. When reading this quote, I can immediately visualize the atmosphere following a World Series victory, an over joyous crowd of millions forgoing their differences in the name of love for a baseball team and a city. That being said, as a reader I don’t have to bend over backwards to understand the meaning behind the text, and it feels as though I could be having a normal conversation with Katie.

I recently sat down with the author herself for a brief interview regarding her work and the trials and tribulations of being a writer. I started our conversation asking about what appeals to her about writing, and more particularly journalism: “The job itself is like a scavenger hunt for me”, she said.  “It’s like a puzzle that has to be put together. And then the actual writing part is kind of like…I’ve always enjoyed I guess [sic] the creativity of being able to express myself. I’ve always just liked words, but then journalism kind of allows me to use them to make a difference.” Katie enjoys both the hunt for clues and answers that comes with being a reporter, as well as the creative outlet and ability to evoke ideas and change that comes from being a writer in general.

I then proceeded to inquire about who her intended audience is when she writes: “…For the Review, it’s obviously the Review’s readers, who are mostly college students and professor but then I also do…I’m also a columnist, so with my columns…they’re pretty personal to me, but I also try to sort of widen them to get anybody who reads, you know anybody who happens to get their hands on it to see something in another way.” Katie writes to inform her community, which, seeing as she is a college student, happens to be comprised mostly of fellow college students. However, she writes her columns not so much for a specific audience, but for anyone who might enjoy reading a creative piece of writing.

I decided to transition to asking about how she incorporates voice and her own unique style into her writing: “…Well you know me pretty well, I’m fairly sarcastic, I…I don’t know I kind of have like short little quips I guess. And you can definitely see that in my writing…like I said journalism is pretty hard you’re not really allowed to insert your own voice, but…you apply your style through the structure of the story.” I believe we both happened to be a bit confused about terminology here. Personally, I can clearly hear Katie’s voice in her writing, and I definitely can spot where she likes to insert witticisms. However, I think that when she discusses an inability to insert voice in a journalistic piece, that this actually refers to tone. She definitely seeks to be objective in her reporting, but I can still get sense her style, which I think is synonymous with voice, in all of her pieces. Her tone, on the other hand, must not sway one way or another in order to remain unbiased.

Finally, I asked her one last question regarding what she felt to be the most difficult part of her job as a writer: “I mean the most difficult part I think would be…as a journalist your job is to be pushy and make people uncomfortable, but make them still want to talk to you. It’s kind of like finding that line and toeing it but not jumping over it. It’s like a very fine line that we’re constantly walking…” Although I have little journalism experience, I understand this concept: you want to divulge as much valuable information from someone as possible, but you don’t want to turn them off from talking to you. It’s as if you are walking a tightrope.

This interview was very casual, yet informative, and I am happy to have been able to gain new insights into journalism and Katie’s work.

Social Action Meets Overwhelming Disinterest

For our “Writing as Social Action” assignment, I decided to share a post on Facebook from an organization that is near and dear to my heart. Recently, I participated in an alternative break program though the university. Through this program, I worked directly with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a large non-profit organization dedicated to mitigating pollution to the bay and advocating for sustainable fishing and aquaculture practices. I learned a lot about the economic and social importance of the bay during the program, and in turn decided that I would utilize a post from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Facebook page for this assignment.

Recently, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation shared an article from the New York Times that discusses the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts to programs like the EPA. CBF’s post in conjunction with that article read “Tell Congress to protect the Bay!”. As someone who considers himself an environmentalist and a conservationist, these recent proposals to cut funding have upset me. Furthermore, I felt even more compelled to use this post after working with CBF for a week. I decided to share this article with my friends on Facebook, and write a brief post above expressing my frustration with the cuts and the importance of the Chesapeake Bay. I wrote “The proposed cuts to government programs like the EPA will have extraordinary repercussions. More than the US’s largest estuary, the Chesapeake provides many with opportunities for marine recreation while also supporting the economies of the Mid-Atlantic States through fishing and crabbing. Cutting funds to the EPA would negate regulations and resources that are integral to keeping the bay healthy. It’s time we start putting our planet first #SaveTheBay”.

My hope in sharing this post was not only to draw attention to an issue that I feel is important, but to hopefully get a small dialogue going as well. I envisioned some comments in support of my post, as well as perhaps some that questioned the importance of funding such programs. After all, effective discourse is achieved through weighing different viewpoints. Unfortunately, in the first 24 hours after sharing this post, I had one person react to it, and zero comments. Moreover, the person that reacted to my post is a friend of mine who went on the alternative break trip with me, and she simply liked the post. Furthermore, there were zero comments posted, and thus, no discourse. After the first day, much to my disappointment, there were no subsequent changes on the post in terms of people reacting or commenting.

Where could I have gone wrong? I thought of a few possible answers. I think part of why my post did not get much attention starts with the simple idea that less and less internet users my age use Facebook with the same regularity that they did four years ago. However, this is too convenient of an excuse to make up for the entirety of why my post flopped. I believe that another explanation is that the cause that I advocated for (protecting the Chesapeake Bay) is very specific and does not concern many of my friends on Facebook (I live in New Jersey, neither near the bay, nor in its watershed). Finally, I believe that many people my age are averse to anything political posted on social media forums. While I myself do read a lot about politics, I can empathize with others, because I do not like to put my political views on the internet most of the time. In the future, I think it would be beneficial to focus on an issue that more of my friends and followers can connect with, as well as implore friends to “share, share, share”.

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A Tweet Is Worth a Thousand Lashes

After reading Ronson’s book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”, I think that the angle he takes in analyzing the use of social media to shame others quite intriguing. Obviously, this kind of online shaming happens quite frequently. That being said, what I find most interesting is the idea raised by Ronson that social media shaming is a reincarnation of the public punishment that pervaded American colonial times. Diving into American history, Ronson point out that public punishment was eventually made illegal in every US state, as it was perceived as too cruel and humiliating. However, he points out that online shaming is really no different than public punishment, perhaps with the exception of a lack of physical harm. In this way, there has almost been a renaissance in public punishment. This can be seen with writer Jonah Lehrer, who after he was caught plagiarizing material in his works, sought to apologize to the public. However, his public apology was made standing next to a big screen twitter feed where people slammed his apology and tormented him in real-time. As Ronson states, “As Jonah Lehrer stood in front of that giant-screen Twitter feed on February 12, 2013, he experienced something that had been widely considered appalling in the eighteenth century” (Ronson 56). Thus, Ronson is stating that Lehrer was in this moment a victim of the modern rebirth of public punishment through online shaming.

 

Moreover, an interesting note to take away from Ronson so far is the contrast between his angle of looking at social media, and how other authors like danah boyd view its use. While Ronson sees social media through the lens of a “great renaissance of public shaming”, danah looks at the use of social media on a much broader spectrum (Ronson 10). Although danah boyd does acknowledge the use of social media as a tool for bullying, she does not mention its utilization specifically for shaming, but rather for the incitement of teenage drama. “Whereas adults might have labeled many of these practices as bullying, teens saw them as drama” (boyd 137). Here, boyd points out the fact that many teens who use social media see actions that can hurt others as drama, not bullying. Moreover, boyd mentions bullying and more specifically bullying through the guise of drama, but does not discuss bullying at all through the guise of public shaming. Furthermore, boyd goes on to discuss the positive influences of social media and looks at it through a variety of paradigms. Ronson, however, sticks to the phenomenon of shaming, which can easily be labeled negative. What’s more, while boyd and Ronson are both discussing different forms of online bullying, both of the groups doing this bullying rarely see themselves as bullies. Teens see themselves as starting drama, according to boyd. Similarly, those shaming others using the internet see themselves as vigilantes and proponents of online justice.

The Pros and Cons of Using Video

After completing the “Concept in 60” project, as well as watching the other videos posted by classmates, I feel confident in discussing both the affordances, as well as the limitations to using videos. Moreover, there are things that you can do with video that you cannot do with print. Overall, one major advantage of using video to explain a concept is that you receive both an audio, as well as an augmented visual aspect that you cannot receive while reading printed material. Speaking generally, this enables those who are better auditory or visual learners to better understand the concept being described. More specifically, an affordance of video is that one can create a photo montage where audio is overlaid on top of the pictures. In Mackenzie’s video about what it means to be an RA, for example, she utilizes a photo montage to enhance the explanation of her concept and to get her point across to the viewer. In addition, another benefit of using video instead of print is that it is easier to make a point, while also using comedy to do it. In James’s video, for example, he uses comedy to state that one’s environment and they way in which one watches a movie can change one’s viewing experience. In his video, James uses both audio, as well as props and subtle mannerisms to give his concept a comedic undertone. While reading print, it is a lot more difficult to provide the subtle sort of comedy that you can with video. As someone who loves comedy, I can tell you that sometimes what is funny is not necessarily in the joke itself, but rather it is in the delivery, or the way on which the joke is told, and also in the body language of the person telling the joke. Therefore, video allows one to more easily convey something in a comedic manner. Finally, another advantage of vide over print is that with video, you don’t necessarily have to say anything at all to get a statement across to the viewer. In Graham’s video, for example, he does not say a single word, and yet I am able to understand the point that he is trying to make. With print, something has to be said, using words on a page.

Just as there are affordances to video, there also exist limitations. One possible disadvantage of using video is that it perhaps discourages visual imagination on the part of the viewer. Again, video provides the visual for us. With print, we as readers are tasked with having to imagine what is happening, and we create our own mental image. Another limitation of using video is that it can take a lot of time and resources to create a really professional-looking video. My video would be the perfect example of what happens when one does not have the time or resources of say, someone like James Cameron or Martin Scorsese. Finally, another drawback to video is the fact that one can run into trouble with copyright when it comes to using others’ video/photographs/music. For as much content that is actually labeled for reuse, there has to be at least fifty times as much content that is not.

In conclusion, I thought of a few categories that the videos from class can be put into. One would be “How To” videos vs. simple explanation of what something is. Another would be when someone uses a voiceover vs. when someone acts in a video. Then there are videos that use stock footage or photos and those that use original footage or photos. And finally, there are videos that are montages, there are those that are live-action, and those that consist of cartoons or drawings.