Contextual Gymnastics

As I sometimes struggle to start writing a paper, or to study for an exam, I find that I have to do some mental somersaults. I jump through some hoops, procrastinate a bit more, and eventually I come out ready to write. I find the most effective way to convince myself to start assignments comes in thinking about their context.

We respond, for the most part, predictably to stimulus. Someone suddenly jumps out from an alley way at night: we recoil. We eat our favorite food: we feel content and delighted. What’s interesting is if we think a bit more about the context surrounding the stimulus, we can approach or perceive it in a radically different manner.

The beauty of this is:

  1. It’s completely personal. I don’t need someone else to confer with. But, it can also be useful to speak with others to see a bigger or more detailed picture.
  2. I can do things outside of my ‘cage’. I can think about things in a different light, I can validate myself in pursuing them. Conversely, I can scrutinize and decide to continue or cease actions.
  3. There are so many ways to think about context, and none of them are wrong!

When I approach a paper I might not enjoy, I think through contexts in which I might be  bubbling with enthusiasm to begin. I may think more big picture: it’s worth doing this to get a nice grade, which means more opportunity, more success in the future! I might think more short term: I can get this out of the way and then enjoy some free time! There are many paths to traverse.

The qualities of the paper may cause certain innate responses. I might see the 50 page length and think, wow, how incredibly demoralizing, what a major bummer. Never fear! There are benefits in recognizing the contextual aspects that influence my perceptions. I can skew my thinking to view the aspects in a manner that is the most beneficial for me. There are infinite possibilities in perception.

Imagine your favorite movie as a different genre. I picture La La Land as a horror movie. Would it suck? Would it be even better? That’s tough to say. But in thinking of it in a different context I can appreciate the aspects of it that work and don’t work for me. I can understand why I feel motivated to sing along to parts of it, or why I always cry at the end. In understanding context, I understand myself.

There is value in realizing that context can be shifted. The application of this realization  has changed my life. I once struggled through certain activities I didn’t want to do. Some might think, ‘That’s called growing up!” I’m suggesting that you can do more than force yourself to get through something: it is possible to find enjoyment and reason to do anything through a shift in how you perceive and react to context.



Side note reflection. I remediated from video to text: translating the ‘big picture,’ and less the exact images. I think this remediation is a bit different from the video in content, but it is ultimately still on the same topic and I think gets at the valuable meaning of this concept (for me, at least).

Concept In 60 Seconds


The Evolution of Me

Goodbye Carr, hello Boyd. After Carr’s 257 pages of constant criticism on technology and the many negative effects it has not only on our social interaction, but on our actual brain connections, Boyd’s polar opposite mindset feels as if I can finally come up for air. I have never truly resonated so much with a book until now. Honestly, at times, I find her analysis of teens and their uses of technology to be creepingly accurate. It’s almost as if she has opened a window to my brain, and can see everything I think and feel. Boyd is finally the one adult that seems to understand the processes I go through everyday regarding what I post, who I post to, and even when to post.

In the first few chapters of her book, Boyd talks about identity expression and steganography. In her discussion of identity expression, Boyd explains how teens use social media as a way to find themselves and transition from childhood to adulthood. Because of the various networks the internet has to offer, many teens find themselves having to create different personas and identities on each site. Myself, included. When I first opened an account on Facebook, I used it as a way to connect with friends old and new.  Just as Boyd describes, I used to add my best friends as part of my “family” and constantly post on their walls just to say hello. Now, 9 years after creating a profile, my use of Facebook is limited to reposting Buzzfeed videos and checking the pages of the clubs I’m involved in. I don’t see Facebook as a means to follow the lives of my friends anymore, because a lot of people my age no longer use Facebook as vigorously as before. My current identity expression is most seen on my Instagram. There, I purposely plan what pictures I post and how they are presented, hoping to make an impression on people. To me, Instagram is sort of like my brand. It advertises my life, relationships, and hobbies. Anyone could get a clear sense of who I am and what I like to do, just by scrolling through my feed.

I specifically resonated with Boyd’s introduction to steganography in the digital age: subtweeting. We’ve all done it or have seen someone do it. And boy does it suck when you’re the person who is being subtweeted about. Or at least, you think the subtweet was about you…was it? I can’t tell you how many times I have read my friends’ subtweets and wondered whether they were talking about me. The crazy thing is, I will still wonder even when nothing has happened between me and that friend for a subtweet to be initiated. Any time that I have tried to subtweet, it always ends up back firing on me. If I am upset with someone and I subtweet them, I am always contacted by random people asking if I’m okay. Or worse, the person I subtweeted confronts me about it. This has happened so often, that I have stopped all subtweeting in general, afraid of someone reading my tweets and posts out of context. Boyd points out this very issue in Chapter 1. She talks about how all posts can be taken out of context, because the writer or “poster” doesn’t intend for their message to be read by everyone. They only have a distinct audience in mind.

As I continue to read her work, I am sure more of my own experiences will match many of the examples that she provides as evidence to her points. I look forward to reading more on her refreshing view of teens and technology. Her optimistic viewpoint certainly decreases the fear I once had about technology ruining our lives. (Thanks a lot, Carr)