I started this year off in New Media Writing somewhat shakily. I wasn’t comfortable with assignments that seemed to have little structure and was especially unnerved by the notion of not being graded on my work over the course of the semester. I don’t think I really came into my own as both a new media writer and creator until Sketch 4, a triptych I entitled “Hopeless Muncher.” It was in this sketch that I managed to create something witty, on topic, and media savvy. Reviewing my work now, I find my first three sketches to be somewhat formal and clunky. They seemed out of place on a website, with the ideas behind them left not entirely fulfilled due to some combination of ineptitude and ignorance. At sketch 4, something changes. I become more playful in my writing, more risk-taking in my creativity, and it pays off. “Hopeless Muncher” is clever, ridiculous, and something I am quite proud of.
I followed up sketch 4 with what I think ended up being my favorite sketch assignment; Sketch 5, the mixtape, which I titled “Songs For When You Realize Women Are Still Treated Unequally to Men in 2017”. I loved being able to tell a story through songs, and having made many a playlist for my friends, I was quite comfortable with the medium. This project was less playful than the previous one, but far more impassioned. I love fiery writing—I think some of my best work is done in rant form. Being able to pair a written rant with raw emotion in the form of a song allowed my rhetorical composition skills to really flourish. Here’s the writing I paired with my mixtape.
“…My main rule was that all the songs on this list couldn’t refer to specific instances with specific men; they shouldn’t be songs about boyfriend problems. My gripe isn’t with a particular man, it’s with the systematic oppression of women that exists in a society wherein men are lauded for and excused by their gender, allowing them a powerful privilege that they frequently abuse. It was difficult to find songs that deal with subverting gender norms and/or inequality in general: most songs about female empowerment or sexism are directed at specific men by the women who’ve been wronged by them…”
My sketch assignments continued to show an upward trend in digital communication skills, and a very clear digital identity began to form. The last sketch assignment I will mention that seems to particularly highlight the material I am taking away from this course is Sketch 11, a recreation of a scene from the Kubrick classic The Shining that I turned into an NSFW piece about the way in which society perceives sex and sexuality. This project serves as a prime example of my ability to think critically about material and translate my thoughts into writing, and my ability to conduct myself as a digital citizen. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about the assignment, and the kind of setting I could feasibly reconstruct in a dorm room (or my boyfriend’s apartment). The Shining has always been one of my favorite films, both artistically and conceptually. Thus, when I remembered the infamous axe scene, I thought it would be a perfect fit. The critical thinking component came in once I considered what sort of message I wanted to convey with my image. The Shining is a film with layers upon layers of meaning, and I wanted my recreation of it to have just as much meaning as the original film. I also made a conscious effort to be a good digital citizen and thoroughly consider the reactions the material I was posting may bring to an unexpected reader. Therefore, I made sure to include a content warning “above the fold” of the post, so that the viewer would need to click on the post in order to proceed and view the image in its entirety. I firmly believe this was a responsible digital choice, and not necessarily a choice I would have made prior to taking this course.
In addition to the numerous small sketch assignments, there were three major projects I undertook this semester. The first one was probably also my rockiest project. My Technology Literacy Narrative was my first attempt to critically evaluate my relationship with technology over the years, and it was daunting. In an effort to counteract my naturally formal style of writing, I tried to write my essay as an informal narrative. This did not go as well as I think it could have. Looking back over my work, it’s hard to believe I wrote it. Sure, it’s a technology literacy narrative, but it doesn’t feel like my technology literacy relationship. I think this project forced me into an uncomfortable space in which I had to confront the reality that I was a total novice at writing for the internet.
The project I enjoyed the most was the podcast. I adore podcasts and was beyond excited to explore the process of creating my own. The podcast emphasized the learning outcome of writing as a process. I created a rough outline of what I wanted to address, but primarily relied on improvisation. Interestingly enough, this method still required an intensive process of revising, editing, and re-recording. The podcast I was analyzing in my Media Nouveau episode (My Favorite Murder) is very casual—it’s basically two good friends laying on the couch and talking to each other about true crime. I don’t like over-structured podcasts—I find that they sound unnaturally stiff—and so I really wanted my podcast to be as unstructured as possible. It turns out this is far more difficult than one would expect. In the end, my assistant producer and I ended up recording in short segments, so we could rerecord if we got off track or made a mistake. Then there was the whole process of editing: adding music, cutting out awkward silences, and tweaking sound levels. While I loved the experience of creating a podcast, I did learn that even an informal podcast is way more complicated than one would expect.
The final major project was the Equality of Opportunity Project, a massive collaborative data visualization. The most challenging aspect of this project was working with a large group of people on data that didn’t seem very divisible. Somehow, we managed to all fall into different niches and actually created a well-rounded depiction of college and social mobility broken down by a variety of factors. I didn’t personally write very much for this assignment (I worked with ‘big data’), but I will say that creating an interactive digital data visualization as a group provided a unique opportunity for me to experience an environment similar to one I may encounter in “the real world.”
I think my experiences writing for new media made me a better writer overall, and certainly gave me critical practical knowledge I’ll no doubt end up relying on in the future. This summer, I’m going to be working at Planned Parenthood, potentially as a teen birth control social media campaigner, and I think the skills I learned in this class will be invaluable in that role. Not many of my classes are applicable to life after college. I’m quite glad this one is.