This website is an archive of the coursework for ENG 221, a writing course taught by Professor David Morgen at Emory University in Spring 2017. The focus of the course was to discuss and develop new media writing techniques. Throughout the semester we learned basic HTML and CSS code, wrote in detail about our experiences with media, created podcasts, and collaborated digitally with students from our class as well as students from SUNY-ESF. While completing the assignments for the course, Professor Morgen encouraged us to achieve the five primary learning outcomes for the course, Rhetorical Composition, Critical Thinking and Reading Resulting in Writing, Writing as a Process, Digital Citizenship/ Digital Identity, and Collaboration. The learning outcomes and their descriptions are located here.
Like most courses, the assignments consisted of a few major projects and many tasks. The difference from ENG 221 and most writing classes was all assignments used some form of technology. For most of the work, this meant writing in an online space, but for some projects, it meant using programs such as audacity to create. In general, the course’s smaller tasks consisted of short, low-stakes, writing that frequently included a design element. These tasks were designed to engage us creatively and provide a framework the larger endeavors. The first of these tasks was my favorite. For the assignment, we were instructed to create an avatar that we would use as the badge for our site. The avatar that I made was from a photo that I had taken of a gift I had received over the winter holiday. I imported the image into a photo editor and made significant edits to create my badge. My creation and the post are below.
This image is an edit of a photo I took over the break. The focus of the picture is a shadow that is being cast by a much smaller cutout underneath. I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter franchise and the single word “Always” is my favorite quote from the series. I decided to use this particular image because I am extremely proud of my editing. My editing skills are less than par, but I feel that in this case, I was able to do a decent job. The original photo was drastically different from this image, and it took a while for me to be able to produce the final work. I plan that during this course I can force myself to step out of my comfort zone and develop my editing ability more. Hopefully, each successive image that I post to this site will be ‘better’ than the last.
While the small assignments were similar to one another, the large projects varied widely. We created podcasts, interviewed students from another university, wrote about personal experiences, created web pages using WordPress and HTML, and attempted to answer difficult questions raised by the Equality of Opportunity Project. The most daunting of the course’s assignments, creating two podcasts, proved to be the most enjoyable. Before ENG 221, I had never created a podcast. This lack of experience led to lots of anxiety as I began the creative process. An anxiety of this nature is not uncommon in Professor Morgen’s class because he actively promotes his students to push the limits of their comfort zones, and if I am honest, it was the anxiety that made the experience so rewarding. We were instructed to find and research a new media source and then discuss it in a podcast. In my two podcasts, we covered Nate Silver’s 538 and Lynda. The process of creating a podcast fulfilled the Rhetorical Composition, Digital Citizenship / Digital Identity, and Collaboration learning outcomes. By necessity, I had to learn to use Audacity to record and edit the audio thus fulfilling Rhetorical Composition. Also by publishing the podcasts to SoundCloud and working with the other producers, I accomplished Digitial Citizenship / Digital Identity and Collaboration. The two podcasts and the I made regarding them are located below.
FiveThirtyEight Podcast Reflection
The initial process of creating the podcast was confusing and ambiguous. Shiven and I began by spending several hours on the website FiveThirtyEight making sure that we knew everything the website had to offer. During this time our argument began to take it shape. However, there was still a major question that we needed to answer, “how do we communicate this argument in a podcast?” We started the podcast with a description of FiveThirtyEight. In my opinion, this segment is the least interesting. It sounds extremely formal and scripted. After we had finished
the description, we decided to record Shiven and I talking about random points for the next hour. This segment is where the podcast gained its life. Although a majority of the time was not impressive, there were very insightful moments of conversation. The key for us to complete a successful podcast would be to edit the audio to shift out the wheat from the chaff. This task proved to be harder than we initially anticipated. Neither Shiven nor I had any previous experience using Audacity to edit audio, and we had to learn on the fly. If we had more time to work on the podcast, we would have spent more time editing and cleaning up the audio. Specifically, we would have spent more time on the intro and the transition from the intro to the main arguments.
Although there was frustration in editing the podcast, the time that we had to spend reviewing our audio provided useful insight into our arguments. The necessary focus on our arguments developed a more clear understanding of the near form of rhetorical composition that we used to create the podcast. The general process of conveying an argument to an audience is the same in a podcast as it is in writing. However, it is evident that the method is vastly different. It is this difference in methods that makes a podcast interesting. The podcast must actively keep listeners interested. In a written essay a reader can easily reread a portion that was confusing or monotonous, but in a podcast, it is much more difficult for a listener to play the audio back. It is import to consider the way the audience will consume the podcast, and I hope to improve in this regard in the next podcast.
Lynda Podcast Reflection
I began my research of Lynda by talking with my mother. I have not spent much time personally using Lynda, but my mom has. After getting a good feel about the usage of the site from a frequent user, I spent some time of my own on the site. This process was substantially different than my experience with researching for the FiveThirtyEight podcast. Since I have a lot of experience with FiveThirtyEight and not much with Lynda, I was initially relying on a third-party account of the site as opposed to my knowledge base. Surprisingly, this was beneficial. Entering my analysis of Lynda I had no bias that would hinder making a non-opinionated evaluation of the site.
The primary focus when we began recording was to avoid sounded scripted. In the FiveThirtyEight podcast, we had a sharp transition from the initial more formal segment to the discussion segment. During our in-class discussion of the FiveThirtyEight podcast, we received negative feedback regarding this transition, and we noticed a much smoother transition in most other podcast published to this point. We tackled this problem by creating a list of talking points and then just talking. I feel that the transition is much smoother if not seamless for the Lynda Podcast.
After completing a podcast as a producer and a podcast as an assistant producer, I have a much better sense of what enables “new media” to be effective. From our in class discussion, I was able to develop a reasonably clear perception of “new media” (to the extent it can be perceived accurately), but the techniques that one can use to convey a message or argument through new media is a much more elusive idea to pinpoint. Although these techniques are not static due to the nature of “new media”, I understand what these techniques should seek to accomplish both now and in the future. This understanding is important to cultivate in order to be an effective “new media” writer and critic.
I fulfilled both of the other two learning objectives through the Technology Literacy Narratives. For both The Past and The Present, the most important part was developing a coherent argument based on my past experiences. This thought process fulfilled both the Critical Thinking and Reading Resulting in Writing and Writing as Process. Here are the both Technology Literacy Narratives:
Two sets of glasses, scrubs, sunblock on his head, and if I had to guess hospital issued shoe covers. My father sported this outfit every day from sometime in the late 90’s until roughly three years ago. I am fairly certain that he owned other clothes, but there is no way to be sure. However, […]
During the day, it is extremely rare for me not to be using technology in some form. I spend approximately ten hours a day on my laptop alone. I may be doing work, taking notes in class, reading an article or book, watching a movie or sporting event, checking social media, or playing a game. […]
As a conclusion to the course, our class decided to create a web page dedicated to raising questions that naturally stem from the Equality of Opportunity Project. We divided into groups to answer several different questions. My group focused on topics related to admissions. It was hard to obtain actual data so we resorted to creating hypotheticals for how it might look. Another difficulty in the project was efficiently working as a group. Towards the end of the semester, everyone’s schedule is hectic and coordinating a well-designed web page was challenging. Although we were unable to answer any of the questions we raised definitively, we were able to create the framework for future projects.
The most significant achievement I made throughout the semester was discovering the importance of integrating design elements into new media writing effectively. My website is the best example of this accomplishment. During the class, I changed the WordPress theme numerous times. In conjunction with the theme selection, I spent a lot of time researching CSS and integrating into my site. However, in the final edition of my website I elected not to use any CSS. After searching through many themes for my final portfolio, I found one that fit most of the needs without editing. Additionally, I ensured that throughout my site all my links and images opened in new tabs. It is a personal pet peeve of mine to click on a link that changes the web page of the current tab. Along those same lines, I learned to embed web pages and other media into my posts and pages. I found that using an embed plugin on my site is an effective way to communicate my ideas in an interactive fashion.
This general theme of effectively conveying ideas is the driving force behind my new media education. Like most college students, I’ve been writing in a formal academic setting for most of life. However, learning to break the rigid template engrained in me has been tough. I hope that this course and building this site has propelled me closer to achieving this break.