During the Winter 2012 quarter, I have worked on 2 main projects with a few sub-projects, all related somehow to Corey Doctorow's Little Brother. The purpose of this Winter quarter was to create what we found to be a successful remix of this novel, hopefully one I would believe to be worthy of sharing and discussing in my final learning essay.
My first two remixes were my sub-projects, which were not worth remembering honestly; they were two comic strips, both of which came early in my reading of the novel and both of which did not really capture any sort of theme or point of the book, other than brief hints at something I found ironic or funny.
My third project was a big production - a 9-page hypertext that captured a theme I found important and noteworthy from Little Brother. I decided to focus on the fact that I found there to be minimal parental intervention in the lives of Corey Doctorow's characters, which - especially living in a big city such as San Francisco - was interesting to me, as there is much more danger and risk in running around alone in such a setting. I felt this was a strong hypertext; I did some laidback interviewing of friends and acquaintances from various parental backgrounds, some strict, some relaxed, and compiled what data I had to try and identify trends in college behavior as results of different parenting styles.
While I was proud of the work I put into my hypertext this quarter, my favorite remix is easily my machinima movie that I wrote and directed. I was very involved with it - writing, directing, providing voices, and taking on an arduous post-production editing job. Since our schedule was kind of difficult this quarter, my group was amazing in being able to produce a 9:40 minute movie in a little over two weeks. We wanted to take the Little Brother theme of being unfairly targeted by authorities for something innocuous while there were much bigger things to worry about in society. In the novel, people become upset for being targeted by the police and DHS for seemingly harmless things such as their driving patterns and past purchases, while real serious threats are not being discovered. It was a theme we tried to convey as my main characters were being hunted for their involvement in illegal downloading of music and small-time hacking software while there was an actual murder crisis that was being ignored. I feel we conveyed this theme very well and portrayed the emotion and frustration of my main character through our camera angles and speeches.
This project was undoubtedly the most exhausting project I've worked on for this class, though; my group met almost every day for two weeks and the night before publication I was trapped in the library forever. It was worth it, however, as our project was noted several times in class as being clean and well-shot, which I really appreciated. I was proud of my group and myself as well; we worked really hard and got what we hoped from it.
A key lesson I have learned from this class over two quarters is the concept of journalistic integrity, meaning the idea that as one who presents data and findings obtained from other people has the moral responsibility to make it so that the information gained cannot be traced back to the sources.
I had to put this rule into practice in my second quarter analytical hypertext, where I talked to friends and acquaintances about their behaviors in college - a subject that can be very personal and private that people usually want to be anonymous. The point of my hypertext was to examine the college behavior of students who were raised by strict parents versus those raised by lenient parents. This included questions concerning where these students stood in regards to experience in drinking, drugs, and sex, as well as overall attitudes towards these issues; whether they were off-limits or not. For this kind of information to be traced back to these students - especially those raised by strict parents - would be disastrous, so my entire website required complete anonymity. This is one of the risks of publishing work; one's work always has the potential to be scrutinized and researched deeper by someone else, so it is the publisher's duty to protect the identities and reputations of those from whom he got his data.
In our first-quarter analytical hypertexts, many of my fellow classmates did the same kind of work, interviewing and questioning people and reporting their findings in anonymity. My first-quarter site, however, concerned the attitudes and behaviors of ex-convicts in the warehousing industry, with which I have had personal experience (I'm not an ex-con, but have worked with them in a local warehouse over the summer and got to know many of them). Initially, I had had the idea of doing some sort of interviewing - either by phone or by online survey - with some of the men I had worked with, but after thinking and talking it over, I decided against it for the sake of my journalistic responsibility to protect those I am reporting on. Thinking about what the process would have been like made me realize it was simply too risky. I would have had to go through the company they worked for, as that was my only contact to these men, and obtain personal contact information. That itself would have been a hassle, as these things are often not just given out. Even if I were to get this information and conduct my research, those I had talked to would be at risk of being discovered if by any chance the company came across my work. This would put jobs at stake and it would have been a major risk. Not only that, but the idea of being a fortunate college student asking about why these men are where they are is a difficult conversation to approach and play right. I feel that part of my obligation while doing research would also to be to avoid offending anyone I talk to as well.
That being said, I fully understand and have learned the importance of my moral obligation to respect and protect those I use as sources, as many shared very personal information with me.
Our class had a good discussion about whether or not we believe that publishing out projects is a risky move if they contain questionable messages. The issue of self-censorship came up as well, and whether or not we are owe it to all involved in producing a work to make sure it is not something that could lead to trouble for anyone.
Similar to the topic of journalistic integrity, I believe that it is our responsibility to make certain that no one involved is at risk by the publication of a work. Having now put up numerous works online either on my own website, YouTube, and our class blog, it makes sense that if one person is uncomfortable with having a work that they were involved in being seen by others, their opinion should be respected.
I also have learned that there is always a risk when putting up a piece of work for the public to have access to. Our class discussion mentioned the possibility of parents, alumni, or university staff viewing our material, which is an important thing to think about. Some argue that our school's reputation needs to be protected first and foremost, but I only believe that to a certain degree. Some of my works have raised controversial issues, especially my second quarter hypertext. The research may portray some people in a harmful light, but I have learned that the best writing is the kind that discusses controversial topics, and to some degree, things must be brought to light that others would rather turn a blind eye to. Based on my work and the discussions we've had, I think that it is not wrong to bring up topics that may make some people uncomfortable to discuss, but this has to be done so that those who are caught up in the discussion are not harmed by it, such as those who helped my movie group or those I talked to for my hypertext.
When we began our first analytical hypertext, we were told that the literature review was to become the most important lesson to learn from our time in our CTW I and II classes. After writing two amateur attempts at literature reviews, I do believe that the ability to write a comprehensive and thoughtful lit review is the most underrated and overlooked part to presenting a convincing piece of work.
Unfortunately, my two attempts at writing literature reviews are very amateur and at best, they give a very basic and introductory look at debates going on in literature. In fact, in all reality they honestly probably do not depict much of the real debate at all, but in writing them, I learned a part of the process of good writing that I never knew existed or was crucial at all in the professional field. My lit reviews were very limited, usually to what I found on search engines and with the SCU Library databases, which were surprisingly extremely helpful. I learned to recognize true scholarly pieces of writing on these issues, which is very important in the future for knowing where to look for the right sources. Many of my sources even came from experts in their field, as I noticed that their names came up in other bibliographies and literature reviews. While the reviews I wrote were hastily done due to time constraints and general lack of knowledge about my topic, I can understand and appreciate now the importance of this piece of the process; it gives a piece of work so much more credibility and obviously shows the degree to which it was thought out and investigated.
I realize that many real comprehensive literature reviews can takes months if not years of work to compile, read, and analyze, which is a task I would find very daunting, but I also have learned that the most credible sources of analysis on a topic are those who have done the necessary research and reading.
Having spent two quarters in this CTW course, I clearly learned a lot about how to design and put together a hypertext website. This has actually been one of my favorite skills to learn, as I actually believe it will come in handy in the future. With the direction society is moving, any sort of visual technological presentation of one's work is helpful to reaching an audience, so I am glad I have learned how to make websites. To date, I've made 4 complete hypertexts, over 30 pages of research, writing and presentation, all of which I built out of a blank slate.
I learned a lot about the presentation factor of my information - how to display a website so it is clear and not messy and flows well. I've learned a lot about strategic placement of text, images, and navigation links, which greatly affects how a person engages in the site subconsciously.
While this class was somewhat an unconventional English class, I still learned about how to write in a different way, which was how to present my findings in a way that made it easy to link the pages and make them flow together while at the same time making each page its own clear topic. Splitting an entire paper up over 12 to 15 pages which can each stand on its own is not easy, especially since they can be accessed in any random order.
After two quarters in this CTW course, I can say I honestly learned a lot. Personally, I am less of a creative person and am more of a strict logical kind of person who prefers math and science, but I had a good time actually working on a creative side of myself and it was nice to have as much freedom as I did to decide on topics, designs, and presentations of material that actually interested me. I would take this class again because I think that new media is the way to present material going forward, as these types of presentation reach an exceptionally large audience and are engaging as well. And at the end of the day, I'd rather sit down to write and design a website than write a linear paper. It stimulates the mind and especially the creative side of the person working on it, which trickles down into evey piece of work and detail that I put into my projects.