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Learning Essay

Little Brother
For my remixes and hypertext, I tried to work with a variety of themes from Little Brother. I made my first remix with the Bitstrips program, and it was actually a lot to easier to use than I thought it would be. Instead of incorporating a precise theme, I decided to delve into Marcus’s relationship with his parents in this first remix. With his ensuing battle against the DHS, he doesn’t realize how much his parents really care about his well-being, and even when he does, he still continues on his mission. For this reason, I didn’t exactly warm to Marcus’s character at first because I thought he was very self-absorbed and arrogant. In the comic, I tried to apply a humorous twist by making him appear overly dramatic and annoying. For my first attempt at a remix, I thought it was decent.
For my second remix with Comic Life, I tried to work more with a concrete theme or idea from the novel. I decided to concentrate on Doctorow’s concept of Operation False Positive, which actually really confused me at first. With so many odd terms in the book, it made it difficult to comprehend some ideas like changing the definition of normal with crypto and the Xnet. (I still have no clue what crypto is.) Even though I still don’t understand how Marcus and his friends changed it, I understand what they were trying to do by making normal people appear abnormal. I attempted to incorporate this idea into my comic, but it was kind of hard to be creative with it when I was still trying to understand the concept myself. I found it was also much more difficult to create a remix that is not based on the original plotline, but I was satisfied with my effort. I hope people can identify the Simpsons as abnormal like I did.

With my following remix, I wanted to integrate it with a theme that interested me more, like people’s freedom and rights, which is a major theme in the book. I decided to remix Rihanna’s song “SOS” to describe Marcus’s fight to protect people’s rights. I was particularly struck by the line “Take it Back,” so I wanted to emphasize this point in the song. Another thing that really struck me was the fact that the government was implementing lots of new security and surveillance after the terrorist attack to find the terrorists. One of these methods was the Patriot Act II, which the government institutes to monitor people via their debit and credit card transactions—but how does this really help catch the terrorists? People shouldn’t have to give up their privacy or rights for impractical methods of catching terrorists. Even though it probably was not my most creative hypertext, I enjoyed writing it and I think it turned out pretty well.

The next remix involved making the script, which was actually my favorite project this quarter. I’ve always been interested in films and scripts in general, and I really enjoyed learning more about the process of turning an idea into an actual movie. Even though the tutorial videos, the worksheets, and the class activities seemed tedious at times, all of these methods really helped and definitely enhanced the script process overall. While reading the story, the differing views of Marcus and his dad always interested me. Marcus maintained very liberal views of fighting for one’s rights and supporting people’s privacy. His dad, however, believed that rights and privacy should be sacrificed in some cases—especially if it is necessary to keep people safe and catch terrorists. Both have valid points, and through the whole book, I was unable to decide which one I agreed with the most. In the end, I decided that I agreed with Marcus more, especially with all of the radical changes in security in the book. In a way, Docotorow’s influence showed me that unreasonable policies should not be put into effect, especially if they limit one’s rights. For my script, I decided to change the plot of the story by having Marcus change the definition of normal for one reason specifically: to prove his dad wrong. Although it wasn’t the most creative storyline, I liked how the script turned out. I thought that the dialogue was effective and the movie turned out really well, too.

Overall, I am incredibly satisfied with the final results of this project.
For my research hypertext, I decided to concentrate on the theme of security. Originally, I wanted to write about national security and how it limits people’s rights, but I thought that would be way too broad. Instead, I decided to focus on security in schools, discussing how it restricts students’ rights and potentially affects their learning. Unlike the other research projects we performed in this course, this one was particularly challenging because it involved inferring Doctorow’s standpoint on the issue and then comparing it to the other views. At first, I found it kind of difficult to integrate his opinions into the hypertext with my other research. Once I looked at him as just another source, it became easier. I realize my hypertext is more based upon security in schools with some Doctorow mixed in, even though the majority should have been more Doctorow. With more time, I would have attempted to change it around some to focus more on Doctorow’s standpoint. Overall, I am very satisfied with my hypertext. I put a lot of work and effort into it—especially the research. With the scholarly contributions and my inferences on Doctorow’s standpoint, I think it turned out to be a successful project.

Complicated Conversations and Hypertext
When representing a complicated conversation, it is important to consider all of the standpoints on the issue. In order to accomplish this, you have to research the topic to understand at least the basic conversation. Once you are able to map out the basic conversation from the literature you researched, then you can mark your own “blank space” on the map of the conversation. Therefore, it is useful to represent the conversation because then it allows you to contribute your own original contribution to the conversation. For an original contribution, you could look for alternative views on the topic, either in the form of polls or interviews, which could result to be a monumental part of the conversation. In addition, researching a topic allows you to consider alternative positions on an issue and helps you to form your own ideas or opinions on the topic, promoting inquisitive learning.

One way to represent such a complicated conversation is to use a hypertext. This allows you to organize the various points of view on multiple pages. With a hypertext, you can organize the standpoints with links to actually connect them with one another. This actually creates a visual map of the conversation, showing how the different views tie into one another. Plus, then you can integrate your own personal input into the map as well. A hypertext can also be useful because it can allow the reader to participate in the conversation, too; blogs are a good means of doing this. You can also include other forms of media like videos or pictures, which can enhance the map of the issue even more and really make the topic clear.

Future Use
Writing multi-sided conversations definitely isn’t easy, but I feel like this class has definitely prepared me for similar assignments in the future. With these research hypertexts, I’ve found that research with actual scholarly sources is incredibly vital for such a project because it allows you to make connections between the standpoints and to develop your own ideas as well; it’s so much more than just developing a thesis and basing your paper off of that. Instead, you really have to compare and contrast the different standpoints with your own as well. Also, if you add an original contribution, you have to consider how it would change the overall conversation. As a science major, I can see myself using these abilities in future research. I am interested in doing some sort of scientific research later in my college career, which involves this same process of gaining knowledge on a particular problem and seeing how others have tried to solve it. By seeing what methods have worked and what haven’t, then you can propose your own method to solving the problem and then conduct your own research. Finally, you can compare your results to the others and see how they connect.

First vs. Second Terms
Because this course is based off of the theme of new media, the first quarter involved using new media for straight-forward and and conventional purposes. Since so much of today’s information and knowledge can be easily accessed through new media, it is important for people to learn how to share their own material via new media. Over the first quarter, we learned different ways in which we can share our work, like with hypertexts. This form of media allows you to present a whole issue by connecting to other positions or sources. Hypertexts give you the option of linking to other websites, adding pictures or videos, and providing an easy way to manuever quickly through lots of information. There is a whole different language with hypertexts, however, that one has to learn in order to develop a good quality site. For instance, it is important for writing to be as concise and as condense as possible since it allows observers to easily browse through it. Besides hypertexts, we also used a class blog. This allowed us to easily share our ideas, and it provided easy access to view other peers’ work. Blogs are a really great way to share ideas and even to develop a conversation with others. We worked a lot with these two forms of media, which really strengthened our knowledge on how to use them for second quarter.

During the second quarter, we used the media to think of the course content in a new way. With so much practice from the previous quarter, we gathered the knowledge necessary to create an organized and well-written hypertext on a theme from Doctorow’s novel Little Brother. This project really tested us to see how well we could connect Doctorow’s standpoint represented in the book with the actual academic literature found in research. This was definitely tough, especially for me, since it involved a lot of inferring of Doctorow’s ideas. Besides this hypertext and additional blogging, we also used other programs such as iMovie, SecondLife, and some comic sites to make projects. It was actually kind of fun to use these programs to make remixes of the novel and adding your own individual twist. These projects actually had us focus on a theme that appealed to us and then to create a remix based on that topic. It was a really cool way to integrate what we were reading with some new media besides just writing another hypertext on the theme.

Overall, I feel like I learned a lot from this whole course. I have learned how to use a wide variety of new media software and programs, which I will try to incorporate into future projects. I have also learned how to accurately represent a complicated conversation and how to connect the different standpoints in the conversation. I admit, this course was definitely taxing and challenging, but I feel like it was all worth it in the end. I think that I greatly benefited from all of the knowledge and practice, especially with research, that I have gained in this course, and I feel prepared to apply this knowledge to my future college projects.