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In an era when information is readily available to anyone and everyone with internet access, we must ask ourselves serious questions regarding knowledge and learning.  What constitutes learning?  Is an information download really learning?  Do we lessen the importance of knowledge by allowing students to simply download the information from the internet?  Over the course of my Fall and Spring quarters of my freshman year at Santa Clara University, I took a class that helped to answer these questions for me: Marc Bousquet’s Writing in New Media: Remixing Little Brother.  This class addressed many issues, not only regarding those pertaining to technology and new media.  From exploring our own passions, to the low wage life, to fan fiction, and the real life implications of a novel, we covered a lot.  In this essay, I will be addressing all of the various assignments completed for the class, and in the end, how they pertain to the issues involved in technology.


The first major assignment I completed for this class was called a personal hypertext.  This involved choosing a topic that we were very passionate about in order to develop a meaningful connection to the TOPIC.  This was a very good fist assignment.  It allowed us to get comfortable with the new technology and with the differences in writing a linear essay versus a hypertextual one.  For me, this essay was difficult in some ways and easier in others.  The easiest part was doing the writing.  For my topic I picked the one thing I love the most, the Pacific Northwest.  As a resident of Tacoma, Washington, I found I was already so knowledgeable about me topic that the writing came to me easily.  What was not so easy was getting a firm grasp on Adobe Dreamweaver and all the related technologies.  Were figuring things out on the computer comes naturally to some, I have to work much harder.  A lot of the web design for my first project was trial and error.  It was a series of bad designs that eventually turned into a mediocre one.  A lot of that design was based on my unknown knack for picking and using fonts in a creative way.  Altogether, this project was a huge learning experience and a helpful was to begin a quarter of hypertextual assignments.


The second assignment was called the analytical hypertext.  The goal of this assignment was to discuss problems arising between group of people, discuss the different standpoints, to analyze and adopt my own opinion, and to finally propose solutions that the other groups might accept.  This assignment was interesting for me.  I chose a topic I was very passionate about: women and stereotypes.  Even though, the topic was important to me, the assignment was not memorable.  It is plain to see that I did learn more about web design.  I also found this assignment useful for looking at different points of view when addressing an issue.


The last major assignment of Fall quarter was the research hypertext.  This assignment followed the reading of several books regarding the low wage life, including Nickle and Dimed by Barabara Ehrenreich And Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. These books each offered insight into the many aspects and possibilities of a low wage  For the assignment, we were to pick a narrow topic of work and create a research hypertext.  The topic I chose was Agricultural Workers, specifically those in Eastern Washington State.  On of the goals of this assignment was to become more familiar with the workings of a major research assignment.  This involved learning how to write an annotated bibliography and a review of the literature.  This was a useful exercise and was successful in getting me more comfortable with web-based research in a very traditional context.


Overall the first quarter of Writing in New Media was a slew of new experiences.  Though I had done many research projects in high school, a review of the literature had never been assigned, nor an extensive annotated bibliography.  By including these aspects as a requirement of the research project, it made me realize how little import had been given to the process of research before.  Before the process of researching meant doing a Google Search with my topic in the search bar, skimming the first page of results, and writing based on whatever I initially found.  I have since learned that this is called Information Download.  It means that the information that is so readily available on the web becomes less important.  Anyone who only writes papers by this process has never truly done research.  The act of creating an annotated bibliography and a review of the literature forces the writer to not only fully process the information at hand and summarize it, but also to be able to integrate it with all of the other related information available.  This is research; to be able to create a web of all the information and analyze it in a way that is then original.


Then second quarter was a little different.  The most important part was that the original contribution we were expected to contribute became the central focus of the course.  The topics of conversation in class turned toward subjects that would at first seem very odd for a classroom setting.  We began talking about the realm of fan fiction and remixing, including comics.  The process of creating something that combine both original and borrowed thought may seem odd at first, but through our lectures we learned that it is in fact a valid form of making an original contribution.  Writing a screen play was a good learning experience. I learned a great deal about writing fanfiction and making a movie.  The whole process was exhausting and tried my patience with the Media Lab.  Despite my personal hardships, once the movie was finished, the satisfaction made it worthwhile. 


In connection with first quarter, spring quarter combined the research skills we learned with the actual experience of participating in New Media.  This was realized in full in the final project.  In the first quarter, we learned about the process of a research assignment and how to truly use the technology available to us to contribute something vaguely original.  The second quarter taught us how to create something original, while still relying on the novel, Little Brother, as a basis.  The final project was a great way to utilize all of the knowledge we had learned over the two quarters, specifically in regards to research and technology. 

     By learning about the importance of doing real research, the answers to my initial questions have been answered, at least to some extent.  With the invention of newer technologies, the attainment of information does become easier and easier.  In a sense this is a bad thing because in many educational settings the process of doing proper research is not taught.  This shows how education is of the upmost importance.  Without the tools, it is impossible to truly learn.        

 

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