learning essay [second quarter].

_____Before taking this class at Santa Clara, I could have never imagined taking an English class that did not involve handing in papers.  However, this class allowed me to still express my thoughts and opinions through writing, but added a whole new aspect to my papers as well.  In addition to the traditional style of writing an analytical or research paper, making websites containing the text allowed for more dimensions to be added.  In many cases I found that the ability to add images, videos, sounds, and links to external sources made my projects more interesting and interactive. While a normal essay consists solely of black ink on white paper, with the most exciting and interesting aspects being italicized words, using new media allows for so much more that I was able to take full advantage of.
            Not only is my work from this class more aesthetically pleasing than a traditional essay, but also it is more informative.  It is true that a picture can speak a thousand words and the addition of graphics to each project added a lot more to the point I was making.  Rather than simply having a thesis statement and then supporting my claim with various sources and quotes that I found, by publishing websites I was also able to provide graphic and video material to support my claim and from there link to other websites that could further inform the reader.  Overall, this class was very different from any other class I have ever taken before, but the skills and programs I learned in this class can be translated into many different classes, assignments, jobs, hobbies, and more.
            In an anthropology class I took earlier this year, I wrote a ten-page research paper discussing the differences in body image and beauty standards between American and Japanese cultures.  I was very excited to do this project and found the most interesting research and histories.  However, much of this enthusiasm was lost when I translated my knowledge onto plain white paper via a traditional essay.  I struggled in attempts to explain and compare photographs I had seen of ancient Japanese geisha and tanned women in Western culture.  My awkward descriptive sentences did not convey nearly as much as a several photographs could have easily done.  This paper was also very difficult to make linear.  In my mind when I wrote it, I seemed to be linking back to previous statements I had made or the cover of a magazine I had seen.  Had I been given the opportunity to complete this project in a website or animated film, I think my message would have been much clearer and my evidence more convincing with visible support rather than textual descriptions.
_____Furthermore, if I had the option to do so, “remixing” the Bible would be a great exercise for any religion class.  The Bible was written so long ago that typically the parables and examples given by Jesus are no longer applicable to this time period.  As if the text is not hard enough to understand on its own, it is often hard to see how the Bible can relate to your own life. Therefore, this makes it more difficult to truly live the values presented by the Bible when everything is in terms of sheep, shepherds, and oil candles.  Rather than simply writing a generic essay on the values or meaning of a given passage from the Bible, it would be much more useful to remix the stories instead.  In order to remix something, it is first essential that the reader fully understand the text in the first place to successfully make an accurate version.  After this, a remix of the Bible would be very useful because it would put important values and messages in a context that it easier to understand and more relevant to our modern lives.  Overall, the assignment of remixing the novel Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow, forced me to really understand and analyze the themes, characters, and predicaments presented in the book and apply them to different situations and be able to explore the possibilities with the given framework.  In addition to understanding the novel better, the various projects of remixing Little Brother allowed me to apply scholarly techniques to creative and innovative projects, utilizing many different medias that the Internet and this class offered.
_____Linear essays are simple enough to write when the author is writing from one of two clear positions.  However, there are always more than two sides to each issue.  In order to clearly explain the various sides and complexes that go into the issue, the media in which the project or report is completed must also have many dimensions, just like the issue itself.  Projects done in a website format can convey the various involved parties of a given issue in a clearer and more organized way.  A linear essay written on complicated issues would be much more convoluted and difficult to follow than a navigable website with links, navigation bars, and photos.
_____Although I do not know precisely what direction I am headed in for a career, the skills that I learned in this class will do me well despite my choice of profession.  New media is the media of the future and regardless of my career, I will encounter new media again in my path and will be well equipped with the skills and techniques I learned for making a successful website.  I first entered this class with no background of anything remotely similar to publishing websites, but through instruction and plenty of practice I was able to hone my visions and aesthetics and transform them into successful and clear websites.  By taking this class, I not only improved my writing and critical thinking skills, but I also learned how to translate those into a website that is both visually pleasing and effective for whatever purpose it is serving.  In addition to simply getting credit for taking this English class, I learned skills in this class that will serve me for a lifetime and will make an appearance on my resume.  New media is not a passing trend and knowing how to make a basic website is a skill I will certainly use again in my life and be able to build and improve upon.
_____In addition to the technical skills this class provided me with, the reading of Little Brother was also very informative and pertinent to today’s society.  One theme that especially stood out to me was the issue of redefining normal.  It made me realize that “normal” is a very subjective description that can easily change depending on the person and situation.  In order to highlight on this, one of my comic strips was on this issue discussing how we can easily redefine the normal with enough people behind the same movement.  Another topic that particularly struck me was the issue of privacy versus security.  I, personally, wrestled with this issue in my head as I read Little Brother not fully knowing where I stood on the issue and what I would have done in any given situation.  My other comic strip addressed this issue with a more comical spin on the very serious matter. I think the novel was very effective in that it caused the reader to question hypothetical situations that could be imposed in the future.  Overall, it made me question many things I have grown up believing and has really caused me to think about my own values and motives.
_____The first quarter of this class came as a huge shock to me.  Before taking this, my technological abilities were just developed enough to use an email account and check the weather.  Our first website was a long, irritating, and difficult process for me.  However, once I started to get a feel for the program and what various aspects make a successful website, I was able to further develop my skills and improve upon my pages. By the end of our first quarter, I felt fairly confident in my web design and felt that my pages had developed greatly since my first attempt.  Looking back at my layout and navigation bars it seems like an eternity ago that I would have made such mistakes! I enjoyed web design because it allowed me to apply my own design aesthetic and personal taste in web pages to turn a vision into an Internet reality.
_____By the time the second quarter of this class rolled around, I had a minor panic attack.  When I sat down before Adobe Dreamweaver it seemed very foreign and complicated to me.  However, with a little tinkering I found that the skills I had honed two quarters earlier came back to me with little trouble.  From that point on, I was able to pick up where I left off and only continue to improve on my web design, graphic layout, navigation bars, organization, font generation, and more.  The second quarter of this class also pushed my boundaries because different types of assignments were to be published on our websites that opened many doors for layout and linking possibilities.  I especially enjoyed making a webpage for a piece of prose fan fiction I wrote about Little Brother.  Because this assignment was composed in a website format, there were many options I had that definitely added great deal of interest to my project that would not have been possible in a traditional printed format.
_____The final video project for this class was a huge struggle for me.  Once again, I had to learn the basics of a new program (which was a lot harder than The Sims) and then just play around on my own until I figured out how to achieve what I needed to do.  In addition to the technological side of the project, I also learned to really appreciate the various strengths and weaknesses in myself and the partners I worked with.  This project was definitely an accumulation of all of our strengths and in the end our video turned out very successful because we worked very well together as a team and played up our own strong points.
_____Before this class, I had never really thought too much about networked writing or how the digital age is affecting writing.  However, the more I learned and wrote, the clearer it became that writing will never be the same.  People today are more connected and educated than they used to be and with all this information on the Internet, it leads to a greater spread of knowledge.  Networked writing is more effective because it can link directly to exterior sources, images, videos, etc that the reader would not be able to access in a traditional printed version.  This definitely adds a lot of interest to the piece and educates the reader on a whole new level.  Digital media will only continue to grow and people will be educated and participate more as it does.
_____Overall, this class was much more than merely an English course to me.  In addition to improving my writing, I learned lifelong skills that will serve me well throughout my future education and career.  I am thankful for this class because it taught me so much more than I expected.  All in all, I am leaving this class with a plethora of new skills and am excited to have begun my own journey though the mass web of networked writing and look forward to deepening my participation in new media.


This website is being created for CTW 1 at Santa Clara University for Marc Bousquet.