This portfolio reflection is for David Morgen’s ENG221 New Media Writing Class. The link to the course page can be found HERE.
I was almost entirely unsure of what to expect during my time in ENG221. The description of the class sounded intriguing, but I had little to no artistic skill or practice coming into the semester so I was worried I would be exposed as the one kid who couldn’t make anything that looked nice. As it turns out, I was that kid, at least for the first week or so of the class.
The first assignment we had to do was create a website and a domain. I had already done something similar to this freshman year, so I assumed that once again it would be simple and straightforward. Of course, I was wrong and setting up the website was quite the challenge. However, after reading some online tutorials I quickly figured out how to get everything up and running in a basic form. Reading instructions would be an important theme throughout my semester that we will certainly come back to.
After the website was created, we hit the ground running with small, weekly assignments, called sketches. These started somewhat simply and progressed to more challenging tasks in various different technological modes. The first sketch we had to do (after picking an avatar) was called a combo photo, which is essentially combining two or more photos to create one seamless image. I pieced together several different images, believing I had gone above and beyond the requirement and sure to do well on the first assignment. To my horror, the next day Professor Morgen scrolled through each combo photo on the projector. I realized quite instantly that I had completely misinterpreted the assignment and had created something that looked like this:
Instead of something that should’ve looked more like this:
It was my first attempt at some critical thinking on how to attack the first sketch, but I had missed the mark completely. However, looking back, it was probably a fantastic thing that I failed on the first sketch because it opened my eyes into the details that I needed to focus on if I wanted to complete each project.
From there, the improvement was drastic, most quickly and noticeably with my “Fractured” playlist. At the time of the sketch assignment, I had recently just fractured my hand, so I thought it would be appropriate to compose a playlist that encapsulated all of the phases of the injury. “The Fall”, “The Break”, and “Healing.” I feel as if this was the first time where I truly grasped the full meaning of a sketch assignment. I could have thrown together a bunch of songs that I liked that would have had little to no meaning, but I decided to do something that had a slight bit of humor intertwined. I think I grasped two of the learning outcomes in this single sketch, as my critical thinking about the assignment resulted in a piece of work that resulted in a piece of work that was outside the norm. Had I not thought critically about this work, I am sure I would have created something that was more similar to my first few assignments that were bland and lacking in character. I also achieved rhetorical composition as this was a new form of media in a sense for me. I had never created a playlist before or even thought of a playlist as something that could really tell a story, but I adapted something that had happened in my real life into a story told by music. I also loved that I could embed the playlist right onto my website and have it be interactive right there.
I feel like the next appropriate place to turn the attention to would have to be the podcast series that we did in groups of 3. Throughout my college experience, I had done exactly 1 group project before, so it is safe to say I had little experience in that realm. I had even less experience in creating a podcast, so the combination of the two was daunting. My first role in the first episode of the podcast production was as line producer. As line producer, my job was to record and edit the podcast to make it sound as good as possible. To my surprise, the software Audacity was simple and intuitive to use. There were several times where I was lost, but luckily one of my group members had used the software before and I asked him for help. Taking a look at some of the 21st Century Skills, it is clear to see that collaboration, communication, and problem-solving were all at play when working in a group setting. It was beneficial for me to serve as line producer first and work on these skills so that I could better use them during my time as the producer.
I am going to gloss over my role as assistant producer in our Vox episode for the sake of time and also because I felt like the producer of that episode did a fantastic job, so much so that I felt I didn’t even contribute enough to the podcast! My role as producer was an interesting one, as the topic I really wanted to cover, Reddit, had already been covered by us in the first episode. I settled on Netflix, a very broad ranging topic, and initially had trouble refining my topic into something that we could discuss in a 10 to 15-minute time frame. Eventually, with the help of my colleagues, figured out a way to cut the topic into a discussion on the effects binge-watching will have on network T.V. This exercise was a textbook example of how writing as a process helped improve my work. Without sitting down and revising the initial idea, I have no doubt that our podcast could have been incoherent and unwieldy. Although, after discussing with Professor Morgen, the episode could have been refined even further if we had instead focused on a single T.V. show instead of several.
Transitioning back to the sketches, I feel as if I would be doing myself a slight disservice if I didn’t at least mention the work that I am undoubtedly proudest of this semester. And that would be my cinemagraph:
I spent quite a while on this project, mainly because Photoshop crashed right as I was trying to export the final product. I was extremely discouraged but creating the cinemagraph was so much fun that I was eager to do it again, this time trying to do it without intently following the Lynda.com tutorial. I am confident in saying that this work was the best in terms of the result I got out of it this semester, as it is something that I have shown to many people outside of this class. I also feel as if I mastered the art of fair digital citizenship as I appropriately tagged the creator of the video. This is something that I learned during the podcasts but mastered during the remaining sketches.
Finally, we worked on the Equality of Opportunity Project in class in small groups. The practice of working with my podcast group helped tremendously in settling conflicts quickly and easily in our new groups. I felt comfortable sharing my ideas and critiquing others without fear of embarrassment. The project itself helped shed light on the low mobility rate epidemic that plagues the United States. Personally, I was interested to see if the Southern region of the United States had a higher mobility rate than the other 3 regions across the country. I am sad to report that the South has one of the lowest mobility rates out of all of the regions. It was disheartening to learn that fact, and even more disheartening to look through all of the numbers across the individual states. There were only 3 or 4 states with mobility rates that were anywhere near serviceable, the rest were abysmal. I feel that this project encapsulated everything that we did in the semester into one final project that we were able to show some numerical reports and analysis.
Overall, this course has opened my eyes to so many vastly different forms of media that I have seriously contemplated using extensively in my future. While I certainly have no idea what is in store for me, I do know that at least a handful of the skills and ideas that I have obtained from this class will be incredibly useful to me wherever I may end up. Thank you Professor Morgen for a great semester!