Next Ten Years

Photo credit: Talia’s Tidbits

“There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” –C.S. Lewis

As a person with an extremely high level of anxiety, I have to say that one of the things I fear the most is change. If one small detail changes or something doesn’t go exactly according to plan, I have a tendency to fall apart. As I get older, I realize more and more that the biggest difference between who I am now and who I was when I was a teenager is that I anticipate that change…and brace myself for it.

I’ll give you an example. I got my very first tattoo the day of my seventeenth birthday, and I decided what I was going to get probably an hour before I actually got it. For some reason, I was convinced that I would always like it and want it. The thought of having any regrets or change of heart about my tattoo never even crossed my mind. Today, just five years later, I wish I had never gotten it (or the other two that impulsively followed).

I’ll give you a technological example. When I first started Facebook as a freshman in high school, I really didn’t think too much about what I was posting online. I didn’t post anything inappropriate, per se, but the thought that I would one day be on the job market or applying to colleges never crossed my mind, either. I would use Facebook status updates as a way to log my every thought and emotion–something that greatly embarrasses me now, needless to say. I deleted that Facebook a couple of years ago (rather than sift through and delete hundreds of posts) and created a new one. I try to keep it–along with all of my other online presences–as professional as possible because if I’ve learned anything, it’s that I’m not beyond regretting past decisions.

I think my conscientiousness in respects to my online presence will enhance the future that I currently envision. In ten years, I want to have graduated from a Ph.D. program somewhere back east and have a tenure-track position (one can dream) as an English professor at a small liberal arts or community college. (Of course, this future vision is subject to change.) My five point plan regarding maintaining an online presence that is cohesive to my aspirations, then, is as follows:

  1. Avoid posting controversial things online. I love to argue until I’m blue in the face (I was voted most likely to become a lawyer in elementary school), but  I don’t think that hashing out political opinions online is the way to go. I wouldn’t want my beliefs to compromise my ability to be a college’s ideal Ph.D./teaching candidate.
  2. Limit the time I spend on social media. I love Instagram as much as the next person, but I might want to consider only going on once a day so that I don’t have a constant distraction when I’m studying or working.
  3. Make a presence on professional media forums, rather than just social ones. Although one could argue that professional networking sometimes happens on Facebook and Instagram, I know that there are other platforms more geared towards that networking that I have not tapped into yet (i.e., LinkedIn). I need to make a profile so that my credentials are more readily accessible.
  4. Use sleep mode on my phone more often. Even though I can ignore texts or other pinging noises from my phone when they occur during my studying, the noises still distract me from whatever I’m doing and make it difficult for me to refocus myself. If I were to start using the sleep mode more often, I might actually get through a task without having to glance at the screen!
  5. Focus on being more tech-savvy. I tend to have a kind of pessimistic view of technology, which is not good if I am going to be teaching a generation of people who grew up with phones in their cribs. I need to stay up-to-date on things (without becoming addicted or obsessed) so that I don’t get completely left behind in the dust.

Digital media can be friend or foe; it all just depends on how you use it. Five to eight years ago, I didn’t ever assume that I would I change, and so I created my online presences accordingly. Now, I realize that digital media can be my friend as long as I am actively in control of my consumption and remain conscientious of what I’m using that technology for. To fully actualize my goal of releasing myself from a total, debilitating dependency on technology, I need to start limiting my usage and utilizing some of the sleep mode and airplane mode functions (stated above in my five-point plan). Since I’m currently in finals week, I would say that I’m in a good position to begin carrying out my plan (since I’ve already had to detach from my phone a little bit).

I have to work constantly on accepting that change is always around the corner. The great thing about growing up though is that I actually have the foresight to anticipate these changes. (No pun intended, as I just got my first pair of glasses!)

So, here I am about to finish a writing class

Photo credit: Talia’s Tidbits

I grew up hearing my mom say, “every mind is a world all its own.” As I worked, learned, and grew through the course of this semester (specifically this class), I have realized more and more how much truth is in those words. In the process of creating my own online presence, I’ve come to find that people consume digital information differently. What I learned about myself as a writer, then, is that as long as I exercise my authentic voice, I will find an audience who appreciates that voice.

In line with this idea of an authentic self, I call upon James E. Porter’s words from “Recovering Delivery for Digital Rhetoric”: “The sincerity of one’s commitment to the appropriate coordination of one’s thoughts, feelings, and bodily expressions are important to rhetorical effect” (209). In channeling this “authentic self,” I am myself a rhetorical being. From this perspective, I feel like how I say something is just as important, if not more, than what I say. I also find that Jean Baudrillard’s “The Precession of Simulacra,” while complicated, is one of the more interesting texts I engaged with this semester. Baudrillard writes, “Something has disappeared: the sovereign difference, between one and the other, that constituted the charm of abstraction” (2). Especially in this current sociopolitical climate, I think it is of particular importance to study how the lines between “reality” and “abstraction” become blurred, especially when that blurring occurs online. Perhaps more than anything else, this is knowledge that I want to continue working with beyond the scope of this semester.

Focusing back on the scope of this semester, I am pleased to report that I feel like I was able to work with all of the concepts that I initially wanted to focus on in the course. I would say that I had the most success exploring visual elements in online rhetoric (my Instagram and website project, respectively, work with this) and developing my “on demand” creativity (again, my Instagram and website project allowed me to work with this). Also, I can happily report that there isn’t anything that I feel like I wanted to learn but didn’t get a chance to, especially since I didn’t really have any expectations of what I would learn going into the course. “New media” was such a broad term that I just committed to being along for the ride from the git-go.

And what a great ride it has been.

Final Website Introduction, Theoretical Analysis and Reflection

Photo credit: Talia’s Tidbits

In defense of my final project (that sounds so formal, doesn’t it?), I’m referring all the way back to Jay David Bolter’s “Writing for Technology” chapter of Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print: “The linear character of print is the outcome of the constant interaction between the properties of the printed book and the decisions that Western authors and readers have made about how to exploit those properties” (21). Although I would probably refute the word “exploitation” because of the negative connotation, I feel like Bolter’s words really hone in on the work that I am doing with Shelf Scout: Literacy Project. I have combined the elements of more traditional printed text (the Word document downloadable activities) with the less-linear technological text (vertical text and images). I actually referred back to this quote frequently in the formation of my Instagram project, so using it again makes the whole thing feel like it has come full circle.

I also found that Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast episode entitled “Tech’s Moral Reckoning” resonated with me. Guest speaker Anil Dash says, “We bake our values into the choices we make when we design these tools.” I am creating my website because I value fun and creativity in higher education, so this is something that I consciously have to weave into every decision: text, color scheme, activities, images, etc. While my website is just as creative and fun (I hope) as the Shelf Scout Instagram, I would venture to say that it does much more than the Instagram project in terms of Transmedia engagement. The two projects are linked–literally and theoretically–but the website gives people the opportunity to interact with the content more fully, as they are encouraged to develop and modify activities to their needs and likings. It will be exciting to see if anyone uses the activities and provides feedback on how they engaged with the downloadables to make them their own.

Check out Shelf Scout: Literacy Project here!