Final Portfolio Outcome Essay
Writing was a painful and repetitive process, as was my first impression of it. I felt confined by my meager vocabulary and ineffective in how I communicated my thoughts. Yet my assumptions were built upon the presumption that writing entailed monotonous expression. However, this course overturned my long-held stereotype by unveiling a brand-new world where writing is manifested in collective intelligence, communication, and a vast array of multi-form media.
The course was constructed in a progressive manner, where students began with simple assignments that evolved in difficulty. The process required theoretical and applied writing that gradually equipped us with new media know how. The knowledge we gained from the reading material was reinforced through a combination of straightforward and challenging assignments that ranged from creating avatars and a movie montage to making podcasts and visualizing data. While none involved direct interaction with words and syntax, each embodied crucial elements of effective writing, especially in an era that values technology and multi-form media. For instance, the assignment in which we established our own website through coding taught us how to write within a technological environment. Compared to traditional composition that uses human language, writing in this sense invoked a novel transformation from computer language into comprehensible human information, which is especially relevant as our society enhances modern technological literacy.
Data visualization, on the other hand, prompted us to rethink writing as a fixture in a variety of mediums. In this assignment, I visualized an abstract idea of How Japanese I am, namely how affected I am by Japanese culture. To answer this conceptual question in a grounded and descriptive fashion, I incorporated multiple visualization tools including a column chart, a pie chart, an ordinal scale, and a ratio scale. For my work to be concise but instructive, I carefully drafted verbal descriptions supplemented with graphical representation. Specifically, I paid particular attention to my word choice to avoid redundancy, enclosing information in the graphical section as much as possible. I further revised my work by referring to how my classmates delineated their arguments while pinpointing helpful methods they employed. Megan’s interactive column chart, for example, convinced me to change mine into an interactive graph. In a nutshell, my composition in this course greatly increased my awareness as a writer who can now engage in a manifold and mechanical style of composition. My growing familiarity with the diversity of media necessitated repeated editing, critiques of other’s work, and personal reflection. This process exemplified a painstaking writing journey within the new media context.
As a result of our unique compositional and creative experiences, we were able to travel through a cascade of rhetorical situations. Our arkhe (origin) was our technology literacy narrative, in which we reflected on the role of technology in our life through traditional writing. Though that piece still catered to conventional readers, the status quo shifted completely when we began to launch our podcast episodes. The impact was striking as we became accustomed to the colloquial and playful ambience surrounding podcast media. Our discussions still maintained their profound and informative nature, but our expression differed from that of written assignments. For example, in the episode Bilibili and Participatory Democracy, I dramatized my conversation with Rui by frequently using high-pitched voices. Pure analytical writing, though, does not exhibit such dramatic emotional change. The reason for this modification lay in the shift of audience into a group of listeners who called for drama and anecdotes to inspire further discussion. While the episode I oversaw allowed for scripting, the episode with which I assisted, My Favorite Murder, exposed me to an improvisational environment that scared me off with its rhetorical shock—it reminded me of how much the purpose of a podcast differs from that of writing. I quickly realized ordinary strategies no longer applied on this occasion. Podcasts were essentially casual talks and served the purpose of eliciting informal conversation that listeners felt welcomed to join. I was at first panicked, even a bit irritated, but eventually dealt with this uncertainty after honing my critical thinking ability. In the preparation stage, I sorted and synthesized information relevant to my podcast through a host of texts including scholarly articles (Jenkin’s article of Spreadable Media), social media commentary (Facebook messages), and online news resources (Phoenix, New York Times, and Forbes Review). Being well-prepared, I could fully immerse myself in the delightful and casual environment when recording, through which my early turmoil was converted into improvisational knowledge. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” would be the best way to summarize what I gained from adapting to different rhetorical situations.
Besides customization, we were also asked to appropriate content from its original rhetorical situation to another. In the Equality of Opportunity Project, official research outcomes were presented in a way that leaned towards exclusive readers; the authors did not cater to the masses. To connect the analysis of the social mobility rate with the audience (students) who actually needed the data, we referred to the official website but translated the authors’ work into a more inclusive piece by adding our own interpretations and research protocols. Instead of a compilation of complicated data sets and empirical articles, we explained our findings explicitly through clear-cut charts and plain language. We also made our project more student-friendly by assembling interviews from our friends and peers at Emory. In this way, we gave the audience a sense of comfort that they were consuming information to which they felt connected.
Collaboration also played a noteworthy part in this project and in all others we undertook. When producing the podcast series, we split ourselves into distinct roles to generate a complete effect for the audience. In My Favorite Murder, Mckenzie acted as an expert and I acted as an outsider who asked her important questions. In Bilibili, our roles were reversed: I was the insider, and Rui was the novice. In both cases, we deliberately echoed each other to guide listeners through our analysis of the subject. Such a tacit approach was expanded in the Equality of Opportunity Project when we broke into three research groups but presented outcomes that interplayed naturally with each other.
Finally, what I considered the best personal take-away from this course was a handful of websites that offered useful resources. Creative Commons, Unsplash, Flickr, Free Music Archives… Each website has its respective rules in technology use, and our duty was to understand it to engage in appropriate online behavior. In other words, we improved our respective digital identities by learning the responsibilities of a net citizen.
“Black characters on white paper” depicted my experience with writing over the past 19 years. But no, writing is in fact colorful and malleable. It can be a work of art and science, an outcome of collaboration, or an integration of communication strategies. I am thankful that this course has uncovered a broad and fascinating realm before me, and I look forward to delving more deeply into it in the future.