Making a Composing Process More Visible

I finished the second chapter in Shipka’s Toward a Composition Made Whole, and a lot of this chapter discusses how mediational means that we employ in our writing become invisible throughout our writing process. For example, if I was writing a typical paper, everybody sees the final product: a six-paged document in a standard black font with a heading, title, and page numbers. No one can see the different types of media I may have used in my writing process: audio, pictures, news articles, etc. This can be considered as a “disappearance effect” in writing. In the text, Bruce and Hogan explain the “disappearance effect” by stating, “as technologies embed themselves in everyday discourse and activity, they slip into the background and it becomes far to easy to lose sight of the way they shape, whether for good or ill, the routine dimensions of our lives” (Shipka 54).

Although I’m being specific in describing the disappearance effect in writing, it is something that can be present in life in general. I think people should make their composing process more visible. The texts suggests that people should keep a “technology journal” or “videotape themselves through the course of the day or while working on a particular activity or project” (Shipka 56). These suggestions may be able to make people more aware of the technologies they use in their composing process every day. Shipka quotes Wertsch, who says that “conscious awareness is one of the most powerful tools available for recognizing and changing forms of mediation that have unintended and often untoward consequences” (Shipka 56). A “conscious awareness” can allow people to come up with “imaginable alternatives,” which can lead to “increased metacommunicative awareness” (Shipka 56). The end of the chapter had the most impact on me. It made me think about how I fail to recognize a lot of the technologies I use throughout my own composing process. It shed some light on the importance of imaginable alternatives, and how they would benefit my writing and metacommunicative awareness.

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Our very own Sundance!

This is less of a real post and more of a link-dump for convenience’s sake — we’re showing our video narratives in ENGL 3844 and needed a convenient way to DJ.

The Youtube playlist:

The Vimeo playlist:

And remember to vote for your favorites, which you can do here:

Hope you brought popcorn. Let’s do this thing!

Social Media Keeps Cropping Up

Before I began my Writing & Digital Media course this semester, I rarely thought about social media and its impact on the world–That sound’s kind of dumb, but I just didn’t. I accepted it as part of life and didn’t really question it. Since we’ve been talking about how much it impacts communication, however, I’ve started thinking about it more and more, and it keeps popping up where I’d least expect it.

Today was Virginia Tech’s Fall Open House. As a Hokie Ambassador here at Tech, I am a tour guide who’s required to give Open House tours. This meant that I had to wake up and be decked out in maroon and orange, smiling and happy on the steps of Burruss Hall at 11 am this morning. I had to give tours for three hours, which gave me time for three tours. Throughout the course of these tour sessions, I found myself talking a lot about social media. A college campus tour isn’t really where you’d expect to find so much talk about social media, and yet here it was coming out of my own mouth.

“You can use Facebook as a tool to find a roommate before you get to Tech!”

“Someone will create a Facebook event and everyone will head out to the Drillfield for the big civilian vs. corps snowball fight every year!”

“When I’m in the library all night, I’ll just tweet where I’m sitting in hopes that friends bring me food and coffee!”

The icing on the cake for me was when a girl asked me to take a picture on her phone of her and her parents in front of Burruss. The camera she handed me was already equipped to post the picture immediately to her Instagram account.

You just can’t escape it anymore.

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Cold Weather… Go Away…

It’s fall now and the cool breeze starts creeping into our daily lives. Although having some chilly weather once in a while is nice compare to sweating your butt off all the time during the summer, I realized how much I struggle with colder weather recently.
I have a set schedule for everyday, and certain times I wake up to kickoff my day. Since I wake up at 7:30 to work out on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sundays, I have begun to be more aware of the struggle of waking up as the mornings become chillier every week as September comes to a close.
Is this post random? Yes. Is it basically of a rant of how much I dislike the cold weather? Yes. And I apologize, but I need to get it out of my system to get over it.

In the mornings as my cellphone rings the alarm, I am becoming more comfortable with the bed and how warm and cozy it is in contrast to the 45 degrees Fahrenheit that lingers outside, waiting for my arrival for my morning runs. And yes I know what you’re thinking… “just run later in the day when it becomes warmer!” And I answer back, “it’s not the same.” Working out in the mornings allow me to wake up and meditate on the checklist of to-do list in my head, as well as giving me a refreshed feeling that I don’t get if I run in the afternoons or at night.

I know most people who work out will agree with me when I say getting up and actually getting dressed and heading out to work out is actually a more struggle than actually working out. But hang in there guys. The weather won’t change for us so we just have to fight it back and get out butts off the beds and just do it.

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Too Much Consideration for old Technology

Just a short thought.

While we’ve been talking about the dangers of new technology usurping effective older technologies, especially in the field of composition, I also want to bring up that it can be just as dangerous to be fixated on old and traditional methods and technologies. Progress is made for a reason, and sometimes a new tool really is just plain better than an older one.

I started thinking about this when I was talking to my aunt, who still uses a thirteen-year-old piece of crap computer. She uses dial up. According to her, it takes her hours to load a single video on Youtube. She keeps this computer because she is used to it, despite the pain it causes her.

I think this applies somewhat to composition, and how sometimes we can get caught up in forms of writing we are used to and avoid newer methods, even if the newer methods are better and more painless than what we’re familiar with.

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Making it work (or, Thoughts on The Collegiate Way Of Living)

I am a huge fan of the TV show Project Runway. My family’s watched it together for over a decade, and while it’s often as fluffy as any other reality series on air, it’s got a number of elements I really respect: designers who go above and beyond in their creative use of material and design, uniquely artistic challenges, and Tim Gunn — a mentor figure who constantly provides thoughtful feedback for the contestants, encouraging them to push their creativity even further and edit their designs into something that will actually work on the runway.

I watched a new episode of the show last night, so maybe it’s no surprise that the idea of tailoring has been on my mind. One-size-fits-all looks are rarely flattering for anyone, whether they’re supermodels or communities, and I think it’s worth extending this metaphor a little to take a look at The Collegiate Way of Living.

Yale’s residential college model is pretty fantastic, but it did not spring, fully-formed, out of nowhere. It evolved naturally, growing from the shared desires of the community and changing when something wasn’t working or when new opportunities appeared on the scene, and it is fully a reflection of the students and faculty who shaped it.

I think this is an important thing to keep in mind here in the HRC. It’s difficult to imagine that a residential college model developed at Yale would be possible to duplicate here at Virginia Tech. There are, after all, a number of significant differences between the student body at these two schools — not in the caliber of the student or our academic interests, necessarily, but in our backgrounds and collegiate culture. And that is not only okay but completely to be expected! All colleges and the communities they maintain are different, and that’s something that should be recognized and celebrated.

The problem comes when we try to follow Yale’s model to the letter and expect it to work exactly the same way in a different community. It’s a fantastic starting point, but we need to make sure that we’re flexible in our adoption of this model and give ourselves space to edit as necessary. A residential model perfectly tailored to one specific university isn’t going to fit another like a glove by default, in the same way a jacket tailored to perfectly flatter one person’s figure might pull across the shoulders or hang too loosely on their friend. The trick, as any good designer knows, is to use the basic form and then work on perfecting the fit for the individual who plans to wear their garment. The same goes for the structure of a community — if something’s uncomfortable or difficult to move around in, changing it is best for everyone involved.

The HRC has grown a lot in the three years I’ve been here, and will only continue to evolve in the future — almost certainly in some unexpected directions. I would encourage community members to draw inspiration from, but not cling to, Yale’s residential college model for its own sake, and instead remain open to putting a new twist on this classic piece. I believe that if we strike a balance between the residential model we’re using as a pattern and our own new ideas, we really have a chance to make this thing work.

Why I Will Never Be a Vlogger

- Or I Am Terrible at Video Projects -

I am a very visual writer. Description is my forte. It is easy for me to site down and visualize a scene – however, it is difficult for me to think in feasible camera shoots and scenes. 

This is incredibly frustrating, because when I am tasked with creating a video for a class, or simply for fun, I begin to picture a really awesome idea. For example, for the video I was producing in Scripting Woes, I had pictured a video in which the narrative synced up with an interesting walk around campus. But when I sat down to think about what I could feasibly shoot, I realized that I was going to have to go much simpler.

I don’t have the editing capacity, or the camera skills, or a mind for cutting a film together.


When I have to downsize an idea, usually the first iteration or so of that project is not…great. At least in my eyes. But there is a difference in movie making – you don’t really get drafts. Sure, we had to turn in a rough cut a week before the final was due, but, at that point, you basically have the idea down and people simply suggest what shots you need to film or music you need to get. We didn’t have time to redo the entire thing.

I get overambitious and end up with something that I feel is subpar compared to the ideas floating around in my head, because I don’t get my safety net of ‘first drafts can suck,’ and I lack the skills to a) write a decent script and b) film anything more complex than simple establishing shots/action shots. And I have to spread this video around – this subpar, simplistic, not all that great video. I know my inner critic is worse than reality, but I have to side with it in this case. I am terrified of other people seeing this – not because of the subject matter, which is pretty personal, but because I am worried about the quality as compared to everyone else’s video projects.

Clearly, a job as a story editor is not in my future.

The Almost World Wide Web

On the afternoon of September 25, 2013, Sudan’s internet was cut off. The blackout followed after riots broke out in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, over the government deciding to cease fuel subsidies. Subsidies are economic aid given to specific entities in the form of things like tax breaks, low-interest loans, or refunds, and are government’s way of trying to control the economy by encouraging consumers to buy (or inversely, stay away from) a certain product. Upset over the fact that they’ll have to pay more money for gas, protestors responded to the problem by setting several gas stations and even a university building ablaze. Dealing with South Sudan separating and becoming an independent state just a short two years ago (which took a large chunk of the oil sources away), and now having to adjust to functioning without the benefits that they were previously receiving from the government, Sudan’s fuel industry had to double prices. Depending how big the subsidies were and how high the demand for oil is in the country, this price  peak could be even more massive in the future.

There is another big issue in this story, apart from the economic impact and violence. I think a lot of people, Americans especially, take the internet for granted. We call it the world wide web because we can get online at any time and in seconds be talking to a friend, or even stranger, ten time zones away, when in all actuality, there are millions of people that live in an area with little to no internet access, or in an area with internet access that can be immediately and totally disabled by the government on a whim. Even worse are situations in which users are limited to seeing only what big brother wants them to see, constantly monitored, and subjected to unjust punishments for so much as expressing an opinion online. It’s very humbling to think that this very post would be incriminating, or maybe even lethal, if written by a fellow human being in another part of the world.

With this thought in mind, I pose a few questions for my readers. How can the situation described above be helped in someway? What can we do, as a nation, and as individuals? Should we be involved in the first place? How much control of the internet (think of the recent government scandals concerning unwarranted surveillance) should We the People allow our own government to have over us? Where is the line between security and oppression drawn? I’m truly interested in hearing any opinions, so please comment if you feel the desire to.

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Interactive Communication

This past week I finally turned in my Video Narrative for my Writing and Digital Media class. I have been working on this project for about a month so I was ready to turn it in and move on to the next assignment. Our next project is a tap essay. I have never heard of tap essays before so I had fun researching and exploring this form of communication that was new to me. After researching I found out that, not only are tap essays new to me, but the concept was actually invented recently (in 2012). I am excited to take on this new form of communication and explore the advantages and disadvantages that it lends in the writing process and how it affects readers.

I think that one of the many advantages a tap essay has over the more common form of an essay (I’ll call this the Microsoft Word essay) is its interactivity. Interactive communication is essential in captivating an audience. It gives users the opportunity to have a conversation with users instead of talking at them. I think that creating a successful tap essay is going to be more difficult than writing a Microsoft Word essay because it further emphasizes the importance of the audience. If there is not significant thought put into who is reading the tap essay and how it is going to be presented, the advantage the tap essay provides of captivating an audience is lost.

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