Tuesday, May 23, 2017

In Defense of the Humanities, Sometimes

I need to get this blog out of hibernation!  I've had a few ideas for posts over the past month, but I just haven't put the fingers to the keyboard.  I have, however, recently joined the Odyssey Online, and I'd like to share with y'all the first article I've written.  It's called "In Defense Of The Humanities, Sometimes," and I think the title can speak for itself.  Cheers.

How's life been the past month or so?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Biddle 223 at UPJ (Final Project Version)

For my Final Project in Writing for Digital Media, I decided to expand my location-based narrative, giving it a bit more flesh and personality. I also invited dozens of my Facebook friends to like the page, but only about ten did. In addition to being location-based, "Biddle 223 at UPJ" is non-linear, collaborative, potentially interactive, and containing a slight degree of remixing. Digital media has allowed me to approach the exploration of the idea which is Biddle 223 (as transcended beyond the simple physical space) from several different angles.

This project is fairly nonlinear because it won't be easy to experience as a straight line. It's intended to be explored rather than simply read in a linear fashion, even though the material of the project is exhaustible, in a manner similar to multimedia projects like "Tailspin." Biddle 223 at UPJ is very location-based, centered squarely on an actual place. The project is also collaborative, as the narrative is established based upon how other people interact with me within the space; I also have quotes from certain people. Not only is the page itself slightly interactive in that I can respond to anyone who posts to the page or comments on an existing post, but anyone can walk into the real-life Biddle 223 location and experience the project first-hand, potentially becoming an unwitting collaborator just by traipsing in while I'm there. As for remixing, a few of my photos were captioned in a way that was inspired by the Facebook project Humans of New York.

A photo from the local project Humans of Johnstown, itself a remix of Humans of New York

The full nature of this project should make it feel like a bodily experience, as well as a mental (and possibly nostalgic) excursion for anyone who explores in it. The room is Biddle 223, and the people are the people I know, but the essence should hopefully resonate with anyone who has ever thought of a space (or will through exploring in my project think of a space) from the perspective of his or her life. These were my basic aims for this project. Unfortunately, it's hard to tell whether it has "worked" or not. I think that at the very least this project could give individuals who have never been in Biddle 223 a good idea of what the room is like, and I'm okay with that. One student project that I have seen that I think works similarly to mine is this Google Maps essay that is based in a location just a few miles from my home.

The project I linked to above used some photos too, and they kind of make my photos look bad.

My creative process can be broken down into two phases: the initial project and the final project. You can read my Artist's Statement from my initial project here. Both phases used Facebook exclusively (with the exception of my last post, which linked out to an unlisted YouTube video). In the initial phase, I utilized only text and photographs, while for the final project I added the aforementioned video, three events, and an offer, in addition to more text and photos. I also made a fake Facebook profile that I was planning on using to heckle my page, but I ended up just having the page like my project page. There weren't any great openings for creative havoc. I added pieces to the puzzle as I thought of new ideas. I wasn't in Biddle 223 as often as usual during my final project phase, and when I was, there often weren't many other people in the room besides professors. One aspect to the project that I knew I wanted to have was photos of all the professors who have the offices attached to Biddle 223, plus photos of the students I see most often. One professor's photo was ultimately a snapshot of his arm being extended out of his office, which I think is funny because it actually attaches a name to the photo because of the visible name-plate. Another professor is averse to being photographed, but he was featured at one point in the project in a textual form. Overall, I think my creative process went well. Another video or two may have given a better look into the visible/auditory experience of the room, and maybe I could've included a few more text and photo posts. I also kind of wish more people would have interacted with the page so that I could go @Wendys on them. Ultimately, I just ran out of time and good ideas.

As it stands, I think this project gives a good face to my aims. I'm definitely interested in adding to the project in the semesters that lie ahead, even though new pieces won't be a part of my graded project. There are angles of storytelling that I have missed thus far, I am sure, and there will be new angles that emerge out of the continuous grinding of time. When I graduate, maybe I'll even hand over the page to the next generation of Biddle 223ers. Facebook is eternal, right?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Poem and Two Stories

Just a few days ago I was published in my Uni's literary magazine Backroads.  In the past, all but a few poems printed in Backroads volumes have existed only in hard-copy, but this issue has been published digitally as well.  You can read it here.

My poem "Parlor Games" is an itty-bitty thing that brushes against several philosophical concepts, including concepts of social class.

"Unification" is a work of Alternate History taking place in the late 18th-century in America.

My story "Up to the Brim" was influenced by Anton Chekhov, though it is set in England (well, it's technically unspecified, but it's supposed to be inferred that the story is set in London) rather than Russia.

While I'd love to hear any thoughts on these pieces of mine, I heartily recommend reading everything in the volume.  It shouldn't be a laborious task, and the visual design is stellar.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Share the Squares

Comic strips are really hard to make as a one-person army.  One has to be able to draw, script, and possibly color.  There are some popular comic strips produced by more than one person (and possibly more than I know of).  Why not try to start a new one?  Or even if making comic strips is just a hobby you wish to pursue, but you know that you're only adept at one of the necessary skills, why not use Share the Squares to crowd-produce your comics?  Well, there's an easy answer: Share the Squares doesn't exist yet.  But maybe it will some day.

With Share the Squares, you can choose to either start a project with a script or a set of drawn panels.  You can also choose to work on an existing project, drawing panels to fit a script, writing a script to fit some panels, or adding color to give a strip some extra dimension.  Pick your poison and play along.

I can't say that I'm particularly good at any of the phases of comic strip development, but I appreciate the art, and if I ever have the skills necessary to produce Share the Squares, I just might.  In the photo above, you'll see my attempt to give a script and some color to a drawn set of panels from an existing comic.

Let the comics roll, in their lines and in their times.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Biddle 223 at UPJ

I decided to use a Facebook page for my location-based narrative, which struck it down a peg for originality but allowed it to be both cohesive and open for exploration.  The nature of Facebook timelines is such that the pieces are a bit scattered, which is an accurate representation of the space.  My experiences in Biddle 223 are scattered throughout time, and it's rare for everyone I see there regularly to be there at the same time.  There are four people I see most often in the second-floor Biddle meeting room, and those four people got little Humans of New York-style photos with captions.  With digital technology, I was able to assemble a group of photos and bunches of text that represent my typical interactions in Biddle 223 over a short span of time.  The room cannot be both empty and full at the same time in physical space, but it can be in the digital.

I chose Biddle 223 for my project because I've been spending a lot of time there the last three semesters.  It's where I hang out with my French friends, my best friends on campus.  I made a few acquaintances before meeting the three students pictured in my narrative back in Intermediate French I, but I've definitely spoken with these three the most since then.  There are a few other people who I regularly spend time with in Biddle 223, but these three are there the most.  And as for the pictured professor, I'm in his office at least once a week.  He has great office hours.  I've learned from the feedback I received in class that there are many other students who have come to love this room on campus during their time at UPJ.  If I were to expand this project for my final project in the class, I would expand the project beyond simply my experience with the room, including perspectives from other students, as well as more photos and captions.  The project as it stands represents Biddle 223 when it is empty and when it is subject to my presence, but I think the meaning of the room is deeper than that. This page ought to represent everyone who has had the privilege of passing through Biddle 223 at UPJ.