Sunday, January 21, 2018

Back in the saddle!

The time has come to dust off this blog and dive back into NetNarr. It's good to be back in our world, and I'm excited to see what this new semester has to offer. As I mentioned in class, this will be my third time around the block in ENG5085, "New Media Studies," then "Digital Storytelling," and now "Digital Alchemy/Networked Narratives," and each time I have learned something new and exciting about the digital world. I'm especially excited this semester about accompanying new students on their journey.

A word of advice to new students-- this may seem like a lot at first, and it may seem completely weird, but rest assured, you'll fall into the swing of things quickly. A great deal of this class involves making it what you want it to be, which is really cool! If you feel so inclined, check out older posts on this blog to see some of what I put together last year at this time. You'll see that there is nothing to be afraid of.

One of the craziest things I've learned from taking many trips down the Internet rabbit hole is that the internet knows a whole lot about me. It knows my interests, my friends, the products I like, and is able to suggest things that I will, in all likelihood, be interested in pursuing. I'm sure everyone can relate to the feeling of your skin crawling when the product you were just talking about is the first search suggestion on your phone. Or, when you Googled a product you were interested in buying, only to have it show up as an ad on every website for the rest of eternity (or, as an added bonus-- when you look up a gift idea on a shared computer and the ads ruin the surprise....gotta love the World Wide Web).

As you will learn about me this semester, I am fascinated by all things dystopian, and this idea ties in directly with the concept of an all-seeing, all-knowing government using me as a cog in the wheel of consumerism. In fact, Do Not Track reminds me greatly of my favorite books, Feed by M.T. Anderson. In this story of a futuristic Earth, all people have social network data feeds installed into their minds, and live life through the lens of constant communication and advertisements. M.T. Anderson masterfully translates the eerie feeling Google knowing your search query into an entire society, which ends up being terrifying to all involved. After watching Do Not Track, it's horrifying to see how close Feed comes to being reality.

I am so excited that we are going to talk with Brett Gaylor. Do Not Track is fascinating, and terrifying, and I look forward to hearing what he has to impart to us.

Daily Digital Alchemies-- 1/16/18 through 1/22/18:

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Dear Avicia...

Just look at the semester we have had!

Do you see me? Do you see yourself? What's your place in the network?

Well, well, NetNarr, it's been a while. I feel almost as if I have been in another world....a mirror world, you might say. Weirder still, I feel another presence, as if someone else has been with me in this class for a month or so. I feel as if they've been watching and learning alongside me.
What's this?
A letter? Who would be sending me a letter?
It's signed from....Avicia? She seems to know a lot about me. This is so weird, maybe my suspicions were right? Maybe someone else has been here all fact, I'm sure she has been. In that case, I suppose I should respond...

Dear Avicia,

I'm so glad you wrote to me. I had a suspicion that I was not along this semester. When I found your letter from the mirror world, I searched further and found your story. Hard as it was for you to come from your home world to earth, I'm glad you did. Us "Earthlings" can use all of the help was can get.

I think it is interesting that you say we are not beyond saving. Some days, it feels as if we are. But, I suppose you are right that goodness, kindness, and justice still exist in this world-- those are the things we need to hold on to.

In this semester, I have read and heard stories very different than my own. I have visited places around the world and seen students just like myself, despite the thousands of miles between us. I have learned that stories have become even stronger, now that we have power of the internet in our hands.

Stories have always been important. From the days when our ancestors etched images into cave walls, we have always known the importance of stories. Even now, in some ways, sharing our stories in our pockets of space in the digital world is not unlike etching them on the walls of a cave, for people to stumble upon, God-knows-when.

This world is full of stories, and people can interpret the same stories in radically different ways. I think that is where some of our problems being. You see, Avicia, our world is so polarized. During this semester, I've gained a deeper understanding of the conflicting stories that surround me. We all value different things, live by different moral codes, and wear blinders to the people around us. We attack those with different opinions, we attack them, we call them names, we make moral judgments-- instead of just listening. We all have agendas, Avicia. Some more powerful than others, some far scarier.

That being said, I think I agree with you, that we are not beyond saving. This semester, I was able to deeply consider the power that we have in the digital world-- the power to tell our stories the way we want them told. We all have a voice, and we are now able to communicate without third-party filters. Gone are the days when other people had to tell our stories. Now, we are the ones with the influence.

In the course of the semester, I saw kids stand up and tell the stories in their hearts, via The Young Writers' Project. I learned about the communities that have formed online to spin stories out of stories, and call it fanfiction. I've listened to professors and students around the world talk about what storytelling means to them, and how the digital world has enhanced our ability to share stories. In the end, this is what digital storytelling means to me. It is the tool we now have to share stories far beyond the bounds of all we once dreamed possible.

I enjoyed the Daily Digital Alchemy assignments because they allowed me to interact on a regular basis with the people in my class (and the other participants) by giving us a creative outlet in which we could communicate. I enjoyed the snippets of work that we shared, and looked forward to participating each week. It was never a burden to look at the @netnarr twitter and see the daily prompts, in fact, I'm pretty sure I'll miss them most of all!

As far as favorite assignments go, I loved when we worked on blackout poetry. It's very interesting to take media that exists and "remix" it into something new.  Here was the blackout poem that I worked on:

I've seen blackout poems online before, but I never made one myself, and I certainly never thought about the idea of them acting as ways of remixing other people's work.

Speaking of "remixing," I loved the conversations we had about memes. Memes make me laugh every day of my life, as you might see from this one DDA I submitted:
Even so, I never thought about the implications of memes. I never considered how they are far more than internet culture, they can be social commentary. Here's an example of one I made regarding slactivism, based on a class discussion:
(Although I suppose "you" made that one, didn't you, Avicia? ;) )

I was also quite proud of the stories I told and altered in the #4iconstory and #altbookcover assignments. The Little Prince is one of my favorite stories, and I was so glad to be able to weave it into my work in this class (albeit in quite a different way than the story was intended!).

Over the semester, I struggled greatly with the audio assignments. Audio is certainly not my forte, but even so, I'm glad to have had the experience of working with it. Now I am able to see how the manipulation of audio can add to the stories we see online. It also led me to the realization that so many of the things I once wrote off as "internet culture" are far greater than just that. Every post, tweet, video, and podcast are part of a greater over arching journey that transcends the individual parts.

I value the co-learners who traveled on this journey alongside us. I am grateful that they took the time to care about the students stepping up into their world. Every class, every blog, and every tweet acted as a support system, an investment, where a person made the decision to take their time and invest in students willing to stand beside them and learn. Because of this kindness, this investment, the story of Digital Storytelling at Kean University will live on, written on the "walls" of the internet forever.

I'm also grateful for alchemy, and the alchemists. Often, students are taught to suppress the creative in favor of the practical. We are taught to embrace subjects for what they are, and not to go beyond that boundary. This class destroyed those boundaries. It met on Wednesday nights, but it also met every single day in the infinite online space of the internet. The internet is a pretty magical place, it's only fitting that we were joined in our class journey by magical alchemists. So Avicia, I guess I have to thank you for joining us in this journey, as well as M, Rebeg, and all of the other alchemists they brought together to refine our stories, as gold might be refined from lead.

Finally, to the alchemists who will travel to this world in the future: get ready for it, all of it. Get ready for the fun, the laughs, the tears, and the struggles. Get ready to collaborate and be a part of something that is far bigger than "just another class at Kean University." Get ready for the best ride. I have walked away from this course with an appreciation for the realm of digital storytelling that is far bigger than I would have ever imagined.

I don't think it's right to say goodbye, because we know better than that. After all, when is a story really over? Even "happily ever after" isn't the end of the story-- just the part of the story we are aware of. So, instead of goodbye, I'll sign off for now. Thanks again for your letter, Avicia.

We've had fun this semester. Here's to all that is to come!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A #weeklie, maybe?

This past week, some of the members of our class were able to visit American University in Cairo, an experience I wish I had been able to share! It's amazing to me that, with the aid of technology, we are able to be anywhere around the world, talking with all kinds of people. 

What struck me as interesting in this stop on our bus tour was how students around the world can relate to similar stories. During the game of two truths and a lie, despite the need for some clarification, it was cool to see that students can come together through mutual experiences. Funny enough, parking seems to be an issue worldwide-- we can't win! Another commonality-- none of us like paying tuition!

I like these bus tours because they've been a great way of experiencing to different places around the world, places such as Egypt where I might never get to go in real life (although I hope to). Conversely, it's they're a great way to go back to places where I have traveled, such as Puerto Rico, and seeing them through a different lens.  


Here are my daily digital alchemies from the past week!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

This is Not a Blog Post... (jk)'s a representation of my thoughts and feelings shown on a screen, composed of pixels and magic (probably).

I'm sure this is what Magritte meant to say.

Creativity is difficult for me. As much as I love research and scholarly writing, I'm not a creative writer, and I'm sure I've said that before, and I didn't feel comfortable sharing my writing in the last class.

I've been trying to figure out why I'm not a creative writer, because I used to be. In high school I attended the Union County Teen Arts Festival, I submitted poems and they were accepted into the Festival's collection of student works, and I was so proud of that. Then, I went to college and stopped writing, like I hit a road block. I think it may have something to do with experiencing the great writers of history and thinking that my emo poetry couldn't stand up in such competition-- and it couldn't, but I guess that's not the point. My poetry won't compare to Eliot and Keats, and it won't, and it shouldn't-- because their writing is not my writing. Poetry and creative writing are about courage and self-expression and, between the things I saw on the Young Writer's Project and in class last week, I saw the courage that people can have. I'm not sure where that leaves me, but I'm proud of those who are strong enough to put their hearts on the line and express their deepest thoughts and feelings. At the end of this post, I'll include a poem I've written-- the first in a long time. It's rough and unfinished, but at least I don't have to read it in front of anyone ;)


Although we didn't get to take the bus to Australia, it was cool to participate in the activity along with the UOW students. It's interesting to see how people can form perceptions of a place just from the website, and it's even more interesting to see how the perceptions stand up to the voice of experience. One of the biggest things I noticed on the UOW site was the noticeable lack of a "Student Activities" page. In the U.S., one of the main things that students look for in a college is the college experience, shown by the clubs and Greek life options that are advertised on the site. In some ways, the experience is as important as the learning (for better or for worse). However, from the students responses to "What UOW is Really Like," it seems like a pretty normal campus! 

It's hard for me to speak on Kean, because I commute to campus. I've spent a very limited time anywhere except the classrooms and the Writing Studies office. However, I do spent time around other students and I know some of the intricacies that have jaded people against the school-- as well as some of the benefits students enjoy. For that reason, it's funny to look at our website while being a student-- it's impossible to be unbiased. 

You might be able to get a feeling for a campus's vibe, but it's impossible to average out the "general" experience of all students. Everyone is different and everyone values different things. For me, this school works because it's affordable, close, and will get me where I want to go. Yes, there are roadblocks and red tape, but it works for me. This is not going to be everyone's story. Even Princeton could be one student's heaven on earth, and another's hell. 


As for "world building," wow, that's a hot topic if I've ever heard one. 

When we build a world (and yes, I'm thinking about Minecraft), we build it around the things we need to survive. When I start a new game in Minecraft, the first thing I do is build a hut to protect me from the monsters at night. Then, when day comes, I venture out and see where the resources are. When I find water, I build a new house. When I find trees, I store up wood. Then, I go from there. 

We all need basics to get through the day. We all need food, water, and oxygen to sustain our basic needs. From that point, we're all different individuals with different experiences in this mad world. In our individual searches for truth we find different answers, many of which set us against one another due to conflicting answers to the same questions. 

In short, I don't think we can pull out the story threads to find the "master narrative," because not everyone believes in the same master narrative (or one at all, for that matter). I can tell you that Christianity is the master narrative I accept, and you may or may not accept it based on your mind and experience. But, that's what my story is based on-- that's my master narrative and all of the answers I'm going to find will be based on that narrative. 

Wherever you find your truth, you find your narrative. So, netnarr, what is truth? 


As promised:

When I think of the heart, I see compartments 
Little rooms where memories hide
Memories of people, of places, of joy
Of pain. 

Some compartments warm the heart with love.
When opened, they flood the darkness with light
fluttering out and up and through,
like the dove released from the hat,
soaring to freedom.

Some compartments are dark.
Filled wih anger and hate,
And slowly coat the soul with inky sludge
which slugs in and covers everything with 

And then, 
there are the most painful compartments
full of memories yet still sensitive.
Some tender from new birth, others hidden away,
untouchable throughout time.
Those are the memories that ache.
Those are the memories that, 
when the compartment door is ever so slightly touched,
flood the soul with pain
like a scrape across the skin;
light enough to sting the nerves
yet heavy enough to draw spots of blood,
punctuated like a dotted line.
Those are the compartments from which I hide.
Those are the doors tightest closed.
For, if the lightest touch draws blood,
to open the compartment would drown the soul

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Noise, Noise, Noise!

Well, NetNarr friends, I tried. I tried so hard to accomplish the #soundwork challenge, but audio editing doesn't seem to be my forte! I attempted the "Have A Conversation With Yourself" challenge, and decided to read a excerpt from The Little Prince-- I thought it would be cool to put different voices to difference characters, as well as the narrator. My sound clip was less than 40 seconds, it seemed simple enough! was not, but I tried, and I think I could work around Audacity if I needed to, which is the point, r-right?

Disappointment at my meager results aside, I have to say, audio work is the most challenging thing that I've encountered in quite a long time! I've never before had the experience of working with an audio editing program, and I'm quite happy to learn about Audacity and mess around with it for this week's class. Without further ado, I present to you, my.....attempt:

Note: I'm not entirely sure why the image behind my excerpt is a giant version of my profile pic but, well, hello!

I worked on this for longer than I'd care to admit, and the main thing I learned is that the natural voice fluctuates quite a bit. I played around with pitch, and came to realize that it's not enough to adjust the end result pitch, in order for segments throughout the clip to blend well, the starting pitch needs to be consistent. This got quite confusing after a while and, even when I thought I had a smooth transition, it wasn't necessarily so. 

I chose this particular exercise because I thought it would be the simplest to grasp, considering how new I am to audio editing. Turns out, there's quite a learning curve, even for the exercise I thought would be simplest. However, this is what I enjoy about this class, it's always some new challenge. Now, I can come away saying I've played around with audio editing software.


You can click here be linked to my #3soundstory, which is the story of a pretty normal morning in my life. It was interesting to click through the sound sets posted in the portal and listen to other people's morning sounds.


I also want to comment on our bus tour to the Young Writers Project. As I browsed through the site, I was stunned by the talent and courage shown by the the participants, especially considering their ages. It takes a great deal of strength and confidence to submit your work to the public for anyone to see and review. Not a lot of people have this courage, and I am impressed that these kids have taken the leap.

Kids are crucially important to society, and I have always believed that we should listen to their voices. The events that shape a person in their formative years have a huge impact on who they grow up to become. Writing may be the best thing kids can do to work through the intense emotions and thoughts that accompany growing up-- the first heartbreak, family trouble, loneliness, questioning-- these things are all important. During my adventure through the site I saw stories, both fiction and nonfiction, that spoke to me because they indicated an incredible degree of depth and knowledge. I realize I'm waxing a bit Wordsworthian (à la "the child is father of the man") but I think there's a relatable degree of truth to be found in the comparison. 

If I could leave the writers of the Young Writers Project with one thought, it would be this- keep writing. Do not stop. Do not lose interest in your writing, and do not fall into the lie that it's not good enough, or can't compare to the greats. In expressing yourself, you are doing the world a service, and you will help at least one other person out there who thought they were all along. To drop another name, in the words of C.S. Lewis, " born at the moment when one man says to another "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself..."


As for the weekly roundup of DDAs, I present to you:


See everyone in class!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ready for Repose

Happy week-before-spring-break, everyone! We've almost made it!

This is the first Google image result for the search "repose." It accurately represents how I'll be spending my spring break.

This week, one of our assignments was to explore Network Effect, which was a unique experience. The estimated 7 minutes of video presented a chaotic whirlwind of posts and experiences, the intent of which was to induce "a state of anxiety, trigger a fear of missing out, and totally frustrate any attempt at completeness.” I'll be honest, I made it about 2-3 minutes in both days that I checked it out. I felt sick from the constant stream of images and hated not being able to grasp any meaning from the experience-- which I think might be the point.

We are subject to so much information every time we pull up the internet- whether it be through social media or news sites. The stories might be interesting on an individual basis but, when we're overexposed, it can turn into too much of a good thing. I experienced something like this during the most recent campaign/election cycle, and had to disconnect from social media for a while to avoid the constant stream of ideas- on both sides. Being barraged by something, anything, can trigger anxiety and fear in anyone, and that's how I felt viewing Network Effect. There was too much information with too little explanation, and everything was presented too quickly. In the beginning I was interested in the idea, but by the end I was overwhelmed and wanted nothing to do with any of it.


Last week we used memes and GIFs as a tie-in to our conversation on chaos, order, and our participation in the digital world. This was such a fun exercise, and here were my contributions to the discussion-- and what a fantastic discussion it was!

The following GIF was made by inputing Howard Rheingold's video, Alchemagickal Lucid DreamBox into Giphy, and playing around with the controls until I was able to find the perfect video of segment, marry it to a clever saying, and the program did the rest of the work. This was a lot of fun! I use GIFs constantly, often as responses in text messages or chats, and I never knew it was so simple to create them. It's incredible that conversation has evolved in such a way, that we are now able to quickly find pre-recorded clips of video that perfectly express our emotions.

That being said, here is the GIF I created:

The rest of the images were created with imgflip. imgflip has every meme one could think of available for captioning, all I needed to do was come up with an idea based around our there, netnarr! Here were the results:

And, I've saved my personal favorite for last:

As a late addition to the GIFs, after class I decided to create usng Lala GIF, as suggested in the blog post. I've never seen a GIF with sound, and it seemed like a fun idea. Here's the result:

I'm quite proud of it, you definitely want to check it out.

Social Media Weekly Roundup:
Daily Digital Alchemy responses:

And I liked this last one so much that I tried twice!

I'm not going to be in class tomorrow so, unfortunately, I'm going to miss our first tour bus experience to Mexico, but I am excited to check in after the fact. I'm quite excited for break, it's been a long month and a half!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Did you hear that?


Did you hear that? Yeah, that. That noise, did you hear it? No, not the person walking by, the other noise. That humming, what is it? Oh, you didn't hear it before? Hah, good luck, now it's all you're going to hear. It's beneath all the other noises, but ever-present, underscoring everything else that goes on. Steady, constant crackling. And what about that other noise, that humming? Where's that coming from? Is it a machine running, running, running, nonstop? Doesn't it get tired? Isn't it tiring to think about?

It's interesting to stop and consider that we're never in complete silence, even when we think we are. Something is always going on around us, be it human or machine. It's almost frightening to consider what utter silence would consist of, because that would suggest a complete and utter loneliness that most of us have never faced. I once watched a documentary about prisons, and in the course of the show some  of the prisoners spoke about the ultimate punishment for acting up in prison; getting sent to solitary confinement. Of all possible punishments, this doesn't sound very threatening but, in reality, it is the most terrifying threat a person can face. People sent to solitary fight to maintain their own sanity, sometimes unsuccessfully. Most would do anything to avoid it. Interesting, isn't it? Obedience, in response to the threat of silence.


I tried out the #justlistening activity by watching the above clip from Fight Club. It's interesting what you hear when you listen with purpose.

In the clip, sound is used precisely to set the tone. Without watching, I hear the echoes people shifting uneasily in a large room. The sound is tinny, as if the walls don't absorb any of it-- perhaps a room made of cement. I hear coughing, echoes of affirmation from men, the cracking of joints, lighters being flicked on, cheering, and jeering. This is all outside of the main sound, which is Brad Pitt's monologue. Next, I hear grunts, fists making contact with skin, crashes, whoops, and then eerie, echoing music. Finally, footsteps and an upbeat track accompanying Pitt and Norton as they walk and discuss their dream fights. These sounds are all things that aren't meant to be heard but, if they didn't exist, the film would be empty.


The Truth podcast is fascinating, and I'm so glad it was recommended for this week's assignment. I was particularly intrigued by the episode titled "Dark Matter," and I'm glad I chose that one in particular because the use of sound is powerful throughout the episode. In many instances, I felt as if I were watching a TV show, but all of the images were in my head. Underscoring much of the dialogue was an eerie track, which heightened the mystery of the subject matter. In moments of dialogue, the characters didn't constantly speak directly into the microphone, some sounded closer, others further. When one person was speaking under his or her breath, you could tell. When two characters were speaking but a TV was on in the background, the illusion of dimension was powerful. The sound wasn't always crystal clear, sometimes characters sounded distant, other times there was an echo, building the illusion of someone speaking in an large room. It's amazing to consider this was done in a sound studio! What's more, I felt dragged into this story, as if I was fully immersed, as if it was much, much more than just audio. It was a dynamic and when it ended I found myself clinging to the last word. In short, I'm hooked!


You can find my blackout poetry exercise here. Check it out and let me know what you think, I had a lot of fun with the assignment.


I'm still loving the daily digital alchemies, in fact, below are the ones I have completed for this past week:


I was excited, beyond excited, to watch this week's studio visit with Howard and Mamie Rhinegold. We used one of Howard's books, Net Smart, a few semesters ago in New Media Studies, and it was an eye-opening experience to see how much the internet has expanded since its creation. We had the opportunity to Skype with Howard in New Media Studies as well, and it was such a honor to listen and talk with such an incredible mind and pioneer in the digital world. I am continually impressed by the amount he has accomplished in his career, and how much progress he has seen.

It was also very cool to listen to Mamie as well, as she spoke about how she was surrounded by her father's influence her entire life and at first reacted against it, until she got older and was able to understand how important his work was. As children, we don't often realize how much we are shaped by our parents, or how lucky we may be to be surrounded by the opportunities that we take for granted. I used to tease my father every week as he went off to supervise a high school robotics club. He has since been credited as an influence by kids who have gone to MIT and graduated as engineers. I myself am now fascinated by coding and I wish I had listened more back then!

Getting back to the studio visit, our reach, due to the Internet, can be far more powerful than we expect. Our "virtual communities" can be comprised of people that we have never met, and may never meet face-to-face, but these communities have radically changed our definition of the term "public sphere." One post on the internet can go around the world in the matter of a few hours. Once upon a time, "public" had much smaller implications. Now "public" can be global. Especially in this time of political dissent, public spheres and public opinion can be heavily swayed by virtual communities.
"Whether twenty people or twenty thousand people pay attention to you, the important thing is agency and participation. You are not just one of the millions of people who are fed what a few people create for you, you are, in some way, a creator of culture."             -Howard Rhinegold
We have been given such a huge opportunity with the technology that we have access to, and it's becoming more and more important to use it responsively and constructively. Now, everyone with access to the internet has a way to express themselves. This can either be used to help, or to harm. Why not use it to do great things?