Rhetoric & Memory Final Project

Note: This project is for ENGL 8800: Rhetoric & Memory. Some of the components to this final project are multimodal, which is why it appears on this blog page. Simply put, it was convenient to place it here rather than creating another blog for one project. Please also note that this project contains spoilers to the television show, Lost.

 

Character Analyses in Conjunction with Theories of Memory: A Critical Survey of Lost

Of the five canons of rhetoric, memory obtains the least amount of attention after invention, style, argument, and delivery. Rhetoricians and scholars have worked to bring revival to the interest in memory theories by combining academic with artistry. One way this has been done successfully is through presenting theories of memory in film. ABC’s critically acclaimed six-season, 121-episode series, Lost (2004-2010), is an adventure drama incorporated with elements of fantasy. The characters, who are traveling from Sydney, Australia, to Los Angeles, California, become survivors when their plane inexplicably crashes. They land on an uncharted, seemingly uninhabited island somewhere in the South Pacific. At first, they await the arrival of a rescue squad, but when it quickly becomes apparent that no one knows there whereabouts, they are forced to survive together against the elements, against The Others, and against the mysteriously supernatural entity of the island and its spiritual governing presence.

Despite the thrill that inevitably arises from a story about plane crash survivors who end up discovering more than just a speck of land in the middle of the ocean, this series holds much more value than just high ratings as a Sunday night television program. Lost has become the topic of numerous message boards and blog posts. It has sparked conversation about religion, spirituality, philosophy, and elements of science fiction, such as time travel, which will be discussed later. However, one facet that has not been explored nearly enough involves studying Lost in conjunction with theories of memory. As a whole, this series is an artifact that offers creative, artistically portrayed examples of memory and grief, memory and experience, and memory functions. What is more, many of the characters are namesakes of renowned philosophers, some of whom greatly contributed to the field of memory studies in their time, shaping the way memory practices have come to be understood today. Through close character analyses combined with supplementary theories in the field, I will take a closer look at how the narratives of characters Jack Shephard, John Locke, and Desmond Hume showcase different functions of memory through this series.

 

Jack Shephard: Grief, Trauma, and Memory

JackShephard

Jack Shephard, portrayed by actor Matthew Fox

The central character of the series is Dr. Jack Shephard, a spinal surgeon from Los Angeles. Right away, he seems like the whole package: a handsome, selfless hero who gets his bearings and immediately starts helping other Oceanic Flight 815 crash victims in the midst of their traumatic landing. He was on the plane from Sydney after having tracked down his father’s whereabouts, only to find that by the time he arrived in Australia to retrieve his father, it was too late. His father, Christian, was an alcoholic and his body had been found in an alley behind a bar. Prior to Christian’s death, he and Jack had a falling out concerning professionalism, ethics, and loyalty. Jack noticed that Christian, who was Chief of Surgery at the time, had operated on a patient under the influence, which resulted in death on the operating table. When Jack confronted his father, Christian did his best to convince Jack to remain silent, but ultimately, Jack was overwhelmed with his unethical choice, and did not keep the knowledge hidden from the Board of Directors for long.

Soon after the crash, Jack begins to see his dead father walking around in the jungle. As a doctor, he knows he is hallucinating, that he is projecting his father’s image with his mind, but he cannot help but chase it. After nearly following the runaway ghost over a cliff, Jack confides in another survivor, John Locke, his obsession with the hallucination. John tells him it’s his white rabbit, referring to Alice in Wonderland. Below is a clip (via YouTube) of their conversation from Season 1, Episode 5, “White Rabbit.”

 

Jack soon begins to recognize that although he is a doctor, he is not above being susceptible to posttraumatic stress and grief. He is experiencing both trauma and grief on multiple levels: having never mended the relationship with his father, finding that he drank himself to death alone in a foreign country, surviving a plane crash, discovering there is little to no chance of rescue, being elected the group’s unofficial leader, not being able to throw himself into his work like normal, and wrestling with the unwavering desire to chase his father’s ghost through the trees of the mysterious island.

As Jack’s backstory rounds out, it becomes clear that before crashing on the island, he developed a slight inferiority complex. This is the direct result of never living up to Christian’s expectations, which then created a need within him to always find something to fix, even if things don’t need fixing, so that he can feel that he has what it takes to help others. Jack’s overcompensation drives people like his father and his wife, Sarah, away. Once he is on the island, his desire to create a solution for the other survivors is unwavering, but at the same time, he learns to take this situation as a fresh start, which naturally results in grieving the loss of his regular self in addition to Christian’s death.

In the book, Unclaimed Experience, by Cathy Caruth, she presents an interesting question about trauma when discussing Sigmund Freud’s work. She says, “If a life threat to the body and the survival of this threat are experienced as the direct infliction and the healing of a wound, trauma is suffered in the psyche precisely, it would seem, because it is not directly available to experience. The problem of survival, in trauma, thus emerges specifically as the question: What does it mean for consciousness to survive?” (61). This is a loaded, beautiful question that sparks further questions of how Jack is able to handle the trauma of the plane crash (threat to the body) and surviving it simultaneously, he is in this proposed unofficial limbo that exists in consciousness. Jack emerges from the plane crash with some bruises and a cut, but nothing too serious. Ultimately, he is strong-willed and has plenty of nerve as a result of his profession, so where does the trauma go?

Although he appears to be unscathed, in a later part of the series after some of the survivors were rescued, Jack is nearly driven mad with the desire to return to the island. This begins to answer the question of what it means for Jack’s consciousness to survive. While on the island, he was in an instinctual survivor mode, quickly adapting to his crash-induced home. However, after being taken away from the spot of his traumatic plane crash and being forced into a normal routine, Jack feels more lost than he ever did on the island. When he was there, he could justify his actions by feeling he was helping others, or protecting them, or uncovering new and valuable information. Then it was all ripped away after he returned to Los Angeles.

 

John Locke: Destiny and Empiricism

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Philosopher John Locke, 1632-1704

Philosopher John Locke is credited as the founder of British Empiricism, a belief developed in the seventeenth century which is defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as the following: “Empiricism about a particular subject rejects the corresponding version of the Intuition/Deduction thesis and Innate Knowledge thesis. Insofar as we have knowledge in the subject, our knowledge is a posteriori, dependent upon sense experience” (Markie). Locke believed that we must have experiences to fuel our minds, which in the fueling of our memories and imaginations through those experiences, we are creating a broader, more intelligent self. The following excerpt can be found in Theories of Memory: A Reader, and originates from Locke’s most famous work, entitled, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

For the narrow Mind of Man, not being capable of having many Ideas under View and Consideration at once, it was necessary to have a Repository, to lay up those Ideas, which at another time it might have use of. But our Ideas being nothing, but actual Perceptions in the Mind, which cease to be any thing, when there is no perception of them, this laying up of our Ideas in the Repository of the Memory, signifies no more but this, that the Mind has a Power, in many cases, to revive Perceptions, which it once had, with the additional Perception annexed to them, that it has had them before….our Ideas are said to be in our Memories, when indeed they are actually no where, but only there is an ability in the Mind, when it will, to revive them again; and as it were paint them anew on it self, though some with more, some with less difficulty; some more lively, and others more obscurely. (Rossington 75-76)

From this passage, Locke expresses his belief that despite our Ideas supposedly being stored in the Repository of Memory, they are in fact nowhere, until the Mind chooses to exercise retrieval of those memories. It seems he did not put much emphasis on the process of memory, and using the mind as a muscle intent for vivid recall. As Janine Rider puts it in chapter four of The Writer’s Book of Memory: An Interdisciplinary Study for Writing Teachers, “John Locke detects no evidence of innate ideas. Instead, he believes that all of our ideas come from our experiences” (54). Furthermore, according to Patrick J. Connolly, author of the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s webpage over John Locke, expands upon the ideas from Rider. He states, “Knowledge consists of a special kind of relationship between different ideas. Locke’s emphasis on the philosophical examination of the human mind as a preliminary to the philosophical investigation of the world and its contents represented a new approach to philosophy, one which quickly gained a number of converts, especially in Great Britain” (Connolly).

From this clarification of the philosopher, we can better understand John Locke, the Lost character. A lonely middle-aged man, John consistently, throughout the series, looks for a deeper meaning to his actions and experiences. He quickly impresses the other survivors with his ability to hunt wild boar and his sill with knives, of which he brought a suitcase full on the plane. The reason he ended up on Oceanic 815 resulted from the fact that he was not permitted to participate in the Walkabout he signed up for weeks prior (thus the case of knives). A Walkabout was originally found in the Australian tradition, during which a person goes out into the wilderness to find a sort of spiritual enlightenment, which turns into an event of personal growth and understanding. John misrepresented himself on his application, neglecting to state that he suffered from paralysis and needed a wheelchair. However, after the plane crashes, his paralysis is gone, and he regains full mobility in both of his legs. Below is a clip (via YouTube) from Season 1, Episode 4, “Walkabout.”

 

JohnLocke

John Locke, portrayed by actor Terry O’Quinn

After viewing this fragment of John’s backstory, it is apparent that because he is unable to attain the experience he desires, he puts stock in destiny, which he believes will bring him the experiences he needs to become a full and whole person. He desperately clings to the fact that everything he does and everything that happens to him happens for a reason, and that this strange island performed a miracle when it healed his legs.

John prepared for the Walkabout with a more fervent level of commitment than a person without a handicap. So badly did he want to experience the process, he becomes irate when he is denied the chance to realize his dream. When his paralysis is abated after crashing on the island, he comes to find that he is able to utilize the skills that were honed in his mind, finally obtaining the opportunity to solidify them in reality. Until landing on the island John’s skills were nothing more than “Ideas in the Repository of Memory,” which were essentially nothing; never was he able to actually experience what he had prepared for. After regaining mobility, John soon attributes his fully functioning body to the generative island, which he feels is aiding in helping him to fulfill his destiny. He understands that being rejected from the Walkabout is the vehicle that propels him to his destiny.

John’s need for the wheelchair is expired; this enables a shift from imagination and intangibility of his experiences to become reality. There are instances in which he believes the island tests him, by nearly taking away his ability to walk, namely through injury. During these moments, there is a significant shift in John’s character. In these moments, he begins to lose to lose his ability to translate thoughts, all of those honed skills, into action. It is almost as though he slips away from personhood. For much of his like, especially after life in a wheelchair, John is constantly facing the doubt others have in his abilities. He despises being told what he cannot do. Every time someone tells him he is unable to do something (whether or not they are correct), he is fueled by determination to prove that he can do what they say he can’t. He needs to prove his existence through his experiences, which is why he was so determined to complete the Walkabout.

Referring back to Philosopher John Locke’s excerpt from An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, the Locke from Lost epitomizes the theories that were showcased. The necessity for experience to drive memories, and thereby ultimately driving one’s existence, is profoundly portrayed in Lost. Not only are there complex layers to the character of John Locke, these same layers are supported by centuries-old theories on memory, concretely proving the value in studying this series from a standpoint of memory studies.

 

Desmond Hume: Time Travel and Memory Function

DesmondHume

Desmond Hume, portrayed by actor Henry Ian Cusick

Desmond David Hume, named after the eighteenth century philosopher and Empiricist, is a character with one of the most interesting story lines, and additionally, he has the most to contribute to this survey of Lost characters and memory theory. Desmond was not one the plane; he comes to the island three years before the crash of Oceanic 815 on a sailboat after being thrown off course in his race around the world. He originally entered this race to regain his honor and esteem, which, in his opinion, would once more deem him worthy of the love of his serious girlfriend, Penelope. After washing up on the island, a man named Kelvin rescues him, and together, they live for three years in an underground hatch, pushing a button every 108 minutes to save the world. One day, after Kelvin has died, Desmond fails to push the button. This causes a breach of electromagnetic energy which, as it was later discovered, was the catalyst for that caused the crashing of Oceanic 815. Eventually, the survivors discover the hatch and meet Desmond.

Due to his exposure to the highly unstable electromagnetic radiation, Desmond develops a strange relationship with Time. At first, he has “flashes,” or incomplete visions of near-future events. Then, his consciousness flits between his past and present. He does not merely “go back in time,” rather, his mind, involuntarily leaps from the present back to an earlier point in Time. Interestingly, he does not physically move through Time. Instead, when his conscious jumps from one point to the next, the body it leaves from essentially faints. When this strange onset first begins, it appears that Desmond feels something is not quite right, as if he were disoriented from being lost in a dream. The shifts become clearer to Desmond’s past and present selves; he is able to remember new details or information from each period, and he can carry that information through his consciousness to affect both past and future events. Eventually, he experiences the process enough times that he is able to recognize instantly when his consciousness transitions from a current to a former place within his mind. He is so deeply rooted in his memories that he knows when he is jilted into the past and back again to the present. The following is a clip (via YouTube) from Season 4, Episode 5, “The Constant” to better show Desmond’s experience. (Brief contextual background: Desmond, Sayid, and Captain Lapidus are choppering from the island to an off-shore frater where a team of people who claim themselves to be on a rescue mission for the survivors of Oceanic 815 await).

 

Now that Desmond’s abilities have been make clear, showing the value he as a character contributing to the importance of memory and film will be much less confusing. David Hume, the philosopher, was a successor of John Locke, both following and expanding upon Locke’s beliefs. Hume, too, believed in the idea of sense data. In Janine Rider’s fourth chapter, she quotes Palmer’s Looking by saying, “All we have is sense data, or ‘a bundle or collection of different perceptions which succeed each other with an inconceivable rabidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement’” (54). This directly related to Desmond’s ability to travel through time, or more accurately, the ability to travel through his consciousness in time, through his memories and experiences, to appear in a different time. Rider goes on to say that “Memory is the ‘glue’ that holds our perceptions together. It organizes them and gives us concepts of enduring things, like the concepts of oneself as a single, continuously existing self” (55). This statement neatly corresponds with Desmond as a character; he nearly comes “unglued” when he begins to move through his past and present consciousnesses. Furthermore, the idea of a single, continuously existing self is a solidified component of Hume’s ideas about memory, proving how valuable Lost is in the context of being studied through the lens of memory.

DavidHume

Philosopher David Hume, 1711-1776

As a philosopher, David Hume was much more difficult to analyze than his Lost counterpart. After reading and excerpt from his work, A Treatise of Human Nature, found in section 2.2 of Theories of Memory: A Reader, his philosophical style differed greatly from his predecessor. Within this excerpt is a subsection entitled “Of the Impressions of the Senses and Memory,” compiled by a list of seven points giving Hume’s thoughts on the matter. Points two and three particularly flowed with this premise of this analysis. Due to their difficult nature, I will present direct quotes and then paraphrase Hume’s thoughts to relate them better to this discussion.

2.) As to those impressions, which arise from the senses, their ultimate cause is, in my opinion, perfectly inexplicable by human reason, and ‘twill always be impossible to decide with certainty, whether they arise immediately from the objects, or are produc’d by the creative power of the mind, or are deriv’d from the author of our being…We may draw inferences from the coherence of our perceptions, whether they be true or false; whether they represent nature justly, or be mere illusions of the senses. (81)

Point two, while admittedly confusing, speaks to the nature of impressions, or something (like an idea or a memory) that is imprinted in our minds. The perception of an experience is what imprints upon our memory and the sense enhance those impressions. For example, when Desmond’s consciousness jumps back to the past in Season 3, Episode 8, “Flashes Before Your Eyes,” he wakes up on the floor of his apartment, covered in paint. His consciousness is experiencing the senses, but his present-day body is not receiving the same sensory input. Therefore, when his consciousness returns to the present, he is left with the experience, but not the feeling of having paint all over his body because that component was intangible. While his mind is exposed to an event in the past, his present-day body does not physically feel the sensory aspects of that event, making it ultimately difficult to prove whether or not the event was real.

3.) When we search for the characteristic, which distinguishes the memory from the imagination we must immediately perceive, that it cannot lie in the simple ideas it presents to us; since both these faculties borrow their simple ideas from the impressions and can never go beyond these original perceptions…Since therefore the memory is known, neither by the order of its complex ideas, nor the nature of its simple ones; it follows that the difference betwixt it and the imagination lies in its superior force and vivacity. A man may indulge his fancy in feigning any past scene of adventures; nor wou’d there be any possibility of distinguishing this from a remembrance of a like kind, were not the idea of the imagination fainter and more obscure. (82)

Point three, which is arguable much denser than point two holds some intriguing philosophical ideas of memory theory. From this text, it is apparent that Hume feels that memory is not merely complex or simple ideas. Rather, memory differs from imagination because of its “superior force and vivacity.” The word ‘feigning’ in the final sentence is notated with a footnote defining it as a conscious invention. So, in essence, a person may consciously invent (or imagine) past scenes from their life, which is only a divergent act from simple recall upon empirical memories.

Both David Hume the philosopher and Desmond Hume the character greatly perpetuate the ideas of John Locke the philosopher, and despite the differences with which the characters John and Desmond are faced with, they both ultimately facilitate room for similar memory theory interpretation in different ways. Their experiences are wildly different, but neither of them would have anything worth mentioning if not for the act of experience itself.

 

In conclusion, Lost is a prime example of film that can be thoroughly analyzed with different theories contributing to and established in the field of memory studies. Aside from the fact that many of the characters were inspired by philosophers (some, as exemplified in this essay, were memory theorists themselves), the series adapts these nearly ancient conversations into a creative, artistic cultivation of relatable people in extraordinary situations. Lost allows for multiple opportunities for discussion, such as memory and trauma and grief, memory and Empiricism, and memory and time travel. After looking closely at characters Jack Shephard, John Locke, and Desmond Hume, the question of the validity of Lost within the context of memory studies and film is indisputable.

 

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Works Cited

Caruth, Cathy. “Trauma Departures: Survival and History in Freud.” Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1996. 60-62. Print.

Connolly, Patrick J. “John Locke (1632-1704).” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. IEP, n.d.   Web. 21 Apr. 2016. <http://www.iep.utm.edu/locke/&gt;.

Markie, Peter. “Rationalism vs. Empiricism.” Stanford University. Stanford University, 19 Aug. 2004. Web. 26 Apr. 2016. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rationalism  empiricism/#1.2>.

Walkabout.” Lost. Writ. David Fury. Dir. Jack Bender. ABC Studios, Oct. 13, 2004. Netflix.

“White Rabbit.” Lost. Writ. David Fury. Dir. Jack Bender. ABC Studios, Oct. 20, 2004. Netflix.

“Flashes Before Your Eyes.” Lost. Writ. Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard. Dir. Jack Bender.  ABC Studios, Feb. 14, 2007. Netflix.

“The Constant.” Lost. Writ. Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. Dir. Jack Bender. ABC Studios,  Feb. 28, 2008. Netflix.

Rider, Janine. “Memory and Philosophy.” The Writer’s Book of Memory: An Interdisciplinary     Study for Writing Teachers. Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates,1995. 51-67. Kindle          edition.

Rossington, Michael, Anne Whitehead, and Linda R. Anderson. “Section 2.1: John Locke: from  An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.” Theories of Memory: A Reader.         Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 2007. 75-79. Print.

Rossington, Michael, Anne Whitehead, and Linda R. Anderson. “Section 2.2: David Hume: from A Treatise of Human Nature.” Theories of Memory: A Reader. Baltimore, MD: Johns     Hopkins UP, 2007. 80-84. Print.

 

 

 

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Facilitation Wrap-Up

After reading all of the facilitation responses, I was extremely impressed with the diverse thinking that came from everybody’s posts. There were some unique perspectives and experiences when it came to discussing Copyright and Fair Use, something I was ultimately glad to see. This made it much more enjoyable for me as the facilitator to know how this information personally impacted each of you. Because of this fact, all of you ended up teaching me alternative information from the material I prepared for the week’s discussion. Ben presented some thorough examples about copyright issues on YouTube, such as the issues surrounding Fine Brothers, and additionally, Wild Game Studios. Ben’s information helped me better understand issues that are more than a plagiarized source in a paper. YouTube is generally thought of as an entertainment site, so to take a moment and reflect that even the “fun” or “harmless” things have equally important copyright laws in place makes it a much more serious topic.

Since this semester allotted for >1% of personal reading time, I was not able to delve into Copyright and Fair Use for the purpose of continuing my curiosity on the subject. I am, however, excited to have a bit more time this summer. Brittany mentioned another text in her response post entitled, Literary Law Guide for Authors: Copyright, Trademark, and Contracts in Plain Language, which I think will be a beneficial text to keep on hand, bearing in mind that some of the information might have been updated since the most recent publication.

Copyright is something I care about (and I think most of you do, too), but it feels like an overwhelming topic that can never be fully explained or understood. But I have hereby given up on trying to fully understand. I need to learn as much as I can to know how to best appropriate the works of others, and in turn, how to best protect my own work in the future. Thanks again for responding to this facilitation. I’m glad I chose this topic, and I’m impressed with everybody’s unique answers and experiences. Nice work, everyone!

Final Reflection – Farewell, Blogmates!

Below are my responses to Dr. C’s questions for the final week. I hope everyone has had a successful finals week with as little stress as possible (which, of course, I know is not possible). This class brought me out of my academic comfort zone. I hope to see you guys in person in future graduate courses. Have a happy, restful, productive, fun summer break!

Comment on your work this semester. Please avoid glow (“I just love this class”) or conversion narratives (“I used to hate writing responses, but now I love them”). Instead, focus on your reading and writing this semester, which projects or readings/responses affected your learning, attitudes, or perspectives, and in what ways. Consider your work both inside and outside of the classroom. Make connections, perhaps with other classes or your work.

This semester, admittedly, was extremely challenging for me. Each of my three classes were subjects I had not previously studied, so it felt as though I started fresh. This class in particular challenged my abilities to analyze and interpret digital rhetoric, but it also helped me discover what intrigues me about this sub-genre. The facilitation that stuck with me were  the ones concerning Infographics and Data Visualization, Social Media and Digital Rhetoric, and Human-Computer Interface. What I found was that the social component of digital rhetoric is what draws me in. For example, I was completely engaged when Matt and Ben asked us to analyze our online personas and compare them to our real selves. Similarly, Samantha and Brittany’s Human-Computer Interface discussion brought to light this idea of a second self, and how it is maintained. For the last few weeks, I have been obsessively conscious of these discussions and how I am choosing to present my online, the kind of digital persona I have cultivated (I created a person in a way – creepy and awesome, methinks), and how I choose to interpret and react to other peoples’ online second self creations.

How would you define Digital Rhetoric? (you knew I had to ask this!) How have your attitudes toward digital rhetoric changed since January? In what ways? What does this definition mean to your work or school?

I did have a feeling you were going to ask, Dr. C!

Since the beginning of the semester, when I really had no clue what digital rhetoric was, I’ve been surprised over the last few months that digital rhetoric is such a primary facet of my daily life. That might be a bit silly and simplistic to admit, but I never stopped to consider how frequently I compose, interact with, and utilize digital rhetoric. Attitude wise, I’m much more sensitive to the fact that I’m in a constant state of processing. I’m analyzing my texts, social media portals, digital classrooms, online publications and reading materials, videos, infographics, etc. The list feels endless. In terms of defining digital rhetoric in the context of my work or school, it is essentially the predominant method for my learning materials. As a Dispatch Associate, I’m constantly on the phone and computer, as well as handling a digital alarm panel and printer. Without the use of digital literacies, my job would be tedious and difficult. In school, I find many of my reading materials online, as with this blog or via Blackboard. I can’t imagine how I would complete my school work without access to a computer, and I am constantly receiving emails from teachers, English Department administrators, and other UNO divisions that keep me in touch with weekly news or updates.

Final Seminar Project: Digital Literacies and Their Pedagogical Evolution

Digital Literacies and Their Pedagogical Evolution

“It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed.” These famous first lines come from Ray Bradbury’s most popular novel, Fahrenheit 451. I memorized these same words during my junior year of high school for Ms. Marcuccio’s American Literature class, a great many seven years ago. I hadn’t thought about these words or their significance until I visited Mercy High School earlier this month. The purpose of my venture, in short, was to observe how grade school and high school students’ learning has been shaped by the use of digital literacies and technological evolution in the classroom. To get a clearer perspective, I also visited Millard South High School and my elementary school, St. Pius X / St. Leo (SPSL), grades pre-K – 12. What I uncovered was a unique, paradoxical way of life in these classrooms. Students who can read and write just as I can, but ones who have had lightweight screens in their backpacks, homerooms, libraries, and at their fingertips for much of their educational career. I have wrestled with the strange in-between-ness of my own history with digital literacies. My family owned bulky beige desktop with Windows 95, but I didn’t formally learn to type until my first year of high school, in 2006. I was required to type all of my essays, but didn’t own a laptop until I received one for high school graduation. The primary hope of my research was to uncover the loss as well as the benefit that comes with incorporating digital literacies into everyday learning practices.

*

I chose a seat in the back of the classroom. As I quickly settled in to that familiar blue metal and plastic chair, I scanned my surroundings. Ms. Marcuccio’s room décor was the same as I remember it, although she’s changed classrooms since I was last there. Instead of carrying purses, some of the juniors were wearing fanny packs, a fad that started when I was a sophomore. As the girls took their seats, each of them pulled out a tablet or a laptop, something that was against school policy during my time as a student. One girl in the back of the room asked the chattering class if anyone had Wi-Fi, which was met in response with a groan. I later learned that this was an ongoing joke of sorts with the students and teachers, who told me how they have “all this technology” that is supported with unreliable Wi-Fi.

After taking attendance, saying prayer, and going over the upcoming schedule, Ms. Marcuccio pulled out her own tablet and brought up a PowerPoint for Fahrenheit 451, projected on the board at the front of the room. Still in the first few chapters, the class began discussing the book’s meaning of the word “fireman,” the symbolism of the hearth and the salamander, and the behavior of Mildred, Montag’s wife. Mildred is vapid and shallow, and obsessed with her screens and her Seashells (earbuds). She tries to convince Montag to make the forth wall of their television parlor a screen, like the other three walls. Mildred is practically glued to her screens, always going on about the television programs she watches. As Ms. Marcuccio spoke more in depth about the dynamic between Montag and his wife, I couldn’t help but look around at the young faces illuminated by their devices, glowing dimly in the dark. Although none of these students struck me as being Mildred-like, I marveled at the irony. Of all days for me to visit, I unknowingly chose to sit in on a class whose primary focus was a canonical text that showcases a fear of my own: the extinction of books.

It was a little surreal, returning to the halls of my alma mater. They were, for the most part, the same, but in fundamental ways, entirely unfamiliar. Despite the nostalgic ache I had for those impervious-to-any-kind-of-stain uniform skirts, I quickly realized that the young women wearing them were a much different type of student than I had been. As mentioned, I was not permitted to use a laptop, tablet, or phone during school hours, with the exception of senior year study hall. When I entered Mrs. Kessler’s first period Honors British Literature class, the handful of girls (only a handful because the rest were in Lincoln attending the UNL Language Fair) who greeted me each had one of these devices on their desk. Since so few people were in class that day, the students had a free reading period, giving me a chance to talk with Mrs. Kessler about the changes to their education.

“Do you like having students take notes on laptops and tablets, or do you prefer longhand?” I asked.

“I don’t like it,” she said quickly. “I definitely prefer them to take notes by hand. With the laptops, I always know when they are messing around on iMessage or Facebook or Twitter.” She went on to say how she has to move through the aisles of the classroom to check and see if the students are taking notes or on websites that can distract from their learning. Her desk is even at the back of the room so when they are granted homework or reading time, she can monitor their screens.

“That must be frustrating,” I said, thinking about my own upcoming teaching position for this fall.

“It can be, yes. But you know, I also like how convenient it is to have Google in the classroom with us. For instance, if I’m making a reference and can’t remember where it originally came from, I always say, ‘Quick, someone Google that,’ and then we have our answer.”

This idea of Googling something for an immediate answer is nothing new to me. The Internet has been a staple for the majority of my life; it is what replaced the Dewey Decimal System for people in my generation, what brought about they need to question if a source is reputable, and what has rendered me an impatient person when it comes to researching scholarly texts. I realized in that moment, talking to Mrs. Kessler, that I am not as different from these Mercy girls as I thought, or maybe not as different as I wanted to be. I’m actually closer to being a Mildred than I care to admit. On my desk is a laptop, a smartphone, a Kindle. Over my shoulder is a digital clock. I’m listening to classical music via my computer, via my Seashells. I’m preparing this essay to post on my personal blog for an online class.

Before reflecting on my visit to Mercy, I had a feeling of what I like to call “quiet arrogance,” meaning that I was going to observe these teens with their fancy gadgets and feel superior for once being a high school student who wrote out her notes over Beowulf. I wanted to find a significant loss of some pertinent facet in their educational experience. As it happens, my academic practices are hardly different at all. While doing some preliminary research on the age group I would soon observe, I came across a video, featured on The Daily Dot, about how teens today don’t know how to use “old technology,” as shown here. My sense of “quiet arrogance” led me to think I would be more like Mrs. Coyle, my sophomore English teacher, who instilled in me the rhythm of a five-paragraph MLA essay. Luckily, she was available to meet with me. We discussed the impact of implementing technology in her classroom. I was particularly interested to hear her response, being that she is as teacher in the most traditional sense of the word. However, I was surprised by our conversation.

“So, Mrs. Coyle,” I began. “From one English lover to the next, I have been wondering your thoughts on this matter for a while. Do you feel as though these digital devices are almost their own character, wedging themselves between you and your students?”

“Surprisingly, no,” she said firmly. “They actually help me connect better with these students, who are so used to and familiar with having a device in their hand. It has forced me to adapt to their needs, and the way educational practices are headed.”

Mrs. Coyle has done what I have failed to do — she has gone through this adaptation with an open mind and a willingness to go forward. I feel a strange divide within myself to be a stereotypically digitally savvy millennial, and simultaneously, an English student who is reverent of old book smell and filling up a notebook with my own handwriting. I have tried so hard to be the virtuous Montag that I have failed to see that Mildred isn’t all bad.

Before I left, I stopped in what used to be the library, but what is now known as the Media Center. I read about this change on the Mercy High School website before my visit. This recently updated spaced is described as follows:

With the latest in technology and dedicated space for collaboration our students enjoy all the benefits of a 21st Century learning environment. The use of flat screens and Apple TV’s provide the ability to make global connections. In addition the collaborative technologies within the flexible space allow students to work, interact, learn and grow together. This open and inviting atmosphere encourages innovation and creativity as students research, explore and study together or individually.

There is no other way to describe my experience there, other than to say that it was essentially a parallel universe. The space was the same, but the purpose of the room has significantly shifted. Books were being “tossed out,” and the shelves looked as though they’d been purged. Two small, private rooms have been built, housing the Apple TVs for group project preparation. All of the desktop computers for student use have disappeared, as each student is required to have a device for school use (the transition for each student to have an Apple iPad as an incoming freshman is underway, beginning with the current sophomore class). Mrs. Redding, the Librarian, who is going to soon be retiring after over 40 years, spoke to me about her feelings of the Media Center.

“A library should be a place for the girls to come and quietly study, research, and get help with homework,” she said, clearly frustrated. “Now, they are allowed to sit here and talk, play around on Facebook, and in essence, fall behind in their responsibilities as students. I’m supposed to let them chat and do as they please, but I don’t. I can’t work that way.” Spoken like a true Montag. Mrs. Redding pointed out the bare wooden shelves that once bared the weight of so many books, and she looked as though parts of herself have been tossed out, too. Her love and sanctity for this library reminded me of an article by author Neil Gaiman, entitled, “Neil Gaiman: Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming.” He says:

Books are the way that we communicate with the dead. The way that we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned, over and over. There are tales that are older than most countries, tales that have long outlasted the cultures and the buildings in which they were first told.

*

My visits to Millard South and SPSL varied wildly from my experience at Mercy. Millard South was unfamiliar territory, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. My friend Amber Wormington, who has been teaching there for just over 10 years, agreed to let me observe her AP Senior Literature class. Her co-ed class consisted of close to twenty seniors, all of whom are excited to graduate within the month. As she began her beginning-of-class conversation, I scoped out my surroundings. In this one room, I noticed an abundant, diverse scene of technology: two Mac computers which appeared to be new flat screens, one older Mac computer, a Smartboard at the front of the room, a document camera (like an ELMO), Amber’s school-issued laptop, and six iPads which I later found out were for classroom use. This is more technology in one classroom than I had ever experienced. As Amber began speaking to her seniors about their upcoming national AP Language and Literature exams, I focused solely on the students. Although notes were being written with a stylus on the Smartboard, which was linked to Amber’s laptop, maybe three students were taking notes. The rest of them sat facing forward with nothing on their desk but upside-down smartphones. It was jarring; I was taking more notes for my field research than they were for their exam. Once they were given worktime after an hour or so, Amber and I spoke about their classroom habits.

“As you were teaching, I noticed almost nobody was taking notes. Is that because you send them your Smartboard notes electronically?”

“No,” she replied. “They don’t really know how to take notes. Usually, class is structured to be more of a discussion since it’s Literature, but I almost never see them taking notes. They never had to like you and I did.”

“And the phones on the desks? Is that because you’re understanding of their senioritis, or because it is normal?”

“It’s pretty normal. I’m not sure if they’re comfortable unless they can see their phones, whether they’re using them or not. I tried banning them for a while, but that just led to them trying to sneak and check their notifications, which led to me spending more time battling them than teaching them. My policy is, they don’t have to hide them, but they can’t check them when I’m talking. We live in a world that permits phone usage in almost any situation. They need to develop a sense of when it is polite and impolite to be on their phones. This has actually built better relationships with my students. They know I care about their lives outside of the classroom, and they respect that I need a few hours of their time every other day.”

As Amber spoke, I had a vivid flashback of getting three demerits for having my cellphone in my pocket, which my disgruntled Algebra II teacher happened to see. Not only is Amber’s method progressive, it is a mile-marker of where we are historically as students and teachers of writing. Her actions echoed the ideas of Troy Hicks’ writing in his text, The Digital Writing Workshop. He says, “we might first think about how our conceptions of writing, and teaching writing, have changed in the past few decade and the consider some questions and action steps for adapting these beliefs to digital writing” (126). Because she has assessed these students on a personal level as well as a generational one, she has adapted her classroom policies to better connect with them. I had not expected this. I was actually thinking I’d get to see students being asked to put their phones away. I wonder now, is she a Mildred or a Montag? More importantly, does she have to be either?

My last school visit was to SPSL, where I spent my seventh and eighth grade schoolyears after my family’s moving ceased. This May will mark my 10-year graduation from grade school. I met with the Technology Specialist, Mary Kay Nelson, for a tour of the school and a nearly two-hour conversation about how learning with digital technologies impacts the multiple learning levels at SPSL. I met her on the first floor in the computer lab, where an adorable group of preschoolers was completing their alphabet books which they started at the beginning of the semester. Their short bodies sat erect so they could better view their flat screen Mac computers, which sat on plastic tables that bowed from supporting the weight of bulky monitors from years past.

“Are all grade levels required to spend a certain amount of time in the computer lab?” I asked, having only one memory on this room, which was the result of a day too rainy for recess.

“No,” replied Mrs. Nelson. “All of the students are encouraged to use this room if it suites their academic needs, but they don’t have to spend time in here as a requirement. We want them to learn that technology can be used as a tool to enhance a project or a study session.” This is what I had been looking for, a moderate Montag with the passions of Mildred. I asked her to expand on this a little. “We are a Google school, and each student has an e-mail backed by Google, an spsl.net account. They can only e-mail within this network — there’s no possible way for them to receive e-mails unless they’re from fellow students or teachers.”

From there, we discussed the seemingly limitless resources available within the school. Presently, 120 Chromebooks are available in the library which can be checked out for student use, a resource that was not available for me and my classmates a decade ago. A grant proposal was recently submitted to obtain 120 more so the upper grade levels can have a 1:1 student-Chromebook ratio. As we peeked in and out of classroom, I noticed many of them had Smartboards which were being utilized vividly. Some of the students were using the Chromebooks to interact with and supplement the assignments happening on the Smartboards.

After touring, Mrs. Nelson and I spoke quietly about the receptiveness of the teachers to technology.

“I’ll say this,” she began carefully. “There are some teachers who plainly do not like technology. I’m still trying to get a few of them to use e-mail, can you believe it?”

“Why do you think that is?”

“If I’m being honest? Stubbornness. I know it can be a tough transition from paper and pencil to laptop and tablet, but that’s the way everything is moving, and our students need to be prepared.”

As she spoke, I thought about the unevenness of my own technological learning. I’ve been in post-secondary education for nearly seven years, and I’m still working out the kinks with Google docs, the Cloud, and my security settings on Facebook. Mrs. Nelson expressed her dilemma — trying to push everyone in the same direction, but meeting resistance that affects the educational experiences of the few hundred budding young students. It became clear that even with these expensive, valuable digital literacies, the learning between students within a singular school as well as multiple is not uniform. It’s not a secret that money, budgets, and enrollment numbers factor into all this, but it was surprising to see that despite every student being in a near-constant state of being plugged in, each school has their own ecosystem, and fundamentals that use technologies as tools to distinguish them from the next.

*

“It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blacken and changed.” Books have turned into eBooks. Writing a paper has become typing a paper. Office hours with teachers can sometimes be reduced to e-mail correspondence. Report cards aren’t necessary when a student can check his or her grade online every week. Going into this project, I assumed that everything that had been changed was blackened, that it had been eaten away by something more superficial. But that isn’t true. Things are just changed; an evolution of pedagogy, of reading and writing, of what it is to be a student. It might not be fair to say one way or the other if digital literacies in learning environments is positive or negative. From this experience, I have discovered that it simply is how we learn now. We have all adapted, whether aware of it or not, to our technological surroundings which ultimately lead us to a facilitation of learning. So what is lost or gained? A reverence for knowledge. I’ll let you decide in which direction.

 

Works Cited

Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967. Print.

Coyle, Mary. “Digital Literacies in Your Classroom.” Personal interview. 14 Apr. 2016.

Gaiman, Neil. “Neil Gaiman: Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Day-   dreaming.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 15 Oct. 2013. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.

Hicks, Troy. The Digital Writing Workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2009. 126. Print.

Jaworski, Michelle. “Teens React to Windows 95 and Make You Feel like a Living Fossil.” The  Daily Dot. The Kernel, 07 Mar. 2016. Web. 07 Mar. 2016.

Kessler, Cathy. “Digital Literacies in Your Classroom.” Personal interview. 14 Apr. 2016.

“Media Center.” MercyHigh. N.p., 17 Aug. 2015. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.            <http://mercyhigh.org/academics/media-center/&gt;.

Nelson, Mary Kay. “Digital Literacies in Your Classroom.” Personal interview. 21 Apr. 2016. Redding, Kathy. “Digital Literacies in Your Classroom.” Personal interview. 14 Apr. 2016.

Wormington, Amber. “Digital Literacies in Your Classroom.” Personal interview. 13 Apr. 2016.

Facilitation Response: Human-Computer Interface

My Thoughts: I’m really enjoying these facilitations lately; last week we reflected on our online personas, and now we’re discussing how we interface with computers…my thoughts have felt very sci-fy-esque lately in terms of these assignments.

Amber Case’s TED Talk left me wanting more. I haven’t come across many anthropologists in my years of schooling, least of all one who studies cyborg anthropology (cue the mysterious dystopic sci-fy music). Case’s research made some compelling insights for the ideas of time travel, to the human-computer relationship, and to the idea of a “second self.” What jumped out to me most was this idea of children and teens of today having to experience the passage from childhood to adolescence the “regular” way, and then also experience a secondary passage with their online second selves. Last week, we discussed our online personas and how we cultivate our presence through social media. I chose to look through some of my pictures, or selfies, as the youngsters call them. Below are some of the photos I gathered from my Instagram, while the others are pictures I’ve taken to send to friends. Can you guess which are which?

IMG_20160418_200942        IMG_20160418_201323

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you probably figured, the ones on the left are from my Instagram and the ones on the right are from my real life, for lack of better word. I have gone through this rite of passage of being a secondary self. In the first collage, my face looks generally the same: relaxed brows, a posed smile, and hair that has been done. In my day to day pictures, I can tell you that in only two of the for I have washed hair, and in three of the four, I’m wearing the same grey jacket, my favorite one, which I wear a couple of times a week. I guess you could make the argument that I’m posed in these pictures like I am in the ones on the left, but not in the same way. In the day to day photos, the faces I make are much more Kelsey-like. It’s so weird to accept that I have a second self, an two-dementional version of me that I update and edit and alter, similar to the way I drink water and wash clothing and lift weights to take care of my offline, fleshy body.

Prompt Response: Recently, I observed a piece of technology that was used to replace a “real” interaction. I was in California a few weeks ago for the AWP 2016 conference. On the flights to and from, none of the flight attendants participated in the pre-flight safety instruction. It was all on a video, which was played through a little screen on the back of every single seat, above the fold-away tray tables. For rows and rows, all I saw were the tiny screens showing me how to utilize a flotation device. Not only were the directions presented via a prerecorded video, but it was actually a presentation. Each safety tip was delivered in such a way that reminded me of a skit. For example, when the flight attendant in the video gave directions on how to fasten seat belts, she was riding on a golf cart. When the cart went speedily over a hill, it was supposed to signify turbulence. I’ve included the video below so that everyone can get a clearer picture my experience on the plane.

There are pros to doing something like this. No matter which flight I was on (and there were four total), I received the exact same safety instructions. The repetition made me a little more confident each time I saw it; I knew where the life rafts were located, what emergency instructions to listen for in the event of a water landing, and how to inflate my life vest in two ways. Another pro to this video is how relaxing it made flying seem. There are always people who are nervous on airplanes (luckily, I am not one of them), and a video like this is much more calming than a straight faced flight attendant nonchalantly using their first two fingers to point to the exit doors. Additionally, the airlines have recognized that the majority of people are constantly on their small, lightweight devices rather than paying attention to the safety instructions. So by making it a video that sits right in front of our face, we’re almost forced to watch it.

The cons, however, are just as valid. There is an artificial quality to this pre-flight video. While I do feel it was made well and conveys important information, I also believe that it makes the impending trip seem more like a roller coaster ride than an actual flight. The characters are relaxed, happy, and attractive. They didn’t seem like “real people.” I wondered why this bothered me a bit, until I realized that if felt like the plane was powered by all things digital. The pilot was nothing more than a voice who made two or three announcements, and the flight attendants were people who shut the overhead compartments and brought me a drink and snack. It was like the plane was flying me, not me sitting inside a machine operated by a human being. This was such a weird feeling of detachment, not only from the ground, but from everyone on board.

Annotated Bibliography

Anjos-Santos, Lucas, Raquel Gamero, and Telma Nunes Gimenez. “Digital Literacies,      Interdisciplinarity and English Language Learning by High School Students.” Trabalhosem Linguistica Aplicada 53.1 (2014): 79-102. ProQuest. Web. 13 Apr. 2016.

This article has concepts that closely relate to what I also am working to uncover when I complete my field research. However, Anjos-Santos, Gamero, and Gimenez review “different digital literacy practices aiming at an interdisciplinary work.” They additionally focus on the learning of the English language for non-native speakers, something I have never gone through in my life. This article provides a unique perspective that will make my research not only more well-rounded, but also diverse. The authors state, “In this article, we discuss the theoretical framework foregrounding the activities, describe the activities developed for different workshops and discuss the roles digital literacies may have in the development of interdisciplinary projects and English teaching and learning.”

Bee, Kelsey. Digital Literacies in the Catholic Grade School. 10 Apr. 2016. Raw data. St. Pius X/St. Leo Catholic School, Omaha.

This May marks the ten-year anniversary of my eighth grade graduation from St. Pius X/St. Leo Catholic School (SPSL). This is a K-8 grade school, which immediately provides me with a range of educational levels to potentially survey. I have made an appointment to visit the school to see what transitions have been made over the last decade. When I was an eighth grader, we had overhead projectors, paper report cards, and spent maybe one or two days per school year in the computer lab. During my visit, I will speak to teachers about their experience with integrating digital literacies into the classrooms, the value it adds to their students’ learning experience, and what is being detracted by the necessity of digital technologies within the classroom, especially in the most developmental years of schooling.

Bee, Kelsey. Digital Literacies in the Catholic High School. 10 Apr. 2016. Raw data. Mercy High School, Omaha.

This May marks my six-year anniversary since my high school graduation. I attended Mercy High School from 2006-2010, and it is a class B all-girl Roman Catholic college preparatory school. As a ninth grader, I took typing lessons, my teachers were in the process of phasing out things like overhead projectors, and students were not allowed to bring laptops to school until my senior year. Revisiting the institution where I spent my formative educational years will be an extremely crucial point of reference for this project. On Thursday, April 14th, 2016, I will be meeting with two-three of my former English teachers at Mercy to discuss their experience with integrating digital literacies into regular and AP English Literature classes. I will gather information on how they feel this impacts their students on an academic, educational, and social level. I will also revisit places like the computer labs, the auditorium, and the library (which is now referred to as the Media Center).

Bee, Kelsey. Digital Literacies in the Millard Public School System. 13 Apr. 2016. Raw data.  Millard South High School, Omaha.

On April 13th, 2016, I visited Amber Wormington’s senior AP Literature class to diversify by field research over local schools and their educational technologies. This research will be a great supplement to my project, as Ms. Wormington’s classroom housed technologies I have not utilized in my high school or college classes. While I obtained descriptions of these digital literacies and got to experience their functions first hand, I was also able to observe the behavior of the students, who interacted differently to the classroom technologies than I remember acting. This is a valuable source because I was able to observe a co-ed classroom of seniors studying literature and writing, which will pair nicely with the material in Troy Hicks’ work entitled, The Digital Writing Workshop.

Hangen, Tona. “Historical Digital Literacy, One Classroom at a Time.” Journal Of American History 101.4 (2015): 1192-1203. Education Source. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.

This essay, published in March of 2015 will support my question of finding what is both lost and gained with the presence of digital literacies. Hangen asks and answers the validity, benefits, and drawbacks of learning history by utilizing digital tools as a student’s disposal. Not only will this essay support some of my own ideas and findings, it will also be a nice contrast of subject matter. Studying English, writing, and literature is a different process than the way one would study history. Hangen’s perspective differs from mine in her field of study, giving her a credible, alternative perspective to much of the material I will be working with.

Gaiman, Neil. “Neil Gaiman: Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Day-   dreaming.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 15 Oct. 2013. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.

This article, written by fiction author, Neil Gaiman, speaks to the importance surrounding libraries and having a passion for reading and literature. While this may at first glance seem generic and invaluable, it is not. Gaiman discusses his growth as a reader and a writer, attributing much of his development to having spent so much time in the library reading print books. Being that I am part of the group of young adults who have experienced the boom of eBooks during the late 2000’s and early 2010’s, I have a certain aversion to them. I grew up with print materials; only in my later college years did I begin to utilize digital texts. Gaiman’s article absolutely fules my question of what is lost, as I feel there is a significant extinction of the student-book relationship.

Hicks, Troy. The Digital Writing Workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2009. Print.

In this book, Hicks simply and effectively discusses the educational value of digital literacies for writing students as well as teachers of writing. I read this book for my Book Review assignment earlier in the semester, but I feel its content is applicable form my final project as well. Hicks gets into what he calls “the five core principles” of a digital writing workshop, which are the following: student choice about topic and genre, active revision, studying the author’s craft, publication beyond the classroom, and the assessment of both the product and the process.

This text will be a valuable component to my project because Hicks is widely known and respected within this conversation surrounding all things digital rhetoric, so digging deeper into his research will provide a professional angle of what is lost and what is gained.

Jaworski, Michelle. “Teens React to Windows 95 and Make You Feel like a Living Fossil.” The  Daily Dot. The Kernel, 07 Mar. 2016. Web. 07 Mar. 2016.

This video shows teenage students, born in the mid- to late-nineties, being tested in a friendly way to examine their knowledge of the Windows 95 operating system. This debuted around the time many of them were born, but they had minimal to no understanding of how this piece of technology actually worked. Incorporating this video into my project will bring in a unique student perspective, which will be beneficial since I’m not going to actually be interviewing students when I visit schools. It also be an example of both losing and gaining benefits from the evolution of technology in the classroom. I feel this is a credible source because it’s a very recent video, providing my audience with how many students currently understand certain aspects of digital literacies.

Lea, Mary R. “Emerging Literacies In Online Learning.” Journal Of Applied Linguistics 4.1   (2007): 79-100. Communication Source. Web. 13 Apr. 2016.

This paper focuses on the world of online learning, which is now an extremely prominent form of education. Because my grade school and high school classes were held in person, I only experienced online learning for the first time six years ago. Some of these students may have been privy to having online courses integrated into their educational history before getting to college. Lea’s paper examines the nature of writing in the online setting, something that is now so prevalent for writers, students, and teachers of writing. As the source description states, “The paper highlights evidence of ‘intertextuality’, ‘metadiscourse’ and ‘epistemic modality’ in students’ message postings. It suggests that in foregrounding these textual features it is possible to unpack the nature of the writing and emerging literacies in online learning.”

Rossington, Michael, Anne Whitehead, and Linda R. Anderson. “Victor Burgin: From In/Different Spaces: Place and Memory in Visual Culture.” Theories of Memory: A Reader. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 2007. 276-85. Print.

This excerpt of Victor Burgin’s work, found in Theories of Memory: A Reader, under Section 9: Diaspora is a strangely unique source that will force me to think outside the box when continuing to develop this project. According to a review of this work from the University of California Press website, “In/Different Spaces explores the construction of identities in the psychical space between perception and consciousness, drawing upon psychoanalytic theories to describe the constitution and maintenance of “self” and “us”—in imaginary spatial and temporal relations to “other” and “them”—through the all-important relay of images.” I believe this source has merit because I am curious to learn, through my field research, if there is an over-reliance on the visual component of digital literacies, specifically with pixilated screens. What is the difference between learning with a chalkboard, a dry erase board, or a Smart Board?

Response: The Rhetoric of Social Media

This is such a fun facilitation. I think everyone, at one point or another, has a love-hate relationship with all facets of social media, myself included. I constantly go back and forth on whether or not I find it useful to my life to maintain my online portals.On the one hand, I have an entire world of information circulating at the tips of my fingers. I can see what my friends in different parts of the world are up to, I can attend events in my local area, and I can maintain connections with people I know without us ever speaking. On the other hand, I frequently feel like I’m cluttered. Why do I need to fill my brain with Emily’s Minnesota Weekend! instead of reading a few chapters of a new book? What am I actually gaining by finding out what my casual acquaintances are up to? Why do I feel the need to maintain my profiles by updating pictures or posting blurbs about my life?

Facebook evolved from a way for me to “keep in touch” with my friends from high school, to a way to try and quickly establish new college relationships, to writing the occasional post about something or someone I’m proud of or thankful for. I used to read everyone’s posts on my newsfeed, but now, I mostly follow the updates of close friends, classmates, local businesses, and pages related to writing and/or publishing. I like Instagram for its simplicity, but my page is mostly filled with pictures of my cat. Undoubtedly, you all though, “Yikes, another dreaded Internet crazy cat lady.” But I’m not. I’m just a girl who loves animals, most of all her calico cat. Pinterest is one of those sites that I can get lost in. If I click on this picture of distressed boyfriend jeans, I end up on a site with a surprisingly great Clearance tab. I can tap on the infographic telling me where to visit in Ireland, and I’ll be directed to a travel site that describes those places, some of which I’ve been to, some of which I desperately want to see. I can see the current photography trends, the top recipes for holiday treats, and the most fashionable hairstyles. I’ve tried to get into Twitter, but for some reason I just never want to use it. I feel a weird social guilt combined with a brand of Internet f.o.m.o. by not tweeting everyday, and I don’t understand where that comes from.

It’s funny, ten years ago, I didn’t have a single one of these online social components. All I had was an email address, but for a 14-year-old girl in 2006, I got roughly 0-7 emails a month. I wish I could understand my reflex of having an online presence in these formats. Some people don’t; by boyfriend Twitter sometimes and checks his Facebook maybe a few times a year. So not everybody cares about their online persona in the same way. But why do I care at all? I’ll use this week’s facilitation questions to help me answer that.

1) Take a moment to reflect on how you construct your online persona. What choices are you making when you post something to your social media sites? These sites could include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your blogs, etc.

  • My online persona, much like many people, is an edited version of myself. I don’t always speak with proper grammar, but when I write something online, I re-read it a few times before posting.
  • I only put up the good stuff. Generally, I try not to be negative online. Who wants to read posts about my grievances? Nobody likes to hear someone whine in person, and they surely don’t want to read that sort of stuff online.
  • I don’t want just any picture of me online. Okay, here’s where I get a little more vain than I’m proud to admit. I love that Instagram has filters. If I have a pre-zit, it can be made virtually undetectable. Usually, my hair is parted to the left, so I usually stand to the left of people when we take pictures together.
  • I like to post things that make me seem friendly, approachable, and intelligent. I’m not really sure of how I want people to see me, but I know how I don’t want them to.

2) What is the difference, if there is one, between how you construct your online persona compared to how you portray yourself in person? If you do not feel there is a difference between the two for you personally, explain why.

  • This is such a great question. There are definite differences between how I construct my online personal and my actual self. Online, I would say I’m much more of an observer, someone who likes to review all of the information laid out in front of her and formulate opinions afterwards. In person, I’m fairly quiet, but when I’m not, I’m trying to be involved in the conversation fully. Rather, I’m not half-listening, half-checking my Facebook when I’m talking to someone while we’re having coffee. Something I have noticed about myself, though, is the fact that I actually do care about how I appear online. I feel like if I make a good first impression online, people will want to get to know me better. The weird thing is, I add or am added by people online after I meet them in person. So if we then establish an online “friendship,” it’s because we made good first impressions IN PERSON. So then why do I feel the need to impress people with the contents of my Facebook or the candidly posed photos of my Instagram? Being added, followed, retweeted, or whatever, is a confirmation that someone is interested in my written voice, my face, my relationships, and my life. Each friend request is a receipt – a record that one more person wants to keep up with my day to day life, even if I don’t post something every day.