Featured Image credits to Serkan for making such a cool custom gif!
So, I made it to the end of the semester. More, I somehow made it to the end of my graduate program!!!! I’m going to have my M.A. in like two weeks???
I mean, I have to wait for the actual degree to be mailed to me but the ceremony of it all is happening in two weeks!!!!
It has not exactly been smooth sailing. But, I managed not to be thrown overboard which I count as a primary accomplishment this last semester. Every new semester and, really, every new chapter of my life teaches me how to be a better sailor of rough waters. Each semester comes with its new challenges and new expectations. In NetNarr this semester, it was a definite challenge to balance completing my thesis as well as stay on top of course assignments. There were times where it was hard for me to even choose to work on a NetNarr assignment because I felt like it was taking away valuable time from my thesis. All semester I really felt like I was creating sub-par work–which, true or not, cut into my own self-esteem. I hold myself to high standards when it comes to my academics and I definitely felt strain semester in regards to my work. All that said, I am proud of what I have accomplished in NetNarr and I am incredibly grateful for all the supportive people I have met along the way.
First and foremost, so much of my installation for my thesis project would not have been possible were it not for the amazing support I received from my NetNarr classmates. I was very self-conscious about having an entire portion of the class revolve around my own “silly” project. More, I was self-conscious that it was being treated like a Studio Visit as if I were in the same league as some of our amazing guests like Chris Gilliard or Alex Saum, both tour de forces of intellect and creativity. But, my classmates were all very invested and also interested in my actual work. Serkan even came in with a hand-made tiger mask and everyone participated with the project. The footage that was taken by my classmates is invaluable and really helps bring my whole project to life. It’s a living experience on my website now. (For anyone who hasn’t yet, I strongly recommend checking out my acknowledgements. I am so grateful for all of the support I received, more grateful than I can ever fully express in words.)
Additionally, I am really grateful for all of the discussion I engaged in with my classmates and our Studio Visit guests during NetNarr. From my past experiences in NetNarr and my own research into digital culture, I know I bring a certain level of insight to the table but I was really impressed by the thoughtfulness so many of my classmates have in regards to digital concerns, especially concerns about privacy and about self-representation. I think we were all very overwhlemed by what Chris Gilliard shared with us about surveillance in digital spaces. For myself, I was deeply disturbed by how easily citizens who are not under investigation for any crimes can be monitored. That knowledge, though deeply disturbing, I believe is important when it comes to any discussion about regulating online spaces. That so many people are invested in this problem and are concerned about it gives me hope for the future.
I found it deeply moving, as well, to hear from Alex Saum this semester. Her work has inspired so much of the creative aspects of my thesis project. More, her perspective on online issues is so on the pulse and seems to be in line with my own concerns. Saum’s SELFIEPOETRY and #YOLO projects are exploring issues of self and of self-representation in online spaces that most concern me; primarily, I am concerned about where we are in these spaces and these spaces allow us to be whole in new ways but also irreparably fragmented. I find this all so fascinating. For me, Saum summarized some of my concerns succinctly when she said, “Works of art are always representations; They aren’t me.” At least, this thought lies at the heart of some of my own thinking on the issue of self-representation in digital spaces. Who is art for? Who are we for in this new digital landscape? What constitutes a person, what should matter in that regard? Who has the authority to decide what should matter? I was so deeply moved by Alex Saum and much of her perspective on online issues not only informed by own research but also legitimized its importance.
Speaking of Saum’s work, though, I am disappointed I was unable to create a #finsta for my final field guide project as I originally expressed interest in doing. In complete contrast to my thesis project, I wanted to explore how evaluative features and social curation in online spaces limits who we can be. I hoped to accomplish this feat by creating a #finsta (fake Instagram) account that would help me explore the nature of content creation and of evaluative features.
That didn’t happen.
I ran out of time to create an additional component, like a finsta, that would have allowed me to explore/subvert what I was going for. I do think I wrote a comprehensive piece on the topic of social curation in online spaces and I am proud of the research I did for that. (I never really could get into the whole “alchemist conversation” thing you were going for but I do think I tried to engage with my alchemist in meaningful ways on
I wonder where she gets that from…) I wish I could have had more time for the creative aspect of my research but I also feel like my creative quota for the class was met through different activities over the semester. For example, making my Twitter bot was a whole thing. So much creative and technical energy was exerted this semester not just to get my bot going but to get everyone else’s bot in the class up and working. I mean, after the whole “Russian interference in our democratic election process” thing I get why Twitter added more hoops to jump through. But still. It made for a lot of work on my end.
One of my favorite creative enterprises from this class as well as one of my fave assignments was making and exploring gifs. I love memes and I do think they are pique art at the moment but I find gifs to be so evocative. While I do think reaction gifs are limiting our own means of expression in some ways, I think the process of making one’s own gifs returns some of that autonomy to users. More, I think it is incredibly important to help writers in this age build digital skills, especially skils that help writers engage with a contemporary audience. New media like gifs and memes is the substance of the Internet in 2019. Knowing how to make new media helps make one literate in the area. I firmly believe that and I hope NetNarr continues with activities that help familiarize students not only with using new media but with making it. Most of us agree, I believe, that in order for any of the issues addressed in the field guide to be “fixed”, developing digital literacy practices is absolutely integral. In order to develop digital literacy and help people become more critical of the content they consume online, people need to become more familiar with new media and with how it is constructed. That provides perspective which opens new doors. Were people more informed, I highly believe that our current digital and media landscape would look much different.
Somehow, knowledge and information and critical thinking are subversive. Go figure.
Overall, I think this semester 1) inspired me to somehow be even more critical and subversive in regards to my thesis and 2) helped me be more aware of just how little privacy we truly have online. NetNarr this semester has made me think twice before selecting auto-fill options and before allowing different apps to have access to my location. I mean, it’s fun to joke about the CIA/NSA/[insert shady government agency here] agent assigned to me but it’s a whole other thing to realize just how deep data tracking runs and how many people are making bank off of selling my personal information to the highest bidder. If I think about it too long, it really does disturb me. That said, again, I do think that NetNarr this semester has demonstrated that there are a lot of concerned citizens and ones that are willing to realize and actualize their concerns. Whether or not a candidate for a government office supports greater transparency or, better, a complete overhaul when it comes to online data tracking is important to my generation. We want a safer Internet and we want an Internet that can still be this place for the free exchange of ideas, for change. We know we deserve better. I think NetNarr, classes like NetNarr, and the students in these classes are paving the way for IRL change.
Thank you for everything always.
My Twitter Visualization:
Anyway, I guess that’s all folks. I’m not sure exactly where digital travels will take me next but I’ll always be a tweet a way from crashing the #netnarr party ^.^
~So, till next time, friends~