New Media Writing at Emory

Image Credit: Jessekoeckhoven
Image Credit: Dave Pape

Emory’s New Media Writing course teaches the skills needed to create content for 21st century media. Assignments include a Technology Literacy Narrative, sketch assignments, a Podcast Series, and developing a model from The Equality of Opportunity Project’s data set. The Technology Literacy Narrative provided guidance on writing a formal online essay. Sketch assignments familiarized me with new media platforms, such as Pixlr and Photoshop that were outside my comfort zone. Podcasts examined new media platforms such as Netflix and Reddit. The Equality of Opportunity Project trained me to summarize complex data for a general audience. The New Media Writing course demonstrated the abundant opportunities to expand and enhance communication using new media, improved my writing skills in different digital settings, and gave me the opportunity to collaborate on unique New Media Projects.


Technology Literacy Narrative

The Technology Literacy Narrative assignment shows that online essays do not need to follow the conventional structures often used in collegiate writing. My initial outline for the essay used a standard five-paragraph format: introduction; three body paragraphs; and conclusion. I revised this pattern, however, to utilize WordPress’s platform. I wrote my essay as if it were a formal blog. I kept my introduction and conclusion but separated other paragraphs based on the ways technology has impacted me. I also inserted links and pictures where I deemed appropriate. I did not worry about margins, indents, or other formatting issues that I consider when writing a traditional essay. Instead, I focused on giving appropriate credit to people whose images I used and where to insert links to different sources.

 

Image Credit: Phil Oakley

WordPress also allows a writer to include material unavailable in a basic written essay. Using WordPress, I inserted pictures, videos, and links to sources. For example, instead of merely describing Khan Academy, I provided a link to its website so the reader can obtain first-hand information about its tutoring methods and programs. WordPress also let me upload my essay to my website so that it immediately became accessible to the public.

 

The Sketch Assignments

The Sketch Assignments forced me to develop new communication skills. The second (combophoto) sketch assignment required me to combine two photos using Pixlr. I do not have drawing, graphic, or artistic skills and this simple task took me hours. Despite the time I spent, my end result was only two photos on top of one another. I also was uneasy making a Tryptych Sketch. I wanted to make a comic or a meme, but I am not funny. I spent a lot of time creating a meme with a mediocre joke.

 

The sketch assignments forced me to test my creative limitations and step outside my comfort zone. I continued to use Pixlr for sketch assignments and have enhanced my skills throughout the semester. I now can at least manipulate (erase parts, distort pictures, etc.) and combine images with ease. I also have developed basic competency in other programs such as Photoshop and markup languages such as html that I had never used before. I would like to improve my coding skills by creating a website using html code to fulfill my lifelong dream of starting my own business. I also could use Pixlr and Photoshop to manipulate images to create my business’s logo.

I also embraced my insecurities regarding my humor and posted the meme created with a Triptych. Because of that assignment, I am comfortable being uncomfortable. I have continued to create fresh posts ranging from my remake of the karate montage scene from the movie Step Brothers with Colin (check out his website here), to an unsettling poem about a dying prisoner. My willingness to explore new horizons has extended beyond class. I have made a new group of friends and visited unusual places, ranging from Atlanta’s Botanical Gardens to Cook Out at 3 am.

 

Podcasts

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Completing Podcasts for the Media Nouveau series encouraged discussions about topics with people that otherwise would have been off limits. I did not know Megan or Spenser, the two other students in my podcast group, prior to doing the podcast group assignments. I wondered whether each of them would put the necessary effort into the podcasts, but that concern was unfounded.

 

Image credit: CMetalCore

Megan and Spenser were incredible partners. We joined forces to create three successful Podcasts. We started with a podcast on Reddit and Spreadable Media. We wrote a full script and read lines as we recorded. This approach, however, resulted in a bland podcast, so we remade the podcast using the script only when necessary. We spoke naturally and built ideas off of each other, leading to a more engaging podcast. As we spent more time together making podcasts, our trust in each other’s ability to bounce ideas off of one another increased. By the time we created our Netflix and Binge Watching podcast, we were comfortable enough with each other to make the entire podcast using only an outline. We were able to state how we actually felt about topics as opposed to reading lines off of a script, which significantly improved the quality of the podcast.

Equality Of Opportunity

The Equality Of Opportunity Assignment allowed me to analyze trends in social mobility rates. The goal was to summarize key information from the Equality of Opportunity Project’s dataset and compare the social mobility at Emory to that of other schools. I collected data comparing Emory’s social mobility rate to the mobility rate of other institutions that The Equality of Opportunity Project deemed “elite.” I compared Emory’s parent median income (the annual income of parents of Emory students) and the median income Emory alumni for the 1980 and 1981 cohorts to the parent median income and alumni median income of other elite institutions. I defined “mobility rate” as the difference between alumni median income and parent median income. My hypothesis was that the institutions whose alumni earned more than their parents had a positive mobility rate and helped students climb the economic ladder.

The results were disappointing. Not only did Emory have a lower mobility rate than the average elite college, but every elite institution had a negative mobility rate. This means that for every elite institution, the parent median income was higher than the alumni median income. The parent median income also never fell below, $97,700, meaning that more than half of students at elite universities come from families with incomes in the 87th percentile or higher.

Given additional time to complete this project, I would control for more factors that could alter the results. The current analysis did not factor in, for example, a student’s intelligence. If a student from a low-income family is a coding prodigy and gets a high paying job at Google after college, that student likely would have earned a high income, regardless of where he/she went to college. College, therefore, would not have impacted their mobility rate as much as their intelligence. I also would control for mobility in high-income vs. low-income families. For example, if all of the alumni came from homes with parent median incomes of 10 million dollars, then went off to make 20 million dollars, my data would indicate that the mobility rate for that college is 100%. The college, however, would have done nothing to help low-income families. Despite these flaws, our data is a good first step to summarizing the complex data on social mobility from the Equality of Opportunity Project to a general audience.

Summary and Future Media

Each project in the New Media Writing Course allowed me to learn about a new form of contemporary communication. The Technology Literacy Narrative allowed me to write a formal essay as a blog and include hyperlinks and pictures while maintaining an organized (but non-traditional) structure. The sketch assignments introduced me to media creation platforms such as Pixlr and Photoshop. The Podcasts allowed me to “write” by recording my thoughts on an audio file instead of paper. The Equality of Opportunity Project allowed me to use quantitative data to describe social mobility trends to a general audience.

Image Credit: J. Albert Bowden II

The New Media Writing Course also showed how media might change in the future. Fifteen years ago, popular sites including Reddit, Facebook and YouTube did not exist. I could not have made this website because WordPress did not exist. Even if I could make the site, its content would be inferior because Pixlr and other media platforms did not exist. Many graphics you see today would have looked like my Lebrixel drawing, and many websites would look like Space Jam’s . I look forward to seeing how technology improves and how media changes in the next 15 years. Now, we foresee machines with artificial intelligence distributing their own media. Technology may be able to detect and remove fake news stories without limiting free speech. It would be very interesting to compare the curriculum of todays “new” media writing class to the curriculum fifteen years from now and see how the commonly used communication tools of the future are beyond our imaginations today.

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