Author: goncer51

140 Character Stories

Twitter is such an interesting device. I use it, mainly, to follow friends and favorite authors of mine. Among them is Maureen Johnson, YA author and resident silly-person. She actively fights for gender equality and basic human rights, as well as posting silly pictures of her puppy, Zelda.

She’s one of the main reasons I stay and visit Twitter often.

And when I had to contact a professional in the field, I figured it should be her. So I did!

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I haven’t heard back. But I’m still hopeful!

Technology and the Future of Writing – Prezi

I made a Prezifor our class. Below, is the narrative!

The auto advance should be at 10 seconds, but it doesn’t sync with the prezi after the second “slide”. It goes to the Bolter slide too early and I was unsure of how to fix it without having to  upload multiple recordings and make it so that it went along with each path.

Once upon a time, there was a princess. The princess had a story to tell about her cat, so she had a scribe come to the castle. She told him her story and he wrote it down and gave it to the bards so they could sing the story to the whole kingdom. Today, that princess has access to Facebook, Twitter and blogging sites like WordPress or Weebly. So when she wants to get the story of her cat out into the world, she can pick and choose any medium she wants.

So how do we survive in the world wide web where we have dozens of choices for writing technologies? The trick is that there’s no need to survive. We’re doing better than we ever have before in terms of publishing our stories. With millions of books and stories published annually, we’ve come a long way since the days of scribes and bards; the literacy rate has taken huge leaps in the last few centuries. As J.D. Bolter states in his article “Writing As Technology”, “…oral poetry is no more natural than writing, just as writing with pen and paper is no more natural, no less technological, than writing on a computer screen….It is not the complexity of the devices that matters so much as the technical or literate frame of mind.”

Bibliophiles will argue to their final breath over whether the printed book is superior to the ebook or not. But when it comes to getting a story, a message, or a lesson out into the world, what does it matter? When someone has something to say, they’ll find a way to get it out to others through any means necessary. So when a princess wants to talk about the silly thing her cat did, what does it matter if she calls the scribe or opens up Facebook? If Facebook gets the message out quicker and easier, it’s clearly the best choice.

So wouldn’t that make her her own scribe? Wouldn’t that, in turn, make every person who has ever posted to Facebook or WordPress a writer? That answer is yes. Our technologies are changing, literacy is becoming more and more prevalent in the world, so the definition of a “writer” changes too. Not everyone who uses Facebook or runs their own blog gets paid, but then again, not everyone who publishes their own book gets paid either.

No one can deny that things are different now in the reading world than they were ten, twenty and even thirty years ago. “On the Go” meant something completely different in the 20th century than it does now. Who would have thought that I could check my email, read the latest news articles, learn that we’re out of milk while I walked to my next class, all on the same device that weighs less than five ounces? I can buy and download five new books in under 2 minutes while stuck in traffic on the interstate. I can check any updates from any websites that I like through services like Zite or  Feedly. I can save things to read later with the Pocket app; I can share it all with Twitter. It feels like anything is possible now. And who knows what we’ll be able to accomplish in another twenty years?

Sochi and the Sexism Olympics

In a tweet Yesiris  posted a few days ago, she linked to an article about the screen time between male athletes and female athletes in the Sochi Winter Olypmics. It’s the Olympics! What better way to show off how great every country is by showcasing our most talented athletes in everything they do! Oh wait, except they don’t show us every athlete. While TV’s primetime only lasts for so long during the day, cable networks are stretched for the amount of coverage you can give to each event. That’s all fine and dandy, but in the article, it’s said that men receive almost twice the amount of screen time that women do!

I know what you must be thinking. “But more men probably compete!/Men are more likely to win and bring home medals!/They’re stronger and better suited for sports!/It’s a man’s game!” WEEOOOWEEEOO. That’s my sexist alarm. In 2008, 42% of all athletes were women. That was in 2008. In 2012? 44%. Women brought home 58 medals that year (29 of them were golds!)– which was more than what men ended up winning in London. The gender gap between athletes has gotten much smaller since women were first able to compete in the 1900 Olympics, where only 22 women competed in total.  That’s quite a jump.

But what’s so wrong about the screen time female athletes do receive? Other than it being much less than what men receive (who are not only televised while they’re competing but they also have a higher chance of being interviewed and able to talk about their performance afterward), when women compete, it’s usually in the more “socially acceptable” sports for women – i.e., figure skating. (Which, even then, according to the article, men received 2/3rds of the total screen time for figure skating than women.) But there’s also a problem with the way the commentators react to the women competing. NBC commentators would refer to the women in the skiing halfpipe as “girls”, but all the men would be referred to as “men” or by name. When in regards to other sports women competed in, they were said to be doing that and “all of that while in a Lycra suit, maybe a little bit of makeup—now that is grace under pressure.” As if women’s sole purpose in the Games are to be visually appealing and not kickass and victorious in their sport.

Image credit to Matt’s Gifs

So why the sexism, friends? Why not give half the screen time to women, especially if they make up half the athletes? Why not show off wonderful athletes in their element and focus on their technique, execution and effort put into perfecting it?

Religion and Gender Roles

In Samantha Eyler’s article, “Why I Had to Lose My Religion Before I Could Support Gender Equality”, she talks about how she was taught, as a child, to conform to rigorous gender roles. She, as a woman born into her fundamentalist religion, was to remain quiet and subordinate. That sort of brainwashing worked for her for 16 years. It wasn’t until she went off to college and devoured religion and philosophy courses and other holy books and scriptures, did she realize where her religion went wrong.

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She realized that her personal values and her religion’s morals didn’t line up. Why should she, someone who wanted to be a doctor or a senator, have to remain on the sidelines and do nothing except what her husband wished? Her tale of finding herself and then wanting to find religion all over again is near and dear to my heart.

I’ve been brought up in a strictly Catholic household. In Poland, where my parents are from, religion is the biggest and most important thing in everyone’s lives. At least, in my family. So when my parents came across the Atlantic, they brought their strict morals and guidelines from their religion with them. As a child, I followed along. I didn’t know any better, right? Maybe my faith started to break when I was told by my instructor in CCD that because I was a girl, I couldn’t be a pastor. I wanted to talk about my love for God and the love God had for me to people all the time. I wanted to share the word of God with people, so why shouldn’t I be able to be a pastor?

I started noticing the inequalities in my religion throughout high school but I would never be able to outright call them straight gender inequalities until I came to college myself. It angered me to see my religion treat women, who are just as devout as men, the way that they did. I wouldn’t stand for the hypocrisies I had been spoon fed since I was little. So I called off my religion. I stopped going to church, I stopped praying. I adopted the idea that if I led a good life and did good unto others, then I’d be okay. If I needed to talk to God, or gods or any other higher being, I could and I didn’t have to limit myself to the rituals of the Catholic church. I want to be able to do good in the world not because my religion has told me to, but because it’s the right thing to do.

And it may have torn a rift in my family, but there are much worse things to tear families apart than differing views on a religion or wanting to be treated as an equal.

Watson’s A Woman?

I know this is old news, but in one of the more recent adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Lucy Liu (of Charlie’s Angels fame) has taken up the role of Dr. Watson. That is, Doctor Joan Watson.

This is great news! A WOC (woman of color) playing a well known doctor! On American TV. How awesome is that?

Jon Michael Hill plays “Detective Bell” and Lucy Liu is “Joan Watson” in CBS’s Elementary.

I’ll admit, when I first started hearing of the show (which was just after BBC’s Sherlock had just finished it’s British premiere of season 2) I thought it was just us Americans trying to get some ratings off of a popular British TV show.

Then I started hearing about how Liu’s character Joan is a disgraced surgeon, with no military background (as opposed to the canon, where Watson is a former military doctor). Then I started to think that the reason she was disgraced was because the writers thought of her as a woman who doesn’t deserve to be in a highly respected medical position. Because she’s a woman. I really thought this would just end up being fodder for those that actually truly believed women belonged only in the kitchen and not in the operating room.

But then I started watching the show during winter break this past year. And boy golly gee was I super duper wrong about Joan!

In the show, Joan Watson is still a former surgeon. She was discharged after (accidentally) killing a patient under her care. This I suspected. Afterwards, she’s looking for a new job. And so she becomes a sober companion, a person who lives with a recovering drug or alcohol addict, which is exactly how she comes to be at Sherlock Holmes’ door (played by Johnny Lee Miller). In the show, Joan Watson actively chooses to continue making other people’s lives better. She actively chose to become a sober companion because that’s what she thought she’d be good at.

Joan Watson actively calls out misogynistic remarks made by Sherlock and by others in the show. Her surgical past is not just used as a way to confirm Sherlock’s brilliant breakthroughs. Often, there are cases where Sherlock is stumped and it’s Joan herself who finds the connection and solves the murder because she’s the brilliant one too. She’s not just there to further another character’s development. She has her own developments and we see her family and friends and loved ones come by in her life. We see her kind and caring side, as well as her methodical procedural side. She is a true “strong female character”, not because she kicks butt (she actually has little to no martial arts skill, which thankfully defies the “kung fu Asian” character trope, and she doesn’t gain any martial arts or self-defense skills until much later into the show) but because she has many facets to her personality (like real women!) and she has emotions (like real women!) and she changes and develops and makes mistakes (like real women!).

So cheers to the Elementary writers for taking what could have been an awful ploy for ratings (because there’s no ‘bad publicity’) and turned this into one of the best, well-rounded character adaptations I’ve ever seen.

Advancement in Writing Technologies

A response to J.D. Bolter‘s ‘Introduction: Writing in the late age of print’ and ‘Writing as technology’.

In our university, there is an Introduction to Writing Arts class, a class designed for Writing Arts majors with an interesting twist to it. The class is divided into three “modules”, where three separate professors teach three separate topics to three different groups of students within the class, on a rotation basis. Mildly confusing, but interesting. Currently, we’re in our first module, “Technologies and the Future of Writing”, which as you might have guessed, deals with writing on the internet and how writing is changed and is changing because of it. For our first assignment, our professor instructed to read two articles by J.D. Bolter, titled “Introduction: Writing in the late age of print” and “Writing as technology”. Bolter is a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology where he is the Wesley Chair of New Media, and he also is the Director of the Wesley New Media Center.

Writing has always been a malleable entity, though it never changed without a fair amount of fighting within the community; there are always the cries of how ebooks will destroy printed books, or how print books will destroy the chalk slate, and on and on for centuries back to when writing was first invented and threatened to destroy the oral culture. But, as Bolter states in “Introduction: Writing in the late age of print”, “Because of the tension between print and digital forms, the idea of the book is changing. For most of us today, the printed book remains the embodiment of text…we still regard books and journals as the place to locate our most prestigious texts.” (pg. 3) We, as writers and readers, will love the text more than the package it comes in.

Bolter also states in his “Writing as technology” paper that, “Our technical relationship to the writing space is always with us as readers and writers. Literacy is, among other things, the realization that language can have a visual as well as an aural dimension…” (pg. 16). He goes on to mention how as literate people, we know that what we say can be written down and continue to live there, even though what we have said is long over. Words will always be eternal, especially if written. Technologies of writing go beyond just the computer; it encompasses modern day pen and paper, medieval parchment and quills, and all the way back to ancient papyrus and reed pens. But it doesn’t stop there: it goes on to include the lips and tongue. As Bolter mentions, again in “Writing as technology”, “…however, oral poetry is no more natural than writing, just as writing with pen and paper is no more natural, no less technological, than writing on a computer screen….It is not the complexity of the devices that matters so much as the technical or literate frame of mind”.

As long as we have stories to share, writing will never become obsolete, even if the technologies to do so change. A good story will always be adaptable, and so it will always be eternal.