From Consumer To Producer


From Consumer To Producer 


               As a senior preparing to graduate in May of this year, I thought about classes I had enjoyed previously in my years at UNC and have always had an interest in English, though it has never been my strongest subject. When I stumbled upon English 150: Introductory Seminar in Literature Studies, I must admit, it did not sound particularly appealing. The course description was as follows:

“introduces students to methods of literary study. Students learn to read and interpret a range of literary works, develop written and oral arguments about literature, and conduct literary research.”

              I decided to enroll and after sitting in the first class, I have to admit I was a little intimidated. I had never been in a class that fused technological skills with literary ones but the challenge intrigued me.

              As I have grown up, I have experienced the transition from a  paper filled world to a paperless one. Students had classes on penmanship and learning cursive and D'nealian in lower school. Every expression of art or work was performed on paper. Professors today will not accept final work unless it is typed.  This shift in the medium of writing  from physical to technological is pretty widely accepted; however, there are still many technological mediums that remain untouched in the literary realm. I was fairly comfortable writing literary pieces and I had some experience with constructing videos, but I had never used technology as the vehicle for literary analysis. The exchange of work exists solely between professor and student, so the thought of exposing my own work to anyone with access to a computer was a little bit daunting.

               In my e-poem, attempting to deliver tone through visual and sonic lenses proved to be rather difficult for me. However, I learned that this creative process allows for a different and somewhat deeper analysis than an essay can produce. I like the concept that sounds and video clips can say more about a poem than just words on a piece of paper. These projects have pushed the boundaries of conventionality in a college English class and have proven that great value can result from exploring the unfamiliar. One of our readings discussed how readers and interpreters of literature are producers of text rather than just consumers of it. I entered this course a consumer of literature and I’m leaving as a producer of it.  


{Producer of an Essay}

               “Compose a 4-5 page (double space, MLA format) essay in which you discuss a poem in terms of a related concept or reading.”

               This was my comfort zone. I have written countless essays and papers throughout my college, high school, even middle school years. The first task was obviously picking a poem. I wanted something shorter so that I could focus on a main theme through one lens, without feeling like I was cramming a lot of ideas in a relatively short paper. Picking a poem felt like searching for a needle in a haystack though, so I actually came up with a lens to discuss the poem through first. I’m a psychology major, so I decided I wanted my lens to be a psychological one because it is so relevant in the creation of art…how can one’s personality, relationships, and experiences that make up a person not play a huge role in their creations? I stumbled upon Sylvia Plath’s poem Mirror, and the name of the poem instantly grabbed my attention, as a mirror serves as a literal reflection of oneself. This poem had the length, yet depth, that I was looking for and fit my psychological lens perfectly. 



First Essay Draft

Essay Draft 2

Essay Draft 3

Essay Draft 4

Final Mirror Essay Draft

               I did not expect to revise my essay so many times, but I have found that the process of perfecting one essay is far more rewarding than writing many essays throughout the semester that I turn in and then never think about again. It was interesting to me how some paragraphs and/or sentences worked really well in my analysis in the first few drafts, but as my paper evolved, so did the value of certain comments . My final draft succeeded in analyzing a poem through a specific psychological lens, which allowed me to complete a literary task within a realm that I personally enjoy studying.  The author, Plath, and the personal story she shares in her poem exude relatability. This project felt like more than just an essay but like a work with relevance to it's audience. 


{Producer of an E-Poem}

               "Use the program Camtasia to create an e-poem. Camtasia will serve two functions: 1) it will provide the editing tools for composing the poem and 2) it will allow you to perform actions and capture materials on the screen to be used in the poems."

               Intimidated is the best word to describe how I originally reacted to this task. I had never heard of an e-poem and did not really understand what Professor Anderson wanted from us. It got even worse when we quickly went through how to use Camtasia and were shown all the cool features and tools available to us on the application. I learn from example best, so when we watched a few examples of successful e-poems in class, the intimidation I initally encountered turned to excitement. I have dabbled in making videos for a few years now with my GoPro so I felt that I had some experience in putting clips together in a fluid manner. Originally, I thought I would want to film clips and make my e-poem in that manner, however I realized that YouTube already held a plethora of videos that contained what I was looking for and helped in the process of making my video.


                                                      Original Mirror E-Poem                                                                                                              Mirror E-Poem 2nd Draft

               I was so proud of my e-poem, especially because there was not very much negative feedback from my peers. I tweaked a few transitions and added onto the end of the video, to create a less abrupt ending to my poem. I have never been given an opportunity to be so creative in an English class at Carolina unfortunately and I think this project in particular proves that the university should at least strive to provide creative options in addition to traditional English literature requirements. Following up the task of a formal essay with an e-poem project created a nice balance in the semester of testing and practicing different skills and manners of delivering analyses of literature. 



{Producer of a Walkthrough}

            "Use Camtasia to create a reflective video about your e-poem."

              As with previous assignments in the class, I began by looking at examples provided from Professor Anderson's previous classes, as well as examples of walkthroughs from my fellow classmates. Although some aspects of their videos gave me some direction, this project was the first in which I really created something that was my own. Sometimes the end product is not necessarily sufficient, as it can fail to indicate the reasoning behind choices made. I find this reasoning to be just as important, if not more important, than the choices themselves, so this walkthrough was somewhat liberating in that I got a chance to explain why I made the choices I made, so that others can appreciate aspects of the e-poem that they might have missed otherwise. 

        Mirror E-Poem Walkthrough

              After I made my walkthrough video, I looked at some other projects done by fellow classmates. I enjoyed listening to the reasoning behind choices my peers made; however, I became much prouder of my work after realizing just how much work I had sunk into my e-poem, evident in the detail and length of my walkthrough video. Earlier, I mentioned how the exchange of work previously existed between just professor and student. This private and somewhat shallow presentation of one's work was shattered in this project. Not only did I get to share my thoughts, choices, and process of making my project on the Internet with millions of people, but I created more than just a final draft- I turned in a project on the process and production, which again, is just as important if not more important than the finished product.


{Producer of Citations}

"Create a walkthrough video for your revised e-poem. This walkthrough should have two focuses: 1) revisions you have made from the first version, and 2) discussion of the sources you have used in the final piece. In this video, we will push on that idea as a way of responding to the question, Why document sources?"

               Admittedly, this citation video proved a little bit repetitive, as I went somewhat overboard in my walkthrough video in explaining why I chose clips, musical pieces, opacity features, etc. I decided that in order to not duplicate my walkthrough project, I focused less on the aesthetic choices and how I made the video and really tried to just focus on why I did what I did. 

Mirror E-Poem Citation Video

               Although I understand the intentions behind citations, I find the strict adherence to guidelines regarding font, punctuation, and order of information regarding an author of a piece of work to be beside the point. In our class, we got to the root of what it means to create, share, and use people's work. We watched a video called "YouTube Copyright School" which basically tried to deter users from engaging in "fair use," which is why copyrights basically exist--so we can use others' work and then cite them! The childish video proved to be somewhat insulting and rushed through the guidelines for "fair use." 

               Artists create for the purpose of their work to be interpreted by others. Though plagiarism is obviously undebatably wrong, using the work of another individual is increaingly impossible for newer artists. As a producer, the clips, images, and songs I included in my videos provided a new picture and meaning contributing to my work, not copying that of others. I found that this method of explaining how and why we chose to use another person's work is what really matters--in that way, the original author gets the credit they deserve, and the reason why they were referenced is also included, which is just as important. 


{Producer and Reviewer}

"Compose a video-based review that considers the film and the book versions of No Country for Old Men."


               Obviously before this project was assigned, we were told to watch and read No Country For Old Men. Professor Anderson urged us to not just compare and contrast the film and book and then pick which one was more successful, but rather assess what they both did successfully and lacked and judge them as individual works. As I read the book for the first time, I could not help but read with accompanying images of the film in my mind. 

No Country For Old Men Film Review

               This project perfectly encapsulates the tension that exists between in entertainment today. Critics are always deciding whether the movie complemented the book, whether it fell flat, or whether it exceeded expectations. All in all, adaptations are never evaluated on their own. This new lens on how to review film and literature aided in creating a deeper analysis of the works on their own rather than just comparatively. 


{Producer of Comic Analysis}


               There was no assignment assigned to the reading of Watchmen, as we just discussed the book in class. I had never read anything like Watchmen before, and frankly I did not enjoy it much and it proved to be my least favorite part of the course. While I did appreciate the different lens that Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore took on literature, I just found it to be a very busy work with a lot of distractions. I struggled to understand the book as a whole and feel like we just scratched it's surface.


               One theme in Watchmen that I found intriguing was within the first page and even cover of the book. I liked the idea of panning out of an image to understand one's setting and surroundings, rather than beginning a story with a background and then delving into it. I have to admit there are several instances where I researched aspects of the book, for example the smiley face. The badge of the comedian is splattered with a drop of blood in the shape of an arrow. There is a sort of paradox in the red blood indicative of pain and/or violence on a canvas of bright happiness. Perhaps because I rushingly read the book, I did not give it the time to interpret everything fully. 

               Overall, I found the book to be a little bit overwhelming in the time span we were allotted to read and discuss it in. I feel like a semester could be spent on this comic book as it is so dense and has almost doule the interpretation to be done through the text and the pictures. 



{Consumer & Producer of Commentary}

               Constructive criticism can be difficult to take into consideration sometimes. There are instances when students have clearly opposing views on how a project should work or what should be changed. In this class, Professor Anderson assigned us the task of commenting on various projects of our fellow students. Instead of just scanning the work though and correcting bits and pieces, we were urged to comment on what works well in the video, as well as give any advice you might have for the author. This type of commentary proved to help tremendously in the construction and revision of my drafts and projects. 

               A fresh set of eyes can often be the difference between a mere draft and the final perfect paper. Peer editing in college (at least for me) has gone from a burden to a blessing. I am especially excited about this exchanging of commentary and ideas when I entrust in the individuals in my class. I feel like everyone was on the same page in this course--everyone cared, wanted to do well, and was willing to put in the effort.



{Producer of Tweets}

               I could not help but feel a little bit awkward tweeting about thoughts pertaining to this English course. I never thought about social media as a means of communicating interpretations of text and progress in projects with peers in my class. However, the hashtag system proved to be quite effective in keeping a running log of my work as well as the progress of others in the class. 

interesting how a reader can find meaning in a poem that may not have been intended by the author, yet still carries the same weight #ilit

— nbassil (@nbassil1) January 21, 2016

poetry is very much up to the readers' interpretation... makes it difficult to say if there is really one meaning behind every poem. #ilit

— nbassil (@nbassil1) January 21, 2016

My first tweet was in response to our reading assigned on Barthes' Semantic Code.I found it to be very insightful and true that authors cannot possibly imagine all the various interpretations that will be made of his/her work, but that does not mean those interpretations are not completely valid. 

Tale of Two Soundscapes makes me think about how something once so familiar can become so foreign with time. #ilit

— nbassil (@nbassil1) January 26, 2016

is there a parallel between sounds lost in reading a poem (as opposed to performing) & sounds somewhat lost from @stephceraso memory? #ilit

— nbassil (@nbassil1) January 26, 2016

Steph Ceraso's A Tale of Two Soundscapes was a great piece to experience at the introduction of the course. It set up the sort of creative realm we would be exploring as students in that it exposed us to more than just delivering and interpreting ideas and words in just one dimension. When sight, sound, visual effects, etc. are added to the interpretation of a work, it makes the analysis that much stronger.

i like the concept of readers of literature as producers of text rather than consumers & how dependent lit is on the reader/producer #ilit

— nbassil (@nbassil1) February 1, 2016

"we define the text as an expressive object (presented for our own expression)...yet reading is not a parasitical act" #ilit

— nbassil (@nbassil1) February 1, 2016

Limiting certain complicated ideas from class readings and discussions proved to be difficult when restricted to 140 characters. It was cool reading intellectual pieces and essays and then responding to them via a short tweet. It forced me to keep my thoughts concise and to the point. My first tweet on February 1 is what my whole portfolio revolves around. It is a simple idea that never crossed my mind. I also thought about artists as creators and people like me who were just there to read, look at, or listen to their work. However, when you think about it, the art does not exist without the interpretation of the audience. Our interpretations of the literature is what makes it so meaningful.

it's weirdly rewarding spending hours & hours on the tedious production of an e-poem w/ the final product only lasting a few minutes. #ilit

— nbassil (@nbassil1) February 16, 2016

finding the perfect music to go with the tone of my e-poem is proving to be the most time-consuming and difficult task thus far. #ilit

— nbassil (@nbassil1) February 19, 2016

i feel like i have a lot more insight about this poem for my paper after doing my e-poem and walkthrough. #ilit

— nbassil (@nbassil1) March 6, 2016

why did i never think to research the life of sylvia plath? her story brings so much more to my interpretation of her poem, Mirror. #ilit

— nbassil (@nbassil1) March 7, 2016

The tweets above were tweeted during the production of my e-poem. Most of them just mark my progress, struggles, and successes throughout the process while also marking the evolution of my projects. Even though I have multiple drafts of almost every project in this course, the tweeting method gives a sort of timeline of changes- for instance on March 7, I received feedback from Professor Anderson who recommended making connections between the poem, Mirror and the author, Sylvia Plath. This seems so obvious now, but at the time it is something that I hadn't thought of. I am so thankful for that advice because it made my paper so much stronger and gave me a better outlook on the types of materials to include in my video representations and analyses of the poem. 

The silence in no country for old men is far more eerie in my opinion than 'suspense music' #ilit

— nbassil (@nbassil1) March 7, 2016

As soon as Llewelyn takes that case of cash, a storm quite literally begins to brew. But can you blame him? #ilit

— nbassil (@nbassil1) March 7, 2016 

As I discussed earlier in my Producer and Reviewer section, No Country for Old Men was one of my favorite parts of the semester. Although we were advised to avoid picking a favorite in the review, I figured it is safe to say now that I much more enjoyed the film than the book, which is rare. I think the successes of the movie rely heavily on the sensations of the viewer and audience which is based on visuals, sounds, music, etc.--all of which are lacking in the book. This is a movie that every time I watch it, it feels like the first time again. Therefore I pick up on different things each time I watch it, like my second tweet above, the juxtaposition of the weather in the film with the culmination of dangerous events. 

i'm enjoying this portfolio project- i've never done a project that focuses on the reflection of my past work... it's rewarding! #ilit

— nbassil (@nbassil1) April 21, 2016


{Final Thoughts}

                I learned a lot in this class--about Camtasia, about adaptations, about e-poetry, among countless other skills. The most important thing I learned, however, was in regards to my creativity. It's not that I learned how to be creative, but that I learned to be creative in different ways. So often as students we are forced to create work in its traditional form--for English students, the dreaded essay. But in this class, we were challenged to do more--to not only perfect said dreaded essay, but to then deliver another analysis in a completely different form. I've learned that working from various angles allows for deeper and more meaningful analyses. I think this is what learning should be about. We should be taught to challenge the status quo and this class proved that successful work comes from doing so. I have been molded into a better student, writer, creator, and producer because of it.