Monthly Archives: January 2013

ALSO, for tomorrow:

A clarification of the proposal I want you to bring three copies of tomorrow:

This should be a written description of what you think you will do for your podcast. Describe the project itself as well as the music and sound effects you think you will use. If you have an outline, terrific. A script? Even better. The more robust your proposal is, the better the quality of the feedback you will receive.  If you haven’t decided between a couple of options, that’s okay. If you change your mind later, that’s okay. Just bring in something for people to look at and discuss.

You do NOT have to write answers to the rationale questions; those won’t be due until next Friday. Do think about them, though, because discussing audience, purpose, and effectiveness will be part of the workshop.


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Put the story in the podcast, drink them both up

LADIES and GENTLEMEN! BOYS and GIRLS! WAM and Melissa Larabee PROUDLY present:



  1. Using GarageBand, Audacity, or whatever sound recording/editing platform you prefer, record yourself telling the Best Party Story from your blog. Try not to rely on reading what you write before. In fact, don’t even look at it! If you like, you can edit your recording, adding music and sound effects. This isn’t required but is an opportunity to play a little bit more and get used to what you are doing. (***If you missed the tutorial on Tuesday or don’t have Garage Band, there are a ton of useful online tutorials out there.**)
  2. Upload your recording to Soundcloud (you will need to make an account).
  3. Embed or link to the recording on your blog.
  4. Write a couple of sentences reflecting on the experience. How was telling the story out loud different from writing it down? What changes did you find yourself making? Where were your pauses, and were they in the same places as your GIFs? How was the experience of composing different? Wee you deliberately taking advantage of the affordances of your voice, or did it come naturally?



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being of sound mind


For class Tuesday, instead of having listen to one hour-long episode of This American Life, I’d like for you to listen to the following segments, lasting approximately 45 minutes: 

  • From the episode “Own Worst Enemy,” the segment “The Conversation” (15 minutes).
  • From the episode “The Super,” the segment “The Super Always Rings Twice” (21 minutes).
  • From the episode “A LIttle Bit of Knowledge,” the segment “Small Thoughts in Big Brains” (13 minutes).

Don’t forget to do the McKee reading!


In addition, please listen to another podcast–anything you want! If you like the excerpts of This American Life, here are three of my other favorite episodes: 

In Dog We Trust

20 Acts in 60 Minutes


In addition, here is an amazing episode of another podcast we mentioned, Radiolab, in which the producers explore the ramifications of raising a chimpanzee as a human. True story! 

Also, I haven’t listened to this one yet, but I’ve heard it’s powerful and quite controversial. 

As you listen to the podcast, think about how it is using the affordances of the medium of sound–what sound effects, music, silence, sounds from other sources, etc. are used? How often, and to what purpose? How do the voices of the participants contribute to the overall effect? Do you find it to be soundly engineered? Write a ~300-word analysis and post it to your blog. 

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America’s Most Fonted

Okay! Homework for tonight! Two small things with longer-than-necessary explanations.

(But first, as promised, “I’m Comic Sans, Asshole.”)

Firstly: Take a sentence (or two) from your GIF story and design it so that the visuals of the sentence embody/enhance the content. Think about all of the ways in which the words can be altered—not just the typeface but also the size, orientation, placement on the page, bold vs. italic, etc. Don’t forget that in design, the white space communicates just as much as the letters!


Feel free to download additional fonts (and really, browsing is half the fun) but do work within Microsoft Word or whatever equivalent word processing software you have. And do it in black a white. Think of it as a constraint! Once you have your fonts (six hours later…), try not to spend more than 10 minutes on the layout—this isn’t supposed to be a masterpiece, just an exercise.

(Note: At least on a Mac, you will have to restart Word before your fonts make it into the library.)

Secondly: We discussed how typefaces evoke different cultural codes—for instance, we were all very sure of the kinds of businesses that would and would not use Papyrus. For your second quick assignment, you will design the logo for five different clothing stores, restaurants, or magazines. The catch is that all five must have the same name, and so all information about the style and content of the establishment needs come from the typeface itself. Do follow your examples with a quick list of explanations, but leave it at the bottom so we can guess in class!

Also, if you want to design five versions of something other than a store, restaurant, or magazine, feel free. Just don’t cop out and do a movie.


To post: To share your little bits of visual genius, you will need to do a screengrab and then upload the images like any other. On a Mac, you do this by pressing command+shift+4 and then drawing the box where you wish. The screengrab will save to your desktop. Directions for getting a screengrab from a PC are here.

Looking forward to it!

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Melissa’s big date: a story in gifs

When I was in college, there was a tradition called “Roomies” in which an entire dorm floor would go out on a giant group date—but with the twist that your roommate got to choose your escort. This sounds potentially terrible, I suppose, but in practice it was amazing. Because your “roommate” was doing the choosing, it was an accepted thing that you could ask anyone–ANYONE–out without losing face if things went south. And if things went, uh, north, you’d actually get an evening with that dreamboat from Advanced Grammar.

kip yes

So. There was this guy.

I’d met him at an event and we’d hit it off, but he didn’t go to my school and so we didn’t really have a reason to run into each other again. But he DID–coincidentally, magically, amazingly–know my roommate. And so on the night of the big event, there he was, gerbera daisy in hand.


But there was a problem: this intimate group date with forty of my closest friends was happening at an ice skating rink.

dramatic chipmunk

Context: I am clumsy. Not uncoordinated clumsy. Not aw-cute-she-stumbled clumsy. I’m talking full-length-sprawl-on-the-sidewalk clumsy. Routinely-shatters-dishes-at-dinner-parties clumsy. Runs-for-the-bus-looks-behind-her-and-runs-into-a-signpost clumsy.

horse jump

You can see the trouble I was in.

I had never been ice skating before, but I had been roller skating, and that…did not go well.

skates fail

I mean, the truth is, sometimes walking is hard enough.


But I wanted to go on this date SO BAD. So I went. And my date was lovely—patient, encouraging, supporting me as I Bambi-legged my way around the rink and helping me up when I inevitably tumbled. Eventually he ran into some friends and I shooed him away so I could slowly wobble my way around the rink and “impress” him when he returned.

By the time he skated up and put his arm around my waist, I had made it around the rink a full 1.357 times without falling.

swagger door

And so I turned my head to smile at him.




If I told you that as he unsuccessfully tried to catch me I somehow entangled my legs with his, dragging him down to the ice where we would both lie still for a moment while I prayed a Zamboni would come and end it all now, that would be the truth.

But not the whole truth.

Because then I moved my leg to begin clambering up…

shocked cat


monique no  no no cat


…and I kicked him in the mouth.




He never voluntarily saw me again.

dog hide

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objects of your affection

As Elkins points out, any object can be a rich text for those who know what they are looking for. He talks about grass, culverts, and postage stamps; in class, we talked about vocal tone, spaces, and even a keyboard. Other people…well, other people can read other things.

For this homework assignment, you can do one of two things.

  1. write briefly about a non-print literacy that you possess. My mother-in-law, for instance, can go into a thrift store, look at the dishware, and immediately pick out the items that are “collectible” from those that art junk—even when to me they look exactly the same. Is there some way of meaning-making that you have come to develop through training (either formal or not)? Tell us about what it is and how you got it, and give us a couple of examples of the kinds of specialized knowledge you can use your powers to extract.
  2. conduct a short close reading of an object and tell us everything you can learn from it. Feel free to draw not only on the traces of use (a la our discussion of the keyboard) but also the affordances and constraints that have shaped its design and function.

These don’t need to be particularly long—about the length of this post is fine.

Looking forward to reading them, and don’t forget to read the Wysocki and Drucker articles!


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GIF me some lovin’

Short, embeddable animated clips, GIFs (actually pronounced “jifs,” apparently, but that’s more difficult to pun) have been around for 25 years–almost as long as the World Wide Web itself. Nevertheless, the word “GIF” beat out such heavy-hitting contenders as “superstorm” and “YOLO” to become the Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2012.


GIFs are one of the things that change the affordances of writing online, and so for your first assignment, I would like for you to experiment with using them. If you are an internet addict like me, you may already have a folder of GIFs at the ready, but for the neophytes among you–

Go to a place where there are a lot of GIFs. This is a good intro (don’t forget to check the comments for a lot more), and there are lots of Tumblr blogs like this one that are nothing but GIFs inserted as reactions to various situations (it’s funnier after that first page…or maybe it’s just because I’m a grad student). Or, come to think of it, you could go to any of the stories covering the word of the year. In fact, just while writing this blog post I added this little beauty to my collection:


Then, when you find one you like, right click it, choose “save file as,” and give ‘er a name. BOOM: GIF’ed.

walk away

Now: the actual assignment. I want you to choose your funniest, most interesting, or otherwise superlative anecdote–think the story you tell at parties*–and write it as your very first blog post using at least four GIFs.

*keep it PG, kids.

Here is an example of something similar with a freaky news story, and it’s possible that I could contribute a story of my own.

Looking forward to it!

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