Literacy Comic Reflection

For the reflection on your literacy comic, I am most interested in you thinking about how it was different to write your literacy narrative as a comic — how did you think differently once the visual component was added?, how did that help you to see the story you were trying to tell in different terms?, was your analytical thinking process any different? How have your thoughts about your alphanumeric literacy narrative changed in the process of transforming it into a comic?

I’d also like you to discuss choices you made in creating your comic and try to explain why you chose the way you did. Especially if there’s something you were really trying to do in your comic which you felt you couldn’t realize as perfectly as you would if you had a lot more time, more resources, or if you could have hired an illustrator to turn your vision into exactly what you wanted. If there are aspects of your comic where you have a clear sense of what you were trying to accomplish and how you would have done so if some things were different, then explain that in your reflection. Doing so allows you to demonstrate that you have the knowledge you need about this sort of writing even if you have not yet developed all the skills necessary to make that knowledge visible in the final artifact you’ve produced.

Sketch 11: Assemblies

Due: 4/29

Tag: sk11

For some unknown reason, the National Archives includes a document entitled Cocktail Construction Chart, which was created by the US Forest Service in 1974, showing recipes for a group of cocktails represented in the style of an architectural diagram.

For this week’s sketch, think about the work you’ve completed in this class and your own learning and thinking processes — then break all that down into component parts, represented in some sort of an architectural diagram like this one. I’m less interested in the quality of the drawing itself and more in your analytical ability to break down something complicated into a series of steps and to represent that as if in such a diagram.

Sketch 10: Data Visualization from Everyday Life

Due: 4/22

Tag: sk10

When Mason Currey wanted to understand how he could manage to produce more creative work despite the challenges of everyday life, he set about studying how a bunch of other famous creative people organized their daily lives and what routines they established for their own creative work with the assumption that there were valuable lessons there. Daily Rituals was the result of that research — and then a number of different people and organizations have set out to visualize the insights of that book so that we can see larger patterns in the midst of all this biographical information. Podio’s graphic, which is the feature image on this post, is one of those (check out their site for the interactive version)

For this sketch assignment, you will choose one concept in your life that you want to analyze, something that is not already easily and obviously measured, or doesn’t vary within the span of a day or a week (good categories: awesomeness, mindfulness, healthiness, creativity, productivity, and similar … bad categories: number of steps, hours of sleep, caloric intake, how good is my eyesight?). Decide on a set of about 5 categories that you can use to measure that concept in your life and track those categories for a week or more, then you will produce a visualization of the data that you have gathered and use that visualization to help you understand something about your own life that might not be obvious from your own day to day activities.

Tracking Data

If you’re looking for suggestions about what to track, browsing the “quantified self” tag at Lifehacker might be worthwhile.

Once you’ve got categories, create a spreadsheet where you can track those categories throughout the day. Either take notes in a journal or on your phone and enter the results into your spreadsheet at set intervals, or make the spreadsheet in Google Drive and access it from your phone, or use the site Trackthisforme, or install a tracker app on your mobile device (I found some by searching for “quantified self” apps).

In “How to Track Everything in Your Life Without Going Crazy” and “Fill Out This One-Minute Form Every Day and Find Out Why Your Life Sucks (or Doesn’t)” Adam Dachiss has some useful suggestions for measuring stuff in your life. “Why You Should be Tracking Your Habits and How to Do It” by Belle Beth Cooper is also useful. However, all three of those articles are a few years old now and might not be perfectly applicable.

Whatever method you use, the key activity is to decide what you are going to pay attention to and then to create a system that is manageable for your life for the span of a week wherein you will quantify information about your self or your behavior.

For example, one step of this process might be to decide to measure how happy you are and to create a spreadsheet with a column for “Happy.” Then when you wake up in the morning, while you’re waiting for the coffee to brew, you’ll pull up the spreadsheet and enter a number between 1 and 10 indicating how happy you feel. You will continue adding rows at some set interval (every hour maybe). You will probably have some columns that are a little less subjective than “how happy do I feel right now?” (like “how many times did I talk in class today?” or “how much time did I spend studying?” “how many minutes have I spent looking at my phone in the last hour?”). You can decide how objective or subjective your categories are, but recognize that those decisions will impact the sorts of conclusions you draw from this process.

For now, you just need to decide what you will track and then to be as meticulous and careful as you can be about actually tracking this information either directly into a spreadsheet or in a format that can easily be transferred into a spreadsheet at the end of the week.

I will follow up with more information about visualizing that data once you’ve collected it, but don’t worry too much about that yet. Just collect data and pay attention to any patterns you notice while you do so.

Visualizing that data

Now that you have gathered your data, it’s time to analyze it further and visualize it.

With the data set that you’ve gathered, which is just for a week or so and only with a handful of variables, you probably won’t need a computer or special tools to analyze it. However, you might find loading your data into a spreadsheet (like in Excel) if you haven’t already been keeping it in that format will help you a lot to analyze it and see patterns in the data.

Because this is an assignment about collecting data about your own life, there is room for you to decide how “scientific” you want to be with your project. Even if you have never used spreadsheets for much of anything, try to quantify your data as much as you can and make an effort to be detailed and accurate with your information, but that said the types of data you chose to collect and the category you’ve decided to study will have a huge impact on the type of analysis you undertake. It is okay for you to have some more subjective categories and it’s okay if your final analysis or visualization is somewhat subjective too.

Tools

There are numerous methods you can use to create your visualization — anything from paper and crayons/markers/pencils to sophisticated data visualization software like Tableau. MS Excel also has some pretty sophisticated charts that you can create from your data. And there are also lots of free online tools that you can use too — it’s admittedly been a year or more since I really surveyed the set of free tools available, but I’d probably still recommend Infogram if you want a free web-based infographic maker and aren’t sure where to start.

For help deciding what type of chart or graph might be most effective in visualizing your data, consult the Data Viz Catalogue (it might be most helpful for you to switch to the “sort by functions” view at the top of the page).

Digital Images

Hand-drawn charts and graphs are perfectly 100% acceptable, if that’s what you prefer. However, please do not spend lots of time carefully crafting hand-drawn charts and then snap a crappy picture of them on your cell phone to post to the web. There are lots of scanners available on campus that you can use to scan your chart into a high-quality JPG image — I’d suggest that you take a quick trip to the Media Lab on the 4th floor of the library and scan your drawings. That space is underutilized and an excellent resource that you should know about.

If you create your visualizations with an online tool, just make sure that you can export them as a JPG image, or that you can at least take a good screenshot of your work.

Publish

Publish your charts as a sketch post to your site. Identify what conceptual issue you were tracking or what question you wanted to answer (or begin to answer). Include 2 or 3 paragraphs explaining what conclusions you have drawn from the data that you collected. Were you able to answer the question you had posed for yourself? What sorts of judgement calls did you face while gathering the data? Why did you choose to visualize your data in the manner that you did? What do these visualizations say about your own life? If you were to continue this project into the future, would you go about it in pretty much the way you have done this week or would you do things differently now that you have looked at the data to this point? Have you found this to be a valuable tool for self analysis?

Sketch 9: Recreate a movie scene

Chris Pratt holding raptors at Bay in Jurassic World

Chris Pratt holds the raptors at bay in Jurassic World.

Due: 4/8

Tag: sk9

Choose a single moment from a movie or television episode and recreate that scene as closely as you can in a single photograph. Think about how you can creatively use wardrobe items or props that you already have at your disposal and the landscapes and building spaces available to you in order to create your scene. In fact, you might find that it’s best to begin by thinking about what you might be able to pull off and to work backward from there to choosing a scene.

By definition, you don’t have incredibly powerful movie cameras, cinematographers, a cast and crew, a prop and set design department, and CGI f/x staff for post production; therefore, you are never going to perfectly recreate any scene. However, with a little creativity you can still create a powerful version of a scene even without all that fancy paraphernalia, as in the version of Jurassic World at the top of this post and others seen here.

 

Poster for Lost in Translation
Albrecht Durer's Self-Portrait of 1500
My recreation of Durer's self-portrait

More than a decade ago, I recreated these scenes above as part of a larger photographic creative project. For my version of Lost in Translation, I rearranged the furniture in my bedroom and borrowed my wife’s bathrobe. I could never quite get the tilt of my head right. For my recreation of Albrecht Dürer’s Self Portrait of 1500, I couldn’t reproduce the proportions because I was required to make all my shots 4×3 landscape photos and my hair wasn’t long enough to quite pull off the portrait. But I bought a black plastic tablecloth for 99 cents for the background and made the sleeve decorations with crayons on paper. I used a fuzzy scarf and an old leather jacket for the clothes. Despite taking numerous shots and studying the painting very, very closely, I could never get my right hand into exactly the correct position.

Combophoto Roundup

Class canceled on Thursday

I’m sorry that I cannot be with you all for our scheduled class on Thursday due to a family emergency. Stick to the assignment schedule — finish reading Palestine and start Pyongyang for class on Tuesday and work on your literacy narrative comics. Compose a true story in words and images of some sort and publish that to your site over the weekend.

Since I can’t have you sketch at the start of class on Thursday, how about you just go ahead and do one on your own? Check out this brief article and accompanying photos in the New Yorker about Colin Combs, an eighteen-year-old photographer from Dayton, Ohio who uses “expired film and cheap or disposable cameras” to create “vivid, unvarnished stills” depicting himself and his friends “just trying to make art, have fun, and not feel like idiots.” Choose one of Combs’ photographs from the article and spend 10 minutes sketching your own version of the image (like we did in class previously). Scan or photograph your image and publish it in a post. Write a very brief reflection with the sketch: what drew you to the image you choose, what did you notice about it initially? What did you notice about the photograph as you spent time sketching it? These are photographs taken with cheap equipment, quick and on the fly, not carefully staged or ‘shopped — but there is something compelling about them. After sketching the image and letting your hand and eye engage with the photo in that manner, what do you think of it, what makes it art?

I’ll do my best to reply to emails between now and the end of the week, but I’ll be driving a lot and dealing with some heavy emotional stuff, so there will likely be more lag time before a reply than you are used to from me. But if you have questions about anything, don’t hesitate to email me about it — just be patient about getting a reply, please.

Literacy Narrative Comic Feedback

In class today, you read the draft comics from three of your peers and provided feedback to them both orally and on this sheet:

Literacy Narrative Comic Storyboard Feedback
Download

At the end of class today, three different students in the class will hand you one of those feedback sheets and you will have had a conversation with them about your comic. As soon as is practical, please post the draft that you brought with you to class on your site (if you had a physical draft, scan or photograph it such that it’s legible and then upload it). Write a paragraph or two in which you summarize the feedback you got in class. You can quote from the sheets if that’s useful, but you don’t need to transcribe them wholesale — synthesize the responses to those questions plus whatever other useful feedback you got.

Note: Justin, Katherine, Kate, and Tony — since you weren’t in class today or didn’t have a draft with you, post your draft comics to your sites as soon as you can, then arrange with each other to meet (in person or asynchronously) and provide feedback to each other. You can download the form above and then fill out one for each of your peers.

Sketch 7: Tell a True Story

Due: March 25

Tag: sk7

Over spring break, be on the lookout for a moment that is worth representing in a comic — watch for some sort of small adventure you might take, or a conversation you are part of, or a conversation you hear, and as you come upon them take notes for yourself and maybe make quick little sketches or take photos to capture images for later. Your story does not need to be momentous. You do not need to be able to fully grasp its significance, such as it is. But watch for a story that seems to be a little window into some sort of meaning or that might show something interesting to readers.

Then create a short comic that portrays that moment as truthfully as you can in a way that combines both words and images.

If you’d like, you can make your comic like “Remind Me” from Palestine (41-50) and include many words to only a few images. Or you can make a comic with only a few words. You can use photographs or draw something or create some other sort of visuals. You can tell a funny story or a sad one, or draw on other emotions.

The only two firm requirements are that your comic needs to have words and images and it needs to show something true. With the full understanding that “truth” is a complicated and contested state of being. (Your story does not have to be a true war story; it only needs to be true.)

Once your comic is completed, publish it to your site as a post. Write a brief reflection about your writing process for this post. How did you know when you had found the right story for your comic? How difficult was it to tell a true story in a brief comic? If you think of Spiegelman and Sacco as outlining two poles of some spectrum defining different approaches to telling true stories in comics, where does your comic fall along that spectrum? What were the most important choices you made along the way of creating your comic?

Tracing Maus Reflection

Extension

Remember, I extended the deadline for the Tracing Maus project — you need to have the pages published to your site by Saturday, March 10.

Reflection Prompt

Once you have completed your Tracing Maus project and published the pages to your site, you need to publish a reflection post as well. The post serves to turn the project in when it syndicates to the class site, and is also an opportunity for you to explain your process in the work you just completed.

Your reflection post should link to the landing page for the project and should address the following questions:

  • Before writing your essay, you went through a pretty involved process of tracing and annotating two pages from the book. Briefly explain what that process was like for you — probably this was very different from most other writing you’ve done, so try to explain what was useful about the process for you. What productive thoughts or analysis occurred through the act of tracing and annotating?
  • For this assignment, instead of writing a linear alphanumeric text you created a series of interlinked pages based around patterns you identified while tracing and annotating pages. How did your writing process change to address this assignment? Did you find it useful to write about ideas in chunks like this, instead of in a more traditional thesis-driven linear format?
  • We talking in class about Spiegelman’s reference to the “secret language of comics” as indicating that the writer/illustrator make a whole series of choices in crafting a comic that probably pass by many readers with little or no conscious notice. Do you feel that this assignment helped you to get in on this secret language? Do you understand Maus better after having written this project? What’s the single biggest insight you gained about the book that you gained during the process of tracing, annotating, and analyzing these pages (maybe something you “knew” on some level before you started but that you really get now, or maybe something you hadn’t really noticed until you worked on the project)?
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