Thursday, December 18, 2008

Reflections on a Semester: A Look Back, and a Plan for the Velocity of My Graduate Student Career

The important thing is to never stop questioning.
– Albert Einstein

Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector's passion
borders on the chaos of memories...For what else is this collection
but a disorder to which habit has accommodated itself to such an
extent that it can appear as order?
- Walter Benjamin

Understanding Media Studies has been a journey down a road less traveled, opening my eyes and my brain to ideas not yet laid before me. Coming from an undergraduate program that was completely rigid in its red-taped rules and regulations, I found myself preferring the Film Studies theoretical path over the route of production. Not allowed to express my creativity and also not required to take more than one production class, I felt that there was no need to even attempt creative expression. In fact, only one paper in my entire undergrad allowed me to utilize creativity, and that was the paper that I submitted for consideration with my admissions packet to The New School’s MA program in Media Studies. Obviously, even though I was not allowed much room for expression, the side of me that longs to create, to construct, to step outside the box was waiting to shine through. And Understanding Media Studies told me more than I could ever possibly digest on all ways to make the most out of my time in this program.

I’ve actually started to branch out and meet other students in my program, an act from which I shied away as an undergrad. I’ve made several acquaintances in my Ideas and Concepts classes, and have spent some time outside of class getting to know these individuals. Understanding Media Studies not only inspired me to meet fellow students in my program, but also to get to know the professors with whom I would be working. I’ve made a point to visit my academic advisor Rafael Parra on several occasions, as well as meet with several other professors during their office hours.

In the practical sphere, I was assigned to construct my first literature review, a task that was incredibly involved that ended with me caring more about my potential thesis topic than I could have ever imagined. While I am more comfortable writing in a format where I can utilize my own voice (on my blog, for example), I found that writing in a sterile, clinical, attempt-at-objective mode was not only achievable, but also quite professional-sounding, the finished product ultimately rewarding. I was astonished at the work I produced for the literature review, and could imagine and hope for nothing more than an experience like this again; obviously, I’ve planned to write a thesis, but more on this later.

A weekday edition of The New York Times contains more information than the average person was likely to come across in a lifetime in seventeenth-century England.
– Rich Saul Wurman

In the age of information, the above statement is even more truthful about the medium of the Internet. However, one needs access to worthy, trusted information, and the amount of sources I’ve accumulated from this course, mostly from Professor Mattern herself, is limitless. From lists and lists of books that I have compiled (and asked to receive as Christmas presents from friends and family) to the number of new websites I now visit, my resources and number of inspirations have vastly increased since September. Allow an example: not only do I enjoy reading Benjamin for his ideas about art and film, but I also relate to this philosopher and literary critic as a fellow collector; this semester has taught me that while it is nice to amass tangible collections such as vinyl records, books, favorite films and antiques (which I no doubt will do for the rest of my life), collecting ideas, resources, and websites is also quite valuable in the life of a graduate student and academic. I have started an account with Delicious, and make a point to meticulously bookmark every website I find worthy of remembrance. I have also saved all of the articles, essays, and various other sources in a folder on my computer’s desktop as well as in printed form. These sources will serve as the humble beginnings of the thesis paper I hope to one day complete.

Creating a new theory is not like destroying an old barn and erecting a skyscraper in its place. It is rather like climbing a mountain and gaining new and wider views.
– Albert Einstein

In planning for my thesis, I know I will take the knowledge and sources found within the pages of my literature review and hopefully turn them into a fully formulated research project. As stated in the final paragraphs of my literature review, I hope to extend my research of sociolinguistics and computer-mediated communication (CMC) into the specialty of gender studies, or hopefully learn more about and aim to change the popular zeitgeist of the influence of CMC on language. I find the trends and inventions of Netspeak fascinating, namely certain playful lexical features and the substitution of emoticons for face-to-face interpersonal social indicators. I suppose developing theories on the motivations for these features of CMC would be interesting, but focusing on trends of gender groups seems to be more useful, since not much relevant work has been done on the topic.

Along the lines of gender studies and CMC, I think that it would be far more useful to study gender-specific and –targeted linguistic trends in current games like Second Life, World of Warcraft, or Halo as opposed to gender role-playing games that are currently extinct. I am completely aware that in dealing with new media technologies, rapid transformation of available options and relevancy of games will ebb and flow; this is why on-going studies are necessary. Lucky for the ideas of this research, the Internet, especially a wiki, is the perfect medium to compile data in real time; statistics and information can be updated instantaneously and rapidly if one was to use an online, accessible database.

Basically, my thesis plans are still up in the air and open for improvement, development, and change. I have wispy, dimly lit plans about an installation piece that would include computer-mediated communication, but that lightning bolt of an idea has yet to strike with much effect. I am hoping that in the following semesters I will have the opportunity to take classes that focus on linguistics as well as new media theory so that I might further develop my ideas for my thesis project, but also try not to shy away from taking courses where I am allowed to express myself creatively.

You hear people all the time saying ridiculous things like, ‘I could write a book’ or, ‘I could compose a piece of music’. Well, or course they couldn’t. They might have an idea in their head, but it’s realizing the idea that counts.
– Vivienne Westwood

Realizing the Idea: A Tentative Academic Timeline

Spring 2009 (late January to mid-May)
- Enrolled in the following courses: Methods of Rhetorical Analysis (Carol Wilder), Visual Historiographies (Michael Gillespie), and Media Practices: Time Based (Mario Paoli/John Plenge).
- Participating in Critical Themes in Media Studies conference planning committee.
- Choosing advisor for thesis project/paper.
- Hopefully find a professor that is interested in having me as their teacher’s assistant.

Summer 2009
- Taking one course (most likely a seminar) to compensate for amount of time I will need to spend on thesis work over the next academic year.

Fall 2009
- Taking at least one Concepts course so that I will continue the trend of having one project-based course per semester
- Hopefully getting involved in the Critical Themes conference in some capacity or another.
- Beginning work on my thesis; completing my proposal by the end of the Fall
- Submit PhD program applications (schools I have considered thus far: NYU PhD in Culture and Media; Rutger’s School of Communication, Information and Library Studies PhD in Media Studies; NSSR PhD in Sociology of Media)

Spring 2010
- Completing my course work while focusing even more intently on my thesis. If I do not complete my thesis at the end of this semester, I will most likely move into…

Fall 2010
- Completing my thesis!/Begin PhD program, pending that my thesis is complete and I get accepted to a program.

Spring 2011-Spring 2014/15
- Completing my PhD



Benjamin, Walter. “Unpacking My Library: A Talk About Book Collecting.” In Illuminations
(New York: Schocken, 1968/1937): 60.

Fletcher, Alan. The Art of Looking Sideways. (New York: Phaidon, 2001): 33, 74, 93.

1 comment:

Princess Leah said...

So very ambitious, and yet so completely believeable, given your intellect. Go for it, girl!