Coming into this class, I wasn’t exactly sure what I would get out of it (other than fulfilling a “W” requirement). I chose to enroll in this specific composition course because I thought that learning about digital media would give me an interesting insight into something I interact with daily. I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up not just learning more about concepts related to this ever-changing platform, but also becoming more proficient in a various related tools and applications. Having a level of proficiency in these tools is becoming an essential part in understanding how we represent media, and by practicing with such programs throughout this course, I think I have gained greater insight into digital media and composition.
Looking back on the goals I set for myself, I feel satisfied with how far I’ve come. Because the last composition course I took was in high school, I felt a bit out of my realm at first. Throughout my past few years at Pitt, I have grown very accustomed to classes where there is always an objective “right answer” and progress is achieved when you’ve come to understand the process of getting to that specific solution. Given that the levels of technical expertise varied greatly amongst the students this class, I appreciated being in an environment that was more oriented to personal achievements and reflection. I think I have personally come a long way in both my understanding of the various tools we used in class as well as the important concepts related to the writing process.
I think the most essential concepts related to composition that I will take from this class involve revision, presentation, and organization. As an industrial engineering major, continuous process improvement is the name of the game. There is always a way to make something better or more efficient, and having that mentality is the key to being successful. When it comes to composition, I feel that revision works in a similar capacity. It has been very interesting to see how this is applied through multimodal projects, especially when utilizing GitHub to track changes in revision history. It took me a while to get the hang of GitHub, but I think it is a very multipurpose tool that I can imagine being particularly useful for me in future projects. Having the ability to store files online in a specific repository while adding collaborators and tracking history helps immensely in organizing work.
Something that I also intend to carry with me after this class are the concepts of Fair Use and CC licenses. I think this is extremely relevant, and I am honestly shocked that my other classes have not discussed this. For instance, I took a class this semester called Product Design that incorporated a project that involved creating a new toy to enter the market. In part of the design for this toy, my team and I used various images and popular children’s characters to utilize in both the product and its packaging. After our presentation, faculty members drilled us with various questions about manufacturing costs, market analysis, and feasibility of the product, but no one mentioned the copyright issues that would come with utilizing such images on the packaging or product itself, nor were we required to cite any of them in our final report. However, since the goal of the project was to come up with a realistic implementation of this product on the market, copyright should have been a large factor to take into consideration.
Overall, I think this class benefited me in ways I didn’t anticipate when I first decided to enroll. I’ve come to realize how essential it is to step outside your comfort zone when it comes to learning new tools, and although I sometimes struggle in doing so, it’s something I am looking to improve upon well after this semester. Being self-reflective is key to becoming a better learner, and since digital media is a dynamic and rapidly changing platform, it is important to learn how to learn more. Throughout my experience with composition in foreign modalities this semester, I have come to understand the framework behind such programs, which will allow me to continue to keep my digital media abilities relevant. Moving forward, I know I will utilize these new skills; by interacting with digital media on a daily basis, having an understand such composition principles is highly relevant in this day and age.
As the first project, the visual unit did not come without its difficulties. In the beginning, I felt very challenged in both designing the visual and learning how to use GitHub and GIMP. While there was a definite learning curve, in the end, I think I crafted a visual that I am satisfied with. For this project, I decided to create a flyer that advertised a study abroad program in Munich, Germany, that I participated in over the summer. Because location was the most important factor in choosing to go abroad, I created my focal point as the word “German” to intrigue an audience of other engineering majors at Pitt who are also interested in studying abroad. I chose a medieval font and alternated the letters with black, red, and yellow colors that both reflect the colors of Germany’s flag and add contrast to dark blue font of the other letters, making it “pop”. I also chose to have the background as Marienplatz, the center of Munich, and edited this picture to have cooler tones to provide further emphasis on the title. I included layers of the Bavarian alps in the foreground to advertise the scenic beauty of Munich while including an area that I could post a link to for more information. To frame the image, I used a fuzzy border to create a more blended effect and tie everything together. Overall, I tried to consider color, layout, style, and perspective into my design. Through this, I think I effectively relayed my intended message toward my target audience, so I did not make much revision for this in the final portfolio.
Final Portfolio Version:
In terms of learning how to use the tool, I found the audio unit to be the most straightforward; however, in terms of content, I found it to be the most challenging. For this project, I chose to cast a research paper into sound because most of what I have written in the past couple years has been technical by nature. While figuring out the best way to fulfill the criteria and communicate a clear message was initially a challenge, I decided to set my goal as relaying technical information while simultaneously capturing an audience. To achieve this, I chose to use a research paper I wrote on the BP oil spill. Because this topic involves a safety engineering mishap, I figured it would allow me to exercise more creativity in bringing out the “disaster” element of this source while conveying the technical nature of this content.
In my final portfolio revision, I intended to create a more effective balance of volume and smoother transitions. In my previous draft, I had originally used an explosion to introduce this project, and while my intended effect here was to create an opening that was jarring, it was a little extreme. I decided instead to have the explosion follow the documentary clip to allow for someone to adjust the volume before hearing an intense explosion. To create more clarity with the speaking parts, I reduced the length and volume of the construction background noise. I also utilized noise reduction to get rid of the background fuzziness and establish more clarity and focus. Similarly, I tried to get rid of the choppiness of the transitions between the various speaking parts and background noises by adjusting the alignment of the sound clips accordingly. I was intending to record my voice parts again, but then I got sick again, so I stuck with the original clips. However, I did record a citation to add at the very end since I didn’t include that in the last revision. It sounds a bit off due to my illness, but because it’s at the end of the piece, I don’t think it interferes too much with the flow of the rest of this clip.
Overall, I feel as though I achieved my desired effect of bringing out an element of the source’s meaning. I enjoyed the challenge of transforming a technical research paper into something more along the lines of a “call to action”. In doing so, I think I was able to combine music, sound effects, silence, emphasis, and volume to deliver this message.
Final Portfolio Version:
Overall, I found this unit to be the most difficult yet rewarding. In the beginning, I was hoping that I would have an easier time grasping this new tool because I have had prior experience with HTML coding language. Unfortunately, this wasn’t really the case. It almost hindered my proficiency in the beginning because I made the mistake of not really stepping outside of my comfort zone; instead I utilized tools I had prior experience with to get a better grasp of this material. While I think this definitely helped me ease into understanding this tool, I think it also ended up being a slight disservice to myself, as I fell behind in the very beginning. Because I this, I intended to put a great amount of effort into revising this project for the final portfolio. Although I had met the baseline criteria in my last revision, I hoped to achieve more of the aspirational criteria through this final revision.
I won’t pretend like I am now an expert at HTML/CSS coding; however, I think I was able to familiarize myself enough to create a final product that surpassed what I originally thought I could even achieve. Although I found this project to be extremely frustrating and confusing at times, once I realized how much I had transformed this piece from the original template, I felt more excited to continue making improvements.
In a technical sense, I was able to link among pages, utilize flexbox, use multiple fonts, and add a license to my site in this final revision. Visually speaking, I implemented a scenic background that relates to my project pitch and adds contrast to the white box containing information, allowing for it to stand out. I also focused heavily on alignment to make everything look sequential, organized, and easy to navigate. Similarly, I created a menu bar to link to various pages detailing information regarding my pitch. I chose colors that established cooler, cleaner, and more natural tones and utilized shadowing effects on the tabs to establish dimension within the page.
Overall, I am very pleased with how it turned out. Even though the time I spent producing this final revision was much, much longer than anticipated, I think I have made tremendous strides. My learning curve for this project was steep, but in the end, I am very pleased with how far I’ve come in this unit.
Final Portfolio Draft:
I would consider the collaborative unit project to be the most valuable of the four. While group projects can often be a hit or miss, working with others is unavoidable in real world situations, so understanding how to collaborate as a team is essential for undergraduate students to practice. Our group consisted of six people, which made it hard to coordinate specific tasks at times. Tackling this project was made slightly easier by defining specific expectations, deadlines, and personal accountability; however, given the size of our group and our overall lack of experience in navigating WordPress, coordination was often a daunting task. While we were able to communicate, set goals, and ensure productivity during class, sticking to original deadlines for individual tasks outside of class was made harder given our different schedules. This became more apparent when it came to taking pictures of restaurants in each of our assigned neighborhoods, but it did not become an issue when producing the final product.
Overall, I think we created well-designed website that informs our intended audience, college students, on food joints of various styles, prices, and neighborhoods in the Pittsburgh area. Our logo represents this intended purpose and was made through GIMP, using two images: graduation cap by Saman Bemel-Benrud with a CC-BY license; silverware by Bradley Simms with a CC-BY license. We placed this image on the top of our website as we intended for it to stand out well on our page with its contrasting red and yellow colors, which are highly represented “comfort colors” for food establishments. We chose to include a graduation cap and silverware in our logo to represent the two most important elements of our website: food and college students. All other pictures were taken individually.
The website itself is organized in a manner that is easy to navigate, clean with contrasting black and maroon colors to emphasize information, and visually appealing. To make navigation as intuitive and organized as possible, we created a top menu bar that includes a list of neighborhoods as well as a drop-down bar for special occasions. On the home page, we have the default “About Us” page to further explain are intended purposes, ensuring visitors understand our objective.
Overall, I am very impressed with our group’s ability to work together in delivering a final product that matched our original purpose. We challenged ourselves by acting as administrators of our WordPress site, through which we were able to install various plug-ins, create categories and menu bars, and utilize CSS to modify stylistic elements on our website. We also became much more informed on the style of restaurants in various neighborhoods surrounding the Pittsburgh area throughout this process, and we hope our site continues to inform others as well. I know that I personally am very interested in exploring the affordable food options around this area (or knowing the fancy, expensive ones for when my parents come to visit), and I can see both myself and others continuing to use this website as reference.
Final Portfolio Thumbnail: