Concept Expansion 3 (Reflection)

The remix (or mash-up) project, Concept Expansion 3, has been a very interesting experience for me. I am very excited to present the final product, but I will also be honest in saying that it is not at the level at which I would like it to be. I have spent the past two or three weeks in class poring over Audacity tutorials, YouTube videos, and MP3 song files in an attempt to create something that my group and I could be proud of. However, no matter how much time we have spent combining sounds, beats, words, and rhythms, we have not been thrilled with our results. I believe that the barriers that have prevented us from creating our ideal remix have come from our level of inexperience with audio, Audacity itself, and the realm of music. While I make a podcast every week with Audacity, I have never spent time experimenting with musical sounds — I have only worked with spoken-word vocals in the past. As difficult as the concept expansion has been, though, I sincerely appreciate the sentiment of this assignment and the challenge with which it has presented me. I truly believe that if we had more time to spend with this project (and resources for help), our group could come up with a fantastic remix.

In regards to the barriers that come along with fair use and copyright laws in creative projects, I deal with this dilemma quite often. In the podcast that I create, I discuss pop music and literary theory with one other person. While I believe that using sound clips from the songs would really enhance the podcast, I have always been too afraid of copyright infringement (even though our podcast is technically “educational”) to attempt to include any audio from the songs. I agree with Cory Doctorow’s introduction to Bound by Law?, which states, “Copyright, a system that is meant to promote creativity, has been hijacked by a few industrial players and perverted. Today, copyright is as likely to suppress new creativity as it is to protect it” (Aoki et al. iii). As much as I would like to say that copyright laws are necessary to provide credit where credit is due, I do think that they sometimes go too far. While creating this remix, I was worried that our project would fall victim to a lawsuit similar to the one Stephanie Lenz endured after posting a video of her son dancing to a Prince song online (Electronic Frontier Foundation). It seems apparent to me that, in the current state of the Internet, the online community should be centered more on respecting creations that have come before and fostering new creations built on that foundation than “making groundless infringement claims that trample on fair use and free speech,” as Universal did in Lenz’s situation (Electronic Frontier Foundation).

As this class has taught me, failure is learning, which means that we must continue trying, working, and creating to make something that builds upon the works of creators of the past and also puts something unique into the world. I believe that the online community is a great place to host those creations and conversations, and I hope that we continue to uphold fair use laws that state “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching … , scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright” instead of focusing on one person or group maintaining all the rights to specific sounds, words, or images (“U.S. Code 107”). The higher education system needs projects like this concept expansion, because they foster self-taught learning and the utilization of the resources all around us, and I hope that these experiences are never ruined by fair use jargon and copyright bureaucracy.

“Failure is Learning”

Tim told us this in class on Thursday. It was very difficult for me to hear because I have always been quite the perfectionist. I always want to do my work efficiently, thoughtfully, and well. However, Tim believes that, as long as we are trying, learning, and even failing, we are learning correctly.

Not only does this not jive with my personal paradigm when it comes to academics, but it also goes against everything I have been taught in college settings so far. My experiences in university classes have taught me that earning an A grade only comes from a perfected final product.

I appreciate Tim’s “failing is learning” philosophy, and I hope that I can get more accustomed to it as the semester finishes up. I know that I will definitely never be perfect when it comes to this class — the technology aspect simply does not line up with my own experience and preparedness, but I know that, over time, I have absolutely been, and will continue to be, learning. And, really, learning is the important thing.

I will continue to apply the “failing is learning” concept to our remix project (which is not going nearly as well as we had planned) and eventually to our long-form project! If we can ever find time to work on the long-form project… This semester is busy and hard. That’s where I’m at right now.

Remixing, continued

Yesterday’s class was incredibly frustrating for me. We were working on remixing three songs together in Audacity and I could not get the songs to blend the way I wanted them to. I had grand plans in my mind about separating vocals and instrumentals, making the beats coordinate, speeding up some elements and slowing down others, and generally creating something we could be proud of. However, I learned that my meager Audacity skills were not enough to remix our three songs in the way I wanted, which was quite a disappointment.

I wish that I had more of a creative ear and a knack for these sorts of projects, but I think that my group had a good idea about switching from Audacity to an Adobe product, which I think will work a lot better in tomorrow’s class. I’m confident that my group (full of awesome people) will be able to pull this off (even if it is at the last minute) really well and create a remix that we’ll remember—for better or worse! 🙂

Spring Break Struggles

This week, we have been on spring break from school, which means that I planned to do a lot of things for school over the week and then found the week slipping away from me more and more quickly.

I’m worried about how our remix will end up, because I definitely planned on learning about the process (on Audacity, etc.) throughout the week to be completely prepared for class Tuesday. However, I found that I had very little time this week and never got the chance to research these methods, and I certainly would not blame my team members if the same thing happened to them. I think we all needed a break this week.

I’m hoping that we will have enough class time to finish our remix/mashup, Concept Expansion 3 (as a group), my presentation, and also work on our Long-Form Project this week and in the coming weeks, which I know will be incredibly packed with school/work/job searching/graduation plans.

This is what I’m struggling with right now — as I scramble to get all my homework done for the week — but I know that my group will come together to do some great work!

Long-Form Project Meeting

We also had the opportunity to meet with Tim this week and discuss our long-form project. We still have a lot of decisions to make about our documentary, but Tim seemed to believe that we have a solid project that could create some positive change in the world.

Since our project proposal several weeks ago, each person who has read and observed our plans for the project has told us not to include a blog for our video production and reflection work. Tim reiterated this sentiment at our meeting. So it seems as though we should nix the blog site idea and stick to strictly a documentary-style long-form project.

We have a basic script typed up for our interviews, and we have a vague list of people we want to interview for the documentary. We would like to contact several national parks workers in the Northern Colorado area, and we believe that we will be able to determine the issues that affect national parks most through these interviews. We will also gauge awareness on this topic by polling students on the Plaza during school hours to take pictures and post them on social media, interview students for the documentary, and collect data on levels of awareness to provide as evidence in the movie.

Tim suggested that we narrow our focus for the documentary from all national parks to Rocky Mountain National Park, so that we can determine how we can best support RMNP and our local national park community.

Tim also encouraged us to make this documentary as more of a viral campaign to raise awareness about the ecological impact to national parks going on in the world today. We believe that, if we use social media in a savvy and relevant way, we can draw a large audience and truly raise awareness in our Fort Collins community.

Mashing Up Songs

This week, we tackled a completely new topic—music and copyrights. We discussed fair use and how it pertains to the world of academics, education, criticism, parody, and the way we use tools in our class. Our new design project is to create a remix out of several songs on Audacity.

While I have used Audacity for my podcast, I use the application extremely minimally and I have not needed to learn how to mix sounds, split vocals and instrumentals, or combine multiple files. My podcasting partner created our theme music/introduction (and our logo)—I do the social media stuff, which won’t really help us in this assignment.

We are planning on using the songs “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran, “Truffle Butter” by Nicki Minaj, and one by Lindsey Stirling (the name of which is escaping me now). I still do not know how to take vocals out of a song and add vocals from a different song, or how to mix beats together, but I’m certainly excited to learn. I think that if our group pools all of our collective knowledge/researching skills together, we’ll create a great remix.

A Reflection on Group 1’s PSA Design Project (CE 2)

This week in Digital Rhetoric, we worked on a design project within our table groups, in which we created a PSA about the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) proposed by Northern Water in Colorado. Each table took a different perspective from which to frame this PSA. Our table actually got to portray our PSA as though we were Northern Water, which was interesting because none of the four of us agreed with Northern Water’s proposal, so it took a lot of consideration to determine how we should try to “sell” this campaign to the public.

In his Digital Rhetoric book, Douglas Eyman explains how Aristotle first classified rhetoric and its methods. Eyman states that Aristotle argued: “In constructing a successful speech, the orator could use three modes of expression: logos (logical argument), pathos (emotional appeals), and ethos (establishing the authority of the speaker)” (Eyman — emphasis added). We needed all three of these appeals in order to create a successful PSA.

We used logos in our video by citing facts about water in Colorado to appeal to our audience’s logical side. For example, we claimed that “families and farms in Colorado struggle every day to create a sustainable living because of limited access to water,” which is information that we learned directly from the Northern Water website.

We used pathos to appeal to our viewers’ emotions in our PSA as well. We evoked nostalgia, state pride, and enthusiasm for the outdoors with images of nature, rivers, hiking, and families enjoying their surroundings in Colorado. After we created the pleasant emotions that come along with nature shots, we immediately cut to a black screen that said “No one should go without water” in order to defy our audience’s expectations and create an emotional experience to provoke their action. As Richard Weaver highlights in The Ethics of Rhetoric, “rhetoric at its truest seeks to perfect men by showing them better versions of themselves, links in that chain extending up toward the ideal … Rhetoric appears, finally, as a means by which the impulse of the soul to be ever moving is redeemed” (Weaver). Weaver indicates that our PSA viewers will truly seek to enjoy the effects of the pathos we create by imploring them to act (and support NISP) based on the emotions evoked by our images. People want to feel special and “ever moving” toward progress, and we could influence them through our ability to attract their emotional sides.

Finally, we used ethos by appealing to our own credibility on the matter by emphasizing the fact that we are Northern Water (a water company and the group proposing NISP itself) by creating a hashtag just for NISP and highlighting the Northern Water website at the end of the video. The concept of ethos in our PSA relates to Lawrence Lessig’s TED Talk, “Laws That Choke Creativity,” in which the speaker claims, “artists and creators [need to] embrace the idea, choose that their work be made available more freely” to the public (Lessig). This is what we — as “representatives” of Northern Water — have attempted to do by portraying our knowledge on the matter of NISP and our credibility to speak to its benefits. We are opening our doors — or, at least, our website — to the public so that they can see the impact of the work we are doing for water in northern Colorado.

Fair Use

Our readings this week discuss the practices of copyright, copyright law, and fair use. I’ve been doing some research on what fair use is and how it is typically interpreted by courts, and I’m still having some trouble understanding exactly when someone can use another person’s work.

According to Title 17 of the U.S. Code, works can always be used by others for purposes like “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research” without fear of copyright infringement. In addition, the factors considered for fair use are:

  1. “the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.”

However, as interesting as this information is, I’m still uncertain as to when I am allowed to use something I didn’t create. These guidelines are incredibly vague, and I wish I could understand their nuances better. For example, in my podcast, can I use clips of songs because I’m commenting on/criticizing them? Can we use video clips in our long-form project documentary because we’re in an academic setting?

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in the Lenz v. Universal case, a mother had “a short video of her toddler son dancing to a Prince song” removed from YouTube because the video allegedly violated a “copyright controlled by the music company.” I don’t want this to happen to me simply because I don’t completely grasp the concept of fair use. Hopefully, I am more enlightened after class this week!

Peer Feedback

This week, we are also working on providing and receiving peer feedback on our long-form project proposal drafts. I believe that peer feedback is incredibly valuable, especially for projects that span a long period of time and require a lot of planning and perspective. I’m excited to hear what my classmates have to say about our group’s draft and hopefully revise it to create an even better, more concise concept for our documentary.

However, I always struggle with navigating the line between constructive criticism and harsh judgement when I’m the one providing feedback to my peers. I feel mean when I suggest changes or subtractions and condescending when I give praise.

I know that peer feedback is an integral part of the “real world” and to building relationships and networks in career fields, but I always struggle to find the right balance between kindness and constructiveness. If anyone reading this has any suggestions for giving feedback in the future, I would love to hear your advice!

PSAs

Yesterday, we started working on a design project in our class groups in which we create and publish a Public Service Announcement about the NISP Northern Water project from a specific perspective (of an organization that has a stake in the matter). My group got an interesting side, because we are representing Northern Water. All four of us disagree with the NISP project and would not normally support Norther Water in this situation, but I believe that this extra challenge creates a more interesting element to our PSA.

I’m thinking that this project will be great practice for our group’s long-form project, which will be similar to the PSA, but on a much larger scale. Our long-form project will be a 30-minute documentary on national and local parks, while this design project will be a video that only lasts 45 seconds to a minute and a half.

I believe that this project will require more research and delving into differing opinions, which is very healthy, especially in an academic setting. Even with all the time we had in class yesterday, we were having a difficult time coming up with arguments supporting the NISP water project because of all of its adverse effects on the environment.

I hope that, tomorrow, we will be able to put our heads together and come up with some interesting footage, perspectives, and public relations standpoints for Northern Water so that we can do this PSA justice!