Digital Dialectics

Transcript for “Editors’ Introduction”

MEREDITH: Hi, I’m Meredith Coffey.

CONNIE: And I’m Connie Steel. We are the co-managing editors for Issue 5.1 of The Journal for Undergraduate Media Projects. I’m filming here in Austin, Texas.

MEREDITH: And, ‘today’ I’m filming from Miami, Florida. Just as we aren’t filming in the same place, we’re also not filming at the same time. My ‘today’ isn’t the same as Connie’s ‘today.’ And our ‘todays’ are different still from your ‘todays’ as you’re watching this video introduction. On a related note, TheJUMP Issue 5.1 titled “Digital Dialectics?” features four projects that create dialectics across space and time with existing works ranging from Gorgias in 380 BC, to children’s literature, to Simon & Garfunkel, to Facebook. Each piece requires the audience to play a role in the dialectic through their memories of the arguments in other works.

CONNIE: Meredith brings up the concept of the “dialectic.” Well, what does that mean? For this issue of TheJUMP, we employ a loose definition of the “dialectic,” emphasizing point and counterpoint, constructive synthesis, and productive contradiction. The four pieces in this issue create some of the educational or experiential flavor of the classical dialectic using today’s digital media through their fusion of form and content. The multimodal forms of the projects—ranging from rap video, to soundscape, to video remix—present new ways of thinking about dialectics as occurring not just as a conversation within themselves, but as conversations with previous authors across time and space. Without further ado—because that was a lot of “ado”—Meredith is going to present the first project.

MEREDITH: The project “Facechange” is a collaborative effort by Will Tangney, Katie Tiller, David Hook, and Jacob Philpott, all students in Scott Nelson’s course, “Writing in Digital Environments,” at the University of Texas at Austin. Their project is a game that calls into question Facebook activism—or slacktivism, as the authors say. The home page of the game, formatted much like a Facebook timeline, gives players access to three rounds of play, each based a cause recently popular on social media: Occupy Wall Street, SOPA and PIPA protests, and Kony 2012. I won’t spoil the outcome of play for you by giving away the ending, but I suggest that the choice of a highly interactive game format raises an interesting counterpoint to the way that we spend time on and pay attention to the world through Facebook. Is Facebook just a game?

CONNIE: Games are just for kids, right? Our next piece interacts with an archive of children’s literature through a series of original rap songs composed and performed by Calvin Tiu and Hanrick Kumar, students of Sue Ann Cairns’s “Children’s Literature” course at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia. Our first encounter with the album is through the cover art, which warns parents of explicit lyrics. The choice of rap as a medium for multimodal composition reflects on the contradictions between the grim reality often occurring in children’s lives and the social limitations on expressing those experiences. Going by the rap artist names Kalvonix and Big Luv, these students explore themes like death and drug use in eight works, including classics like Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, side-by-side with more recent young adult novels like Tweaked. In the words of a recent chart-topping rap hit by Eminem and Rihanna, “I’m friends with a monster that’s under my bed.” Meredith?

MEREDITH: Speaking of top charting hits, our next piece is the soundscape “Sounds of Silence,” by Carol Ashey of Jennifer Buckner’s “Multimodal Composition” course at Gardner-Webb University. “Sounds of Silence” conveys some of the experiences of a hard of hearing person. The title of Ashey’s piece corresponds not with the title of the number one hit song from 1966—that is, Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence”—but rather with the multiplicity of meanings implied by the album’s title. Ashey’s single track presents an album’s worth of micro experiences, each associating and disassociating sound from meaning. Ashey takes the listener through a muffled, largely indistinguishable conversation; then, through the uncomfortable high-pitched noise caused by adjusting a hearing aid; and through a hard of hearing diagnosis complete with an array of tests. The piece concludes with a feeling of isolation, as a voice describes the challenges of following a conversation at a crowded table, and finally closes with a solo rendition of a piece of the song originally sung by Simon & Garfunkel in two-part harmony.

CONNIE: The issue’s final piece titled, “Gorgias Revisited,” presents Timothy Simmons’s vision of a dialectic of inarticulate emotion. This piece, originally composed for Justin Hodgson’s “Multimedia Scholarship” course at The University of Texas, consists of excerpted facial expressions, interjections, and exclamations from a series of movies starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. Simmons remixes the pieces in the same order as the classical dialogue between Socrates and Gorgias, making an important point about the role of pathos and rhetoric in dialectic forms. Meredith, wanna tell everybody who plays Socrates?

MEREDITH: No, Connie, I refuse to give any spoilers, but everybody can find out for themselves by clicking on the links to the pieces in the menu on my left. Thanks for joining us. This is Meredith Coffey, from Miami, Florida.

CONNIE: On behalf of the editorial committee here at TheJUMP, I’d like to thank you for visiting Issue 5.1. This is Connie Steel, signing off from somewhere on the internet.