By Victoria Elliott
When I was asked to write a multimedia research essay, I was very quickly overwhelmed. I began to plot out extravagant topics, such as the development and superiority of comic language. I began the project early, but confused; fortunately, I had left myself ample time to create a solid project.
At some point I had finally whittled down my project’s focus. I wanted to analyze the comic style of the Norwegian artist Jason. With this in mind, I started experimenting with Sophie’s capabilities: images alongside text, colored panels and text, and so on. After a while, I noticed I had set up the essay in the style of a comic. Once I realized this, I purposely started mimicking the style of the artist I had chosen. I wanted to keep Jason’s simple style: I wanted the panels to appear in succession as the reader followed them, citations to appear like consciously sought footnotes, and images to show only when the reader moused over white-colored text. With any other medium, this would have been impossible, or at least extremely difficult for me to learn in such a short amount of time. But with Sophie, I was able to create a complex but effective project.
My favorite aspect of using Sophie was how well I could embody my own thesis. More than just write about Jason’s simplicity and flow, I was able to create an essay that operated in the same way. I wrote about Jason’s interactivity, while my readers must interact with my essay in order to read it. I wrote about the importance of his simplistic style, while also using a clean and organized layout. The reader can understand the essay on two separate bases: the argument I make in the prose, and the method by which my essay must be read.
After I turned in the project, I was given a good amount of feedback to improve upon the essay’s clarity. Once my revised copy was complete, the essay was far smoother than when I had first turned it in. I made my citations much more discreet and added hyper-linking effects so that the reader could browse through Jason interviews, if they so desired. I didn’t have to revise my essay, but I found working with both my topic and Sophie was so enjoyable I couldn’t resist the option.
Most of all, I was very pleased and impressed with writing an essay which incorporated multimedia. I was able to make something much more like a website or a blog than an actual essay, and this, to someone my age, just felt more accessible and intuitive, not to mention more fun. Even my classmates were easily able to operate the essay’s pop-up function without it being explained to them. And I’ve always found that when a person writes over some form of media, be it music, art, film, or otherwise, the argument is always opaque without concrete samples of the media present. While the persuasion of word is important, no one can truly grasp a piece of media without having an example. This is what makes multimedia essays so effective. If an image, a video clip, or piece of music is being discussed, it can also be present. References can be directly linked from the text. No piece is missing. In any case, I certainly hope essays in this style become more prominent and respected. Truly, the unique mix of media, text, and interactivity conveys the most information in the easiest way possible.