By Leanna Moxley
As I began this project the concept of the MyStory was very hazy in my mind, but I was intrigued with the idea of learning how to use new media in a way that is different from our old concepts of literacy. I was also enthusiastic about focusing on my own life, and learning something about myself along the way.
I built my website using Wix.com. The fluidity of Wix, a flash platform, matched the fluidity I wanted my site to have. I was able to tell a story the same way my mind envisioned it, by linking back and forth to concepts and images that were not ordered in a straight line.
I focused most strongly on the family portion of my site. My mother was the most important part of my childhood and still shapes me today, so I wanted to focus on her. I had the idea to take the detritus of my childhood in the form of papers, pictures, and other items, and use it to create a story in a series of vignettes, keeping in mind what Ulmer said about the haiku. I wanted these vignettes to create images in the mind of the viewer. In this iteration of the mystory, my career section was underdeveloped and text heavy. My entertainment portion had less rigid structure than my family section, but also less personal relevance, and I wasn’t satisfied with it.
Then our class had a meeting with Gregory Ulmer. Beforehand I was excited about presenting my work in front of Ulmer. However, everything seemed to go wrong. First the technology didn’t work, then my links were broken. By the time I was finally able to present I felt nervous and forgot most of what I had planned to say.
At the meeting, Ulmer dismissed what I had already completed and asked me to think instead of one memory of my mother from the family section. He said I should focus on the atmosphere in the memory, the haiku of it, and that would lead toward my wide image. On the spot, I chose a memory of my mother and I going to my family’s summer camp for the day. In the memory, there was a misunderstanding which led to me walking alone through the empty camp while she didn’t know where I was. Ulmer was interested in what the atmosphere of the empty camp might mean for me. At the time I felt like he was saying that everything I did had been wrong and I was too embarrassed and frustrated to process his critique. But after giving it some thought, I decided to start with that one memory and completely redo my mystory.
This time, I decided to focus on one concept in each area instead of being all over the place. I used the memory of my mother for the family section, the memory of watching It in Alaska for my entertainment section, Stumphouse Tunnel for my community section, and A Wrinkle in Time for my career section I tried to move away from traditional narrative and to make the connections non-linear yet coherent.
I quickly began to see connections between the sections, such as nostalgia for the members of my family who had already died, like my great-grandmother and my mother. This theme of missing parents is also in A Wrinkle in Time. Both A Wrinkle in Time and Madeleine L’Engle’s Newberry Award acceptance speech, focus on the concept of fighting against the dark. Dark empty cabins and a flood of light when my mother entered the room figured in my memory of camp. A child’s fear and confusion is seen in my memory of watching It in Alaska, in the camp memory, and in A Wrinkle in Time. There were themes related to natives/non-natives: my family as natives of Mountain Rest, the Cherokee as natives of the land where the tunnel was built, the old camp symbol of a Native American, the Inuit in Alaska. Another theme was strong women, embodied in my mother, my great-grandmother, Issaqueena, and the characters in A Wrinkle in Time. Those characters travel through space, like a dark tunnel, and the clown in my video clip is seen in a tunnel-like storm drain.
I chose the tunnel as my wide image because I saw it as the central point for all of these themes. It represents something missing and incomplete, a struggle between light and dark. It represents my family and my community. It represents both the fear and excitement that can be found in the unknown. While this symbol may seem abstract, it connects my life and my mystory in many ways.