By Justin Hodgson
Tanya’s monument is a project in which the design and/or rhetorical appeals are shaped directly by the content-focus itself—which is the central tenet I stressed throughout the course: “Let the project/issue/matter-at-stake-in-the-monumentalization shape the design, shape the depth, shape the engagement.” As part of the course, we regularly discussed producing rhetoric in digital media and how it readily presents the opportunity to “write the paradigm.” Tanya’s project demonstrates some of the richness in those possibilities. Her use of the iPhone as a navigational object, but also as a metaphor and visual frame, reflects this idea. What better way to position viewers in this monument than by using the most prominent cultural (texting) artifact relevant to the conversation? In so doing, her entire project has a richness in how it conveys its meaning that would be difficult to produce in a traditional essay format. While there are certain areas in her project that could be expanded, or refined, or perhaps more cleanly situated in relation to their intent—and this is nearly always the case with undergraduate “in class” work—what her project does is provide an appealing and engaging way into the conversation.
But what most impresses me about Tanya’s project (and what I think is most valuable about doing projects like this and creating very loose guidelines for the work) is what it reflects about her development and identity in the course. In the process of doing this project, something ignited in her and the commitment she displayed toward the project become self-evident. She spent so much time and energy learning the program and figuring out how to manipulate Wix to create the kind of aesthetic and rhetorical effect she wanted, that students quickly recognized how valuable she was to work with. She became the class expert on Wix. And in each class, she spent as much time (if not more time) helping other students figure out how to make Wix do what they wanted as she did working on her own project. She also provided regular one-on-one guidance in how to combine our Photoshop practices with Wix to create interactive images.
Overall, the project itself is engaging, but how she took ownership over that knowledge and how she demonstrated varying levels of rhetorical sophistication in practice and in product is the greatest testimony I can provide in regards to the success of this project. It provided a learning (and growth) opportunity perhaps more valuable than the product itself.