Instructor Reflection – Picture Perfect (8.1)

By Justin Hodgson

The guiding challenge for this assignment was for students to engage in the practices of remix to respond to the guiding inquiry of the course: “What is your relationship with technology?” I left the parameters wide and allowed the students to take up their own directional possibilities, but was primarily expecting a series of remix statements about how technologies have improved life or takes on the human-technology assemblage being key to being a millennial. And for the most part, the student project did reflect these more positive orientations to what technology allows us to do or how it allows us to connect to people access information. However, Andrew William’s project did something different, and that alone made it stand out. But it also demonstrated a level of technical and rhetorical sophistication that just blew me away.

To this end, Williams takes advantage of the multiple layers of mediation to create dissonance for viewers, and does so to offer an interesting take on depression, which is increasingly a socio-cultural issue of importance. He accomplishes this by juxtaposing the represented life in Kat Napiorkowska’s “Living with Depression” video (the medial base of this project) with contrasting media displays (via Shutterstock video clips and his own generated textual additions). What Williams creates is a rich, medial tapestry that displays not only outstanding technical skills, but also a deep understanding of how the different mediations can work rhetorically. The audio additions add atmosphere to the piece as well as serve as trigger elements with each textual addition. The textual elements, which mirror tweets and instant messages, add depth and the illusion of an attentive voyeurship (a core element among the social media elite). And together they function to offer us a stark reminder: one’s digital life (as seen/lived through social media) is a crafted representation—hyper-saturated and digitally augmented.

What stands out to me about this creation is both the rhetorical depth present in the project and the level of seamlessness among the elements. The tension created between the represented life and the reality of that life is really engaging. But the production level here, though primarily employing very simple techniques, is spot on, and those two together are, in many ways, what most of us hope for when creating assignments for our courses.