Reflecting on a Fruitful Semester

Note: this site is an archive of the work produced by Winslow Wanglee over the course of the spring 2020 semester at Emory in English 101

Throughout my semester in Professor Morgen’s English 101 class, I have thoroughly developed my skills as a writer in ways I could not have foreseen. The unique structure of the class encouraged me to break boundaries in my writing, challenging the structured dogma writing that I had been taught throughout my K-12 education. No longer were we writing bland five paragraph essays. Instead, we explored alternative forms of media, such as podcasts, sidequests, and blog posts, opening new pathways for literary expression. Most importantly, I fulfilled all five of the learning outcomes for the class: rhetorical composition, critical thinking and reading resulting in writing, writing as a process, collaboration, and digital citizenship. 

I utilized the introductory texts to form a framework for my writing for the remainder of the class. In Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter, Steven Johnson talks extensively about the concept of probing, where a player figures out how to play a game through trial and error. I used this concept in my own podcast Minecraft: A Trip Back Through Time, where I say, “As I was playing, I used a bit of probing to create items,” discussing how probing was a tool I used to rediscover the game. I used Johnson’s term and applied it to my own experience playing Minecraft. Another important concept I utilized throughout the semester was the act of thinking gamefully, which Jane McGonigal described in her books SuperBetter and Reality is Broken. To be gameful is to wrestle with the game’s limitations, to play until we exhaust the challenge of the game. Because of Jane McGonigal I tried to think gamefully, exhausting the challenge for whatever game I played. In my Fiasco reflection, I write, “I tried to develop the emotional strengths and weaknesses of my character: in my first scene, I described my ethical dilemma towards my gambling addiction, and how it was fueling my worst behavior and causing me stress. I also described the anxiety of being indebted to bloodthirsty loan sharks, and how that was driving the conflict for my character.” Fiasco is a roleplaying game, which means the best gamer is the one that creates the most multi-layered, thought-provoking story. In Fiasco, I played the full extent of the game by fleshing out the story and the emotional undercurrents as best as I could, effectively incorporating gameful tactics into my writing and play.

My podcast series employed writing as a process of revision, editing, and reflection, while simultaneously supporting collaboration with my peers to work in various rhetorical compositions. I began the process for my Minecraft podcast by writing an outline for my desired theme about nostalgia in video games. Meeting with Professor Morgen helped me revise my idea into a more practical approach where I discussed how Minecraft in particular changed the way I thought as a kid, while briefly discussing the effect of nostalgia. Instead of having it mostly scripted, I also changed the structure to having more moments of discussion between me and my associate producer. I collaborated well with both of my partners when making our podcasts, managing to bounce ideas off them and facilitate discussion. We divied up the work fairly and found the time to work together. After we recorded, I edited the podcast extensively on audacity, deleting awkward pauses and adding music where needed. This process not only strengthened newfound editing skills, it also showed me how to be a good digital citizen; I only used creative commons music and images for my podcast, making sure not to steal intellectual property. After completing the episode I wrote a reflection of the process and accomplishments of the podcast, thus finishing the process of writing successfully. 

The diversity of texts I have created illustrate the new and adaptive rhetorical compositions that I’ve learned throughout English 101. From completing and reflecting on sidequests to creating podcasts using digital and audio tools, I’ve composed texts in many different ways. While previously my works could only be seen by myself and the teacher, from the beginning of the semester I published each reflection and sidequest on my website winslowwanglee.wordpress.com for all to see. Maintaining good digital citizenship, I made sure to credit all sources in my posts. I made sure I understood the purpose and constraints for each post, with some of the sidequest assignments including comedy, such as when I described the contents of my bag, saying, “1 Book (SuperBetter, for eng 101 class, duh); 1 Calculator to get me through Chem 202”. I reserved these playful, comedic moments for some of the smaller assignments while retaining a more serious, analytical approach to the larger reflections for my podcasts or fiasco, demonstrating my knowledge for the purpose of each text. In creating my podcasts with peers, I made sure to incorporate a mixture of scripted and conversational moments, to create an analytical argument that was both structured and contained the more intimate flow of a conversation. The introduction and conclusion were scripted to emphasize the thesis of the podcast in a succinct manner, while the middle of the podcast involved the conversation where the other producer and I fleshed out the podcast’s argument based off of an outline we created. This structure exhibited my recognition that the audience and purpose of a podcast is distinct from a standard analytical essay or reflection; while the podcast is still making an argument, it’s done in a more colloquial way through dialogue between two people, whereas the structure of an essay wouldn’t translate well to that form of media.

The process of hometasking personally helped me transition from an in-person to a virtual learning environment by assuring me that I am not, in fact, alone. Whenever I was tasked to complete a hometask, I could always look to my peers or the other thousands of people hometasking for inspiration. Although I was isolated from my peers physically, I could still gain power ups from my allies to help me complete my tasks, in the words of Jane McGonigal. I managed to defeat the bad guys, including sadness and Covid-19, to collaborate with my peers in online class by discussing our hometasking quests.

My learning inside the class translated wonderfully into my other classes here at Emory. I began to understand the importance and effect of rhetorical composition in my research. For example, in my business economics class I was instructed to describe the macroeconomics of the coronavirus recession as my final paper. During my research, I found that data charts and graphs were the best ways of rhetorically conveying my evidence, and frequently used them to supplement my writing. The graphs are often easier to understand by the reader and incorporate a more diverse rhetorical composition to my essay. Not only did I present this data, I analyzed it by emphasizing the abrupt changes in the economy between February and March 2020 in order to strengthen my argument. English 101 has improved my rhetorical skills both inside and outside the class.

Over the course of the semester, I’ve expanded my repertoire to include novel methods of writing while improving my proficiency in all the learning outcomes. One of my last tasks, entitled The English 101 Menu, illustrated how different parts of the class built off each other to accomplish my learning goals. The appetizers were mainly the early readings, which laid the foundation for the rhetoric of this class. The drinks and desserts are the collaborative games that we played which built my camaraderie and teamwork with the class. Finally, the entrees are the main projects of this class, such as the podcasts and the sidequests, which enabled me realize my full, diverse, rhetorical potential. As the semester comes to an end, I hope to use this menu of delights from Professor Morgen’s class to draw inspiration and impetus for future work.

To find more about David Morgen’s class, https://eng101s20.davidmorgen.org

The Last of Us Podcast Reflection

For this Podcast I was the assistant producer, Greg Lawrence was the lead producer and Michael Mariam was the line producer. Greg and I began the process of creating the podcast by conversing about the games we have played. When he suggested The Last of Us I was immediately intrigued, having loved the story after watching walkthroughs of the game some years ago. I decided to play the game myself for a few hours to refresh my memory and to better understand the game mechanics. Our meeting with Dr. Morgen steered us away from focusing on simply the plot of the game, and got us thinking about the relationships and analysis of the characters, which we decided would become the main goal of the podcast. Along with this, we set goals of relating the story of The Last of Us with that of the Covid-19 situation currently unfolding.

Because we weren’t able to meet in person, Greg and I recorded the podcast through a zoom call. We structured the podcast in a similar way as the first podcast I led about Minecraft: we had a scripted introduction and conclusion as a solid base to work from, but the middle was more our freehand discussions about our primary goals. We spoke extensively about Joel’s character and how he showed clear sociopathic signs. Similar to serial killer Gary Ridgway’s relationship with his wife, which I learned about in my Psych 111 class, Joel could only feel emotions for Ellie, and anyone else he could brutally murder without thinking twice. We mainly used the game’s ending to describe this effect, where Joel essentially dooms the world for his own selfish desires for holding onto Ellie. We also discussed Ellie’s good-heartedness and relative helplessness on her own, which causes her to retain her relationship with Joel throughout the game, even though Joel betrays her without her knowing. Lastly, we discussed how the current Pandemic, while clearly not as severe as the one in the world of The Last of Us, served as a cautionary tale if we don’t take future viruses seriously, that post-apocalyptic world could become our own.

Our podcast was created using multiple modes of english, including written for our scripted paragraphs, aural for our analytical discussions, and digital in which we utilized a video call to communicate across the country to create this podcast. We managed to summarize the important parts of our game efficiently and analyze the character’s actions for our audience. I also managed to collaborate with my partner to create an informative discussion on our game. The Last of Us podcast improved my rhetorical, critical thinking, and collaborative skills in a way that resulted in a strong outcome.

Ferris Bueller’s Outro

For my iconic movie moment, I decided to recreate the after credits scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where he tells the audience to go away because the movie is over. This is one of the most iconic examples of breaking the fourth wall in a unique and funny way to end a great movie. Even though it’s after the whole credits are over, this is still one of the most memorable moments of the film, and has been parodied many times. This was pretty fun to make, and I watched the scene again to make sure I said the right lines. Here’s my take on it, wearing my blue bathrobe: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1OSMrX8AHsL1_xZ3vHfvmhxASfR24WbRt/view?usp=sharing

The English 101 Menu

I decided to make an assembly using the structure of a menu, with various appetizers, entrees, and drinks and deserts. The appetizers laid the foundation for our learning in class, and included many of our early readings about gaming and gamefullness. In these readings we learned how to define games and make sense of games, most notable through probing and telescoping. I also included some of the early games we played which got us thinking more critically about games than we had in the past. The entrees are the main bulk of our class, including large assignments and recurring themes that have become central to our class. The drinks and desserts are the fun games that we played for class, all of which managed to tell entertaining stories and got us thinking about more subtle aspects of games: music, environment, themes and symbols. This assembly was overall pretty fun to make and helped me organize the various things I did in this class over the course of the semester.

Pantception

For my extraordinary idea of what to do with trousers, I decided to see how many I could fit on myself before cutting off the blood circulation to my feet. I used the plethora of pants at my disposal: I started with shorts, then skinny jeans, then regular jeans, then khakis (buttons stopped working at this point), then absurdly large dress pants that could never fit me, then some very stretchable sweatpants. How did these six pants look on my skinny legs? Observe with the pictures below.

P.S. The hardest part was getting those pants off! I almost overheated in them.

Improvised minigolf

In order to make my kitchen into a sporting arena, I took my dad’s golf driver (decidedly not a putter, as I couldn’t find it) and a golf ball. I decided to also use a cup in place of a regular hole because I don’t have a putting set – I’ve only played golf (real golf, not minigolf) once or twice in my life. The setup worked out pretty well except for the fact that the ball kept rolling out of the cup after I got it in. I got it in a couple times, but alas, I couldn’t make it stay – ’twas the nature of the cup. Here’s the result: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ABmphxAvcTL2BejPuPdIJrqoxjrw1kDm/view?usp=sharing

Code Grey

For my camouflage attempt, I tried to keep it simple by hiding myself with one color: grey. Camouflaging myself in multiple colors I figured would be too hard to match each color and wouldn’t work well. Luckily I have a chaise lounge in my house that’s all grey and I have many grey clothes (my style is very boring, I know) and I added a backpack on top of me for good measure. I also tried to angle myself in a way that made a human outline less obvious. Here’s the result: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1bSUAEWP0RuF6k6QPUr9dQvMNd9tk99PV/view?usp=sharing

Jacuzzi Misadventures

Side note: for this assignment, I originally wanted to use the jacuzzi setting on my parent’s bathtub to create a hot-tub party, but things went quite awry. I rarely use their bathtub and I hadn’t used the jacuzzi setting in years, so little did I know what would happen. I filled the tub up to the jacuzzi jet line, and when I pressed the button, the water came surging out at crazy speeds, splashing the water all around the tub: on the ground, sink, mirrors. It scared the daylight out of me and I turned it off almost immediately. It also flung a ton of dirt into the water making it completely unsuitable to bathe. So, one important lesson I learned from this assignment: don’t use the jacuzzi setting! Thankfully I wasn’t in the tub at the time, or else it would have been a disaster.

I later redid this assignment, albeit with a much less unique premise. I brought a boombox (out of commission unfortunately, but a good atmosphere nonetheless), a dart board, and a monster energy drink to make for a fun basement bathroom party. Also, of course, including a roll of toilet paper and hand sanitizer as part of my state-mandated coronacation.

Link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-6e87DXVoJnNL5Epvqb8SzFjLI1TK90e/view?usp=sharing

Tennis Trick Shot

Here’s a link to my shot: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1sB4vVP5uH3P_egxBtaSyCUYUOZPYaenZ/view?usp=sharing

I decided I wanted to do some sort of trick shot with a tennis racket, because I have plenty of rackets since I used to play tennis on a regular basis. At first I tried to hit it off walls, the ceiling, or a fan, but after trying a few times I realized that a paper ball does not bounce much at all, so I decided to scrap the extra steps and just hit the paper straight in from a distance. Thankfully this distracted me a bit from the boredom of my quarantine.

Podcast Reflection

I began the process for making my podcast with the idea of nostalgia in video games. I thought that revisiting games from my childhood would be a good starting point. My main two ideas for games were Runescape and Minecraft, but since my associate producer Michael never played Runescape, we settled on Minecraft as the better option. After a meeting with Professor Morgen, we decided to shift the focus from nostalgia in Minecraft to explaining and analyzing how Minecraft shaped our values and experiences as kids to us as adults in college. We both decided to play the game again for about an hour to reflect on how the experience has changed. Being the executive producer and having played Minecraft more than Michael, I came up with most of the framework and ideas and wrote some scripted parts before we met to record and discuss the game.

Our primary goals of the podcast were to address how Minecraft has affected us as kids, the relationships that were formed around the game, and the affect of playing the game again with these nostalgic memories. We had this framework before we started recording, but we also wanted to unscripted moments and conversations between the two of us. To get through the unscripted portions, we wrote bullet points of different topics we needed to cover as we talked and we went from there. I made a podcast with audacity before in senior year of high school, so fortunately I already had an idea of how it worked. I could cut, stop, and go as we went along going over our primary goals. At certain times we weren’t confident in our unscripted moments, so we recollected our thoughts, thought of new ideas, and tried again. Overall, the recording process went pretty smoothly, as did most of the editing process. I decided to do the editing because I had the most important position and Michael had a lot of work. I found an artist on Free Music Archive that I liked, so I just used his music. The rest of the editing consisted of sound mixing and deleting the “um”s and awkward silences between takes.

By making the podcast I was able to compose a form of English utilizing modes. The first was a scripted introduction, conclusion and description of the game, and the other was transforming that writing and outline into unscripted verbal communication with another person while arguing its beneficial effects to convince an audience. I was also able to summarize and conclude my arguments succinctly in my conclusion. After meeting with Professor Morgen, I revised my main thesis from being analyzing nostalgia to analyzing the effects of Minecraft on myself and Michael from past to present. I utilized the Yeti microphones in the library, reserved a private room to make sure there were no outside noises, and enhanced the podcast with Creative Commons music. Making this podcast improved my skills with verbal communication, technology as a form of media, and revision of work as a way to create a new, strengthened, product.