Course Reflection

I am a writing and rhetoric major. When I enrolled for this course, I expected to write papers with a world wide web ~feel~. I expected to be taught how to appeal to every possible audience that I could find on the web, and I expected it to be a breeze.

On the first day of class, I was terrified. Reading the contents of the syllabus and absorbing what my responsibilities would be for the next 14 weeks scared the shit out of me. It was not at ALL what I expected.

Fast forward to the end of the semester, and I have gained an entirely new perspective on the meaning of “writing for the world wide web.” All of the things I had never considered “writing” before are suddenly the first things I think about. I used to limit myself to textual writing. Not on purpose, but because I didn’t realize how many other ways there were to write. I never considered writing for sound, or using photos to convey more thoughts and feelings than words themselves could. It’s hard to believe I was so sheltered from the ways I could appeal to people through writing (or not writing).

As a writing major, I believe my future will eventually lead me to writing for the web. The world is becoming more digitized, and it feels inevitable that I will end up typing behind a computer for people and groups of all ages and interests. This course has opened up hundreds of possibilities for me as a writer. I am grateful for the understanding of digital writing and archiving it has brought me.

The Key to George Kramer’s Life

keys

This was my favorite shot from the “Remembering Hardware” photo essay. The close-up shot is intimate and shows the intricate details of the keys. The angle from which the photo was taken – on a slight diagonal and from underneath – makes the shot interesting to look at and keeps the eyes from getting bored. I appreciate the focus on this particular section of the key wall because the keys are familiar, yet irregular. They are unlike all of the duller keys that surround them, however we are able to identify them immediately.

“Remembering Hardware” talks about George Kramer’s knowledge of all of the materials in his hardware store. This photo was an ingenious addition to the photo essay because it showcases they exact details that he is able to identify every day. The differences in some of the keys are so small to us, however they have become significant to George over years spent memorizing their details. These keys were included to create an understanding of the work Mr. Kramer has come to love so much. In addition to this, the photo was included after the part of the story when the elder Mr. Kramer turned the store over to Mr. Abraham, who recognized George as an attentive, ideal worker. The photo of the keys that followed this segment of the story could be considered a symbol of the elder Mr. Kramer giving a new owner access of his store.

President’s Park

When a picture is taken, both the photographed and the photographer hold responsibility for that moment. The photographed, for holding the experience, for creating a display to be captured; and the photographer, for making the experience real, for producing evidence and distributing knowledge of the event. This is Derrida’s concept that Marlene Manoff holds at high importance. Archiving records an event, of course; it documents the very existence of that event. And, in doing this, a moment is produced. It is made known that the event has taken place; the archivist can distribute this moment and say, “Hey, this happened.”

In my “photograph not taken” essay, I described a stop that I made on a road trip last summer. President’s Park, a large, privately-owned farm in Virginia, holds these fantastic twenty-foot marble busts of every single US president. The grounds are not open to the public, but my boyfriend and I were determined to see the statues for ourselves, so we entered anyway. We didn’t wander long before we were chased off by the landowner, and upon the return to our car, we realized we hadn’t snapped a single photo of the massive statues to prove we had made it there. How would anyone know we saw them if the evidence did not exist? Would anyone believe the heads existed at all?

Denis Wood discusses the fact that, “we are always mapping [or archiving] the invisible or the unattainable[…]” Is it possible that we feel more inclined to archive the invisible or the unattainable because we feel others will not believe it without documentation? If, for a second, the invisible was seen (or the unattainable was attained), do we feel victory in producing evidence that says to our peers, “Hey, this happened”?

Archiving as a Deceiving Craft

Archivers hold the power to determine others’ perceptions of memory, time, events, and facts. Everyone is an archivist – professors, students, parents, children – that decides the fate of the way those around him see inside his archive. In the same way that Derrida considers e-mail in “Archive Fever,” we can look at social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to exemplify the ways in which technology influences the way we archive, as well as to which degree archiving affects the way others see our lives. Derrida explains that the capturing and documentation of events, in all forms, promotes honesty, because the evidence of what took place is directly seen or read in the archive. However, what if technology has created a less honest form of archiving? He writes that, “the archontic principle of the archive is also a principal of consignation, that is, of gathering together.” Social media platforms allow people to display a sort of highlight reel of their life – an archive of the most attractive moments – in order to provoke an interest in the rest of their lives. Posed photos and artistic editing helps to tailor an understanding for viewers that may not convey events exactly as they happened. In addition to this, every viewer’s perception of the experience will be different than the last one, and probably vastly different than the way the documenter actually experienced the event (some documentation may even alter the way the archivist himself remembers the event). So if our highlight reels represent this “gathering together,” they could, possibly, be the most prevalent example of how deceiving archives can be. Keasler’s “picture not taken” is an example of an opportunity to capture an event dishonestly. Had she photographed the abusive father during his outrage, she would have documented an act. An attention-grabbing, yes, but fraudulent and exaggerated image of what life was like for those young girls. With her words, Keasler provided a more honest and thorough description of what her visit to this home was like than any photograph could have helped her communicate. So how will one ever accurately understand events on a larger scale of importance – perhaps the presidential election of 2016 – when we so carefully craft others’ perceptions of the way things are happening around them?