Thursday, October 7, 2010

Response #3: Description of a Blog Project + Your First Post

I love obsessive behavior. There's something about a singular commitment to one object or idea that, at its best, raises human idiosyncrasy to the level of art. Motomachi's vending blog is one example: four years old last month, the blog uses daily photographs and comparisons to track the changes in one beverage vending machine somewhere in Japan. Without offering much in the way of commentary, the project manages to inspire observations about the cyclical nature and the major tropes/themes of beverage advertising, the mysterious systems that function around us and provide the everyday context of our lives (in four years, for example, Motomachi has only once seen the machine being refilled), and the role of vending machines in Japanese culture.

There's a similar kind of obsessiveness at work in Chris Harne's Condiment Packet Gallery, a collection of 724 (and counting) scans of condiment packets. The project began in November of 2003 and has expanded dramatically since that time thanks to reader submissions. Harne's goal is to build an exhaustive collection of the packets that fit his criteria (which mostly amount to excluding sugar and salt packets). In building this collection, Harne has managed to evoke a powerful sense of variety in sameness: all of the packets "look alike," yet together they reflect strong differences in national and period style, brand identity, and the colors, themes, and other design elements associated with different kinds of condiment. Harne's collection also inspires me to reflect on the "single serving" lifestyle that has become characteristic of American culture--the intense focus on the individual as the unit of American life (as opposed to the family and other forms of collective) and our tendency to focus on the present moment in isolation rather than situating the present in terms of the past that led up to it and the future to which it leads. In many ways, the fast food industry is the ultimate expression of these national tendencies and--as the international sections of Harne's collection remind us--their most exportable form.

Assignment: Response #3

At the beginning of the semester, I suggested that you find some kind of independent project that would drive your blog. This could be a weekly writing project or it could be something else that helps draw you into the themes of the course and makes your classmates want to check in with your work. Whatever you choose to do, the project should be something that you work on regularly, and it should involve some writing even if it relies primarily on other media. Motomachi's vending blog and The Condiment Packet Gallery provide good models for such a project--although, again, yours should involve some writing. Without copying Motomachi or Harne exactly, you could learn a lot from the ways they've constructed their projects so that they are (1) creative enough to provoke a reader's interest and (2) easy to maintain.

Both of these projects could easily be incorporated into a staple form of the blogosphere, the "regular feature"--a recurring theme that bloggers revisit each week on a particular day. In fact, although these sites are devoted entirely to the projects I've described above, they could still be considered regular features: Motomachi updates every day, and Chris Harne posts his new-found packets every Monday. Having a regular feature can give your blog a sense of continuity and create a shared sense of event among your readers. It can also help you to keep your blog active because it allows you to build it into your routine.

For ENG101 Response #3 (due on your blog before class T 10/12) I want you to write a 300-word description of a weekly blog project that you will do for the rest of the semester. The response should:

  1. Describe your project in detail
  2. Explain how you came up with the project and how it relates to your everyday life
  3. Explain the themes of your project, what you hope to learn from it, and what kind of thoughts you hope it will inspire in your readers

Be sure to use good organization in your response, dividing it into appropriate paragraphs with strong topic sentences. Please label this post with the following words: response, project. All of your blog project posts should be labeled: project.

If you need more inspiration, you might take a look at these other blogs, all of which are devoted to specific projects:

  • Miss Q's Fed Up with Lunch: Miss Q is a teacher who decided to eat lunch at the school cafeteria every day in 2010 and blog about her experiences;
  • Andrea Joseph's SketchBlog: not related to the course themes, but a good model for how to use art and writing together in a blog; and
  • Slice: this is now a semi-professional blog, but it started out as a personal project to review all of the major pizza restaurants in New York City.

On Thursday 10/14, I will give you 1/2 hour of class time in the computer lab to work on the first post for your blog project. Make sure that you bring whatever you need--images you've made or found, text that you've written--to class that day on a USB drive or as an email attachment. After that, I will give you some time to look at each other's projects and offer comments.

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