The second half of my English 1103 experience was one full of learning to get over struggles that I have had as a writer for most of my academic career. Through the fun of our continued Wordplay Days, maintaining our blogs, drafting and writing both my creative and research papers, as well as continuing to work on writing longhand and keeping a writers journal have all helped strengthen my skills as a writer.
Every Friday morning I wake up excited because I know that I will be going to class to not only have fun with my friends playing scrabble but also to learn new words and improve my ability to spot words hidden in plain sight. Wordplay Days have been my favorite part of my experience in this class because it gives us a way to simultaneously unwind and get to know our classmates better while also improving our vocabulary and cognitive skills.
Another thing that has carried over from the first half of the course is our Wordpost blogs. The blogs have always been a fun way to end a writing project because it always feels cool to me that anyone on the internet could be reading the writing that I have submitted for the class.
My favorite project from this half of the semester has got to be the creative project/literacy narrative that we wrote. The ability for us to pick any moment from our past and explore it deeper to write about it was very exciting for me from the start. It took me a while to find which moment from my writing past I would write about, but once I did it was the first time I had been super invested in a writing project of mine for a long time. While preparing to write about it I read a part of Writing Analytically where Rosenwasser and Stephen made the point that “good personal essays are not merely personal”(132). Reading this section put me in the right mindset for how I needed to write. Over the years I have learned that if you are interested in any subject you usually do better in that thing: this paper was no different and provided me with a good opportunity to look back on a good memory.
A part of the writing process that I have been trying to work on over the course of the whole semester has been writing with pen and paper as opposed to typing on my computer. This has been very difficult for me because since I was in seventh grade I have written ninety percent of my academic papers on my computer. So when Dr. Lucas told us that we would be doing a lot of long-hand writing in this class I was a little worried. All of the physical writing that we have done in this class has proven that I had all but lost my ability to do much physical writing for anything more than laying out the framework for my essays. But I have learned that it is an important skill to have and something that I should keep working on even after my completion of the course.
The biggest project in English 1103 was the research paper that we had to write about a topic relating to the class theme of our lives in a digital world. The fact that the paper was about a topic of our choice made it much easier to work on, but still the most difficult project that we have had to work on for the course. The whole process has been difficult and frustrating at times. While I have a burst of inspiration during my writing process, I am going to be well under the word count minimum when I am done writing. Overall, it has been a cool project to work on so that I can dig deeper into a topic that interests me, but it has highlighted all of the struggles that I still have as a writer.
“Writing Personal Essays.” Writing Analytically, 8th edition. Wasdworth/Cengage, 2019. P. 132.
A Near Masterclass
A bit more than 10 years ago, Matt Richtel wrote an article on the growing argument between whether blogs or more traditional term papers were better ways to teach people writing. Richtel sheds some light on the argument by implementing a lot of quotes from people arguing both sides of the dispute. He also uses a few studies that discuss some of the differences between term papers and blogs in writing classes. The article even introduces a third solution to the problem. All of these things together alongside well-structured and separated paragraphs make Richtel’s article a very clear and easy-to-read experience for the reader. The article is very well written but isn’t without its faults no matter how few there are.
The use of quotes in any article brings the reader closer to the thing that the author is talking about, but it is important that you use the quotes properly otherwise they lose their value to the article. But in the case of “Blogs vs. Term Papers,” Richtel’s use of quotes helps drive home the points that he is trying to make in his article. A few times, with the more impactful quotes, Richtel makes sure that the audience sees them and reads them. This is especially obvious in the case of the quote “[a]s a writer, it offends me deeply.” Richtel decides to put this quote in a paragraph of its own to have it stand out from the rest of the article. He does a similar thing to end the article by filling the last paragraph with one quote that reminds the reader why the argument is happening. The quote from professor Davidson shows people why she believes that term papers are a thing of the past.
There were a few times that Richtel used analytics to help explain points of view to his audience. The first couple points of evidence he uses to let the reader know that long-term papers are already starting to fade away from students’ lives. Later in the article, he informs the reader of a study that Professor Andrea Lunsford of Stanford conducted. Her research found that new forms of academic writing like blogs make “students feel much more impassioned by the new literacy.” This piece of evidence is a big blow to the supporters of the term paper.
Richtel even decides to offer the reader a third side to the argument by introducing the reader to Mr. Fitzhugh and his opinions on what he thinks would be the best option to replace term papers, that being the “page a year” solution. The idea is that “in first grade, [they would write] a one-page paper using one source; by fifth grade, five pages and five sources.” The addition of this idea is only shown in two paragraphs but opens up a whole new lane of thinking for the reader.
The most impressive part of the style of the article is Richtel’s ability to spread out information between paragraphs. The article features twenty-six paragraphs of varying lengths and styles, each one handcrafted for the information that they hold. Every paragraph feels very deliberate and well thought out about where they are and how long they are. There is also a great variety in the types of paragraphs found throughout the article. Some paragraphs were only one line, while others were as long as five lines. Each paragraph focused on one point; as soon as Richtel felt like he was done with a particular thought he would move on to a new paragraph. This helps put emphasis on the ideas that he is communicating in each paragraph.
With all of this, we know that Richtel is an incredible writer, but throughout the article, we are also given glimpses of his opinion popping up around the piece. The coverage of the two sides of the argument is very unbalanced with most of the article being about the pros of fewer or no term papers, and only one paragraph that states the opinions of people that are pro term papers. We also see a small outburst when he refers to “[t]heir reductio ad absurdum.” But, for the most part, Richtel keeps the article unbiased.
Over the course of the article, Richtel proves that he is an expert writer, but despite his best efforts is unable to hide some of his predetermined biases. It is impossible to be totally unbiased, but Richtel gets very close. He uses his writing to cover up most of his opinions, but every now and again we see it slip through. We see it mostly in the coverage of the opposing sides of the argument. Despite that, the article remains a masterpiece because of its expert use of quotes, studies, new ideas, and spacing.
Richtel, Matt. “Blogs vs. Term Papers,” The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2012, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/education/edlife/muscling-in-on-the-term-paper- tradition.html.
Eng 1103: A Love-Hate Relationship
During my time of taking ENG 1103, I have found myself improving in all of the areas of my writing thanks to the activities that we do in class. Whether it was WordPlay Day, working with classmates on in-class assignments, writing our blogs, or working on our analysis papers I have been slowly moving in the right direction with my writing.
A big part of our class is our blog posts, they are a fun and engaging way to work on our writing skills. I remember at the beginning of the class when Dr. Lucas told us that we would be writing a blog for ourselves that I was annoyed at the prospect. But when we wrote our first post I was surprised at how much fun I found it. The blogs are able to be fun as well as useful as we continue to practice our writing skills. We haven’t done much with it yet, but I am super excited for when we get to add more.
Another fun productive use of our time in class has been our WordPlay days every Friday. Before this class, I had never really played Scrabble, but now that I have, it has become one of my favorite games. I love the combination of required knowledge and skill in where to place the words to both get the most amount of points and block your opponent at well. The fact that we play in teams with our classmates is another big reason that I like it, it gives us all time to work together, but also get to know each other. It also helps when you get stuck sometimes and your partner can point out a word that you just weren’t seeing to play. I have learned many new words over the course of the semester so far and I have also greatly increased my critical thinking skills.
Collaboration is probably the biggest part of Dr. Lucas’ ENG 1103 class. Our constant working with our peers has helped me develop a lot of skills that help when I am working with a group. In a group, you can also see how others might look at the same assignment differently and this helps open you up to other ways of thinking that you can use later in life. This daily collaboration has also led me to develop closer bonds with my classmates and has ultimately led to me feeling more engaged in class.
The biggest assignment of the semester so far was the analysis paper that we wrote about Matt Richtel’s article “Blogs vs. Term Papers.” This was definitely the hardest part of class so far, but also the most influential on my journey as a writer. I had never really written an analysis that was similar to what we did, so it was an entirely new process for me and something that I won’t forget for a long time. However, the thing that helped the most during the process of writing this essay was reading Dr. Lucas’ version of our essay “On its Face, ‘Who Could Disagree with the Transformation?’: Revisiting Richtel’s Report on the Blog-Term Paper Question.” Reading this showed me the essence of what I needed to write for the project and listening to Dr. Lucas describe her process showed me how I could get there. Another thing that helped was reading Writing Analytically by David Rosenwasser and Jill Stephen. Their writing on how to develop a thesis statement was very useful to me when I was crafting my argument for the essay. Rosenwasser and Stephen helped me understand that there is no one way to write a thesis when they said “(i)t is important to note that no one set of guidelines will serve you in all writing situations”(179).
English 1103 has been one of the most difficult parts of my college experience so far. The class’ focus on writing has challenged me to spend a lot of time working on the academic skill that I have the least amount of confidence in. But, over the course of the last half of the semester, I have used the many different aspects of this class to find new ways to focus in on my writing capabilities and what I need to do to improve them so that I can have the confidence to become a better writer.
Lucas, Jane. “On its Face, “‘Who Could Disagree with the Transformation?’: Revisiting
Richtel’s Report on the Blog-Term Paper Question.” Jane Lucas, 1 Feb. 2022,
“Finding and Evolving a Thesis.” Writing Analytically, 8th edition. Wadsworth/Cengage, 2019.
Standing in Someone Else’s Shoe
Back when I was in fifth grade, my classmates and I were assigned one of our first real creative writing assignments. In our history class, we were learning about the early colonies in North America and what it was like to live in them while they were first developing. Our teacher stepped in front of the class at the beginning of the block and said that we had to imagine that we were living in one of these colonies and send a letter back to our family in England. We had to write as much as we could that showed that we were paying attention in class and that we could put ourselves in other people’s shoes to see different perspectives from our own.
I have always felt like history was my favorite subject. But, I don’t know of a time when this feeling was stronger than in elementary and middle school: a time when I would read actual history textbooks for fun before and after school. That combined with my wild imagination at the time led me to really get into the project. I would be sitting there writing in a classroom at my small Jewish Day School in Los Angeles, California in 2013, but when I closed my eyes I was sitting on the ramparts of the wall surrounding the colony of Jamestown in Virginia in 1608. I was able to put myself in the shoes of one of the original colonists and write what I thought they might have written.
After what felt like at least two months for my fifth-grade self, it was actually two days. Our teacher walked around the class and handed us back the assignment and I got one hundred on it. That alone was surprising to me because I have never seen myself as a good student, but when my teacher asked me if she could read my letter to the class my shock only grew. What sent me over the moon was when the principal of my school visited later that day and pulled me aside to shake my hand and congratulate me. I had never done this well in any assignment that I have ever done.
Since this project, I have yet to have as much fun as I did when I was writing that letter to my imaginary family hundreds of years ago. It started the year after I had written the letter when in sixth grade, the idea of the five-paragraph essay was burned into my head because of the sheer amount that we had to write that year, and if it wasn’t in the correct form then it didn’t matter what you wrote, it was wrong. This idea was only verified through my middle and high school experience where I think I only did two creative writing projects. But neither of them was anywhere near as fun as I remembered creative writing to be. Even my history classes started becoming less fun when we had to write because the focus shifted to analyzing rather than imagining what happened. But thinking back to this old memory, sitting in my seat here in the Smith Library at High Point University in 2022, takes me back to when I was able to see past the grade for the project and just get lost in how fun it was to put myself in someone else’s shoe in a far off place a long time ago. Something that I love doing when I play roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons, but something that I need to be able to translate into my academic writing.
The Growing Impact of Memes on our Digital Lives
From being silly and not quite making sense about an obscure topic to making complex criticisms of a way of life, memes have taken center stage in our world as a dominant form of media in our digital lives. The term meme was first seen in 1976 when Richard Dawkins was coming up with a word to describe how ideas evolve and replicate. The internet meme, however, did not appear as much of a concept until the mid-1990s when the internet was picking up steam and becoming more available for people to use. In the beginning, memes were just short “clips” that people sent each other on forums. But, in 2003 when the website 4chan was released, memes evolved with the ever-expanding internet. 2005 brought the start of the website YouTube and with it came a wave of video memes that were shared between friends through email and other new messaging sites. Around this time social media platforms Facebook and Twitter started appearing and were able to make it easier for people to share their memes to a large audience. Websites were being made specifically for the task of making memes which made it more accessible for people who were not as tech-savvy to make their own memes and put them on the internet. These early memes usually felt very similar in their humor to a lot of more traditional jokes. But as we started to get into the 2010s, memes started becoming more absurd, niche, and self-referential. We also start to see a lot more memes become specifically made for the internet community and most of the jokes are those that only a handful would get and appreciate. Now, with the growth of Tik Tok memes have split into two camps: relatable and ironic/absurdist. Now that we have reached current times, memes have become more accessible than they have ever been with even top-level CEOs, major corporations, athletes, even politicians, and world leaders using memes and sharing them with people. There are also now enough people making memes around the world that there is almost a meme for everything, whether it be about a complex science or your favorite sport. Memes have also had some big impacts on companies, like the GameStop meme that saw its stock rise almost one hundred dollars in the span of a week, causing some people to become millionaires.
Over the years, applications and websites have been made specifically for the purpose of making memes easier to create and customize. These tools have allowed more and more people to join the field of meme makers. Anyone from children to soldiers can make any memes that they want and share them with the world with just a few clicks. This alongside the number of different sites across the internet for people to post their creations that have become popular all around the world has made memes one of the most accessible ways for people around the world to share their feelings in the form of a short video or picture. Because of this, memes have begun to play a major role as a way to relate to people in things like PSAs. Attempts like this of putting memes in the mainstream have been met with varying degrees of success.
One major mainstream part of the world that has seen a major influx of memes in the last decade is the political scene. Memes are a way for people to express themselves, thus it is to be expected that people would make memes about their political opinions. But as we have seen during the past two presidential elections memes have been used to both push political ideas and mock them at the same time. Sounds confusing right? Well, it is. The main creators of these memes are the normal everyday people that have their own beliefs and want to put them on the internet, but then politicians and political commentators see these memes and make their own versions of them. This then results in the non-politicians taking memes from the people that whom they disagree and changing them into ironic jokes that in their eyes point out the stupidity in their opponent’s opinions. Memes in the political sphere are prime examples of their use in counter-culture and changes towards a more polarized world. Some people have gone so far as to say that memes have grown to a point where they should replace political cartoonists. Jennifer Grygiel in her article Political cartoonists are out of touch—it’s time to make way for memes points out how out of touch political cartoonists have become due to the hard nature of getting into the field versus how accessible memes are and how they pose a way for people to share their actual opinions.
Memes have also been used for good. There have been many charity events hosted around the world that have been centered around memes and the people that create them. Memes have also been used to promote a lot of good causes and expose bad people and things for a while now. Because memes have taken such a massive role in people’s lives, they are being used to show the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of humanity.
The less pleasant side of memes is when people use them to talk about global and national tragedies. Whether it be a natural disaster, terrorist attack, war, or mass shooting the internet does not hold back its constant flow of memes and everything that comes with it. The reason for this is the level of anonymity that comes with posting something online and not saying it in person, people feel like they can get away with saying more. Molly Roberts of the Washington Post has written about how people use memes and jokes to distract themselves from problems that have occurred in the world. Roberts argues that people do it too much and are forgetting the real problems in the world because they are too distracted by the silly memes they see of it online.
Memes have become a major part of our digital lives because they can be made into many different forms relating to any topic that you could imagine. They got to this point because they grew alongside the internet becoming more accessible and convenient to use for anyone anywhere. They have turned into ways for people to share their opinions with the world, leading to political cartoons becoming obsolete. They have become a way for people to share a good message or expose a bad person. But alongside all of the positive growth, the negatives must come with it and the darker sides of people’s minds have been shown because of the anonymity that memes provide. In a way, memes are a microcosm of the internet and maybe even of the world.
“The distraction of 30 to 50 feral hogs can take us only so far.” Washingtonpost.com, 6 Aug. 2019. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A595769114/OVIC?u=hpu_main&sid=bookmark-OVIC&xid=a871a676. Accessed 24 Apr. 2022.
Grygiel, Jennifer. “Political cartoonists are out of touch—it’s time to make way for memes.” Gale Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2022. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, link.gale.com/apps/doc/AOYZMM814506793/OVIC?u=hpu_main&sid=bookmark-OVIC&xid=49195ad6. Accessed 24 Apr. 2022. Originally published as “Political cartoonists are out of touch—it’s time to make way for memes,” The Conversation, 17 May 2019.