The writing of Zachary T. Bucholtz

New Media Writing

The purpose of this assignment was to reflect and analyze the meaning and use of new media.  I wrote a more creative piece about my experiences with new media this year.  Enjoy!

The Ballad of Johnny and Tim

This is the story of Johnny and Tim, two students at a prestigious university.

Johnny is a junior. He’s taking five classes – sixteen credits – and like many of his peers, each day is a challenge that finds him pulling his hair out or slamming his head into a desk, in between cups of coffee and power naps.  Johnny wakes up every morning at 8 for a 9 am class.  His classes all consist of a 2-hour lecture and a weekly hour-long discussion section.  He has to read about 50 pages a night and somehow retain all the key concepts for seven weeks at a time, considering the only grades for his classes are a midterm exam, a final exam, and a small allotment of points for “class participation.”

Tim is an equally hard-working junior.  Like Johnny, Tim is taking sixteen credits and between that and his two internships, he’s working 10-5 every day.  But only one of Tim’s classes has a discussion component.  And of his five classes, only one has a final exam.  Tim’s classes are project-based, and he is graded on his overall work in the class.  And, his “participation” grade comes from weekly contributions to a blog.

Johnny is taking notes on his nightly reading, writing until his hand nearly falls off just to remember what it is he read and be able to study it later.  Tim cannot write with his hand due to a 9-year-old elbow injury that three rounds of physical therapy, a CT scan, 2 MRIs, a bone scan, ultrasound, and cortisone have yet to cure.  Fortunately for Tim, after he does his required reading, he sits down and writes a blog post about it on his computer.

Johnny goes to bed at 3 am and wakes up again at 8 to start his day.  On his way to the closet to grab his clothes, he trips over his stack of books, forgetting he had left them on the floor in the middle of the night.  Meanwhile, Tim wakes up and checks his email to find that two of his classmates commented on his blog post from the previous night.  One confirmed a thought that Tim had about the reading, while the other challenged Jim to consider an angle he didn’t think about before.  Later in the week, Tim’s teacher comments on the conversation to offer her own insight and to tell students how interesting their views were.

Johnny sits in a lecture for two hours.  300 of his closest friends play Angry Birds on their iPhones or Facebook stalk people while Johnny pays diligent attention to the professor.  When he doesn’t understand something, he raises his hand, only to be told “no questions now” by a professor who can’t even see Johnny at his seat in the 35th row.  Instead, he spends an hour later that night searching the internet for the answer to his question, and what he finds still doesn’t make sense.

Tim arrives for class that day.  Five minutes into class his teacher dismisses the students to go and work on their group projects outside.  Tim is working with three of his peers on a poster and slideshow about some statistical analysis.  They meet outside on a bench for a few minutes, discussing where the project stands.  They share some Google Docs and promise to email each other in the next couple days as they work on the project.  They show up for class the day of their presentation, present their parts, read their lines, and get an “A.”

Johnny gets to his discussion section prepared with a list of 4 questions.  He knows the answer to all the questions but merely is trying to make enough of an impression on the discussion leader – a graduate student only 3 years his senior – to warrant a decent participation grade for the week.  Tim, at this time, is at one of his internships.  With some time to spare, he pulls out his laptop and blogs for another class.  As he writes, he remembers a scene in a movie that reminds him of one of the concepts he’s been studying in class.  He finds the clip on YouTube and embeds it in his blog post.  Later that day, one of his classmates responds with their own clip that relates to the concept and the two end up having a discussion on the blog about it.

Johnny spends most of his time studying information that will probably never serve him well, but must be memorized for his final exam.  Tim, while still busy, has some time to spare.  He spends his downtime on a $15,000 university computer in a private location editing a movie he’s producing for a writing class.  He brings a bag of chips and a bottle of soda and puts on his favorite radio station.  And he’s still getting schoolwork done.

As the semester mercifully comes to a close, Johnny moves into the library.  He averages four hours of sleep for about two weeks.  He never eats a real meal, opting for energy bars and shots of 5 Hour Energy.

As for Tim?  Well, Tim’s one exam was early, and he spent the last week of school at his grandma’s house, designing and building an electronic portfolio of his projects for the semester.

I am Tim, and this is my semester.  One of my classes is actually called “Digital Media Theory,” and my three other classes all rely heavily on new media writing.  Three of my classes have a blog or forum that makes up much of the grade.  What I’ve found is that it encourages students to genuinely participate, and the collaboration and convergence of different media allows us to engage with the material more than I ever have before.

This was easily my most enjoyable semester ever, because I spend less time being bored, less time studying material from books and more time interacting with my classmates, discussing and applying what we had been learning.  And it was also my most productive semester yet, because I was able to devote more time to getting my projects done and less time to busy work and unnecessary studying for exams.

And, get this:

I actually had a little fun, too.

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