November 20, 2007

Influence of Writing


Writing plays an important part in undergraduate life, no matter what major a student is following, or what year of study you are in. For this blog, I talked to someone in the aerospace engineering path (Dan King) and also the auditing path (Matt Gardner). Both students are juniors, and have taken a broad selection of classes covering a number of different subjects. When talking with them, I posed the same question to both; “How does writing shape your experience within the major, and also how does writing help enable your classes, co-ops, labs, and internships?” While both Dan and Matt are in entirely different paths, they shared surprisingly similar answers to this prompt.
Writing as a whole for both did not begin to take a particularly vital role until their sophomore year, yet has been growing in importance ever since. Writing, especially in lab work for example has just begun to take a large role, especially for Matt. “Up until now I have not really had to do any major writing in my classes, except for SAGES really. This fall I started an actual auditing class though, and has that changed. While calculations do play a roll of course, 95% of the work is all written analysis and personal views on these case studies; all of which are taken from the real world.” From the engineering corner I was hearing the same thing, albeit a little less rigorous from the sounds of things. “I mean writing pops up all the time in homework assignments, and especially in applications for co-op’s and internships…but I mean especially the companies that are offering paid positions care more about your ability to calculate, problem solve, and design more than your writing skills. I’ve met some world class engineers that are horrible writers, yet the have very few rivals in their field.” (Dan King).
It would seem that writing definitely does shape the experience that is had in an individual major, even if it is not perceived to help in the future. While Dan obviously thinks that writing takes a back seat once you leave the classroom, I can’t help but doubt that. For something that has such large amounts of time, effort, and practice put into it, it stands to reason that writing would not simply disappear as hinted at. Again though, this definitely does help draw attention to the importance writing does play in the undergraduate careers of students.

November 13, 2007

The Value of Writing

As we have learned both in class and in our visits to the institutions around Case (in this case Severance Music Hall), writing is an important part of any collection even when the group/institution may not be widely known for its written documents. As I said, I had the chance to visit Severance Hall last week, and it was a very interesting trip to go on. We met with Amy Dankowsky, who is an archivist for the hall, and she told us a little bit about what she does, as well as the numerous types of medium she has to deal with.

Going into this experience I expected mostly to hear about how sheet music and other music related documents are stored. Surprisingly, there was very little talk about those types of items. A large portion of the collection is actually finance related documents, and things such as minutes from board meetings. While these item are not kept “forever”, they are very rarely requested for viewing, so are kept in offsite storage. In addition to this sort of remote storage, there are also a number of archival storage rooms within Severance itself. We had the opportunity and pleasure to visit two such rooms during our trip, the first of which contained many different types of documents, and the second with some items that are not typically thought of as archive materials.

The first room contained stacks upon stacks of documents that tracked the progress of the Cleveland Orchestra, with a large portion dedicated to the Blossom summer programs. In addition to the different paper documents that make up this collection, there are also a large number of recordings that are available and tracked as carefully archived as any paper document. These recordings are in fact just about the most used sets of documents that are available for use, largely due to the fact that musicians constantly use them to gauge past performances. By Listening to past performances, the musicians attempt to improve their next performance. The second room we visited had some unconventional items archived within. Flags, pictures, directing batons, awards (even a Grammy), and many more items were hidden away in boxes and cabinets, or tucked away in corners.

It is interesting to note the way in which all these different types of documents and items were stored. Most of the paper documents were simply piled into boxes, or kept within a sort of grey folio box. While the room’s temperature and humidity were controlled to help keep the documents from decaying as quickly as those that are not protected at all, and the boxes no doubt protected from physical harm, I can only wonder why more is not being done to preserve these items. For the amount of material that is being stored, not just here but around the world, I would expect a better mode of protection for this sort of document. While Ms. Dankowsky did say they are looking into digitizing parts of their collection, it still seems silly to me that more is not being done to keep these documents protected from the inescapable march of time.

October 05, 2007

Writing About Town

"A bus or Rapid journey to Tower City and beyond reveals graffiti, debates on bathroom walls, billboards, public documents, writing on vehicles, and other “texts” that define the city’s neighborhoods differently and help to shape the urban environment."

This statement, and therefore the question itself, poses a number of different issues in my personal opinion. While the creativity of such things as graffiti and writing on bathroom walls is hard to replicate due to personal touches, the vast majority of the writing in Cleveland is not individual to it, nor does it help to define the city as a whole. What the different writing samples is more define the culture of our country than a single area. After recently being in Cleveland, Toledo, Detroit, and New York, I can safely and confidently say that the writing found in all of these areas was almost identical.

The writing within cities falls into two main categories that I have seen. Ads, which are the most prolific, follow the same structural and design outline. All the billboards or posters you see try to send similar messages in even more similar ways (usually trying to push a product upon consumers or ask for donations, in very bright colors with loud attention grabbing images). These types of writing do little more than outline the tastes, desires, and needs of the people in our society. They do not define a geographical area. The same can be said of the second type of writing that can be found in cities; Personal. While lots of personal writing can define an individual it defines an area even less than ads do. Again, while the writing shows much about the individual, it shows more about what is culturally acceptable on the whole, as opposed to the immediate area.

So in conclusion, I do not think the writing that is found in and around a city defines “what” it is, or shapes an area in any substantial way. If anything, it can contribute _slightly_ to the area as a whole, but it does not have that large of an influence.

September 21, 2007

You Are What You Wear

Location of writing on the body, weather on a piece of clothing or a tattoo, can help enlighten the casual observer at least to a small degree. As we've discussed in class over and over again there are many different ways to interpret the same question or statement. What I am referring to by saying "location" is weather the item is visible, hidden, or some combination therein.

With the overabundance of graphic and printed shirts visible in and around the campus area, this subject has many different examples that are easy to see. When it comes to clothing, often the images are loud, boisterous and attempt to grab the attention of the casual observer. When many the human billboard is asked why they purchased that shirt (or why they where it for that matter) many simply reply, “Because it looked cool.” The same can be said for other sorts of clothing that contain similar phrases and images.

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Similar to such “broad spectrum” sort of images, there are also those pieces of clothing that do hold some form of meaning to the bearer. Similar to tattoos, where some can have a deep inner meaning while others have no personal meaning what so ever, such clothing can have very important and personal messages.

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While writing on clothing cannot be overly “hidden”, tattoos can be stowed away from prying eyes much easier. Tattoos can range from meaningless texts and images to very private messages and as such there is a much larger draw to placing them in out of the way locations that aren’t seen by large numbers of people. On the same note, placement also depends greatly on what the message is meant to portray. Many things such as memorials for loved ones that have passed on, and quotes from favorite poets/musicians, are displayed proudly for everyone to see, in order to celebrate the moment/person.

September 14, 2007

One Graffitti Two Graffitti Three Graffitti More!

Personal writings and graffiti help define our environment as much as, if not more than, published books/papers. They help define our personal preferences, our "gumption". They can help portray our inner thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

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More than often not graffiti is seen purely as a destruction of property, or a lash out against the "man". However many times this is not the actually case. Many such pieces of artwork actually carry a deeper meaning, and often a personal message that relates to a certain group of people, or to the artist them self. Frequently the artwork is fraught with spelling, grammatical, or other such mistakes (see the title of this piece). This fact does not however change the point the artist is trying to convey.

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When you take a look at the decorations in the hallways in our residence halls, postings, snippets, and dry erase boards are nothing but less permanent forms of expression. Each different design, style and only helps to illustrate the culture and life of those residents. One interesting observation is the difference in such decorations and artwork from housing situation to housing situation. While in the residence halls, often the doors are covered in items that relate at least partially to life as a student. Pictures of athletes, news clippings about their high school accomplishments/friends/ect., even pictures of the individual students.
Doorway decorations in the fraternity houses are substantially different in comparison. While the odd notification may be displayed, more often than not silly and humorous murals are found. This difference could be due to a number of different factors, but in my experience this is largely due to the fact that brothers are more knowledgeable about what each other member is doing, so these boards take on a vestigial nature.
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It could also be argued that such decorations actually have not been influenced by the students life, and living arrangements. However, I would like someone to point out the same percentage of apartment doors that are decorated in similar fashions. Oh how about houses in a subdivision? This just helps to reinforce the idea that our culture and surroundings dictate how we protray ourselves to the rest of the world. It is culturally frowned upon if a person were to decorate the front door of their house in this manner.

In my opinion I say let them decorate their doors. Let students express themselves however they feel is necessary. If not, they still will, just in a much more destructive and potentially disruptive manner.

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August 31, 2007

Schools of Thought (Highschool Edition)

Rules are laid out around us from before we are able to form coherent thoughts and words. More often then not rules are not adequately explained (if at all), simply listed off to us.

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There are a number of proponents for stricter rules in the school room regarding academic integrity, and cheating. These same critics go a step further to claim that the cheating stems from the laziness of students, or their unwillingness to create their own material. I offer a different scenario.

In my high school experience the subject of plagiarism was only glossed over, and intellectual property was never actually discussed. A number of instances of "cheating" that I have witnessed were actually due to improper documentation, or lack of it completely. While students may commit such "heinous" acts as coping homework answers, it does not register with them what is WRONG with doing such things.

I am in an interesting position in the sense that I have completed a fair amount of my college education at this point. One of the most helpful learning tools during my time here was the SAGES program, where a substantial amount of time was spent on academic integrity, and what it means to each student. More importantly these courses helped to define the importance of building skills for yourself that would otherwise be lost if such "short cuts" as plagiarisms were taken.

A final idea scrap to consider is the fact that in high school the skills necessary to craft your own work are not practiced as much as they should be. During my high school experience, I had to write an average 3 papers per year, in a 5 paragraph format. In total I had to complete about 14 written items over 600 words. On a similar note, I currently write around 8 items of no less than 1500 words per semester. When I first came to college I was in no way prepared for that sizable jump, and I feel that this fact contributes to the "prevalence" of cheating that is found in today's classrooms. When students feel unable to cope with work loads, or do not have the skills needed to cope with said requirements it is often easiest and quickest to "borrow" pieces from different sources and authors.

With the prevalence of the internet, computers, and more importantly instant messaging, the work of many students is actually deteriorating skill wise instead of improving. The internet has help to make it easier than ever to find relevant information to your topic of discussion, and plop that info directly into your piece.

For there to be any long term improvement, it is my belief that more focus needs to be put on the basics, rather than making more rules or harsher guidelines. Restrictions only help to alienate the student body, and even such things as allowing different mediums may make a world of difference. As we have already touched on in class, different people have different comfort levels, and what may work for one student will not necessarily work for the next.

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(The script for the above cartoon was done by a 15 year old high school Sophomore...yes that is actually how they write)

August 28, 2007

Hello World

Hello! My name is Drew Crabb.