November 20, 2007

WRITING!... agian

Within my fraternity, Delta Upsilon, there are a couple of brothers who are declared engineering majors. Merely for being engineers they have courses that are core to all engineering majors. Classes such as physics, chemistry, and calculus; further, many of these classes have laboratories to go with them. Later on, after the discipline within engineering is declared there are many classes more specific to that field, for example mechanical engineers will take statics, and dynamics, and fluids. There are, of course, SAGES courses that all students need to complete. By graduation, all students are required to take two in-department SAGES courses.

All of these classes have their own kinds of writing requirements. In the engineering and science classes, most of the writing is homework and class notes. Writing on those documents tends be heavy with equations, charts, and scientific properties. In upper-level classes, students need to write papers in conjunction with engineering projects in order to explain what precisely said project is about. There is also the oddball short writing assignment. The hardest papers are probably those assigned in engineering ethics, dealing with the various ethical dilemmas that engineers face.

In labs, students need to write the obligatory lab report, a long, obtuse piece of writing that is so dense with terminology that a person practically needs a dictionary to translate it sentence by sentence. Unfortunately only a very limited portion of these labs have any real creativity in it, due to the highly refined layout they are required to follow. Within a lab report, it is the abstract that paraphrases the entire lab, and the conclusion that sums up the results vs. expectations, after that, the rest of the lab is numbers and step-by-step descriptions of procedure.

Finally there are the SAGES courses, which are writing seminars. Obviously in a writing seminar there is a great deal of writing, as per the name. Since in later years, it is within the department, engineers take seminars taught by engineering professors, and write the papers required of them. After those classes, there is the senior capstone, a wide-ranging assignment that takes the entire year to complete and comprises of many pages of essay and analysis.

As an engineer, writing is designed to help specifically with what is needed in the job market, to write reports, drafts, and offers. All papers assigned while studying are there to help students learn and get used to what they will be writing once they graduate. Since this is the case, writing is nothing more than an instrument used to convey information in a standardized format for others to interpret.

November 13, 2007

blog new

Archives exist to save information for the future. This information comes in many forms, whether it be writing, music, batons or otherwise. At the Cleveland Orchestra archives, all of the above and more are part of their vast archival collection. Archivist Amy Dankowski has been in charge of the collection for a number of years now and was able to explain all about what types of things get stored and why. She explained that an archive isn’t just a haphazard pile of papers, but rather a very organized, structured method of storage and filing.
All archives are very unique and individualized, and therefore each have their own systems to on how to accomplish the task of filing items in a logical sense. The Cleveland Orchestra archives are no different, however most other archives will have theirs in a similar sort of way. First, the entire archive is divided into several smaller subgroups each containing items that are not duplicated in any other groups and which all are similar in some fashion, such finances. Within each group are collections of items that all came from a single source. Then, at the beginning of each source group is a document known as a finding aide. The finding aide explains what precisely is within that collection, how many boxes and linear feet there are, and what approximately is in each box. In addition, the finding aide gives a short background of the items, including previous owners and origin.
All archivists must write and maintain these finding aides, as such finding aides will usually need to be updated periodically as material is reorganized and possibly added to. In addition, nearly all archives are regularly expanded upon and condensed. This being the case, new material is always being sorted into relevant groupings and documented.
Archives are only valuable if they can be used in meaningful ways, it is a waste to spend resources on the upkeep of an archive if the material within isn’t being used for anything. For private businesses this generally means financial records, meeting minutes, and other important internal communication. And in some instances, old historical documents from the early days of said business. In the case of other institutions, often archives will be made of pamphlets and flyers and such things, along with scrapbooks put together over the years, in addition to finance records and minutes.

October 05, 2007

blog5

When I first came to Cleveland, the only writing I cared about was street signs and anything that pointed explicitly towards CWRU. I was pretty much limited to figuring out where stuff was, particularly my classes and establishments that sold food. Later on, as my knowledge of the above increased, I began to pay attention to the other types of writing I saw around me. Specifically there was the sidewalk chalk and graffiti, which has always interested me. Walking to class there are all sorts of messages written on the ground I trod on. Things like upcoming events, imploring my vote for homecoming king/queen, trying to get freshmen to rush certain fraternities, and political candidates. All of these things are mildly interesting, if nothing else they keep me informed about what’s going on here around campus.

Taking the rapid to get around is a must for me, since I am a car-less freshman. It is a great time, from the crazy homeless persons trying to sell me roses and praise God, to the wonderful rocking sensation all the time, all this to by topped off by terrible smell. Aside from that, it really is a great time. But, by going on the rapid, I can see some of the most fantastic graffiti lining the tracks. I don’t really know anything about it, just what stereotypes that they teach in public school.

The only billboard that I know of is the billboard outside of Thwing, which is really much more of giant graffiti wall. On it are all sorts of messages, ranging from swing club to the mens soccer games. A recent event that happened there was the desecration of a Jewish star of David. This resulted in “prints for peace” covering a large swath of billboard space, showing how this University does not allow racism to take place on it’s campus.

As far as bathroom conversations, CWRU has shown itself to be relatively minor in comparison to what I’m used to. At OSU for example, there would be all sorts of things being written about, from the latest football game to the critique of a lecture. But here, I’ve only found one building with a significant accumulation of bathroom writing. That would be the Rockefeller building, where there are actual graph charts and polls sketched into the walls. For me this is most entertaining, and I’ve probably spent more time than is prudent reading the many chain debates that adorn the stalls.

Anyways, the portions of Cleveland that I know of is composed mostly with informal writing. On the walls and streets this writing is usually short and to the point, being done by youth to get the attention of any random passerby. This writing shows the voice of the underpriveledged and angry, and is without any purpose other than getting attention.

September 28, 2007

blog: tattoos

Tattoos are a way of signifying the importance of the massage conveyed. People don’t carelessly put permanent markings on their skin just for kicks. All and any tattoos a person might have are there for a specific reason, and was well thought-out before any ink touched skin.

I have a dozen or so friends with tattoos, and over the time that I got to know them I learned about the tattoos that they had gotten. One tattoo that struck me as unique was a friend who got the date he became a Christian tattooed in roman numbers on his arm. He got that tattoo to remind himself of his dedication to his belief, a very brave and noble thing to do, in my mind. His whole body is covered in tattoos, though not all of them meant to be seen. In fact, he has his body covered to the point that some people will stare, and likely don’t approve of his choice to do that. But he is a great person, tattoos can’t be used as a judge of character, though it does unfortunately happen. Each and every one of his tattoos has a story that is meaningful and and important every day to him, and that is why he has them, regardless of what anyone else might think.

Another good tattoo story that comes to mind is a friend who has the outline of Ohio on his side-midriff. He got that tattoo because he loves Ohio, and because of his goofiness, no doubt. All of his tattoos are made to be visible and easily explained. Its not that tattoos are insignificant to him, but that they are a part of his character and tattoos help facilitate his notion of self.

Third, my very close friend from high-school wants to get his army draft number inked onto his calf, possibly along with his blood type, as an ironic gesture to show how much he feels significant to the government. His tattoo would be to show his sarcastic and pessimistic view of the world. So obviously his would also be meant to be visible and seen.

I too will probably get a tattoo someday, but not until I find something that I feel truly represents me and I could stand to live with it for the rest of my life. I want a tattoo that will be a constant reminder of what I care and stand for, so that every morning when I get up and look in the mirror I’ll see it and know. Anyways that’s the plan, and I suppose its much the same with everyone else I mentioned above. Having a tattoo is not suppost to mean you’re a badass, but that you stand for something, and you want to make sure that you remember.

September 24, 2007

blog 3

Case Western is a university full of writing in many forms, in many places. The places where writing manifests itself has large effects on what the writing is about. First, there is physical university, with fliers, sidewalk chalk, and posters. Second, there is the virtual online space, made of blogs, websites, and storage space. While those are some examples of writing found in those domains there is another applicable division between the two universities. That the physically existing writing deals with future events, and that the virtual one deals with the past.

The relationship between the two universities can be seen as following, that the physical university writing is mostly about events to happen or otherwise to be read before an event. And that the virtual writing is a response to or the description of a past event. For example, a professor well pass out an assignment or a syllabus of assignments with the description of work to be completed by certain dates. Students will then supposedly complete these assignments by said date and post them online. Mostly this becomes a nice working relationship, although students will sometimes forget to turn in assignments online, because there is no hassle from needing to print out and physically turn in said assignments.

Another example of the above relationship is mediavision, wherein classes are recorded and the videos are posted online so that missed classes can still be watched, although that isn’t really a demonstration of writing. Similar to that however is filer.case.edu, wherein students, professors, and organizations can store files online. Many use this not as an active database but more as an archive of old files, which is what I do.

Not all the writing at CWRU has that same relationship though. Offical policy is now that all comunication occurs via email. A policy I begrudge on the grounds that I assign more importance to a notice received in paper format as opposed to reading it on a screen, compounded by the fact that I still don’t check my email everyday. There is also the program “solar” used for class registration, which is now wholly online, thereby dissallowing me to actually talk face-to-face with an individual advisor which is something that I would also prefer.

The trend nowadays is toward moving communication and writing into the virtual university, a move that is not entirely without its merits but still leaves much to be desired in my mind.

September 14, 2007

quik notes.

Walking around a residence hall an anthropologist might assume from the writing that two different species live there. On the one hand, there is the clear intelligent writing of posters and signs warning and inviting students to various events, activities, and clubs. Alongside there are the barely intelligible scribbles of some actual students consisting of inside jokes and snide comments. These forms show and define the two different "species" of student life here at the university.
First, there are the formal postings, exemplifying university sponsored and controlled events, such as dances, classes, study sessions, clubs, etc. These activities are run usually by officials at the university and have rules and protocols, which need to be followed. While the activities can be social events such as dances, they are usually meetings and clubs, things that might look good on a resume, but only mildly entertaining. Writing is more for than by this species, made to remind and inform. Printed onto clean pretty colored paper, it attracts attention not with its content, but for its content, because the information it tells is not exciting, but merely important. An example would be SEX, a two-hour class that all the resident halls had on sex education. The poster clearly explained what it was about, and it got a rather important topic in university life covered in an official and professional matter.
The other "species" of university students is the one exemplified by random notes on walls and such. This species is the fun side of student life, wherein notes are for hook-ups, parties, and reminders of fun times past. Notes written by this side of student life exist on marker boards, sidewalk chalk, and bathroom stalls. Such writing is usually not very exciting to look at from a distance, but from experience students know that it is likely to be gossip, a funny joke, or otherwise entertaining. An example would be a dubious drawing and the words "BIG + VEINY + TRIUMPHANT", an obvious throwback to a popular movie that nearly the entire student population has seen. In that case, the writing was for a good quick laugh and was a reference towards the private life that students have off-campus.

August 31, 2007

blog 1

At my high school, teachers were required to cover plagerism, cheating, and the highly abstract concept of intellectual property. So they did, and while there were a great number of lectures about such things, those lectures had nary an effect on the actions of their students though. For the vast majority of students, it was simply another class period to be ignored, and thus it isn't taken seriously, or even recognized. Amoung students, sharing answers to exams, copy homework, steal papers and the like was any everyday thing. As for the teachers, they made it something of an honor system, since they(the teachers) did not have the resources to check up on every single paper assigned and turned in, and simply trusted the individual student to be honest about their work, obviously leaving a rather lot of leeway within the system. In class and at the assemblies the basic tennets of academic integrity were repeated endlessly, but oft times to a blank and unreceptive audience. The abstract concept of intellectual property was merely something discussed, not really ever understood, and certainly not respected. I myself saw cheating happen during quizzes, tests, and exams, those commiting it crossing all social and academic levels. This cheating on tests, turning in copied homework, or stealing papers was no cause of a moral breakdown. In fact, it could almost be guaranteed that almost half of all the math turned in was straight copywork, along with most science problems. Essay papers almost always contained stolen phrases, which were hardly ever cited, and never in quotations, sometimes to the point that papers would be composed of sentences strung together from various websites on the internet, wtith not a single word typed by the student. The fact was, that many of my former peers didn’t understand academic integrity, or how intellectual property, and what’s more didn’t care about it. Based upon my high school experience, I could reasonably assume that the concept of academic integrity is meaningless and not to be worried about. Obviously this is not the case, and I know it. Upon introduction to college, such things are taken extremely seriously, and students can quickly find themselves in an aweful lot of trouble with plagerism and the like.
More profound however, is that with a high school such as mine, because there were instances where papers were largely a hodgepodge of stolen work, many students had no originality or creativity. This means that when it comes to crunch-time, and these same students have no choice to create their own work, it is mostly terrible, containing many grammatical errors, and strings of meaningless cliché’s. Again, upon introduction to college, students of this type have great difficulty in dealing with the workload and composing decent essays. To conclude, in high school, where the rules of academic integerity are relaxed, studends are given a false sense of freedom in the concept of intellectual property, causing a lack of writing skill and ability.