This website started as part of Emory’s class “Climate Change and Multimedia” (ENG 101-010, Fall 2016), and serves as an archive of the work I completed for the course. The course syllabus can be found here: http://climatemultimedia.sheilatefft.com/syllabus/ This course provides an opportunity to research current environmental issues and explore writing about them in a variety of different styles, while learning about basic principles of multimedia and expository writing. The course learning objectives can be viewed here: http://climatemultimedia.sheilatefft.com/course-objectives/
This course has definitely solidified my writing skills and my process for writing. Most of the academic writing I did before this course consisted of five-paragraph essays, which always had the same format. As a result I never really got to experiment with my writing, except for things I did on my own time. This course allowed me to refine my writing process and explore how it might be different for a variety of genres.
There are two significant changes or improvements that I have noticed in my writing process over the course of the semester. The first is consideration of the genre and audience, which previously was a challenge for me. The second is the use of an outline. I have used this strategy in writing before when preparing long pieces, but I learned how it could be very helpful for a variety of writing pieces and lengths.
Previously, I would use outlines as a means to organize long pieces of writing, such as an essay. Now, I find it helpful to use outlines even for shorter pieces, such as a single blog post. I have learned that it is especially important in this case because you are trying to convey some point to the audience in a short amount of space while still sounding conversational. Creating an outline first allows me to have a better flow throughout the post and avoid the problem of rambling, which often occurred in my first drafts of blog posts.
While my writing process has made a lot of improvement this semester, there is still a lot I can work on for both my process and my writing in general. One of the areas I need to improve on most is sentence length. I tend to write fairly long sentences, often in a compound style. I have a lot of difficulty cutting them down to be a more manageable length. I must continue to be more aware of this issue when I am writing my drafts. It would be better to write in that style rather than waiting until the editing phase and struggling to cut them down then.
Objective 1: Compose texts in multiple genres, using multiple modes with attention to rhetorical situations.
In previous writing pieces, I did not pay enough attention to the audience I was writing for. As a result, the writing was often too vague and the message was less relevant. I feel that this part of my writing process has been the most improved from taking this course.
The piece that made me think most about the intended audience was my Op-Ed. After reading through the first draft, I realized that what I had written was not well geared towards my intended audience. As a reader, I did not feel at all inspired to pursue action upon reaching the conclusion of the article.
I wanted the piece to reach all consumers no matter what type of consumer they were within the marketplace. This left me with a question of how best to engage the consumers who do not directly consume fish for food. I did additional research into other uses of fish for products such as fertilizer and pharmaceuticals, and also on how the fishing industry relates to the economy.
When I was working on revising my Op-Ed there were specific moments where I worked to appeal to my audience. For example, this excerpt addresses the problem described above.
“ So maybe you don’t eat seafood, and you think you’re not contributing to the depletion of fish populations or the rise in casualties from the fishing industry. However, fish aren’t being taken out of the ocean for direct consumption alone. They are used to manufacture many commercial products that you probably have in your own home, like dietary supplements and pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and personal care products, and even that lawn fertilizer you may have recently purchased.”
When I first sat down to write this Op-Ed piece, I had a lot of trouble deciding where to begin. I completed lots of research on overfishing when I wrote my essay, and I knew what position I wanted to take. What I found most difficulty was capturing the style of writing. An Op-Ed piece has a very different purpose than an essay. It seeks to persuade the reader towards one course of action. I tend to avoid specific opinionated statements when I write and focus instead on presenting facts and broad statements.
In order to achieve the goal of persuasion, I focused my attention on the controlling idea of my Op-Ed. I modified my position of how people can decrease their fish consumption to reduce the problem of overfishing, and instead presented a more inclusive view that all consumers have an impact on the fishing industry through their product purchases and can therefore create positive change even if they are not directly consuming fish for food.
With this thesis in mind, I proceeded to re-write the rough draft of my Op-Ed and found it much easier to do so. I was able to explore the tone of the piece more and found myself adding opinions that were very true to my beliefs, but more strongly worded than my usual writing style.
Objective 2: Summarize, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the ideas of others as you undertake scholarly inquiry in order produce your own arguments.
Overall, writing the Op-Ed has shown me how different the genre is from the essay I wrote on the same topic, and has provided an important experience in writing more opinionated pieces. While the Op-Ed seeks to persuade, the essay seeks to inform and is aimed at a different audience. The essay appeals more to an audience with some interest and knowledge in the subject matter. As a result I was able to talk more specifically about the topic I was discussing and potential solutions. In the Op-Ed more of the focus was on how to engage the reader in the subject matter and show them that this is a matter they should be involved with.
The Op-Ed also provided a unique look at how to evaluate others’ ideas in order to produce my own arguments. It required a lot more analysis of sources. In order to create an opinion based on fact, I needed to understand the sources and avoid simply quoting a bunch of statistics. I learned how to best analyze sources to find the important information and then translate that into a statement expressing my opinion on the topic. A good example is this sentence:
“The government has implemented regulations on the fishing industry but these attempts have only led to more issues, including in many cases, promoting harmful fishing practices.”
This sentence has its basis in fact from some of the research I conducted but it is presented in a very different format than the corresponding fact in my essay shown below:
“Depending on where the fishery is located, they might have a quota on the amount of fish they can haul in or a restriction on the period of time when they are allowed to fish or maybe some combination of the two. While these measures seem like they would be beneficial in helping to reduce fishing, they can have adverse side effects.”
The essay contains a lot more summarization and synthesis of sources within the writing. In my writing I mixed statistics with scientific information, providing examples and even an analogy woven throughout the paper.
Objective 3: Practice writing as a process, recursively implementing strategies of research, drafting, revision, editing, and reflection.
I also learned a lot from choosing sources for the essay. Many writing pieces I have done previously were narrowly focused on one particular source, such as literary works or scientific research. I conducted an extensive research period looking at a combination of news outlets, scientific journals, and government publications. This allowed me to have a wide variety of perspectives in my essay.
“Studies have shown that marine reserves contain a higher percentage of “spawning fish” indicating that fish are reaching maturity and breeding in the area before moving out of the reserve into potentially fishable zones, which documents that marine reserves are effective at protecting fish populations within a given area (Brown, 3). The first national marine reserve in the Atlantic was recently declared and will remove 5,000 square-miles from the fishing industry (Prupis, 3).”
This excerpt shows use of a scientific source, followed by information from a news article. These were combined together to show my opinion on the topic of marine reserves. Writing the essay offered me a great opportunity to explore the synthesis of sources.
In similar but yet very different ways the podcast project allowed me the same opportunity. As part of the project I conducted three interviews with lots of great information but the challenge came with how to tie these sources together into a cohesive report on my subject.
Objective 5: Use web and podcast technologies to produce multimodal reports on climate change.
Working on the podcast showed me how to pick out only the most important sections of a source. Once I had decided upon which segments I wanted to use I was able to work on the voicers. These were more challenging for me because they have to introduce the sound bite, while explaining something new about the topic, and maybe providing a little of my opinion all in a few seconds of time. I like the segment below because it had a good transition from the first sound bite to the reporter and then to the second sound bite.
“SOUND BITE: We will be installing solar P.V. cells on the roof that will heat all non-cooking water to the appropriate temperature. We’re also doing geothermal energy off of McDonough Field.
REPORTER VOICER: Implementing sustainable practices are essential if Emory is going to meet its goals for energy reduction. But these initiatives do not come without a price. Professor Wegner shares the biggest issue inhibiting more of these advances.
SOUND BITE: Cost, the biggest issue is cost, and unfortunately, some aspects of designing sustainably cost more upfront.”
This was my first time doing a podcast and I found it very interesting to explore the differences between a written piece and an audio piece. Podcasts don’t have the visual advantage that a written piece does. As a result, statistics and complex claims and ideas do not translate well to a podcast form.
However, a podcast does have an audio advantage over written works, allowing the audience to actually experience the information as if they are talking directly to the people involved in the podcast.
Another useful component of the podcast is the ability to set a tone for the listener. I start off my podcast with a few seconds of natural sound from the construction. This gets them thinking about the construction and their opinions on it; similar to the way I used images at the beginning of my Op-Ed to convey emotion.
Overall, I enjoyed learning about various multimodal ways to present topics that I am passionate about. I have been interested in climate change for a long time and I know have an arsenal of genres and writing styles I can employ to further explore and write about various components of climate change.
Objective 4: Understand and distill basic principles and issues of climate science.
While I did already know quite a bit about climate topics, this course exposed me to a variety of perspectives and other problems that are involved in climate change. I am confident in my ability to write about and discuss various principles and issues of climate change.
Each of the pieces I wrote this semester also helped me to see the importance of writing as a whole. One of the most important things I learned this semester was about the clarity of writing. Many times writing and the things we say to others can be easily misinterpreted. A good example of this was when we interviewed Professor Saikawa and she discussed how a report written on her research suggested it was a topic very related to climate change, whereas she would have preferred to stress the human health component.
It is also important to be clear in my writing so that the audience is able to relate to the work in the intended way. I found that the peer review sessions were especially helpful in this regard because I could see how readers were interpreting the work.Sometimes it was a surprise to hear what they had come away with from their reading of my piece.
It was helpful to have several readers, as their feedback noted a few flaws in my organization, especially for my Op-Ed. There was a bit of disconnect between the action I believed consumers should take and the impact that they potentially would have, which slightly confused my readers. The confusion in the material led the readers to be less motivated to take any action at all.
The feedback helped me to realize how important concise and clear language is. Further, it showed me the necessity of not making any assumptions. I often provided evidence and a solution in the text, but did not do a good job of linking the two together. At one point, it even sounded like I was supporting overfishing because of this disconnect, which was not my intent. I learned that cause-and-effect must be presented in order for the reader to be inspired to take action.
I think that my best work for the course was my carbon footprint blogs. I feel that these blogs had a great balance of information and conversation. Other of my blogs, such as the Emory Climate Action plan, contained so much information it became less enjoyable for the reader. Others lacked the personal insights that I could provide within the carbon footprint blogs making them seem more stark and almost like mini essays.
A great example of this balance is this segment from my blog post about my own carbon footprint:
“ This “test” has really opened my eyes to how large of a carbon output is caused by food production. I did a lot of work last year with pollinators, so I try to buy organic produce whenever possible to prevent the spread of dangerous pesticides. It never occurred to me how significantly my other food choices impact the environment, just in a different way. According to a recent study in Nature, agriculture contributes to 1/3 of the world’s total carbon emissions.”
I thoroughly enjoyed taking this course because it allowed me to further explore my area of interest. I was able to do this while improving my writing skills and process. This exploration taught me about new methods and ways I can communicate my opinions and compile information from a variety of sources to be a credible writer that people are interested in reading.