The Big Squeeze

Bearded man with a Foot on his Face
Image Source: https://www.nojitter.com/big-squeeze

One of the most frustrating things about graduate school (well, there are many which I’ll probably do individual posts about for the next month or so) is the fact that it is my writing time that gets squeezed in the process of “becoming more educated.” I’m not very appreciative of the fact that, as writer, my time for writing every week gets slowly wittled away as I have to complete more and more assignments which touch on, ironically, writing and the theories and applications of the writing process. My Master’s Degree is in both Rhetoric and Writing and my Bachelor’s Degree was in English: American Language and Literature (with a Concentration in Writing), which just means that I took extra Writing courses on top of the required literature courses. Writing is instrumental to pretty much everything that I am and/or do as an individual and citizen.

We Want You To Write–Just Not What You Want To Write

One of my greatest sources of frustration with the educational process in general, and the way Rhetoric and Writing is treated in particular, is the fact that we privilege the teaching of writing as something that is both special and magical in terms of allowing students to find their own voices/means of expression, but also a craft and requires work through revisions, and yet, the program I’m in does not actively privilege my creative writing endeavors. Only a handful of people in my “community” know that I “Dragonhawk” was accepted for publication and not a ONE of them is a professor. Not to appear boastful or braggadocios, but this is a success that pretty much all my professors of writing should be happy about. I’m able, at a high level, to use the techniques that we teach our students (inspiration, brainstorming, drafting, revision, consideration of audience, and perseverance to see it through to publication) to create and shepherd a work to fruition.

No Conferences = No Credentials

No, I’m not talking about the conferences professors hold with their students. I’m talking about conferences that academics attend to present papers and the like. That’s really the only true measure of graduate student’s success. How many conferences did you attend? How many papers have you presented at a conferences. I both understand and am appalled at the process at the same time. Conferences, let’s be honest, are built for the extroverts who love being with other people. Sure, if you’re an introvert, you can (sorta’) get by just attending panels for the ideas and information. But, to use an old analogy–there’s as much noise (socializing) that occurs at a conference as there is signal (information/ideas). Conferences, while stimulating and fun, are not the end all and be all of an academic’s existence–which is what they are at the moment that I write this.

Value ALL Academic Expression

The main reason why this blog has been spotty this semester and that I’ve had very little time to concentrate on anything writing related, is because I’ve been fully committed to writing, reading, and working for class and for both of my jobs. I’m not really happy as the results for all my hard-work have not materialized the manner that I would have expected after giving so much of myself–and foregoing so much of my creative output in order to do all of this work. I think that if I felt that I could talk to (and get praise from) my professors for the creative work that I have done (and am doing), this would go a LONG way to assuaging the dissatisfaction I feel in that others are being treated better because they are playing the “academic” game, whereas others, who are not, seemed to be “looked down on” (and I’m not okay with this. I’m using the exact same techniques in my own writing life that are good practices (using brainstorming methods to come up with ideas, engaging with the material, drafting–including multiple drafts, getting feedback on my writing, incorporating feedback through revisions, and persevering through multiple rejections until I find a market who is willing to accept the story). The fact that I’m made to feel that my writing endeavors are not worthy in lieu of someone else who simply attends a conference is very distressing to me as a writer.

Hopefully, after this (very) disspiriting semester is over, I can get back to writing (and enjoying the things that I write) more frequently. Right now, I can say that irregularity of the blog is simply a symptom of a larger set of issues and hopefully, regularity will return when I can address the larger problem of being made to feel that my worth as a creative writer is less than someone who just enjoys playing the “academic game.”

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)
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“Ubification” of Ubisoft Games

ubisoft_games_whatculture
Several popular Ubisoft game characters.  Image Source: WhatCulture

So, as I sit here waiting patiently to register for classes for the upcoming Summer and Fall terms, I find myself reflecting back on the game that I was playing over the Easter Holiday weekend, Ghost Recon: Wildlands (GRW).  Not really the most appropriate game for such a religious holiday, but I’m about half-way through it and I really want to finish it.  It is both fun and a slog.  How can that be, you might ask.  A game is either fun or it isn’t.  Well, it is much like Mass Effect Andromeda, fun in spurts, but far too long.

Jim Sterling on the “Ubification” of Games

Now, there is a video game personality, Jim Sterling, who talks about games and game companies’ practices on a regular basis.  He is something of a legend in the video game community, a pundit who is at times lauded and hated.  I don’t usually watch pundits, but every now and again, Jim calls out a segment of the video game industry that video game companies would prefer you not to notice.  Today, he chose to point out some of the things that Ubisoft is doing with their games, and since GRW is published by Ubisoft, I thought I’d watch.  Here’s the YouTube video if you’re interested–WARNING: NSFW (Harsh Language–unfortunately, Jim Sterling is in love with the F-Bomb and Crap word).

Now, Jim noticed this trend of Ubisoft’s games looking similar to one another with the release of Far Cry 5 last week, but as a player of quite a few of Ubisoft’s catalog (The Crew, all major in-line Assassin’s Creed releases, Tom Clancy’s The Division, and now Ghost Recon: Wildlands), I’ve been noticing that loop myself for a while.  Ubisoft actually has a gameplay mechanic that has been mocked and parodied in the gaming community for a while now– the unlocking of more of the game “map” by visiting some sort of “tower.”

Making it Relevant to Scholarship

One of the things that I’ve wanted to do for a while is to find a way to make what ever I’m currently playing relevant to scholarship.  While games, game theory, and video gaming is being studied in academia, it is still a very niche idea with too many scholars not understanding that many of the talented individuals who would be writing literature (books) or crafting cinema (movies) are actually working in the gaming arena.  What some scholars dismiss as mere “fluff” or have the idea that games that are not relevant to the greater society of the whole are missing a whole wider world in which subculture, especially gaming culture, is influencing and being influenced by the culture of gaming (don’t believe me–trace the backlash against Anita Sarkeesian and the GamerGate controversy with the backlash against Leslie Jones and the Ghostbusters (2016)–they are quite similar in reaction/rationale all happening “approximately” the same time).  My hope is that I can somehow use GRW to talk about video games in scholastic context.  I’m still formulating how I want to approach it (perhaps talking about Open World games in general).  We’ll see, but video game rhetoric is still such a new topic that the field is still fairly wide open as to what I can analyze, so there are many opportunities for scholarship from this one game.  I just need to figure out how to approach it.

Well, that’s it for now.  Have a great day!

Sidney



Puns and Metaphors

MetaphorsTshirt_arnoldzwicky_org.jpg
Bag with logo: “Metaphors be with you.” Image Source: Arnoldzwicky.org

Journalism and Academics have something in common: the desire to look clever by using language in a novel and unique way.  Journalists use the “pun” while Academics use the “metaphor.”

In Journalism, at least at the local and national level, the goal is to (mostly) inform.  As we’ve moved into more of a politically charged climate and as ratings have become more and more important, the strict neutrality and objectivity of the (mainstream) news media has become less and less stringent, allowing certain stations to take on a (or be perceived as having) an ideological bent (Walter Cronkite was a different newsperson than Dan Rather who is a different newsperson than David Muir, but I digress).  One constant in the profession is that journalists like using the pun as a way to cleverly connect the audience with a story or use it to end a story (especially at the end of a telecast).  On national news, the puns tend to be more adroit, while on local news, the puns to tend towards the groan-worthy.  The various morning shows seem to feature a mix of adroit and groan-worthy puns.

I relate this because as I do more and more reading in the field of pure academics, I’m noticing similarities between the two professions.  Instead of the pun, academics prefer the metaphor: we prefer linking an idea to some other thing or idea that has come before or is the purvey of another field and wrapping our ideas, theories, and concepts in the shell of another idea.  The easiest way that I can describe this is Einstein’s conception of space-time.  We liken it to a “rubber-sheet” and gravity acts like “balls” rolling on the sheet, creating “distortions” in the very fabric of space-time.  Now, I would argue that we need that level of abstraction because most of us don’t have the mathematical ability to follow Einstein’s equations and proofs.  However, even in the field of English, I find that we use similar “metaphors” to describe our theories.

I’m not opposed to the use of metaphors, per se, and sometimes I like the challenge of figuring our (like a detective) what metaphor that the author is using to describe his/her theories.  My problem, like the journalistic puns that are groan-worthy, is that many authors use the metaphor to appear clever and make their articles so dense with metaphors and tortured syntax that it obfuscates rather than enlightens.  There seems to be a notion that if it is scholarly, it must be dense and hard to read, when in fact, the opposite should be the case.  Einstein was a smart man, but without the ability for the general public to understand his idea, we wouldn’t have an accurate perception of space-time.  I would argue that scholars need to do the same: simplify and explain rather than be dense and rich in metaphors just to show off their knowledge.

In my opinion, it is much harder to simply explain a difficult concept than it is to make a simple concept seem difficult.

Sidney




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