Tuesday, May 9, 2017

a reflection & a thank you

I’ll be honest— when the class started and we learned that we were going to be “alchemists” learning “alchemy,” I think I was thrown for a loop. I’m all about creativity in the classroom, but I think the scientific nature of the theme scared and confused me— after all, the heck do I know about alchemy? Asides from Full Metal Alchemists (which, by the way, is full of incorrect alchemical concepts), I really did not know anything. How was I supposed to do well in incorporating alchemy into my blog posts and discussion? It reminded me of our encounter in Mark Marino’s world of Thermophiles in Love… I was afraid I was not going to be able to feel truly involved with what Networked Narratives was trying to build.

After a while, I think all of us started to get used to the language of the classroom. Additionally, once we started doing these studio visits and bus tours, I think we started to see the magic of the course—at least I know I did, anyway. I was enjoying the connections we were making with people from all over and from all aspects of the networked community. Personally, I loved being in the webinars— it was a lot more interesting than “just watching.” I loved being a part of the conversation as much as I could, especially the discussions we had whenever we were “offline” during the webinars. In particular, as you know, I especially enjoyed the “Fanfiction” and “YWP” visits. I felt like I saw a lot of me in both of those areas, so to talk about it from an analytical and more professional viewpoint was equally engaging as it was reflective. I’m also grateful for the connections I made, or at least am trying to making (haha), with the founder for Young Writer’s Project. For the summer, I want to get involved with the website and become a Mentor for them! It would mean a great deal for me if I could.

On a more “academic” note, I am very happy that we had the opportunity to learn about and make twitterbots. I was really captivated with the generative nature of the bots, and I loved that you could use them in a variety of ways. Since I’m a huge Drag Race fan (if you couldn’t tell), I got to channel my passion for the show and queens by creating a bot that generated fake drag names and was a tribute to the memes of both the show and the fandom. Creating the bot felt the same as creating any other work of art— I felt like I had the same process and pride for it as I would have any of my poetry or drawings. To add, I also liked the bot because even though I made it, it constantly surprised me. Even today, when it pops up on my Twitter feed, it’ll come up with an extremely amusing name that I can’t help but smile at and think, “Wow! I made that?!” So thank you, NetNarr! I think in the future I’ll create another one, but maybe one actually on the poetic side, like the poem.exe twitterbot.

However, after the studio visits and bus tours, once we started to loop back to the alchemist “core” of the course, I think that’s when things got really interesting. I loved the idea of creating a character and having them exist as an alternate persona— I wish we honestly could have done a whole class revolving around Arganee and our alchemists. Being in character and networking is definitely an interesting and wonderful experience for everyone— after all, that’s where we are at our most authentic selves. Even though we can hide behind characters, I feel that most of the time, what we say is how we truly feel. We’re free to truly express our thoughts in a way that necessarily isn’t attributed to our “real” selves. Or, if someone feels like they can’t express sincere thoughts, having this character’s unattached relationships and unbiased existence in the world is a great outlet to let your feelings out in a digital space. Making Ketsunya was fun— I got to create fanart and flesh out a character, and I enjoyed seeing my classmates do the same. I hope next spring, when the class runs, we can bring them back in some way!

I think the class was great. I looked forward to being there every Wednesday, and having both of you as professors were a rewarding and wonderful experience in itself. I’m very glad that we get to stay in contact with Alan more over the next year as we work toward our thesis, because it just wouldn’t feel right if he suddenly wasn’t a part of our time at Kean anymore! Both of you guys really made the class dynamic, interesting, and a pleasure— I believe everyone had a great time, from the twitterchats to the meme-making, and everything in between. The only thing I wish I had done differently (although I hate to say I regret anything) is being on top of the DDAs more— for some reason, especially the last few weeks, I struggled with remembering their existence! I don’t know why. I feel really bad about it, because I liked the concepts. Even though the class is ending, and if I happen to be on Twitter, I would definitely still respond to a DDA that I liked. I guess I wish there was a way to be notified every day in the morning, haha— but alas!

In the end, I’m glad you guys chose to go with the theme of alchemy. Not to sound cliché, but that class was truly a magical experience— even  though a few of us were hesitant at first, it did not take us long to realize the importance of the relationships we were making with each other or the realm we had constructed in the classroom and online around us. The real magic was the power of a networked community, and learning the stories of people we would not normally connect with— with that knowledge, we are able to see ourselves reflected in other people, empathize, and use it to rebuild and revitalize the world around us.

Thank you,


this is not the end, comrade

Dear Ketsunya,

Privyet! Thank you for coming into a life of your own these past few months. Even though I may have started constructing the idea of who you are, you really become a whole new movement on your own. I chose your name because it meant “kitten” in Russian (maybe that makes me a bit basic because of my love for cats, but I guess that’s another story)— and let’s not forget, you had your cat, Kat, by your side, and the pair of you truly embodied the feline spirit of aloofness, yet watchfulness, as well as lurking around the digital corners of Arganee and rubbing up against the tweets of your fellow alchemists’. I know you have a problem socializing, and not just because of the language barrier— you find it difficult to connect with people, and I can relate to that. While we both love passing conversations, making real bonds and initiating relationships is hard for us. I think by having Kat, a.k.a your third eye, look out for your peers and Arganee, brought you closer to the world in a way you would not have expected. While you didn’t go out of your way to confront a lot of other alchemists, you were still there, silent support and a vested interest in the health of your world. You also tried to keep your friends in the loop with your reports of the changing Arganee weather, which might’ve saved a few people from walking into the occasional fire lightning in the late afternoon.

Also, thank you for serving as such an artistic inspiration for me. Without even seeing you, I could tell that you were a muse in the making. After constructing a physical idea for you when we were building our alchemists, I immediately took to my notebook and started sketching you out even more. That night, I drew several doodles of you, and one of them eventually made it to my tablet. I outlined and painted you in GIMP, and that portrait now serves as your Twitter icon— very cute, if I do say so myself! Kat also found her way in a few of my sketches; after all, you’re one package, so to not include her in a few doodles of you would be criminal. I appreciate that you brought that artistic side out in me— besides poetry, it’s been awhile since I actually had the inspiration to draw and flesh out a character and their backstory. It was really, really enjoyable.

However, I know this isn’t the end. Even though you’ve said you slipped away back to Arganee, I still have an eye on that mirror world— after all, the weather of your world interests me greatly, and I hope you’ll be keeping us updated (who knows, maybe you might even go on to do news reports? Haha!). Also, I have a feeling I’ll be seeing you again soon… maybe not in the coming months, but at the start of next year. I hear there will be another class, and who knows? Maybe you’ll take on a different form. If not an alchemist, maybe a musician, or maybe even a cook (you did great work in Cooking with Anger, you know!). There’s so much magic in your world, I can easily seeing your spirit being brought back to our world in some form.

So don’t stay away too long! Maybe I’ll send you a portrait of yourself here or there. There’s still a part of you that is very alive, so long as you keep telling me about the status of the midmorning cosmic thunderstorms rolling into your world.


your comrade


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

april showers bring netnarr personas

Hi all! I think like a lot of my fellow alchemists, I'm feeling the struggle in the lull that was last week. I did, however, want to mention my excitement for the upcoming month, and I'm really interested in where our journey will go as we create our alchemical identities and enter the "mirror world"...

I wanted to put some thought into the online alter ego that we are building. I tried the Alchemy Name Generator, and even the Rot-ify program; however, none of the names seemed all that appealing to me. I didn't find myself connecting with any of variations of them, so I started to look elsewhere. My next idea was to try finding my alchemical name through an anagram generator of my actual name - while I liked some of the versions of my scrambled name better, I still wasn't able to envision a character in any of them. I hate to be cliche, but I think it's important to remember Shakespeare during this creation process, and to really consider what is in a name, because it really does give shape to the character.

I thought back to other characters I have created over the years. I used to play an MMORPG called Furcadia, where I had a few original characters. I loved to explore these characters by drawing them and writing small stories to flesh out their existence; even though I don't know how "in-depth" this next month will be, I still wanted to imagine an alternate identity that had the potential for me to envision different dimensions of their character, as well as to be able to have a creative drive when thinking about them.

I went thinking about what was meaningful for me in this character. I wanted to add a "foreign" spin, namely a Ukrainian one, to my persona. Thus, I chose the name "Ketsunya," a cute nickname for something can pretty much be translated as "kitten." As I'm thinking about alchemy and who I want this online part of me to be, I always find myself relating to cats, as unoriginal as that sounds - I wanted Ketsunya to have that witchy side, maybe have a cat familiar or some similar relationship to the species, but that's something for me to think about more as we are introduced more to the game we're playing in this next month.

And speaking of mirror worlds...

Ocz "vmbvizz" xjyz cvn wzzi ymdqdib hz xmvut ajm v azr rzzfn ijr. D omdzy xmvxfdib do, wpo ajpiy htnzga ampnomvozy. D fizr ocvo "izoivmm" viy "vmbvizz" rzmz ocz nvhz rjmy, viy D ocjpbco ocz fzt ajm ocvo rvn i = v / v = i, m = z / z = m, viy o = b. Cjrzqzm, do ydyi'o rjmf rczi D omdzy oj vkkgt do oj v orzzo ocvo @yjbomvs cvy rmdoozi di mznkjinz oj njhzocdib @MzwzbHvznomj cvy nvdy. D bjo ampnomvozy, wvnczy ht czvy vbvdino ocz fztwjvmy v azr odhzn, viy pgodhvozgt bvqz pk... WPO! Oczmz cvqz wzzi mzxzio yzqzgjkhzion!

Vn rz rzmz diomjypxzy oj Mjo13 ocdn rzzf, Hvmdnnv hvyz vi diozmznodib xjiizxodji ocmjpbc ocz xjydadzm. Mjo# omvingvozn rcvozqzm rjmy tjp otkz di oj mzkgvxdib do rdoc gzoozmn ocvo vmz kmjbmvhhzy oj wz # vhjpio ocvo tjp rvio. Ocpn, Mjo13 mzkgvxzn oczh rdoc rcvozqzm xjhzn 13 kgvxzn vaozm ocz gzoozm. Cjrzqzm, ocvo nodgg ydyi'o hvfz yjbomvs'n orzzo hvfz vit hjmz nzinz. Rczi rz mvi do ocmjpbc Mjo13, do nodgg rvn bdwwzmdnc - wpo rczi rz hznnzy vmjpiy rdoc do viy kpo do ocmjpbc (D ocdif) Mjo6, do hvyz nzinz! Vgnj, jiz ja ocz qdyzj diozmxzkon amjh ocz rzzf gdozmvggt cvy v yznxmdkodji rdoc ocz rjmy "mjo" mzkzvozy di do, nj do vghjno rzio jqzm jpm czvyn.

Zdoczm rvt, do nodgg yjzni'o zskgvdi njhz ja ocz kjnon ji ocz Vmbvizz Rjmgy ocvo vmz epno ziodmzgt iphwzmn. D ocdif ocvo'n rczmz ht vgxczhdxvg ajjo ymvrn ocz gdiz, da D'h wzdib cjizno! D rjiyzm da do'n vijoczm Mjo kmjbmvh, jm njhzocdib ziodmzgt ydaazmzio? D gjqz xjyzn, wpo iphwzmn epno hvfz ht wmvdi ncpo jaa! Cjkzapggt rz'gg gzvqz gjon ja iphwzmn wzcdiy vn rz novmo oj ziozm jpm hdmmjm rjmgy... zqzi "Fzonpitv" vbmzzn rdoc hz! (;

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

vermont buses and jersey trains

Last week, we had the privilege of getting to join the Young Writers Project in a webinar to talk about their community and writing, as well as to hear from some of the members of YWP and others, such as a sixth grade class and one of our fellow alchemists on our NetNarr tour!

Before that, we got to take some time exploring the website and getting a feel for the YWP community, as well as the voice of today's youths and what they are writing about. One of the things that struck me was of how aware a lot of the pieces are - these young writers are very keen on the things going on in the world around them, especially in political and social contexts. A lot of their pieces reflect on the upsetting realities that are the consequences of a certain orange man's political actions. They are aware of how it's affected and will affect their lives, lives of loved ones, and even people they do not know but wholeheartedly empathize with. These are some essays/poems on LGBTQIA representation, general concern about the state of the world, and even perceived identity and how people use their words to hurt others.

That's special, honestly, and says a lot about the younger generation. They are educated, open-minded, and most of all, they are listening- they're listening to people and stories around them, and breathing those experiences and feelings into their own work, which itself channels a very powerful message to anyone who reads it. Additionally, they don't have a "faked interest" in any of these topics - they are writing about what they WANT to write about, what truly inspires, frustrates, and fuels their interest. They aren't writing a letter to the President because of a prompt or as a general idea, but because they genuinely want to express themselves and try to get someone to hear them who isn't listening.

I also noticed how supportive the community is toward each other. These young writers comment on each other's work, saying parts that they enjoyed, and even provide constructive criticism in a very tactful and kind way. They even have the option to "sprout" off each other, which lets them create a piece of work that would be inspired from the original piece- it seems some see it as the highest form of flattery, but as we were told by some of the writers in the webinar, it can come across wrong to some authors. However, it seems like it is generally received as a positive reaction to a person's work. Also, I wanted to point out that even during the webinar, these young writers were very supportive of each other's work; for example, after Isabelle read her poem, Adelle praised her about the power of her words and voice in the message of her work (by the way, everyone shared very moving and wonderful poems, and it was a real treat to hear at least two of them read by their authors!).

Thus, I am excited we still have our time with the YWP as we enter the NetNarr workshop experience and experiment with sounds and storytelling. I've used Audacity before, so I feel like I'm generally familiar with splicing together sounds and audio editing. I once created the music for my sister's skating program about seven years ago by mixing together Bond songs (I wish I had the file to share with y'all, but alas, that music is lost in the cyber void). While I recorded some sounds after class on Wednesday, I didn't find them all that intriguing; additionally, there's nothing in my morning routine that really caught my attention to capture. However, I did go back home this weekend on the train, and there's something musical about its commute. The rattling of the train on the checks, the broken doors slamming every time someone entered or left the car, the distant chatter of women returning home from New York after a cold and blistery day- I decided to break out my recorder and capture around a minute of that. I think some of the sounds were ultimately lost in the recording, but, if you close your eyes, it still manages to teleport you to as if you were on a train.

(i also wrote a little haiku after i posted it to our YWP group, inspired by my trip on the train)
the train moves along
white snow on dirty gray tracks—
a girl checks her phone
I also used the recording app to experiment with sound in another poem that I've been writing, so it's been helpful in being able to more readily hear myself and work on the audio performance of the piece! I might bring it in for class on Wednesday when we share our creative works with the class.

 As we transition from the train and back to the bus, I'm looking forward to heading toward the Australian coast and exploring the idea of the storied campus and hearing what the other side has to say. Although, I'll say it now, I don't think I have many stories about Kean- and if I do, I know they aren't all that positive (sorry!). Haha, maybe some of my other classmates can convince me of fleeting good moments they had in a particular place that can help paint my vision of this place more kindly.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

please welcome to the stage... THE LADY REE POSING!

It's nice to be able to have a moment of fresh air, where we step out of the lab, away from all the potion fumes and mountains of spellbooks, so that we can enjoy a metaphorical cigarette break.

We get to reflect on our journey so far in our alchemical pursuits for Networked Narratives, and I think it's been a rather interesting adventure. I don't think I, or anyone in the class, for that matter, was really expecting anything that we did encounter in our time so far; however, it's been a treat being able to explore and discuss different corners of what the Internet has to offer, from fanfiction to netprov to twitterbots and galore! They are little treasures, hidden pieces of art and identities, that have been stashed away in more obscure areas of the Internet, so I'm glad that our studio visits, weekly activities, and discussions have shared and uncovered them.

One of the neat things that we explored and I wanted to look back on was twitterbots! I never got around to mentioning, but I had a sudden urge to create one a few weeks ago, so I did. I didn't get to share it in a blog post, so I thought that now would be a better time than ever to.

Since twitterbots are great generative machines, I wanted to put it to use as a name generator; however, it's not just any name generator - it's a drag queen one! In the drag community, there's been a running meme of saying, "Please welcome to the stage...," followed by a great name inspired by some cheeky / sexual / clever (or all three) play on words. But! It's a bit hard to generate puns. The next best thing was to take common first names and last names found in the drag community and putting them all in the vocabulary pool. I am a huge RuPaul's Drag Race fan, so I took a lot of the first and last names of the Hauses of famous queens to come across the show - but I wanted to add an element of humor as well, so I added a line for middle names, which are just inside jokes and memes within the RPDR community itself (so if you catch yourself wondering what the hell anything means, don't worry about it). 

I'm proud with how the twitterbot came out. I need to do some advertising for it on reddit or get it to interact more with RPDR fans (as well as add more names and jokes to its database), but overall I enjoy it, and I do believe any person who likes drag queens would enjoy it too! The parody twitter account has received some recognition, though, from one of the queens to appear on RPDR, as she favorited a tweet of mine, and I was a bit starstruck! It was pretty cool, and I wouldn't have ever found myself interested in building a twitterbot if it wasn't for us stopping to explore them on our journey through the class, so thank you!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

the realm of fanfiction

This week we had the lovely opportunity to chat with Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel about fanfiction for our Studio Visit! Here's a link to the SoundCloud version of the webinar, and if you're interested, I tried to highlight some of the important parts of our wonderful discussion in the comments section below!

To start with, I was particularly excited about this session because I've been interested in fanfiction since I was in 5th grade... so about over 10 yrs now, eh? Wow (and/or yikes)! Prior to our discussion today, I revisited my old fanfiction.net account to remind myself of my adolescent literary self... I had a lot of mixed feelings! Some of the earliest stuff (dating back to 2006) was especially cringey, and I can't even bring myself to open those stories... however, I am able to stomach some of my latter works that I posted back in 2010-11. While they are definitely not the best pieces of literary work I have ever produced, they reminded me of different points in my youth. Like any form of art, they are pieces of myself that I have made vulnerable by sharing with the world, for better or for worse.

I think one of the things I wanted to reflect on with fanfiction is what it means for both the author and the community. In the Studio Visit, we touched on the reciprocity aspect / the "gift economy" when contributing to a fandom, which is the more consumerist answer toward the meaning of fanfiction. However, later, when we were discussing fanfiction as a means of fueling ideas for the civic imagination, Flourish explored the social justice significance readers can find in fanfiction. Along those lines in the comment section, Kelli also raised how fanfiction can be an important form of representation, too. And, as Elizabeth said, fanfiction becomes a more femininized and queer space, while heteronormativity is pushed more to the side; thus, it adds for more representation, exploration, and normalization for sexual identity among its readers, which is great. The downside though, as she also pointed out, is the severely lacking stories with POC, especially queer POC. So, while fanfiction has its flaws, it still serves a great political, social, and personal purpose for all of the lurkers and artists themselves.

I know fanfiction served a similar personal purpose for me. While I was nervous about publishing my stuff at first (for fear of the characters not acting "canonical" enough), it paid off. Personally, it was a form of artistic expression - even though I liked writing in general, writing fanfiction was always so much more fun! I got to explore the psyche of my favorite characters, as well as build alternate timelines and universes for them to exist and interact in. It also worked as a way of escapism, like any form of art. I would get lost thinking of ideas and stories, especially original ones that I hadn't seen published or explored in the fandom. Additionally, it helped build my confidence as a writer. Some of the reviews I got on some of my stories I felt added to my growing identity as a writer - I received a lot of constructive criticism from my peers that helped me develop my skills, sometimes in ways that not even my highschool teachers could touch on. I trusted what they were saying a lot more, because it was important to listen to your audience - they had no reason to lie to you, they just wanted you to be the best author you could be, since you might be the only one writing one of their favorites ships!

All in all, as someone who has had quite a relationship with fanfiction for the entirety of her adolescence, I enjoyed looking at it through a critical and scholarly lens through our discussion. It's great that we could dissect the importance of fanfiction, and see how this specific type of writing affects people in both a personal and public way. I'm excited to reflect more on the conversation in our next class!

also happy valentine's day!
Prepare for an ALCHEMY MEDIA DUMP, my b.


I also wanted to play around with the assignment for #altbookcover ! I chose Naked Lunch by William Burroughs, because the title itself is a misleading precursor to the rest of the whacked out novel. Thus, I wanted to make the cover even more misleading by consequently making it sexier and genre-oriented... which is, quite frankly, the exact opposite of whatever the hell is going on in Naked Lunch. I still wanted it to have that 1950s feel to it, so I chose a diner theme for the cover, and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. I think the unsaturated colors paint it as a romance-noir story, which is how I'd want to misdirect people before they opened up the book. Whoever picks up this title is in for a real meal (pun 100% intended).


Earlier I tweeted out my #4iconstory for people to guess... did you get it right? If not, spoiler ahead!

On the Road by Jack Kerouac... get it? Lifted cars, jazz, booze, all penned down by our famous Beat writer!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

generative magic

It's a personal philosophy of mine that art, especially poetry, can be found in everything around us - as long as we have the right lenses on, an imaginative, rose-colored pair, I think there is literary value in even the most natural, unintentional things.

With that being said, the Five Card Flickr activity speaks to that idea, I think. We were allowed to choose five random images and create a poetic connection between all of them. The process of thinking carefully about the images and building a story is special, and requires a thoughtful imagination and also a touch of magic. What started as a bunch of disjointed images with no relationship is soon transformed into an interconnected narrative - a story full of magic from randomly generated pictures.

We look for and find the poetry in just about anything. I enjoyed creating my Five Card Flickr story, because while the images had no real connection at first, I could choose an aesthetic - I was collecting my materials that I needed to create my storytelling magic. I enjoyed it, since it presented itself like a puzzle, which required me to give a lot of consideration to weaving these stories together.

However, when it came to making a story out of someone else's narrative elements, the puzzle got more difficult. I wanted to create my own connection between the images without being influenced by the original author's - additionally, I didn't find that a lot of the already made stories fit immediately into my head as a certain "aesthetic." It definitely took a lot more time and consideration to try to make and someone else's story work.

Generating literary magic out of random pictures might've been easier to see as "art," though, compared to the concept of twitterbots. I personally love bots - especially shitpost generators, which supposed generate nonsense and consequently make some pretty scary, prophetic social statements in doing so. I decided to explore the activist twitterbots, because while I love poetry, I think these specific bots unconsciously make pretty powerful statements.

I found the bots @lady_products and @man_products pretty hilarious, but also pretty poignant. There was a certain formulaic art to their tweets that fit a purposeful aesthetic for both accounts. @lady_products generated tweets with lowercase, calmer words that had more feminine, poetic language, like "fragrant" "blush," "perfume," "eyeliner," and of course, "vodka." Meanwhile, @man_products did the exact opposite - the bot was loud, capitalized, and advertised in an extremely macho way. It chose language such as "MEAT," "ODOR," "TESTOSTERONE," "PROTEIN," and "___ FOR MEN." While both accounts made statements of how advertisements have a specific formula to cater toward each gender, I think there was something poetic in both, more notably the @lady_products bot. While these accounts were created to generate specific, gendered language, each tweet becomes an artistic statement, which makes it a pretty amazing piece of generative magic.

And of course, the big concept of the week - netprov - is also another example of generative magic. However, it is a less randomized form than the other two; instead, after learning more from Mark Marino and Rob Wittig during their webinar, it's clear that it has an obviously improvisational nature to it. A group of people come together under guises to create stories off the top of their heads, in alternate universes and narratives that are straight from the participant's imagination. There is no script, there is no storyline that the players have to follow. Everything is in the moment, and the players go with the natural flow of the progressing storyline, or can even decide to shift it however way they want. They are responsible for generating the next shift, the next word, the next emotional rollercoaster that the netprov will experience and explore, and everyone is in on the magical ride.

The magic of storytelling is generated everywhere. From images juxtaposed to twitterbots, there is a literary narrative waiting. We just have to search the crevices of our imagination to find and manifest that magic and share it with the world.

Monday, January 30, 2017

elemental deconstruction

Elements are quite literally all around us. We do not have to wander far before we run into one of four of the earth's natural conditions; in fact, they can even be found thriving in the manmade confines of a sad campus dorm, if you look hard enough.

just have to open a window to find air... actually, you don't even have to do that. it's everywhere, folks.
Before turning and looking inside my room, I captured my first element - and the most obvious one - just by glancing outside and admiring the enormity of the night sky juxtaposed with a really shitty college building. If only we could see the lives of the stars more clearly through the Jersey air.

But I digress! Inside my apartment, the other three - fire, water, and earth - were all living in elemental harmony. I had a nice cup of water from my adorable child-sized cup from Target, a candle burning, and an overgrown (and somewhat sad) succulent plant not even within ten feet of each other. While tamed concepts of their elemental symbols, they still were actual manifestations of the natural magic of earth, which is something I think we, as people, easily take for granted.

However, searching for a more metaphorical sense of these four beauties was definitely a more challenging idea that I had to think about. Now, you could potentially choose any item and make some vague but generally accepted connection to one of the four elements. I wanted to think about the elements that go into constructing me, as an identity - and not some deep metaphysical reflection of the self, but just how I harness the elements to represent myself in a more physical way.

For the first element, I chose to think about fire, which I feel the least elementally connected to, strangely enough. As an Aries (if you like that Zodiac stuff), I should deeply connect to it - and I do, but I don't find nearly enough evidence in my real life to support that notion. If I think about it enough, the closest thing I have to a connection with fire is my desire to choose Fire-type starters in Pokemon... which is a little sad, but very true. So, I settled on the obvious, glaring red object on my desk that I pick up every morning to start the ritual of putting myself together - my hair straightener.

I use this pretty much every day, otherwise my hair makes me look like Lorde's doppelganger.

The next element I wanted to think about in creating my physical identity every day was the concept of air... now how does an "invisible" element add to a visual component? It doesn't, but it does add to an olfactory one.

nothing is better than smelling like green tea. thanks, Urban Outfitters. even though you're owned by Republican shitheads, I appreciate your perfume.
It may sound odd admitting it, but I think someone's smell plays a huge part in image. I think there's something romantic about the fragrance you want someone to remember you by. Maybe that's a byproduct of reading a lot of highly detailed Jane Austen novels that described every aspect of a character down to their last freckle, but I want the air I surround myself with to stick in someone's head like a line of poetry. Additionally, perfumes are alchemical in and of themselves - they're constructed with different elements of earth to create something new and delightful.

When I chose my metaphorical symbol for water, I felt like it may be the most abstract from its original elemental form. However, it shares a few similarities.

did y'all catch on that I like black? no?
While nail polish probably has traces of actual water in it somewhere, and is also in a shared liquid form, I think there are a few more shared traits. There's almost a certain necessity in my life to have nail polish on - not for some societal, gendered reason, but simply for the fact I like having it on. Why should my nails be colorless? I feel like it's always there, like water. The color needs to be "hydrated" on a regular basis so it does not shrivel away. Additionally, nail polish is bottled, like some forms of water, and reminds me of small vials of potions sitting on an alchemist's shelf.

Lastly, of course, is earth. I chose my ring, which I love dearly and wear almost everyday. I feel as if it completes the final part of putting myself together - a closing statement of the first impression I aesthetically make on people.

listen, if chokers can make a comeback, so can mood rings - don't hate.
The ring is made up of metals and other elements I don't understand, but that I recognize enough come from the earth itself. To add, I like the concept of earth chakras, or points of earth that contain very special channels of energy. My mood ring acts the same way, and deciphers the changes of temperature and energy in my body by harnessing its own elemental self.

Overall, I enjoyed thinking about these elements in a more metaphorical sense - especially how they can all link together. By reflecting on my own self, I was able to deconstruct parts into the four categories of elements, and then deeply think about how I transmute them every day to construct a version of me.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

equivalent exchange

One of the basic rules of alchemy is the idea of polarity - everything has an equaled opposite. With that being said, the concept of "digital alchemy" manifests itself as a juxtaposition, as two contrasting ideas. When we think about alchemy, we think about an outdated practice steeped in mystical and magical tendencies; on the other hand, we have the "digital" aspect of it, which is the product of technology and science. To combine the two is the start of our journey of exploring our alchemist identities: we are practicing transmuting the mysticism of fiction into the digital realm, marrying the old and the new, to produce something completely different and wonderful.

I'm intrigued to see how else we will use digital alchemy to guide us through this class, and to see what we will create through a bunch of elements we will explore, play with, and use. Additionally, I feel like the most important part of this class will to keep our minds open to endless possibilities, as cliche as it sounds, as if we were alchemists years ago who truly believed that they could transform lead into gold. If we keep our minds closed and refuse to push our fantastical limits of what we can imagine, we lose the magic storytelling contains.

Other than that, I do not know much about the realm of alchemy and how we can relate it to our networked narratives; however, there seems to be a lot of potential in our class, as we seem to all be alchemists who lead different lives, have different interests, and have different tales to share. The stories in all of us are only part of the elements we need to combine with the technological tools to manifest our own version of a philosopher's stone of collective narratives.