Final Reflection

To whomever it may concern,

Looking back on my experiences in this University Writing 1103 class over the past semester I notice many changes in my writing. Over the semester I started to feel more comfortable in my writing and got to a point where I left my previous notions behind for a grander writing style. Originally I was nervous about a class dedicated to writing, generally what I consider my worst subject; however, after the first few weeks I changed that thought completely. Partaking in an inquiry project, developing a blog and reflecting were all experiences I had not had before this class. These experiences drove me towards my current feeling towards writing of greater understanding and more appreciation for the craft. I’m honestly glad I didn’t take this class as a freshman, I think it would have overwhelmed me with the radical changes to writing expected in college. As a Junior I have a lot more experience with what is expected of an undergraduate and thus I felt confident that I could succeed in an environment normally detrimental to a math geek like myself.Half a semester ago I wrote a mid term reflection discussing how I felt about my progress as a writer. At the time I didn’t feel like anything had changed but since then, having developed a web text contribution and given my facilitation, I feel confident that I have improved.

In the beginning of the semester we spent a lot of time talking about preconceived notions involving “proper” writing styles such as the 5-paragraph essay. I unfortunately didn’t have much experience with such a style which should have been a good thing, but it made it hard for me to connect to what the others thought. I struggled to force myself into that mindset, just to understand how wrong it was. It felt like I was being taught to swim by forcefully drowning in a pool of honey and being told “you can’t swim in honey” instead of being put in a pool of water and taught normally. It took me several weeks to understand that I was expected to know the 5-paragraph essay and then know everything wrong about it. After coming to terms with the expectations of my knowledge from the class I finally was able to stand at the starting line. It wasn’t until I read Dean’s Genre Theory that things finally clicked for me. Everything else from the class fell into place and I started to see the bigger picture. I went from focusing on what to write to focusing on how to write. Shifting my thoughts from what to how let me see where context, genre and textual media belonged in writings. This shift greatly improved the quality of my writings and I think was exhibited in my web text contribution rather well.

In regards to my web text contribution, it was the first time I had every been tasked with an inquiry assignment. For me the idea of developing a contribution to a topic that had such deep roots was ludicrous. In math the opportunity to add to previous knowledge is only given to the highest authorities such as professors and professional mathematicians. It was hard for me to realize that I could give meaningful input in the ongoing debate over internet anonymity. Working with Tori and Taylor was a great help as they both seemed comfortable with the idea that inquiry was something that we could actually accomplish. With the help of them I believe we created a fantastic web text contribution considering how little experience we had with the concept. The inquiry project also made me realize how diverse writing can be. The fact that we could contribute via web text allowed me to see a different way that I can impact my discourse communities in the future.

Regretfully I don’t think I can apply much of what I learned from this semester to my other writings. Strict rules are a must in math, my major, so being fancy free doesn’t cut it. I do think that understanding the concepts of genre and textual media will be the two main things I can carry on to other writings. I intend to approach all my writing from now on with the mindset that I don’t have to follow some drab outline, instead I should focus on maintaining the expectations of my discourse community while adding the elements of this class where possible.

One could say I started this semester with a negative outlook on writing. After being a part of this discourse community for the last few months I have grown to appreciate writing and don’t have such a negative opinion of it. I now have a much broader understanding of what writing is and what it can do. Leaving this class makes me sad that I can’t continue to develop myself as a writer alongside my classmates however I know that going forward we will all continue to improve ourselves and our communities by expressing what we learned in this University Writing 1103 class.

Adam Piephoff


Mid-Term Reflection

Progressivism and Reflection: Two Sides of the Same Coin

During this semester I have addressed many topics I never expected to. Some of those topics have opened my eyes to folly of education while others have left me baffled at my own lack of understanding of what it means to be a writer. Throughout this semester I have realized that my limited view on writing has hindered my ability to grow in academia and further my intellectual conceptualization. Using big words together that have loose meanings is a great example of what I would have done in high school that I now realize does nothing but make me sound snobby and occasionally really stupid if the combination makes zero sense. Alongside a grander understanding of inquiry based writing I have also gained knowledge on a variety of topics in writing that have added to my repertoire. Going forward I believe many of the things learned thus far will be of great help to my success in my academic career and potentially my real career down the line.

This shows primarily when examining my first free write it becomes obvious that I have no idea how to handle freedom in writing. I wrote a very short, shoddily constructed ramble about grammar without a clear direction or end. This made for an awfully poor excuse of a free write that not only made me look lazy but also failed to meet my expectations as a writer. Another example of lackluster writing is my second free write where I talk about multiple literacies and standard tests. In that free write I had an idea of what I wanted to address but I let my need for facts stop me from relaying my true intentions and I ended up saying things I don’t entirely agree with. Alongside my inability to write to a topic or lack-thereof was my laziness. When I know I’m being graded for effort rather than content I tend to take a lackluster approach to a serious topic because I didn’t have set expectations which shows my lack of capability in writing without guidelines.

Since writing those free writes as a class we explored alternative writing styles that engage a prompt instead of relating to a topic. This more interactive approach to writing allows for more genuine discussion to be had and lends itself to meaningful debate that research papers couldn’t offer. Inquiry based writing has broadened my horizons as a writer and helped me form my own thoughts instead of bounces the ideas of others around until I met a set goal. Considering all that has come to pass in this semester I believe I am now able to apply what

I have learned to a multitude of topics and fields outside of this class. Hopefully I find some use for the intricate form of communication we are learning in this class in my main subject fields.

Speaking of which, the mathematical mindset I live by has influenced my writing greatly. I have been in a mathematical mindset for a long time. Math is a progressive, compounding field where little time is spent thinking back about your previous work. Every day something new is introduced that will probably be obsolete in the next class you take or even later that semester. Looking critically at my previous work isn’t something I’m familiar with nor something I feel comfortable doing. If I had to analyze previous work I’ve done in math I don’t think I could pick out defining moments or important factors that contributed to my growth as a mathematician. This has lead me to a few conclusions about my progress this semester.

First off, I don’t think I’ve grown much over this semester. I don’t have experience with the limiting factors most, if not every, other students had in their writing or at least I didn’t let it affect my ability to approach topics how I pleased. As a person I am not hardwired to reflect on my own work instead I plough forward learning what I can from the examples of others. That combined with my general dislike of the revisal and reviewing processes make me blind to my follies and inhibits my ability to learn from past mistakes. I want to be honest about this reflection and I truthfully don’t see any growth on my end, possibly because I’m bad at finding my own faults or possibly because I just haven’t made any improvements. I hope that I can compound my experience in this class with the feedback from papers such as this to improve myself not only as a writer but also as a person.

The next thing I realized was actually something positive about my writing style. When I write it is because I want to relay something to my audience or to better understand something myself. This ideal has gotten me to where I am with mediocre success and it has kept me interested in a subject I really dislike. However, the writing process observed in this class has made me reevaluate my opinion on writing as a whole and will hopefully be applicable to something I do in the future because I do enjoy challenging myself to bring substance to a piece as opposed to objective facts that anybody could google. I will move forward with a more open mindset that should allow me to blossom as an academic regardless of what field I am in.

Finally I came to the conclusion that in such a short span of time I have learned so many things about writing, even if I can’t see improvements I can use what I’ve learned to make improvements in the future. Being able to break away from writing stereotypes has been one of the most influential things I’ve discovered this semester and it makes me anxious to write about topics that I previously didn’t want to approach. Either because I didn’t think they could be addressed in the standard academic style or because they seemed dauntingly oppressive to force into a short sweet paper that could fit my previous notions on “good writing”. I see potential in myself that, without the blogs I’ve written and articles I’ve read this semester, I never expected. I genuinely want to improve myself through writing and I believe understanding this is the correct first step.

Understanding Genre Theory

After reading through Dean’s Genre theory I realized I nary understood the breadth of genres. I was under the impression that, as Dean put it, “(a) primarily literary, (b) entirely defined by textual regularities in form and content, (c) fixed and immutable”. I had always assumed genres were the worlds way of sorting various media into groups of similar interest, and thus had used genre as a way to define myself as a consumer. Labeling situations as definitive genres is an easy way to overlook their importance. As Dean says “genres are not discrete. They depend on each other and interrelate in complex ways.” Merely changing minuscule details about a situation could add other applicable genres or possibly change the genre drastically, for instance Dean notes ” selecting and appropriate greeting card depends partly on the situation — birthday, graduation, death, mother’s day” the same act of giving a greeting card can be so uplifting on a birthday and so utterly depressing for death. The deep connection between the core genres are easy for me to see. 
When breaking down the seven main characteristics of genre Bawarshi is quoted saying “a social code of behavior is established between the reader and the author”. At first I didn’t quiet understand how genres could be social but further reading lead me to the conclusion that text and situations are affected by social aspects the same way other interactions are. I believe that defining text based of the social consequences we accept by writing it is how Dean thinks genres are social. I particularly liked the example given about how if you submit a poem when a resume is expected you might not get the job, unless the job is poet, this example made me understand that social context plays a major role in defining the characteristics of genre.
“Because they both establish and enforce relationships genres are rhetorical” is exactly what it took for me to understand that genres are rhetorical. Dean makes a very good point that genres have obligatory expectations but those expectations are not all encompassing of a genre. Authors get the freedom to choose how they deliver their expected material and those choices are rhetorical. 
So far I understand that genres are social and rhetorical, so it is only natural they are dynamic as well. Dean draws the conclusion that “genres change, they create change in their contexts”
Depending on the rhetorical choices made the outcome of a social situation may change drastically. That change is why genres are dynamic. If every choice lead down the same metaphorical path then genres would not be dynamic but since genres are flexible and changing we have dynamic outcomes.
In reading Dean’s observations of genres being historical I understand the concept of genres relying on past genres however I do not understand how or why this must occur. The connection between past genres and new genres surely exists but I can not see how Dean draws the line from correlation to causation. Alongside historical I fail to see how genres are cultural. This may be my own folly with a lack of understanding of culture but I can not understand how culture and genre are intertwined. I do think that you need one to define the other however I don’t fully understand either so I can not make the connection. Historical and Cultural genres seem to have the most complex roots and I believe that many things are not entirely addressed by Dean in his short synopsis of these specific characteristics.
Situated context makes more sense to me than cultural even though they seem to be two sides of the same coin. I completely agree with Dean when he notes “Even before we look at it, we have oriented ourselves to ways of reading that genre”. Given mirco level  interactions it is obvious that genre has many situated potentialities and situation is a fantastic way to define genre. I also understand how genres are ideological. It seems clear when you combine genres that are social, cultural and situated you would get an ideological genre. Because social and cultural values and ideologies vary in different situations their will be conflict that will arise and cause genres to clash. I understand what Dean means when he says “genres carry social and political implications because of genres’ ideological aspects.”
Finally I understood most of what Dean had to say about genre, however I don’t think I really understand the purpose of his writing. It seems like Dean wishes educators to broaden students understanding of the term genre however I feel that most of his writing was overly complicated. I honestly think he would have been better off coining a new term instead of trying to drastically change the meaning of genre. I don’t think I could use genre the way Dean wants genre to be used after just reading this.

Grey Areas and Reality

Previous research has shown that the anonymity of the internet has had a profound effect on the behavior of people online. However, past endeavours have not looked into the fact that this anonymity is not singularly bad, and the effects could be negative or positive. In our web text we seek to explore the consequences of this phenomenon and the moral and ethical implications of an anonymous internet. Through the medium of the web we will be able to deliver our text directly to the audience to which it refers. In doing so we plan to address why people act differently on the internet. Why is it that anonymity changes people? What are the reasons some people see the internet as real life and others distance themselves from the notion? Alongside our discussion of ways the internet changes people we shall explore both why and how many of the actions performed anonymously differ from actions taken with identities tied to them. It has long been known that people may present themselves differently online than in the physical world. How is this contributing to cyber crimes? In addition to this, we endeavour to explore the positive and negative connotations of these identities. Why is this alternate reality viewed in such a negative light? Are there positives that can be associated with having these separate realities? We plan to complicate this idea further than it has been.  Past research points out the negatives of the internet’s impact on morality, but we plan to explore the gray areas of internet morality, for just as the morality of behaviors presented in the physical world are not black and white, neither are the behaviors of the online world. Perhaps they are even more complex.

Freedom: Good or Bad?

After reading Tori’s most recent Inquiry Blog I noticed that we actually shared our TEDTalk source. This got me thinking harder about the topic because we both took slightly different things away from Reid’s speech. I took it as more of a statement against big companies and their abuse of power through manhandling congress while she saw it as somewhat of a mockery of how big of an issue piracy is currently. To me Reid’s tone was mocking not of the seriousness of piracy, but the silliness of copyright laws and decisions made by congress. I think if we combined our insights from the other research we have done we would find similar differences in opinion. Tori has a more personal connection to piracy as her father is in the music business so for her the statistics revolving around piracy would be interpreted more negatively than for me. When I heard $58 billion lost annually from copyright I was baffled but after some explanation I realized how ludicrous that statement was and honestly felt bad for people who get busted for piracy, the penalties are outrageous. Aside from Reid’s speech I believe Tori has a good grasp of how piracy is impacting the music industry. So if I were to combine my understanding of why with her understanding of how I believe we already could have a strong stance on the subject matter.

For Taylor I connected more to her second Inquiry Blog  where she listened to sources about internet frauds and why people fall for them. Her research filled in a few gaps in my research, I was having trouble seeing ways people behaved differently on a larger scale on the internet. The information on frauds helped me see that not just everyday people feel safe anonymously doing inappropriate things on the internet but companies and organizations do the same thing. Honestly the fact that exists drives me crazy, not even the fact that they have another website claiming to be a university that does studies for nationalreport! How the hell do these people get away with such insane actions, granted it would take an idiot to fall for most of their stuff but its still crazy that we allow it. This opened my eyes to other problem with the internet, there are no rules. No government organization has ever laid down a set of laws for the internet, they merely add the internet to the jurisdiction of current laws as necessary rarely adding new laws altogether. This is probably the best thing about the internet, but also potentially the worst. For now it means we have a lot more freedom online to be true to our feelings however it can also lead to ruin if people abuse this freedom. Taylor’s research has made me realize maybe anonymity in technology isn’t to blame for people acting out, maybe people are the problem. I believe this will warrant further study on our part and hopefully we can determine the true source of some of the problems with the internet.

Congress and the misgivings of Copyright

Rob Reid gave a comical speech in a 2012 TED Talk about the numerical side of piracy. In his speech he brings up numbers derived from many sources that quantify loses from piracy. One such statistic is the estimated $58 billion loss from piracy every year, a number which originated at a Think Tank called the “Institute for Policy Innovation” shorted to IPI for the rest of the article. From this IPI came a number of op-eds related to piracy and the potential losses accumulated over the last decade, such as 373,000 jobs lost which is debatable since the overall employment of people in the Entertainment industry is slightly less than that. An interesting point Reid makes is the value of a downloaded song. The Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act of 1999 laid down a hard maximum penalty for copyright infringement of a single song at $150,000. This number designated by congress would mean that an IPod Classic full of pirated songs would have a total value of $8 million. If you however purchased the songs at the average price of $1.29 from Itunes your IPod would sadly only be worth $67,889.57, not even half the maximum fine for pirating a single song. Simple math makes it painfully obvious Congress doesn’t know how to handle digital theft, and the lobbyist for entertainment companies are equally guilty. There is so much at stake in Reid’s 5 minute video it is hard to imagine he addressed half of the problems relating to how the government handles digital crime.

Copyright: Forever Less One Day” is a video on youtube made by youtuber CGPgrey, an educator in the UK who makes educational videos for the internet in his free time. In this video GCPgrey (Grey) goes into a detailed breakdown of what copyright is and how it came to be as insane as it is today. In 1710 the Statue of Ann came into effect in the UK which gave artist and authors the right to make money from their creations for a limited period of time. When America created its constitution it gave the congress the same power. When entered into the Constitution copyright lasted 28 years, however in 1831 it increased to 32 years, in 1909 to 56 years, in 1976 to the lifetime of the author plus 50 years and finally in 1998 to the lifetime of the author plus 75 years.  This means Tarzan written in 1911 is still not open to public domain, and the first Harry Potter book won’t be in the public domain until around 2116. Grey explains this concept was pushed by companies like Disney to ensure there wouldn’t be a better version of their movies made in the distant future. The original point of Copyright law was to increase incentive for authors to write more content however limiting access to ideas over 100 years old is doing the opposite. The implications of these ridiculous copyright laws gives direction to the improper usage of copyrighted material. If copyright had stayed where it started maybe people wouldn’t go to illegal means to use those materials.

“The internet is changing the way we communicate” a powerful line from the opening paragraph of “The Internet, cyberethics and virtual morality” written by Robert Hauptman and Susan Motin. In their paper they address many concerns with how the internet is changing our lives and how we should not let it shape our actions. “They are particularly harmful if they allow us to confuse reality with a nonexistent universe where unethical actions are permitted” talking about Cyberspace and virtual reality, Hauptman and Motin take note of the duality of the internet and want to prevent us from partaking in harmful actions. Surprisingly their paper addresses many of the concerns I have about my inquiry and provides solutions to several of them. They take an insiders approach trying to lay down the laws of ethics governing the internet and offer a set of rules to abide by in order to make cyberspace a better place. This is the firs paper I found that wants to solve the problem of cyberethics instead of just noting it and moving on. They close their paper with a statement that could not speak better to my inquiry, ” We must police ourselves and act in accordance with the same ethical principles and procedures that are operative in our lives generally”. They believe that it is up to us to govern ourselves on the internet in order for it to grow as a medium we must put order above our own desires to continue into a brighter technological age.

For my last source I looked to a new side of the spectrum and found a neat article about cyber-smearing. “Rash impulsivity, vengefulness, virtual-self and amplification of ethical relativism on cyber-smearing against corporations” is an article written by Michael Workman where he talks about how cyber-smearing —  the intentional effort to damage the reputation of an individual or corporation using the Internet as the medium — affects corporations. Workman addresses an issue I am concerned about but from the perspective of large corporations, a side of the argument I had not considered. He conducted research on how people behave when commenting online about companies and found that “simply because people post anonymously or with aliases online frequently, does not mean they are cyber smearing”. This research shows that people don’t post harmful comments just because they are anonymous, instead there are people who use anonymity for privacy reasons. We should not blanket statement concerns about anonymity in cyberspace because Workman makes valid points about the need for privacy in such a large space. Instead he believes regulations should be in place in workplaces to prevent cyber-smearing by employees and using legal means to deal with traceable smearers outside the company. Workman provided me new insight on how anonymous posting can harm businesses and while he takes a stricter approach than I think necessary, he still makes good points on how cyber-smearing and potentially cyber-bullying should be handled.

Cyber Behavior

So for my inquiry questions I looked into are people able to compartmentalize and become “different people” when working in a digital rather than physical space. As well as in what ways does being anonymous make us feel safe about making ethically questionable decisions. My opinion on both topics are somewhat bland, as I don’t see myself standing strongly for one reason above another. I think that many factors are at work as to how people act in cyberspace but I do unquestionably believe that people act different from physical space. I mainly want to know why, and what it would take for us to treat each space equally because I spend equal times in both and see them as equally valuable. While I haven’t personally had any exceptionally negative or positive experience I am aware that it is a common problem that affects a large population, especially teenagers. The idea that we can become somebody we are not is thrilling but how far is it okay to take acting before it becomes a serious problem? The answer isn’t clear and that’s what I’m really interested in, the psychology behind how people behave online.

I strongly believe that most people act differently in cyberspace, and most scholars agree with me. The only thing I can really think about disputing is the reasons behind this and possibly the importance of it. I started thinking about whether or not acting like somebody you aren’t is actually worth looking into. However as long as cyber bullying is causing teens to take drastic actions I think there is reason to study more about cyber-behavior. I think a “Yeah but…” approach would be most suited to public opinion on piracy. A general definition of piracy according to average web users seems to be “copying material from an open source” which does not shed light on the stealing aspect. This mindset has foundations since technically nothing is being physically “taken” from somebody however I believe we need to move away from this concept of physicality and think instead about potential loss. Another reason for piracy is that one of our founding fathers Thomas Jefferson was against copyright laws which fuel the legal battles involving piracy. Copyright is an artist or companies right to make profit from their work when it is used, which sounds like a great idea however many complications end up occuring and we end up with things like “Happy Birthday” being copyright 90+ years after it was made. The artist has been long dead and in no way benefits from profits from the use of “Happy Birthday” however it still requires permission from the owning company and a fee to be used. That is why restaurants don’t sing a normal “Happy Birthday” to customers. However copyright has thin lines involving private use which is why it isn’t illegal to sing “Happy Birthday” to your kids. So where does online content fall within a copyright war? Currently copyright laws say that piracy is illegal, however many disagree with that which is why I get to debate this. If something like shoplifting was backed by a copyright mentality people wouldn’t argue about whether or not it should be legal, it would just be illegal and people would be punished for doing it. However thanks to the anonymous nature of the internet we get heated debates about piracy constantly and even big news sites chime in from time to time. Lately scholarly research has gone into cyber behavior and people have started taking these issues seriously.

Following with the “Yeah but…” approach I looked at quotes from my sources and found some interesting debatable statements. From my source on how piracy is good there is a quote “The Congress shall have Power … To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”. This statement is worded with the intent to protect “authors and inventors” from having their writings/inventions stolen before they had the chance to make money on it. It does not imply a sense of security for musicians, filmmakers and so forth, therein begging the question if copyright should even apply to those categories. While many would agree that it should cover all forms of art, that possibly wasn’t the intention of Congress when copyright law was introduced in 1783. Copyright was formed with the intention of letting inventors sell there work before others could build on it, and was never intended to stop people from enjoying music 95+ years after its release. I can see why people commit piracy when such outrageous limitations exist.

From my source from the academic journal of educational computing research (scholarly research), Tanya Beran takes a “Yeah but..” approach herself stating ” Perhaps bullying begins at school and then extends into the home and community through the use of technology” supporting this with stats from the study conducted showing “More than half (64%) of students who were victims of cyber-harassment, also reported victimization by another type of harassment.” This would mean that technology doesn’t change our actions, instead it becomes a medium for them to continue outside of our usual realm of influence. According to this line of thought people don’t compartmentalize in a digital space, rather they import their psychical selves into the digital context making this a concern about human nature instead of technological influence.

I used an article title “The Online Inhibition Effect” and honestly I can’t find anything to dispute in his paper because it directly addressed my opinions on the matter from a scientific view and backed up what I already assumed. For the sake of the assignment there is a phrase “some people report being more like their “true self” while online” where the idea of “true self” probably needs to be more clearly defined. Why can’t a “true self” be a digital self? Why do we assume physical self to be more true than other selves? Many people would say their spiritual self is closer to their “true self”. Limiting the idea of “true self” to a physical real world self is restricting thoughts on how digital selves should be handled. Is a crime committed by a digital self less or more severe than a similar crime committed by a physical self?

As my last source so far I used an online news article titled “The Psychology of Online Comments” by Maria Konnikova. She states “Anonymity … encouraged incivility.” which is a relatively shorten conclusion of her article as a whole. Here I think it would be best if we redefined Anonymity. She uses it to basically be any form of internet usage since for normal people it is hard to respond to a digital mishap even with a real name linked to the account in question. Since people can always make a new account or change their digital name, Konnikova thinks all actions are anonymous. I believe otherwise. Things posted to sites like Facebook or traceable through Linkedin do not have the same anonymity as actual anonymous posts on websites that allow such. If every website enforced real identification to partake in forums or comments her ideas would be shaken. Why do we allow anonymous posters then? And who is to blame when an anonymous post or comment causes serious problems in a digital community?