Why A website for this class?
At a previous college where I taught, the tuition was VERY high. Many of my students received generous scholarships but after the recession, the generosity wasn't as forthcoming. The university was struggling also. There would come a point in the semester where students' bills weren't paid for any host of reasons--- loans were not approved yet, scholarship money was not in yet... always some kind of bureaucracy getting in the way! To motivate students to get their finances together, the university would simply drop students from their classes. This means they could not access campus email, course blackboards, their ID... nothing! I am not someone who gets angry, upset, or ashamed because I grew up poor, but I do resent people and institutions who try to punish and alienate me because of it. That's when I taught myself website design for my classes. None of my students could reach my blackboard pages after they had been dropped from courses, making it more difficult for them to stay caught up with the work. Well, guess what? Any student in the world with a phone or computer can reach this space now. "Knowledge reigns supreme"...and it don't have to cost a thing.
Imagine it is 2030 and you are working in the profession/industry you want, doing the work you are dreaming of. Do you really think that will be a print-based culture? Do you really think knowing the rules of print grammar will be enough? That you can succeed without knowing a little about coding templates and interfaces? It's time to step up to plate here. You all already use technology. You now have to become people who also design technology. That's what writing in the 21st century will require if you want to be critical and engaged citizens of this world.
The digital work of this class will not be difficult but it could possibly be different from your other classes. Here's the motto: if Carmen can do it, anyone can! Seriously! I am very basic and simple. If there is something I want to do better (like use videos and music in my classes), then I will exploit the available technology to do it. (I don't even do facebook. I have no interest in the foolishness my friends and fam do up in there.) No one ever taught me how to do word art, rip videos and remix them, embed, or change CSS to suit my own needs, but I managed to teach it all to myself. Like I said, if I can do this, really, anyone can. For those of you who already have websites and know code, you can help us all out even more.
When I built the first website for this course, I planned on incorporating music from around the world and just pop any song on a page. But that just didn't make much sense. The music had to add something to what was there on the page. I also did not want to create a generic, corporate space... there is a real person behind this website whose thinking and actions are always culturally shaped.
In the words of Cheryl Lynn (check her out to the left lip-syncing on Soul Train): "It's. Got. To. Be. Real!"
This website is, in many ways, a Black Cultural Experience given the images and sounds that I have chosen. However, that does not mean that you need to be Black to understand this site or learn from its experiences. Black people have never created cultural experiences in this world that were exclusive to only them whether it be Jazz, Reggae, Soul, Gumbo, or Hip Hop. I am simply trying to walk what I talk here: you do not have to give up who you are to make meaning where you are and to survive and thrive in that space. I hope this makes sense to you...and I hope there are some things here that even make you smile and laugh from time to time.
Despite all this tech stuff, you will notice that I still collect paper in this class alongside digitized work. I have not given up the materiality of paper yet. I still like the feeling of textile designs, spray-painting on brick walls, using colored pencils and oil paints, and crafting with all kinds of materials. I am not giving that up for digital cultures so you can expect handwritten notes and letters when I respond to your writing in purple ink. Materiality still matters.
The banner, "WRITE," at the top of this page, is part of the materiality that I am talking about. It is lettering that I designed, cut, and layered from various kinds of paper. It lies on top of multiple textiles with a few rhinestones added to it... you know, just for a little shine. Gotta have some shine. I like the contrast: a hand-made object digitized for a digital space. I chose the verb--- WRITE--- rather than writing which could be a noun. To write is to DO something.
This website also comes with a kind of course soundtrack. That's right, this class has a soundtrack...if a movie can have a soundtrack, why can't we?