Monthly Archives: June 2008

Final project, again

So here I sit still trying to figure out what it is that I should be writing about or working on for my final project. I asked for clarification from Professor Hanley… as in, can we outsource production of our project, or do we need to be the ones who actually hammer it together from the ground up. His answer was unhelpful, because it focused on the ‘fer instance’ and didn’t address the underlying question of whether it was permissible to conceive of the project and then pay others to build out parts of it or not. I’m just going to go under the assumption of “not” and move forward.

Now I have to decide between a wimpy-assed website project (I’m -so- not interested in becoming a web designer myself, but I’m very happy to hand things off to other designers to build out), or a thesis. I was advised by Alex Halavais against the Thesis, although to be honest with you I think that I’d better do something to put on my CV, just in case I end up pushing on to the PhD in the years to come.

On the other hand, I could just take the easy road and build “a portfolio site”. But I don’t wanna be a designer any more. I hate being told what to create by other people. If I make a creation I want to be the final arbiter of how it looks, I don’t want someone else beating me up over it not matching their expectations of the same concept. Design your own, dammit. 😉

Still looking for a topic, then

So now I’m still looking for a topic fit for a Thesis, then. I suppose I could always do Capstone and just build out a Flash/ActionScript animated sequence… but then I would be setting myself up for a career as a Flash designer. I’m not really certain that I’m comfortable with that outcome.

If I pick the Thesis option then whatever it is that I choose as my topic should be some indicator of where I would like my studies to carry me on to further, should I choose to go on academically. Either that, or it should establish some kind of mastery in some subject so that I can sell my services on the adjunct circuit.

There’s always trying to pave the way from a business perspective. I could pick some marketing or advertising-based interactive subject and try and come up with the research to make that work, or to throw my hat into the ring as a business writer… lots of fluff, lots of business theory, but a little less solid on the scholarly approach.

37 years old in August and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

More subjects

Still, having options is better than not having options. I can sort through these if I just keep writing them down.

Cup & Lip: As in ‘many a slip’. I keep thinking about the distance between the theory taught in school and the implementation of such things in the real world. I used to work in Enterprise Solutions, looking for business-wide technology platforms and tools which could be utilized to help alleviate the suffering of the modern worker. And I keep thinking about how a) there are really no enterprise-level decent project management solutions out there, and b) the ones that do exist end up taking more time to implement than they save in labor overall, leading to their ultimate disuse or rejection by workers as too time-intensive.

Maybe there’s something that can be done to work with that idea, or to investigate where that threshold is. I’m a little leery about anything involving original source research because my methodology is non-existant. Quinnipiac really doesn’t offer anything in the way of training for data collection and analysis from a quantitative point of view, as I’ve lamented here before. The other obstacle is that no one wants to talk about their failure to implement huge systems like Enterprise-level software.

The internet and British Traditional Wicca: This one could be very fun. Very, very fun. But unfortunately, it’s also a bit outside of the realm of anything. Basically, the idea goes like this. As the influence of a networked society continues to grow, there is a balancing that occurs between two different spectrums. On the one hand, you have the emergence of a more network-based, egalitarian social model of operation balancing out the legacy of a more hierarchical-based power structure. And on the other hand, you have the tug of war between “the tragedy of the commons” (whatever is free gets overused because it is free, thus destroying the resource or severely devaluing it), and you have the model of exclusive rights. In the middle of it, you have the Internet itself, empowering and challenging certain aspects of any kind of system or group.

Oddly enough, British Traditional Wicca serves as a great example of these kinds of forces in play. It is a religion which re-emerged in the 1940’s, based off of a dying hereditary model of “the old Religion”, the “Craft of the Wise”. It is intensely hierarchical, with three degrees of initiation, and gets accused of being very elitist. Yet at the same time, once you attain the innermost secrets and highest degree, you are among autonomous equals. The system is also networked, in that groups spawn new groups with familial-type relationships among each other. Like Deleuze & Guattari’s “rhizomes” model the groups of Wicca training are networked in ways that can’t even be mapped fully by the Wicca themselves.

In the earlier days of Wicca pre-internet, there was a lot of divergence in practice and theology, with several Traditions emerging. As the internet takes hold, we begin to see a reversal of this, a banding together, and a reacquainting of different parts of the family trees with each other once again. In a modern society where there is currently a push for “transparency” and “openness”, Wicca represents a bit of a throwback, in that it guards its secrets well in order to protect against the tragedy of the commons. Yet once 3rd degree is attained, there is autonomy and equality for all. There is also privacy and heightened expectations. This continues to work well, this blending of hierarchy and networking, of equality and ranking, of selective opaqueness, and transparency of responsibilities.

The only problem is that I’m a bit too close to the subject myself, and it seems to break down a bit… not the strongest example, but a fascinating one.

Copyright vs. Piracy: Such a huge topic, I would have to pick something specific on it. Maybe focus on the strategies of the MPIAA. Or examine the legalistic trends. It’s too broad, though the discussion about how ownership models of the past are being challenged by the internet becomes more and more interesting as time goes on.

Death of Professionalism: I really liked investigating this topic. And I have to say that my return to the advertising world in my newly spiffed out ‘digital’ capacity has shown me what these “waves” of new technology and new skill set craftsmen look like. Used to be that just knowing how to use Photoshop was a guarantee of a great job. Now you need to know how to apply Photoshop to the web. As the technology continues to push outward, the skilled employees need to hold onto their abilities. Nowadays it’s very possible to be outbid on a project by the proverbial “two guys in a garage”. What’s the difference between the DIY folks and the professionals anymore? Who’s leading who out here in terms of marketing and advertising “advice” to the client?  I really think that the advertising agency model needs to be phased out and a Communications Agency model brought in. But it’s a matter of how to monetize this, because even with all of the changes in the world going on today, clients are still their own worst enemies. How to convince the world to take the plunge? Is the plunge worth it?

More later as I think of them.

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Musing about Final Projects

Some folks might be able to relax over the summertime, but I’ve taken on a full time job again because try as I might, I just can’t give up luxuries like shelter, food, and water. That doesn’t impact the relaxation from a “I wish I were on a beach” aspect, but it does mean to me as a grad student that I am, officially and unquestionably, insane.

Absolutely nutters.

See, next semester is fast approaching. August will be here all too soon, and with it comes the return of classes. While I have no courses requiring my attendance at Quinnipiac during the work week, I -am- carrying a full course load which includes my Capstone Project. One of those classes is Photoshop 101, which I’m anticipating being painfully boring to the point of requiring more discipline than my other courses but precious little in the way of new brainpower (being a graphic designer for over a decade, Photoshop 101 is a skillset I’d be surprised to find myself lacking in).

Aside from that, there’s an online course for Designing Content for Mobile Media, and also Media Law, which I am very much looking forward to. And then the Capstone.

About that Capstone Project

Quinnipiac is not a design school. Yet the choices for terminal project include either a) writing a thesis, or b) making and posting a live website or other interactive experience.  It must be my work experience going against me here because I look at what I can produce online by myself, and it’s pretty crappy. I feel like I have absolutely no real preparation for making websites myself, and unless I build it in Flash 2.0, I don’t really have any sort of scripting or language skills outside of basic HTML.

How can I make this a Capstone worthy of a Masters? What exactly is it supposed to be showcasing as far as skillsets go? I really begin to think that my expectations are too high of myself, mostly because that full time job I’ve got is all about producing (coordinating the production of) high end commercial websites for my livelihood.

Scouting subject material

I need to come up with something relevant for the subject matter of the website. And then I need to plan out the IA. And then I need to apply manually for the Capstone course and an Advisor. (Ideally the advisor should be helping a bit prior to the formal prospectus filing). So what I have to do, in the middle of a breakneck paced job, is figure out what to focus on subject-wise for my capstone.

It should ideally help serve my next career goals. Or help to establish me in some way as one of the voices or writers in a field I will ideally explore later in life, whether in formal PhD studies or not. But I’m not sure what’s next from here… I’m in advertising again, and really kind of wanting to get out. But there’s some fascinating stuff going on internally here, as the management is going to try to “integrate” the offline and the online teams into a single agency.

I know some online classes that Quinnipiac offers which might be of help in that. 🙂 Meanwhile, I’ll be hiding behind the dumpster so I don’t get hit by the explosions of egos. (Print vs. Online, round 373… ding!)

Next Steps

For the next steps I need to start generating lists of potential topics and musing about them. Then do some real top level preliminary research to see what all might be out there on it. I figure I need to have my topics narrowed down to a Short List by July 15th. At that point, I’ll approach a couple of professors by email and bounce the short list off of them, and finally narrow everything down for the Prospectus by the time that the semester begins in the fall.

So… preliminary ideas:

Literary analysis of the movie “Moulin Rouge” as an example of how Mash Ups are more than simply ‘folk art’,  but also viable within a professional milieu (might as well put that BA in Literature to work

Consideration of the obstacles that Advertising (marketing, pr, synergy, integrated, etc) Agencies present to the actual adoption of new communication practices… broad, needs to be narrowed a bit, but essentially the Agency as Broker is not in a leadership position because it follows the money, instead of attracting it. A call for a revision of the basic business model within agencies and the difficulties in monetizing the model.

Communication breakdowns resulting in application out outmoded Print-based expectations on the interactive communication process.

More to come. Time to work.

Tomorrow marks reentry

After 2 full weeks away, I go back tomorrow to the grind in my new job as an Interactive Producer. After a month on, then two weeks off, I wonder at what it is that I’ll return to find. Two of my three projects were in controlled explosion mode just before I left… we’ll see how it all nets out.

I’d like to get to some kind of a schedule with these projects. I’d like to not be running from emergency to emergency. I suppose a good portion of this is my own learning curve as I’m trying to settle into the role of Producer better. Who knows what I’ll find when I return, whether I’ll be seen with relief or else if the aggressors of the past will sense the momentary disorientation and weakness in the waters again and try to pounce.

I’m also back from Canada, which means that my summer homework begins. It’s time for me to figure out what it is I’ll be doing for my final project in the fall, and get any baseline research done for it. Since I’m being led gently to produce a website instead of a thesis (I really don’t want to be a designer of websites for a living, I really don’t) I can vary the topic pretty much without losing points, so to speak. I mean, I could just opt out and do a “portfolio” website, but I have to admit that the less coding and actual production work I do myself and the more I coordinate the efforts of others along those directions, the happier I am.

So it’s time to enjoy the last day of laziness, and get back into the swing of things for tomorrow bright and early.

If only the swimmer’s ear were fully healed up. It’s going to be a further sign of weakness in the shark pools of the office if I can only hear out of one ear. But that’s getting better too.

Semester finally ended for me.

I know that classes officially ended about a month ago, and I’ve had my grades then, but the breakneck pace of impossible workload and stress levels that I’ve been carrying around for a while have finally passed completely through. The move started it. Then coursework compounded it. Poverty exacerbated the issue, followed by frantic scrambling to come up with some form of income for subsistence. This actually landed me into a new job during finals prep, and that new job has sucked away every waking hour since my start date of April 28th.

New Job

I’ve been working as an Interactive Producer. Web-based Project Manager. I’ll leave the company name off, but suffice it to say that I was rather spoiled by the amount of business process which TracyLocke had already fleshed out even regarding the Interactive workflow… and they weren’t anywhere near where I would personally have liked to have been. Well, my current job puts TL’s level of togetherness in definite perspective.

As a condition of hire, I gave myself two weeks vacation that I am now on. I had a personal visit to Canada scheduled to come and see friends, and that’s right where I am. It took me a full weekend to get to the point where I could relax enough to realize that I’m on vacation, I don’t need to obsess about work, and the projects will either move forward or they’ll bog down, but for the next few days that’s not my concern.

Finally, some rest

So, from the weeks preceding the actual move to the new apartment back in March, until now, I’ve been feeling stretched well beyond capacity, forced to put up with impossible tasks, stressed out at unrealistic (and unwavering) deadlines, and come to realize just how insanely fast the rat race has become in the digital world. Ahhh…. rest.

I think I need to figure out a way to make haste slowly. I don’t get rushed well, I’ve noticed, because I’m already rather productive to begin with, and whips and screams don’t motivate me to overdeliver. In fact, as I’m getting older, I’m getting much more testy about such things and immediately push back to set expectations. Of course, I’m still in advertising, where “No” is not allowed, and so on it goes.

But not today. Not tonight. And not tomorrow.

Canada is rather lovely at this time of year.