Reflection Essay

This semester, I worked hard to grow as a student, particularly focusing on how much and how well I could use more than one discipline to solve problems. In “Looking at Photography,” I used a combination of formal analysis of photographs, close reading of source texts, archival research into photography collections, and interpretation of their status and use as cultural objects, to look at some topics and techniques in photography that were something other than representational. I had to innovate when it came to showing the photographs I discussed, because the technology available did not allow for printing the images in color, let alone at photographic quality. So I created a Picasa album online to store the images electronically, and provided the professor with a link to that album. In this way, he could view the high resolution images in color while reading the paper. This also avoided the problem of the images interfering with the text, or having to flip to the back of the paper in order to view them. By the time I had to make that decision, though, I had been prompted in many other ways to use various media to their fullest effects.

In “Media Theory and Visual Culture,” I engaged my final topic, media literacy, by combining visual and textual analysis of media objects. I also employed close readings of both theoretical and architectural frameworks of the various media systems I examined, as well as interpretation of the intersection between technology and society. Weekly input in “Media Theory and Visual Culture” was also useful for understanding that intersection. The seminar format combined with the open-source wiki that we used as a platform each week. Each of us to could put our own perspectives on the week’s readings into an archived, malleable conversation that both supplemented and engendered class discussion. The visual reminder of how differently each student approached the topic of the week was an inspiration to diversify the ways in which I could work to solve a problem.

For my 505 midterm essay, I sought to bring organizational communications into conversation with interpretive cultural criticism, in order to describe GoCrossCampus as an example of an online “communications complex”. In this particular project, I failed take full advantage of the potential of the concepts I appropriated and developed, because I did not fully engage either specific discipline’s perspective before attempting to combine them. However, I cannot leave out the group project from a consideration of my interdisciplinary work this semester. In our case, we worked with criminology and social psychology to examine the phenomena of email and text message alert systems. In that group, the heterogeneity of our members led to success in dividing and combining our strengths, from the conceptual development of our project, to research and compilation of sources, to interviews and surveys of subjects, to technological construction of the presentation, culminating in the rhetorical delivery of the presentation. In general, the larger discussion section in which I participated this semester was just as successful, since our various perspectives helped to dissect the readings from each week as well as to clarify the broader contexts and specific implications of each module.

Despite mixed results and some ambiguities about my methodologies, I feel far more comfortable working between and across disciplines by the end of this semester than when I began in August. That comfort level has also translated into more confidence in setting my own goals and taking control of individual projects, solving problems, and valuing collaboration between other members of group projects. I am beginning to understand how a problem changes when more than one discipline begins to question it.

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