Agent Swift, Cyber-Security Analyst

For this week’s mission itinerary, I decided to complete the Visual Assignment “Pop Star Out of Place” (http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/pop-star-out-of-place/). In creating my concept, I attempted to juxtapose a pop star with a spy-themed setting to match our semester’s missions, and I thought a James Bond backdrop was a natural fit for this goal. However, I had some issues conceptualizing how to make any particular pop star stand out from the backdrop, as most could be cast as an atypical “Bond girl” due to their visual appearance. Instead of choosing an alternative-pop star like Lorde or Adele to be placed alongside Bond on one of his missions, I instead decided to try matching Taylor Swift with the tech team led by Q in the recent Bond films. I found this juxtaposition to work wonderfully, and calls to mind the wildly humorous InfoSec Expert Taylor Swift twitter account “SwiftOnSecurity” (shown below).

With a fleshed-out concept in mind, I used a photo of Q from the Bond films and searched for a business-professional photo of Taylor Swift which I could attempt to overlay onto the original photo. After finding an image of Taylor Swift which matched the “hipster-tech” styling of Q in an appropriate pose, I simply resized the photo to maintain pixilation quality, then I used MS Paint’s ‘transparent selection’ option to trace the outline of Taylor Swift before re-positioning it on the Bond film image. The assignment was of intermediate difficulty in my opinion, as creating an interesting concept and selecting appropriate photos took more time searching online than I had anticipated. The resulting image I created below matches a pop star with a spy-genre scene while creating contextual juxtaposition.

Agent Swift Visual Assignment

I find the subtle humor in a pop star with no known interest in cyber-security being portrayed as an analyst working through malware threats in a Bond film to be a successful attempt at this assignment. Having a pop star pasted into a similar situation with a less professional stage costume would indirectly disrespect female pop stars by redirecting the humor of the assignment towards potential intellectual shortcomings of a female in revealing clothing. Instead, by placing a pop star in a secret-agent scene in appropriate attire, the humor is refocused on the disparity between the situation presented and the public persona and personality displayed by a pop star like Taylor Swift. The contrast created is, in my opinion, both strikingly humorous and respectful of Taylor Swift asĀ  an intelligent, capable human being.

 

Week 1 Summary

The first week of Digital Studies was relatively smooth, though I had surprisingly significant issues not with setting up my own domain and Word press, but in figuring out how to actually make posts and publish posts with the accurate time-stamp (as the UTC provided automatically resulted in an inaccurate time-stamp). With generous help from the Digital Knowledge Center, I believe all of these issues have been sorted for the time being.

This week, I introduced myself with a selfie, a greeting tweet, an audio recording in which I shared some personal details about myself, and a Youtube video where everyone can play a quick game with me. The toughest part of content creation was creating the ideas for some of the media, like playing a game with the viewer for my video media. I believe creating an audio file on Soundcloud was the most foreign experience for me, but I learned the necessary steps relatively painlessly. All of the sites were fairly unfamiliar to me from a creator’s perspective, and I’ll admit that I was slightly disappointed Tumblr was not used for any tasks simply because of my own familiarity with that site (though I understand that the sites used were effective choices for beginner tasks). I will also admit Flickr was a nightmare for getting the correct photo URL used in my introduction, as logging out and searching for my own profile was the only effective means of getting a photo page URL which would work! Below, I link to my multimodal post (which also includes further introduction through Word press text), followed by the media I created.

My Multimodal Introduction

Hello DS106!

I then reflected on Austin Kleon’s article on showing your work to others, and principles which helped to effectively accomplish this.

Show Your Work Reflection

Finally, I discussed my own thoughts on the spy genre and speculated on its potential usages relating to our own Digital Studies 106 course, including ideas such as radio shows discussing spy missions or mock interviews with our own spy aliases.

Mission 106 Thoughts

In summary, I found the first week to require a bit of effort in order to complete all of our assignment components, but was quite manageable. I’m excited to potentially learn more about domain customization and further applications of Soundcloud in particular in the weeks to come!

Mission 106 Thoughts

Upon hearing that “spy” would be our class theme this semester, I must admit that I was both intrigued and intimidated by the possibilities. While not being a fan of the genre itself, I’ve enjoyed some dated spy films while noting spy films within the last decades which have taken the opportunity to go against spy story tropes with refreshing and humorous results. Recent films like ‘Spy’ and ‘Kingsman’ have both inventively deconstructed tropes of the genre by either balancing the significance of characters between males and females equally or by modernizing the gadgetry used in the classic stories. I certainly enjoy a good episode of the spy-workplace comedy ‘Archer’, as well. I’ve personally favored the spy trope of the female secondary villain-ess, a nuanced version of the double agent trope, which was the inspiration for the character Mirage from Pixar’s ‘The Incredibles’.

Mirage from The Incredibles

I find characters with a grey moral code, or a personal compass defined neither by singularly narcissistic nor humanitarian values, to be fascinatingly realistic portrayals of human beings within stories and the spy genre in particular. They portray a realism and an unpredictability that is refreshing to me in stories which are all too often simplified narratives of good versus evil. These kinds of characters, often female, can significantly alter the outcome of spy stories with their floating loyalties, which is also unique in contrast with the trope of the Bond girl, or the spy’s often-insignificant love interest. I don’t believe anyone can inherently be summarized as either good or bad, instead viewing us as shifting our balance of moral and immoral human tendencies with each new choice we make. That’s why this trope, while possibly insignificant at first glance, is a favorite of mine.

Incorporating spy tropes and ideas into our creative process sounds challenging to do successfully, but nonetheless an interesting challenge. It could be an interesting framing device for long-term projects, like radio shows discussing spy gadgetry or infamous spy missions, though I’m at a bit of a loss for how effectively the theme could be consistently incorporated in shorter weekly and stand-alone assignments. However, I think the results could still be incredible.

 

Show Your Work Reflection

Upon reading Austin Kleon’s “10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered”, I found the second principle’s notion of valuing the process of creation over a finished creative product to be most insightful. An unfinished work didn’t immediately seem valuable to me when reflecting on this concept, but his discussion on the third principle’s emphasis on daily creation directly supported the value of works in progress by sharing process techniques at various project stages. It can be a source of knowledge, as well as an exhibit of the technical challenges and triumphs one eventually achieves when they do finish a project, for others following along as an audience.

I also found the principles of teaching others your topics of expertise and learning to take criticism to be valuable reminders when creating projects for DS106. Using your own skills to help inform others could result in a more engaged and inspired DS106 community, and can inject fresh ideas and approaches into the minds of fellow students during each week of assignments. Taking criticism might not become an issue with our DS106 students, but fostering the ability to appreciate and draw insights from other students’ critiques of our own work can strengthen both our creative products and creative process over time. I don’t doubt that learning to appreciate critiques as helpful will make us all better at critiquing others kindly and honestly.

Lastly, the idea that we should tell stories to enhance the experience of those viewing our creative work was interesting, though not completely necessary from my viewpoint. A notable literary stance which has also been applied to other creative industries to some extent is the belief that authorial intent is meaningless; the creative work of an author should be able to be analyzed on its own without additional weight from an author’s personal interpretations. If, for example, J. K. Rowling decides to comment on a characters’ ethnicity or sexual orientation after publishing novels in her ‘Harry Potter’ series, the interpretation is as valid as any other person’s interpretation if the novel does not adequately support this analysis. The aforementioned example as been a source of debate in recent years, with some questioning the validity that Hermione is written to be an African American character from vague descriptive word choices or that Dumbledore is written to be a gay character with no literary support behind this interpretation in the novels. This stance seems to contrast Kleon’s advice, but in the context of DS106, I believe regardless that adding personal anecdotes about one’s own authorial intent can help other students to nonetheless understand the creative process undergone in making a given project. To some extent, the framing of creative products with contextual stories from the students who make them can be valuable as a result.

My Multimodal Introduction

Hello, DS106 people, and welcome to my UMW Digital Studies blog! My name’s William, and I wish you peace and good will on this semester’s journey through digital media usage.

Hello DS106!

I’m particularly interested in this web-based media class, in addition to a general education requirement, because it peripherally relates to my major and minor. It will be interesting to maintain this outlet for creative expression during my last semester at UMW. Listen to my personal introduction below to find out a few more details about me, then play my video to play a game with me!

Now that you know a little more about me, I’ll end by sharing a relaxing song which has become a personal favorite for me to listen to during the holidays or to sing whenever I need a break from classwork. Maybe it’ll bring you a little happiness, too.