Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Photo Essay Purpose Statement

Purpose Statement
            I intend to appeal to an audience of primarily gamers and tech savvy individuals. The context of the photo essay will be a blog using photos with short text captions. My goal for this photo essay is to show people the benefits of taking on a do it yourself project compared to going out and spending more to get less. The photo essay will be a story of how I built my own computer and hopefully show the audience that it is not as hard as it looks. Additionally, I want the project to show how much more value you can get for your money by doing it yourself instead of buying a prebuilt computer or video game console. I will use my blog as a medium since the target audience is active on the internet. I produced the communication by taking pictures of steps throughout the project.
            I expect the evaluation of the assignment to look at how well defined my argument is, how well that is conveyed through the essay, and whether or not I make my argument effectively. More specifically, my ability to make something that someone from the target audience can look at and make sense of. My use of rhetorical devices will also be evaluated. The included price comparisons and notes of versatility are examples of logos. The completion of the computer build itself serves to appeal to ethos in showing that I am competent. Using humor and emphasizing the pride and feeling of accomplishment falls under pathos. Additionally, I expect that the overall look and presentation of the photo essay will have a large impact on the evaluation. My ability to use ethos, logos, and pathos with photos will also be evaluated.
            It will be difficult to show this as an argument and not just a bunch of pictures of me doing a thing. The essay will begin with pictures I took in stores of prices of video game consoles and some games. From there I will show pictures of the build process from start to finish. I will include some pictures of myself to convey a bit of emotion.

            I have tested the effectiveness of the communication by creating a version to be posted on various computer and gaming forums. In doing this, I have found an easy way to reach the target audience and to see their reactions to it. The reactions have been largely positive. Additionally, there was the class peer review. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Back in the Game



 Sometimes I just want to sit back and relax. Crazy, I know, but after school from 8 to 2 and work from 2:30 to 8 sitting back and watching a movie or playing a game sounds pretty nice. This is what brought me to a bit of a dilemma. My old gaming laptop died last year, leaving me with my school laptop that can not play modern games, and a Playstation that might as well be called the Netflix machine. All the long days take a toll and I wanted something for myself so off I went to my local store only to find that the current generation of video game consoles cost more than the television I was planning on connecting them to. $500 to play some video games? That doesn’t even include actually buying some games for it! Frankly, it is ridiculous. I have bills to pay, house hunting to do, and a wedding to plan, there is no way I could justify spending that much on something just for the sake of video games.

         Instead of sulking off defeated I took it as a challenge. I set myself a budget of what an Xbox One and two games would cost, $600, and built myself a fine computer. There is so much more value in that, so much more usability. I hear the naysayers now “oh Travis, you can’t play the shiny new games with that budget! There won’t be enough power!” and I respond you are wrong good sir or madam, times have changed and there have never been so many powerful and inexpensive options as there are now. I know the idea of putting a computer together seems intimidating to a lot of people as well. However, there are literally thousands of articles, how to videos, and guides all over the internet covering everything from picking your parts to the final assembly. The assembly and getting it running took about four hours, so it can be done in a free afternoon and all you need is a screw driver. If you just absolutely love sitting on the sofa to play a game, plug your computer into your TV and plug in a USB gamepad or an old Xbox360 controller; I promise, it works. Once you consider productivity ability, the computer is pretty much a landslide winner compared to anything else. You can use it for work, school, and whatever else you want. The bottom line is that building something yourself is less expensive in the long run, has a lot more usability, you can customize it to fit your needs, and you get something you can be proud of. That last part was the most important thing to me. I wanted to feel like I accomplished something, not like I just wasted a bunch of money to open up a box and plug it in.

So take a look and hopefully you will see there's nothing to be scared of taking on a little project like this yourself.

Figure 1. Ridiculous. What the devil is this!?

  Figure 2. What!   $500!?                 


Figure 3. Controller 
That better be the most amazing controller ever created.

Figure 4. What a bargain.
I guess that is less bad?

Figure 5. Underwhelming Options
WOW! There are 15 whole games to choose from. I am not impressed.

Figure 6. Puzzle Pieces
Here we have the puzzle pieces! Thank you free shipping!

Figure 7. Find the Fit
Think of a puzzle, the pieces go in the spots where they fit.
If it is hard to put something somewhere, you are probably doing it wrong.

Figure 8. Screw
All you need is a screw driver.

Figure 9. Proof
Proof it was me! I put everything together on my kitchen table.
Any flat surface will work but avoid carpet.

Figure 10. So Nice
This looks a lot nicer than the inside of an Xbox.


Figure 11. Cable Management
Velcro and Zip ties make everything prettier! When you look around online, you will see a lot of sloppy cable management. Take some pride in your work and clean that mess up!

Figure 12. Pride
Here it is, completed. Not everything goes according to plan though. You might notice that I cut a hole in the side of the case. While it does look sort of cool, I did it because that heat sink didn’t quite fit. That’s part of the fun though. The little surprise problems and the stories you get to tell about how you solved them make it special. Those stories are what makes it yours and if you do it yourself, you will come away with a much better story that "well, I went to the store and I gave a guy some money".

Closing Comments
       I think I did alright. I stuck to what I said I would do in the design plan. This concept is pretty broad, so it is hard for me to say this was totally effective. It would have been easier if I stated my goal would be to make people consider googling "how to build a pc". I think that, overall, people will get the picture.


Burns, J. (2014). Ridiculous. New Lenox, IL.

---. (2014). What!?. Joliet, IL.

---. (2014). Controller. New Lenox, IL.

---. (2014). What a Bargain. New Lenox, IL.

---. (2014). Underwhelming Options. New Lenox, IL.

---. (2014). Puzzle Pieces. Joliet, IL.

---. (2014). Find the Fit. Joliet, IL.

---. (2014). Screw. Joliet, IL.

---. (2014). So Nice. Joliet, IL.

---. (2014). Cable Management. Joliet, IL.

---. (2014). Pride. Joliet, IL.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My Experience with the Photo Essay

Well this started off pretty rough. Picking a topic was really holding everything up. Pretty much the only thing that I was sure of was that I had no interest in continuing my research into propaganda. It's depressing. With everything that is going on right now, I really just wanted to have some sort of fun and maybe actually enjoy doing this project. Life has been pretty stressful lately and I had been putting off spending the money to build a new computer for a while but this just seemed like a good opportunity. I got to do something fun for myself and I get to show it off a bit. That's pretty much a win win. As a little test and for practice, I posted a few write-ups and pictures to some PC builder forums this week. The response was very positive and it was nice to engage with an audience outside of school. My rough draft is a little um rough. I still need to add two pictures and I will probably rewrite the entire narrative. I'm OK with that though. It is a lot easier to write about something you're actually excited about. I really want to work on it to better convey that the project isn't just about building a cooler thing to play video games on. It's about doing something you can be proud of.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


            Propaganda is one of the oldest staples of communication. War time propaganda is usually the first thing to come to mind when people think of it. Mention the word and most people will imagine Uncle Sam saying he wants you or a swastika across some nationalistic message. It is easy today to brush these images off as products of past ignorance and fear. However, it is important to take a look at the past uses of propaganda to find the similarities and to see how they really work. Once the reasoning behind the images is shown, it is hard not to start to take notice of how these tactics are still being used today across all forms of media.
            The foundation of propaganda ensuring the audience only knows enough to be scared and capitalizing on that fear. By the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, stories of Japan’s invasion of China had become well known in the United States. Accounts of the Nanking Massacre did not require exaggeration to elicit fear. This poster, from 1942, draws on those accounts to stir fear and anger in the viewer.

This poster encapsulates multiple essential aspects of propaganda. First and foremost is fear. It looks like a poster advertising a 1970’s B horror movie. What gentleman can look at that and not want to save that nice young lady? Also evident is the dehumanization of the enemy. It is a lot harder to hate something when you remember it is human. The artist’s representation of the Japanese in the poster shows something more demon than human. The coloring, reminiscent of someone holding a flashlight under their face while telling a scary story, also serves to promote tension and fear. Overall, it is the simplicity that makes this poster such a classic example of how propaganda is made. Even a quick glance gets the message across. Here is a monster that is going to kill everyone you love if you don’t stop him.
            Nazi Germany tends to come to mind quickly when propaganda is mentioned. It would probably be hard today to come up with a propaganda idea that was not used at some point by the Nazis. A classic example is The Eternal Jew.

Figure 2: The Eternal Jew http://www.bytwerk.com/gpa/posters3.htm
The above is a Dutch poster for the 1940 anti-Semitic propaganda film. In parallel to the previous example, the population had already been primed by their media to receive a message like this. The common man could not just jump on the internet to do some fact checking. All people knew is what they were told. Unfortunately, there were not enough people that knew enough to make a difference. I do not think it is necessary to delve further into the common ideology of Nazi Germany in 1940. Given that context, it is easy to see how the poster was meant to work. The dehumanization is again clear in the twisted expression of the character’s face. The message to the person looking at the poster is that he is not like you. This specific poster makes use of the Star of David on the character’s forehead to suggest the mark of the beast. Even just looking at two posters, the common idea that a picture can be used to reinforce negative preconceptions is abundantly clear.
            To find a more recent example, here is a poster from North Korea.

This is immediately recognizable as anti-American. That instant recognition is common to each of these examples and an essential aspect of effective propaganda. The words next to the foot print simply transalte to "Wicked Man". The use of stark color is again used to create tension. In this poster we see the North Korean view of what the United States stands for. The footprint shows a country built on death, slavery, and nuclear power. The dress shoe itself serves to use jealousy that the North Korean government would of course deny, to promote hatred. This poster is directed at people who cannot afford socks. People that have been taught that their country’s nuclear weapons programs are meant as a defense against the threat of attack from the United States. People that have been absolutely denied access to real news. When you consider that some of the most commonly confiscated items in North Korea are bootlegs of South Korean soap operas, showing lavish lifestyles of people outside of the country, the message behind this poster becomes clear. The audience for the poster doesn’t get to have shoes because they live by honor, outsiders live off of suffering. We have the luxury of brushing this off as the ravings of a dying government but the people that see it every day have never seen anything else.

            In conclusion, it is easy to see the common ideas across propaganda from multiple countries and multiple times. This is unfortunately one of the timeless things of humanity. Fear and ignorance is always going to be a dangerous and easily manipulated combination. While we do not see such overt and old style attempts to control what we think about various groups here and now, it is important to remember that a key to these posters effectiveness was that the viewer did not think it was propaganda. 

Works Cited
Bytwek, Randall. “Nazi and East German Propaganda.” N.p. Web. 17 February 2014
Johnson, Robert. “Check Out These Twisted North Korean Propaganda Posters.” Business Insider. 2011. Web. 17 February 2014

SRL. “Maximum Advantage in Pictures.” N.p. 2 March, 2010. Web. 17 February 2014

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Who Wins a Debate

Last night there was a debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on the topic of young earth creationism. Bill Nye is pretty well known as The Science Guy. Ken Ham is pretty much the spokes person of young earth creationism and runs a "museum" dedicated to it. 
Here is a link to the debate if you have the time (introductions start at 13 minutes, audience questions are the last hour): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6kgvhG3AkI#t=37

Overall the debate went as expected; Nye talked about generally accepted scientific fact and Ham talked about his fringe views. 
But who won?

Sure Nye had science on his side while Ham's ideas aren't exactly the norm. Overall though I have to say Ham won the debate. To clarify, he in no way convinced me to even consider his beliefs plausible but I think he certainly accomplished his goal. 
To understand who won, it is necessary to identify what the respective goals of the debaters were. Did Bill Nye expect to sway every young earth creationist in the world to give up their beliefs? No, of course not. Did Ken Ham expect the debate to lead to the removal of evolution from school curriculum? No, he might be a little crazy but he's not stupid. Ken Ham wanted to draw attention to the topic. I really don't know why Nye accepted the debate. He said it was to protect the education system from influence of creationists. 

So who accomplished their goals in the debate? Ken Ham got hundreds of thousands of people to watch the live stream of the debate (around 300,000 at my last check when i was watching it), another 700,000 already on the youtube video, and I don't know how many via other mediums. He literally just had to show up and not throw up on stage to accomplish his goal. He reinforced what his followers already believed and drew a massive amount of attention to his beliefs from people of all kinds of backgrounds. 
Bill Nye was setting out to protect science from something that isn't really that much of a threat. There is very little evidence to back up saying that creationism has a negative effect economically on society through damage to education. 

So despite the flawed arguments and the lack of observable evidence to support his claims, Ken Ham managed to get potentially millions of people to pay attention to him. and he got me to write a blog about it. Well played sir. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

So I suppose I have responsibilities here.

I suppose the whole point of this is just to tell bits of my story and maybe somewhere in there, someone will find something worth thinking about. The only thing I would really like to convince people of is that they should think a little more. At some point I might want to write an explanation of why a Rolex isn't a dress watch or how my cat kept me from going crazy. So the point might be just to argue that some things are worth taking a second look at from a different perspective.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Listening to: The High Kings - Star of the County Down
Drinking: Some aggressively mediocre whiskey (I wanted the gift set flask it came with)

At this point it almost feels like there are too many options for where to start. My life is pretty ok at the moment. I have a job that I don't despise and I suppose that's more than a lot of people can say. Just changed majors from Air Traffic Control to Computer Science. I figured it might not be a bad idea to study something I actually enjoyed. I know it seems like a pretty odd thing for me to actually need to come to a realization about but eh.. I have a hard time with looking at a job or what to study for a future job as anything more than a way to pay the bills. Even enjoying classes a bit more these days, it's hard to keep that motivation up when i think about the fact that I wont be done with school until I'm 30. I don't regret the time I spent in the military but I will certainly admit it probably would have been a good idea to take a class or two while I was in. Hindsight blah blah..