Reflection: Lasting Thoughts on DS106

Before I start critiquing the work from both Jim Groom and I, I would first like to say that DS106 was truly a pleasure. It is very rare in college that I can say that I’ve truly enjoyed a class and gained something valuable from it at the same time, and I give DS106 the honor of completing both of those. Anyone who is reading this and debating whether to take the course, do it. From listening to the lectures, to taking daily shoot photos, to doing mash-ups, I have truly enjoyed every part of this class.

About the course itself, elaborating what I’ve previously said, many classes in college are taught straight from the textbook, with weekly quizzes and readings. The repetitiveness of it all can seem monotonous and sometimes I feel a lot of it is useless in a real-world environment. But sometimes, you can find a class that break from the mold and teaches you not just vocabulary or formulas, but experience. This is the kind of class where DS106 operates under. I found the lectures of the class incredibly interesting, because they were so realistic. Professor Jim Groom would often talk about real-world things that we all knew of, and increase our understanding of it despite the fact that it was something that we were so used to. For example, I especially enjoyed his lecture on Twitter and how the simple website had a huge effect of international affairs. He would also discuss intuitive ideas that were built upon things on the web, such as the website that can tracks who is away from their houses at any given time by using Facebook statuses. Though these examples can’t cover an entire semester worth of lectures, every discussion Jim Groom had brought something new to the table that wasn’t just a new chapter in a textbook, but rather an actual part of the real-world.

Continuing with the realism the class brought, much of the classwork was managing our own web-spaces. In DS106, one of the first assignments of the semester was to creating own own blog and domain. We added to them, we broke them, we changed them, we customized them, but most importantly, I feel that these web-spaces reflected who we are in some ways. We were asked to build a theme around our blogs and asked to create our own “digital-story”. At the time I had no idea what Jim meant by this but through the development of our blogs over the course of the semester, I s0on understood what mine was (and I will talk about it later). We then shard our own ideas and productions, commented on others, and then produced more. Through all of this posting or commenting, I soon saw why Jim is so enthusiastic about the Web. It is a reflection of who we are, and It is ironical that I am fully realizing this now when our first assignment of the class was to read an article called “We are the Web”. Again it is not often in a college class when you are asked to express yourself freely, and not bound by essay topics or parameters. We were asked literally to blog about whatever we wanted, and I found this freedom liberating.

That being said, the class had its difficulties and short-comings. My biggest complaint: the workload. Since from the beginning of the semester we were given assignments, some almost twice a week that involved long readings/audio or mini-projects that potentially could take a few hours, and on top of this our own website’s blog posts and projects we chose to do. I would spend many hours on DS106 assignments and many times stayed up to wee hours of the morning, cursing the name of “Jim Groom”. I tried very hard on these assignments and all they counted for were participation grades it seemed. So for those who did not try so hard on the work, they weren’t losing too much. However I will say that Jim gave just credit to those who have worked hard on them. Despite this, I feel that there was a lot of work in class and that matched with the work from my other classes, it really felt unbearable at times. Lastly, the cherry on top of it all was commenting. Yes, in theory it all seems very simple but many of the things people would write and create would be soooo long! For example the Google Street View assignment and the video commentaries were so hard to comment on just due to the sheer length of them (though mine were probably some of the longest). It was just too much to do just because the class assignments, our own posts on our blogs, and then commenting on the work of everyone else just took an incredible amount of time for one class. Lastly, I feel you need to tell and remind students at least during a few classes to look at the class syllabus, because last class when we were participating in a group reflection of the class we came to this topic and everyone sitting around me whispered to each other “We had a syllabus?”. A more advertised syllabus might keep the workload to be more manageable to students if they could know their assignments ahead of time and complete them early.

I also felt that the class time spent looking over people’s work in the class to be unbalanced from assignment to assignment. For example, we really drilled Web 2.0 into the ground we went over it so much, which despite the lengthy readings I liked. We also looked over everyone’s daily shoot photos everyday during that week, which was great to see some of the productions that I’d missed earlier. However, I feel that a lot of the cooler stuff in the class we didn’t go over nearly as much. For example we didn’t look over a single fan fiction project from anyone in the class, and I thought there were a lot of really cool ones. We also hardly looked at the Google Street-View presentations from some people, which was understandable to a degree because some of them were quite long (mine included). I know we had talked about the Google Street-View presentations in class, and I also thought the 9eyes website was really cool as well, but I still would have liked to have actually seen some of the presentations.

Lastly, I feel that there were some problems with the main medium of communication in the class, which are computers, and I feel these will increase since you plan to make your class almost entirely web-based next semester with no actual class time. I had a hard time in with the blog actually knowing “who was who” when I looked at work made by them or received comments from them on my own. I had a hard time linking the faces of my class mates to their blogs. The ones I knew were from the people who I had worked with in group projects, so maybe next year you should assign different groups for each project so people in the class can know each other and their respective blogs better.

Now to critique my own “digital story”, I would first like to say that I had a lot of fun with my assignments, and I think that as reflected in the quality of work that I produced. From the Power Rangers Recut, to the Dish-Washer story, to the Star Wars Techno Remix, I was very proud of all of the work I did for this class and I tried the hardest I could on each mash-up. Despite the quality of work I produced, the fact that I spent so much time on those mash-ups had downsides. One of the downsides was that I did not complete everything I promised. Along with the mash-up projects, I was supposed to produce posts relating to copyright laws and how they limit the read-write culture that remix-ers, such as myself, thrive in. Save one post, I didn’t really fulfill this obligation. The fact that it received no comments also discouraged me from writing them, and I found creating my own mash-ups much more interesting. This brings me to my next downside, which is that I had a lack of comments. This is for the same reason, that I just spent so much time on my class assignments and mash-ups that I really had no time to comment after it all. I stayed up to the wee hours of the morning multiple times throughout the semester creating these mash-ups and class assignments and by the end of it, I was so tired I was physically unable to comment. However, I feel that the effort that I put into my mash-ups more than makes up for the short-comings of my work. In retrospect, I don’t think I would have tried any less of my mash-ups but maybe I would have bought a little more coffee for myself to write about copyright laws and comment a little more.

All of this said, I’d like to bring my reflection back to what I first said about DS106; that it is an awesome class. If I had the choice to take this class again, I would say yes in a heartbeat. I truly have enjoyed myself in this class and I had lots of fun creating my own mash-ups and doing the class assignments. I feel that much of what we have learned in this class can be applied to a spectrum of disciplines because it is just so useful to know about our online culture that is so prevalent in modern society.

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