Chapter 8: The Beginning of a New Semester
[Editor’s Note: Jeremy Johnson ’12 and Katlyn Lee ’12 are writing monthly entries for the Ripon College Newsletter chronicling their own post-graduation experiences. We hope you enjoy their perspectives on Life After Ripon!]
The end of winter break seemed to come too quickly. Just a few days into January, I was back to class, getting down to business. Doing the little things to start the semester smoothly—getting Penn State’s registrar to verify my enrollment for deferment purposes, buying a parking pass—almost seemed exciting… almost. I wasn’t sure what to think about my classes for this semester, but they’ve turned out to be pretty interesting. Those classes have really been the sole focus of my mind lately.
Again this semester I’m taking three seminar courses. One is in the historical development of rhetorical theory, largely covering ancient rhetorical theory from the likes of Gorgias, Plato, Aristotle, etc. That particular course is a bit of a struggle for me, not because I find the content difficult, but because it doesn’t connect very well with my research interests. I’m interested in digital communication, so ancient rhetoric is kind of a stretch. Nonetheless, I’m finding bits that interest me. I hope to put together a semester project that uses classical theory to explain current technological advancements in some way.
Another course I’m taking is called Textual Criticism and Analysis. The instructor, Kirt Wilson, is fantastic. It’s a bit of a doozy, though. Each week we have probably 200-250 pages of reading. We’re expected to write a blog for the class five times in the semester. We have a 25-30 page term paper due at the end of the semester, as per normal. The big difference, though, is a project we do throughout the semester. We’re supposed to pick a “text” (something that communicates, but it could be something like a film too; a better term might be “artifact”) to analyze over and over throughout the semester. In fact, we are to write six 9-10 page papers on the text, guided by various topics and questions about it. I’ve chosen something a little unorthodox, a video game. I’ll be analyzing BioShock throughout the semester as a communicative artifact. That technically means that playing a video game is my homework, but it also means I have to spend 50-60 hours playing the game throughout the semester. It’s certainly not the easy way out, but I’m passionate about the artistic value of video games.
The other seminar I’m taking is through our Information Sciences and Technology (IST) department. The topic is community and social media, so we’re talking about ways to envision community and how social media (broadly defined) impacts community. What’s cool about the course is that the students are expected to develop the class. Each week two students lead the class through a discussion on their topic of choice. The leading students choose a couple of articles and send them to the class during the week, everyone reads the articles (including the instructor), and we have a conversation about it. It’s definitely a different model of learning, but I’m really enjoying it so far.
Other than classes starting, January was fairly uneventful. Certainly not a bad start to 2013, but strangely nothing terribly noteworthy. My past month has boiled down to something like this: do a lot of reading for class, write a paper for one of my classes, play some video games, repeat. When the weekend comes around, maybe see a movie or go out to dinner. Such is the rhythm right now.
February looks to be a little more exciting than January, thankfully. The Super Bowl was fun to watch, despite my disappointment that the Packers were not playing in it. We’re also hosting Camp Rhetoric at Penn State, which is essentially a conference for people interested in rhetoric. I’ve been helping plan it for the past few months; hopefully it turns out as well as we’re expecting it to. I’ll actually be presenting at Camp Rhetoric along with Professor Steve Martin ’96 of Ripon College. We’ve been collaborating on a paper, so we’ll be talking a bit about that. In general, I’m looking forward to things picking back up. It’s been a slow start so far, but it shouldn’t stay that way.
Jeremy D. Johnson ’12