Crippled and crazy, we hobble toward the finish line, pen in hand. -Siri Hustvedt
This last Week-
Was not a fun one. I redesigned my entire site. Again. And I was doing so well fighting the urge. I categorized everything and even put some instructions in the welcome page. I did my first book review. Naturally, it was on Stephen King’s On Writing. I also did a review of Netflix’s The Punisher series. I also posted an article under “religion” that explains why the King James Bible and William Shakespeare might have more in common than we think. I did a post that expanded my info on what a wunderkammer is all about. I did a post about social media by putting my final project from a class from last fall on the site, reformatting it, and adding a few things here. I reviewed the movie Ready Player One. And I’ve been dreadfully sick since like, Saturday night, so there’s that. Now onto the nitty gritty.
My plan was to post an interesting thing at least once a day to my online “wunderkammer”, along with scholarly posts 3 times a week or so. I set out to develop this website much like an actual “wunderkammer”, one that drew you in and had you clicking on more things the longer that you visited. That didn’t go over so well. As the song lyric goes:
I had the best laid plans this side of America…
The project proposal was simple enough: create an online “wunderkammer”. Explain it in a way that everyone knows what they are for. Make the concept and content enjoyable for others. My executive description section went like this:
Executive description: By using a separate blog to host this project, I can provide a different look to the interesting parts of the internet and relate academic readings to them. A blog will work best for this because sometimes informal writing is necessary for the subject at hand, and I want to re-arrange my “wunderkammer” myself.
And that it did. It did work well this way. I cannot imagine having done this on a wiki. I had a WordPress site hosted, found a name, and went to work. Clearly, the right choice for this was a gallery set up of some sort. But which one? The choices as how to proceed were overwhelming. Every time that I thought I had the design down, I saw something that I didn’t like and shelved it, replacing it entirely, over and over again, only to finally settle on the design that you see now, this last weekend. So, if anything, I feel that I accomplished this section of my proposal.
HOW IT WENT.
Well, very slowly at first. It kind of reminds one of this struggle. But I kept going, increasing quantity and quality of material as time went by. In reality, it went incredibly slow, all the time. I just could not help myself. I had to pour over every little detail and try to get it just right, to the point that entire days were spent obsessing over this. There was so much more that I wanted to do, but between the obsessive redesigning and my constantly chasing a shiny squirrel, I was lucky to come out of this project with my sanity intact.
I enjoyed finding ideas for the site. I would find something that I thought would be useful and create a placeholder for it on the home page by making the home page a gallery page. I ended up with 14 sections, once I actually organized them.
Well, maybe that was a lie. I really enjoyed exploring the academic side of this project. I finally found out more about the “If a tree falls” question. George Berkeley was a fascinating read, and to notice that the “if a tree falls” question, while still being similar in thought, ended up being a victim of a centuries long telephone game was fascinating to me. The quote:
…The objects of sense…exist only when they are perceived; so the trees are in the garden and the chairs in the parlour only as long as there is somebody there to perceive them. When I shut my eyes all the furniture in the room is reduced to nothing, and merely from my opening them it is again created.
Proving that certain objects exist was part of the reasoning behind a wunderkammer, even if Berkeley’s point about the objects in a room being reduced to nothing when one closes their eyes is still valid.
Michel Foucault certainly had a way of explaining things. His piece “Of Other Spaces” fit the project very well. I wrote
When you write about you’re daily life, you represent different aspects of the world around you. Different parts of your life exist in your writing there, yet it remains separate from your life, outside of it, yet it is possible for anyone from your life to find this blog. Thinking of it this way, a “wunderkammer” can be a heterotopia. A wunderkammer, set up well, is an interesting collection of things, showing deeper mysteries of the world, and/or deeper mysteries of its owner. It contains part of his life, his different interests simultaneously represented. They are rearranged in a way that draws you further in, learning more about certain subjects and it’s owner as well. This online version of a wunderkammer is ideally set up the same way. I’m hoping to draw you in and show you different aspects of the world and it’s wide web (see what I did there?). There are things out there on the internet that the content in these websites represent different real life objects, yet because they are merely a representation, they of course are outside the thing itself.
I have a bad habit of getting lost on fascinating topics, clicking and clicking over and over to the point where most of my evening is gone, thanks to reading, quite simply. Other people’s online “wunderkammers” apparently are very enticing and also use the concepts in Foucault’s piece very well, even if they weren’t aware.
SIMULACRA AND SIMULATION by Jean Baudrillard has fascinated me ever since I started grad school. The concept of Disneyland existing to prove that reality is real is mind warping. Having something exist in your mind that is a copy of the real yet it is more real than the thing itself simply because that thing is not near you and thus ceases to exist can leave one’s head spinning for hours. The best part of the book? The opening
The simulacrum is never what hides the truth-it is the truth that hides the fact that there is none. The simulacrum is true. -Ecclesiastes
First of all, one would wonder, “Why would he quote Ecclesiastes to start his piece?” One quick search of google and you find that many others have that same thought. Then, you look it up yourself, to see if it’s in the bible, and you find out that it’s not. Then you wonder why he would do that. Then this class made me realize that he proved his point by using it. It doesn’t matter if it is the truth. The truth conceals the fact that there is none. Much like the “unicorn” horns in wunderkammers of old, the truth is in font of you. It doesn’t exist outside of that. It doesn’t matter if the things that I look at in my online wunderkammer are in reality. To the visitor of my website, they exist. They are the truth.
Writing for a perceived online community was always a challenge. With this project, I was forced to explore more, to add more knowledge and with that knowledge depth to my posts. I had always shied away from WordPress, simply because it was not simple enough. I wanted something quick and painless. Which is good from a certain point of view, but not for an academic setting. Learning WordPress in a classroom setting is probably the best thing that has happened to me in grad school. I know that it wasn’t just the material. If it were I would have used WordPress more a long time ago. Professor Morgan made it interesting to me, so I went with it and was rewarded with an engaging experience. It’s too bad that he’s retiring, I’d take any class he teaches after this one, such a good and rewarding experience, despite the frustrations. This project ended up being more personal than I thought it would. Perhaps that is why I had a hard time moving past the little details stage, I just couldn’t let my baby go out in public looking like that. If I go on to a doctorate, if my poor and tired mind could handle it, I’d seriously consider something in social media and websites because I do not think that there are enough of these classes to go around. I’m excited for what the future holds even if I’m crippled and crazy with my pen/keyboard in hand as I hobble towards the finish line.