Weekly wrap up: Introduction to Designing for the Web and Managing Digital Information

So, this semester I am doing three already amazing subjects at uni – Spanish 2, Designing for the Web, and Managing Digital Information. The last two of those subjects are for my major Information and Media, and are both very technical subjects. Because they’re so technical, if I do them properly I have the ability to use them as parts of my portfolio, which I why I am writing about them. With these subjects I plan on writing a wrap up each week outlining what we did in class, what I did outside of class and then reflecting on it. Yes, I know this sounds like an assignment, and if it were any other classes I would probably dread doing this and leave it until last minute, but I actually really enjoy technical subjects, so I’m happy to do it!
So, first of the introduction of the subjects. Both of these subjects are technical, and thus they require me to have a final product at the end of it. For Designing for the web (which I may refer to as web design) we must create a website that encorporates what we learnt from the first year subject ‘User Experience and Design’. For Managing Digital Information (MDI for short), which is actually a third year subject, I must use my knowledge gained from both Web design and Information cultures to create a database.

Web Design 

  (image from ashworthcreative.com)

This week was more of an introduction to the subject, outlining what was required, and what we would have to do for the assignments. We learnt about what an ‘Information Architect’ is, and that from the skills gained in this subject, we may acquire a job in this area when we graduate. During the tutorial we started working on codecacademy.com, learning HTML. I, however, have already finished this course on codecacademy (except for css) in anticipation for the subject (and used html to create a website), so I spent the time teaching my friend who was struggling a lot with it. Even though I wasn’t actually doing anything to advance my skills, I felt that helping my friend was very useful because I was able to refresh my skills. The only thing that I’m worried about with this subject is its connection to user experience and design. That subject was a first year, first semester subject, so I wasn’t at the best I could be, I was still getting use to univeristy and taking notes, and well, being engaged. At the time I didn’t realise the importance of the subject, so my knowledge of it is sub par. Hopefully I can get he notes from my friends, and refresh my memory, but if worst comes to worse I can always ask my subject coordinator for some help.

  (This week’s tutorial task. Is anyone surprised?)

MDI

I feel like this might be a bit of a difficult subject for me, as I personally am not as interested as I could be in databases and their uses/structure, however it is still an interesting subject. In this lecture we discussed the importance of correct categorisation particularly in regards to database, and how people find information through categories. In our tutorial we were given a sheet with 22 different images, and then asked to organise them into categories based on common characteristics. This was surprisingly difficult because of several reasons: we weren’t able to use subcategories, and they couldn’t be too broad and too specific, and many of the items could be in different categories. In the end, my partner and I decided to sort them by function (clothing/accessories, scenic art, portrait art, festivals/ceremonies etc). In the end we had about 8 categories, and even then we weren’t that happy with it, because many of the items could be put in different categories. Once we had completed this, we were introduced to a variety of different databases, and compared how they categorised the same thing differently. The thing that I found interesting was that there was quite a lot of discussion about what a document actually is, because in this subject we will partake in the ‘creation’ of documents. Luckily I had read ‘What is a document’ by Micheal K Buckland because of a conference I volunteered at during the break, so I was able to contribute to the discussion, however there were quite a few people that hadn’t so there wasn’t really much discussion to be had. I think this will be the most difficult subject for me this semester, because I’m not as interested in it as I am with my other subjects, but it’s still better that a theoretical subject!

Anyway, that’s all for this week. As you can tell it wasn’t that eventful, mostly because it’s first week, and not much happens then, but I’m definitely excited to see where it goes!

Bob Boiko: Information architecture is at the very center of the electronic information storm. Without effective means to structure and present the information we produce we are blown about by the vast quantities and the variable quality of that information. IA provides you a deep keel and a strong rudder to surf above the waves of information that buffet you.

I GM’d!

So, you may or may not be aware of this, but I am a part of a weekly RP. For all of those uninitiated, an RP stands for Role Play, like dungeons and dragons. Yes, I’m a nerd. But you know what, who care, it’s fun, and it’s a very good way to improve speaking and storytelling skills.

My group mostly participates in a Trail of Cthulhu campaign (which you can follow here if you’re interested). There are many things that I have learnt from my time playing Cthulhu, however that’s a topic for another post. This one is about my first time as a GM, or a game master.

I’ve only been with my group for about a year now, but I felt comfortable enough with all of them to have a go making my own one-shot. This was very interesting for me, not only because I’m not the most confident in my improvisation skills, but also to make the change from being a player character to actually knowing what I want to happen, and how to get from my original story to the actual ending.

My story was heavily influenced by twin peaks, wayward pines and haven – basically it relied on the trope of a small town with a big secret. This was probably the biggest thing that I was worried about – creating the terror and tension that comes with that trope. That’s by and far the hardest thing of writing an outline – figuring out if it’s going to be tense enough.

Something that I learnt very quickly into running the campaign, however, was that what I wrote didn’t really matter. I mean it did, but it didn’t at the same time. Let me clarify: It was important for me to write out a script for each scene, but not because I would follow that script, in fact I’m pretty sure I ignored the script after the third scene. It was important because I was able to determine what was actually needed to finish the story, as well as create the world in my own mind. That is probably the most important thing to do as a GM – knowing everything about your world without any hesitation (and then remembering it). Because I had written so much about the town, I can tell you exactly how many book are in the town library (398), the town’s special coffee (Half cream latte with a hint of hazelnut and a dash of vanilla), and the colour of the couch in the B’n’B (it use to be red, but has faded to more of a brown colour). This not only helped me create a more seamless story for the PCs, but also calm my nerves about improvising when I realised I pretty much knew everything about the town.

Another thing that I found rather interesting was the actual structure of writing a one-shot. There are obvious scenes where something needs to happen, and scenes that are used just to go to the next scene. This experience has actually changed how I’ve been viewing other media – I’m now noticing how these scenes actually work – there are scenes for character development, scenes to create the tone of the episode, and scenes to move the plot along. Of course there are other scenes, but those are the three main ones that come up over and over again.

Even though I felt that overall the campaign was a success, there would definitely be things I would change, particularly the final choice I gave the PCs. While I had a win and a lose condition, I did try to take into account the numerous the player characters might get there, and what they might do to either win or loose, however towards the end in order to try and push them to the final scenes, I panicked, and I think I made the PCs feel like they didn’t have much choice but to blow up the town, with them in it. To me, it felt too forced, and I wasn’t comfortable with how it suddenly ended. But that’s probably a good thing, because now I’ve learnt not to push PCs too much, and to always have a back up plan for them.

I really enjoyed GM-ing for the first time, and I’d definitely try it again (in fact I’m planning on writing a campaign for NaNoWriMo, but we’ll see how that goes). It was such a great experience, and I would definitely suggest it to everyone that has participated in an RP before, because it’ll give you a better appreciation for all that goes into what you only spend a few hours doing a week (spoiler alert, for a newbie like me it took me about 8 hours to write it, even thought I didn’t really end up using it all). And if you aren’t even a part of an RP, I’d 100% suggest getting into one, it’s amazing fun, a great way to make new friends and a great way to improve all of your skills.

Vera Nazarian: The world is shaped by two things – stories told and the memories they leave behind.

The Importance of Skye

AOS-ep-19

I am an avid marvel fan, if you can’t tell from any of my social media, or even this blog, but by far my favourite thing to come out of marvel is the TV show Agents of Shield. While it wasn’t the reason I first got into Marvel, it is by far the reason I stayed.

Much like most other series I enjoy, my favourite character is the more ‘nerdy’ one – Simmons who is the biochemist of the team, followed by the bad ass Bobbi Morse and Melinda May. And while she wasn’t my least favourite, Skye wasn’t up there in my top three.  Recently, however, I’ve been reflecting on the reason for this. And after watching a panel from this year’s comic con (which you can see here), I’ve come to the conclusion as to why. And it’s quite simple really, Skye’s narrative hits too close to home.

Throughout the two seasons, Skye’s story is about figuring out who she is – something that a lot of people can empathise with. However, it goes deeper than that. The first season Skye doesn’t really know who she is, but in the second season, she finds out rather suddenly. And she goes into complete denial. She doesn’t tell anyone, and tries to ‘fix’ it herself. She does eventually tell someone, who is then able to help her through it, and in the end accepts that she has changed and embraces it. Now that I’m writing it out, it really does seem silly to me that I didn’t realise sooner how close this story line is to my own – mostly in regards to my acknowledgement and acceptance of my queerness.

I didn’t realise that I liked ladies until I was about 16, and I would be lying if I didn’t say that I straight out denied it. I denied any possibility of not being straight, and I did so for several years. I removed it from my mind, or I cut off contact with people that made me think like that, and overall I majorly messed with my own head. Finally, after years of horrible thoughts about myself, and my personal place in the world, I accepted the idea that I might not be 100% straight. I told a few friends, but other than that I was still in the closet. But with my friends help I was finally able to accept who I was, and love myself for it. Because it’s your life, and are you really living if you don’t love yourself?

And while I’m not hiding anymore, I am still afraid. And that is why Skye is so important. There were people in her life that were not accepting of what she was, much like myself. But she was able to overcome that, and tell everyone what she had become, just as I hope to do one day. And it is because of this, not just physical, but emotional strength that Skye has is why she is such a role model to me. There aren’t many narratives in the world that I can identify with, and the fact that this is one (even though I don’t have super powers), on a show that I love is so so so important to me.

Before I sign off, I would just like to commend Chloe Bennet on her skills as Skye. The fact that she was able to perfectly show the inner turmoil that I’ve felt, and continue to give the character such growth, while still being able to show she has her own insecurities takes so much skill, and she has done it in such a beautiful way. I honestly couldn’t think of anyone else that could do as good of a job as she has done. This is a thing that many LGBT+ kids go through, and to have such a wonderful, lovely person to represent this experience is an amazing thing. So, Chloe, if you’re reading this, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Peggy Carter: I know my value, Anyone else’s doesn’t really matter.

*Note: Throughout this post I referred to Skye/Daisy Johnson only as Skye. While the writers have stated that they will now refer to her only as Daisy, I have chosen to use the name Skye in this post as this is currently the name that most people recognise her as.

Where Monsters Dwell (2015) Review


image from marvel.com

When you hear the word Marvel, what do you think?
Most people think of superheros like Captain America, Spiderman and Wolverine. But recently, during the massive summer event that is Secret Wars, Marvel has released a new short series titled Where Monsters Dwell written by Garth Ennis with art by Russ Braun. And while it hasn’t had much coverage, it is a fantastic series that more people should read.

Coming off my Agent Carter season 1 hype, I was looking for something that felt relatively similar, there is a surprisingly small amount of period pieces that have the same fun, action and lightheartedness that also starred a badass female lead. Well, Where Monsters Dwell gives you that, AND dinosaurs.

We’re first introduced to Karl Kaufmann, a womanising once-famous flying ace. He seems a bit down on his luck – he’s pretty broke, and he’s got quite a few enemies. And in comes Clemmie Franklin-Cox – a woman needing to get to Singapore. She has money, and he has a plane, so they’re in business. While they’re flying, they hit a storm, and accidentally end up in another realm – the Valley of the Flame. This here is where all the dinosaurs live, and where their adventure begins. With their plane out of order, we see as they try to get out of this land and back into their own, and it really is amusing.

Clemmie is by far one of the highlights of the series. Even though it seems to be set in an alternative version of out 1940s, Clemmie very much could be considered a modern woman – in the way that she won’t take no shit. While Karl is running around like a headless chicken trying avoid being eaten, Clemmie is already setting to work trying to repair their plane, or making use of her surroundings. She breaks the stereotypes of females in that period being docile and ‘women of the house,’ and definitely shows Karl that she can handle her own – something that he really isn’t a fan of.

That’s another great thing about this series – the banter between the characters. Because there have only really been two main characters so far, the story has been about establishing who they are, and their personalities. Unsurpisingly, these two characters personalities clash quite a lot. Both are very head strong, which makes their conversations even more interesting, and hilarious.

Honestly, when I first saw this comic, I was rather hesitant. I didn’t know any of the characters, and this Kaufmann guys seemed like a jerk, but I am so glad I gave it a shot, but it has been such a great series to read. I definitely suggest this to all comic book readers, especially those who enjoy anything to do with peggy carter, because it 100% fills that whole the hiatus between her series has left. Even though there has only been two issues released, this series is definitely on my pull list. It’s got amazing characters in a fantastic setting. I’m upset that I probably won’t see it after secret wars ends, but I will definitely enjoy the ride.

image from marvel.com

Secret Avengers 2014 Review

photo credit: marvel.com

I know it’s a couple of months late, but I needed to get my feelings written down, so I’ve decided to do a review about the final instalment of the Secret Avengers series.

This 2014 series was written by Ales Kot, Michael Walsh on Art and Matthew Wilson on Colour, and is honestly one of my favourite comic series to date. There are so many reasons for this, it would honestly be difficult to list them all, but hey, I’ll give in a shot.

I started reading this series after I finished Faction’s Hawkeye, and most of the comics in Black Widow’s history, and the fact that they, along with Coulson (aka Cheese), Fury, Spider Woman and Maria Hill were all listed as regular members of the team bumped this series right up to the top of my to-read list. Kot both perfectly writes the relationship between the characters, but also tackles individual story arcs in this series with the same importance. He expertly handles all of the characters, and gives the audience things to love about each of them.

Not only does Kot look at the arcs of individual characters, he also looks at the arcs of the relationships between characters. My favourite one has to be the relationship between Black Widow and Spider-Woman. At the beginning of the series Spider Woman is a ‘Secret Avenger in Training’ while Black Widow is a ‘Secret Avenger – Old School’, and because of this Black Widow treats Spider-Woman with almost kid-like-gloves. She doesn’t look at her like she is less, she is just worried about her, and feels a sense of responsibility towards her. In issue three however, she must let go of those feelings, and is shown to the readers in an unconventional, yet effective manner. Black Widow is able to “break through [her] fears and trust [her] colleague.” And because of this action we’re able to see not only the growth in the relationship between the two, but also their individual growth – which really is why I read comics, not solely for the plot, but for the characters and their development as well.

One of my favourite things about this series is the humour. Honestly, it is one of the funniest series I’ve read, not only did I find myself smiling at most of the jokes like I normally do while reading, I also found myself literally laughing out loud (and getting weird looks on the bus). I have to say, my favourite thing about each issue is getting to reach the narration boxes, both in general and when introducing the characters. Some notable introductions include:
Black Widow – Played by Scarlett Johansson, except when she’s not.
Hawkeye – not a secret avenger
! – Exclamation mark!
Maria Hill – Runs S.H.I.E.L.D. and Secret Avengers. Rarely sleeps. Please make sure you sleep enough. Sleep is important
To me personally, the thing that makes a comic book successful is if it is fun or not, and the humour presented here definitely makes it fun.

But not only does is this series full of humour, it also tackles the harder stuff. Coulson (understandably) gets PTSD after a close encounter with an alien-like creature. His arc follows his own personal recovery – from noticing that something is wrong, to accepting that he needs help, to what he goes through to help himself through it. There are questions raised about morality and belief systems. Not only does this series make you laugh, but it makes you think. This series also tugs on your heartstrings. Never before this would I have thought a bomb could make me tear up, but well, here we are #RIPVLAD.

I also need to point out how amazing the art and colouring of this series is. I started reading this series when I was new-ish to comics. I didn’t really know what to expect art-wise, and we all know how important art is when attracting the reader. This style that Michael Walsh and Matthew Wilson used not only fits the humour of the story, but in essence brings the story alive. It would be one thing to read this series without the images, but the way that Walsh and Wilson work so effectively seamlessly links the words to the action, a task that is very hard to accomplish.

I know I’ve stated it before, but I’ll say it again, this series is one of my favourite comic series I have read to date. It hooked me from day one, and I am so glad that I kept up with it because it was an amazing ride. For me I would have to say the final issue was very bittersweet. It was a great way to see how they managed to wrap up the series, tie off all the loose ends, and leave everyone happy (Including Vlad, don’t worry). But, I would be lying if I didn’t shed a tear or two, the end of this series meant I wouldn’t get to see what my favourite group was up to next. But at least I know they are happy.

Ales Kot: “This is good. This is really really good” (Final sentence of Secret Avengers 2014)