Writing for the WWW

scary black spider

Dear Readers,

Hello. Okay, I know you may be wondering, where have I been? It has been three weeks since my last (and first) post. I am ideally supposed to be blogging more frequently about my fellowship experience. What has been holding me back? I’m dedicating this post to reflecting on that question.

Sure, part of it is balancing other work projects and milestones. That will always be there. But there’s also something more.

I mean, it is not like I haven’t over the past weeks written two different blog posts, both still saved in my drafts, neither published. When I think why, it’s that I just didn’t feel ready to publish them, and it’s this unease in unreadiness that gets to me. It is intimidating to me to have my words out there, on the WORLD WIDE WEB, forever and ever, where anyone can see them or read them, forever, especially when I have not been able to carefully craft them. It gives me what I’m calling

public writing paralysis.

What the life of words can be on the web is daunting to me. We have all seen our fair share of public figures being called out for something they said a long time ago (and I know this can serve as a social good too. And I know I’m not a public figure. But still.) I’m afraid of the possibility of being defined by what I write now as a 23-year-old in one of my first jobs out of college.

I recognize that this fear is a problem in itself.

Online writing is an act of courage. It involves the intellectually rigorous practice of organizing your thoughts. Writing in general can bring clarity and understanding, and doing it publicly and openly takes risk. You don’t necessarily know the life of your post or who will read it.  There can be a lot of unknown.

But there is also a lot of known. It is not really as much of a big scary world wide web as I like to think of it in my head. 99.99% of the time my educated guess will suffice. I know that my posts go on the Digital Learning team site, where maybe my team, some supportive people in my life, and the occasional site visitor whose attention has been peaked will read skim? them. (online skimming— thoughts on this another day).

I also know that there is room to mold and grow as a person on the web. Even though I don’t feel like there is room for this (hence all my fears of being defined by what I write), I know somewhere deeper down inside of me that of course there is. And if the options “Edit. Delete. New post.” aren’t enough for me, other options can be explored.

Ultimately, I like what writing on the WWW affords. Even if it scares me and I struggle with it. The open ambience of come one, come all. Stay or don’t. Leave or comment or don’t. Your choice. Here I am world and here are my thoughts. Also the potential for sharing stories across physical barriers appeals to me. It can open a lot of doors and has. I met a trans person once and I remember him telling me how much Google searches helped him discover himself and other people like him. I have also found so much help online. When I’ve been alone, or confused, or unable to understand things about the world, I’ve turned to the web. I have found help, support, community, guidance, and people— a web of answers and networks. People.

In light of all of this, I guess writing for the web isn’t such a scary thing after all,

…or is it?

Bitmoji at student desk with paper, pencil, worried look, hand raised.
Bitmoji of the Week: Basically me, with a million questions, concerns, and existential crises unfolding as I begin blogging again for the world. wide. web.

 

Until next time (you know if I ever move past my public writing probz),

Ya girl Fern

Ikra Javed ’18

P.S.~ You know, as it has taken me many hours to simply write this post—as I revised. and cut. and added. and I derailed. and rerailed. and I derailed again. and now am just going to post with how it is— it has occurred to me that I may be overlooking one slight bug that may also be a large part of my problem: scattered thoughts and the tension that poses for clear, clean, good writing.

 

 

 

My Digital Début (gone wrong)

Dear Readers,

Hey there! My name’s Ikra and I’m the current Digital Learning Fellow @ Davidson College for the year. I’m on the road to becoming a freelance web designer (that’s the dream), and this fellowship is akin to my first big step in that direction. For the year, I’m around helping our team (we sit in the Research & Design Studio in the library behind Fishbowl), and I’ll also be sharing my thoughts and insights, discoveries and reflections, and other bizarre or noteworthy occurrences here along the way. 

Even though my name’s Ikra, I like to go by Fern in my blog posts. In addition to me, there are three other people who help bring the better out in me. They are my teammates, 

Sundi, whom I endearingly call my boss,

Daniel, who’s kind of like my teacher/coach,

and Thomas, who’s also relatively new like me.

The four of us together make up the Digital Learning Team, and people always ask us what we do and where the walls are in our office. One of the things we do as a team are work sessions, weekly for an hour together, on our Digital Identity. On my own digital identity, I have been super slow on launching my top-level domain, even though I purchased it two years ago after graduation when we had the option.

So, I finally launched my top-level domain in one of our work sessions. I even tried to put a theme on it that I’ve adored & hoarded on my computer for years. However, it seemed the web had other plans in store for me. As soon as I uploaded the theme and tried to activate it, the whole site crashed and I immediately got this message:

 

This site is experiencing technical difficulties.

To make things even better, the message didn’t go away. Nope, not even after several hours. I actually had to uninstall WordPress on the domain and reinstall it. And honestly, I can’t say I was surprised. This is like

story. of. my. life.

Of course this would happen to me during my digital début. It was only befitting that my digital identity reflect, well, me— basically that line perennially in a nutshell.

“This site is experiencing technical difficulties.”

Although…

The site is experiencing technical, philosophical, existential, spiritual, emotional, ... difficulties.

 

probably captures it best 🙂 .

Until next time,

Ikra

or more bloggishly, ya girl Fern

 

Technical Note: Sundi and I never quite figured out why exactly that happened. My best guess was that I tried to upload a super old version of the theme and that crashed it because it was too old and incompatible with the new WP or had a lot of bugs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m back!

******crickets chirp*******

******2019 summer comes and goes, no sight of Ikra******

*****Ikra gets Digital Learning Fellowship, or better DL Fellow lands on Ikra?*****

***She is to begin blogging again****

Dear readers,

…and I’m back!

The time has come for me to resurface and revive this space. RE: Valentine’s Day site: still in progress. I didn’t quite complete it last semester, have an ambitious vision laid out for the whole endeavor now. When it will materialize (or should I say virtualize hehe)– unclear but not unhopeful. But that’s not why I’m writing to you.

I’m writing because…..I’m actually going to be doing a follow up post later today that is the my main “Friday post”…this is the interlude post to string together April (last post) to now (new post)!

Why hello again. I’m now the Digital Learning Fellow for Davidson College. (My professor Sundi from the class is now my boss…cool right?). As part of it, I’ll be blogging weekly about the things I encounter throughout the year. So, I guess that means I’m back for now!

 

bitmoji trapped in green jello
Bitmoji of the Summer Months: basically me in a nutshell. stuck and probably a little lost.

Sincerely,

Once endearingly Fern, now Ikra.

But I think I’ll still sign this one Fern? Something about it still feels right to blogger me.

Ya girl Fern 

 

 

My Coming of Age Tale

Dear Readers,

Hello, it’s me here. So it’s been quite a week, and I have been bouncing all over the place,and tangentially so has my digital project, but in a great, creative-energy bursting way. This week, for the THIRD time— I changed my WP theme on my site. The first one changed because it was a bit too retro. The second one was a minimalist theme but parts of it crashed when I switched to https, so it seemed best to switch again. That was all before this week; this week, I enacted my new theme, which itself took a while of reconceptualizing the site’s presentation. The content still needs to be put into there and I’m working on making a video now. I hope something of all these dreams gets done this week.

 

On to my more important story I’ve been dying to share with all of you ever since it hit me sometime in the wee hours of the night sometime in the middle of the week: I’m dropping the acts and the masks. I’m Ikra— yep, that’s the girl behind Fern and everything I’ve posted on here. I tried to find every way to run from myself, and I didn’t really realize I was doing that. First, it was the desire to narrate my project from St. Valentine’s voice— that quickly became impossible with my taste for literalism. I’m not a Saint, how could I even pretend without doing a bad job? Then, it was Fern speaking— but making a whole new Twitter account to just say everything I could say on my actual Twitter account to my class + 100s of other followers (many my friends) looking back just sounds ridiculous. If Fern is just Ikra, why not just be Ikra (on Twitter at least where she already existed). Why was I trying to hide my own life from myself and people who knew me so much? I’m still not sure, but my guesses: I doubt so much of what I do, am super conscious about it, and putting myself out there scares me. It’s an act of vulnerability, and well, I guess I just have a hard time being open with people.

I’m not really one to trust

but once place I have been trusting is in this reflection process and it has allowed me to be more open about a lot of what has been going on behind the scenes of my Valentine’s Day investigation. I’ve also seen the fruits of these process blogs, especially when— immediately after I had that lightbulb moment this week of using my actual personal Twitter account I’ve had for years @Ikrathinks— the funny thing was that  the first thing I thought about was how I couldn’t wait to share this in my process reflection blog this weekend. Yes, seriously— I even came up with a name for my process blog then and there…something like “coming of age” through the course (hence, this blog’s name). In the becoming of my project has been the becoming of myself. And this little spot on my domain is the sweet-spot that integrates the what I do with who I am, the place where I get to authentically speak and has become more and more dear to me as time has gone on. “That special little place” we all have somewhere in- or out-side of us has been, for me, this place, these process reflection blogs.

Alright, enough mushy stuff now. TTYL, got a lotta work to do in the finishing up of my website (for whatever finished means).

Bitmoji Cheering "Whoo!"
So me this past week, whoo!

Sincerely,

Ya girl Ikra

The Face Behind Fern 

User Testing– Super Confused

Hello ENG306,

I did some user testing of my site today. I am going to be moving to a new theme again because of a technical error but haven’t implemented that new theme yet, so my site was rather dry. From it, I realized that the appearance of the site was much better than the previous one I had, but my users (my two sisters) were generally confused about what my site was about. I tried to avoid doing most of the explaining, but it turned out that I needed to explain it to them after a while, so they could understand what I was trying to do.

User testing is so incredibly helpful, and I hope to do more of it in the coming weeks. I learned that I need to be very clear and straightforward because having a site on Valentine’s Day is already a bit different and it is isn’t obvious WHAT kind of information I am trying to convey. I got some good feedback of making sure I clearly, explicitly spell out what I’m trying to do in a sentence or two somewhere on the landing page.

I also received feedback on the new idea I’ve been working with on calling my site something like: Valentine’s Day: Jekyl & Hyde, to capture both the authentic sentimentality and value of the holiday but also the darker sides such as its imperialistic spread to other countries and how St. Valentine’s name has been co-opted.

 

I tried thumbs up Bitmoji
Bitmoji of the Week: This says, “I tried” in Spanish. Despite various technical difficulties, this week I have been working away and feeling good about it too. Looking forward to tweeting out my text soon and making more design changes.

 

Until Next Time I’ll be Swimming in the V-Day Love,

Fern

 

On Resisting Perfectionism

Hello ______________ (Fill in Your Own Name in Your Head Here),

So I’ve always known I’m a perfectionist, but I think it was really only in this week that I saw how much of a paralyzing problem it can be.  I almost didn’t want to go to class because I was so ashamed that I didn’t have a complete rough draft of my site content ready. I felt behind. Despite all of this, or perhaps because of it, I was encouraged by professors to still share what I have and not let that discourage me from coming to class. Suzanne, one my professors, encouraged me to embrace the unfinished, the partial, the not-quite-there yet and to still put my work out there. Her words, calling me to resist the urge toward perfection, have stuck with me ever since, and I hope they always will. In that moment when I read them, they struck a chord with me somewhere inside. “You’re not perfect, Fern, and you don’t have to be.” Wouldn’t life be so much better if I just took off those ridiculously-heavy shoulder-straps of perfectionism (that I have placed on myself btw)… and just took a breath, did what I could, and kept trying to better?

I don’t even know what more I could really ask of myself or anyone else.

It turned out that going to class this week was one of the best decisions ever. I got really good feedback on a lot things I was hung up over like my site name and how to arrange the content better, and it definitely wouldn’t have happened had Suzanne not uplifted me with her words and encouraged me to embrace myself and my work where I and it stood and to keep going. Thank you Suzanne and to people like her, from miserable perfectionists all around the world in need of taking off those shoulder-straps.

So all in all, some hard but necessary lessons learned this week. If I could just learn to inhabit the idea that I’m imperfect, flawed, and unfinished— and thus my work, reflecting me, will be that too, then I would really alleviate a lot of unnecessary stress in my life.

Me holding L for Loser
Bitmoji of the Week: I felt like such a loser the first days of the week, until Suzanne’s uplifting words struck some chords with me. So, let’s let this “L” be two-fold: standing for both the “Loser” I felt like for the first part of the week, and the “Learning Curve” I experienced thanks to a timely message from my professor that pulled me up.

 

Until Next Time When I’ll Still Be Resisting Perfectionism,

Fern

 

Designing, Designing & Now to Writing… (Fern)

Hello ENG306,

 

As I write this reflection, it has just hit me that I completely forgot to tweet for today! Wow, I guess I’ll begin with reevaluating my social media strategy. I now have a new Twitter @Fernthinks where I tweet about my project and engage with @dayofvalentine, my initial Twitter account that tossed me into an existential identity crisis for a week. I noticed that I either kind of tweet a bunch at once when I get on Twitter, or I just forget to get on for days (despite having the app on my phone and being logged into both of my accounts). My new strategy: I’m going to put alerts in my phone reminding me to Tweet and I’m going to try to make it a habit to come up with content for the Tweet before each class. This is because I have also realized that when I get ready to post something….ah! I never know what to post sometimes, and it feels like I’m just tweeting for the sake of not looking like an inactive user.

This week, we did a lot of prototyping and some user experience testing on Monday. I’ve found myself struggling with balancing the FORM/DESIGN component and the CONTENT part of the site. While I’ve been tampering a lot with my site and how I want it to look, I have not been dedicating NEARLY as much time to writing thorough, precise, clean paragraphs of content. I guess it’s just been harder for me to do it given I am not writing a paper. However, I like the challenges and new territory of digital scholarship and I’m looking forward to this writing intensive weekend I am about to have.

May the Force Be With You Bitmoji
Bitmoji of the Week: May the force be with me as I embark on this weekend journey of writing, revising, and having a first full draft of all my TEXT ready to go for Monday. And I totally feel like this was my week: battling all the challenges and WordPress struggles that came up this week with an optimistic attitude that the stars will align and it will all work out.

Cheers to that~

Until next time to the three people who have made it down here,

I am only more and more convinced no one is reading these minus my professors,

but I’ll sign it off anyways,

Sincerely,

Fern

Fern’s First Prototype & Social Media Adjustments

Hello ENG306!

This week was a tumultuous one…probably most obviously evidenced by the fact that my reflection post is coming in a little later than usual. The week was a challenging one in many ways— we had a CSS workshop, we built our first prototype, we continued our social media posting. On all three fronts, I experienced major challenges and difficulties. However, I’m hoping that this next week will be a little better because I’ve gotten my “feet wet” with challenging concepts.

I really loved playing around with CSS animations and realizing that learning a bit of short code could enable me to have really effects on my website; however, I still struggled in doing the homework as well as the activities during the workshop. However, it strikes me that this is probably a good thing. Struggling with new concepts reminded me again of the learning curve, feelings of discomfort, and general “stuck” feeling that comes along with growing and getting better at something.

I also met with Sundi to discuss the anxiety I was facing around my social media. I’d like to dedicate the rest of my reflection post to this major challenge I’m having now. Okay, disclaimer: I haven’t been posting MWF like I planned to. The first Wednesday I simply missed because I forgot, but then after that, I just have come into a state of slight paralysis despite my helpful conversation with Sundi. In my social media (and my website), I am taking on the voice of St. Valentine to narrate the holiday legacy that has grown out of him, in his name. While this started out as a light, helpful way to narrate a historical narrative (or so I thought), I actually began to take the task of impersonating a saint very seriously. I mean it wasn’t easy for me to post when I had no idea what a saint would be saying in this day and age, and I felt utterly unqualified to say anything. I’m no saint (clearly) and I don’t even know how to sound like one. Sundi helped me come up with a great solution: Fern gets on social media also! All of these thoughts I was (and still am) having in my head, I could then bring out into my conversations between St. Valentine (on Twitter) and Fern (on Twitter). I set out with great ambition to do that and then just kept thinking about it…as in I was still feeling weird about my prototype and how to do this whole thing of narrating from the voice of Saint.

After being lost in my haunting thoughts, I had another helpful conversation with a mentor in Germany who’s really good at imagining what a person would sound like today. He gave me some pointers and helped me get a sense of how I could go about having St. Valentine narrate his own holiday— so that has brought me here. And I am now going to finally get out of my head and onto Twitter to make that account.

And hey, on the bright side of things, I guess silence for a couple days isn’t that bad on a social media account of a saint either, if it was purposeful (which it was more the result of my paralysis). I am optimistic of a good week ahead! Seeds are being planted in the garden of our digital sites now, let’s see the flowers that spring out of them.

Self Bitmoji Saying "Hmmm"
Bitmoji of the Week: Being completely lost and haunted by the conversations in my head.

Until Next Time (Next Week Really) Eng306,

Sincerely,

Ikra

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