— 5 graduate Cultural Studies projects
— 22 Media Studies term papers
Not bad. It’s not out of the question that I could be done by Monday.
As usual, though, the nearness of the finish line is resulting in my slowing down rather than speeding up, distracted by thoughts of what I’m going to get to do once I cross it. And here’s where I could use your help. Because I figure if I get the internet to think about this problem for me, maybe I can concentrate on my grading instead.
Unsurprisingly, the problem has a long history, detailed below the fold, for the intrepid.
Here’s the deal: I’ve gotten a collection of smallish grants that I’m using to do some retraining. I want to move back into multimedia work, on the production side, a desire sparked in part by my desire to move forward from the old project (which focused on the relationship between the novel and television) into a new one (imagining potential relationships between or hybridizations of the novel and the computer), and in part by my ongoing interest in the possibilities that electronic textuality presents for the survival of academic writing. In part, however, this change in direction is sparked by a kind of critical nervous breakdown that I’ve suffered this year, which has left me quite convinced that the further writing of scholarship on my part would be (a) utterly pointless, and (b) doomed to failure.
To put that more positively: I want to make something.
A bit of backstory, perhaps. My undergraduate degree is in English, with an emphasis in creative writing; at the time I was very heavily focused on fiction. I went on to do an MFA in creative writing, focused on playwriting and screenwriting. Afterward, I did time in Hollywood, working as the assistant to the director of creative affairs for a major studio’s television wing; I read and wrote coverage of the made-for-TV movie scripts that were so bad no one even considered making them, and generally decided that I hated the industry with a passion. And really seriously hated being chained to a desk, with regular hours, and business attire, and so forth. And I had the vaguest sense that I wanted to go back to writing, but didn’t have enough imagination to figure out how to do it from that position, and didn’t have the guts to let myself work some McJob and just sweat the writing out.
So back to grad school instead. During the doctoral program, I worked for several very significant multimedia companies, but it was clear that my “real” work, the work I was studying to do, was scholarly in nature. And I have no regrets about that choice — I’ve loved the work I’ve done for the last 12 years, and I’m thrilled with the position that I’ve managed to make for myself, particularly the part of it where I now have tenure and can roughly do pretty much what I want. But twelve years is a long time to let the creative impulse lie fallow, or to channel it in only scholarly directions. I need to let it run free a bit. And over the course of the last year, at the worst moments of that critical nervous breakdown, I realized that the things that I was doing that were really making me the happiest, the things where time just vanished as I got completely sucked into the work, were all web production oriented.
It’s taken a while to sort out how to begin such a transformation, but I’ve managed to sketch out the beginnings of a path, at least. I’ve written a couple of grants, one for some equipment (the computer alluded to in a previous post) and one for some retraining. And I’ve actually gotten both of them. The equipment money is easy to spend, but the retraining money is a little harder, and here’s where I need some input.
I’m going to be spending some time this summer working with the Labyrinth Project folks, studying their production process and so forth. And I want, by the end of the summer, to have sketched out a multimedia project that I’ll take up during my spring sabbatical. But I also need some technical retraining, to get (in some cases back, and in others, for the first time) up to speed with the key production packages and technologies in use today.
— What are the indispensable packages that I should learn? I’m assuming Photoshop, Illustrator, and Flash, but what else?
— Is Director dead? Or would it still be useful to learn?
— As to programming languages: the only language I’ve ever formally studied was COBOL, way back in college. (Yes, I’m old. Shut up.) I’ve basically taught myself HTML and CSS (though the latter only imperfectly). From a cursory look around, it seems like it would be useful for me to get familiar with PHP and MySQL. What else should I pick up?
— What are the best (and I suppose by “best” I mean quickest) ways of learning these things? I’ve got funding, so I can do this through short courses, if that’s best, or whatever. But what have you found to be best?
I’m excited by these prospects, to say the least, and looking forward to looking forward. Of course, the first thing I’ve got to do is finish grading, so back to it.