The Wunderkammer

A Digital Alchemy Lab

Alchemical Musings

So, we’ve been asked to write about our interpretation of the term “digital alchemy.”  My first experience with the word “alchemy” probably came in a sophomore science class in highschool.  I don’t remember much except that it was a medieval precursor to science that involved trying to turn lead to gold, which seemed totally plausible back then considering they thought flies generated spontaneously from rotting meat.  I think the idea of alchemy continued for a while, at least into the Renaissance when actual science starting popping up.  Don’t quote me on that, though.

Anyway, continuing with my vocabulary narrative.  My next encounter with the word “alchemy” came only a few months later when the brilliant anime “Fullmetal Alchemist” began to air Saturday nights on Cartoon Network.  It is from this anime that most of my ideas about alchemy come, including equivalent exchange, transmutation circles, homunculi, and chimeras.  The anime follows two brothers whose lives are changed forever when they try to bring their mother back from the dead by transmuting all the chemical compounds in a human body, not taking into account the need for a soul.  It leaves one of them without a body (their soul gets attached to an empty suit of armor), and the other loses an arm and a leg trying to save his brother.  They get embroiled in all sorts of adventures that always tend to invoke some kind of philosophical thought in viewers; it was like catnip for my teenage self.

My more modern interpretation of alchemy involves the idea of genre and media blending.  I’m a huge fan of “chimera genres” like magical realism (which combines literary fiction with fantasy), and most of my creative work takes place within that realm.  My favorite authors include Gabriel García Márquez and Karen Russell, both of whom are huge inspirations of mine for a number of reasons.  Last semester I took Dr. Zamora’s Intro to E-Lit class, and that showed me just how fertile the ground for media blending is in the digital age.  Getting back on point, I think digital alchemy is a way to blend literary and technological elements that otherwise would not come together in order to tell new stories in new ways.  Yeah, sorry you had to sit through a load of rambling just to get to that one main point…

As for the title of my blog, it also comes from the Renaissance era, when noblemen would collect curiosities in a “wonder room,” or “wunderkammer” in German-speaking regions.  Wunderkammern are a fascination for me, and I even call my personal collection of antiques, taxidermy, fossils, insects, and travel mementos by that name.  I figured that a perfect place to conduct digital alchemy would be a digital wunderkammer, hence my blog’s title!

Featured post

My New Little Alchemy Habit

Hello everyone!  I hope your “Spring” break was restful and pleasant, or at the very least productive.

In the last class we had before break, we started our discussion on games, particularly digital or video games.  The discussion was fruitful, with everyone sharing at least a couple games they enjoyed.  The most interesting thing I noticed during the in-class conversation was a widespread feeling of conflict between enjoying games and guilt about wasting time.  I guarantee this conflict is the result of our culture, where being overworked is not just expected, but praised.  Play is severely undervalued, and stress is a badge of honor.  I feel like we shouldn’t have to be apologetic about having and enjoying time for play. Without time for play, people become bitter and burnt out. The idea that games are only for children is no longer true.

Another thing we did in class two weeks ago was try out a game called Little Alchemy.  I wound up getting hooked on it, and I have unlocked over three hundred elements.  I’ve been playing it on my phone at home and in waiting rooms.


It’s hard to pinpoint just what it is about Little Alchemy that makes it so addictive and fun.  I think for me it’s the small-scale reenactment of the scientific process.  The player comes up with a hypothesis for which elements can be combined to produce something new; they test the hypothesis; and they are either correct, or they’re not.  Sometimes the new element produced isn’t what the player expected, which adds an element of surprise.  Sometimes the product is exactly what the player expected, which proves their hypothesis and creates a feeling of satisfaction and intelligence.  Besides the mini-scientific-process method, one can also just go down the line combining random things and seeing what pops up.  Little Alchemy is a perfect example of a game that stimulates the mind while keeping stakes low enough that the player doesn’t feel pressured.

I’m looking forward to learning about more games in the coming weeks, and sharing information about some of my favorites.  In the meantime, I’ll keep combining elements…

The Internet and Games

Well, hello! Sorry for the radio silence on here. We’ve reached the beginning of March, and that means it’s the beginning of our section on Games, which Justin and I will be moderating. It’s tempting to think only of video games when we discuss games in relation to networked narratives and online culture, but for my post today I’m going to discuss two other ways that the Internet facilitates gaming: Art Roleplaying Games and Fan-made augments to traditional table top games.

To borrow the definition listed on the reference site of the Griffia ARPG, “ARPG is a term that is short [for] Art Role Play Game and is used to describe a game in which you have to draw or write in order to complete written prompts that are referred to as Trials, Training, and Quests. By completing these Activities and receiving an approval from a mod, your [character] will gain rewards that will further their progress in the ARPG.” ARPGs share similarities with both video games and tabletop games, but are considered neither. Like video games, a computer or smartphone, as well as an Internet connection, is needed to access and participate in an ARPG; however, unlike video games the engine is not computerized. The “engine” running an ARPG is completely human, much like a tabletop game. Participants and moderators log points, progress, and items, not a computer system. Sometimes ARPGs make use of random number generators, but that’s as far as it goes. In general, the computer just allows access to and transfer of game-related information. Another way that ARPGs differ from both video games and tabletop games is in their method of play. Rather than fighting monsters by pressing buttons on a controller or rolling dice, in an ARPG one fights monsters by drawing their character and the monster, or writing about them. The artwork or writing is then made available to the entire network of players for that ARPG, turning individuals’ game progress into a community art gallery/library. To learn more about ARPGs, I would suggest clicking around Griffia’s reference site. Reading some of the resources there will give you a better idea of how ARPGs operate.

Tabletop games, like Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), have been around for decades. There is a unique feel that sitting around a table with one’s friends provides that not even massively multiplayer video games can compete with. That’s why tabletop games still thrive in the age of next-gen consoles. That, and the endless creative possibilities that tabletop roleplaying games allow. Ask any D&D player, and they will no doubt tell you stories about some outlandish situations they’ve found their party in, situations that not even the best video games could have rendered. In the eighties, what you, your friends, and your Dungeon Master (DM) created stayed on your table and in your notebooks, but today the Internet allows players to share their creations with the world. There are communities online where tabletop RPG players can share their adventures and even unique game mechanics. These fan-made races, classes, items, etc. are referred to as “homebrews.” If someone can imagine it, work it into the rules and context of the game, and share it in a way that’s easily understood, someone else miles away can play it. To learn more about this concept of making small-group tabletop games infinitely networked, check out this homebrew wiki.

I hope this has given you all some new ideas about digital gaming!  Although video games are wonderful and artistic, they’re not the only game in town when it comes to networked narratives!

Eponymous Topic and the Internet

So, as you can see, this NetNarr blog is called The Wunderkammer.  You can also see that some of my work for the NetNarr class (like my DDAs and one of my entries into the Digital Art Referencium) has involved the same term and concept.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”><a href=””>@netnarr</a&gt; <a href=”;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#dda150</a&gt; <a href=”;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#netnarr</a&gt; A raccoon skull (and other goodies) from my wunderkammer. <a href=””></a></p>&mdash; Katherine Marzinsky (@KMarzinsky) <a href=””>February 13, 2018</a></blockquote>

The wunderkammer (wonder room), or cabinet of curiosities, is a very important concept to me, and one that the Internet seems to be helping to come back from the dead.  The concept has its roots in the Age of Discovery (the beginning of the 15th century through the end of the 18th century), when noblemen often took up the mantle of amateur gentleman scholar to impress other noblemen.  They collected and curated objects from the “new” and remote places in the world, and they displayed them in “wonder rooms” or ornate cabinets.  These wunderkammern are seen as a unique kind of artistic curation because of the way completely different objects were displayed together without any context.  This stands in stark contrast to modern museums (many of which originated from notable wunderkammern) and collections of the Enlightenment Era, which concern themselves with categories and contexts.  Wunderkammern were not about dividing the world into logical collections; they were about presenting everything with a sense of universal wonder.  Yes, there were problems with this, particularly with the exoticized views of other cultures that wunderkammern perpetuated and the sideshow attitudes they took toward some diseases and deformities; however, the idea of slapping interesting things together in a room or cabinet to remind oneself of the wonder in the world is, I feel, a necessary thing in today’s world, where we often feel like there’s nothing new to discover.

One of the articles I contributed to The Referencium this week discusses the ways that the Internet has enabled a new, digital kind of wunderkammer to emerge in the post-modern world in which we live.  I looked into this idea further, and I also discovered ways in which the Internet has helped to revive traditional wunderkammern.  On YouTube, owners of wunderkammern can show off their odd and wondrous collections and communicate with other curators; no longer is one required to find other gentlemen scholars to invite into the home.  Online shops like The Evolution Store provide places for people to purchase unique items for their wunderkammern; one can place an order and have the weird and extraordinary delivered to their door instead of waiting for the next ship from the New World.  In the spirit of the 21st century, one can even purchase a sleek, handheld wunderkammer online.

I know I talked about the wunderkammer in the previous iteration of the NetNarr class, but there’s a lot of new people this time around, so I figured I’d talk about it again (I can never get enough of talking about wunderkammern).  The idea of the wunderkammer is also a theme that wove its way into a lot of the work I did this week, so why not?

One of my Favorite Things!

Hello all!  The previous week was a good one for digital alchemy, what with all our Twitter adventures and in-class research.

During our Twitter Chat, I got the chance to talk, or tweet…, about one of my favorite things: digital art!  I was tickled to see other users talking about DeviantArt (for those that don’t know, my thesis is focused on DeviantArt communities), and I loved that I could share a bit about my activities there and some of my favorite digital art.  I wanted to talk about the ways that Twitter has become an extended part of certain online art communities, particularly (you guessed it!) my beloved closed species (CS) communities, but I figured it might go off topic, so I’ll just settle for sharing a few examples here.  I’ll save the rest for my thesis blog.  As a bit of context, those two examples are Twitter profiles members of the Griffia closed species community have made for their characters.  It allows them to explore social media through their characters’ eyes, thus bridging fantasy and reality.  At times these Twitter accounts are also used as places of practice for civic imagination.  As an endcap to this little digital-art-themed ramble, I’ll share a piece of digital art I made, of which I am particularly proud.  Yes, this was for a CS community thing on DeviantArt:

Terradragon fly 4

Artwork by me, Terradragon species and design by griffsnuff@DeviantArt

Now let’s get to the next (related, but different) topic: the Twitter Safari!  I really had a great time with this activity, and it had some extra, behind-the-scenes meaning for me as well.  As can be seen in my Safari entries, each one includes a little snippet of lyrical prose.  That sort of writing was on the tip of my brain last Tuesday because I had just been struck by a bolt of writing inspiration on the way to school.  Well yeah, you might say, you’re in an English Master’s program; that’s no big deal.  Big news: IT IS.  I had some major health issues last semester, and those issues had been bubbling for a while.  My mind was in an awful place, and it had been at least a year since I had experienced genuine inspiration to write.  I’m not talking about “Oh, okay, I’ll write about this for this assignment; I’ve got ideas about how to do that”; I’m talking about true creative writing inspiration, the type where the words just smack you out of nowhere, pre-packaged in tasteful statements, and demand to be written.  It’s like artistic diarrhea.  A few years ago, that sort of inspiration was commonplace for me.  I wrote like I breathed.  I had artistic diarrhea enough that I had to carry a fucking pen-and-paper diaper to catch all my words and ideas.  I thought I had lost that ability; I thought life had beaten it out of me.  But I was wonderfully wrong!  Before class last week, I was feverishly writing a short creative nonfiction piece on a yellow legal pad with an unsharpened pencil.  The residual creative thought was used to make the comments on my Twitter Safari photos, and now they’re markers of the moment when inspiration finally came back to me, when I really started feeling like myself again for the first time in a while.

The Twitter Safari itself was a fun activity, and I can see it being a useful teaching tool (for those of us that intend to teach).  I liked the urgency of it, and I definitely would not change it to a longer assignment.  I think that would allow students to ignore it.  There’s something special about being told “Here’s 15 minutes; go find art in your boring-ass surroundings.”  It’s like a warm-up jog for the brain, or at least that’s how I’d use the Safari activity if I were to use it in my future teaching career.  One day the students could do a Safari instead of free-writing; I think they serve similar purposes, but in totally different ways.

New Beginning


This week has been a busy one!  Along with the new semester beginning, I also had a root canal, visited some friends, and started lessons with a new student in my private tutoring “business.”  Because I knew I’d have so much going on, I made sure to get my set-up and DDAs done during our previous class.

I went back into some of the older DDAs (at the time of class) and completed them, and then I did the in-class DDA as well.

Here are the links to my DDA tweets:




Of these, I feel like 129 inspired the most reflection.  Despite how often I use the Internet, I’ve never thought of making a map of it before.  In fact, despite the prepositions and terms we generally use with the Internet (“citizen of the Internet,” “on the Internet,” “in the Internet,” “visit a website,” etc.), I’ve never really thought of it as a place, but rather a thing or vehicle.  The Internet is such a large, nebulous thing, so I decided to make my map more personal, only the places that I commonly visit, or that play integral roles in my daily life.  In my map, I made my PC a spaceship, as upon further reflection, one’s computer is more of a vehicle than the Internet itself.  Each category of website took the form of a planet.  There was a home planet, a shopping planet, a finances planet, and a research planet.  The home planet included websites I visit every day, such as my email, DeviantArt, and Wyzant.  The shopping planet included websites I often buy things from, or that facilitate the acts of buying or selling, such as Amazon, Etsy, and PayPal.  The finances planet included the websites that allow me to pay bills and check balances.  Finally, the research planet included websites and platforms I use to complete assignments or conduct research.  In between the home planet and the other planets is an asteroid belt of random Google searches.  I decided to represent these random searches as asteroids because they could hit, or be related to, things from any of the other planets, or they could be ephemeral streaks of information that illuminate once, but are never seen again.

It was also really great to be back in the classroom.  I didn’t realize how much I’d been missing it until I was there.  The familiar faces filled me with a sense of homecoming, and the unfamiliar faces filled me with excitement: I can’t wait to share the unique NetNarr experience with them!  It’s like waiting for a kid to open their Christmas presents.






A New Adventure

Hello everyone and welcome to my blog for the Spring 2018 Networked Narratives class.  It’s also the same blog I used for the previous iteration of the course, but no one needs to know about that…

I had some health trouble last semester and had to take a medical leave of absence, but now I’m back and stronger than ever!  I’m looking forward to learning and writing with everyone, and I’m psyched to see this class getting underway for more Arganee adventures.

Letter to my Alchemist/Course Reflection

Dear Tycho,

It was a pleasure to host you during your visit to New Jersey.  I couldn’t have asked for a more interesting person to share my home and academic life with, as much as you may refuse to believe it.  I’m not sure how bad the racism was back in Arganee, but for someone like me, the opportunity to make friends with a Chimera alchemist has been a dream-come-true.  I’d also like to thank you for your kindness and understanding toward me.  This semester was a difficult one, especially around the time you arrived, but you never became impatient with me, or with this strange world.  You’d just smile, flutter those little wings of yours, and make cups of tea for us both.  That takes a special kind of person, Tycho, and it was an inspiration to me.  I’d even venture to say that during the course of this semester you’ve taught me to become more patient with myself.  Like your “clumsy poetic” (as Prof. Levine called them) words, perfect things are not always perfect in the ways we expect them to be.

You weren’t with me for the first half of this semester, but that was the time when things were going very well.  I participated in two webinars during that time, for one of which I developed questions to guide the next day’s class discussion.  These were about electronic literature and netprov.  I did a blog a week, and I did 2 Daily Digital Alchemies a week, sometimes more.  I also submitted two ideas for Daily Digital Alchemies, one of which involved finding faces in inanimate objects, and the other of which asked participants to make up a new word.  Sometimes my blogs were responses to specific prompts we had been assigned, but sometimes (with the permission of Dr. Zamora) I did my own thing.  It was actually those blogs, where I took advantage of the freedom I had been granted, that were the most meaningful to me.  Unsure if I was doing something “wrong,” I wrote about original species communities on the online art/social network site DeviantArt.  Thanks to the overwhelmingly positive responses of Dr. Zamora and Prof. Levine, I was able to realize that these virtual communities really were a valid and unique subject of research.  After this realization, I decided that I would make original species communities the topic of my Master’s thesis.  If I had never written those blog posts, I think I would still be floundering and grasping for a thesis topic I felt was “perfect,” or in other words “scholarly enough.”

It was around the middle of the semester that things started to go downhill.  First, I learned that the two core pillars of my academic support system, Dr. Zamora and Dr. Inskeep, would both be leaving for sabbatical and a new job respectively.  I became very anxious and depressed about the coming year.  Shortly after this, I was hospitalized for an instance of acute colitis.  I spent two-and-a-half days in the hospital receiving antibiotics, fluids, and painkillers.  After I was released from the hospital, I was required to stay out of school for another week to rest and work myself from a clear fluid diet back to solid foods.  During this time, I was feeling pretty awful and I did no schoolwork at all.  It was around the time that I returned to school that you arrived, Tycho.  You taught me to drink tea since I could no longer have coffee.

Communicating with the world of Arganee was like a new beginning.  Teaching you to blog, tweet, and participate in the “Cooking with Anger” netprov rejuvenated me.  I loved watching you take to Twitter to communicate and share your thoughts with other alchemists and the #netnarr community, even though you had a bad habit of forgetting to use the #arganee hashtag.  I think ultimately less than half of your tweets had the hashtag, but all of them were interesting and beautiful in their own way.  You shared a lot of gifs, and even made a meme.  I let you take over in the Twitter department instead of doing Daily Digital Alchemies, as I’m pretty sure I was supposed to for that leg of the course… Except for that one fiasco we had when you left yourself logged in and I accidentally tweeted from your account.  We laughed about it in the end, but man was I steamed at the time!  It’s a shame we never could figure out the audio software for you to share samples of the Chimera language.

My “rebirth” was stunted when I fell ill again, and you even participated less in tweeting and blogging as you took care of me.  You didn’t need to do that, but you told me, “Twitter-hunger will not be world-death-make! You need health-make, not stress-make!”  How powerful that was, considering Arganee needed that kind of participation to help achieve balance again!  You put importance on my health, and I realized I had to do that as well.

Well, Tycho, we made it to the end of the semester, even if there were some instances when our participation slowed to a trickle.  Because of those instances, I think I deserve a B by the grading contract’s standards, but I’m hoping my professors will take mercy on me and grant me a B+ or A-.  Most of the times that I missed assignments or was absent were for valid illness, for which I was able to provide documentation.  I think there was one blog that I missed just because I was sad over Drs. Zamora and Inskeep’s departures.

Anyway, thank you so much for coming into my life, Tycho.  You are a kind, patient, creative young Chimera, and a wonderful alchemist.  I’m glad I was able to help Arganee heal itself, and I’m even happier I got the chance to meet you.  It was a privilege and a delight to see how your mind works, and to hear the way you expressed yourself.  I’m grateful for your invitation to visit Arganee, and I hope to take you up on it someday.  For now, though, I think I’d like you to come back to New Jersey.  I have an idea for a project, and I think your voice would be perfect for it…

On Building A Better World

The other night I had a nightmare that I accidentally hit a young man with my car on the way to school.  I accompanied his family to the ER waiting room, where the young man was declared dead.  The dream was disturbingly vivid, and the characters were fleshed out to upsetting proportions.  When I told my stepmother about this dream, she said it indicated that I felt out of control about something in my life.

I’ll admit, I have been having a rough time lately.  I have a lot on my mental plate, and I do feel very out of control.  I guess the stress is finally beginning to take its toll on me.  But I’m not here to complain about my neurasthenic nonsense (well, maybe a little); I’m here to talk about moving forward amid a world in which we do not always have the control we desire.  The recent election made it clear to many of us just how powerless one can feel when the world seems to be rushing by without them, or when the world is going in a direction one feels is all wrong.  Some people have it in them to be activists, to get out there and rally on the streets for what they feel is right; others of us are… I’m trying to think of a better word than “cowards” to describe the group in which I’m included…  We’re not cowards, but I guess we’re nonconfrontational?  For this group, we find it’s easier to build little worlds of our own, worlds where we can try to make things better than what reality has presented us.

Dr. Zamora has spoken to me about the power of online communities to suggest ways to shape the world into a better place.  After some thought and observation, I saw the ways that the original species communities I wrote about a few weeks ago do just that.

Most closed species communities discourage greed with the terms of service they establish and the ways in which they sell pre-made designs.  This is notable because, as I mentioned in my other blog post, some of these species are their creators’ livelihoods, or their way of paying for school.  Unlike purveyors of other products, or even other artwork business models, the owners/creators/moderators of closed species tend to have a vested interest in their buyers using their “products” exclusively for creative and social purposes, and not as investments.  This can be seen in the almost universal closed species ToS rule that character designs may not be sold for more than what was paid for them.  This rule prevents someone from buying a design of a popular species, then jacking up the price based on demand, and reselling it for an exorbitant amount.  By establishing this kind of rule, closed species creators seem to be advocating a kind of “purified consumerism,” in which buyers only buy something they are going to use and appreciate for what it is, not for its perceived value.  This flies in the face of the greedy, materialistic culture in which we seem to live.

Additionally, closed species creators seem to shun the traditional business-world perceptions of supply and demand.  Some closed species creators only sell new pre-made designs when they genuinely need the money, and thus pre-made designs of their species become rare and sought-after.  This is different from the kind of rarity-by-design models that manufacturers of collectibles employ, as the scarcity of the resource (pre-made character designs in this case) is a result of a waste-not-want-not philosophy, not the desire to intentionally make something rarer and thus seemingly more valuable.  To add to this, when creators see demand for new designs is high enough that it is causing unrest in the community or attracting scammers, they do what they can to meet the demand.  Sometimes this is done by getting guest designers or community moderators to create designs, for which the designers themselves receive payment instead of the creator.  Again, this is unique for the selling/use of intellectual property, and a very anti-greed (what some might call counterproductive or foolish) business move.  Creators might also compensate by opening more MYO (Make Your Own) slots, or by creating “budget” designs,which have less-polished artwork and go for less money.

Another way that original species communities try to design a better world for their members is through what I’m calling “altruism events.”  An altruism event can be something done for charity, awareness of a cause, or literally just to make people happy.  Sometimes difficult times befall artists whose main source of income is their original species.  These difficulties could be financial hardship, medical problems, family problems, veterinary expenses, or a broken computer (which makes it impossible for an artist to do digital art).  It is common for members of the artist’s original species community, or even other species creators/communities, to hold charity events for them.  Basically, they will create pre-made designs and sell them, donating 100% of the profit to the person in need.  Here is an example, and another here.  Events done for awareness of a cause are less common, but often occur as part of a prompt or a DTA (Draw to Adopt) event.  Here is an example. Events that are done just to make people happy could be celebrations of reaching a certain membership or time milestone, or for no reason at all!  Basically, this is when an original species creator makes designs or MYO slots available free of cost/work.  Here is an example.

I’m not really sure what my goal was with this blog; I may have just wanted to cheer myself up.  Either way, I hope this extra bit of info about original species communities added something to our understanding of how virtual online microcosms can help us imagine a better, less greedy world.

A Jar of Salsa

A lot of my personal interests and projects have happened to coincide with elements of this Digital Stroytelling/Networked Narratives course, and this week is yet another entry for the list.  A friend and former coworker of mine from the Writing Center (she has since graduated and begun her teaching career) have been planning to make a podcast for quite some time, and this weekend we finally met to cement some details for it.  We’re calling our project A Jar of Salsa: For the Casual Academic.


The Jar of Salsa saga actually began at a table in the campus Starbucks during the finals season of the Fall 2016 semester.  I was working on a large, challenging research paper, and my friend was grading papers.  Both of us were in that particular state of delirium one enters when they have had way too little sleep and way too much stress, not to mention way too much caffeine to compensate for the former.  I had just enjoyed an end-of-semester party for one of my classes, for which I had brought chips and salsa.  Because that class was relatively small, and everyone had brought food, I had a fair amount of chips and salsa leftover.  At some point during the night, my friend and I began to eat the leftover chips and salsa, and to discuss our work, writing studies in general, teaching life, and a variety of other topics.  I don’t remember how or when we decided that our conversation would make a great podcast, but we did wind up at that conclusion.  We wanted to bring the spicy spark of that cafe-table environment to others because it had been so productive, fun, cathartic, and inspiring for the both of us.

In addition to being a tasty snack associated with casual gatherings, salsa is symbolic of a mindset.  I’ve heard that many people are starting to view America less as a melting pot, where identities liquify into each other to make something completely new, and more like a stew, where identities are preserved and accepted into a larger whole.  Salsa, with its mixture of distinct, flavorful vegetables and spices, is like the proverbial stew, except it cannot be eaten alone; it needs chips or something else to move it into the mouth.  The salsa signifies an ideal for academia: a place of inclusivity, with a wide range of contrasting and complementing ideas and viewpoints.  The chips represent the need to move meaningful “scholarly” conversation out of lecture halls and into mainstream society.

To capture our desired feel, we want to make use of certain sounds and music.  Each episode of A Jar of Salsa will begin with the sound of a lid being popped off of a salsa jar; each episode will end with the sound of a metal lid being screwed back onto a jar.  During the episode, transitions will be marked with the sounds of crunching chips, a rustling bag, and a jar lid moving across the table.  The music will be faint and jazzy, much like what one would hear in a coffee shop.  We may also see if we can figure out how to mix in sounds like muffled conversation or plates clinking.

A Jar of Salsa will have multiple series, each of which will consist of ten 20-minute episodes.  Each series will follow a theme; for example, language is what we’re planning for the first series.  Each episode will feature a guest talking about some facet of that theme (and their favorite kind of salsa!).  In addition, each episode will feature improv, the sharing of teaching/tutoring experiences, reviews of resources, and clips of topical questions asked to laypeople on the street or around campus.  New episodes will be released on a monthly basis (we’re busy!).  We’re currently in the process of working out episode topics and guests, but we’re planning for the first episode to feature a colleague of ours talking about Language and Superheroes.  We hope that the results will be informative and entertaining, and that listeners will feel like they’re sitting at a table with us sharing a snack and talking casually about “academic” topics.

The biggest challenge for us right now is figuring out how to work audio and recording software.  Neither of us have experience with sound editing or high-quality recording equipment.  We’re going to be relying on our own laptop computers and the GarageBand software, at least that’s the plan.  I think this lack of knowledge about sound/audio equipment is the biggest barrier to entry when it comes to sharing sound creatively online.  We are taught how to make websites and blogs in our major, but not how to handle sound.  I wonder if this stems from a separation in our minds between written and verbal communication?






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