Transmedia Franchise: LOTR

One of my favorite examples of a transmedia franchise would have to be J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

In recent years, this fantasy epic has completely exploded onto numerous genres. The continuity of this franchise is quite impressive. For instance, you have the three volumes (not including the prequel, The Hobbit)

Novel Coverswhich were adapted into three movies to cover each volume:

DVD covers

Which, in turn, were adapted into some questionable video games:

FotRtTTRotK

and one not at all questionable game:

LEGO LOTR

Come on, admit it. The Lego video games are SO MUCH FUN.

There are also The Lord of the Rings: The Third AgeThe Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth, The Lord of the Rings: The Battle of Middle-earth II, and some more video games which I am probably missing. Not only does this franchise cover print text, film, and video games, but the number of platforms for which the games are available is absolutely ridiculous, as well. I think the video games work a lot in the “world building” aspect because you get to explore Middle-earth through a “first person” (it’s more third-person, but you get what I mean) perspective by playing the game.

As far as drillability, you have this lovely collection of works called The Silmarillion (aka The Book of Lost Tales) essentially the folklore and mythology of Middle Earth. If that isn’t enough, you can read The History of Middle-eartha 12-volume series relating to, well, the history of Middle Earth. Most recently, The Children of Húrin (2007)– hello, subjectivity– recounts the story of… Guess who?  Húrin’s children: Turin, Urwen, and Nienor. All of these were released posthumously by Tolkien’s son, Christopher.  Also, if you haven’t seen this meme:

MEMEYou’re simply missing out on the spreadibility train. Another example could be “MY PRECIOUSSSSSS!”

OH, and there’s this beautiful piece of “performance” which is currently collecting dust on my bookshelf:

bestiaryThe seriality, so far, is to achieve complete and total immersion into Middle-earth through multiple genres, perspectives, and history, but let’s face it. Sometimes we have rooms in our houses dedicated to swords, maps, cardboard cut outs, signed posters, chain mail, magical staffs and perhaps one or two stuffed Gollums (source: this room exists in my cousin’s house). Also, “extractability.”

MSLOTR

Replica

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replica4

Need I go on? Oh, and there’s this guy who built (“produced”) The Dark Tower (Eye of Sauron) out of Legos:

DarkTowerIf you weren’t aware, there are also NUMEROUS Lord of the Rings Lego sets. This one is not included, sorry.

LEGO-The-Lord-of-the-Rings-Box-Art-Shelob-Attacks-9470 LEGO-Lord-of-the-Rings-9476-The-Orc-Forge-Toysnbricks

To make yourself feel better, you can buy some pretty cool jewelry:thering

ringofgArwennecklace

My birthday was April 23, if anyone is curious. I am still accepting gifts. Thank you.

I FORGOT TO MENTION the action figures and plushies  available!

actionfigures

lotr-plushies

The Lord of the Rings franchise has taken incredible advantage of transmedia  to the extent where Lord of the Rings is EVERYWHERE. They have expanded their market to the utmost extreme and any genre is an opportunity to exploit the franchise and make money. That sounded cynical, but I actually love buying stupid crap that in no way elevates my quality of life– arguably.

This franchise takes advantage of spreadability in all the cultural references (memes, etc.) and the catchphrases which are perpetuated from Gollum alone! Drillability can be obtained by reading The Silmarillian or The History of Middle-earth. The most remarkable part of the entire thing is the continuity of the ENTIRE franchise. It all works together to build this enormous idea that is LOTR. You can immerse yourself into the world by reading Tolkien produced fiction or fan-made fiction, and you can extract memorabilia to take home with you! You can experience the depth of world-building by immersing yourself in a video game and experiencing Middle-earth “first hand.” You can read novels depicting other perspectives (published by Christopher Tolkien) and bridge all of these serials together to pretend to yourself that Middle-earth is REAL. Or, if you want, you can decide to make your own LOTR inspired novels, bestiaries, Lego creations, armor, or whatever you feel like!

Burying Liabilities with Assets: My Digital Teacher Identity

In this digital age, it’s harder and harder to contain all the embarrassing things you’ve done during your life time. When Hayden Googled me, for example, he found my old Xanga, Myspace, and Twitter account from MIDDLE SCHOOL. While I’m sure some of us were decent human beings in middle school, I was not one of them. Luckily, I had enough foresight to make every single one of these things utterly impervious to the prying eye (aka: impervious to my parents). Thus, these pages are not liabilities. I don’t have a Facebook page because I hate politics and I don’t care what your baby looks like. Twitter is okay. I have one, but I only look at posts from people who have the credentials to blast their opinions to my iPhone. I don’t feel that I have anything insightful or productive to add to the conversation, so I just lurk around.

While this isn’t hurting my reputation, it certainly isn’t doing anything to help it, either. Instead of merely lurking on people, I, as Dr. Rish instructed, can use social media strategically to improve my digital teacher identity. I could start using my Twitter to post topics I’m interested in such as education and reform, lesson plan ideas, or, my favorite thing, video games and literacy. When a potential employer googles my name, instead of my junk from middle school showing up, s/he can view my educational interests and who I am as a teacher based on my Twitter feed.

I would be really stepping up my game if I decided to create a personal blog to talk about educational stuffs, activities I participate in around my community, and, again, ways to incorporate video games into the classroom. I think that would be interesting because the blog would be a place for me to further shape who I am as a future educator by thinking issues through via a public blog.  I believe potential employers would be extremely interested in seeing my development and ideas.

The goal here isn’t to fabricate my teacher identity. The goal is to get my identity OUT THERE. Those people have no idea who I am or what I’m about. Most of my professors don’t know the exact reason why I wanted to become a teacher in the first place. Using social media strategically can vastly improve my odds of getting a job and KEEPING my job. If a student’s parent looks me up and sees a bunch of research I’ve done and sees me as a person who loves children and loves teaching them, I believe it will help create a community in and out of my classroom.

Alternative School: Alternative Trajectories

I had the opportunity to attend Crossroads Alternative in Hollysprings  my senior year of high school. Instead of the prescribed method of “doing school” we were allowed to “do school” however we deemed appropriate.

This method includes taking courses in whichever order you fancy and finishing courses however fast or slow you want. Instead of completing these assignments which were geared, as far as my narrow high school student understanding was concerned, to foster “curiosity” or to “entertain” and were largely a waste of my time because I did not understand or see the value in completing these assignments. For instance, I’ll be damned if I am going to create a 3D model of a house because I read a book that described a house one time. Are you joking? What does building a wooden house have to do with expanding my knowledge of a novel? No, no, no. This high school was not for me. I was labeled “lazy” and “indifferent.” Oh, okay. So, because I disagree with your fundamental pedagogy, I’m the lazy one? No, stereotypical high school teacher, I’m not lazy. I have way too much energy to spend three weeks on ONE almost two hundred page book. I am not saying I’m more intelligent than any other person, but I have vastly more energy. I would rather quickly do something with mediocre effort than to spend 2 weeks doing something with the same level of mediocrity. Hence the plethora of Bs I received in my original high school.

I think it’s interesting to note my grades between my first high school, the alternative school, and current grades in college. My first trajectory in my original high school was dictated by my teacher (who was the product of forces I did not understand at the time). Referring to the narrative above, we were instructed to complete these “attention grabbing” activities, we had to read a bunch of crap, discuss the crap we just read, finish some other ridiculous assignment to make sure we could apply the crap we read and discussed, and then we would have a giant test over all the crap and assignments we just completed. The whole class moves at the same speed. Everyone does the same thing and the same time. You can’t go too fast or too slow. You have to complete things when the professor says so or else you’re a horrible human being, and you are unfit to mingle with these other perfect specimens of societal indoctrination. Needless to say, my grades were not the best in my original high school. Well, I had a lot of Bs, and one or two As. While attending Crossroads I had all As, and now, in college, my GPA is a 3.87. I’d say that’s pretty good. It’s also a lot better than my original high school GPA which was a 3.2 (a 2.7 according to the Hope calculator).

I found myself at Crossroads Alternative school with other “bad” kids like me who didn’t want to conform to this idealized educational utopia. I was there for one week before I was placed on the Academic Bowl (at an Alternative School this was pretty entertaining), and I quickly gained a “good” reputation for finishing assignments and for having good behavior. This was VASTLY different from my high school where the general consensus was that I was a horrible human  being. I had Saturday school for 4 months one time. FOUR MONTHS OF SATURDAY SCHOOL. Why, you ask? Well, because my locker was in the basement of the gym. My biology book weight about 15 pounds. I had to walk all the way to the basement floor of the gym to grab this book before class (it was physically impossible for me to carry it all day long), and they just so happened to be experimenting with the bell-time in between classes during this particular year. I was late every single day. I refused to serve my detentions because I was TRYING to get to class, but since I was not ALLOWED to run, I couldn’t get to class on time. I took my Saturday Schools as an excuse to have a tutor every Saturday morning.

For every class you completed at Crossroads, not only were you rewarded your grade, but you were also given a “half day.” Half days could be spent to leave school early or come late for one day. You weren’t required to slam your schedule full of electives because you had extra slots left over. You took the amount of classes for you to “graduate” your grade. Then, you would move forward until you completed high school.

The entire process was completely up to you. If you didn’t want to do the assignments, that’s nice, but you aren’t going to move forward. The students felt responsible for their education. If you didn’t want to be there anymore, you could a) get expelled or b) finish your work so quickly you graduate as quickly as possible. I was on trajectory B. I should note that getting expelled wasn’t so difficult at Crossroads. Everyone there was pretty much on their last leg in public education, so you had one strike then you were out. You quickly realized you could not mess around too much if you ever wanted to graduate high school.

For me, I started and finished my senior year in a 5 week span of time. The assignments were straight out of the book. Read Ch. 1. Then, do the assessments and mini assignments. When I finished each chapter my teacher (the teachers would oversee an entire content area not distinguished by “grade” since everyone was on different trajectories) would give me a test over that chapter. Depending on my grade, I could move on or I would have to redo the chapter until I passed it. I learned WAY MORE in those classes than I ever did in ANY of my classes at my original high school. I would take my books home, and I would do as much homework as I could in the evening, come into school the next day, take a bunch of tests, and move on. It also helped that I was in advanced science and math at my original high school (weird, I’m an English Ed major now which only furthers my argument that my original school had no idea how to operate a high school), so I had finished my math and science credits by the time I was a sophmore and junior, respectively. My senior year consisted of 2 credits until graduation: 1 credit in Brit lit, 1/2 credit in government, and 1/2 credit in economics.

After I graduated, I sat in my room, played Guitar Hero (seriously, this is the reason I am embarrassingly good at GH), and worked full time as a manager at a Dunkin Donuts. I saved a bunch of money to buy myself a car, bought a car, then started planning the next phase of my life– all the while my other friends were still held prisoner inside that place so cleverly disguised as “school.”

As a future teacher, this example of taking a different trajectory really highlights one important thing I hope to never forget about my students: THEY ARE ALL DIFFERENT. As a future English teacher, this highlights one important thing I hope to never forget about my students: THEY CREATE WRITING DIFFERENTLY. I don’t believe in the one size fits all “writing workshops.” UGH. If we want to have variety in this world and to not murder passionate writing, we have to stop cramming students into this high school mold of perfection. It just doesn’t work for everyone, and it certainly didn’t work for me.

Affinity Space

I decided to analyze Guitar Hero for my affinity space project. I have a Guitar Hero band called The Scruffy Looking Nerf Herders, and we get together on the weekends to play online against other bands. I decided this would be appropriate to study because, well, if I was as passionate about my schoolwork as I am about Guitar Hero, I would probably turn in better work.

Remix Culture: Zombification

For those who cannot stand reading Jane Austen’s 1813 novel, Pride and Prejudice, but are forced into drudging through the muck that is Elizabeth Bennet’s life, Seth Grahame-Smith has a remedy for their pain and suffering!

What better way to experience the life and times of 19th century England? Who cares that zombies aren’t real? They’re zombies! In England! He even spruces up Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy by making them zombie-fighting ninjas!

Consider the mash-up a pound of sugar in an otherwise bitter cup of motor oil that your grandpa swears is coffee.

Smith uses Pride and Prejudice in a totally new and unexpected way! Who would have ever thought to use this boring old novel for something so exciting? Zombies! Ninjas! 19th century British literature!

Good thing Pride and Prejudice is copyright-free. Otherwise, this dude would probably be in a lot of trouble. The majority of the novel remains completely unchanged except the whole zombie thing that actually fits quite nicely with Austen’s plot. He basically piggy backed on Jane Austen’s success as a novelist to perpetuate his own financial gain. Seriously, if the original novel was not as immensely popular as it is, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies would have bombed. Who would want to read about two Victorian ninjas fighting zombies in 19th century England while their tumultuous relationship blossoms into a beautiful marriage? Too bad Jane Austen isn’t alive today to reap the benefits of her revamped novel. She’s probably turning in her grave…. AS A ZOMBIE!

According to the article “Understanding Fair Use” on the University of Minnesota website, the “fifth-factor” is called transformative use. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is transformative use because Seth Grahame-Smith uses “existing content to do unexpected and new things.” The laws are open to argumentation and interpretation, so I suppose if Jane Austen was to rise from her grave she could file a lawsuit. Unfortunately, she would probably lose because of the nature of Fair Use, and her work is clearly cited. Grahame-Smith doesn’t try to trick anyone into thinking he created the original work. He has merely updated it and transformed it for the zombie loving culture. I like to think of it like I think of cover bands. They try to update previous works and end up ruining it and making everyone irritated. On the bright side, Pride and Prejudice couldn’t be more boring for some audiences, so the zombie addition is welcome!

GIF animate your day like Ben.

Here’s my attempt at animating my day through GIFs. The assignment can be found here. I didn’t do my entire day, but a pretty good portion is represented.

I usually begin my day frantically flipping through my daily planner to see what homework I need to finish. On this particular day, I needed to work on an ENGL4340 essay. Instead…

I washed some dishes. I wash approximately 50000 dishes per day. It’s quite an accomplishment. Every day I go to sleep amazed at the amount of dishes I have cleaned. When I was done, I remembered I still needed to brainstorm on that Shakespeare assignment. Instead…

I browsed Reddit for nearly 3 hours. My mother called me, ripping me from my trance, and reminded me I needed to come visit her today.

That’s my mom. She’s really my gran, but she adopted me when I was born making her REALLY my mom. Don’t think too much into it. She can talk forever. I sat in the floor and listened to her talk about everything from my twin sister, Jana, to some person who died at her church. I decided I needed to really get on this Shakespeare essay. So, I went home and stared at my computer for a few hours.

Then I took a nap.

Alora & Heather Crap Detection Plan

With the accessibility of posting information online, people can be misled by a faulty piece of information. As future teachers, we need to prepare our students to be cognisant of biases and misinformation. Not only will this knowledge help them in the classroom, but knowing how to detect credibility is a skill that can be applied in their personal lives, as well. Also, gauging the ability of the general public to conclude the validity of a source based on comments posted to Weekly World News creates a bleak outlook. The amount of users under the impression the fake articles are real is testimony to the importance of Crap Detection.

Alora & Heather’s Crap Detection Plan