Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Portfolio: Check!

David Levinson
English 114B
Professor Dinsmore
The “Beginning of the End”: Intro to my Portfolio
            I have reached the end of my first year in college, it is time to turn in my final portfolio for my English 114B class.  I can’t help but reflect on my life this last year.  Last year around this time I was anxious for my graduation, and afraid of how my life might go from that point on.  Then what seemed like a blink of an eye, graduation and grad-night are over, and I graduated from high school.  That’s when the between stage starts, the awkward time cushion between finishing high school and starting college.  Tying loose ends with friends, saying good byes, worries of leaving everything you’ve grown up with behind, and the realization that you are just growing up. 
            Starting college at that point was very hard, commuting via buss to CSUN three days a week for four classes.  Some troubles I had were the buss having only early buss trips, getting to school really early, waiting for my class to start, going to one or two classes a day, after class having to wait for the buss to go home, getting home late.  By the time my first semester was done, I was relieved I was able to take a break from my stressful schedule.  Then second semester came, and I was commuting four times a week, for only three classes.  I was really worn out from that schedule and was so relieved when I found an apartment here in Northridge, very close to the school, and that I was able to afford the rent.  When I moved in I still felt a little stress because now I would be living on my own, but I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders not having to commute anymore.  Plus it was great to be able to sleep in.  Also I felt I could now be more social within the college environment, and participate more in the events on campus. 
            Academics were also very important, and I feel I have learned a lot in all my classes.  Let’s look at my portfolio for this semester now.  In English class this semester, we’ve looked at some very important terms, and explored through many different forms of media these terms to get to understand them better.  To help us think of “Identity” and how we perform “Identity Construction” online, we looked at social media sites such as Facebook and Myspace.  We then moved onto virtual construction of our identities and looked at online games such as Second Life and how we construct our avatars to fit or distract from our identities.  To help us recognize this in very extreme conditions we watched the movie GAMER in which actual people play as “avatars” for other people for money, and we also read the graphic novel The Surrogates in which people live their lives virtually through actual robots which look like real humans.  I wrote a report on this called “RPGs FTW? Maybe Not” on this topic, and discussed how people who play RPGs construct their character to either display their identity, or deter from it.  We learned that location can influence our identities.  To help us understand this, we looked at different locations on campus and then in the world, and discussed the ethnography of those locations.  We read the graphic novel Percepolis to see how young Marjane Satrapi’s identity changed as she grew up moving from one location to another because of Iranian revolution.  After that we read As Nature Made Him a book about a boy who went through a bad circumcision and his parents tried raising him a girl as he grew up thinking he would just grow up a girl.  Through this story we discussed the debate between “Nature vs. Nurture” and talked about the differences between gender and sex, and how they both effect your identity.  For my final essay called “From Rags to Righteous: My Ironic Identity” I looked at my own identity, and how I construct my identity on and offline, and how different locations influence my identity. 
            My identity has changed from the beginning of this semester to the end.  At the beginning of this semester I was commuting, so I probably seemed sluggish at times, but since I’ve started living in Northridge, I have been more active, and more social.  I believe now in class I am known as David the kid who gets a wise crack in every now and then.  That’s exactly the type of Identity I want to have.

David Levinson
English 114B
Professor Dinsmore
RPGs FTW? Maybe Not
It’s always nice to sit down to some nice videogames after a long day of school.  I believe that videogames are a great form of relaxation, and fun, but what happens when people take that too far?  What happens when people get sucked into the game so much that they seem to give up on reality?  What about people who use videogames as a form of a false life, the ones who “live” in game, more then they do in real life?  What about the people who take it a step further, and make a character of the opposite sex, then play as the character instead of as them self?  Videogames aren’t as harmless as some people might think.
Some people play videogames casually and keep a solid grasp on reality, but sometimes others take it too far and give up on reality.  “Second Life” is a great example of this.  “Second Life” is what its title suggests, it is a second life for some.  This game allows you to do just about anything you can do in real life, and then some.  This could be good to help escape from stress and worry every now and then, but when used as artificial living, this is very hazardous.  It’s bad because some people get sucked into this game so much that they have to constantly play or they don’t feel like they are living, and then they lose control of their actual health.  For others, like the disabled, this could be a good thing, because then they can play the game a way they aren’t able to live life, through their “avatar”.
The definition of “Avatar” shown on Wikipedia:
“In computing, an avatar is the graphical representation of the user or the user's alter ego or character. It may take either a three-dimensional form, as in games or virtual worlds, or a two-dimensional form as an icon in Internet forums and other online communities. It can also refer to a text construct found on early systems such as MUDs. It is an object representing the user. The term "avatar" can also refer to the personality connected with the screen name, or handle, of an Internet user.”
So at its most basic form, an avatar is a representation of a person.  One form of this is incorporated when playing RPGs.  When you play an RPG (role playing game) you are often faced with the task of creating a character, or avatar.  While some choose to just click the random button, and get on with the game, I would say that the majority of players take their time and customize their avatar to their liking.  I feel it is important to take your time with something you are going to have to play as for the rest of the game.  In some games such as “Second Life” the possibilities of your characters looks are endless.  Players start the game and make a character, the game lets you choose from different races and genders, and you can also choose play as a “Furry” which is an animal with a human like body, a robot, a vampire, werewolf, and oddly enough a vehicle, which I still don’t get.  If a person is talented enough, they can make their own character in a 3D design meshing program.  This is another way one can look and play how ever they want, and if a player isn’t skilled in making 3D models, the player can buy premade characters of just about anything made by others. 
This allows the player look however they want, which is good and bad.  This is good because the player can play as exactly who or what they want.  This is bad, because it makes it easier for someone to take advantage or mislead other players.  When watching the movie GAMER, and seeing the scenario of the morbidly obese male playing as the female character and using her as a toy for his own pleasure, I realized that this probably goes on in real life also.  Though it is a great feature to be able to fully customize our character and its appearance, it is very scary to think that the person playing that character might not be who you think they are. 
I took a survey of people who play RPGs and how they customize their characters.  I asked the people who said that they have played an RPG that had them make a character, how they designed their character to look and why.  One person said he plays as both males and females, when playing as a male, he makes his character resemble him if it’s a human, and for any other race, he makes his character look as awesome as he can.  When playing as a female, he tries to make her look hot, so he has something pleasing to look at as he plays.  This is how most guys think, if they play as a female, they want her to be pleasing to look at as possible.  I then asked if when playing the game, he acts as himself or how he thinks the character would, and he said that he plays as the character would, because he believes it add to everyone playing that games experience, but he never took advantage of another player.  I asked him if he has ever made someone believe he was his female character on purpose, and he said no, but he’s sure many people probably thought he was a girl by the way he played his character.  I asked another person the same questions.  He said he almost always plays as a male character, and designs him to look strong.  He most often plays as a warrior, or fighter class in RPGs so he tries to think ahead to plan out how his character should look as that class.  He also said when playing science fiction games, he will also often make his character have an unusual skin color, because it’s something different from the “norm” and he prefers to be original.  When playing the game he says he almost always plays as himself, and not how his character would because his characters almost always seem like jerks.  I also asked a female these same questions.  She said she has only played as a guy once because the game didn’t give the option to play as a girl, so she made her character look like her boyfriend because she couldn’t decide how he should look, and her boyfriend was in the room, so it was her easiest option.  When playing as female characters, she said she tries to make them look sexy, but at the same time look like they could kick any guys butt.  She said that she does this so that guys playing would give her free stuff, and also break the stereotype of female gamers being inferior.  She likes to be tough, and reinforce that she is a woman.  When I asked if she plays as she thinks her character would, she said yes, but she never inappropriately. 
I for one always play as a male because I think it’s weird when other people playing the game hit on you because you’re playing as a female character.  I usually try to make my character pretty ironic or funny, and then try to match skills to his appearance.  I take character creation very seriously, and always try to make everything about my character connected.  Sometimes I’ll even make up a storyline in the back of my head, and center my game play decisions around it.  An example of this is my “DC Universe Online” character named Kid Pistol, who I designed to look like a classic 90s kid, complete with a red T-shirt, blue jean shorts, high white sock, and red and blue sneakers and backpack.  The ironic part is I gave him the ability to use two.  In my head I made everything make sense because I made up a story for him to why he’s a villain and why he uses guns as his weapons, it was perfect.  Peoples reactions when they see a kid running around the would is already hilarious because you don’t often see people playing kid characters, then when I start fighting and pull out the duel hand cannons, then people realize he’s not just any kid, he’s a badass kid.  When playing RPGs, I almost always play as I think my character would act, mostly because I take pride in making them and love to play as them.
Games such as “Second Life” and “DC Universe Online” can be very fun, but they can also be dangerous.  Some people play “Second Life” more then they live their real life.  They use their avatars to life a false life.  Others play as opposite sex avatars for their own pleasure and act like someone or something they aren’t.  Others just like to play as someone different to temporarily escape from reality.  I choose to play video games to relax and have fun, but never lose site of reality.  When playing as one of my characters I just try to have fun.  Videogames should be for fun, not for false reality. 

David Levinson
English 114B
Professor Dinsmore
From Rags to Righteous: My Ironic Identity
            If you saw the way I dress, you might think that I’m weird, because it’s not everyday that you see someone wearing a Wolf Shirt.  The thing is, you are seeing my style, what you haven’t seen is my identity and history that has influenced it.  Space often influences how I dress, depending on if I’m going to school, the store, and even my house.  Not only does space influence my identity, but I also influence some spaces such as my room, house, online.  Identity doesn’t only apply to my physical attributes, but can also apply to media.  When on Facebook, I change my pictures, and account, and then pick who gets to see it.  Also if I’m playing an online game, I can change my identity to be whom ever I want.  My identity has an effect on so much more than just my life. 
            A question I get asked all the time is “What’s up with the wolf shirt?” because my shirts of choice have wolves on them.  Wolf shirts are usually acid washed, featuring at least one wolf in nature, usually howling at the moon.  Besides that, I believe I dress like a mostly normal person my age.  I normally wear cargo shorts, high black socks, vans, occasional snap back hat, and of course, big thick rimmed hipster “Ray-Ban” glasses.  When I meet new people, usually my wolf shirts are one of the first things they comment on.  To understand how they help to construct my identity, you must first know that wolf shirts were originally worn in the 80s, and were worn by middle, to lower class kids.  This was because in the 80s wolf shirts were sold at stores such as K-Mart and Walmart, and were sold very cheap.  I wear wolf shirts because not only because Walmart started selling them again at very low prices, but also because I love the look of them.  As one of the few people who still wear these types of shirts, I feel it helps me stick out from everyone who wears modern T-Shirts.  I believe these 80s shirts are making a comeback because fashion is 360 and people find modern style inspiration by looking at past styles.  Also when a style comes back into fashion, it seems to be ironic, especially wolf shirts.  What’s ironic about the wolf shirts I feel, is that back in the 80s, people used to wear wolf shirts because they couldn’t afford more expensive shirts, and now people who can afford better shirts are choosing to buy wolf shirts. I for one enjoy wearing these shirts because I feel a connection to the wilderness inside of me when I put on a wolf shirt, plus they’re really comfy.  These shirts help me show my identity because I, like the shirts, am very unique, and I am also very ironic, and have a joking personality.  My wolf shirts have helped me construct my physical identity, and have also helped me construct my identity online.
            One example of this is my Twitter username, “TheWolfShirtGuy.”  I felt this was a fairly accurate username.  Anyone who follows me on Twitter then knows me by that name.  Another example of this is my current Facebook profile picture.  The picture shows me in a wolf shirt, accompanied by three of my friends, also wearing a few of my wolf shirts, and all of us are howling at the moon.  We took the picture reenacting a common scene found on the shirts.  Wolf shirts are a big part of my identity right now in my life.  When people see my shirts, it’s possibly something they’ve never seen before, and for the people who have seen wolf shirts before, it probably isn’t something they see everyday.  I think that I feel such a strong bond with these shirts is because of how ironic and unique they are.  They also help people get a sneak peek at my personality before they even start talking to me.  Some people whom I’ve met since I started wearing wolf shirts even go as far as to call me “Wolf man”. 
            People who’ve known me since high school, back before I started wearing wolf shirts know me as David.  This is a prime example of identity construction.  Since I’ve started wearing wolf shirts, I’ve created an identity for myself, but I was known by my ironic style other ways in high school.  Back when I was in high school, I used to have long hair past my shoulders, and wear trucker hats.  I was also my high school’s mascot for four years, and got awarded most school spirit, so whenever I had the chance I would wear purple, black, and white, my school’s colors to support my school.  These days, I let my wolf shirts construct my identity.  Though my wolf shirts are a big part of my physical identity, believe it or not, that is not the only thing that makes up my identity.
            Location can also help construct your identity, depending on your location you might dress differently.  I dress differently when I’m at school from when I’m at home, or if I go to the store.  When at school, I dress in casual clothes, and wear tennis shoes, because I know I’ll be walking a lot.  I also dress on the more fashionable side because I never know who I might see.  When I go shopping at the store, I wear casual clothes, and very often slippers, because I like my feet being comfy as I shop and I don’t really care if people see me in them, plus then people see me for the “chill” guy I am.  Than usually, if I’m at home, I wear comfy clothes from top to bottom, because I’m probably just lounging around the house relaxing and I don’t care how people see me at home.  You also construct your identity within your personal space. 
            My identity is shown in my personal space, my room.  I construct my room to fit my personal identity.  What I believe shows my identity the best is in my room, is how I decorated it.  In my room, I have a chair that has my high school logo and name on it which is because I was very school spirited in high school and still take pride in that school.  On the walls of my room, I have two posters, one of a hula girl that says “ALOHA”, and one of the rapper Kid Cudi.  The hula girl shows part of my identity because the girl in the poster is exactly my type of girl.  This is not the same reason for the Kid Cudi poster, because he is a guy.  The Kid Cudi poster is a big tip off of my identity, because I feel many of his songs perfectly explain who I am.  I also have a “TOMS” shoes flag pinned up on my wall, which shows that I wear “TOMS” and I love organizations that help people in need.  I try to be very charitable towards many helpful organizations like “TOMS” and “Locks of Love”, the organization I donated my long hair to, my senior year of high school.  Another decoration I have in my room is a garden gnome who stands on top of my TV.  This is an inside joke between me and one of my friends, but it also shows how random I truly am.  On the floor I have my Xbox, which is obviously because I am a big video gamer, and have been playing games most of my life.  Our identities are often also influenced by our pasts.
Way back when I was younger, I’d play the original games on the original Gameboy, which is why I believe I turned out a gamer.  I believe history helps shape our identity.  Another example is how I used to love playing Frisbee outside with my Dad when I was younger, and now that I’m in college, I love playing Ultimate Frisbee.  Not all things that construct your identity are physical, one common form of identity construction that isn’t physical, is RPGs. 
            Some role playing games, or RPGs for short, have you make a character and then design how it looks.  When you make your character, you get to make them look however you want, within the games guidelines that is.  When I play online games I usually make a ridiculous looking character.  I try to make a very unusual looking character because then when I’m playing the game, people see my character running around, and it catches them off guard.  I believe this just reinforces the fact that I have a very ironic identity, I like to express this in RPGs.   Online games also give you the option of being the opposite sex.  This is when identity construction is crucial.  When you choose to play as the opposite sex, you are constructing your identity in a misleading way.  Some people play online games and choose to play as the opposite sex then their own, just to mislead people.  Some people might do this for a couple reasons, some guys play as girls so they can get free items from generous guys in the game.  Some girls play as guys because they don’t want to look weak and would rather be seen as a threat.  When playing videogames I usually play as a guy, but if I end up playing as a girl, I usually do it because the girl character has extra skill attributes, which makes her tougher than the guy characters giving me the upper hand over people playing as guys.  
            Identity construction can be your physical style, or it can be your style online, whether on a website like Facebook or Twitter, or on an online game where you make your own character.   Location can also influence our identity construction because it can influence how you dress and act.  You also construct your identity within your personal space, such as your room.  You get to decorate it how you want it to fit your personality.  Identity is such a huge part of who we are, it is a good thing there are many different ways to express yourself.

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            May, 2012