Essay 2: Looking Back On A Blog for Life Livers

Week 12 Final Assignment For PUB 101

Throughout the  fall semester of 2020, I had the experience to create my own publishing domain on wordpress for PUB 101. If you haven’t guessed it already, the website you are currently reading this reflection on is the very website that I am talking about. My publication was formed with the idea in mind of creating the type of blog that I would personally want to read. With that as a guideline, I based my blog around a multitude of different avenues passions and interests, but mainly followed the theme of a creative adventure blog with an emphasis on living a holistic, well rounded, and happy life. Through this process I learned a lot about what it takes to create a public space, how hard it is to be creative and original in the digital world, how to engage with an online public by responding and adapting to feedback, and about myself as a digital media user. 

Part One: What Do I Even Blog About??

The first steps of my creative process began with our first course assignments where I created a vision board to outline the general “idea” of my website. During this process I pulled inspiration from different Instagram pages and YouTube videos. Both of these content sources came from pages that exuded “vibes” of living in the moment, pushing yourself in outdoorsy sports, adventuring, surrounding yourself with good friends, and having an optimistic and laid back life view. This all may sound slightly broad and general to you. I thought so too. Which is what brought me to the idea of “A Blog for Life Livers”, Where I could be as broad as I wanted by combining all of the things that moved into the general theme of a “life well lived” (hence my website’s tagline).

The first step in the creative process: Week 1 Vision Board

The second thing that I came to realize was that in order to create my own “original” content that I was cultivating my own garden of different ideas, styles, and passions that I have absorbed throughout my life and inspire me. I was able to explore this idea further in my week five process post “Digital Dressing up: Reflection” where I explain that “I decided to create my online identity for my blog in a way that invited all who simply live life to take whatever it is they need from a wide variety of content. Whether it was stories, videos, poems, or random photography from experiences and adventures, that there would be something for everyone”. During the process of creating my online self, the “voice” that came from the cultivation of my personal digital garden was a projection of the things that moved me and were the source of inspiration of what I chose to display on my website (Basu, 2020). I found that I related my creative process to our week four reading from Tanya Basu “Digital gardens let you cultivate your own little bit of the internet”  in a sense that the projection of my online self became a “digital garden” that “explores a wide variety of topics that are adjusted and changed to show growth and learning” (Basu, 2020). By being able to pull from multiple different channels of inspiration such as Instagrammers and youtube channels, I was able to create a space that was my own rendition of the pieces of media that move me. For instance, I drew great inspiration for my blog through a five minute YouTube video released this October 2020 of a young skier who has a passion for skiing and an unbelievable zest for life (embedded below). Content such as this fuelled my desire to create my own digital garden that moved others similar to how this short clip moved me. 

The clip that kindled the stoke and started it all:
Trenton Gravity Research. “Kai 3.0: Thirteen-Year-Old Skier Kai Jones Takes Flight at Jackson Hole”. October, 20, 2020. https://youtu.be/Q52poh9Hq6I

Part Two: The Blog in Action

Once I sorted through the first twists, turns, and speedbumps of learning to use wordpress and turning my ideas into digital content, I was able to put my blog into action. I imagined my public to be a demographic of teens/ young adults/ adults ranging from 14-30. I also imagined my public to be similar to that of the heavily engaged public of Instagram. This is due to the fact that pages with similar adventure/wellness/holistic living ~aesthetics~ normally attract that age demographic. I worked to address my public through multiple channels of media in attempts to “enhance (fan) engagement and expand our understanding of the original” as introduced by Henry Jenkins from his article “The Revenge of the Origami Unicorn: Seven Principles of Transmedia Storytelling (Well, Two Actually. Five More on Friday)”. Jenkins’ idea of the “original” pertains to the general essence of adventure and holistic well being that I aimed to create on my blog by using different levels of Transmedia integration (Jenkins, 2009). I found this as a super fun and creative way of engaging my audience through different styles of editorial design and content. An example of this would be the addition of my “media gallery” on my site where I showcase different photos and videos that I have taken/ made that appear on the posts within my website. In addition to this, I was able to dive deeper into creating a digital space to “unwind” the mind by sharing pieces of my own creative writing through short stories and poetry. I found this to be one of my most favourite ways of putting my blog in action and found great creative energy in displaying a “life well lived” through written words. This sentiment seemed to be shared amongst my public of readers and page viewers as my peer reviews, comments section, and google analytics data all showed that my “short stories and poetry” posts were my most popular and well received. I found this to be an interesting development as in the beginning, I thought that the most “attractive” part of my blog would be the videos and photos that I posted and only intended to throw in a poem and a short story as a fun little side thing to keep my content diverse and fresh. I used this feedback and adapted my blog post style for the rest of the term, focusing more on creating more short stories and poetry such as “Magic: Sometimes Lost But Always Found”, “Rain Thoughts” and “The Sun’s Solace”. In addition to this, I received feedback from my peer reviews that spotlighted blog posts such as my “Forest Foraging” post where I talked about mushroom hunting and recipes for coastal BC Mushrooms. I was able to take this feedback and use it to inspire further blog posts similar to this one. Posts such as “Sounds for the Soul”, “Good Food, Good Life”, and “Self Care: Yoga & Mindfulness Tools” all followed the same idea of lifestyle/ wellness blog posts that gave readers tools and inspiration for a healthier and happier life (or“tools for a life well lived”). Through this process I learned that the blog posts that I was the most passionate about and allowed my personality and interests to roam freely were the most fun and easy to write, and it seemed as if my public could sense that too. 

Part Three: Main Takeaways

One of the largest takeaways from my publishing journey was from the reading “How I Got My Attention Back” by Craig Mod. This was a reading that was given to us early in the semester and ended up being a piece of content that I took to heart and explored further outside of the classroom. This was displayed in my two part process post series “How I Got My Attention Back” and “How I Got My Attention Back: The Debrief”. During the span of these two posts, I took a month long social media hiatus (inspired by Craig Mod’s article). This allowed me to learn about myself and my own dependence on social media and also allowed me to practice some of the “tools for a life well lived” that I preach on this blog. I was able to remove myself from the jaws of the online world and afterwards, was able to come back to my blog with a set of fresh eyes that had a whole new set of values towards social media use. This allowed me to reflect on the image that I created for myself online and solidify what I feel is the importance of creating a blog such as this one that puts emphasis on mindfulness, well being, and enjoying every moment that life has to offer you. Now that this class is over, I want to continue to use this blog. However, in what way, I am not quite sure. From this experience, I re-kindled my passion for writing short stories and poetry and am now considering transforming this lifestyle blog into more of an interactive “vault” or “collection” that showcases my artistic passions such as photography, cinematography, writing, and poetry. 

My social media hiatus that helped me discover me to the elixir of life and the meaning of social media

Works cited: 

Basu, Tanya. September, 5 2020. “Digital gardens let you cultivate your own little bit of the internet” MIT Technology Review.

Henry Jenkins. “The Revenge of the Origami Unicorn: Seven Principles of Transmedia Storytelling (Well, Two Actually. Five More on Friday).” Henry Jenkins, Henry Jenkins, 12 Dec. 2009, henryjenkins.org/2009/12/the_revenge_of_the_origami_uni.html.

Mod, Craig. “How I Got My Attention Back.” Wired, Conde Nast, 22 Dec. 2018, www.wired.com/2017/01/how-i-got-my-attention-back/.

Trenton Gravity Research. “Kai 3.0: Thirteen-Year-Old Skier Kai Jones Takes Flight at Jackson Hole”. October, 20, 2020. https://youtu.be/Q52poh9Hq6I

Essay

Week 5 Short Essay

Gender, Outdoors, and Social Media

Queer representation in the outdoor community:

something that doesn’t happen enough.


“REI Presents: Everything to Lose by Pattie Gonia.” YouTube, YouTube, 21 Nov. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_A2bweGHTY. 

For many years, the outdoor community has been dominated by heteronormativity, where the preferred representation of outdoor enthusiasts have been through the archetype of a white, straight, male “outdoorsman”. However, the outdoor world has recently begun to change its tune, and representation of queer hikers and outdoorspeople have been made possible through social media platforms such as Instagram. This new democratic space allows content creators to open up new conversations through democratic dialouge by allowing anyone to post, view, and interact with other users’s material. This enables anyone to promote topics such as queer involvement in the outdoor community to a mass audience little to no barriers of entry. The term “democracy” is used in a context that refers to allowing all social media users to take control of instutionalized narratives such as queer involvement in the outdoors.

Instagram influencers such as “Pattiegonia” are some of the forerunners in this movement and have taken to social media platforms (such as Instagram) as a means of creating queer positive spaces in communities that are normally dominated by masculinity and heteronormativity. In the journal article, “Unlikely hikers? Instagram, and the queer mobilities of fat hikers, women hiking alone, and hikers of colour” by Phiona Stanley, Pattiegonia’s online presence is praised for inspiring those to unapologetically embrace the queen within us all, and to be unafraid to be different than the common outdoor narrative (Stanley, 2020). “Pattiegonia” is the drag persona of hiker and outdoor enthusiast Wyn Wiley, who has used his social media to normalize queer hikers by sharing content as the worlds first backpacking, outdoor loving drag queen (Stanley, 2020). Wiley combines the use of drag in outdoor adventure settings and Instagram to encourage inclusion and queer representation in the outdoor community.

“The ultimate goal is for Pattiegonia to inspire more people to spend time outdoors, particularly those how have historically been excluded from the outdoor community, including LGBTQ community, people of color, and fat folks” (Stanley, 2020).

This type of social media use has become a powerful tool in the realm of democrtaic social outreach and content sharing as it has helped change the dialogue that surrounds masculinity and gender roles in the hiking world. By sharing this kind of content on a widescale interface such as Instagram, it allows users such as Pattiegonia to shed light on the hiking communities’ over representation of straight, cisgender patrons of the hiking community, and invite others to share in the conversation (Stanley 2020). From the popularity if his Instagram platform, Pattiegonia was able to work with companies such as REI and combine the power of social media with queer representation and outdoor advocacy in the video “Everything to Lose” (linked above and below), where she (he) stars as the face and narrative poetic voice in an envrinomental conservation video regarding plastics in the ocean and the destruction of mother nature. Dressed in numerous outdoor/environmentally themed drag outfits and extravagant face makeup, Pattiegoina stands as a dominant figure that bends the ridgid image of the hyper masculine figure that embodies the image of the outdoorsman (Harris, 2017). By being featured as the spokesmodel for ocean conservation and environmental advocacy in the REI video, Pattiegonia furthers the conversation of cisgender, heterosexuality, and straight people being the default assumption of outdoor enthisats and works to redfine a new normal in the world of social media (Harris, 2017). 

This democratic dialogue relates to the concept of “actually existing democracy” in the public sphere as theorized by Nancy Fraser as it “designates a theater in modern societies in which political participation is enacted through the medium of talk” (Fraser, 1990). The use of social media such as Instagram acts as both the theatre and the medium of talk where anyone can freely speak, and this speech can be used to empower those who are normally under represented. This applies to a political concept for public participation as the LGTBQ community falls into a minority category that is still working tirelessly for a seat at the table when it comes to representation in many public spheres such as social media and the outdoor community. In addition to this, the use of social media platforms such as Pattiegonia’s outdoor environmentalism and queer advocacy for furthering democratic diolauge reflects the notion of sovereignty in the public sphere and that minority groups such as the LGTBQ community can have their own voice, their own representation, and own self governance within the hiking/ outdoor community (Warner, 2002). 

In all, social media has helped create a space for those in minority groups such as the LGTBQ community to gain representation in the outdoors on platforms such as Instagram.This has contributed greatly towards creating democratic dialogue in the public sphere, and in the case of queer represenation in the outdoors, has highlighted social media’s ability to encourage users to interact with the online public in a way that strengthens queer involvement and removing barriers of gender norms in the hiking/ outdoor world. 


“The results are in. Happy pride.”

@Pattiegonia. results are in. happy pride. Published on June, 28, 2020. Accessed November, 6, 2020.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CB_lxEoJU5P/

“Let me be very clear”

@Pattiegonia. Photo by Wheretowillie. Published on November, 4, 2020. Accessed November, 6, 2020.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CHMeE_kJhgv/

“SURPRISE BISH !!!! Park ranger pattie is here to write you a ticket for being TOO DAMN FABULOUS.”

@Pattiegonia.Photo by @Erinoutdoors. Published on March,4, 2019. Accessed November, 6, 2020.


Works Cited:

Fraser, Nancy. “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy.” Social Text, no. 25/26, 1990, pp. 56–80. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/466240. Accessed 6 Nov. 2020

Harris, Jack. “The Power of Queer Representation in the Media” (2017). Tredway Library Prize for First-Year Research. https://digitalcommons.augustana.edu/libraryprize/7

Phiona Stanley (2020) Unlikely hikers? Activism, Instagram, and the queer mobilities of fat hikers, women hiking alone, and hikers of colour, Mobilities, 15:2, 241-256, DOI: 10.1080/17450101.2019.1696038

Warner, Michael. 2002. “Publics and Counterpublics.” in Quarterly Journal of Speech. 88.4. Available from:http://knowledgepublic.pbworks.com/f/warnerPubCounterP.pdf   

Featured Videos:

Dear mother nature:

reifindout. “REI Presents: Dear Mother Nature, Starring Pattie Gonia.” YouTube, YouTube, 21 Nov. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Yfk0vvVIoU. 

Everything to lose: 

reifindout. “REI Presents: Everything to Lose by Pattie Gonia.” YouTube, YouTube, 21 Nov. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_A2bweGHTY. 

Featured Photos:

@Pattiegonia. results are in. happy pride. Published on June, 28, 2020. Accessed November, 6, 2020.

@Pattiegonia. Photo by Wheretowillie. Published on November, 4, 2020. Accessed November, 6, 2020.

@Pattiegonia.Photo by @Erinoutdoors. Published on March, 4, 2019. Accessed November, 6, 2020.