What Is Art?|What Art Is



A “one-syllabled”, three letter  word that subjectively encompasses anything and everything that expresses human creative skill and imagination. Traditionally, these works were exemplified through a visual form such as painting or sculpture, but more contemporary lenses would argue that music, film, writing and spoken word can all be considered art, for they evoke a natural human response of emotional or aesthetic appreciation whilst creating or imagining a more literal or conceptual visual for the audience. Although this wide-range definition leaves some scratching their heads and wondering where and when the world (particularly America), became so willy-nilly and lax with their criteria for classifying and identifying art, (or anything for that matter), many artists utilize this range as an advantage to create pieces of art that aren’t so typically beautiful or awe-inspiring. In fact, many contemporary artists seem to be pushing the boundary of arts limitations, guiding it closer and closer to a form that is, in fact, limitless and boundless. With newfound confidence in the unknown and a more noticeable desire to satisfy the artists criteria for what is considered art, humans are beginning to see that art truly is what you make it, for we have finally just begun living life to the same standard.


Now, before this seems like a stretch, let me explain. It has become increasingly clear to me that as a people and a society, we are generally becoming more accepting and willing to recognize changes and new things as yet another step forward towards a more open-minded and  free-thinking society. For many of us, changes are seen as regular occurrences or are even expected due to the seemingly stagnant state of many affairs and art forms. For others… specifically our older counterparts, changes are not received with such warmth or ease;


but sometimes, both the old and the young can be perplexed or shaken by what our artists decide to put on the dinner table, and despite any sort of confusion, hatred, or unexplainable appreciation, we feast in whichever direction our emotions are pulling us towards.


Kanye West has been pushing art’s boundaries since his emergence in the hip-hop and rap scene, changing our perception of genres, music’s limitations and more recently what really classifies as art. This year, West dropped his heavily anticipated project, “The Life of Pablo” and created a few visuals for the project along the way. His most controversial and interesting project is his choice of subject matter and stylistic direction used in the “Famous” video; in which several obviously famous, well-liked, -hated, or -renowned people were depicted sleeping in a large bed–naked, and unaware that someone is filming the whole event.


For some, outrage quickly ensued. Certain stars in the video were upset that they were portrayed in the video without their consent, which created grounds for claims of defamation of character and portrayal of someone without their consent. The numerous others haven’t publicly voiced their opinions about their doppelgangers. But even those not depicted in the video were voicing concern.

Lena Dunham, a proclaimed feminist comedian and dear friend to Taylor Swift spoke on her honor, and claimed that West’s video is “one of the more disturbing ‘artistic’ efforts in recent memory.” Dunham voices her outrage and lack of comfort watching the video, saying that the way in which it was shot mimicked the likes of snuff films. “I know that art’s job is to make us think in ways that aren’t always tidy or comfortable. But this feels different.


Although Dunham isn’t completely wrong in any of her observations or claims, she seems to be zoning in on minute details as opposed to the grand theme and idea behind the piece; which isn’t to defame or shame any of those depicted, (I mean come on, his beloved wife is featured in it as one of the only real versions of the stars depicted). Some of the stars had obvious connections, others were simply prominent figures or people who have recently been controversial in the media. With all of these factors in play it became obvious to me, as a viewer, that West was commenting on fame by analyzing the aspects of it that make it so naturally bizarre, exploitative, personal and communal.

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Depending on your taste, the feast you enjoyed was either in support of Kanye’s vision, or a confused rage, unsure as to how a form of “exploitation” could ever be classified as art. Whichever opinion you have is viable, but West’s creation of something that wasn’t “tidy” and evoked discomfort in many proves in it’s existence that the video is in fact, art. The ability to create without fear of judgement or approval makes West a truly brilliant artist, and the works he puts out consequently demonstrates a fearless ability to create without limits, for now more than ever, art truly knows no bounds.


American by Paper Remediation

American by Paper Remediation

            The assigned text, “American by Paper” by Kate Vieira is an informative piece that argues the complications and affordances of official documents or papers and “American literacy” and conversely, the absence of such mobilizers. Vieira uses direct documentation from immigrants and members of their social circles to defend her claim that the combination of official papers and literacy allows its beneficiaries to enjoy sociomaterial products and processes—the heighth or pinnacle of transnational success and its positive benefits (given that mobilization is achieved via papers and literacy).

The author coins the term “sociomaterialism” to represent “a series of culturally and historically specific processes and material products, put into meaningful action by writers, readers, and powerful institutions, such as the state, which legislated literacy’s consequences for important aspects of migrant’s lives” (81 Vieira). In other words, culturally and historically embedded processes and products (such as Christmas in America and its consumer-friendly nature) were detrimentally deterministic for a migrant’s perceived mobility amongst themselves and the acknowledged (by both sides) “other” of naturally-born or neatly assimilated American citizens. More importantly, this concept of sociomaterialism should be recognized as a deceptively promising “ticket” to freedom, for “assimilationist ends” are rarely ever so neatly achieved. Rather, migrants often recognize freedom as a series of mobile processes, “through which some of their most literate acts involved a kind of unequal co-authoring with mundane state agencies” (81 Vieira).

The concept of sociomaterialism, especially in relation to transnational mobility and success, struck me as very interesting. To explore this concept more deeply, I created two “collage”-type pieces to represent the disparity between migrants who have achieved literacy and obtained official documentation compared to those who lack papers and/or literacy. By creating a visual piece in the form of a collage, the relationship between immediacy and hypermediacy were challenged and explored in a way I found meaningful in relation to the argument of my piece. By using hypermedia (text, images, fabric) to fundamentally create the immediate(cy) concept of the piece as a whole, I was able to convey my argument in a way that left more room for conceptual and deep interpretation (16 Bolter, Grusin).

The first piece is a collage that has several relevant components, the most important being fabric in the color of the American flag, a culturally or literacy-specific comic, a graduation cap, stairs leading to an assumed “bright future” with relevant text lining the page, several food and restaurant information pieces and a map of America with a window added to it to represent the home and opportunity America can provide to its citizens and migrants (given the proper mobilizers are achieved.) The aforementioned components work together to convey perceived success and assimilation into American society if they are indeed mobile migrants and how this success is simply a coating or plastering of American ideals and materials unto themselves. By putting the pieces together in the form of a collage and making the “person” in the piece fundamentally composed of literally sociomaterial products, I was able to artistically and expansively articulate my argument which could not have been done in such a receptive way on paper. The concepts are explored and used to represent the larger concept of how sociomateriality and transnationalism are a conglomerate force that complement each other in a way that can be highly beneficial and serve as appropriate “citizen’s camouflage” in America. Ultimately, this piece represents the process of mobility and the benefits it reaps if successfully achieved.

The author pointed out how literacy and documents are not mutually-exclusive mobility-inducers, but are treated as a packaged deal that can’t be separated if full mobility is to be achieved. My second piece is in reference to the aforementioned concept, which argues that without the packaged deal of literacy and documentation, migrants are often still seen as foreigners lacking the American flair and seal of approval. More importantly, the piece represents the migrant’s interpretation of themselves and how they may feel incomplete, incapable, and immobile without the American requirements of migrant success. By cutting out the form of a person and filling it with thin, connected threads represents the migrant struggle to become “wholly” American or fully tied into the American fabric. I made a conscious artistic choice to make the threads white and not red, white, and blue to represent a kind of assimilation to “whiteness” or American culture in a base sense, as well as the inability to create strong, lasting ties in American society without literacy and documentation. It is for this reason that the cutout appears in a newspaper—to represent the relevance and immersive nature of literacy in American society and how these displaced citizens are almost forced to be surrounded by products of sociomaterialism that they cannot participate in nor achieve. The focal point of this piece represents the disjointed, “threaded-together” nature of one’s mobility given it is never actually achieved.

The audience of my pieces would arguably be any member of American society. I believe that if the audience was more specifically focused on migrants it would constitute as more of a think piece for the very fabrics and components of my remediated design is meant to be understood and relevant to those who might not necessarily be fully literate or documented. If migrants in this group viewed my pieces and were able to understand my rhetorical aims, it would seem to be a successful representation of my argument, and thus, a successful remediation of Vieira’s thoughts.


*The Revision Process*

            After my group and I presented our works-in-progress to the class, I was left with more feedback and information from my peers and members of my group that helped me guide and enhance my existing argument. After reviewing my group’s artifacts, I was able to consider my artifacts in relation to theirs and form a comprehensive understanding of the pieces collaboratively. With my visual pieces, Jalen’s visual piece, Heather’s visa and passport documents and April’s twine game, our argument effectively analyzes and considers the benefits and setbacks of literacy and documentation or the lack thereof, respectively. My group’s work represents our argument more literally in the form of first-hand experience (Jalen) or simulation (April) and the importance of the physical representations of literacy and documentation in the form of “mock” versions of these items (Heather). I find my work to be slightly more conceptual, but fittingly appropriate in relation to my group’s more focused exploration on the migration process itself as opposed to the process of mobility that I explored.



Remediation Proposal


  • Her husband is an immigrant from Brazil, she had to apply for visas for her and her daughter to go there
  • She feels privileged because she is an American


    • “Visas, passports, and green cards mattered a great deal to the people featured in this book, the Azorean and Brazilian migrants and Azorean Americans, both young and old, who shared their lives with me for this project. For many, these papers could mean the difference between work offering a living wage and work that exploits, family unification and separation, respect and disrespect, belonging and exclusion, life and death. Legal papers could facilitate social movement into better jobs and ease physical movement across national borders. Without papers, mobility could be limited, and many were stuck.” (pp. 1-2)
    • Initially, she thought literacy would be the topic of discussion and how it changed immigrants’ lives, but instead people talked at length about the papers – undocumented and documented alike. Basically literacy and the papers go hand in hand.
    • Papers link migrants to larger institutions, such as the state, the school, and the workplace
  • “Papers, this book argues, mediate literacy’s promise as a way for migrants to make it in the United States.” (p. 3)
  • This book shows how papers matter for migrant literacy.
  • Thickening borderland: “document checkpoints do not exist only on the physical border marked on a map. They pervade migrants’ experiences in the United States, where documents are demanded in workplaces, in schools, on the road.” (p. 6) (Examples below)
  • Immigration information required for some schools
  • Georgia banned undocumented immigrants from attending its most prestigious public universities in 2010
  • Many states do not let undocumented immigrants get driver’s licenses
  • Documentary Society: “texts are so ubiquitous as arbiters of daily life that they often go unnoticed. Will fill out forms for employment, we send e-mails, and we sign for our medical prescriptions” (p. 7)
  • “Documents, in particular, make subjects ‘legible’ to the state. And passports and visas, as particular kinds of identification documents, seek to control the unwieldy movement of bodies across national borders.” (p. 8)
  • “Papers and literacy practices in the lives of migrants were tightly knotted, as they wrote to gain legitimacy, to pass checkpoints, and to fulfill other goals that resonated with the role of official documents in their lives.” (p. 8)
  • “Papers… acted as material linchpins in the process of writing and being written. They functioned on three levels.
    • “First, papers were simply papers, artifacts made from wood pulp or plastic, inked, laminated, encrusted with an electronic chip, embossed, stamped, signed.
    • “Second, as they circulated between subject and state, they were tools by which states legitimized those lucky enough to have them and disenfranchised those who didn’t, and by which subjects petitioned for particular bureaucratically granted privileges. That is, these material artifacts had real-life consequences.
    • “On a third level, as migrants wrote to achieve papers, wrote in light of not having papers, or wrote to gain privileges associated with papers, papers attained the status what theorist Pierre Bourdieu has called symbolic capital – a kind of power assumed when other forms of capital (such as economic, cultural, and social) are socially recognized as legitimate.” (pp. 9-10)
  • “For documented Azoreans, legal papers were revered as textual evidence of their journey toward U.S. national belonging. For undocumented Brazilians, papers were textual evidence of their exclusion.” (p. 11)
  • Note: more Azoreans were documented in the town in Massachusetts that this ethnography was conducted in, while many Brazilians were undocumented. This is not representative of national migration patterns.

Artifact/Project Ideas

Someone has to do something involving the Fab Lab with their artifact.

  • Interview an immigrant or an exchange student and ask about their “papers” (or several)
  • Create a website for immigration that explains (satirically, almost since it’d be cool if this was done in plain English) what needs to be done to be granted visas (tourist or otherwise) and the consequences and implications for each of these things (if that makes sense?)
  • Create a map that shows borders as described with the term “thickening borderland”
  • Find key countries that people immigrate to and show the kinds of papers they require. Or just do it for the US – does it vary by state?
  • Make a blog/Twitter/something from the perspective of one of the people examined in this ethnography


What is the central argument of your text of choice?

In American by Paper: How Documents Matter in Immigrant Literacy, Kate Vieira argues that papers and literacy work hand in hand to help immigrants make it in the United States. By papers, Vieira is referring to documents such as visas, passports, birth certificates, diplomas, and green cards.

What are two pertinent sub-arguments of your text?

  1.     Papers can free or trap immigrants. For immigrants, papers are the difference between an opportunity for national belonging or the evidence of their exclusion.
  2.     It is increasingly difficult to get by without these papers in our documentary society. By documentary society, Vieira is referring to the ubiquitous nature of literacy and texts in daily life. Most prominently, these papers are needed to make an immigrant legible and legitimate to the state and the government. However, elementary schools, universities, and the local Department of Motor Vehicles – amongst many others – increasingly require immigration documentation.

Explain how your group will, collectively, remediate your text.

In an effort to demonstrate the impact that papers can have on an immigrant’s life, our group will make explicit connections with and relationships between pieces of textual evidence and the implications on daily life. There are many aspects to this such as work, school, income, housing, and so on, which are great places to start with this project and ideas that we can collectively tackle. By using similar elements in each of our artifacts, but using different topics and media, we can craft a full picture of the impact of papers on daily life.

Provide a brief description of each of your groups member’s artifacts: what media and how each one will work to remediate your text.

Heather – I will be crafting one or two papers, such as a birth certificate or passport, and replacing things such as place of birth, status, etc. with meaningful implications for those things. For example, what does being born in Hinsdale, Illinois mean for my life? What does this impact? This will specifically look at impacts these documents have in the United States.

Natalie – I am interested in making a GIF, drawing or collage-type art piece that represents the disparity between immigrants with and without papers and how that simple difference affects the lives of each subject respectively in reference to freedoms afforded or denied in school, work and the “privileges” of driving and purchasing a house. By using a combination of pictures and words/text to remediate the text, the viewer will (hopefully) understand the argument of the text in full without having to read 200 pages of text. Ultimately, my goal is to create a comprehensive art piece that heavily synthesizes the text, yet doesn’t leave out the key elements that make it important and a valuable concern to consider.


April – I will be making a website about immigration that would satirically explain the bureaucratic procedures needed to be granted visas and citizenship, and the possible consequences and implications of these procedures.  The website could also have a section that cites the book and links to other sites about immigration and immigrant literacy.  

11.15 Wrap-Up

a) After completing this unit I learned more about how complex and consequential video games are. I would have never particularly noticed if it weren’t for playing video games in class which very clearly exemplified the way many video games use consequential logic and progression to inform the player of right, wrong, and the keys to successful game play. After creating a video game of my own this was exemplified even more because having to connect certain paths with each other and make certain facets of the game cyclical or trajectory really made the creation process both fun and challenging.

b) Video games are unique in the sense that they make the process of creation itself more procedural and consequential. When you are writing a paper or making a video, you can easily go back, change things, edit, or shoot more footage. While creating a video game, you are still afforded these luxuries but the creation process itself has to be more inclusive and for your game to have stylistic elegance and an actual fun component, it seems that you have to be thinking about multiple facets of the game or paths at once to make a truly cohesive, compelling piece.

c) It would have been nice to know more about how to make cohesive, connecting paths in the game. It was the most difficult concept to grasp and after playing other people’s games it seems like most people struggled with, or didn’t want to be bothered with making more complex, effective paths and “points”.

Green Room Questions

  • Is there any way to win this game?
  • Is it supposed to be a play on human psychology in the sense that by assuming there is a way to win, people may get frustrated when they continuously run into dead ends– is this the point?


The first game I played was called the “Accidental Character Generator” by caeth. It was simple enough, and did what was expected. You opened the web page and there was a story already made for you. It followed the structure of a madlib in the sense that it had a basic frame or outline but integral nouns, verbs, and characterizing adjectives changed in relation to the random name you are assigned. In each character introduction, there are at least two hyperlinked words you can click to link you to the “next step” or next level of characterization to your identity. This continues for about three more clicks and the generation seems to dead end– leaving the player with a rather basic, yet story-structured description of a person. The second game  I played was titled “Alone/Awake” by Paperblurt. Although similar due to the use of proceduralism, it feels as if the second game wasn’t as “dependent” on the player’s actions or choices. It was obvious that there was already a preset outline that the game followed, and although the player was allowed to click through different options, all choices ultimately led to the same fate.

The games had a similar progression in the sense that there were comparable outline structures. In both games, one is met with a lot of contextual story information and provides (mostly) binary choices to the player to allow one to “progress”. However, it seems that after “clickholing” into a different aspect or point-of-view in the game, you don’t really gain any vital or trans-formative information. What I mean by trans-formative is that by clicking on a hyperlinked word, you assume you would be taken to a different “stage” in the game that allows you to keep making choices that will positively/negatively affect gameplay in a manner that doesn’t lead to “dead-ends” with no more hyperlinked opportunities. Both of the games  I played were lacking trans-formative hyperlinking, and for that reason, I found them both lacking in producing compelling procedural rhetoric and satisfying, logical gameplay.

After analyzing the two games  I played I found that they were both lacking “rational clickholes”, transformative hyperlinking and relevant, understandable context (in the form of a story line). Although I can understand that certain games are literally designed to confuse, frustrate, and challenge it’s players, I find that relative to my topic (analyzing the decision-making process whilst also learning about morality), I have to avoid running into the problems that I found confused me and made me dislike the game for (mostly) objective reasons. My clickholes have to follow a concise story. More importantly, each hyperlink must have opportunity for a unique, new progression based on the choices made. I won’t have many dead ends in my game (“unless one loses”), and I am going to consciously try to avoid being overly poetic or flowery in my writing style for I am not trying to confuse or dazzle the player, but rather genuinely connect with the players on personal and relateable levels.

Twine Proposal

1.) What’s the subject matter for your video game? (Another way of thinking through this or answering this question is, “What critical question do you want to explore through your game?”) 

I want to incorporate concepts I am learning in other classes by  creating my video game following the format of a decision-making process. I want to explore how people think and what they instinctively, logically, and emotionally respond to in ultimatum-type situations. It will be similar to the format of the walking dead video game in the sense that your personal choices will be the catalyst for different actions and “endings” to take place. In other words, the choices you make will be the procedural guide of the video game; like a technological “create-your-own-ending” story. Ultimately, my work will be a series of if…then outcomes that allow the player to “win” or “lose”.

2.) What’s your tentative argument at the moment? Or, what sort of argument would you like to make through your video game?

I suppose the argument or subject of controversy I am examining is the difference between moral rightness and moral wrongness. By giving players a variety of options–each relative to varying degrees of moral rightness– one can literally choose to do something in a more or less morally conscious way. If one plays the game “right” they win, and will know that simply by the immersive style I plan to create it in. Much like the walking dead immersion, I will use rhetoric and language that makes the player feel personally connected and related to the scenarios I create. The argument focuses on how people view problems and situations. If one acts in favor of oneself, it is likely that many immoral acts and perceptions will be prevalent. However, if one considers themselves whilst also applying general benevolence to game play, it is likely that better choices will be made and one is more likely to “succeed” or literally be the better person.

3.) Who’s the audience for this Twine project?

The audience reaches to virtually any human being for it allows each and every player to make a choice that resonates most closely with their own personal perceptions and conception of right and wrong. (I know this isn’t possible for this class), but it would be interesting to set up three different research groups of different ages. There would be a children group (5-12), “teens” (13-19), and adults (20-). By seeing what each test group responds to and analyzing any noticeable patterns in choices made, one could compare and contrast the basic morality of an average human as they progress through life. Does morality get stronger or weaker over time? Does morality even follow a positive trajectory or does age not play a chronological role in the development of morality?

4.) What problems do you anticipate in charting out, designing, and/or creating this project? How do you plan on getting around these issues?

I imagine that my concept is going to require quite a bit of different paths and small factors that create one larger project. In other words, I think it’s going to take a lot of work and time to think of the different options people can make and connecting each choice with it’s own personal story line and outcome. No choice will lead to the same outcome so making the individual paths or stories may be time-consuming and a little confusing, but I think making a map or outline on paper first will make it easier to translate the material onto Twine.

Critical Assessment Reflection

a)Ultimately, it seems like you’re asking us to assess how rhetoric plays a part in video games and personally put it into practice in our own way. You also state the importance of analyzing the way in which composing in the medium of video games connects and contrasts with other modes, media and technology. Overall, although there is an importance in how we make the game look and function, we are ultimately being evaluated on how we use proceduralism and different rhetorical styles to compel the player, for this class is all about rhetoric and how it translates across different modes and mediums and how to manipulate and understand these things to become better writers, rhetoricians, and analyzers of rhetoric.

b) You don’t seem to be evaluating grammar, the video game itself doesn’t have to have a specific length, you aren’t specifically evaluating what story we are trying to tell but how we tell it, as opposed to a consequentialist type of perspective, you seem to be grading the procedural aspects of the game and our production style, which is akin to what we have been discussing and reading in class.

c) You are grading our use of rhetoric and our ability to understand how to use it proficiently because knowing what rhetoric is, what it can do, and who it pertains to (in the form of an audience) are essential tools and basics to this class and life beyond class. If you can be an effective rhetorician or persuader, you are a more aggressive and powerful communicator, which is an invaluable skill these days in every day life and for our future entrance into the job market.