Sunday, May 13, 2012

English Portfolio

Erick Morales
Eng. 114B
May 11, 2012

Portfolio Introduction:  A Year in Professor Dinsmore’s English class

            A whole year has already passed since I first came into this class.  It’s incredible how fast this first year of college felt.  It feels like just yesterday I was the one graduating from high school, and now I see myself finishing my freshman year in college.  Taking this class has helped me a lot in my writing and critical thinking skills.  I learned concepts and ideas that can help me construct better written essays.
            Some of the things that I learned last semester were Ethos, Pathos, and logos.  These are concepts I didn’t know or thought about prior to this class.  I now look at commercials and essays in different ways.  I realize how some people try to persuade others by using logic, emotion, or the credibility of someone based on their social status, like actors and singers.  When I watch commercials on TV of some company trying to sell a product, for the most, the commercial is done using ethos, or the credibility of someone famous.  I learned that this strategy, as well as the others, is very effective, especially when it comes to writing persuasive essays. One other major thing I learned last semester was how to use MLA style in writing. I don’t know why I was never really taught this in high school, but I’m glad I did this year. After having taken this class I feel more confident as a writer.  Ideas flow a bit easier, and I don’t struggle as much when I write essays.
            During the second semester we focused mostly on identity and the construction of it.  We learned how video games affect someone’s vision of reality, and help to construct their identities.  We also learned about how space can shape someone’s identity.  Like the book we read “Persepolis” is a great example of it.  We had an assignment which consisted of doing an ethnographic work observing how space influences people’s identity and actions.  My group and I decided to take a visit to the theater and do our work on it.  We observed different theaters and presented our findings in class.
            During this semester we wrote two essays.  Both related to identity.  The first one I wrote was titled “Gaming Reality” and basically what I talk about is how the movie Gamer is similar to our reality.  I make comparisons explaining how what is shown in the movie is not too far off from our own real world.  In the second essay I talk about space and identity.  The space or environment in which one grows up has a major effect on the identity they eventually develop.  Social class has a lot to do with this.  The rich and poor grow up in very different neighborhoods, and thus experience different situations, though this is not always the case, I think it’s true for the most part. I go a little more into depth about this topic in my second essay.
            Identity was the main focus this last semester in class.  I found out there are a lot of things that help in the process and development of it.  It’s pretty interesting to see how this works, and helps to see, why some people are the way they are.  Overall, the topics that we touched throughout this year helped me grow as a writer, and I’m looking forward to putting these concepts into use in the future.

Gaming Reality

            Sometimes science fiction movies may seem too far off from reality; but when you take a closer look you may discover that that is not always true.  The movie Gamer is one of those movies.  Video games have become an important part in many people’s lives.  Now-a-days they can create their own avatars and live in a fictional world through their video games.  According to a survey American gamers spent over 13 hours a week playing in 2010, and the average gaming time keeps rising. Americans are spending over 7% of their time living their own fictional reality.  The avatars people create and they themselves have a close relationship.  Avatars are like actors playing a script written by the player.
            The movie Gamer aims to show a futuristic world where mind-controlling technological advancements allow people to control other people. In this movie death row inmates are given 30 sessions during which they are controlled and played by other humans; a game that very much looks like Counter Strike or Call of duty; except in this case they are not computer-made avatars, they are flesh-and-blood humans being played as avatars.  If they can survive these 30 sessions they would be set free.  Simple video games such as those are taken to the extreme and turned into a reality in the movie.
The identity of these inmates, called “slayers”, is taken over by whoever is controlling them.  Technically the slayers have sold themselves and their identity in order to get their freedom back.  This is where the movie reflects a world that is very similar to ours. The slayers are somewhat like soldiers from the army.  The reason why the inmates decided to take part of this game was because they wanted freedom and a better lifestyle than the one they had in prison.  When the army recruits people they offer a lot of things, but most importantly they focus on your economic future.  So, when people sign up for the army one of the main reasons why they do it is to be economically stable.  “In March 2007, the overall unemployment rate was 4.4 percent.  In just 18 months it spiked to 9.8 percent, creating a boom for military recruiting… In the military... older recruits see ‘a stable job, stable income.  The younger generation [is] seeking a way to pay for college.’" (Weak Economy Draws Middle-Class Recruits.)   Army recruits and slayers decide to take part of this “game” for the same basic reason: to better their lives, even if it means running the risk of getting killed in the process.
Once the inmates in the movie sell themselves to be part of the game, they are in total control of the player.  The slayers are like puppets to the players.  They follow the orders and do as the player pleases.  Army soldiers are somewhat like slayers in that sense.  Once they are recruited they MUST do as their commander says.  In boot camp they have no other choice but to follow the rules and do as they are told.  They are being controlled.  In the battlefield they open fire only when they are given the order, they go where their commanders send them, and they kill who they are told to kill, just like the slayers.  They both are in danger of being killed, yet they can’t do anything about it but to follow orders.  They are the puppets playing the game.
In the movie Gamer there is also a thing called “society” which is made up of people who just like the slayers are being controlled and played by other people in exchange for money.  This society reflects the sexual fantasies, and wildest thoughts from a great amount of people in our own society.  In Gamer’s society women were seen as sexual objects, which is not too far from true.  Some women in our real society are in fact sexual objects. Just like the people in the society there are real people who sell themselves for money.  An example of this can be prostitutes.  They too sell their bodies and are at mercy and control of the buyer.  The relationship between the prostitute and the buyer is technically the same as the relationship between the player and the society person they play in Gamer. 
Other people in real life, just like in the movie’s society, are in a way being controlled by other people too, though not of course with controllers like the movie suggests.  We live in a society where since infants we were taught how to act, speak, and behave. We grow up thinking something is right or wrong according to what the standards say. And who makes up those standards? People of social high ranking class do, rich people, the ones in power.  Owners of companies and movies/show’s producers show how people are supposed to dress or look. On TV and magazines we usually see buff, muscular guys and thin, pretty girls. They create in our mind a standard of how we should look and most of us live according to that. We create in our minds a perspective of beauty and ugly; it’s as if we are being brain-washed.  Everyone in their own unique societies and cultures are in a way programmed to be the persons they grow up to be.  Social class in this world is very important.  In the movie Gamer the people that controlled and played the slayers and the people in society were rich people.  We all know if you have money in this world, you have power.  The rich class people are the ones that own the big companies, run the politics, and rule the world.  They make up the rules and standards.  Poor and middle class people just work for them to make a living; we follow their rules and their standards which is like being controlled by them.  Based on what we see or hear on TV or other types of media we build a sense of how to act or speak. Why is the accent or usage of words from the Queen of England better than someone who’s grown up in a poor neighborhood in LA?  We often try to live up to the standards and way of life of rich people we see on the media. Our identities are developed upon the rich’s view and ethic of right or wrong, and normal and deviant.  But we don’t usually realize this.  We just live as we were taught to.
This movie may be science fiction and it is supposed to be years from now, but despite the technological advancements, we can still relate what happens in the movie to today’s reality.  Playing RPG’s is a good distraction and pretty entertaining, but one has to be careful and make sure you can distinguish it from real life.  The real world may be hard and tough but is better than living a fictional one.  Gamer is a perfect example that shows how a video game can became a reality.

Works cited

Eddie Makuch. “Time spent gaming on the rise – NPD.” Gamespot.  N.P. May 27, 2010. Web. March 3, 2012

Tom Philpott. “Weak Economy Draws Middle-Class Recruits.” N.P. October 22, 2009. Web. March 3, 2012.

Waggoner. “Videogames, Avatars, and Identity.”  N.P. N.D.

Identity and Socio-economic status

            Each one of us are different, but yet the same in so many ways.  Some of us might act, talk, think, or look alike.  We might come from different places, or the same place, and thus have similar or distinct physical features.  But we all are unique in a certain way.  It is interesting how you will never find someone who will be exactly just the same way you are. Our identity is a long, constructing process that takes place throughout our lifetimes.  The notion of self-identity and the construction of it is a broad and interesting topic.  Several things or facts attribute to this “identity” perception.
            We first have to look at what identity is.  What exactly is personal “identity” and where does this notion come from?  “We often speak of one's “personal identity” as what makes one the person one is. Your identity in this sense consists roughly of what makes you unique as an individual and different from others. Or it is the way you see or define yourself, or the network of values and convictions that structure your life” (Stanford Encyclopedia).  The concept of identity as we usually use it is quite close to the metaphysical concept of essence, in which it has its origin. “The word essence is derived from the Latin esse, which means «to be» and has its origin in the thought of the Greek philosopher Aristotle. Essence stands for the fundamental being of something, that is to say the set of attributes that make it what it fundamentally is, which it has by necessity, and without which it loses its identity or would just not exist” (reduplikation).  Having that said, we can go back and explore what makes one’s identity and how this one is shaped.
Our identities are first shaped at home.  As babies we imitate our parent’s actions.  We imitate everything we see.  Our identities begin to construct ever since we are born.  We then begin to be us, the persons we’ll grow up to be.  Parents’ actions are primarily what affect a kid’s self-identity as they grow up.  The construction of our identities is then influenced by the environment around which we live and grow up, and the people with whom we socialize and surround us. Much of what we see and go through impacts us, and these events are what shape our self-beings.  Hence, no person can be the same as another.  We all go through and experience different situations that make us unique in different ways.
Simple things like growing up in a certain neighborhood or culture attribute to the shaping and developing of our identities.  Two normal average kids living and growing up two blocks apart from each other may experience completely different situations that would make them very different from each other.  One of the kids may live in poor/dangerous neighborhood where gangbangers reside.  Just the presence of the gangsters in that particular neighborhood changes the space completely from that of his fellow friend living two blocks away in a residential area where gang-related problems are not an issue.  The environment and space are key factors in developing self-identity.  As an example we could look at people living in a wealthy and safer neighborhood like Bel-Air where the crime rate is low, the median household income is $207,938, which is pretty high, (making it the neighborhood ranked number one in the Los Angeles County for the household income.)  Someone growing up in neighborhood like Bel-Air will most likely have a completely different view of the world than someone who grew up in another neighborhood like Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw, where the crime rates are extremely high, and people don’t exactly live in luxury.  The rich and the poor will have their identities shaped very differently according to the conditions they live in.
The fact of living and growing up in a dangerous/poor neighborhoods or a rich and wealthy ones helps to define how a person shapes his ideals and own-self.  Living in a poor neighborhood people have to be careful and aware at all times.  This may cause them to live in fear and/or to always have their guards up.  With all the robberies, murders, and problems going on one develops a different perspective of the world.  A kid growing up in a wealthy neighborhood where he does not have to worry about being outside at night and even during the day, or leaving his toys in the yard without having them stolen, forms a different view of the world in his mind.  The perception one gets of the world, is mostly gathered from the events and environment in which one lives.  This does not necessarily mean that just because one lives in a particular area or neighborhood he/she will develop an identity that reflects the environment of the neighborhood in which he/she lives.  Like I mentioned before, parents’ actions are what first influence and shape a kid’s identity.  It would not matter as much if the kid lives in the richest neighborhood, if at home he sees violence and experiences abuse of any kind, either physical or mental.  This is how space, and the environment and conditions we live in shape and help to construct one’s identity.
Also, the wealthy does not have to struggle to put bread on the table every day.  Kids that are born into wealthy families have it a lot easier to be “successful.”  By this I mean that they are perhaps given a better education, since they can afford private school and expensive universities, whereas poor, average people have to go to public schools, where education is not so good.  The level of education we receive also helps to shape our identities, and is an important factor in getting a good job.  Moreover, “lower socioeconomic status among older adults is associated with higher rates of medical and psychological disorders.  Poor older adults have poorer access to medical care, prescription medications, long-term care, and community-based care. The impact of poverty on young children is significant and long lasting, limiting chances of moving out of poverty. Poverty is associated with substandard housing, homelessness, inadequate child care, unsafe neighborhoods, and under resourced schools; and poor children are at greater risk than higher income children for a range of problems, including detrimental effects on IQ, poor academic achievement, poor socioemotional functioning, developmental delays, behavioral problems, asthma, poor nutrition, low birth weight, and pneumonia” (American Psychological).
The shaping and developing of identity is a long and complex process that takes time.  There are many factors contributing to this notion of self-identity.  The situations presented to us, the environment and people surrounding us, to my understanding, are the most influential factors in the construction of identity. In different spaces and situations people act differently.  People behave according to the stage that is presented to them.  This translates to the behavior they develop and practice in other normal situations.  Life is a process of learning.  We constantly keep learning new things.  We learn what is bad and what is good.  In a way we learn to be ourselves and act accordingly.  Developing our identities is learning what, why, and who we are.  We may all take different paths, but in the end we all are heading in the same direction, discovering who we truly are. 

 Works cited
“Do we know who we are? A brief reflection on identity.” March 26,          2010. Web. April 29, 2012.

Mapping L.A: Neighborhoods. Los Angeles Times. n.d. Web. April 29, 2012.

Olson, Eric T. "Personal Identity." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter    2010 Edition.) Edward N. Zalta (ed.) Web. April 29, 2012.

“Resolution on Poverty and Socioeconomic Status.” The American Psychological Association. August 6, 2000. Web. May 12, 2012.


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