I’ll be honest— when the class started and we learned that we were going to be “alchemists” learning “alchemy,” I think I was thrown for a loop. I’m all about creativity in the classroom, but I think the scientific nature of the theme scared and confused me— after all, the heck do I know about alchemy? Asides from Full Metal Alchemists (which, by the way, is full of incorrect alchemical concepts), I really did not know anything. How was I supposed to do well in incorporating alchemy into my blog posts and discussion? It reminded me of our encounter in Mark Marino’s world of Thermophiles in Love… I was afraid I was not going to be able to feel truly involved with what Networked Narratives was trying to build.
After a while, I think all of us started to get used to the language of the classroom. Additionally, once we started doing these studio visits and bus tours, I think we started to see the magic of the course—at least I know I did, anyway. I was enjoying the connections we were making with people from all over and from all aspects of the networked community. Personally, I loved being in the webinars— it was a lot more interesting than “just watching.” I loved being a part of the conversation as much as I could, especially the discussions we had whenever we were “offline” during the webinars. In particular, as you know, I especially enjoyed the “Fanfiction” and “YWP” visits. I felt like I saw a lot of me in both of those areas, so to talk about it from an analytical and more professional viewpoint was equally engaging as it was reflective. I’m also grateful for the connections I made, or at least am trying to making (haha), with the founder for Young Writer’s Project. For the summer, I want to get involved with the website and become a Mentor for them! It would mean a great deal for me if I could.
On a more “academic” note, I am very happy that we had the opportunity to learn about and make twitterbots. I was really captivated with the generative nature of the bots, and I loved that you could use them in a variety of ways. Since I’m a huge Drag Race fan (if you couldn’t tell), I got to channel my passion for the show and queens by creating a bot that generated fake drag names and was a tribute to the memes of both the show and the fandom. Creating the bot felt the same as creating any other work of art— I felt like I had the same process and pride for it as I would have any of my poetry or drawings. To add, I also liked the bot because even though I made it, it constantly surprised me. Even today, when it pops up on my Twitter feed, it’ll come up with an extremely amusing name that I can’t help but smile at and think, “Wow! I made that?!” So thank you, NetNarr! I think in the future I’ll create another one, but maybe one actually on the poetic side, like the poem.exe twitterbot.
However, after the studio visits and bus tours, once we started to loop back to the alchemist “core” of the course, I think that’s when things got really interesting. I loved the idea of creating a character and having them exist as an alternate persona— I wish we honestly could have done a whole class revolving around Arganee and our alchemists. Being in character and networking is definitely an interesting and wonderful experience for everyone— after all, that’s where we are at our most authentic selves. Even though we can hide behind characters, I feel that most of the time, what we say is how we truly feel. We’re free to truly express our thoughts in a way that necessarily isn’t attributed to our “real” selves. Or, if someone feels like they can’t express sincere thoughts, having this character’s unattached relationships and unbiased existence in the world is a great outlet to let your feelings out in a digital space. Making Ketsunya was fun— I got to create fanart and flesh out a character, and I enjoyed seeing my classmates do the same. I hope next spring, when the class runs, we can bring them back in some way!
I think the class was great. I looked forward to being there every Wednesday, and having both of you as professors were a rewarding and wonderful experience in itself. I’m very glad that we get to stay in contact with Alan more over the next year as we work toward our thesis, because it just wouldn’t feel right if he suddenly wasn’t a part of our time at Kean anymore! Both of you guys really made the class dynamic, interesting, and a pleasure— I believe everyone had a great time, from the twitterchats to the meme-making, and everything in between. The only thing I wish I had done differently (although I hate to say I regret anything) is being on top of the DDAs more— for some reason, especially the last few weeks, I struggled with remembering their existence! I don’t know why. I feel really bad about it, because I liked the concepts. Even though the class is ending, and if I happen to be on Twitter, I would definitely still respond to a DDA that I liked. I guess I wish there was a way to be notified every day in the morning, haha— but alas!
In the end, I’m glad you guys chose to go with the theme of alchemy. Not to sound cliché, but that class was truly a magical experience— even  though a few of us were hesitant at first, it did not take us long to realize the importance of the relationships we were making with each other or the realm we had constructed in the classroom and online around us. The real magic was the power of a networked community, and learning the stories of people we would not normally connect with— with that knowledge, we are able to see ourselves reflected in other people, empathize, and use it to rebuild and revitalize the world around us.
Thank you,

Hailey