My own voice

I thought that this avatar project was definitely the most unique project that I’ve ever had in a course, especially a history course. I had always experienced history class as classes where I read textbooks and did my best to learn the facts of the situation. I was always aware that history is largely written by the winners and that facts were distorted, but I had never attempted to analyze the past in a story format.

It was a great experience for me to assume another character and another set of circumstances, because while we learn about actions of another group and the political speeches made by others, we (people in general) rarely delve deep into the motivations of other people. Understanding the context of other people makes us judge situations less harshly, because we were able to understand (or at least try to) the motivation behind why people might have done terrible things or might have retaliated in a way that we don’t understand, having never been through that situation. It’s so easy to avoid thinking about the emotions of other people, but when we’re forced to bring up a story using the circumstances that we know, it makes the emotions and stories of individuals an integral part of history. When I wrote about the death of Esteban, it reminded me of the deaths that others have to go through, and the numbers felt like a lot more when there were stories attached to them. It wasn’t difficult for me to assume another voice and another perspective, since I’m an actor and do that on a regular basis, but it’s a practice that is really valuable for those entering a situation and learning more about it

However, I didn’t feel comfortable writing from these perspectives, mostly because I don’t feel that I was equipped with the proper tools to understand any person’s perspective in Argentina. We spent the vast majority of the class studying Chile and I in general felt that I was lacking tools such as culture (food, music, etc), which is really important when attempting to understand context. I felt as if the reading materials provided were not enough to prepare me to write such a deep perspective, and I ended up doing a lot of research on my own to find out more about Argentina so that I could feel better about writing from a character’s perspective. While it is good that I was forced to do extra research, it felt like a task that required a lot more time than the time allotted for it with all of the videos and readings that we did. Overall, while I felt like it was good to try and write from a different perspective, it felt like a project that deserved a class of its own and certainly required more class discussion on Argentina to help the students understand the situations better. The understanding of perspectives is so important that it can’t afford to be one part of a course that requires a lot of other work with it. It deserves to be the course itself (maybe a seminar with this class as a prerequisite).

4 thoughts on “My own voice

  1. ssvolk says:

    Thanks for your comments, Roberto (for I will continue to call you Roberto!). I will think about the issues you raise. At the same time, it would have been much better for the project had you posted week by week rather than waiting until the last day to post a great majority of your entries. That way others could have benefited from your entries and your avatar’s life would have possibly taken different turns.

    1. Roberto says:

      I understand what you’re saying about helping other people in the class. If I had posted week by week, the class definitely could have been able to read my entries and perhaps gained something with from my writing. I do feel as if I owe some explanation for my methods of posting:

      When I started with the posts week by week, the posts (from my experience) had a bad combination of feeling like parts of the weekly homework (and not their own entity) and it felt random to make the posts. On a week by week basis, I never felt as if I could have a proper character development and my posts would always be centered around the date of the post instead of relying on a consistent narrative, which for me was a necessity of the Avatar project. Not to mention that so much happens in a week in my life, and it’s hard for me to stop a start a project on a once a week basis and still have the project feel as if it is its own entity in my life. Writing them all in a continuous format allowed me to give the posts the great level of detail and care that they required, along with an ability to focus on the character himself; that is, the actual character development that marks my personal writing. It allowed me to take the past and the present in a fluid motion, and ensured that every piece of writing contained fresh memories of the past (or past writing) and stuck out more in what I viewed as a person’s story. I think the quality of my character development would have been dramatically lower if I had posted on a week by week basis.

      In addition, I kept feeling as if I didn’t know nearly enough about Argentina and the culture to make a good post from a character in the country. I still feel woefully ignorant about the country, but I wanted to wait until I got all of the possible information about the course before I could even finish a project like this. Had my character been in Chile, I would have felt a lot more comfortable with the posts because we spent so much time on the Chilean government and learned information about the Chilean people in the process. I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable with my knowledge of the country I was supposed to be writing from, and I take the telling of someone’s story too seriously to (for lack of a better term) half-ass a post from incomplete knowledge. To me, the project felt like its own entity, one that deserved time on its own; a byproduct from the culmination of a semester’s worth of knowledge and deep thought on a subject. Giving the posts their own place as its own assignment gave me a chance to research from a perspective of culture and traditions and understand the entirety of the conflict that I was entering my character into. Had I written these week by week, I don’t think that I would have had the proper knowledge to make a halfway decent post for my character.

      However, it would be unfair of me to not acknowledge the serious flaws that I exhibited while going about the project this way. First of all, I never communicated these thoughts with you during the year, and I should have pushed aside my discomfort and simply talked to you about my concerns. I don’t think it is fair to you that I just brought up these concerns at the end of the year, well after you could have done anything about it. If nothing else, my discomfort with bringing up the subject could invalidate all of my concerns, simply because I waited way too long. Secondly, I should have simply done the project as you required, with concerns as a side instead of as a replacement for the posts. The reality is that you’re the professor and I agreed to take the class as you laid it out, not how I wish it could have been laid out. It was downright idiotic to not take the steps that you required and to let my personal feelings get in the way of a project that was worth 30% of my grade. Finally, it was unfair to my classmates to let them down and not think about them while I had doubts. I’m ashamed to say that I never thought about the effect that withholding my posts would have on my classmates, and the thought that I might have taken away from their possible education is to me, the most serious offense because they had no say in my decision and they still suffer the consequences.

      I hope that this rambling post makes some sense to you; I really enjoyed the project, even if I didn’t go about it the proper way. I’m happy to talk more about it if you wish, but I know you’re busy with a crazy amount of work.

      -Roberto Rodriguez Clemente

  2. ssvolk says:

    Thanks for taking these issues seriously and for commenting at length on them. We’ll leave it here.

  3. isabeljuarezmorell says:

    Roberto, I agree that there was not enough attention paid to Argentina in comparison with Chile, a consequence perhaps on the professor’s personal history in Chile.

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