ITP Collaborative Design: Zine Assignment

Brooklyn ENGL 1012, freshman, public institution, real with elements of the aspirational. Instructor: Zachary Lloyd. Zine librarian: Jenna Freedman

The context for this assignment is a typical ENGL 1012 course at Brooklyn College, geared for first-year students. Although a final research paper is usually required by the department for the course, our final project assignment seeks to take a more creative approach to the testing of students’ textual analysis and research skills. In addition to developing skills in close reading and interpretive analysis, students will also develop skills in group participation and collaborative project development. They will also gain a basic understanding of open-source design technologies. As such, although our assignment is based upon an existing course already in place, we are augmenting the final expectations of the course considerably.

Assignment/Learning Goals

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of class readings in regard to content, style, and manner of presentation
  2. Edit and revise writing and the presentation of writing using peer review and instructor critiques
  3. Design/create a zine that combines research methods and critical response with creative expression
  4. Develop skills in visual literacy and design technologies
  5. Collaborate and work effectively on a project individually and with others

Our project will require students to apply, in combination, the various skills and individual talents they have been developing throughout the semester. Each student will demonstrate the semester’s learning in a variety of interactive modalities, both visual and textual. The assignment will also foster a highly creative form of digital literacy. The project is “final” in the sense that it utilizes and builds upon the course content as well as the technical skills that are taught and supported throughout the semester.

Assignment Draft

ENGL 1012 Final Project

Your final project will utilize your understanding of our class readings and discussions, the research methods we have examined in class, and the design skills you have gained from our software workshops. You will put these skills to use in a project that combines textual analysis with visual representation and manipulation. Specifically, you will create a zine that explores creative expression, imagery-based narratives, and critical response in order to reflect on a central question, issue, or theme of the course that interests you. The project will be conducted in three distinct, yet interrelated, phases:

Phase I: Compilation zine project (15% of semester grade)
Phase 2: Peer review and revision (15%)
Phase 3: Individual fanzine project and artistic statement/personal reflection (30%)

Columbia University Writing compilation zine, edited by instructor Nicole Gervasio, 2017

Phase I: In groups of 4, you will collaboratively produce a zine that explores a central issue or theme that you (as a group) will decide upon together. Even though you all may have different interests, do your best to give your zine a coherent overall narrative and structure. Each member of the group will contribute 2 pages to the zine, and will examine, emulate, imitate, close read, or critique a text or texts read in class during the first half of the semester. Content can take the form of

  • Comic
  • Essay
  • Personal response
  • Two-minute video script
  • Annotated playlist, menu, cast list
  • Poem
  • Letters to the editor
  • Flowchart
  • Which character are you quiz
  • In-character diary entry
  • Etc. – please share any alternate ideas with the professor at least one week before it is due

Phase 2: Each group will post their zine on Social Paper. Individually, pick two other groups’ zines you would like to write a short reflection on. In about 250 words (each reflection), respond to one or more of the following prompts:

  • What texts does the zine engage with? How does the medium of a zine alter or illuminate your understanding about those texts? Does the zine reveal an aspect of the text you had previously not considered?
  • View the selected zine as a visual object in its own right. What are the elements of its design and construction? How does the text of the zine engage with its visual aspects? Does the combination of textual and visual material convey a meaning that text or images alone could not?
  • Conduct a close reading of the zine through an interpretive “lens” (i.e., feminist, Marxist, psychoanalytic, technological, etc.) [*subject to change based on course readings/themes]

Once completed, post both of your reflections to Social Paper (they can be combined into a single post, if you wish). In addition to your own reflections, you must also contribute four to six comments (a couple of sentences each) on Social Paper in response to four other students’ written reflections. Visual responses (e.g., gifs, memes, etc.) are also welcome, but please keep your comments focused on the reflection you have read, and not about your classmates. Be kind and respectful.

In class, we will come together in groups and spend some time devoted to revision of your zines based off of the foregoing peer review and instructor critiques. Submit your group’s revised zine to Social Paper.

Judy! v. 1, no. 1 a Judith Butler fanzine by Miss Spentyouth, 1993

Phase 3: Using insights you have gained from the previous two phases of the project, create your own individual fanzine devoted to one author, reading, or concept/theme from the class. You will also incorporate at least three secondary sources into your project. The content of your zine can include the same elements as the compilation zine project (see list above). Your individual zine will be 20-24 pages total, and must include a works cited page at the end. As a separate document, you will also submit a short artist’s statement and personal reflection.

Please note the following:

  • Your zine must engage with at least one of our class readings. What inspirations, ideas, or insights did you gain from this reading (or readings)? Try to bring these elements to expression.
  • If you quote or paraphrase an author, you must include the relevant citations. These can be footnotes or endnotes, or they can also be treated creatively (e.g., in the form of a wordsearch, a crossword puzzle, an image, etc.). Bear in mind, however, that whichever method of citation you choose, all citations must be able to direct the reader to the appropriate passage in the text.
  • Along with our class readings, your zine will incorporate (at least) three secondary sources that speak to the particular text, author, or theme you are exploring. These sources can be essays, movies, art, song lyrics, or contemporaneous material such as newspaper clippings, photographs, etc. You must integrate an annotated bibliography of these sources into your zine; however, you may also incorporate this into the project in a creative manner if you wish (e.g., in the form of a blurb, a poem, a tweet, etc.).

For the artist’s statement: in about 350-500 words, describe the overall vision for your zine, the inspiration for your images and text, and what the reader is meant to take away from the zine.

For the personal reflection: in about 350-500 words, describe your experience of the process of zine creation. For instance, you might discuss the experience of working individually as compared with working in groups, or describe your experience using GIMP and Scribus, or elaborate on the process of engaging with texts in a more overtly visual medium. You might also discuss your goals for the project, how you set out to achieve them, and whether you believe you have succeeded. Be sure to speak to any challenges that you faced along the way.

Technologies Statement

We are devoting significant class time to technology skills: one class each on Gimp, Scribus, and zine making, and then another half each to Social Paper and printing/photocopying. Per TSAC (Technology Skills Across the Curriculum), we are entwining writing and media production learning objectives. In order to share their writing effectively, students must be able to present it legibly, and with intentionality with regard to its visual display. Conversely, media creators must have something they want to communicate, including via intentionally crafted text.

Design software

The project arc will feature in-class workshops on Gimp and Scribus, with instructional media department support outside class hours, as well. Students will be taught basic digital image editing and page manipulation, using class texts and learning goals-related exercises.

Zine Making

Zine library staff members will expose students to zines and fanzines, zine history, and zine culture, as well as sharing various techniques for zine making and binding. At the end of class students should be able to distinguish between a half- and quarter-sized zines and staple, machine-sewn, and pamphlet-stitched bindings. There will also be substantive conversation about how visual elements complement and complicate zine text.

Zine Presentation by viv2102 V (Violet Victoria)
This five-minute time-lapse video made for a Columbia undergraduate thesis on Cherokee Nation sovereignty shows a student making a zine from start to finish.

Social Paper

Social Paper will serve as a place for students to develop their skill in constructive assessment of one another’s work. They will master creating a CUNY Academic Commons account, gain familiarity with the WordPress dashboard, uploading a media file to Social Paper and contributing to comment threads. After a discussion of open culture with the professor and a member of the Brooklyn College Scholarly Communication, Copyright and Fair Use Team, the class will decide as a whole whether or not to create public or private papers.

Printer/copier/scanner

One might be surprised to see “printer/photocopier/scanner” on a list of technology skills, but, as it turns out, in zine creation, this final step is often the most difficult. Scribus may circumvent the spatial relations challenges that torture zine makers who do their layout by hand, but there will still be some tussles getting the machines to print pages properly oriented and in the right order.

Evaluation

Phase I: 15% of total semester grade

Principle learning objectives: 1. Demonstrate an understanding of class readings in regard to content, style, and manner of presentation. 2. Design/create a zine that combines research methods and critical response with creative expression. 3. Collaborate and work effectively on a project individually and with others.

Engagement with course text as a group 25%
Zine design and execution as a group 25%
Individual zine pages 50%


Phase II: 15% of total semester grade

Principle Learning Objectives. 1. Demonstrate an understanding of class readings in regard to content, style, and manner of presentation. 2. Edit and revise writing and the presentation of writing using peer review and instructor critiques. 3. Collaborate and work effectively on a project individually and with others

Demonstrated understanding of class readings 33 & ⅓%
Revision plan, as expressed in comments 33 & ⅓%
Productive participation in comment thread 33 & ⅓%


Phase III: 30% of total semester grade

Principle Learning Objectives. 1. Demonstrate an understanding of class readings in regard to content, style, and manner of presentation. 2. Design/create a zine that combines research methods and critical response with creative expression. 3. Develop skills in visual literacy and design technologies

Demonstrated understanding of class readings 25%
Mastery of technical elements of zine making 25%
Reflective paper 50%


*Note: students are being evaluated on their critical and technical skills and not on the professor’s assessment of their creative expression.

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