Saturday, August 8, 2009

Visual Literacy Workshop Homework: Two Frame Story

Reed College Student Union Serves Local Microbrew Beer



I had two goals for my two frame story about the student union at Reed. First I saw this story as an attempt at applied anthropology. My own university does not have a student union where alcohol is served and students can gather. This is a problem as students complain about the local drinking establishments being too expensive. Thus students tend to purchase alcohol from vending machines and congregate in a local park, sometimes until very late in the night, sometimes being very loud which causes complaints from local neighbors. Reed College seems somewhat isolated in terms of nearby bars, so how progressive of them I thought. And what a possible interesting model for my own university: convert an old gym or other building into a student union and solve the problems of students and neighbors all at once.

The second goal of my two frame story was an attempt at local ethnography. I was told early on that the two most important local industries in Portland were coffee and microbrew beer. Participant observation at the union along with interviewing one of the bartenders, Liz, seemed like a good way to get information and take more informed photographs at the same time.

The first thing I learned was that Liz worked for a local catering company that Reed College uses for special events. The bar at the student union was set up for a writer's workshop on campus and would end in a couple of days. Thus it was not a progressive move on the part of the college to supply alcohol in a safe and friendly atmosphere for its students. So much for my applied anthro project...

Liz taught me about the beer they served, made by Widmer Brothers Brewing Company. Through her own recent history she was able to tell me about the local environment and economy as well. Liz is originally from New York where she graduated with a degree in... anthropology. She moved to Portland four years ago and found it difficult to find work. She described Portland as being a "foody-town" thus it was difficult to even get a job at a coffee house. Portland's economy is in a difficult situation, but the beer and wine industry seems to be doing well. She got her job at the catering company three years ago and works "on-call." She is also going to school to become a nurse. Many thanks to Liz for sharing her time and stories with me; I hope I represented you as you would have liked.

Postscript:

OK, so I hoped that my homework might serve as a model for my students doing their own two frame stories for their visual blogs. But I was too long-winded. And I didn't even get to talk about Liz's tattoo or cat...

I also put together a collage using some other photographs I took (I have been experimenting with photo collages lately) as "extra credit."


Perhaps I can better empathize with my students now. There is so much good stuff out there to record. How can we limit our text and still include all we feel is important?

3 comments:

My name is Joe. said...

Wouldn't it be great if you could write a book about anyone and find a market for it? I often fantasize about wandering into the nearest nursing home or halfway house and asking someone if I can document their struggle to make it.

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