Select ONE of the texts we’ve read this semester and use it to construct a simple frame or lens through which you’ll reflect for 2-3pp (700-900 words) on some element of your – or our collective, public – experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Structure: Two or three paragraphs, in which you (1) identify the reading and concept you’ll be working with for this assignment, offering a brief close reading of an idea-rich passage where you see this concept at play (this means analysis of a specific quote or set of quotes), and (2) outline one example of how you’ve seen this concept enacted since the onset of the pandemic. Do not worry about articulating a thesis and topic sentences to correspond to the paragraph structure of one of our typical assignments. Here are some of the ideas you might consider for each of the text's we've read. These are just suggestions, you are welcome to take any approach, including a more speculative, loose interpretation of the text. Tolentino: As Tolentino argues, the worse things get, the more people feel compelled to optimize. Perhaps you have been told that this period of isolation is a time to learn a marketable skill or to improve your physical fitness. Tolentino might point out to us how twisted and dangerous this logic can be. Many people are now expected to work seamlessly from home while caring for family and putting aside their own personal needs, and the burden of childcare and household management is still disproportionately falling to women, who still must appear "put-together" on Zoom. Johnson: Global pandemics reveal to us just how interconnected people's lives are. We are thinking more deeply than ever about how we come into contact with one another in our daily routines and how the decisions of individuals can impact groups. The virus has spread through pattern amplification. Foer: We are more than ever at the mercy of tech companies: for news, entertainment, and necessary goods. Who controls the spread of information has never been more important, and we have seen (during the election, in the lead-up to the storming of the capital, during the incessant "debates" around masks and vaccines) how easily people can become "radicalized" by exposure to one worldview at the exclusion of others. Gilbert: This is definitely a test of our psychological immune systems! Have we experienced "the intensity trigger?" Can our brains find a way to convince us that this is all for the best? Did we, or do we consider the situation "inescapable?" What would it mean if we are not finding positives? Are we wrong or is Gilbert? Do any of his examples correspond to something of this magnitude? D’Ignazio and Klein: We have spent a year and a half looking at graphs and other data visualizations of the spread of COVID-19. Information has been disputed, and complex, fundamentally impossible forms of knowledge (how scared should I be?) have been reduced to colors and shapes. What have we learned since last year about how we use data? Logistics: The final draft must be between 2 and 3 pages in length. You must engage with at least one concept from one of the readings from the semester. You do not, however, need to engage with textual evidence in the way expected from an Analytic Essay. Because the primary focus is on using general concepts from the readings to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, you may refer more impressionistically to ideas from the semester’s authors. One or two quotes that introduce the concept would be sufficient. Again, the primary focus of the assignment is to consider the pandemic through a conceptual lens, rather than critique or analyze the readings. Sample (note this essay was written around a year ago, closer to the height of quarantine in the US) Comfort in Clothing Athleisure clothing can be described as a type of clothing worn by people who seek to improve themselves physically, or as a type of clothing worn by people who seek to appear as if they are improving themselves physically. Delving even deeper, physical improvement, an attribute of athleisure clothing, is a psychological incentive as much as it is physical. From wearing the clothes of someone who exercises, someone who is on the right track of physical wellness and attractiveness, the wearer adopts the mindset of a physically fit individual just from wearing the types of clothes worn by physically fit individuals. “Always Be Optimizing” by Jia Tolentino, discusses this very phenomenon, more importantly she discusses the expectations of modern women through optimization: a term to describe perfection, function, and effectiveness. Within Tolentino’s text, she explains where athleisure clothing fits in with optimization, “An entire industry has even sprung up to give optimization a uniform: athleisure” (Tolentino, 82). In other words, athleisure is a form of optimization. Someone garbed in an athleisure ensemble is someone who desires an optimized lifestyle, or at least the image of an optimized lifestyle. Wearing athleisure communicates with others that the wearer is someone who exercises, someone who is fashionable, someone who has enough money to afford the expense of athleisure clothing; a trifecta of conveyed success and optimization. As Tolentino put it, “athleisure has carved out the space between exercise apparel and fashion: the former category optimizes your performance, the latter optimizes your appearance, and athleisure does both simultaneously” (Tolentino 84). Besides the characteristics that of the individual wearing the garments, the characteristics of the clothing themselves suggest optimization, “The deep incentive is hidden by a bunch of more obvious ones: those clothes are easy to wear, machine-washable, wrinkle-proof” (Tolentino, 83). The ease of use and maintenance makes the lives of the wearers of athleisure that much more efficient, plus provides the wearer time for more important articles, such as: more time for the investments of self-care or business; for optimization must be present in all aspects of life, including work. We desire all things optimized, naturally because we want the best of all possible worlds- who would want anything less than that? Optimization in clothing is just one more way someone can feel and show this perception of success, shrouding themselves, figuratively, in their definition of success. Ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and my inevitable employment furlough, my daily ensembles have revolved around articles of clothing with the word “sweat” in the title. When there is to do, why not throw on a pair of sweatpants and/ or a sweatshirt; it is incredibly comfortable, easy, and at the moment: completely normal- everyone is doing it. Why not join the mainstream? As a former Brooks Brothers manager, who wore a suit and tie every day, I have mixed emotions regarding the outfits I have been wearing since the beginning of this wonderful day and age we are all living through. A part of me enjoys the hideous monotony of wearing athleisure daily, while another part of me longs for my stylish, employed days when I was clopping around in my polished oxfords with something to do. Initially, at the beginning of the pandemic I would not have been caught dead outside my own home wearing athleisure clothing; I would throw on a pair of chinos, maybe a polo, when I had to go out in order to look presentable. After a few grocery store runs, I quickly realized everyone was dressed in athleisure clothing, except for the poor supermarket employees- and myself, of course. Not too long after that, I gave in to the temptation and I started to wear my athleisure wardrobe out and about; the face mask certainly helped with concealing my initial shame. I made the decision to wear athleisure for a multitude of reasons, the main one being that everyone else was doing it: conformity, another reason being: the comfort. As Tolentino eloquently put, “athleisure is reliably comfortable and supportive in a world that is not” (Tolentino 83). Indeed, the current state of the world is, most definitely, uncomfortable and unsupportive. On an unconscious level, we may be wearing athleisure to remind ourselves of better days; perhaps we do this in an effort to convince ourselves illusions of optimization in a time less than ideal, while, simultaneously, adding a layer of comfort and ease to our daily routines. We are all feeling depressed and we romanticize physical improvement. The wearing of athleisure tells others, maybe even ourselves, that we are seeking physical improvement, whether it be true or not, to act as a distraction from this gloomy world and to feel better about ourselves. We wrap ourselves in the “uniform of optimization” to console ourselves, “imagine it’s what a dog feels like in a ThunderShirt” (Tolentino 83). No matter the reason behind the sudden spike in athleisure clothing, be it: comfort, ease, or optimization; we are all doing it to cope with the shared trauma of this pandemic in some capacity or another.