Unproductive, Counterproductive or Super Productive? You Decide

A Timeline of Activities, 2012 – 2016


  • Applied for but did not advance past the phone interview stage for one last academic job
  • Began working at Room 34 Creative Services: attending client meetings, learning html, css and how web sites get made and finally understanding what my husband meant when he would tell me that he “developed web sites”
  • Worked on a few academic conference papers, then cancelled at the last minute because (unfortunately) that’s what I do and because I just couldn’t be an academic anymore
  • Avoided returning to campus or visiting my old department even though I was technically still a visiting scholar
  • Witnessed and wrote, mostly critically and crankily, about various attempts by academic institutions to account for and accommodate new approaches to teaching and learning with/through online technology (like MOOCs and Tweeting your Thesis)
  • Recorded a season of a podcast with my husband on feminism and technology (The Undisciplined Room) that was fun, except for when I was too critical of Apple for Scott’s liking, and frequently long-winded because both of us could talk at great length about technology and because I was in charge of coming up with our discussion topics and I always did too much research and asked too many questions
  • Embarked on ambitious plan to live-tweet all five seasons of The Brady Bunch, impressively making it all the way to Episode 12 of Season 1 before realizing that my plan might be too ambitious and too annoying for anyone who followed me on twitter that wasn’t interested in reading tweets about how many times Bobby Brady wore #highwaterpants or why there was a creepy cat poster in the girls’ room, looming over Marcia, Jan and Cindy as they slept
  • Started using Tumblr and Pinterest with the goal of exploring how it could be useful for teaching and for Room 34 clients. Kept using both to reblog funny memes, pin nostalgic videos and make trouble
  • Continued working at Room 34, loading content, learning about widgets, creating how-to use WordPress guides for clients and thinking about feminist pedagogies in the context of business and non-profit sites
  • Inspired by my research on kids and troublemaking and compelled by an urgent need to remember my past as an unruly student who lacked self-control in order to understand my young daughter’s struggles with discipline, crafted my first digital story, Student Progress Report: An Undisciplined Account
  • Still recovering from loss, began reflecting on why it’s important to give accounts of myself
  • Crafted second digital story in which I experimented with editing and storytelling and tried to document the often invisible moments within a family struggling to negotiate and enjoy vacation together: Stories from the UP
  • Played with and talked back to infographics: http://trouble.room34.com/archives/4027
  • After failing to clearly, coherently or succinctly describe my research on troublemaking to a new friend, attempted to construct a pithy “elevator speech,” but ended up creating an 8 minute long video that weaves together a summary of my theory of troublemaking with an intellectual/personal history of why and how I like trouble that could only be given on an elevator if that elevator got stuck between floors
  • Marked the occasion of three years of blogging on TROUBLE with a series of posts that reflected on importance of site and documented my favorite posts, which include creepy clowns, twitter hatin’ and conflatin’, The Brady Bunch and children’s book about famous time-outs.
  • Started working on Problematizers, learning how to use Pixelmatr and experiment with different ways to engage, educate and pose troubling questions while walking around my neighborhood and taking pictures
  • Created one of my favorite problematizers, Smile or Die!, an image of my daughter looking pissed (and a bit like Tina Yothers in Family Ties), combined with words from Barbara Ehrenreich and Sara Ahmed: http://trouble.room34.com/archives/4146
  • Researched self-help and its relation to (self) care as part of my work on a feminist ethic of care which I’d been promising on my blog to develop into an actual theory for years but never did, instead making excuses about how I’d run out of time because I had to pick up a kid from school/camp/some activity or I’d run out of energy because it took me all day to write a blog post summarizing other people’s theories. Note: in 2016, still haven’t fully developed my theory
  • Crafted a digital video celebrating my first year of running, with a little help from Scott and his ability to shoot video while riding a bike and to change up the melody of Rocky enough so that we could use it without being sued for copyright infringement in a final shot of me triumphantly running up a hill and referring to myself as a badass
  • Began revisiting video footage of my family’s farm that was shot in 2000/2001 and using it to create short videos of my dad’s stories about farm life in an effort to reconnect with the farm and my dad after my mom’s death, a: http://trouble.room34.com/archives/4197
  • Created the first in a series of digital videos that combined old footage with haunting music from Room 34 in order to remember and honor my mom who had died in 2009
  • Underwent more intense reflecting on life out of school as I experienced the first fall since 1979 that I was not in school, either as a student or teacher
  • Worked on a story project on the meaning of home that involved documenting one of my favorite walks in South Minneapolis, revisiting the ways my mom and I had defined home in an earlier video project and scouring and scrutinizing old video footage of two home tours, one of the farm, led by my hammy dad (and his alter-ego Urho) and the other of the West Des Moines house that I lived in during high school, led by my proud and private mom
  • Wrote a brief story in which I was curious about one of my favorite objects that I inherited from my mom, her “shit rock.” I later recorded voice-over for this story and posted it on the story site, Cowbird
  • Began designing and developing a new site that could serve as my burgeoning virtual identity as Undisciplined
  • Endured a difficult and over-saturated election season by focusing most of my attention on witnessing (and writing about) twitter snark and some awesome social media interventions, in the form of funny memes, sarcastic amazon reviews of binders (filled with women) and critical tools for exposing voting abuse
  • Started experimenting with iMovie and my iPhone to capture moments of daily life and to develop better digital storytelling practices and techniques. First series of “daily moments” documented a particularly brutal and long-lasting winter that started on Halloween and lasted until the first week of May and which I dubbed “the worst winter ever”


  • Read and wrote about assholes, especially assholes in the academy
  • Engaged in resistance with my daughter as we added a final line to her reading homework in order to call out the sexism of one of the characters
  • Gathered together as much evidence of my student life as I could find and began writing and posting accounts for my book project, Unofficial Student Transcripts, partly to make sense of my academic life and what had happened to it, partly to document that life so I could have some closure and partly so that if someone asked me what I was doing now that I wasn’t teaching I could say, “I’m writing a book!”
  • Had fun playing around with iBooks Author as format for my unofficial accounts, especially the quiz feature, using it to create quizzes where most of the answers were correct, depending on your perspective, and all of them were snarky
  • Published” Unofficial Student Transcripts in early spring, announcing it on my blog and then, after realizing with some dismay that very few of my family members, friends, mentors and former advisors read books on their iPads (or even had iPads), emailing out pdfs that contained much of the original content of the iBook, but lacked its playful and experimental spirit
  • Created a movie trailer for the accounts that included, among other things, a very ugly baby picture of me, a quiz about what the AIC stood for that offered one answer as, “Assholes in Conversation” and background music that featured my husband Scott rapping
  • Continued crafting digital stories about my life: experimenting with new techniques, combining old and new footage, reflecting on my childhood and raiding my husband’s (Room 34) extensive catalog of instrumental music for the soundtracks  (Driving, the Gardner, Double Vision)
  • Created a series of digital shorts using old baby footage of son, who was ten in 2013, loosely based on the five senses. The short based on sight was titled “The Mirror Stage” and was a playful nod to Lacan. It featured footage of him seated on the floor, gazing into a mirror at himself and, occasionally, me
  • Returned to learning html and css and experimenting with various WordPress themes so that I could design and customize my own sites instead of having to rely on anyone else to do it for me
  • Attempted to log in to my University email and library accounts and discovered that they no longer worked. Felt a pit in my stomach, realizing that my affiliation with a University was gone (along with my access to expensive journal articles) and my ties to the academy were cut
  • Edited my Grandma Ines’ memoirs, which she wrote in the late 1980s a few years before she died, by breaking it up into manageable chapters and combining it with supplementary videos, photos, a scan of her scrapbook and a forward and concluding essay written by me. Excitedly published it in iBooks, eagerly shared the link with family members and unrealistically and perhaps unfairly hoped that they would read it and recognize it for what I imagined it to be: a gesture of love and an invitation to reconnect with each other through a shared investment in the Puotinen heritage
  • Created and began posting content on a new site for archiving farm-related materials and documenting the process of reflecting and remembering the farm and its inhabitants
  • Analyzed interactive documentaries, did research on how people tell stories online and created a resources page with links about online storytelling, interactive tools and examples of projects that were inspiring and influencing me
  • Crafted a storytelling manifesto
  • To make the most out of an annoying time gap between when I dropped off my son for school and when I dropped off my daughter, began another digital storytelling experiment with digital moments documenting brief moments of life with a second-grader who was curious about the difference between a pie and a tart, who liked playing hopscotch and swinging on the monkey bars, who was transfixed by freaky trees that looked like they had teeth and who hated swimming the butterfly stroke
  • Researched and wrote an Interactive Media Project Grant Proposal for a $50,000, two-year project that I correctly predicted would never be accepted but that I (mostly) enjoyed doing anyway because it enabled me to learn a lot of new things and forced me to get off my ass and actually start working with all of the farm materials that I had collected and had promised to use in farm stories for years


  • Experimented with crafting stories online through Cowbird, a storytelling site where you combine a photo, with voice-over and text, by posting both a story about the “shit rock” that I inherited from my mom when she died in 2009 and a series of stories about my memories of the Farm
  • Began working on a digital story project entitled “Marking the Occasion” that combines photos and text from a photo book my mom made to commemorate a magical July that we spent at the farm with my video footage from the same time
  • Continued researching interactive documentaries and history of the Finns in the UP (upper peninsula of Michigan), including information about Sisu, the sauna belt, Karelia fever and Marys in Pants


  • Began researching video games as storytelling and imagined/sketched out an unrealizable video game about the farm which was based on actual accounts and interviews from my dad’s oral history project in the 1970s, and that included dangerous copper mine blasting mini games, cows-struck-by-lightning-who-turn-into-evil-miniboss battles, and a choice between fighting two final bosses: assimilate, thereby cutting ties with your Finnish heritage, and fight the Giant Scissors Final boss, or be recruited by the Soviet Union to leave the U.S. and live and work in Karelia, located near Finland, and fight Stalin. Attempted to get super-video-game-loving son to help design and code the game but only succeeded in destroying any ambitions he had of ever designing a video game because we both realized that it was really, really hard and because my game was really, really complicated
  • Freaked out when I was invited by my advisor to give the lecture at the religion department dinner at my alma mater because I was no longer a religion scholar and didn’t really know what I would speak about. Took a deep breath, accepted the invitation, spent a frantic month getting up at 6 am to write a 45 minute speech about the academic industrial complex and why I left it, delivered a speech that I was really proud of and that was generally well-received, posted it online and had several great conversations about it and finally felt (mostly) at peace with my decision to leave the academy
  • After leaving the academy at the end of 2011 so that I could take a break and stop thinking and critiquing and being productive so much, finally took my first “real” break. For 3 months,  was not productive, not writing and not thinking: http://trouble.room34.com/archives/4488
  • Decided to actually do the farm project that I wrote the grant for but didn’t get, on my own. Created a new site, migrating some content from my old farm site, experimented with new tools, like Aesop story engine and tried to figure out how to design the site so that it mimicked (or was inspired) by a Finnish rag rug loom


  • Continued working on farm project
  • Wrote first interactive story for the farm project in which I came to terms with losing the farm and carved out a virtual space for documenting the significance of that loss. Shared story with sisters and used it to initiate some meaningful conversations about our family and the aftermath of loss
  • Converted my processing blog for The Farm story project into STORY, a blog about reading, crafting, telling a wide range of stories
  • Re-designed (and modified WordPress 2015 theme) for all of my sites and created a cohesive web presence that slightly resembles, but doesn’t quite fit as, a brand
  • Had fun with fonts and color palettes
  • Added content to my unDisciplined site, writing new accounts of my life as an ex-academic, storyteller, and troublemaker, and attempted to archive old syllabi, lectures and class blogs on it. Discovered that my University had changed blogging platforms and moved all of my sites offline. Spent months trying to find old blogs through the digital archiving site, wayback. Still looking for some
  • Finally accepted that iBooks wasn’t a place where friends and family would go to read my book and posted the book on it’s own site where no one reads it
  • Continued storytelling research and experimenting with different tools, like ones for creating maps that tell a story
  • Wrote a ton of blog posts on my TROUBLE blog that are still not published and probably never will be
  • In an effort to engage with and understand popular authors who write about topics that I’m researching and writing about but that I’m pretty sure I deeply disagree with, attempted to read David Brooks’ The Road to Character. Read the introduction and conclusion, skimmed the rest. Verified that our perspectives are radically different and wondered why so many people like David Brooks
  • As part of the celebration of my fourth year of running, researched “running stories,” a fascinating and formulaic approach to telling one’s running story online that almost always start with “I was never athletic as a kid” and include PRs (personal records of best times) and accounts of injury and recovery. Decided not to write my own…yet.
  • Unsuccessfully attempted an Instagram project with my daughter in which we planned to bike around the twin cities and document our journeys with selfies and a map-storyline. Total selfies/bike trips taken: 2.
  • Experimented with voice-overs, struggling to get rid of that gross sound of the saliva in your mouth as you talk, and using garage band to edit and record my talk on leaving the academy
  • After cranking about iPhoto and how difficult it was to manage and archive photos on it for years, began investigating digital archiving and tentatively experimenting with better archiving practices. Excitedly discovered that personal digital archiving is a growing field of study and applied to present at their annual conference in the spring of 2016
  • Started reading, researching and writing (mostly unpublished blog posts) about memoirs without realizing that this was the first step in a new project on my teaching life that I would begin in earnest in November
  • Began #undisciplinedreading project in an effort to document the wide range of library books that I’ve been checking out and reading for pleasure by posting pictures of the books on Instagram. In theory this project is aimed at visually tracking how I’m undisciplining myself from the (overly) critical reading practices that I learned as an academic. In practice, it ends up exposing the ridiculous number of books that I check out of the library and attempt (not always successfully) to read quickly
  • Attempted to read another popular author who is frequently cited in my research on social media and ethics but gave up in the middle of the introduction after remembering why I strongly disagree with her argument. Started a blog post about why I dislike her approach, got stuck and stewed about it until I discovered that someone else had already written an excellent critique that skillfully articulated many of my concerns. Contemplated tweeting at the critic, “thanks for writing this great article…so I didn’t have to!”

2016 – Present

  • Feeling the force of the questions about my life as a teacher that have haunted me.
  • Having fun with Lists!
  • Gathering up and reviewing old teaching materials and posting them online.
  • Experimenting with new ways to document my writing/thinking/feeling process in composition notebooks that are actually legible and (somewhat) organized
  • Replacing past feelings of bitterness, regret and doubt with joy, (self) love and wonder

The Projects

Projects that I’ve completed

  • Edited version of Grandma’s Memoirs

Projects that I’ve started but not completed

  • Banging on the Loom, from The Farm, a story experiment
  • Audio version of Unofficial Student Transcripts

Projects that are way too ambitious and may never be completed, or even started, but that’s okay because they’re probably better imagined than realized

  • A role playing video game (rpg) about Finnish-Americans immigrating to the UP in the 1880s/1890s, establishing livelihoods and families and then struggling to survive and hold onto their land and heritage
  • A video series on people making left turns while driving that combines a goofy theme song (“people turning left, people turning left”) with video footage of people’s expressions as they turn left

Projects that I plan to complete, but have temporarily abandoned because I moved on to something else that seemed more important right now

  • Marking the Occasion
  • Home Tours

Projects that I’m slowly working on in the midst of other projects, adding a little bit here and there, until I finally decide that they just need to be finished so that I can be done and move on with my life already

  • How to be: a creative project creating, collecting and archiving examples of ways of being/qualities of character/virtues for flourishing
  • Kids and Moral Education
  • Digital Literacy Skills
  • Feminist Pedagogy and its Applications for Online learning and engagement
  • An archive of favorite gestures and sounds of my mom, collected from old video footage

Projects that will always be ongoing because they can (and should) never be completed

  • Digital Moments Story Experiments
  • Undisciplining the Self and unlearning toxic values
  • Video and text memories of Mom
  • Troublemaking, queer/ing feminism and parenting methods and practices

Projects that I might never complete because my reasons for starting them, which seemed so compelling at the time, no longer exist, or at least don’t exist at the same level of urgency as they once did

  • Scraps of Memory, from The Farm, a story experiment
  • You are T/here, from The Farm, a story experiment

Projects that I capriciously promised to start but have never advanced past the stage of being introduced in a blog post with the caveat, “When I have time, I plan to…” or “in the future, I will…”

  • A description/essay of my feminist ethics of care
  • A taxonomy of assholes, douchebags and bullshitters

Projects that I began with great enthusiasm but soon realized that they just didn’t work, so I abandoned them

  • Mo and Ro take a bike ride

Projects that, on bad days, make me doubt myself and dejectedly conclude: “no one cares about this project. It’s ridiculous and unimportant”. And on good days, encourage me to celebrate myself and defiantly claim: “so what if no one else cares about this project? I’m not doing this project for them, but for me!”

  • Every project that I do

By the Numbers 

  • Videos created and uploaded to Vimeo: 183
  • Video Introduction to Online Project: 2
  • Digital stories about my mom and how I’m trying to not forget her: 4
  • Digital moments documenting life with a 2nd grader: 20
  • Digital stories starring my first grade report card: 1
  • Book Trailers created: 1
  • Books self-published: 2
  • Writing and researching sites: 3 (Story, TROUBLE, Undisciplined)
  • Story project sites: 2 (The Farm, Unofficial Student Transcripts)
  • New Media Grant Proposals Written: 1
  • New Media Grant Proposals Successfully funded: 0
  • Personal Digital Archives created as form of storytelling: 3
  • Types of Social Media (semi) Regularly Used: 6 (twitter, Vimeo, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook)
  • Types of Social Media that I’ve tried out, but only use occasionally and sporadically: 3  (Storify, li.st, Goodreads)
  • Blog posts published since 2012: 399
  • Blog posts currently unpublished, in draft stage: 107
  • Interactive Documentaries analyzed: 16
  • Invited talks given: 2
  • Talks recorded at home studio: 1
  • Podcast Episodes Recorded: 1 season (16 episodes)
  • Conference presentations accepted or invited to, and then bailed on: 3 (PDA, Victoria workshop, Twitter for MSUM)
  • Longest Running Race Distance completed: 13.1 miles
  • Longest Open Water Swim: 5000 meters
  • Car trips to Zion National Park: 4
  • Classes taught: 0

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