Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally’s assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress.
Kenneth Burke, “The Philosphy of Literary Form”
The above quote is often used to illustrate how academic conversations take place. I’m posing it as a possible metaphor for you to consider with regard to your own projects. You’ve started with a question, a site of inquiry, or perhaps a community or technology you value. From there, you’ve moved to look at what “conversations” (research) have to say about the topic. Your most important job for this project is to “put in your oar,” as Burke says. This means that you have to consider the question you’ve asked, the research you’ve done, and what your take or understanding is. I’m more interested in what your thoughts are about the topic now that you’ve completed the research, than I am in what 7-9 sources have to say.
What does this kind of analysis look like?
Well, it may not happen as quickly as Kermit demonstrates, but this type of analytical writing can happen through careful attention to your research question, demonstration of what your sources say–the converstions, and your own articulation of what you now believe to be true based on your research. This is why the research component is so important to this project. You start with a question, but can only arrive at your response once you listen to what others have said. I would also add here that the history and context you provide of the community and writing technology you write about helps readers to understand both the sources you present and the claim(s) you arrive at. Remember, for readers to understand how you are presenting a particular writing technology whether it be a pen, ipad, code, or cuneiform, you have to give us some historical context for the technology and community the technology is part of in your project.
Here are just a few reminders/things to consider as you work towards those first drafts:
- Provide readers with a hook that makes them want to continue reading, and give readers flagposts throughout your piece so that we can easily follow the development of your ideas.
- Tell your readers how you are defining writing+technology. It may not be apparent and you don’t want folks to assume. You’ve got plenty of texts to draw on from our readings and class conversations.
- Let your readers know what question (or questions) is (are) going to be the focal point.
- As you use sources and describe the kinds of conversations that have occurred about your research, remember to introduce sources, cite, and unpack quotes.
- Provide history and context of both the technology and community. Your readers need this information in order to understand your analysis and the answers you put forth for your research question.
- Use your images/multimedia to help develop and support your claims.