Analysis, Inquiry, and Week 2

 Note: This post is specifically for Team Zoetrope (Section 5).

Hi, team.  We’re about to start the second week of class and I wanted to say, again, how exciting the initial work has been.  A lot of this week was spent getting our feet wet (learning how to navigate the sites, what the assignments are like, etc.), so hopefully everything is working smoothly on your ends–it seems so from my end.  Though, if you have any problems with anything, please let me know.  I also encourage you all to lean on each other for assistance, and to use any platform at your disposal to do it (Twitter, blog posts, email, etc.).  In addition to the Twitter list (though still incomplete because not everyone has tweeted at me!) and our section blog list, there is a roster on Blackboard with everyone’s email.

Some things about this week:

As I’ve mentioned before, this is a process class, where the work each week for this course builds, in some way, to the final Inquiry Project–an argumentative research paper for the digital age (making up 35% of your final grade).  The nugget and concept experiences, for instance, are meant to help you establish conceptual frameworks for understanding phenomena that interest you and to provide a rich experience with applying what you find meaningful within the readings.  Eventually–and soon–your Inquiry Project will bring ideas from outside sources you discover to bear on digital media of some shape and form.  The activities that go along with the nugget and concept experiences (i.e. process category coursework) are designed to help you equip yourself with the necessary materials and skills to make the research/writing process and final project as robust as possible.

In order to begin this process, everyone must figure out what they specifically want to research for their projects given our New Media theme and how they will approach the phenomena, or primary text.  By “primary text,” I mean the first-hand relationship between the author of the text and the data that is being provided.  That means you must analyze the data before it will be useful to you.  These are objects, images, videos, websites, GIFs, legal documents, songs, poems, speeches, and many, many more things.  This is why I asked you all to consider and reconsider a particular primary text that resonates with you and how you’re thinking of our course content so far (particularly influenced by “As We May Think”), as well as populate the Groupthink wiki with your texts.  Your initial primary text from last week may not be the thing you’re specifically interested in forming a research question about. But if it isn’t, you should be thinking now what you wish to decide on for your developing project so we can start working on precisely framing a research question this week.

But for right now!  A bit more about primary texts and the rationale for why we spent last week figuring it all out:

It’s necessary to pick a precise primary text given our theme and think of a particular approach for analysis and research.  People view topics differently given who they are and their interests.  For example, philosophers and psychologists look at the topic of lying differently and ask different questions because of it.  Many psychologists are interested in lying, though they care about things like cognitive considerations (i.e. what’s going on in the brain when we lie???) and frequency (how often do we do lie, and why???); many philosophers are interested in lying, though they ask questions about the nature of lying (what is a lie???) or the ethical implications lying may have (when is it right to life, if ever???).  It’s not that the philosophers have it right and the psychologists don’t, but that different disciplines look at things differently than others given particular interests.

Will hits this nicely in his post about students’ varying approaches of analysis.  When looking at Google Glass (the primary text), he writes:

As someone who’s already somewhat uncomfortable around cameras, I’m concerned about what it would mean for everyone to have Glass on their face. As versatile and impactful as Glass stands to be, I think that it could be discusses in many different contexts. How does it stand to influence medicine?Or sports?What could Glass mean for artists?What could the military do with Glass? Tools like this have incredible amounts of potential, and are poised to affect change in many different spheres of professional and casual life.

The questions regarding sports, art, and the military get at disciplinary focuses (i.e. methodologies, perspectives, lenses) to consider Google Glass.  It’s not that we can only think about Google Glass is one way–there are many possible questions though various approaches.

Additionally, personal experience, or knowing more about the history and origins of a text, can also help bolster analyses.  Consider the top reddit post here of the image of the pug.  

Given this data–the image itself, how it is ranked on reddit, the picture’s subject line, etc–we can ask various questions about reddit itself and how it operates (e.g. what does it take to get popular on reddit if such an adorable picture only has four “likes” (or “karma”)?), or other questions about the picture itself (animal rights? people’s fascination with animal costumes for their pets?).  

Though, my experience with the image is distinct given that I know a lot more about the particular instance and animal—the pug is Emma, my loving companion.  Thus, I can discuss the text in a different way than anyone else: I am acquainted with the data in a unique way.  This is similar to Yusra’s discussion of her experiences with the Kindle:

The Kindle is a great “book;” it is light, thin, easy to read from, and easy to hold. More importantly, it contains an infinite number of volumes, books, magazines, etc. Why wouldn’t I absolutely love it?
I realized that after having the Kindle for a few months, I missed my paperbacks. I missed the intricate covers, the summaries on the back or inside flap, and I missed being able to leaf through the pages with my thumb and re-read my favorite passages. Of course all of these things are accessible/doable on the Kindle, but it’s a little more complicated and doesn’t seem as… personal.

Her personal experience and acquaintance with the data helps her make larger insights about them:

Humans need attention and love. If we’re given less than what we want, we’re not happy. Holding a single novel in my hands, being able to highlight and add tabs, all by hand, is something that I really enjoy, and I never knew how much I enjoyed that until I tried a Kindle.

Personal experience can be useful,  though remember that everyone can analyze any text if they have provided themselves with a suitable context for their interpretations.  The more precise you can get with primary text also adds to the richness of the analysis and discussion.  Also remember that  the creator of the primary text did not necessarily intend to create any particular argument, nor pinpoint exactly how you think the primary text should be understood.





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