Archive for June 29, 2009

Recently, I was asked to write up a brief summary of my research interests. The question was put to me in a very interesting way. “If I told you right now,” he said, “that you had one year to write your dissertation, what would it be about?”

Great question. And I need to narrow it down a bit. The decisions I come to are not set in stone, but it’s good to have at least an idea of where I’m going.

There are a couple of options, based on my own interests as well as on what I’ve been doing since I started this program. My original interest was basically new media studies. But I’m not sure I really knew what that meant. New Media is kind of a buzz word (or phrase). I knew I was interested in technology, but I also knew that I was interested in technology that doesn’t exist (yet) but probably will. So I started with the idea of how to use technology in the classroom, developing strategies that can be applied to new technology.

My assumption was always to use the context of teaching composition for this research. It just seemed natural. But the same guy who asked me the question originally suggested that I look into teaching philosophy, since I have a background there. And he’s right, there are a lot more possibilities. With composition, I can do podcasts, lectures, and maybe peer response. But that’s about it. At the end of the day, composition is about writing, and there’s not much to do beyond writing.

But philosophy… well, that can be about a number of things. I could have the podcasts, the lectures, and the peer response. But I could also have simulations, games, thought experiments, interactive projects, chatbots, dialogues… the list goes on and on. So that’s very exciting. We’ll call this option A: Developing pedagogical strategies for teaching with new technologies, specifically focused on teaching philosophy.

But there are two other options as well. The first of the two is cultural studies.  I have a bit of a history with cultural studies. I like the way cultural identity affects things, subtly and often in invisible ways. I like to analyze cultural artifacts and see what the culture that created them holds in high esteem, what it derides, and what it strives for. I like to see the definition of achievement, or of heroism, or sacrifice, as it changes between cultures. I wrote a paper last semester about the TV show Heroes, and there’s so much more there that can be mined. I’m not sure how legitimate of a project it is (academically), but if I were to write a dissertation right now, that might be the easiest one to do. So we’ll call this option One: Investigating cultural artifacts in order to understand the unspoken rhetoric of the producing culture.

Then we have the option that covers what I’ve been researching most. Questions and Answers. I think this is very interesting, and I love working on it. I’ve done a lot with it already, and it seems very promising. I’m not even halfway through what I see as a very important and valuable project, and my interest is anything but wavering. It’s interesting, it’s academically significant. The question (no pun intended) is whether or not it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. Which, of course, is the underlying question for any of these options. Still, this is something else I could write a dissertation on right now if I had to. So we’ll call this option Alpha: Develop a rhetorical taxonomy of questions and answers with the intention of improving how questions are asked and answered in an online environment.

So option A, option 1, and option Alpha. Not sure where I want to go, but they seem like good options. Option A seems to have the most connection to my past (thus making that past more legitimate and useful), option 1 seems to be more fun (since it would basically let me watch TV for research purposes), and option Alpha seems to be the most rich in terms of research possibilities.

Not sure where to go.