Moving along

Posted: February 21, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Getting back to work is sometimes harder than getting to work in the first place. I’ve had to reset and recenter myself several times over the last few years, and it doesn’t seem to get any easier. But when I do manage, it always seems to be worth the effort.

The other day I handed in what I hope will be the last prospectus draft I will have to write. If it is accepted, then I’ll officially be dissertating. Which is pretty damned terrifying. But I think I can handle the work.

When I was in college, my father gave me some advice for writing a dissertation. He said that writing a two hundred page paper was really daunting, and liable to seem insurmountable. But writing ten twenty page papers, or five forty page papers, would not be nearly so difficult a task. That’s what chapters are, after all: individual papers on the same subject.

Given what I settled on (the rhetoric of online icons and avatars), I’m going to have to do some case study work; probably on a forum and on google+. Each of those will be a chapter, which means each of them will probably involve a whole lot of work on those sites, along with analysis and all that good stuff. But before I get there, there are other chapters.

For one, I need to introduce my project. I need to say why it’s important, what it’s intending to do, and where I think it’ll go. Essentially, I need to establish everything that is in my prospectus, but expand on it and make solid arguments to support as much as possible. If I can, I’d like to be able to structure the introduction as a derivation from first principles. That is, come up with a few things that I can reasonably assume, and see where that gets me. The introduction can be entirely theoretical, basically saying what I THINK and what I think will come from the rest of the project (which I also get to outline here).

Once that’s done, I need to ground myself in outside theory. So a literature review. There are a lot of fields I intend to dip into (body language, non verbal communication, psychology), some of them much deeper than others (like visual rhetoric or CMC). In this chapter, I’ll probably develop my primary themes, the things that I think are important. A lot of my intention for the introduction will hopefully be borne out in this chapter.

Then we have a methods chapter, where I lay out what I’m going to do in the case studies, why I’m doing it, what I’m looking for, and how I intend to analyze everything.


The point is, I’ve got quite a bit of work I can do before I ever have to really get in to doing the case studies. A lot of very important ground work needs to be laid out, and I need to make sure that I’m just building the platform I need, and not going off on random tangents because I think they’re cool.

It isn’t going to be easy, but what is?

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