Posts Tagged ‘Brainstorm’

Shortly after writing the last entry, I narrowed things down a little, leaving me with two options: The Rhetoric of Misdirection in Discourse and The Rhetoric of Personal Identity Online. I was advised to go with the second, which actually makes me happy. The burning question of personal identity had already rekindled itself, and I’m glad to get to work on that again.

But those six words aren’t close enough. Personal Identity is a huge field. What part of it am I looking to talk about? What interests me about it? This is where I need to turn my sheers now. I need more focus. So I’m going to start lopping off limbs, rather than full branches.

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Making a Bonsai

Posted: July 15, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

It seems like every few months, I come back to this same issue. What do I want to study?

It’s getting to be a more and more important question. Right now, I need to make a decision of who I want to be. In a few years, I’m going to have a PhD (hopefully). When I do, I will be an expert in something. THE expert in something. So when people talk about me, what do I want them to say? They need to say I’m the guy who does … something. But what?

I was given some good advice the other day. Told that I’m at the point where I have to lop a few research limbs off my tree. I may be able to get back to them later, maybe when I have tenure. But in the meantime, I need to trim down until I can give a six word description of who I am as a scholar. Six words isn’t much; hence the term Bonsai. I need to trim down to a very small description, a tiny tree. (more…)

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.

This summer, I will be teaching technical and professional writing. I teach this course differently than most, and I think my method works pretty well. Some people involve the students directly with real companies, which I appreciate. But my method involves on the one hand much less direct involvement but on the other much more flexibility.

What I do is give the students a simulation of a company, give them problems to solve, and teach them to communicate while solving these problems. Once they have a grip on that, they write something that I am confident all of them going into the business field will eventually have to write: a business plan.

This semester, I’m making some minor changes. (more…)

Tomorrow at a god awful hour of the morning, I board a plane that, through a series of other destinations, will eventually get me to San Francisco. At least, that’s the plan-there’s a chance the snow will decide otherwise. But most likely, I’m off to the C’s.

This is not my first conference, but it is one of the scariest. It’s without a doubt the biggest conference I’ve ever been to. So I’ve done more preparation for this than I have for any other conference. I may even have a power point presentation (though I am limiting myself to 7 slides, including a title screen).

In the meantime, though, I wanted to get back to my ‘class planning’ project.

Last time around, I came up with course goals. The next step is reading lists. (more…)