Apr 26, 2011

Final Feedback

Hello, everyone.

I thought I would compile some collective feedback in the form of revision questions that have been raised during our workshops over the past two weeks. While none of this is "new" information, it might be useful as a final checklist, of sorts.

Public Document Project and Poster
  • Does the final version of your public document meet both community partner expectations and the expectations of the assignment?
  • Is there any aspect of the document that could be interpreted as biased, careless, or overstated?
  • How well does the public document empower your community partner to self-represent without being "othered"?
  • How well does the poster tell the "story" of your group's involvement at your agency? Does it do more than simply advocate for the agency?
  • Will it -- at a glance -- convey your group's process of navigating the public document project?
  • Is your poster professional in its representation of both your agency and your project? Is it organized and focused?
  • As you construct your poster, consider whether it is visually stunning from 10 feet away and 10 inches away, and whether all text is legible.
  • Each group should e-mail me a title of your poster and/or public document project by 4/27 at 5:00 p.m. so that I can compile them into a program for our final showcase.

The "Big" Ethnography
Here are some questions that were raised during our in-class peer review:
  • How can you use specific examples from your various information sources more effectively? In other words, how will you set up and punctuate quoted passages from agency documents and cultural artifacts, how will you excerpt interview transcripts, and how will you narrate your own observations without losing focus?
  • How could you "up-draft" a section of your fieldnotes in order to illustrate some of your most compelling claims?
  • How could you make better use of "intertextual citation" (FW 169-173) as a way of mediating voices in order to develop a single claim?
  • If you had to do so, could you identify a guiding sentence in each section of your ethnography that helps us understand how that section (and its paragraphs) contribute to the overall development of your claim? Can you identify a thread throughout the ethnographic essay?
  • How could you minimize or eliminate excessive "metadiscourse" as you weave together the different parts of this argument?
  • Where in the draft is your language overly biased?
  • How will you help your reader to strike a balance between "being there" (experiencing the space, time, and environment of your community agency) and "being critical" (able to recognize the dissonance you noted in your community agency)?
  • If you have integrated images, tables, figures, or graphics, are they sufficiently captioned and then called out in your text ("figure 1", "table 2")? Are they appropriately cited in your Works Cited list?

The Blog Portfolio
As you convert your blog to a portfolio, keep in mind the following principles:
  • Framing -- how can your Critical Reflection show your ability to think critically about the experience? How can it demonstrate your "consciousness of consciousness" and your understanding of key terms, concepts, and theories from the course? How can you help an unfamiliar reader understand the theory you are constructing on your own?
  • Storytelling -- how can your Critical Reflection tell the "dual stories" of your processes of investigation and reflection? How can the overview page as a whole provide some window into the cultural performances of the agency you studied?
  • Clarity and organization -- how will the structure of this page equip an outside reader to understand how all the parts of your blog cohere and are a part of the same research experience?
  • Design -- C.R.A.P. (contrast, repetition, alignment, proximity)
  • Usability -- do your visited links change colors when they shouldn't? Are all images placed where they should be in your posts? Do their placements interfere with the readability of your text? Do all linked documents open? Are their file names sufficiently compact?
  • Linguistic accuracy (typos, homonyms, and missing punctuation can loom much larger in blog posts)
  • If you still need to submit a signed consent form (for the interview and visual portrait), please do so by 5/3 so that you can link these projects to your portfolio.

See you at our Showcase, where we celebrate the culmination of some interesting and community-responsible projects!

-Professor Graban

Apr 18, 2011

Select, Reflect, Project

Hello, everyone.

For tomorrow's portfolio workshop in SE 045, remember to complete the first two steps on the "portfolio preparation" worksheet and be sure you have access to the files you would like to link -- either on storage media, or in your Oncourse workspace. Our reading in Fieldworking will help us to contextualize the portfolio, especially inasmuch as an ethnographic portfolio often tells two stories simultaneously.

The portfolio is as much a project of reflection as it is of gathering or selection but, as you already know, high-quality reflection takes a certain amount of critical distance, synthesis, and consciousness of consciousness, not to mention some skilled "up-drafting."

At this point in the semester, I'll offer one final reminder from Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw of just how complex (and powerful) is your writing task: "Ethnography is the peculiar practice of representing the social reality of others through the analysis of your own experiences in the world of these others" (Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes 10).

See you tomorrow,
Professor Graban

Apr 5, 2011

"The End is Near, Yet Still So Far ..."

Hello, everyone.

First, thanks to several of you for inspiring the title of this post in class today. Second, for those of you struggling to focus your issue question, or if you are uncertain that you can actually begin to answer it in an organized fashion, your best options are to:
  1. try situating the issue question within your community agency;
  2. try orienting your question toward the "leadership" definitions or the "citizenship" frameworks that we took from Blume, Magalhaes, and Battistoni;
  3. try "up-drafting" sections from your fieldnotes in order to discover essential focal points (FW 427-441);
  4. locate 1 or 2 final sources of information, either from academic archives or from community-based archives.
Finally, it's a busy time, so I thought you might appreciate some reminders of what is ahead for us in the next couple of weeks:

4/7 -- Final blog posts due!

4/7 -- Lou Malcomb is leading an optional information session on finding, interpreting, and treating statistics as "sources" for community research and writing at Wells Library Information Cluster #1. She will also be on hand to provide individual assistance if you are in search of specialized or unique sources for either your Public Document Project or your "Big" Ethnographic Essay. The session is optional, but I highly encourage you to attend.

4/12-4/14 -- No class next week, so that we can have one-on-one conferences on your "Big" Ethnographic Essay. Please use this time well for researching, drafting, and/or working with your group on the Public Document Project. Here is the current conference schedule:

Tuesday 4/12/11
1:20 Ashley Thomas
1:40 Morgan Metallic
2:00 Chelsey Brunner
2:20 Sam Adams
2:40 Michael Wey
3:00 Eden Faye
3:20 Corey Rosenblum
3:40 Cat Nichols

Wednesday 4/13/11
1:20 Maria Ficker
1:40 Mollie O'Reilly
2:20 Jacob Janicki
2:40 Broderick Thompson
3:00 Alyssa Alley
3:20 Talia Shifron
6:20 Jessi Daugherty

Thursday 4/14/11
1:20 Sara Troutman
1:40 Garrett Montgomery
2:00 Kristine Meade
2:20 Alyssa Rudner
2:40 Andrew Cook
3:00 Claire Robinson
3:20 Jack Pupillo
3:40 Cameray Boyden

All conferences are in BH 474. As a reminder, bring your completed triangulation heuristic and an outline, as well as any other questions you have. I have uploaded both the heuristic and a tool for outlining to our Oncourse Resources folder, if you need them.

4/19 -- an in-class workshop on converting your blog to a portfolio (we're back in SE 045). In advance of this workshop, I'll give you a short prep sheet with about 10 minutes' worth of instructions for preparing your files to be able to link them.

4/28 -- we are all dressing "snappy casual" for the end-of-semester poster presentation (otherwise known as "Friday office dress," "comfortable but put together," and numerous other interpretations that I can only imagine!). If someone can give me a concrete example of "snappy casual," that will help me know how to dress.

I'm quite excited by how your issue questions are taking shape. You may not feel or realize this yet, but you all have covered some incredible ground in your work as community researchers and writers! Good luck as you work through these projects, and see you in conferences.

-Professor Graban

Mar 28, 2011

Preparation for Thursday: Focus, Thesis, Organization

Hi, everyone.

After last week's library session on web communities as archives, Lou Malcomb and Emily Okada said it was exciting to see you moving forward with your issues. I tend to agree, especially as some of you are making real breakthroughs in either noticing or articulating a nuance that can powerfully inform your final project.

For Thursday's class (3/31) -- which is dedicated to focus, thesis, and organization of the ethnographic essay -- I need you to do the following to prepare:

1) As you read through our final set of articles (Blume, Battistoni, and Magalhaes), be on the lookout for one or more of their concepts that could help to ground your own projects, or that you think would inform your projects in a significant way. Our class discussion may follow what we did near the beginning of the semester when we put three service-learning articles into conversation, so please bring the readings to class in print or digital form.

2) Please spend some time filling out the large triangulation heuristic in as much detail as you can. We will spend some time workshopping them in class, so any opportunity you have to start considering a triangulated response to your issue will only serve to get you ahead.

Many thanks,
Professor Graban

Mar 24, 2011

Tuesday's "Big Ethnography"

Hi, everyone.

This is a reminder that on Tuesday (3/29) we will be reading and unpacking an ethnography by Christopher Goodwin called "Intensive Care," and in it I think you will recognize a number of methodologies and approaches that resonate with your own this semester. (Reminder: the access password is "visual".) As you read, I'd love it if you would keep in mind a few things:
  • How much of Goodwin's research seems intrinsically versus extrinsically motivated?
  • How much of his research issue/question is situated in the clinic and how much seems to be situated beyond the clinic? (By "situated," I don't just mean "talks about," but rather "stems from a conflict or a gap.")
  • What ideas, concepts, or theories seem to dominate his triangulation?
Although our primary focus will be on unpacking Goodwin's project and introducing the final step in your own project (the ethnographic essay), please also bring Fieldworking and your large triangulation heuristic to class. They may aid our discussion.

Many thanks,
Professor Graban

Mar 20, 2011

Final Extra-Credit Blogging Assignment

Hello, everyone.

So far, many of your blogging assignments are coming along nicely! Later in the semester, we will discuss how to convert your blog into your final portfolio. Ideally, your final portfolio will not only showcase your major projects, it will also make visible the preparation steps that you take to complete them, which is how these blogging assignments have been functioning so far. If you need a make-up post or would simply like the opportunity to make your portfolio more "complete," I offer you one final extra-credit blogging assignment of the semester.

Have fun with it!

-Professor Graban

Mar 10, 2011

Critical Bibliographic Essay - Duedate and Sources

Dear ENG W240 Class:

As a reminder, the upcoming Critical Bibliographic Essay assignment is due on Friday, 3/25/11 (uploaded to Oncourse dropbox by 2:30 p.m.), and not on Thursday, 3/24/11 as originally indicated on the syllabus.

I will still need to collect your actual sources with the final version of your Critical Bibliographic Essay, and you have several options for getting them to me: providing me with hard copies in class on Thursday (3/24) if you are ready to hand them over; delivering hard copies to my office (BH 474) on Friday (3/25); or uploading digital copies to your Oncourse dropbox with the final version of your Essay. Of course, if your sources come from our coursepack or eReserves, you do not need to submit copies to me -- I already have them.

Many thanks, and have an excellent spring break,

-Professor Graban

Mar 7, 2011

Dworkin, Bodybuilding, and Multivocal Reading

Hello, everyone.

As promised, I have (again) compiled the results of our in-class analysis of Shari Dworkin's "A Woman's Place is in the ... CV Room??" As before, I combined some of your responses with other groups' responses and filled in the gaps where I could. It occurred to me as I was compiling them, that each section analysis shows how Dworkin builds her argument. She triangulates in order to raise a new question, which she then answers by triangulating more data in the subsequent sections. I will bring copies of this to Tuesday's class.

See you then,

-Professor Graban

Mar 2, 2011

Blog Assignments #4/#6 - Complete One

Dear ENG W240 Class:

Of the remaining three Blogging Assignments,
Assignment #5 offers direct preparation for the Critical Bibliographic Essay, while Assignments #4 and #6 ask you to write reflections on your fieldnotes. Because each of you keeps a different schedule, and because some of you have already been able to schedule your observation hours while others have not, I will ask you to complete only one or the other -- either Assignment #4 or Assignment #6. Practically speaking, this means you may either submit an early fieldnotes reflection, or a late fieldnotes reflection. I will evaluate whichever one you submit by its duedate.

Many thanks,

-Professor Graban

Mar 1, 2011

Freire, Liberatory Education, Praxis, and Service-Learning

Hello, everyone.

As promised, I have compiled the results of our in-class analysis of Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Chapter 2). I contributed the first and last section, and I combined some of your responses with other groups' responses. Collectively, we came up with much more than I realized! I'll bring copies of this to Thursday's class, to aid our discussion, before we move on to Dworkin's "A Woman's Place."

See you in LH 030,

-Professor Graban

Feb 22, 2011

Collective Feedback on Verbal/Visual Portrait First Drafts

Hello, everyone.

I have done a quick review of your first drafts and want to offer some collective feedback as you move toward revision:
  • Reminder -- please submit a signed "consent form" in class on March 1! Please also submit your peer review sheets with revision plan in class on March 1!
  • The visual component should reflect the same dominant impression you have of your informant, although it does not need to be explicitly discussed in your verbal portrait (unless it is a relevant detail of setting, character, or theme).
  • Some of you are using photographs of your informants, others of you are using your image manipulations, and a few of you are considering artifacts that are immediately relevant to the issue. Please remember to cite the image source. Generally speaking, images from our image databases are okay to use. Generally speaking, images obtained from other web sources or proprietary sources are not okay to use, especially if they are copyrighted advertisements.
  • Most of you have done a great job so far of ensuring that your portrait is composed of various building blocks. Some of you are even utilizing different points in time, and others of you have written particularly strong transitions between sections that remind us of your overall issue. Please consider how each building block can reinforce your thesis, as well as demonstrate it. This will make your portrait cohere, given that it is still an issue-driven essay (and not just a narrative description of the interview).
  • So far, the strongest drafts are those that triangulate the interview with published sources, rather than those that simply integrate the sources after the fact. Some of you are extending key terms or concepts from a source to your fieldsite, some of you are framing your portrait with a key term or concept from a source, and some of you are forwarding one author's ideas in order to describe what makes your informant significant or unique, or to help your reader interpret something that occurs at your fieldsite. These are all useful ways of drawing on published sources, because they require you to demonstrate a real relationship between the published sources and your observations, rather than simply dropping in a quotation here and there.
  • Several of you asked about the best use of "I" (or narrative first-person) in the Portrait. There is no hard and fast rule. However, some portraits do focus too much on the writer and the writer's experience, rather than on the informant. So as not to focus the reader's attention on you, try to narrate transparently, focusing more on details of setting, character, and theme, and less on yourself.
  • Some of you mentioned feeling caught between portraying your informant positively and your fieldsite negatively. Obviously, our goal isn't simply to laud or to criticize or to be biased. Our readers will doubt our critical research ability if we only portray our informant as a hero, or if we only write an opinionated piece about what we think should be done on an issue. Try shifting your thinking, somewhat. You just need a sense of what matters to your informant. What is important to them?
  • Most of you have used embedded description naturally and well. If you are still struggling with how and where to employ those "grammars of observation," my advice would be to use them selectively. The role of descriptive language in the Portrait is to construct and support a dominant impression. Not every sentence need be explicitly descriptive.
  • Most of you are beyond this point, but in case you are still overwhelmed with information, this exercise can help:
  1. try writing down the issue in a sentence (example from "Surgeon's War": according to Susan Love, we need alternative notions of how to treat breast cancer and get to it before it gets to us)
  2. then try writing down your argument in a sentence (example from "Surgeon's War": Susan Love's approach to treating breast cancer is unconventionally conventional; she believes in researching the cause but nurturing the person)
  3. then try writing down the dominant impression (example from "Surgeon's War": a kind but fierce warrior in this battle)

Finally, remember that I am available in office hours, especially if you need a sounding board for your issue as you revise. The Verbal/Visual Portrait is by far the most difficult assignment in the sequence, not only because of the demands on interviewing and observation, but also because you are synthesizing information from so many sources, and you are negotiating multiple concerns in the way you write it.

You are doing great so far -- keep at it!

-Professor Graban

Feb 10, 2011

Thick Description / Embedded Language

Dear ENG W240 Class:

I want to modify, slightly, the reading for next week. Please review Trimbur's "Profiles" article, as we will continue working with that. In addition, please read Nilsen's "Sexism in English" but only pages 232-236, 302-306, and 331-333 in Fieldworking. (I have shortened our Fieldworking reading.) We will continue to understand the VVP assignment, but in the meantime, gather your questions about it and Blog Assignment #3. Send questions anytime, or save them for class!

As a reminder, Tuesday's class will be held in SE 045.

See you next week,

-Professor Graban

Feb 9, 2011

Visual Portraits and Erasure

Hello, everyone.

We ran out of time during yesterday's class session in SE 045 to do our own hands-on analysis of visual portraiture in more vital public contexts. However, I have come across two images to introduce in class tomorrow as we finish our discussion of Ellen Barton's "Textual Practices of Erasure" and begin our discussion of the profile genre.

The first is an advocacy advertisement published by the Physicians Against Land Mines (PALM) campaign, a member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and dedicated to educating the public about land mines as an ongoing international concern. This particular advertisement was designed by Leo Burnett (advertising agency, Chicago). I will try to find out where it circulated. PALM ads have circulated, generally, in Harper’s, Atlantic Monthly, Bomb, and People magazines.

For your own interest, here is the text inside Emina's left leg:

“Emina Uzicanin was just 5 years old. Her family was living on the outskirts of Sarajevo. On a sunny afternoon in May, Emina was playing in a field behind her Uncle’s house. There, she spotted two little rabbits. As soon as she started towards them, the rabbits took off. So she began running. Five feet. Ten feet. That’s when it happened. An ear-shattering explosion ripped through Emina’s body—severing her left leg and leaving the rest of her badly scarred. Every 22 minutes another innocent civilian is killed or maimed by a land mine. Right now there are over 60 million unexploded land mines waiting jut beneath the earth in nearly 70 countries. We need your help to rid the planet of land mines and to help its victims like Emina.”

The second image is something you may have seen before. It is a spoof advertisement, otherwise known as an "anti-advocacy ad" by Adbusters.org, and of course, copyrighted to them. This particular ad was designed several years ago in response to the “Nike ID” campaign, which invited clients to custom-design their own cross-trainers.

The content in these two images is quite different, I realize, but it will be interesting to consider how visual representations like these can complicate our own notions of what portraits should and do achieve, especially when they are constructed on behalf of civic organizations, public issues, or community projects. I am especially interested in Barton's claim about the ease with which the United Way poster campaign erased the complexities of living as adults with disabilities -- rather than inspiring its viewers to authentically embrace the disability culture. Her claims raise larger questions about disability, public representation, and how to unpack verbal/visual portraiture for more complex social constructions.

See you in class tomorrow,
Professor Graban

Feb 3, 2011

What makes this rhetorical?

Hello, everyone.

Some of your comments and questions during today's class discussion left me thinking, hard, about how we might justify community-based research as "rhetorical." Of course, Sunstein and Chiseri-Strater advocate for most writing activity as rhetorical, and they understand fieldworking and ethnography as persuasive acts. But I'd like to synthesize some ideas from your blog posts and today's class discussion in order to answer that question robustly, perhaps to help us think differently about persuasion. Several of you pointed out a potential dissonance between persuasion and our attempts to be objective, transparent, and ethical:

  • Community-based research (as it is enacted through fieldworking and ethnography) is rhetorical because it relies on a careful negotiation of both "emic" and "etic" perspectives, relating to the perspective of an insider while also representing the perspective of an outsider to a culture (FW 16, 17, 20, 76, 500).
  • It involves a systematic training in "seeing", i.e., through Samuel Scudder's principle of "looking at your fish" (FW 86-90) and various other notetaking methodologies. This seems to resonate with the Aristotelian notion that rhetoric is "the ability, [in particular cases] to see the available means of persuasion" (Rhetoric, published 32 BCE, translated into Latin in 13th century, later translated into English).
  • It involves the shaping of discourses for various purposes and audiences (FW 75), and hence even a process like notetaking can be done so as to show more explicitly how those discourses are shaped.
  • It implies a structure and a form, which is to say that it contains a series of steps or processes that build on one another toward an argumentative end (are end-focused).
  • It is transformative, especially inasmuch as it may allow a researcher to adapt or revise her beliefs or a writer to adapt or revise his perspectives.
  • It is triadic, which means it is grounded simultaneously in credibility (ethos), in the emotions and psychology of the audience (pathos), and in patterns of reasoning (logos) (FW 75). This seems suspiciously like our triangulation principle, which we have only just begun to understand.
  • It is, by and large, an ethical endeavor, which is not to say moral, but rather concerned with the relationship between reader, writer, and subject and with making those relationships visible. (Maybe this is why we should understand all of the positions that act on any moment, experience, or reading.)
  • It involves the articulation of nascent ideas (FW 75).
  • It is reflexive or promotes reflexivity (FW 88).
  • It considers the possibility that dissonances can be made from language and delivered through language.

That is all I can come up with, but I'd love to hear more of your justifications, either in class or by commenting below. Thank you for the mental challenge.

-Professor Graban

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