For our second course project, we will be engaging in primary research. Primary research is the gathering of data through your own data collection efforts as apposed to secondary research through which you get information from the written accounts of others. The object of our primary research is a writing ecology of your choice. I will ask you to gather as much information as possible about a particular social group and their activities with a focus on the genres (types of written texts) that they use to engage in their activities. Our goal is to come to understand how this community uses writing to accomplish its goals, mediate its activities, and negotiate relationships among people, places, and resources.
To collect your data, you will need to get access to this community, discipline, etc., and, through interviews, observations, and surveys come to know what texts people use, what they use them to do, and how those texts relate to and maintain the systems of ideas, purposes, interpersonal relationships, cultural norms, and textual forms (Cooper) of the group.
To present your findings, I will ask you to create an ontography. An ontography is a type of info-graphic, blending words and visuals, to create a map of the interactions of this ecology (with a focus on one particular role in that ecology) showing how different genres connect people, places, activities, and objects/resources and explaining connections to the systems of the ecology. An ontography, then, is a visual map of the ecology, with text explaining the connections between parts. In many ways, it is like a schematic of a machine, showing all the parts and how they connect together to make the whole. In our ontography, the glue that connects everything together is the system of genres (textual forms) and the rest of the systems (ideas, purposes, interpersonal relations, and cultural norms that are maintained through their production).
You are free to use whatever technology you are familiar with or have access to. You do, in the end, need to make your ontography available in your Google Drive folder, but you can do so by taking a picture or scanning it if you choose to work with non-digital technology (science project boards, etc.). One technology that I have found particularly effective is Prezi, the online 3d presentation program. Prezi.com does allow for a limited free subscription, and its features allow you to create visually interesting and effective info-graphics. If you are familiar with or have access to graphic design software, you could certainly use such products to create your ontography.
The main purpose of this project is to give you the opportunity to analyze a writing ecology using the “mental schema” (Beaufort) you are developing and to begin to see the extent to which writing mediates social interaction—no matter what you do in your life, writing will be a major factor. It also gives you an opportunity to create a multimodal project that uses both alphabetic type and visuals to effectively connect with an audience. In this case, the audience is the community of undergraduate writing researchers (students like you who are currently researching writing). The writing situation I want you to plan for is an undergraduate writing research conference where you will present your ontography to undergraduate students from all over the US. They need to be able to understand the writing ecology you study from your ontography.
To help you create your ontography you will need to find out
· The different people/roles involved in the ecology
· The activities/purposes of the ecology
· The texts/genres that they commonly produce in order to facilitate and mediate their activities
· The systems of ideas people need to engage with in different roles in the ecology
· The hierarchy/power relations among the people in the ecology and how texts negotiate that hierarchy
· The cultural norms, or expectations for “proper” behavior both in text and in person, expected in the ecology
I will ask you to first propose what ecology you will study (think professions, academic disciplines, and other long established “communities of practice” (Lave & Wenger)—loosely organized quickly changing groups won’t work).
You will then need to plan your research activities—you can also use secondary research, but must include some primary data collection. You will need to move quickly to create surveys and schedule interviews and observations, as well as search for any secondary resources that might get you the information you need (this should primarily be done September 28th through October 2nd).
For your interviews or surveys, you will need to plan questions that will lead your interviewees to give you the information you need and decide how you will collect and keep the data (Will you record the interviews?).
To help you move toward presenting your data, you should first list out all the elements involved:
· People/roles & relationships among them
From your list you can then begin to map out a flow chart that shows how all these elements are connected/accomplished by the genres of the ecology.Once you have a map, you can then begin to add explanations of each part of that map.
For this assignment, you have a great deal of latitude for creativity. The ontography is not a very established genre and so has few constraints on it. The only real constraint is that it must interestingly explain the ecology you study. In that way, it is a kind of report of your findings, but one in the form of a visual map with explanatory text. Poster sessions at conferences often employ such infographics, so you may want to search for examples of poster session posters on line.
Because this work is visual, there are some minor expectations for the combination of aesthetic (artistic) component of its persuasiveness. The visual appearance should help to convey the message of the map and explanation. The best ontographies will convey a sense of the character of the ecology. As with written sources, you are expected to abide by copy-right laws and ethically use all visual sources.
Questions to help your listing and connecting:
Where does this group interact? (Focus on places both physical and digital.)
What physical objects are involved? (Don’t forget simple things like the clothes they wear,
the natural and manufactured goods they use, etc.)
What technology is involved? (Hardware? Software?)
What non-human life is involved? (Plants? Animals? Microscopic organisms?)
What human roles are involved? (Scientist, technician, CEO, administrative assistants?)
What activities occur?
What writing is involved? (Documents, communications, meetings, art, email, blogs, texts,
memos, resumes, interviews, drills, etc.)
Why are particular texts produced?
What activities do texts make possible?
What events do texts make happen?
Who is involved in textual production?
Who receives texts?
What is the relationship between producers and receivers of texts?
How do the texts show relationships? Maintain them? Change them?
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