wec fall 2011 semester research project

Project Overview

In this collaborative project we are going to attempt to answer the question: how do contemporary writing technologies and practices cause us to reconsider our definition of writing. As we redefine writing we’ll also be questioning constructs like audience, identity, originality, authority, ownership, materiality, and collaboration. To address our main question, we’ll be conducting a study of Web 2.0 spaces—spaces in which people are spending a considerable amount of time, often engaging in new and emerging writing practices. We’ll also be observing how people are writing in their real life professional spaces. Our findings in these studies will inform our understanding of what it means to write and be a writer today. From there we will speculate as to where writing is heading in the future.

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Project Specifics

Student groups will record and define every single function of the three sites that they are able to observe, as well as make observations about the nature of the content they see on the site. Functions can be as varied as needing a username and password to login to being able create a status update to being able to upload video to being able to integrate with a third party application. For each function, students will create a short definition of what the function is and using our readings as a guide, determine whether that function can be considered a form of writing.

In the real life spaces, each student will observe how 1 person writes in their professional space. Each student will create a sketch of what the environment looks like and will note which surfaces are being used for writing, what the subject is doing when they are writing, and how the technologies around the subject facilitate, distract, or are a neutral influence on their writing. It will be key to look for patterns of activity and the kinds of writing surfaces that are used. Our readings on genre ecologies will inform this portion of the study. The subject will be anonymous in all documents you produce as a result of your observation.

To complement our discussions of privacy, each group will offer a summary of the Terms and Conditions for using each site they are analyzing and attempt to answer the question: who owns a user’s data, the user or the site?

Project Constraints

There are several constraints to this project in order to ensure that the workload is tolerable, everyone is able to get the most out of the project, and the project stays within the semester timeframe:

  • Without exception, all students must work in groups; the project will be too much of a burden for someone working individually.
  • Each student must keep a record or log of the work they do for the project that they will submit with their final reflective essay. It will be useful to have evidence of that work. This will ensure that students are assessed based on the work they complete.
  • Sites to be analyzed will be selected based on accepted research standards, not based on what students in the class tend to use most often. Some of the sites we analyze might be completely new to your group.
  • Each group will analyze three sites. The results will be pooled together to create a large data set.
  • Within each group, a system of redundancy and review (a Reflexive Cataloging Methodology) must be incorporated so each site is reviewed and updated by at least 2 group members.
  • Each group will create a page on the course Tumblr Blog that explains (and creates a heading for), in their own words: the research project, the goals of the study, the sites they are studying, a brief description of that particular site, and the methodology you will be using (due 9/26). Each of these sections should be as thorough as you think necessary. This page will also include: characteristics of the different kinds of writing genres that appear on each site, summaries of your data (including summaries of each site’s Terms and Conditions), your findings (including Terms and Conditions findings), and your conclusions. It will also have a link to the group’s final collaborative essay.
  • Findings will be framed by our readings on writing, Web 2.0, electronic literature and gaming.

Project Schedule

  • 9/19: Hand out the module research project
  • 9/19: Groups announced; plan the study
  • 9/26: Group Tumblr page must be created and main study info (see above) added
  • 10/9: Initial data due online
  • 10/10: discuss initial data in class
  • 10/31: Research week; classes canceled
  • 11/6: All data must be completed and put online
  • 11/7: Observations of subjects working in professional spaces due online
  • 11/7: Class meets online & groups discuss data
  • 11/14: Discuss final paper assignment
  • 11/14 – 12/5: Weekly synchronous essay writing must occur once a week
  • 12/12: Final essay due

Additional details will be provided for specific stages of the project.

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