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As part of this coursework for this class, you will contribute blog posts throughout the semester according to the requirements listed on the syllabus. Make sure you are attentive to any deadlines posted on the syllabus or agreed to in conjunction with the professor.
In this assignment, you will write a blog post so that you can share your ideas, interpretations, and problems with the readings and discussions in class. Students are encouraged to build on the core concepts of the class in order to contribute to a continuous, semester-long conversation over a focused set of topics.
Blog posts should be written in complete sentences and organized thoughts, but need not be formally organized as an essay (i.e., with an explicit thesis statement and supporting points). However, students may wish to use the strict format of an essay to develop their blog posts.
The primary purpose of your blog post is to demonstrate your own thinking about a reading or topic, as well as some of the connections you see to the world outside the classroom. This means that student may include original content—such as images, film clips, links to materials, etc.—in developing their blog posts. Please make sure you cite the page numbers of any readings from the class syllabus. Students have two major strategies for developing a blog post:
First, students may focus on a topic in general or broad terms by drawing on several readings from the week or series on which they chose to write their blog entry. For example, you might try to find multiple points of connection, or a synthesis, across the readings. Synthesis is defined as the fusion of different, often contradictory ideas, taken from different passages. Thus, we might take two different or opposing authors and put them into a “dialogue” with one another. Focusing on a particular term or set of terms that appears in multiple readings often places the emphasis on an idea that does not have physical or concrete characteristics, such as “gender,” “democracy,” “race,” “science,” etc. Because different authors engage abstract concepts differently—think about how differently Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald Trump define “democracy,” for example—examining an abstract concept requires that we synthesize, or combine and compare, perspectives. In a synthesis you might ask yourself, “What are the different meanings of this abstract concept, and how and why do different authors argue for the different meanings of a particular abstract idea? Finally, why and how does it matter?” Using our previous example, we might ask what Trump or Clinton mean when they say “democracy.” Are they talking about electoral institutions, the make-up of the demos(or people), the meaning of individual leadership in democracy, the relationship between elite and ordinary people, or the relationship between “the government” and “the people” (another set of abstract ideas)? How and why do Trump or Clinton state their case for their particular version of democracy? Finally, why does it matter? What are the effects of their contesting interpretations? In this type of blog entry, relate assigned readings, lectures, and discussions to the abstract concepts or themes that the class discusses as a whole. You might consider some of the themes central to the course, like gender, sexuality, race, and class, although you may consider many thematic categories—geography, space, chronology, scientific knowledge, etc. This type of entry should help you connect, or synthesize theories and concepts to one another, to readings outside of class, or to other “real world” experiences. A good synthesis should make several references to several different readings in addition to the reading assigned for a particular day on the syllabus. A synthesis always investigates more than one source or perspective. Avoid merely providing a “book report” or summary of what you have read. Instead, you should discuss in some detail how you see concepts and theories that are common to some, most, or all readings of the course. As with all blog posts, a synthesis or abstract conceptualization should relate directly to the assigned reading on the syllabus.
Secondly, students may wish to focus on a narrow topic or theme, or engage in close readingor analysisof a single reading or resource. For example, you might focus on an author’s style or writing choices, an interpretation of the composition of an image, or scrutiny of a particular word or set of terms that appears repeatedly in a reading. A close reading is a reflection on and interpretation of a specific reading or passage. Close readings are the easiest and most straightforward types of blog posts to write, since you are engaging your own interpretation of a specific passage or reading. In a close reading, ask yourself “What did I observe in these readings and what possible different meanings or interpretations could these observations have?” The key task in this type of blog post is to gather a set of observations and interpretations in order to develop your own perspective on a reading or to explore the reading(s) from different perspectives. This exercise will help you to become skilled in “perspective taking” or “re-framing.” In this format, you want to address how a reading speaks to your own perspective or knowledge. Then, you might form an interpretation of the themes or issues raised on the readings based on this perspective. As you do this, you might also ask yourself how other readers (or types of readers) might view and interpret the passage under consideration. Some of the following questions might be helpful in developing a close reading blog post: What might a “neutral” observer read? Is a “neutral” reader or interpretation even possible? What kind of reader might disagree with or contest either your conclusions or that of the passage you have chosen to analyze? Take into account the ways in which privilege and power, or struggle and disempowerment, might alter your perceptions and interpretations.
Third, students may wish to develop a blog post around a personal experiencerelated to the reading. Describe and relate a personal experience from outside the class that relates to the day’s assigned readings. Students should use this type of blog post to explore students’ own selves based on experiences that relate to the issues, questions, or themes raised by the readings. These descriptions should contain both objective and subjective components. The objective part of this type of blog post should describe the facts of the experience, like a newspaper account, without an attempt to analyze the content. Taking a journalistic approach, the objective description answers the questions who, what, when, where, and how. Then, relate the answers to these questions to the week’s readings or major themes. The subjective component of this type of blog post should describe your own feelings, perceptions, and thoughts related to a personal experience. Make sure that this blog post cites and makes extensive reference to the readings and avoid writing a diary entry.
Again, students are strongly encouraged but not required to include resources from outside the class. However, such materials need to be researched, vetted, and qualified. For example, fake or doctored images need to be explained as such or excluded. Please make sure to include reasonable citations and/or links to any materials from outside of class.
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