Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reminder About the Mid-Term Essay

In a week and a half you will be handing in a 4-5pp. mid-term essay in which you provide an argumentative reading of one of the pieces assigned and discussed in the course so far this term. As we discussed last week, I want your essays to reflect the connection we have returned to time and time again in our own discussions together over the term, the connection of the "technical/technological" with the "political." Again, I think there are two different sorts of perspectives you can take up in making your arguments (that is to say, in defending and/or exploring a claim about your chosen text through a close reading of that text itself): ONE, you can talk about the political situation of a text, how the political or historical or class or gendered or raced experiences of the author or of the folks the author is talking about (software coders, consumers of media, academics, CEOs, whatever) give rise to the perspective, assumptions, goals expressed in the piece -- even if the piece seems to declare itself in some way non-political or "neutrally technical" -- or TWO, you can talk about how the argument of the text, the figures and formulations it employs, either facilitate or constrain what is politically possible or important in an important way in your view. In other words, you can either talk about how the text is produced by the political world it arises out of in some significant way, or you can talk about how the text produces the political world into which it is released in some significant way. Of course, every text does both, but you should concentrate on one approach in respect to one text. If you want to know more about writing argumentative close readings, I recommend you read my short guide to this topic, Four Habits of Argumentative Writing.

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