I often assign class essays that are fairly open-ended. If you need help settling upon a topic, please consider the following:
- Review your class and reading notes (or responses) which should be a a repository of potential ideas.
- Brainstorm a number of (provocative) arguments you could make as you research and think about your topic.
- Review the class objectives from the syllabus.
- Write a proposal for (at least) yourself and (perhaps) share it with the instructor that identifies:
- what is the topic?
- what argument/thesis are you likely to make?
- what concepts/readings from class will you make use of?
- what external readings (if appropriate) will you make use of and are they appropriate to your topic?
Once you have your topic, read Writing Class Essays.
The following brief proposals (for a conflict management class and media class) identify a compelling topic, mention the issues/questions of interest, likely arguments/themes, and supporting sources.
Conflict in Rwanda
For Assignment 5, I thought it would be interesting, insightful, and much applicable to focus on the conflict within the country of Rwanda that lead to unfortunate massive acts of violence, the Rwandan Genocide, in 1994, which shows evidence of still existing today. This civil war, between the Hutus and the Tutsis, represents an intra-cultural problem that is influenced by implications of “ethnicity” and the unstable political power. I do not know specifics at the moment, but I will also focus on the failed attempts of reconciliation in the country and possibly propose recommendations on how to go about changing the attitudes between these two groups. I will likely make use of concepts from Kahneman and Renshon’s “Why Hawks Win” (e.g., fundamental attribution error, double down), the notion of intra-cultural norms from Reagle’s Wikipedia paper, and the challenges of reconciliation from Linfield’s “Trading Truth for Justice?”. My external source will be Chabal’s “Is Violence Inevitable in Africa?”
Chabal, P. Is Violence Inevitable in Africa?: Theories of Conflict and Approaches to Conflict Prevention. Boston, MA: Brill Academic Publishers, Inc., 2005.
Examplar 2: Turntable.fm Cultural Analysis
For my final paper in this course, I’m interested in doing a cultural analysis of a new media culture which I have been observing and participating in over the course of the semester. I discussed it briefly in one of my responses—the website is called Turntable, and its a community where users can gather in specific “rooms” to play and listen to music together. The site is still in its infancy, thus I would like to study issues regarding “idioms of practice” and “media ideology”, in Gershon's terms, as well as Schein's multiple levels of cultural analysis to determine what exactly constitutes the culture of the community, and which aspects of that culture are still being debated. Ideas concerning how the community deals with trolls and griefers may also be of interest
I’d also like to discuss the implications of this community on the idea of music container files as an artifact of online cultures. I’d like to engage Richard Barbrook's idea of the internet as a gift economy [The Hi-Tech Gift Economy] as referenced by Sterne in his discussion of the mp3 as a cultural artifact to suss out where websites like Turntable fit in with the idea of a gift economy. On a related note, I would also like to engage in a discussion on the legality of the service—specifically where its model fits within the copyright system in the United States, and whether the community might run afoul of any legal issues.