Collecting sources, expanding your research, & blogging

Today is Day 2 of our the 3 days I have dedicated to preparing for panel discussions. You will learn:

  • about 2 helpful tools for collecting sources and reading
  • how to explore other sites for material, especially scholarship and media on your topic
  • get introduced to ideas for blogging about your research

(1) Collecting sources with citation managers

As we learned from our second unit, reading online is fundamentally different than other kinds of reading, especially as we have grown to encounter texts that are not purely alphabetic or print-based. Last week I briefly introduced you to Pocket, a read-it-later or online bookmarking service (like Instapaper) that allows you to save readings as you browse the web or social media feeds. I often save readings my friends share on Twitter or Facebook to Pocket and read it at a more convenient time. Pocket also allows you to tag and archive readings, making it handy for organizing readings for reuse. Pocket also makes apps for Mac, iOS, and other devices.

But I want to introduce you to two other apps that help manage research, both of which have Chrome extensions: Mendeley and Zotero. These are bibliography managers, capable of curating, tracking, and sharing citations. Like Pocket, you can save readings, but unlike Pocket, these two apps will keep track of bibliographic info (authors, publishers, etc.). Their groups feature also allow you to collaborate in ways that will be helpful for a project like this. To get started with these on your machines, you’ll need to make an account, and download both their Chrome extensions and desktop applications to your laptop. I’ll be available to help you manage these today if your group chooses to use one of them.

(2) Expanding your research

Last class your group used Google News and Wikipedia to explore the scope of your chosen topic and so by now you should collectively have a good idea of:

  • its definition: what is it, who says, and/or what elements can be debated or resist consensus?
  • its basic history: how does your phenomenon exist as a moment in a larger, longer narrative? how is it a product or function of previous cultures, societies, and technologies?
  • its newsworthiness —  why is it important now?
  • its keywords and search terms —what are some related phrases or terms you should search as you seek to better understand this phenomenon?
  • counter-technologies — what tools, strategies, or literacies help us manage, expose, disrupt, or otherwise limit the malfeasance these phenomena cause us online and IRL?

Once you have the basic answers to these questions, you’ll be ready to get a stronger sense of your topic by zooming in on scholarship. I often imagine this chart when thinking about research:

Notice that sources at the bottom are more specialized and authoritative. That’s because those sources represent expert knowledge from people who dedicate more time and space to these phenomena.

For example: perhaps you’re interested in content moderation, a smaller part of the third strategy of intervention from the “Dead Reckoning” report. In researching the subject I’ve found that the labor of human moderators is often at issue. Over at the Moderation system entry in Wikipedia I see that “commercial content moderation” is a form of “supervisor moderation” and that the laor of such moderation is always at issue. And from Google News I learned that one of the outsourced companies from Facebook, Cognizant, just left the business because of some of the muckraking work of journalists at The Verge. When I look closely at the Wikipedia entry I see Dr. Sarah T. Roberts is cited. Her work is also cited in the “Dead Reckoning” report. The citation of Roberts in Wikipedia takes me to a post on Roberts’ own page, but includes info on her new book, Behind the Screen (2019, Yale U Press). The library doesn’t have it, but could always get it via EZBorrow or ILL.

Still you can also search two places for scholarly source on your phenomena: Google Scholar and Campbell Library. Use the latter to explore ebooks.

(3) What about multimedia?

Remember that you’ll be framing your discussion by sharing some relevant multimedia during the first 10 minutes or so. Here are some ideas on how to approach this part:

  • Search for video essays on YouTube channels from reputable sources like The Verge, Vox, or SmarterEveryday. Use the moves from Unit 1 here.
  • Search for podcasts about your phenomenon. I’m especially keen of On The Media, which runs 15 min segments on a range of issues we’ve discussed here.
  • Search video distributors like Kanopy, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc. for other content that might apply.
  • Consider using well done apps, quizzes, or games if you can find them and they help frame your topic.

(4) Blogging about your work

Part of this project asks you to use your WordPress team site to blog about your project. Do me a favor and share your URLs with me on this spreadsheet. This part of the project is pretty open, but I’m hoping to see three or four 500-word posts spread out through the process. Post might include:

  • The “getting started” post. Discuss what drew you to this topic, phenomena, or strategy of intervention. Why did your team find this important?
  • The “important reading” post. Here you might tell readers how you found this source, summarize the major claims and methods, and why it’s important or how it compares to other sources like it.
  • The “research journey” post. Narrate your research process. What sources are you turning to and why? How are you finding them? What complications are arising?
  • The “counter-technologies” post. What apps, literacies, tools, etc. are you considering?
  • *The “lesson plan” post. This will share your plan and include the questions are you asking in your discussion and why.
  • The “wrap-up” post. You could use one of your posts to debrief and summarize what happened in class and what you found interesting in the discussion. If you chose this be sure to take notes during the discussion.

    * This post is actually required

Benchmarks for next class

  • Have your WordPress site designed and get at least one blog post up.
  • Narrow down your choices for the class-assigned reading to two or three possibilities. Likewise for the 10-minutes framing media.
  • On Thursday we’ll talk about facilitating discussion.