The Inquiry Project

The Inquiry Project  (Weeks #1, #2, #3)

Every week, in addition to working on your nugget and concept experience assignments, you will be thinking about, browsing the internet, reading, and blogging about your Inquiry Project.

Finding what you want to wonder about, then study, research, blog about, and create is a recursive, ongoing process. Good project ideas don’t just appear to you (like that light bulb image we all have). You don’t just wake up and say: I think I’ll create x. Good ideas have to mull around a bit, like a good soup on a stove. Your job is to tend to the soup – stir it up, add ingredients, show it some love and attention.

Okay, I suppose that is a bad analogy for you guys. Do any of you even make soup?

How about this: your job is to work at your Inquiry Project in the same way you work at Candy Crush Saga – earning boosters, building your score, calculating your moves, paying attention to the edges of the board, progressing through the levels If you lose enough lives in the game by being inattentive or sloppy – well you can’t play anymore (or something like that – all of this information I got from the internet, since I don’t play Candy Crush Saga). Maybe this is a bad analogy too, but you get the idea. You have to be attentive and WORK at your Inquiry Project with an ongoing, engaged commitment.

My job is to help nudge your thinking along about your Inquiry Project, helping you to find and nurture your own creative ideas. I don’t want to be too prescriptive in my nudging (even though I always have a few students who just want me to tell them what they must write about – which is so stifling that I can’t imagine they really mean it).

I hope to keep the Inquiry Project Blog Assignments open-ended to encourage you to be free enough to imagine and plan, but also provide you enough direction that all that freedom doesn’t feel too scary. (Well you know what Janis Joplin said about freedom anyway, right?)

Because my nudging is directly related to what you guys produce each week, I can’t post a list of Inquiry Project Blog Assignments on the first day of class. I will be crafting my “nudging” based what I identify as your needs as you blog each week about your Inquiry Project.

Later, as you begin creating your project, the Inquiry Project Assignments will become more directive and specific – find, read, and blog about scholarly articles related to your project, for example; or find a social media platform that has taken up your project idea and blog about it. You get the idea.

But for now, you just need to think, wonder, explore and reflect about what digital media is, and what role it plays in your own life.

Social-Media-Icons-Round Inquiry Project Blog Post Assignments:

Week #1: COMPLETED  In this first week, I want you think about your internet, digital, and social media use. In your blog post, share with all of us ONE online point of participation that you value. You likely have many points of participation (Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, etc). But I want you to choose the space you use often and most value, the space that interests you enough to blog about.

Are you an Instagrammer? Then tell us about this Instagram “life” you have – why do you like it? How do you participate? What do you gain from it? What makes it meaningful to you? Do you lurk a particular Reddit subreddit (or MANY subreddits) –then tell us about this life as a Reddit lurker. Why does lurking suit you? What do you gain from it? What have you learned? What fascinates you?

Maybe you think you don’t participate online in ANY meaningful way. So that’s the thing you think about. Why do you avoid it? What feels “less important” about it than other things you DO engage in? Tell us about how you feel about any kind of digital media you HAVE experienced. Why or how has digital media failed you?

Digital Media is anything: Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Snapchat, Pinterest, Apps, Reddit, Online Chat Forums (sports, music, fashion), gifs, memes, Tinder, online dating sites, blogs, meet up groups, any online “space” that you use and/or visit is yours to think about and tell us stories about in your first Inquiry Project blog post.

Yep, I said stories. Because stories are at the heart of most good writing. They help us make meaning and they make a bigger impact on readers than broad generalizations. We need personal anecdotes in your blog reflection that show us your life as a Sports Forum addict or Facebooker or Snapchat user. I can imagine some of these stories are funny, some are confessional (in a bemused sort of way), some may be couched in rants or confusion or avid arguments. It doesn’t matter – as long as you write with passion and a genuine voice about your experiences.

You: how do you live online?

Images, screenshots, gifs, any and all relevant media and links encouraged. TAG your post by the social or digital media you are blogging about. #Twitter #Snapchat #Reddit –ect. This way you can search tags and find others in the class who use the same media that you do.

Week #2 COMPLETED:    The Collaborative Interest Inventory Assignment in Google docs AND the Concept Experience #2 this week (where you began with a topic and kept following links to see where you ended up) both have been designed to keep you thinking about digital media and exploring any and all topics related to digital media.  This week, you should begin to reflect on and commit to an Inquiry Project focus,.  To do this, I’d like to hear some of your perceptions about both of this week’s thinking experiences, and whether they helped you light on new ideas for the Inquiry Project, or confirm old ideas, or something else.

Did the Collaborative Interest Inventory Project help you generate ideas that you hadn’t thought about?  How does the lens of digital media intersect with your own interests?  What umbrella topics generated the most interesting streams of thought for you?  What ideas — or collection of ideas — could you spend your valuable time exploring?  (If the idea isn’t awesome, it doesn’t deserve your time, right!?  Find the thing you most desire to wonder about (as long as its digital media related).

What do you want to spend the rest of the summer class (beginning next week) EXPLORING,  IMAGINING,  QUESTIONING and CREATING in your Inquiry Project?

Hey you:  What do you most want to know?  Why does this thing you most want to know intrigue you?  How does this thing you most want to know intersect with your “real” life (or your digital life — or are these two lives even the same lives?)  Why is this thing you want to understand worthy of your attention and hard work?

Inquiry Project Proposal with Research Question, Reflection on 3 Sources, and Call for Responses: Week #3:   To recap so far:  the first week, you reflected on how you “live” online.  The purpose of this first reflection:  to bring our class focus on digital media directly to your own experiences online.  Many of you did some of your best writing in that first week reflective post.  Do you have to focus your Inquiry Project on the digital media you wrote about in that post?  No.  But knowing what digital media you use, which you are passionate about, what annoys or concerns you about this media, is a good starting place.  I encourage all of you, if you are at a loss for an Inquiry Project focus, to go back to your first Inquiry Post Reflection and ask yourself if there is something about this digital media that intrigues you.

The second week you reflected on what you most want to know, what you are most curious about, as it relates to formulating your ideas for a project. We brainstormed many avenues of research in the Interest Inventory Project, so that if you were at a loss for ideas, you could look to that Google document for some inspiration.  You also began with a Wikipedia search about your topic, and followed the links to see where they took you.  This exercise could have lead you to a more narrow topic within the broader umbrella topic you began with.

In this third week, you began searching for articles related to the broad topic you want to know about.  You found, read, annotated, and shared five relevant articles in our Thoughtvectors2014 Diigo group.  This is the week where you began “getting smarter” about your topic, creating your own dynamic repository of knowledge about it.  Now you are ready to narrow your focus from a general, broad topic, to a more specific one.

For your Inquiry Project #3 Reflection:

First: You need to articulate a specific, well-focused QUESTION that will drive your research.  There’s a big difference between a broad “topic” and a specific RESEARCH QUESTION.  To say: I am going to research AI — this broad topic leaves you open to ALL the research on AI out there — everything from artificial intelligence used in drones,  robotics, gaming, medicine, marketing, to name only a few.  A specific research question about AI, however, narrows that focus.   For example,  “How do we really feel about bots, and why do we want to make them more “human?”

Now this question changes the focus — making it specific, and rich, and interesting.  First — there’s no Google answer for this question.  (A good research question cannot be answered by a simple Google search).  How do we “feel” about bots requires looking at quite a few writers’ viewpoints about bots in order for you to determine how people (gamers, citizens, developers) feel about them.   And if we desire more “human” behaviors in our bots, why is this?

In a League of Legends developers’ blog, for example, the focus on making bots more human means slowing down how often they could scan the game environment and react. 

It turns out, gamers are tired of the “unrealistic super human reactions of bots.”  Maybe gamers feel that doesn’t resemble fair play.  I”m not sure — I’d have to do more research.  But reading only one article that addresses a research question, almost naturally leads the researcher to more questions, and consequently, more research.

A recent Huffington Post piece written by Bianca Boster examines the Twitter handle @Horse_ebooks, which has a cult following, most of whom assumed the tweets were generated randomly by bots.  Ironically, when it was revealed that two real people were generating the tweets “as an art piece,”  (what this says about social media and art is itself interesting!) the Twitter world was in a stir.  It turns out, people are “rooting” for the robot, said Bosker, We want an “algorithm that wasn’t just efficient, but actually was weirdly insightful.”  But why?   (Like I said, a good research question and good research almost always generates new questions to follow).

horse_ebooks-tweetA difference I see in the League of Legends blog post and the Huffington Post piece is that the developers of the game assume that gamers want more “human” bots because they want to play against a realistic opponent.  Perfect, super-human opponents are getting old, they seem to say.  But in the Huffington Post piece, it seems Boster is implying that we have a yearning for bots to be more complex than just simply algorithms.  We yearn for a quirky human nature in our robots, and it’s this idea that intrigues me.  Why do we want our bots to be human?  When people call Siri “her,” do they think of her as human?  How close do we really want to be to our technology?

So, in summary:  this specific research question leads me  on a focused quest, and each article I read generates more focused questions for me, unlike a broad topic, which would bury me in a range of unlimited options.

Use this question heuristic:

I am studying x (broad topic)

because I want to find out y  (what, how, why)… (more specific focus)

   in order to help my readers z  (understand, question, challenge, support, wonder about, etc).

Example heuristic:   I am studying artificial intelligence used in internet bots

because I want to find out why we may not only accept bots, but also secretly wish them to be more human-like

in order to help my readers question our growing acceptance and dependence on more sophisticated artificial intelligence.

Research question:  How do we really feel about bots, and why may we wish them be be more “human?”

Now it’s your turn.  Use the heuristic (above), first, to articulate your research question.  Use the same format (I am studying x because I want to find out how/why/what… in order to help my readers z).  Spend time on this statement to use the most accurate language you can.   Notice the question itself comes from the “because statement.”

Then, after stating your research question using specific language you feel comfortable with, write a blog post that reflects on this question by discussing and linking to 3 of the articles you read and bookmarked in Diigo this week.   (I used two articles in my discussion of my research question, but you should use three.)  It’s important to discuss how the articles addresses your research question, but ALSO, what further questions each article raises for you that you will need to explore in more research.  Also, try to extrapolate differences and similarities in the concerns, insights, and examples used in all three of the articles.

Make sure you include the heuristic AND  your specific RESEARCH QUESTIONS at the top of the blog post.  At the END of this post, Write:  CALL FOR RESPONSES:

In the CALL FOR RESPONSES:  ASK your readers at least 3 questions about your topic (more than 3 are encouraged!)  Any questions you have — ranging from specific questions you may need help with, to broad questions for ideas, insights, or feedback.  Please make questions more specific than “Do you have any ideas?”  I would ask “If you are a gamer, how do you feel about playing against the computer or a bot?”  — something more specific than “got ideas?”

Readers will respond to your CALL FOR RESPONSES, so in effect, you are focusing our attention on your concerns or needs related to your research question.

Week #4:  See Inquiry Project Proposal #2: Thoughts on Design.   This can be found under the “Inquiry Project” link.  The link can also be found in the Daily Course Syllabus.







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