Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Writing and Thinking (Part 3 of A Short Introduction to Thinking in Education and Technology)

One of the purposes of last week's exercise on "reading" is to understand texts as something produced by other people (writers), and that in reading texts we are trying to understand those people. In an ideal world, we could take them for coffee and have a long discussion with them: their manner, inflections of speech, body language and the look in their eyes would tell us much about them that we would feel we could get to know them (we still might be mistaken though!). Unfortunately, most of the people we read are dead, or live far away, or haven't got time, and so on. Writing is the best we can do: like most technologies, it is an imperfect substitute for supposedly ideal human relations. Writing is a constraint on writers' self-expression, and in understanding that constraint, and how individual writers deal with it can sometimes be as revealing about a writer as a face-to-face meeting.
This week I want to focus on the experience of writing: the way that thoughts and actions bounce between another as actions gradually manipulate words on a screen, or scribbles on a piece of paper. This is everyone's experience of writing, and yet we rarely inspect it despite the fact that the fundamental task of any PhD is a producing an lot of text!
In this week's exercise, I want you to document the process of writing a short (300 word) passage of text. You are going to take multiple snapshots of your text at regular short intervals during its composition: from the first sentence all the way through to the completed passage. The text should be based around the question you asked in Exercise 1, and the different critical, experiential and analytical ideas you explored there can feature as a framework for you text.
In the video below, I explain this a bit more. One of the biggest problems is managing how you feel as you produce text. It is extremely common to write a few lines, read them back, get tired, and then to think after a bit of reflection they are no good and give up! How do you get over the emotional block? I talk about some of the things I do to avoid this.
Some things to think about after you've done this:
  • To what extent does your written passage reveal your own constraints?
  • To what extent is the technology of writing (the words, the computer, the pen and paper, etc) a constraint on how you express yourself?
  • To what extent does your writing reflect a particular world-view?
  • To what extent do you consider other world-views to be possible?
Next week's activity is about world views and their relationship with methodologies. The week after, we consider the constraints of technology.

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