About CommForge2

CommForge2 is the course website for LAIS423/523, Advanced Science Communication, at the Colorado School of Mines. From here, you can link to student sci-tech blogs, read about the course, and comment on current events and stories. Welcome!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Blog Fodder

I taught college composition classes for many years before joining the tenure-track at the Colorado School of Mines.  For a long time, I was pretty unhappy with most of the composition texts out there...most were either grammar manuals or readers that were too general to be interesting.

But there was one exception:  Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein's They Say, I say:  The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing.  I liked this book a lot because it talks in very frank terms about the conventions of academic writing--in other words, the kinds of implicit rules American academics use when they are writing arguments.

There are lots of subtleties in this little book that I won't go into in this post, but I think its most important message is that the key to understanding academic writing is knowing that when you are writing about a subject, you are entering into a dialogue that is already going on.  Most likely, a whole bunch of people before you have thought quite a bit about your topic and have written down those thoughts.  Writing your own paper as if that dialogue didn't exist is sort of like walking up to a group of people at a party--people who are animatedly discussing the Presidential election, say--and just interrupting with a diatribe of your own about politics without pausing to listen to what they have been talking about.  You come across as a party pooper at best and an ignorant boob at worst, but also you've done little to further the line of argumentation that was already in place.

In other words, refusing to acknowledge and understand the ongoing dialogue around you is something akin to a big, giant party foul.

Shamelessly borrowed from this blog.

For the blog project, this leads to the question, what kinds of dialogues are already happening about your subject?  Who is talking about, publishing on, blogging about nuclear power, or fraccing, or space exploration?  What are people saying about the politics of geophysics, or the perils of the robotic work force?  Until you know what the conversation is about, you won't be very effective at entering it.

In other words, your blog needs fodder.  Something to feed on.   Something to build on.  A dialogue to engage in.

I've asked students to sign up for various types of blog fodder, and then to send that list to me.  Here's what it looks like so far (I'll be adding as students send me their fodder):

These are good sources; I hope students will also subscribe to other blogs (preferably reputable or professional ones) so that they are reporting not just on the news but also engaging others in terms of arguments and ideas.

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