Historical Research Project: Guidelines

The expectations for this assignment are flexible in many ways.  This is on purpose, to encourage creative and adventurous thinking.  The primary objective is to have you experience doing media history, finding historical evidence to be used in understanding media’s past.  A secondary objective is to give you the opportunity to work in an unfamiliar format, but this is optional.

The syllabus states:

“-Historical research project worth 20% due October 4, 5 pm. This assignment has flexible expectations and can be done in any appropriate medium, such as print, blog entry, audio recording, video, or slideshow. The only requirements are that the project consider the history of a media technology using historical evidence (not secondary sources alone) and that it be shared with the whole seminar. You are encouraged to work in a medium you find unfamiliar and to reflect on your experience with this new technology if you think it is interesting or relevant.”

To distinguish between historical evidence and secondary sources, consider the time and purpose of a source.  Artifacts and documents from the past are historical to the extent that they help us tell the story of the past.  Secondary sources are historiographical writings that tell the story of the past (historiography=writing the past), which make use of primary historical evidence.  Traditional histories make use of documents such as letters and publications kept in archives.  But many objects can be used as historical evidence, including pictures (such as advertisements) and artifacts (such as the “old” technologies we looked at on the first day of class).  Some historians (e.g., Fischer) use oral histories or interviews.  Another way of distinguishing is to ask, who made this?  Writings by scholars are secondary unless your object of study is scholarship itself.

Expectations of length for this assignment are hard to fix because of the differences among media.  I cannot say what the equivalence is in length between a video, a slideshow, a podcast, and a written work.  But consider that the final paper is to be 3200 words and worth 40% of the final grade, and this assignment is worth 20%.  I would be inclined to think a written work shorter than 1600 words is not adequate, but I can’t say for sure.  Maybe you could write a scintillating and persuasive 1300 words?  I dare you!

Because this assignment offers you the opportunity to use new media, I do not expect the formality of publishable scholarly writing.  It is not necessary to have sections devoted to discussion of literature and methods.  But I do expect the work to be academic in tone, and sources should be cited in whatever format you think is appropriate.  It’s ok to be casual, but your work should be intellectually serious and engaged.

I also expect your work to make a point, i.e., to be more than just a collection of historical evidence.  Use your evidence to support a clear idea about the history of new media.

To share your work with the seminar I encourage you to post it to the blog, but if you prefer a more private form of sharing or if the media you are working with cannot be blogged, we can find another way.


One thought on “Historical Research Project: Guidelines

  1. Pingback: syllabus « new media seminar (jmc 860)

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