It’s that time again, ASTU: our next blog post is due Monday, November 9 at noon (remember, if the original Friday due date suited you better, go ahead and post before Monday. Just no later). Please read and comment by 9:30 Tuesday as usual. In this post, I give some suggestions about finding a topic and I also talk about some material that is in my own “ASTU stuff” file.
Again this week, you will choose your own topic related to our discussions of life narratives. Be sure to make explicit how your content connects to our course conversations, and don’t forget to think about the needs of your readers, who will be us, but also the wider UBC community. Remember that I’m expecting analytical rather than merely descriptive posts. One way to add complexity to your discussions is to bring in the work of scholars or other experts, engaging with their ideas as you develop your own insights.
If you’re looking for ideas for your topic, you could look ahead to the blogs we are reading alongside Cockeyed (see links on Connect). You could talk about aspects of Cockeyed we haven’t addressed as a class. You might draw on your lit review, or look ahead to the original work you want to do on your primary source (the life narrative you’ll study as your research site). Or you may have seen life narratives in action in other places and want to talk about them. It’s a great research practice, in any course, to start a “clippings file” (digital or print) to capture stuff you see in other contexts but that you find interesting and relevant to that particular course’s content. You never know when that “clippings file” might yield an original research project, blog post, or “hook” for another piece of writing.
As a researcher and teacher of auto/biography studies, I’m always on the alert for material that connects to my own scholarship (on digital life narratives) and to my courses. In mid-September, I found this interview in the Vancouver Sun with Jason DaSilva, a filmmaker whose documentary When I Walk was showing at the Vancouver Film Festival. The documentary chronicles DaSilva’s experiences with MS, and explores what it means for him to navigate the world as a person with a disability (see the Sundance trailer with extra footage here). The feature-length film is only the latest (and longest) of DaSilva’s self-representations; he’s been a video blogger for years (see one here, but also note his many posts for organizations such as the MS Society, including this one).
There’s a lot to work with in DaSilva’s films: we could continue to think about representations of disability, using Couser or other scholars to help us develop our analyses (is DaSilva resisting or conforming to normative social narratives about disability? Are these “counter-narratives”? How?). We could use them to think about documentary as a form of auto/biography, with its own sets of generic conventions, that we haven’t yet considered. (How do do the conventions of the documentary shape the auto/biographical act? What are the effects of the film medium, including camera angle, voice-over, music, etc.)? We could think about these films in relation to YouTube and the DIY — video blogs that allow “anyone” to post about “anything.” I’m also interested in the reception of DaSilva’s blogs and When I Walk: I note how often the word “inspiration” is used, and I imagine that pattern is worth considering (especially given one of the blog posts we’re reading next week, “We’re Not Here for Your Inspiration“).
Unlike you, I don’t have to choose one path and present an analysis here. But you might find DaSilva’s work, um, inspirational. And do be sure to start your own “neat stuff” file: it always pays off!