Chapter 11: Editing and Evolving the Thesis and Outline
Effectiveness of Your Sources
Using your sources to elevate and complicate your reading of the primary example is an ongoing process. You will have to evaluate whether your original sources allow for the deep reading of your primary evidence that brings something new to the scholarly discussion of your larger topic. To do this, you will have to ask yourself some basic questions (while focusing on your third storey): what aspects of your topic/subject do your sources not address? What are the limitations of the arguments in your sources? Are there details in your sources that remain implicit that you need to draw out and clarify before applying to your reading? Given your sources’ conclusions, what problems might arise when you apply them to your topic? In short, you will need to consider the limitations and shortcomings of your research. Keep in mind that the purpose of doing so is not to discredit your sources and omit them in favour of other sources, but instead to further develop your reading.
Let’s look at the example from Chapter 10 of the thesis with the secondary sources included.
Occupy Wall Street’s Facebook page showcases some flaws as users of the space have a difficult time breaking away from their own “villages” in order to link those global events to their local concerns. This is demonstrated by the comment field under the post “From #Ferguson to #Gaza #BLM,” wherein discussion of the event turns to users calling each other names like “idiots” and wondering aloud about how the two topics are related (ex. The post “What the hell does BLM have to do with geopolitics in the Middle East?”) rather than discussing the event promoted in the original post. Such interaction in this space demonstrates that while Facebook pages do provide a useful tool for distributing information and bringing large tribes together, users often struggle to attach that awareness to action or viewpoints beyond local/personal concerns or interests; instead of users speaking to each other in an attempt to foster stronger global connections and consciousness, users often end up posting their own disconnected content and/or insulting content without the necessary conversation around the complex topics posted. The Occupy Wall Street Facebook page’s tendency to strengthen local connections while weakening links to larger social and political contexts acts as an indicator that despite the increased reach of an online community, insularity among its users is likely to affect its ability to influence governmental policy and provide a base for civilian power. As Anthony McCosker and Amelia Johns note in “Productive Provocations: Vitriolic Media, Spaces of Protest and Agonistic Outrage in the 2011 England Riots,” while examining the online discourse around the violent protests in England in 2011, such online comments “remain almost primarily dissociated, impassioned expressions relaying a range of points of view without an internal dialogical order.” Users who wish to turn the Internet into an effective tool designed to provide a counterpoint to corrupt, dictatorial, or simply misguided governments will need to address this insularity and attempt to ensure that the broad reach of the social-media platform does not replace the broadness in scope of the movement itself. As McCosker and Johns claim, properly attuned, such dialogues “can be conceptualised as acts of multiple initiations—of a space of protest, of a constitutive public, of passionate expression of the conditions of existence, of provocations for further exchange.”
In considering our use in the thesis of McCosker and Johns’ essay, we might start by backtracking to ask what the authors mean by “dialogical order”? Moreover, if online comments are mostly “dissociated, impassioned expressions” without a “dialogical order,” then what about offline forms of political discourse? Are they more logical and less impassioned forms of expression with “an inherently dialogical order”? What might be the value of impassioned and seemingly disassociated speech?
To begin, we can define dialogic[al] expressions as those in dialogue with other utterances or expressions. In other words, our communication is relational and contextual, as it depends on what was said before and what the speaker anticipates will be said in response. Linguist Mikhail Baktin theorizes that all language is by nature relational and dialogical. So if all expressions have a dialogic order, might we conclude then that all communication is successive/consecutive and logical? We cannot, because language is relational and contextual, but speakers respond also to their own particular, acknowledged or unacknowledged, personal or political contexts—not only to others’ communication—so misunderstandings and impassioned reactions are common enough in any discursive community.
Communication is not tidy by nature and especially not in the “global village.” We alluded to this idea in our thesis in the second storey with reference to McLuhan’s “tribes.” For McLuhan, tribal communication (and ritualized practices) suggests a multi-sensory, impassioned engagement but also a potentially chaotic and unruly one. This is also true of “global tribes” in the “global village.” So if all communication is potentially disorderly, and especially communication in online communities, then are Facebook pages useful political tools after all? We might still conclude they are indeed viable political tools; however, all communication is potentially complicated, sometimes confusing and certainly open to overheated exchanges. The internet is merely a reflection of the difficult and muddled reality that is human communication. But the question still remains, is the internet then a viable political tool?
Before we answer the above question, let’s take inventory of what we have accomplished so far. We have teased out details and meanings in our secondary source that were at first implicit, such as the meaning of language having a “dialogical order.” We concluded thoughtfully that while all language is dialogical, this does not prevent misunderstandings and seemingly unconnected responses in online communication. We complicated our understanding of the McCosker and Johns argument further, in its application to our thesis, when we noted that all communication is both inherently dialogical and non-dialogical, whether the communication happens online or offline, but that online communication is, as McLuhan suggested of tribal communication and by extension electronic communication, inherently susceptible to being incoherent and impassioned. These are ideas we will need to include in our revised thesis.
To answer our outstanding question though, we might seek out further research to help us conclude whether online communities, such as Facebook pages are useful political tools. Let us turn to the following open source: