Still polishing this a bit, but I think it’s at the point where we can share it and get comments. I’m co-teaching this with my totally awesome colleague Rachel Buurma in the Department of English at Swarthmore.
I’m really excited about the class. We’re calling it “Bad Research” for three reasons: first, to underscore the question of whether research has been “bad” for academia (or in particular, the humanities) and the related history and aesthetics of research practices and tools inside and outside of academic life; second, to draw attention to the way to the manners and ethics discipline research in academia and how those have changed over time; third, to ask the question of how academic or scholarly research practices look in relationship to other kinds of research practices and communities (and who is “bad”, if anyone, in such comparisons).
Comments, suggestions, critiques all welcome.
Bad Research and Information Heresies (English 81/History 90C)
Taught by Tim Burke (firstname.lastname@example.org) and
Rachel Buurma (email@example.com)
Fall 2012 Wednesday 1:15-4 Science Center 105
This cross-disciplinary class draws takes apart the distinctions between academic, professional, and everyday research in order to ask what research is: What do we mean by research, why do we do it, and when did we start? How do we describe the practice? How might we build some theories of research? What are the explicit and implicit understandings that underpin research in different situations and institutions? We will explore topics like search, dictionaries and encyclopedias library catalog, archival organization, metadata; theories and aesthetics of research; print vs digital formats and strategies; very large data sets; the digital humanities; the invention of “facts”; information as concept and theory; realism and the novel; impact of intellectual property; the poetics and practicalities of research by students and faculty at Swarthmore. Our chronology will extend from the early modern era through the last day of class. For juniors and seniors from any major.
Course requirements: The reading load for each week is substantial, particularly in the first half of the semester. There will be several formal writing assignments during the semester, the last of which is expected to be a substantial project involving some independent study. In the last third of the class, we will also be expecting students to locate relevant material for that week’s discussion and report back to the class as a whole about that material. Active participation and regular attendance are a requirement throughout the semester. In the last half of the semester, we will also have visitors who will discuss their own research practices in their professional and creative lives: students will be expected to come to class ready to engage in a general conversation about our visitors’ practice of research.
Part I: The Production of Research
Week I (September 5) The invention of the research university
William Clark, Academic Charisma and the Idea of the University, Prologue, Chapter 5, Chapter 8, Chapter 11. Available as an ebook through Tripod.
Louis Menand, The Marketplace of Ideas, “Interdisciplinarity and Anxiety”, pp. 93-126
Anthony Grafton, “The Public Intellectual and the American University”, in Worlds Made by Words: Scholarship and Community in the Modern West
Daniel Coit Gilman, The Launching of a University, “Research”, pp. 237-255. At GoogleBooks, http://books.google.com/books?id=qJ7hdKjl3CcC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ViewAPI#v=onepage&q&f=false
Come to class ready to talk about your own experiences and understandings of research within Swarthmore College.
*Weekend trip, Sept. 8th (voluntary): Visit with historical re-enactors at Brandywine Battlefield Park
Week II (September 12) The fact, the encyclopedia, the taxonomy, the archive, the notebook
Barbara Shapiro, A Culture of Fact, pp. 1-62, pp.105-138
Peter Burke, A Social History of Knowledge, Vol. 2, pp. 11-84
Jacob Soll, The Information Master, pp. 120-152
Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, “Classifying”
Week III (September 19) Catalogs, Databases, Notations
Ann Blair, Too Much to Know, all
Marcus Krajewski, Paper Machines, pp. 1-52
Week IV (September 26) Dictionaries and Reference
Simon Winchester, The Professor and the Madman
Daniel Headrick, When Information Came of Age, “Storing Information”, pp. 142-180
1st paper (4-5 pp.) due
Part 2: Living Research, Research Lives
Week V (October 3)
Amitav Ghosh, In an Antique Land, all
Adam Ashforth, Madumo, pp. 1-27
Carolyn Steedman, “Romance in the Archive”
Week VI (October 10)
J. L. Lowes, Road to Xanadu (Preface and chapter 1)
Wimsatt and Beardsley, “The Intentional Fallacy”
“Literature and the Professors” article
Bronislaw Malinowski, A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term, pp. 1-59
Martin Duberman, “Writhing Bedfellows in Antebellum South Carolina: Historical Interpretation and the Politics of Evidence.”
Week VII (October 17 – October break)
Week VIII (October 24)
Michel Lamont, How Professors Think, pp. 1-158
Weber, Max 1949 “Objectivity in Social Science and Social Policy.” pp.50-112
Bruno Latour, “An Attempt at a Compositionist Manifesto”, New Literary History, 2010, 41: 471–490 [pdf]
Writing assignment: Prepare a hypothetical research proposal for submission to one of several grant-giving competitions, and determine your proposal’s need for IRB review.
Part 3. “Bad” (?) Research
Week IX (October 31)
Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, all
Pages from Charles Reade archive
Trevor Norton, Smoking Ears and Screaming Teeth, “Lovely Grubs”
Lauren Slater, Opening Skinner’s Box, Chapter 2 (Milgram)
“The Bedroom and Beyond” (short essay on Kinsey’s methods)
Discussion of final assignment
Week X (November 7)
David Freedman, “Lies, Damned Lies and Medical Science”
Richard Hamilton, The Social Misconstruction of Reality, selection
Kathryn Schultz, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, selection
Hoffer, Past Imperfect, “The Case of Michael Bellesiles”
Simon Worrall, The Poet and the Murderer
Salisbury and Sujo, Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art
Assignment: find and report on cases of academic fraud, research misconduct, or exaggerated & misrepresented research findings [starter list of suggestions provided by professors]
Week XI (November 14)
Carl Wilson, Celine Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love (all)
“Our Aesthetic Categories: An Interview with Sianne Ngai” (Adam Jasper interview with SN on taste and affect) http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/43/jasper_ngai.php
Corrine Kratz, “In and Out of Focus”, American Ethnologist, 37: 4, 2010.
Assignment: Sketch out a research plan for one of your cultural tastes or preferences.
[Nov 16-17: Penn “Taxonomies of Knowledge” conference - http://www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/lectures/ljs_symposium5.html]
Week XII (November 21)
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody, Chapter 1
Michael Nielsen, Reinventing Discovery, Chapter 7
Council on Library and Information Resources, One Culture: Computationally Intensive Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences
Michel Callon et alia, section from (page #s ) Acting in an Uncertain World: An Essay on Technical Democracy.
Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks, Chapter 3
Assignment: Examine an example of crowdsourcing, networked knowledge or computational analysis of very large data sets in humanistic/social science researchfrom the page of suggestions distributed before class. Report back to the class about your impressions.
[examples: Lyon et al “Using Internet Intelligence to Manage Biosecurity Risks”; Atlantic essay on Wikipedia/Reddit class; other Wikipedia examples; i love bees; Iowa Electronic Market; CrowdFlower; Threadless; Mechanical Turk; SETI @ home; The Polymath Project, etc.]
Week XIII (November 28 – Thanksgiving break begins after class)
Week XIV (December 5)
Practices & Assignments
“Researchable questions” and their Others
Presentations on final assignments
Final assignment due by Friday Dec. 14th