31 July 2017

The Packaging Anthropological Knowledge Part Two

As an anthropologist teaching technical communications, I often reflect on the merits of active, concise, and accessible communication styles that I didn't learn while studying my undergraduate or graduate degrees.

If I were to summarize how I would change my anthropological writing on account of teaching technical writing, I would advocate for the following three rules:
  1. Write in an active voice. Always. 
  2. Connect all the dots. Give readers a sense for what they're going to read, write it, then summarize it for them. It's not a mystery novel. Descriptive prose has a place of course (C. Geertz need not roll over in his grave) - perhaps in ethnographic vignettes or when describing initial contexts or landscapes.
  3. Write with information/knowledge dissemination in mind. Accessible writing will make your ideas spread further.
Academia Obscura recently (Jul 28 2017) posted about a resource for academics, Doodling for Academics by Julie Schumacher. The publisher's website writes that the resources is a bitingly funny distraction designed to help you survive life in higher education without losing your mind. Sardonic yet shrewdly insightful, Doodling for Academics offers the perfect cognitive relief for the thousands of faculty and grad students whose mentors and loved ones failed to steer them toward more reasonable or lucrative field.

Below are two sample doodles from the book. You can access a sampler of the book here.

Doodle from Julie Schumacher via Academia Obscura

Doodle from Julie Schumacher via Academia Obscura
While this book is supposed to be a fun mental release from the hierarchies and pseudo-political power plays, the peculiar colleagues, the over-parented students, the stacks of essays that need to be graded ASAP - I also see these doodles as examples of repackaging knowledge in new and accessible ways. 

While these doodles may be the starting point for larger discussions (as the medium would limit the capacity to elaborate on complex ideas), I can think of a place for such doodles in ethnographic texts perhaps as a means to personalize readers' experiences of the work as a colouring book (the original intention of Schumacher's book). 

One could also use such doodles and the act of colouring as a methodology. For example, I'm reminded of Diane Farmer, Jeanette Cepin, and Gabrielle Breton-Carbonneau's article in the Journal of Social Science Education which can be found here Students’ Pathways Across Local, National and Supra-National Borders: Representations of a Globalized World in a Francophone Minority School in Ontario, Canada

Any time that I see Anthropologists and Scientists try to disseminate their work in new and creative ways, I can see its role as publicly engaged intellectuals.

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