Analysis Paper

This short paper (one page, single-spaced, 12 pt font, 1″ margins) aims to help you develop your thinking for the third presentation. Our thinking here is based on the reading from Clay Shirky and what we might call “organizational analysis.” For the analysis, you should focus on a particular community. Our understanding of community can be broad. We want to focus on a collection of people with shared interests, perspectives, social practices, etc. You are welcome to focus on your field or discipline (e.g., journalists as a community, accountants as a community), a particular organization (e.g., the SPCA, the Republican party, the Catholic Church or a particular congregation, etc.), or an informal community organized in some other way (e.g., the community of people who read The New Yorker, fans of a particular sports team or band, etc.). The main goal is to work toward a larger insight or argument about your community. Here, we can keep in mind concerns from earlier in the semester: does your analysis give us any insight into the community’s orientation and trained incapacities? Does your analysis give us any insight into the community’s position in response to a particular debate or issue?

Toward this notion of organizational analysis, Shirky helps us consider how digital technologies radically reframe our understanding of communication, organizational structure, and professions. This approach to the analysis paper and the presentation will involve exploring Shirky’s thinking with reference to your community and its organization and relationship to technology. Your analysis should address these sorts of questions: in what ways is your community hierarchical, and in what ways does it work according to a non-hierarchical, distributed, network model? Is it shifting in one direction or another? In what ways does your community involve sharing, cooperation, and/or collective action? How does this community use technology? Has it been shaped in any way by digital technologies and environments? If you are focusing on your academic field, what aspects of the field have been or can be technologized and made available to amateurs? How will this shift the nature of your profession over time? Will it still be a “profession” 100 years from now, or will it go the way of scribes? Why?

We can also draw on Steven Johnson’s understanding of creativity and innovation here. In what ways does your community foster the sort of innovation that Johnson describes? What does innovation in this community look like?