Reading Charts

[I use an exercise I call a Reading Chart to encourage my advanced writing students to think in more complex, non-linear ways. Here is the assignment, including a sample chart.]

Note: As a part of your research process this semester, you will be asked to complete six “Reading Charts.” These will be published as a part of your online portfolio, and are due just before your oral presentation. (See your syllabus for details). Although your charts will be assessed as a part of your Website portfolio, I have listed them here because they are designed to help you in preparing for your Oral Report. Three of these charts will be based on assigned texts (excluding “Life and Work in the Digital Age”) and three on citations from your annotated bibliography assignment. I will explain these charts in some detail in class; however, here is an example based on “Life and Work in the Digital Age.” Each chart must include at least four quotations with appropriate notes in both the “Personal Relevance” and “Interview Questions” columns.

Sample Reading Chart: “Work and Life in the Digital Age,” Mark Coatney


Personal Relevance

Interview Questions

“Hackers, who could be anyone with a curious heart and a tinkerer’s, approach… a collaborative, highly social environment that more closely resembles…. Academia than … business.” (p. 1)

I think I have something like a hacker’s attitude about writing and teaching — I am very curious and I like to tinker — to make almost continuous changes, experiment, play, etc. I like the sociality of teaching and writing too. Part of this must be that I am male, white and middle class, and the right age (graduated from High School in the mid-seventies, etc.) so I had the right combination of access and attitude. There is something hacker-like about being a college professor, in any case: not much supervision, emphasis on creativity and working with other people, etc.

Could you describe for me the importance of play or experimentation in your writing?

“… if the Protestant ethic says it’s enough to keep your nose to the grindstone, the hacker ethic says you should want to invent a better grindstone…” (p. 1)

The idea or ideal of reform is central to my teaching and writing. One of the ironies of being a teacher is that I have never particularly liked school — the “rituals” of school anyway, testing, clubs, ceremonies and so on. It would be hard if not impossible to be a public school teacher (too much supervision) but as a professor I can balance my desire to reform with participation in the institution.

I think that writing and teaching have a larger social purpose — how would you define the larger purposes of your writing and teaching?

“… the hardliners of the open-source movement maintain that it’s unethical to make money by restricting access to information…” (p. 2)

I am not sure Coatney is accurate here; I certainly don’t think that it’s a black and white situation — either you make money by restricting access or the information is widely accessible. Open source is not the same thing as free or no cost; the Open Access Science movement, for example, says that genetic data can be made freely available without restricting or limiting patents, etc. One example, the Public Library of Science website and project. This is clearly “a better grindstone” in my view.

Do you feel that you have an ethical responsibility to make your work — writing, etc. — freely available to all?

“There is a fundamental incompatibility between the hacker ethic and a money ethic.” (p.2)

Again, I think Coatney is inaccurate here, or at least he is over-simplifying. I think, for example, that there is no contradiction between wanting to teach and write for the public good and wanting to have a good standard of living– e.g., being a union activist trying to assure good wages and teaching conditions.

What is the relationship in your work between making a living and creativity? Between the public good and your own private interests?

One Thought on “Reading Charts

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