Chapter 11: Editing and Evolving the Thesis and Outline

Starting a Conversation with Your Sources

As promised in Chapter 10, we will now address how to incorporate multiple sources, and indeed we’ve already practiced this strategy in building our argument/developing our three-storey thesis.

From Pexels.

Incorporating multiple sources and getting them into conversation is the practice of using your sources to lay down building blocks or a framework within which to read your topic, or an aspect of it, and eventually develop your own ideas about it. It is useful as a scaffold upon which to build your argument. While you may agree or disagree with one or the other source, the point here is to actively use them in dialogue with each other to draw out a point you want to make about your reading of the primary source. You might reference points of similarity between them and the significance of differences in their arguments, but always with intention to draw some conclusion from this interaction about your reading and understanding of your topic. You might also consider how one source’s ideas respond to and qualify the ideas or claims of your other source. Your role then becomes to clarify their positions and moderate the conversation with the intent of eventually coming to a new perspective or new insight. A word of caution: always be clear regarding what source you are using and whose ideas you are referencing. Also be clear about what ideas belong to your sources and what ideas are your own.

From Pixabay.

Let’s look at an example. In Chapter 10, we already engaged in a conversation with McCosker and Johns’ article. We will now use that source in conjunction with Rambukanna and get these two talking to each other.

Similar to McCosker and Johns in “Productive Provocations: Vitrolic Media, Spaces of Protest and Agonistic Outrage in the 2011 England Riots,” Rambukanna examines online political spaces and the way they “do politics.” He notes that interactions in these online communities are both difficult and challenging and yet possibly constructive in effecting political or social change. He argues that online communities are often “angry” public spaces where committed and impassioned citizens engage in political discourses that are “flawed and messy.” Despite these challenging interactions, however, these communities have the potential to “crack[…] open stable systems of meaning-making.” In other words, it is precisely their frustration and rage that can be harnessed and directed toward disrupting the status quo. Without constructive conflict, activism becomes too insular.

Furthermore, Rambukanna, illustrates via the race-activist #RaceFail how participating in angry exchanges or “‘un-fix[ing] staid communication patterns” leads to disrupting or changing social systems (in this case, actively increasing awareness of race issues in the SFF sphere, leading to publishers actively seeking authors of colour as well as to the publications of anthologies and conferences dedicated to race issues in sci-fi and fantasy). For the most part, McCosker and Johns would agree with Rambukanna, as they too argue that “excesses of emotion and acts of often aggressive provocation” are “paramount” in civic and political engagement. McCosker and Johns also make it clear that passion and provocation are in fact productive because they prevent the very “disaffection” or disillusionment that can lead to violence. Online communities are the public forums and outlets that give the disenfranchised a voice before their frustrations turn destructive. For McCosker and Johns, this is their civil function or utility. Yet neither Rambukanna nor McCosker and Johns address the very real and alternative possibility that an excess of online rage (and cyberbullying) might also lead to a total breakdown of communication, increased insularity or entrenched viewpoints and offline violence. Some restraint and sensibility are also necessary in public debates on online communication forums.

In short, in light of the above research, the heated and passionate exchanges on the Occupy Wall Street Facebook page, even those that seem off topic or hostile, have the potential to lead to political activism so long as these disruptive voices are judiciously addressed or engaged and made relevant so their seemingly unrelated or acrimonious comments lead to constructive change and not violence. While it may not be possible to reach consensus in democratic spaces and open forums, like the Occupy Wall Street page, marginal voices must have an outlet and cannot be ignored, if such public spaces are to be considered democratic spaces and function as political tools.