I am happy with Dr. Rees’ feedback on my latest assignment; in addition to recognizing my strengths and areas of interest, she also pointed out some areas for further inquiry and noted two areas to really focus on in Part Four (Photography) of this course.
The two main issues Dr. Rees rightly identified are as follows:
Paying attention to word count/limitations. I tend to think a lot and write a lot; prioritizing/identifying/separating what’s essential from what’s simply “nice-to-have” (term borrowed from the boss of a communications/writing team I used to work within) is extremely challenging for me. My process for the last three assignments has been to write my paper, then edit like crazy so I can get it down to word count. The first two assignments were less personal for me (and I had less time constraints) so editing them seemed more feasible. This essay was a bit scary for me because I was writing about racism/trying to touch on African-American cultural identity in the U.S.A. and the sensitivity of that subject (combined with my total inexpertise and stress about coming off phony or insincere or–worse!!–racist myself, since talking about (the problem of) race is so taboo in North America…). Editing it felt scary because I didn’t want to decontextualize or de-personalize it; it seemed like the personal anecdotes I chose to include were critical to appreciating why this subject mattered to me, whereas usually the personal stuff is what I cut out during editing. I do find the 1000 word limit is a bit tight; we’re often asked to analyze/close-read many aspects of a work (in this case, two works) and between the introduction and the conclusion there is little room for really unpacking the essay’s main questions. Ultimately, my continued issue with word count (which, by the way, has been chasing me since I wrote my first essay) must come down to preparation. I think I need to organize and revise my notes further before writing, and get really selective about details to include in each body paragraph. Basically: my process needs refinement.
This leads right into the second issue in my work, which pointed out either/both a lack of diversity in my research (I leaned heavily on the Khan Academy for my last paper) and, in particular, a need to take advantage of OCA/course-specific resources (including: the new OCA online library and–in particular–academic/peer-reviewed articles within it to carry out more pointed research on a particular subject and the course text Place, which I don’t love because I find the writing opaque and the art(ists) featured mostly inaccessible. That said, I can practice opening up/softening to it a bit more in the next section).
I do need to focus on improving my research skills, in particular:
- Better search terms (both online and within library databases)
- Sorting and engaging with academic journals/articles (oftentimes, I haven’t had the patience (or need, given such short papers) to really engage with such specific topics as those which are mostly included in academic journals.
One thing that Dr. Rees suggested was to seek out an academic article by African-Americans, to see how they read/interpreted Kehinde Wiley’s work. In fact–probably for the aforementioned absence of white people addressing issues of rac(e/ism) in North America (we talk about it vaguely, but we tend to fear that acknowledging the embeddedness of racism in our culture means we’re complicit with it (we are, of course!))–several of the non-Khan Academy articles (mostly reviews/critiques of Wiley’s shows/body of work) are by African-Americans (evidenced only by the writerly “I” in their work). Once again, I can take this suggestion as an invitation to engage in more academic, detail-driven research. Even if I can’t use much of the content in a short paper, it’s obvious that much stronger research (and reading) skills will serve me as I move through this and future OCA courses.