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The Role of Fiction in Science (A Discussion)

ckosarek's picture

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I worked with ewashburn, katlittrell, and rachelr for my final paper in order to produce a discussion exploring the question, "What is the role of fiction in science?" Using a Facebook page that we invited all of our friends (and the larger Facebook community - we made the page public) to like, we linked articles, commented on each other's findings, and linked out to a blog on which we made weekly postings based upon what we were learning from our discussion. Many of our posts are in reaction to each other. Readers can watch us follow one line of thought and then jump into something peripherally related. It seemed that we explored not only the depth of our project (as traditional papers would have), but also the incredible interdisciplinary width of our question. 

I feel that in this project more than in others I've done, I achieved the academic discussion for which I have been reaching since I took Anne's nonfiction prose course this past fall. Our aim was not to contradict each other (though that did happen), but rather to take the information and position that one person had posed and to build on that. I also found that by opening ourselves width-wise to a host of other disciplines both by reacting to articles and blog posts in the news (exploring topics such as history, psychology, neuroscience, biology, literary theory, etc.) as well as by including project members from differing disciplines (I'm an English major  and psychology minor, rachelr is a biology major, ewashburn is an English major who does a lot of theater, and katlittrell is a prospective English major), we were able to make our thinking more relevant to the "now" in which we live. As I worked on this project, I found myself connecting my thinking to current events, other courses, and even other final papers. 

I won't say that this experiment yielded only positive results, however. There is room for improvement. At times, I felt that our blog posts and Facebook posts strayed too far from our central question, thus turning the project into another kind of forum like the one found for the course on Serendip. The project meant to integrate the class into our thinking, but was supposed to be different from the looser guidelines for our posts on the course forum. Further, once again, our attempt at reaching a large community of people outside of ourselves wasn't very successful. Our Facebook page has 24 "likes" - 4 of which are linked to our own Facebook accounts and the remainder of which are constituted of family and friends - , and our Tumblr account has 7 followers, 5 of which were not solicited to "follow" by ourselves. Based upon the online following we've gotten, I would say that if I did a future online project, I might be more inclined to use Tumblr over Facebook, as Tumblr is specifically designed to make sharing and connecting based upon subjects of interest easier. 

Over all, though, I am pleased with how this project stands, and with the fact that even after we stop posting, the project has potential to grow. I'd call this final exploration for this course successful, and without meaning to sound fake, I'd like to say that I enjoyed writing this paper and participating in this conversation because it made me both acquire new information (stories) about our world, integrate that information with my  old stories, and produce a kind of hybrid story that I suspect will keep growing.

As a last note, I'd like to add my suggestion for reading this project. One could easily read it chronologically and watch the evolution of our discussion, but I'm not sure that I'd do that. If I were to read our project over, I'd scroll through all of it, picking and choosing what is of interest to me and synthesizing that information with what I already know. And then I'd start clicking on topics in which I am less interested and would ask myself how they fit into the story of the other topics. How do the posts that are less interesting to me weave themselves in to my schema of the world? 

Or, of course, one could randomly decide which order to read the posts in. 

Have fun - I did,