As our lectures and readings note, academic writers make inquiries. As you read through the article of your choice, did questions occur to you? In asking these questions, did you realize that you might need more information to properly answer them? For example, in our last activity, “Entering the Conversation,” I responded to the article “Why Games are Good for You” by Steven Johnson. I primarily disagreed with his article, so I thought of some good points that might refute his claims, but I also realized I would need more research to properly do so. The following research questions occurred to me:
All of these questions would require research. In this activity, you are going to ask questions like these, and let them lead you to a plan of inquiry that will guide your research in Week 2.
This assignment has three steps:
Step 1. Copy your “Week 1 Discussion 2” assignment into this discussion board.
Step 2. Below your initial quote and response, ask the questions that occurred to you, which require research to answer. You may have more questions for some quotes than others.
Step 3. After you have asked the questions and considered them, come up with an inquiry plan. This will be a statement of what you will research and why. It doesn’t have to be exact, and it can ask questions you don’t quite know the answers to yet. There is no set form for this plan. It is primarily for your use in thinking about your overall project.
Here is an example:
Article: Steven Johnson: “Why Games are Good for You”
Quote #1: “So it is with games. It’s not what you are thinking about when you’re
playing a game, it’s the way you’re thinking that matters” (493).
I found this logic a little dubious. Surely, what you are thinking about when
playing a game matters. For example, what about reductionist types of thinking in a
game like sexist, racist, or homophobic sentiment? Isn’t what you are thinking and how
you are thinking linked? I feel like his separation between these two terms is
• Are there sources that talk about the detrimental content of some video games?
• Should I explore the idea of video game addiction? Is that relevant to my main
point? Are there articles on this?
• Can we really separate how we think from what we think?
• Are there philosophers that discuss this distinction?
Quote #2: “But almost all the standards we use to measure reading’s cognitive
benefits—attention, memory, following threads, and so on–the nonliterary
popular culture has been steadily growing more challenging over the past thirty
When I read this quote, I noticed that Johnson focuses mainly on “cognitive
benefits.” But what about content? I agree that video games require more cognitive
skills, but this eschews the idea of what we learn. Do, for example, children get a sense
of literary technique, writing style, or character building? It would be hard to argue that
video games can convey the complexities and nuance of great literature.
• What benefits does literature provide that video games can’t?
• What cognitive benefits does the difficulty of reading provide?
Quote #3: “The question is why kids are so eager to soak up that much
information when it is delivered to them in game form.”
I felt that this statement held an assumption with which I disagree. Johnson
assumes the goal of education is to “soak up […] information” and the easier this is done
the better. To me, the benefits of reading are exactly because it is a more difficult task,
one that draws more attention to how knowledge is create d and less toward receiving it
unquestioned. In his example about Sim City, the child learns that lowering industrial
taxes helps spur business, but this is a model built to stress one particular ideological
truth, that growth and industry are de facto public goods. If we were to look through
another lens, say environmental, or religious, then the choice becomes clouded.
• Do video games promote passive learning?
• Do video games help children question the “lens” of the game itself?
• Do video games promote dangerous or one-sided ideology?
I plan on arguing against Johnson’s article. Since Johnson’s main distinction is a
separation between the action and content of video games, I plan to research some
articles that discuss the negative impact of the content of video games. There are two
articles I know already, “The Wonder Woman Precedent” by Julie D. O’Reilly and “Two
Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt” by Jean Kilborne. These articles might help me make my
argument about sexism and implied “lenses” and ideology in many video games,
though the aforementioned articles don’t write specifically about video games. I plan to
look in academic journals that might cover the cognitive benefits of reading so I can
dispute or complicate Johnson’s points on the cognitive benefits of video games.
Journals in psychology, cultural studies, or even neuroscience (if I plan to bring up
addiction) might offer critiques of the content of video games. I also plan on doing
internet searches to figure out which philosophers have discussed the differences
between the content and structure of thought, for if I can prove that the two cannot be
separated, Johnson’s argument falls apart. My point will not just to be to tear down
Johnson’s article but to suggest that there is no easy way to separate ideological
assumptions from any kind of media.
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