how to analyse
This morning, Anders Fagerjord gave my webdesign and web aesthetics students a wonderful introduction to analysing a web site. He cleverly started by asking whether any of the students had taken other classes at the university where they analysed things. Out of forty students present, only one (of the students who spoke up) had any experience with analysing aesthetical objects, expressive texts. She’d studied English. Others had analysed databases, user interfaces and political systems, and Anders asked each of them “And what did you do in that kind of analysis?” So blessedly straightforward, and boy does it remind me that these students do not have the years of experience of studying art, media, literature, theatre that I had when I started thinking and writing about the web. They have completely different experiences that don’t always make it obvious how you might go about interpreting, reading, analysing.
Anders proceeded to do a wonderful job of presenting what a textual analysis is, and how it’s similar to and different from other kinds of analysis. He gave the students simple steps to follow (ask a question, find relevant material, read slowly, take lots and lots of notes of details, group your findings, present it making sure you answer your question rather than just describe the site), talked about how he had worked to do the analyses (or readings, if you like) of the web texts he wrote about in his thesis, and gave us some examples of his analyses. Manna from heaven. Just what we needed. Watching others teach your class is a great learning experience, too. I’ll be stealing a few of Anders’s tricks next time I teach this course. Or maybe I’ll just ask him to come back next year…
After lunch Anders continued with a talk for our department where he talked more about his dissertation work, and about the rhetorical convergence – and divergence – of web genres. This was interesting too – I really do want to read his thesis properly soon. There’s excellent stuff there.