Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Is conclusive useful?


When we read an academic piece of writing, or even an online article or blog post, it's usually because we want to know something. They'll be an introduction (like this), the body of the work (to come), and then a conclusion in which there might be a summary and a final thought/opinion. Regardless of the length of the piece, this sort of standard set-up is what we expect. But does that make it good/effective/the most appropriate way to write?
This  question was the topic of a heated discussion in a seminar I attended for uni this week, focusing on a reading we'd been asked to study. This reading discussed the photographic representation of urban non-places (disused industrial areas, etc); but in many ways, what it discussed was irrelevant, because we ended up talking about how it was written. I felt as though the author hid behind references - rather than making clear from the beginning what his interests and aims were, he used examples endlessly, and then never really concluded. It was incredibly frustrating to read, and impossible to make notes about. As a result, most of us thought it was a pretty bad piece of writing. But bizarrely, our tutor praised it.
Rather than maintaining the expected essay set-up, this author was 'brave enough' to simply accumulate information, making the suggestion and encouraging the reader to consider everything as a whole - and thus to make their own decision regarding its point. This might include further research, and a lot of consideration. Our tutor told us that he doesn't believe in conclusions, because they only shut down discussion.
Whilst this initially all sounds quite postmodern, there are certainly some benefits to writing in a different way. Yet having all just submitted our dissertations - not to mentioned enduring three years worth of training in writing essays with an intro and conclusion - everyone got quite pissed off.
This discussion fascinated me, since I'm interested in various forms within the same practice. My own writing (this blog as a project) oscillates between focused posts in which I investigate an idea, and posts in which I'll simply record a link or a video, or an image. With these more basic posts, my intention is that an interested gear talk visitor will follow that link and continue their own mini-investigation - much like the accumulative reference-making within the frustrating essy previously mentioned.

(no conclusion)

(link to further thoughts via D I S C O U R S E )