As I began the earliest phases of my research at the Newberry Library, I'm finding that brainstorming sessions, across mediums and in a variety of forms, are increasingly valuable. As part of our class assignment to engage in Socratic-inspired dialog and brainstorming, I tried two different mediums to engage in conversation related to my current topic and research interests.
My first medium for brainstorming was a face-to-face conversation with a fellow ACM Newberry participant. We had a casual, relaxed chat at our local Starbucks, and conversation about our projects flowed organically. She asked probing questions that enabled me to think about my research interests in new ways and I tried to return the favor by conversing more deeply about her project. In-person conversations with advisors, peers, friends, or faculty members are daily occurrences for any college student, thus it seemed the most natural and familiar way for me to practice dialog as brainstorming. However, like most digitally-literate college students and young people today, I find myself turning to texting as an increasingly quick and direct way to communicate. I selected texting as my second medium for brainstorming, and the results surprised me.
After my face-to-face conversation, I had a lengthy texting conversation with another ACM Newberry student about our current research directions. Summarizing my interest in the continued relevance of literature, influence of Jane Austen, and canon of Midwest female novelists are not usually topics I bring up in daily texts. However, having to translate my thoughts succinctly and concisely into a coherent text message for my friend was a surprisingly helpful and difficult exercise. I did feel a certain sense of disconnection without physically speaking to him, but the three imessage dots that blinked across my iPhone reassured me that my friend was engaged in our conversation, and his responses reflected a sense of interest and understanding across technology. While face-to-face conversations have always been my preferred method and will likely continue to be, I found texting to be a surprisingly efficient and helpful medium for dialog. Furthermore, brainstorming and dialoging via text message enables me to have a permanent record to return to. Unlike my face-to-face dialog, I do not have to rely purely on memory to recall the conversation I shared with my friend. I have a written record in my text history to revisit if necessary.
Reflecting on my experience, I think I will move forward with my research integrating both methods of brainstorming. As I hone in on my research interests related to Jane Austen’s influence upon Midwest female novelists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, I know there are many more brainstorming sessions to come, and I now appreciate the value in using alternative mediums to practice dialoging.