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Example Essay Template: Theorising Media Practice

Example Essay Template: Theorising Media Practice

This is a sample skeleton outline of a hypothetical (non-existent) essay based on some of Martin Spinelli’s work. It should give you some ideas for the structure of your own essay—but do not take it literally. The pronouns are as you would use them: ‘his’ refers to Spinelli’s; ‘mine’ refers to the work of the imagined student outlining an essay.
NB: This template is hypothetical. It may not be useful for every practitioner and every essay.

Section 1: Introduction,

Theorising Media Practice

• Set the stage by looking at a historically significant moment in radio production: the late-90s, early-00s transition from analog to digital production technologies in public radio networks and the independents that feed them programming.
• Present an overview of Spinelli’s main media artifacts to be analyzed in this essay (the LINEbreak series, Engaged, and the Radio Radio series) and how they offer a break with conventional approaches to non-fiction radio.
• Formulate the main research question: Why has the self-consciously digital ‘rhetorics’ proposed by Spinelli in his broadcasts and articles not yet been taken up more widely in public audio information programming?
• Briefly and tentatively suggest some answers to this: These techniques actually have been taken up but not in the way and in the places Spinelli originally imagined. Also, Spinelli’s writing and outreach seems to emphasize new possibilities for meaning making at the site of production. Had he given more attention to the creative work happening at the scene of consumption he might have realised more inroads.

Section 2: Theoretical contextualization

• Using the critics Spinelli refers to in his critical writing (Marinetti, Benjamin, Barthes, Saussure, Puttenham, the Frankfurt School) situate him critically— concerned with the materiality (physicality) of language and the creative and political potential of that materiality.
• Discuss how meaning is conventionally generated through audio speech using an analog framework.
• Explain what a ‘digital’ rhetorics might sound like.
• Look at alternative approaches to grappling with the same material and suggest some potential shortcomings (offer Reader Response Theory and Reception Theory).

Section 3: A historical creative trajectory

• Situate Spinelli’s work on a trajectory of sound-language experimentation. Include mentions of Russolo, Marinetti, Gould, Burroughs, Migone, Oswald, Pitts and DJ Spooky.
• Note the moments in this history where language ‘grain’ and materiality are more central than conventional language ‘communication’.
• Suggest what happens when Spinelli attempts to push these tropes out of a self-consciously artistic or literary frame of reference into more mainstream productions.
• Speculate on what this does to assumptions about editing and the discourse of ‘truth’ in conventional non-fiction audio programming.

Section 4: Close listening to Spinelli

• Using the tools of textual analysis and close reading, unpick what is going on at the level language in Spinelli’s projects LINEbreak, Engaged and Before Words.
• Report from a focus group which listens to samples of Radio Radio along side the more conventional arts interview programme Front Row.
• Perform close listenings on contemporary audio programmes that have similar and different approaches to both seamless and self-consciously digital editing techniques. Point out any connections and deviations.

Section 5: Connections to my own work

• Describe my own experiments with self-consciously digital rhetorics and editing.
• Note that my approach relies more on collaboration and ‘audience’ generated content.
• Argue that this kind of involvement has more transformative potential on habits and conventions of listening, and is also more politically dynamic.
• Offer some close listenings that demonstrate this.

Section 6: Conclusion

• Sum up what has been uncovered and discovered.
• Point to moments where these digital tropes do now appear in non-fiction audio programming (representations of mental illness, discussions of propaganda, etc.) and suggest what this might tell us.
• Revisit the research questions laid out in the Introduction and offer extensive, supported and well-argued answers.