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INTR 101

 By Manfred Werner - Tsui - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0Link

By Manfred Werner - Tsui - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0INTR 101: From the Proposal and Research Essay

Write an essay that investigates a technology in either Iain M.
Banks’ The Player of Games or Octavia Butler’s short story
collection, Bloodchild and Other Stories. If you work with
Butler, you are encouraged to relate at least two stories and
to consider at least one of her essays. Your essay should
pose and answer a research question... Overall, your essay should make an argument for how to understand the specific representation of technology in the work in terms
of the late twentieth- or early twenty-first century. The novel or stories should be the main focus of this
argument. In order to develop a meaningful analysis, you will need to carefully analyze the novel or
stories and you will need to research your chosen technology (or its broader context)...

...Do some research using the VIU Library databases. As you search for scholarly sources, you may want to narrow your topic or shift it slightly. In general, keep an eye out for how other researchers have approached the topic. What questions have they asked? What examples do they focus on? You don’t want to exactly replicate one of your sources, but you might want to apply it to a new example, or relate two sources, and so on. Let the sources that you find modify the question that you are posing.

...Ask yourself whether your question is realistic. Is it answerable? Is the scope too large or too narrow? If it isn’t answerable, then revise the question to ask it in a way that can be reasonably argued. Pose “why” or “how” questions to ensure that the answer to your question isn’t simply factual.

Theory and Technology

Choose one of the following theories about technology...

• Technology and society

• Technology as ideology

• Donna Haraway and the cyborg

• Posthumanism

• Actor Network Theory (ANT)

• Technology as materiality of power

• Subjectivity and technology. least three scholarly articles or book chapters and additional varied sources.

As an example, from reading Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, we might identify a technology such as production of genetically modified organisms for food.


Using the INTR 101 Library activity form, or the prompts and examples below, think of words and phrases that describe your chosen technology, and also the theory that you'd like to relate to it. 

Specifics (texts)... technology... theory...
Oryx and Crake GMO's technology as materiality of power
  "Organ transplant*"  
Banks, The Player of Games Drones Haraway and the cyborg
Butler, "The Evening, the Morning, and the Night" Biopharmaceuticals subjectivity and technology

Choice of language may indicate perspective or bias in your sources, and is an important factor in evaluating your search results.

Similarly, the words that you choose for searching will influence the nature of the information that you retrieve. Being conscious of this can help you to shape your search strategy.

Consider the differences in your search results when you use one or another of the phrases in these sets:

  • clone / replicant / doppelganger / parthenogenesis / cyborg
  • gated communities / walled communities / resort communities / luxury communities 
  • genetically modified / genetically engineered / bioengineered / frankenfood

Search strategy can help to shape your topic if you need to narrow, broaden, or shift focus to make the topic more manageable. As you do your research, be conscious of and document what you are learning about the relationships among various concepts and search terms related to your topic. For example:

Key words & concepts


  • broader... regeneration
  • narrower... "limb regeneration" / "organ regeneration" / "regeneration in humans"
  • related... prosthetics / "phantom pain" / transplants / "organ farming"


  • broader... ethics
  • narrower... 
  • related...

Combining concepts

Apply syntax to organize distinct ideas within your search strategy. For example: 

"gene therapy" "ethical issues"

("human cloning" OR cyborg) "uncanny valley"

"materiality of power" theor* technolog* foucault

  • quotation marks keep words together as phrases, or "key word terms"
  • use OR together with parentheses to create a combined list of (synonyms OR "words that mean the same")

Try combining words and phrases that represent your key concepts to look for information in these databases:

Limit search results to the kind of information that you need. For example:

  • Refine > Peer Review
  • Content type > book/ebook ; videorecording ; news ; magazine...
  • Date
  • Discipline

Use interesting sources to find more useful sources...

From Google image search:

The news article makes reference to a study: "findings were detailed today (May 20) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

The journal article is available in the Library!

What sources can we trace from this article?

Anderson, Lessley. "Why Does Everyone Hate Monsanto?." Modern Farmer (2014).

"...'The whole debate has gotten so very, very polarized,' says Glenn Stone, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis, who has written extensively about GM..."

What can writing can we find by this scholar? 

Google Scholar Search

Not all Internet content can be readily retrieved through search engines such as Google. Much valuable web-based information may be located within databases that are not or cannot be crawled.

As part of your search strategy, consider which types of organizations or agencies might be expected to produce or disseminate the kind of information that you're looking for.

For example: pharmaceutical companies

> business / corporate > industry associations 

> company websites (hint: start with news)

> government > e.g. (law OR regulat*) (pharma* OR drug)

> nonprofit, NGO, user, consumer, or advocacy groups, e.g.

> "united nations" "pharmaceutical"

> therapies AND "cancer society" ; "huntingdon's society"

For example: GMO's

> business / corporate > ...

> local government > ...

> nonprofit, NGO, user, consumer, or advocacy groups > ...

Long term viability of information ("link rot") is also a consideration in evaluating web sources: how to determine credibility when linked evidence seems to have disappeared or changed, and also to look at changes in representation of information over time.

Services that periodically capture and preserve Internet content, such as the Internet Archive (otherwise known as the Wayback Machine), can be helpful:

For example:

> Monsanto home page in 1996 vs. 2016

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