For whom to write

So here I stand on the precipice of December. Winter Break will arrive in a mere two and a half weeks and the beginning of this break marks the time when I will hark upon my keyboard in an effort write my Thesis in its entirety. The month long interim provides a logical time to tackle this task as there will exist no other schoolwork, it remains too early to truly submerge myself in the job search, and the only distractions consist of the pleasures of home. These pleasures might even serve as an incentive to write, as at the moment curling up with my laptop in front of my abnormally and magnificently hot fireplace, which my dad keeps burning seemingly all Winter long, could not seem any more appealing. Yet, despite the fact that I have been aiming to write my Thesis over Winter Break all along and this plan remains the most practical, I know that it will present a challenge.

At the moment, the challenge is rearing its head in the form of how to structure my Thesis and how to present a compelling argument. As previously stated in my blog entries, I have finished the majority of analysis and am faced with a multitude of findings and ideas, of which I have been the discoverer and creator. Yet the fact that I know this material intimately does not negate the difficulty in organizing it into an original, coherent, and persuasive hypothesis. Please note the use of singular in that last sentence – hypothesis. If the idea of an Honors Thesis was to babble about all fifty things one found out during the research process and how fascinating all of these things were, I would have already finished. Yet it is not. An Honors Thesis presents the opportunity to write a professional and mature paper, and this is something I have not done before – at least in this magnitude.

My Thesis director suggested to me that to plot my Thesis out, I should consider what audience I want to write for. He stated that the audience could be large (e.g. the workers of Bethlehem Steel, cultural anthropologists who work from a structuralist paradigm with a particular interest in the labor force, my eleventh grade AP Government class  etc.) or small (my mom, my dad, a founding father of Bethlehem, Jane Jacobs etc.). He said that this technique can help in focusing one’s argument.  When one imagines this audience one must consider what they would want to know, what questions they would ask. Then, one must determine: how will I answer? How will I tell this story, convincingly, to my listener(s)?

I have been conjuring up all sorts of audiences, and have not yet resolved, but I am leaning towards writing for my dad. He is a man who sees the world in shades of gray and has taught me to do the same.  Over the weekend he showed me the following video:

In this video Dr. Eric Berlow speaks of how most things in the world are complex, but not complicated. He shows causal loop diagrams that organize real-world occurrences into intricate webs of causes and effects and explains how among all the forces that act on one point, really only a few of these forces exert true bearing on the identified feature. Perhaps in all the shades of gray there are fewer shades that really color the world, that really matter, than one initially would be led to believe.  I’ve been playing with this idea for my Thesis – how Bethlehem is complex, but how perhaps the reasons behind its character are not that complicated.

I’ve been hoping to toy out this idea with my Thesis Director and newly chosen Thesis Committee members this week as I meet with each of them. Perhaps one of them will provide a related question that lofts them into the position of my targeted Thesis audience, or perhaps they will simply play a key role backstage – helping me to have a prolific and victorious Winter Break.