Critical Essay

Write a 6-8 page essay that critically analyzes a screenshot from a work of New Media using quotations and ideas from our course readings.  


1. Choose a Work of New Media

The subject of your essay will be a work of New Media: a particular web site, for example, or a specific video game (and specific version), or a Facebook news feed on a particular day, etc.  Do not scatter your efforts talking about video games or a service like Twitter generally and in the abstract.  

2. Explore a Critical Question or Issue

Your analysis should ask and answer one critical question about that New Media work, or explain how this New Media work exemplifies and illuminates a critical issue.  The question or issue will provide the unifying center of gravity for your essay.  

A critical question or issue concerns how a work of New Media means or achieves an effect, what that meaning or effect is, to whom it means or is effective (or not), what the consequences that meaning or effect has (aesthetic, social, political, historical, psychological, cultural, economic, etc.).

3. Use Quotations From the Class's Critical Sources

Develop your analysis around at least three quotations from at least two of our critical readings from the semester: Manovich, Bissell, Murray, Birkerts, Liu.  One of these quotations will probably be the primary inspiration for the critical question or issue that unifies your essay.  

4. Focus on a Screenshot (Part Represents the Whole)

In your analysis, use one screenshot to visually represent the larger work of New Media and to help visualize what you have to say about it.  Rather than trying to generalize about a whole video game or online app, you should use the screen shot to condense that whole experience into one specific, visual eye-full. 

The screen shot should be printed out (black and white is okay) and included with your essay.

5. Do a Close Reading

As much as possible, try to choose and use the screen shot to visualize and sum up whatever you have to say about the New Media work as a whole.  The screenshot can serve a hook on which to hang your whole argument.  You will be performing what is called a “close reading” of the screenshot: making a lot out of a little, choosing small visual and verbal details to represent larger meaning, effects, functions, issues, ideas, experiences, impressions, patterns, consequences, etc.  

Analyses that do close readings tend to use words like “represent,” “suggest,” "illustrate,” “offer,” “imply,” “epitomize,” “signify,” “symbolize,” “show,” “connote,” “denote,” “indicate,” “visualize,” “demonstrate,” “convey,” “express,” “reveal,” “expose,” etc.  

6. Include Quotations from an Outside Criticial Source

In addition to the quotations from our course readings, I will ask you to find, read, quote (at least twice), and cite at least one other critical source about or related to that New Media work: a review of the video game, for instance, or an in-depth article about Facebook’s waning popularity.  



Write It Twice: From Exploration to Statement to Argument

You will write this essay twice:  

1. First, Write It Starting from the Beginning:

In an exploratory rough draft, you will go top to bottom, trying to put the various elements together to see where they lead you: the New Media work you’ve selected, the screen shot you’ve chosen, the quotations.  

This exploratory rough draft should try to close read the screenshot to link these ingredients together—get them talking to one another—and move you toward a sense of momentum and coherence.  

At the end of the exploratory draft, try to distill the BEST of what you’ve realized and said (or maybe just realized) into a synthesizing statement—a unifying realization, insight, or fusion of the most interesting things you’ve thought or realized in the draft.  

2. Next, Write It Starting from the End

In a final draft, turn the whole project upside down.  Write an introduction that sets up and presents the synthesizing statement (or “thesis statement”) right away as an argument you’ll make, and then reassemble and rewrite all the elements (cutting out what’s extraneous) to make good on that claim.  Reorganize, refocus, and sharpen every paragraph to realize (that is, to make real) your argument and purpose.  

Make sure the first sentence of each paragraph suggests how that paragraph will both push your argument forward while also supporting and reinforcing your thesis statement announced in the introductory paragraph.

The final version of the essay should give the impression that you started the whole process with the final thesis statement and argument already in mind.  The world will never know how you got there! 



Try opening a new Word file and writing for five minutes solid, talking to yourself about what you're doing and what you want to do