Phase 0: Getting Started: Topic Exploration and Selection
November 22nd marked the tenth group that ventured out to Xizhou, a small town in Yunan province, to embark on their Microcampus experience. The 14 students spent the majority of their 28 days there studying a topic of their interest. Phase 0 marked the beginning of our journey as we chose the inquiry project we will be working on for our four weeks in Xizhou. Our inquiry project was the project we studied and worked on throughout our trip. Each student was given a long list of topics to choose from, and, slowly, I began to narrow down on what I wanted to work on. Eventually, I was able to find an exciting topic to start studying more about judging from the feedback that Mr. Tafel gave to me.
The list of inquiry projects that were given to us had a variety of numerous topics for us to choose. Since there were so many, the process I went to was to first scan through the document, focusing on the topic subject. This helped me narrow down on subjects that appealed to me more than others. Topics that interested me were mainly about the historical aspect of Xizhou, but I was also curious about studying a subject in great detail. After taking notes on those topics, I then began to narrow it down to three topics, judging by whether or not I could see myself sticking to this topic for four weeks and if it had anything to do with the history of Xizhou or the in-depth research of a certain topic. Keeping these priorities in mind, I finally chose three topics- Government Graffiti: Propaganda Messages in Xizhou, Economic Case Study (Local Business or Industry), and Architecture/Construction Methods/Preservation of Old Structures.
Government Graffiti: Propaganda Messages in Xizhou is the topic that I have chosen to do for my inquiry project. I have always wanted to learn more about the impact propaganda messages have on a community of people, and how it effects what they do, which is why I wanted to further investigate this project. This topic will allow me to not only explore a subject that has always interested me, but also in a way that is meaningful to myself. This topic has importance to me because studying propaganda messages will give me a chance to have various possibilities on how to approach the topic, such as uncovering the messages hidden beneath or studying how people react to the government messages. In order to fully understand the impact the propaganda messages have had on Xizhou, I plan to find out how some of the graffiti surrounding the wall have changed over time as well as interview residents from different age groups to see what their opinions are. I would like to observe if their opinions on whether or not the propaganda message has made a positive or negative impact on the town. Also, I plan to study the propaganda messages deeper, such as the messages they convey and at what time period they were painted on. Interviewing people about their perspectives on propaganda as well as studying a huge part of the walls surrounding Xizhou are ways that I can have meaningful interactions with my surroundings, from the people to the physical attributes. “What messages do the propaganda portray?” “Does this graffiti only incorporate artwork? Do they have any words?” “Who were the government officials who actually painted the graffiti onto the walls?” are some questions I have on this topic.
Economic Case Study (Local Business or Industry) was another subject that I found interesting to work on. However, I decided not to choose this subject because I wanted to explore more of the historical aspects of Xizhou rather than stick to a more modern topic.
Architecture/Construction Methods/Preservation of Old Structures was another subject that I was leaning towards as a possible inquiry project topic. After much consideration, I decided to eliminate this topic from my list because I was not as interested in this one as I was with the propaganda messages, and did not think that I would like to work on it for four weeks.
In Phase 0, I decided what inquiry project I wanted to study in Xizhou. The next step of our journey continues in Phase 1, where I begin posing questions related to my topic and start researching more information.