Phase 0: Getting Started: Topic Exploration and Selection
Microcampus has always been about spending four weeks in a rural village in Yunnan and exploring one's interests outside of the "Shanghai bubble". During these four weeks, every single student needs to study an Inquiry Project, chosen from a long list of topics. The topics frequently change, with topics added or deleted for every group, and multiple different topics appealed to me.
To pick my three top priorities, I picked my three favorite topics, and finally with Mr. T's feedback chose my final pick. My second and third picks were Boating/Shipping/Transportation, and Green Energy, respectively, which did not appeal as much because I felt more interested (and I could relate more) to the Wall Propaganda Messages. I think I could increase my Mandarin and people interaction skills, as well as incorporate the locals' understanding and opinions of international politics during my project to make it unique.
This project especially has a lot of predecessors. Eleven different projects, five of which are exemplars, have been done before me.
The first project that I chose to look at was Katherine Y's. From what she wrote, I can tell that she was a stickler for grammar and did not hesitate when it came to word count. Her reflection encourages me to do more work before leaving Shanghai so as not to face the consequences of being unprepared, as well as getting some more insight into photo manipulation.
The second project was Annie C's, with a lot less information in her reflection than Katherine did. Nevertheless, I could still learn about the importance of 3-to-5's (although I still do not know what they are), and I could still understand two big things that they both emphasized: the usefulness of elders as primary sources of information and the huge change in their perception of propaganda.
The final one that I looked at belonged to Sam J, who took a different viewpoint by piecing together the rural agriculture of Xizhou and the painted quotas on the local walls. His approach helped me understand how an unconventional approach might succeed or fail, as he mentioned that focusing more on one specific example would have made his project stronger. Perhaps if I choose to focus on the locals' opinion on, say, Europeans or people from Southeast Asia, rather than just foreigners in general, I could get a more specific picture of their unconscious biases brought on in a small part by government propaganda.
Now, after finding my topic in Phase 0, I have to get more specific in my topic as I start making my real questions in Phase 1.