Tag Archives: motive

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Tortoise Tuesday: Motive in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

One of the most popular video games of quarantine so far is Nintendo’s latest installment of the Animal Crossing franchise, titled Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH). Like its predecessors, ACNH is a slow-paced simulation game where players are moved into a new community and tasked with developing it by cultivating relationships with other residents, stimulating the local economy, and enriching cultural institutions. Unlike previous games, ACNG is set on a deserted island in order for the player to “create [their] own paradise” and “escape” the real world, according to the Nintendo official website.

At the beginning of the game, players must take a plane to their island, during which the player is subject to in-flight entertainment courtesy of Nook Inc. This movie consists of scenic videos and snapshots of other players enjoying their own idealized, fully developed islands, as in Image 1 below. These scenes prepare the player to land in an immaculate, tropical landscape.

A picture containing cake, decorated, table, grass

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Image 1 One of the scenes presented to the player before they arrive on their island. Screenshot from game.

However, when the player starts the game, the island they arrive at is far from paradise. It is overrun with weeds, and the town consists of only a handful of small tents, illustrated in Image 2 below. As it turns out, the player is expected to deplete the island’s natural resources in order to literally build their town from the ground up, all while facing debt at the hands of a Nook Inc. executive, Tom Nook. So much for escaping the real world…

A picture containing cake, birthday, decorated, table

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Image 2 The island as it is visible from the airplane for the first time. Screenshot from game.

The tension between the game’s presentation of an idyllic island in the airplane movie and the reality of the undeveloped island is meant to inspire players to complete the game’s tasks. The game promises that if players follow the orders of Tom Nook, then their islands will be just as beautiful as the photos they viewed prior to landing. By presenting this drastic visual tension at the point when the player’s island is at its least appealing (and thus potentially the point when players might feel discouraged at the prospect of having to clean it up), the game motivates its own playthrough.

Motive in academic writing operates similarly, since it can manifest itself as a tension beckoning the reader to follow along in the author’s reasoning. Like in academic writing, ACNH uses this tension to support its premise or thesis of escapism, since the promise of what could be is ultimately what drives the player to escape to the game again and again (that is, if they ever put it down at all).

If you are struggling to motivate your own writing, consider whether there are any tensions, puzzles, or surprises in your sources which might compel your readers to follow your argument. Think to yourself, “What would Tom Nook do?”

— Leina Thurn ’20

Works Cited

Nintendo. “Animal Crossing™: New Horizons.” Nintendo.com. Accessed May 9, 2020. https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/animal-crossing-new-horizons-switch/.

Motive, Spring 2020

The Influence of Faith-Based Organizations on American Anti-Trafficking Policy: Understanding the cause and consequence of the prioritization of sex trafficking within the broad category of trafficking crimes in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000

In a Tortoiseshell: In his paper that investigates the role of faith based organizations in American anti- trafficking efforts, Nathnael Mengistie takes on the existing scholarly establishment through the use of an eloquent and compelling motive. By illustrating that the existing scholarly conversation, which focuses on whether faith-based organizations are effective in their work, overlooks the important fundamental question of why faith-based organizations are involved in anti-trafficking efforts to begin with, Nathnael produces a meaningful and needed reframing of the conversation surrounding the role of faith-based organizations in anti-trafficking efforts.

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Motive, Spring 2020

The Future of Human Nature: Drawing the Line Between Genetic Enhancements and Genetic Therapy

In a Tortoiseshell: In this excerpt of her essay on genetic enhancement and therapy, Asher Joy exemplifies how to create a motivated thesis by engaging in a complex, scientific debate. Drawing on interdisciplinary sources, Asher adds her own contribution to the debate at hand by pointing out a particular issue with the discourse surrounding genetic modifications and discusses the implications of such an error. Continue reading

Motive, Spring 2020

Motive

Motive begins with a question or a problem. This can be in the form of a gap in the evidence, a puzzling passage, or a new phenomenon. Thus, motive is the driving force behind an essay’s line of inquiry or argument. It is the question to which the author hopes to provide an answer.

Without a strong motive, it is difficult for readers to grasp the reason for a certain paper’s existence. Even the most brilliant points can seem meaningless without an understanding of the posed question. Even then, motive must extend beyond just this initial question. The motive of a paper has to be compelling enough to imbue readers with a sense of that paper’s significance. It ultimately helps answer the question, “Why does it all matter?” It helps readers understand not only why a paper was written but also why they should care that the paper was written at all.

News

Tortoise Tuesday: Motive in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose

If you, like me, are finding that you have way too much time on your hands for the foreseeable future, you might be consoled just a little by finally having time to read all the books you never get around to on campus. In between baking, sleeping, and half-hearted thesis editing, I’ve been re-reading Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose – which, at over 500 pages, I wouldn’t have bothered starting at school. The book is a medieval murder mystery that purports to be a translation of an account by a medieval monk called Adso of Melk. As Eco brings Adso and his world to life, he also gives the monk an explicit, if incomplete, motive for his writing:

“Having reached the end of my poor sinner’s life, my hair now white, I grow old as the world does […] confined now with my heavy, ailing body in this cell in the dear monastery of Melk, I prepare to leave on this parchment my testimony as to the wondrous and terrible events that I happened to observe in my youth, now repeating all that I saw and heard, without venturing to seek a design, as if to leave to those who will come after (if the Antichrist has not come first) signs of signs, so that the prayer of deciphering may be exercised on them.” (Umberto Eco, translated by William Weaver)

Adso seems to be stuck at a stage that’s familiar to many of us: he knows that he has something interesting to talk about, but he hasn’t quite articulated what it is. Early in the writing process, developing a motive can feel like what Adso calls “the prayer of deciphering,” the step that he describes but leaves undone. He has his evidence (his eyewitness account of “wondrous and terrible events”), and throughout the novel, he even engages in analysis, but he stops short of connecting that analysis to a broader motive for his writing.

Humility might be a virtue for a medieval monk, but in your own writing, you don’t need to leave your motive “to those who will come after.” Once you have your text, your data, or, as in Adso’s case, your corpses of horribly murdered monks, the next step is often the hardest and most important in the writing process: asking yourself, “So what?” What new understanding does your analysis reveal? How do you shed light on a concept that was previously unexamined, incomplete, or incorrect? Once you’ve answered that question, you’ll know why your writing matters, and your reader will know why they should care enough to read it. Assuming, of course, that the Antichrist doesn’t come before your R3 is due.

— Rosamond van Wingerden ’20

Works Cited

Eco, Umberto, and William Weaver. The Name of the Rose. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.

News

Tortoise Tuesday: Motivating Moves in Longform Journalism

Polly Murray, in the 1960s and ’70s, was a mother of four with an old house on several acres in Lyme, Connecticut. In the summer, her kids built forts in the woods; they ice-skated on frozen cow ponds in the winter. The Murrays had an idyllic life in the country. They also had enormous rashes, strange joint swellings, and recurrent fevers.

[…]

Soon, though, Murray started to hear other stories like hers. Her area, it appeared, had a cluster of juvenile-rheumatoid-arthritis cases. She called the state’s health department and met with Dr. Allen Steere, a rheumatologist doing a fellowship at Yale. He pored over her pages of notes. On the car ride home, Murray wept with joy: Steere didn’t have any answers, but he had listened. He wanted to find out what was wrong. By 1976, the condition Murray had observed had become known as Lyme disease.

“Lyme disease was a disease born of advocacy,” Dr. Paul Auwaerter told me. Auwaerter, whose lab focuses on Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, is the clinical director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Back in the ’70s, Murray and her fellow Connecticut mothers had to fight for attention. Their experience left behind a powerful legacy, Auwaerter said, a sense that perhaps “the medical establishment didn’t really listen initially or were trying to be dismissive.”

Decades after Polly Murray kept her diary of symptoms, the spirit of advocacy associated with Lyme disease endures. But while Murray’s efforts were ultimately vindicated by medical science, a new fight — for the recognition of something known as “chronic Lyme,” which can encompass a vast range of symptoms and need not be linked to any tick bite — has grown into a phenomenon often untethered from scientific method or peer review. The chronic-Lyme community has a new agenda, one that was visible at last fall’s Global Lyme Alliance Gala in New York, where supporters gathered at Cipriani heard a speech from Real Housewife of Beverly Hills Yolanda Hadid.

[From https://www.thecut.com/2019/07/what-happens-when-lyme-disease-becomes-an-identity.html]

Longform journalistic piece are, as their name suggests, long. The ones I am talking about take at least half an hour to read and are often crafted non-linearly, requiring the reader to pay attention, actually exert him or herself, as opposed to needing only a cursory browse the way a news story or a short opinion piece might. Writers, for their part, can spend months, even years, researching, reporting, and writing these pieces.

Because the topics are generally out of the public view, the title may not be immediately motiving to a reader. So the onus on the writer to keep the reader engaged, to have them read from start to finish with the attention such a piece requires, becomes crucial within the first several paragraphs in a way that makes it unique from other forms of journalism.

One of my favorite articles from this summer is by Molly Fischer. The article is called “Maybe It’s Lyme. What happens when illness becomes an identity?” The article was sent to me by a friend, so despite knowing nothing about the topic, I decided to start it anyway. I think it does a phenomenal job of introduction by suffusing it with motive—with what makes the topic at hand interesting, with why the reader should continue reading.

Immediately we are taken with an idyll and its strange, pathological underbelly, a mystery that needs an answer. And even where one is given at the end of the second paragraph cited, we find that that answer is itself the starting point that has since burgeoned into many more questions. By giving the history of the discovery of Lyme disease, the author is able to not only define her most central term but to contextualize it especially as its definition is repeatedly challenged and complicated. In this way, Fischer is able to use her key term to further motivate her article, carefully and seamlessly integrating her instantiations of the two lexicon terms.

— Tess Solomon ’21

News

Motive at the Thanksgiving Dinner Table

Ah Thanksgiving, a time to overindulge in turkey and stuffing, celebrate what you are thankful for with loved ones, and inevitably find yourself trapped in some politically-charged conversations with that one relative you see twice a year who insists on starting a dinner-table debate.  As someone who usually prefers to remain on the observing side of these arguments, I had ample time at my family’s Thanksgiving dinner table to observe the lexicon at play. 

And, with the lexicon in mind, I noticed the following: some of the discussions (which somewhat quickly and frequently become debates) feel productive, engaging, and meaningful, where different people at the table are interested in hearing the ideas of others and expressing their own counterpoints or concessions to those ideas.  Other discussions feel draining and pointless with the same two people going back and forth in circles while the rest of the table exchanges annoyed glances, waiting for the conversation to move elsewhere. 

So what is the key differentiating factor at play?  I think it has to do with motive, namely whether the person initiating the argument is doing so just for the sake of argument or whether they have a convincing case for why everyone at the table should be interested in and care about that discussion.  In other words, just as is the case when we engage in a scholarly debate when we write, the person who wants to start a debate at the dinner table has to consider and defend the “so what” of the debate they want everyone to engage in for it to become a meaningful, dynamic discussion. 

When my Uncle mockingly said to me, “Hmmm let me guess; you’re either voting for Warren or Bernie,” he was just trying to be snarky.  He was asking me to engage in an argument without giving me any reason to care about engaging with him.  On the other hand, when my cousin pointed out how strange it was that we were troubled while watching a documentary about the consequences of meat consumption but then were content to feast on an array of animal products, everyone became interested in arguing the proper way to explain or solve this tension.  My uncle posed an argument to me that had no motive; my cousin posed a puzzle to our dinner table that encouraged people to come together to offer solutions.  And in turn, the former conversation ended quickly without any interesting sharing of ideas, while the latter conversation evolved into an exciting, meaningful debate.

–Danielle Hoffman ’20

Spring 2019

Motive

Motive begins with a question or a problem. This can be in the form of a gap in the evidence, a puzzling passage, or a new phenomenon. Thus, motive is the driving force behind an essay’s line of inquiry or argument. It is the question to which the author hopes to provide an answer.

Without a strong motive, it is difficult for readers to grasp the reason for a certain paper’s existence. Even the most brilliant points can seem meaningless without an understanding of the posed question. Even then, motive must extend beyond just this initial question. The motive of a paper has to be compelling enough to imbue readers with a sense of that paper’s significance. It ultimately helps answer the question, “Why does it all matter?” It helps readers understand not only why a paper was written but also why they should care that the paper was written at all.

Motive, Spring 2019

The Literariness of Political Texts

In a Tortoiseshell: In this paper about the Palestinian Declaration of Independence of 1988, Sophie Evans’ original use of key terms — “the literariness of political texts” — allows her to flip the current scholarly discourse — what Edward Said calls “the worldliness of literary texts” — on its head. In the first few paragraphs of her introduction, Sophie constructs motive by orienting readers as to how the literariness of the Declaration, written by a prominent Palestinian poet, has been overlooked. She then argues for why and how her close reading of the literariness of political texts can be brought to bear on Palestinian history and even its political situation today.

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