Digital Society
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Digital Society

Podcast transcript: Critical Analysis review

This podcast is part of the UCIL Digital Society course from the University of Manchester running in 2019/20 semester 2. The story it relates to is hosted on Medium and can be found here.

In the podcast, Jain and Naman from the Library Student Team review the topic, discussing some of your thoughts and advice on Critical Analysis.


Jain: Hi, I’m Jain from the Library Student Team and I’m here with my fellow Student Team colleague Naman. We really enjoyed reading your contributions on this topic and today, we would like to discuss and elaborate on what you said.

This week, we talked about Critical Analysis. You may know that in your university academic life, critical analysis is almost unavoidable. In university writing, it is very important to be critical of your sources to gain greater insight into the topic you are studying. This theme will keep coming up in this course and likely in your other courses as well. You considered questions such as ‘What does it mean to be critical? What are your top tips for thinking critically?’. You also read an article and critically elaborated on what you learned from it. Thank you for your detailed contributions, ideas and reflections in this week’s session.

Naman: The first question we asked was ‘What does it mean to be critical?’ Many of you said that critical analysis was not only reading and summarizing, but also evaluating the content to explain possible weaknesses and flaws of the content. This is a great definition of critical analysis, however, it is important that you know what to look for to evaluate a source.

To be more specific, one of you made a particular detailed point to explain what to look for in your analysis. “It includes analyzing the information you are presented with by asking yourself where does it come from, why does it exist, how was it discovered/created, why is it being told to you, what does it make you think, and how does it make you feel”. This is exactly what you need to search for and think about for your critical analysis to be good. Questioning what you read allows you to delve deeper into the topic and understand the various arguments that surround it.

Jain: The second question we posed was ‘What are your top tips for thinking critically?’ Getting some insight about individual thinking habits can help us and your fellow students understand what techniques are effective in critical analysis. One of you said that it helped you to “highlight the important parts when you read for the first time” and another person said to “look where the reading itself is published”. These are great tips to help you understand and critically think about your sources. As is shown by the suggestions you gave, the ‘critical’ part of critical analysis is in the details.

One particular comment that stuck with us is “Don’t just accept that the evidence they are presenting is valid. Go to the original source yourself to see if this is actually worthy of citing, and to see if it is actually saying what the writer says it is saying”. This comment is true and is not a very common practice amongst students. It is relevant to understand the evidence used to support an argument as this forms the basis for your analysis. Additionally, analysing evidence presented in an argument is a great way to critically analyse and score higher marks.

Naman: In the last activity, we asked you to find a source related to digital society and extract a question from it. As mentioned earlier, questioning your sources is a great start to critical analysis and can help build your argument greatly. You looked at some incredibly interesting articles, and your comments were really stimulating to read. You commented on topics such as smart cities and artificial intelligence benefits to the ethnic minority bias in the tech industry. As a result, insightful and rich questions were formed.

One of you read the article ‘AI risks replicating tech’s ethnic minority bias across businessand askedWhat programme could be put in place in technology companies in order to reduce bias?” This article provides a great example of an issue in digital society. This example shows that not only do you have to evaluate your source, but also think about the implications and future steps that could be taken from the conclusions of your study. You can also consider and critically analyse the implications of the study. This will provide an extra layer of depth to your analysis.

Jain: Another article you read was ‘After being fed all seven Potter tales, a predictive keyboard has produced a tale that veers from almost genuine to gloriously bonkers’. This article shows a link between the past and the future, wherein the future can remodel the past and create a new genre for future generations. The question you asked based on that was, “Would we be able to train an AI to understand and create art and would we be able to understand the AI’s art?” As you may know, the answer to that question is complex and will take quite a lot of research and development to answer. However, posing such questions from your reading is how you prove that you have interacted with the content and are able to draw conclusions from it effectively.

A final example from your contributions comes from reading the article Do the benefits of artificial intelligence outweigh the risks?This is a highly popular topic that has been around since artificial intelligence was developed. Drawing from this past knowledge, the question you posed was, “What guidelines could be put in place to ensure protection from the dangers of artificial intelligence?” This is another great example wherein drawing from the conclusions can help you propose different strategies to understand a topic. Remember, it is not enough to just state the strengths and weaknesses of an argument, you also need to be able to propose various solutions and strategies for future studies to build on the weaknesses you mention.

Naman: This topic of critical analysis helps you build on your critical thinking process to build a picture from what you have learned and what you already know. This strategy will help you in your university life and beyond. At university, your coursework, dissertation, or thesis may ask you to think critically. Beyond university, you will have to question what you know and what sources you trust.

Thanks again for your comments and I hope you enjoyed this summary. Feel free to add comments any time to keep the conversation going.

Jain: Next week is an opportunity to explore new technology by playing with some fun online activities and tools suggested by DigiLab, which is a series of events and workshops run by the Library to help you learn about new technology.

In particular you will get the chance to experience and play with AI for yourself, after thinking critically about it this week. The week after that, we will consider the ethics of AI and other issues in digital society.

Enjoy the rest of the course!



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