Keyboard warriors: Writing as a tool for positive change. Practitioner thesis

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van Beek, Kathryn
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Doctorate of Professional Practice
Otago Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga - NZ Institute of Skills and Technology
Mitchell, Richard
McCaw, Caroline
Doctoral Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
New Zealand
social change
creative writing
van Beek, K. (2023). Keyboard warriors: Writing as a tool for positive change. Practitioner thesis (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctorate of Professional Practice). Otago Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga - New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology
From children’s literature through to the works of poets, scholars and activists such as bell hooks and Audre Lorde, it is widely acknowledged that writing can help create a better world. In this practitioner thesis, I examine the tools that writers can use to help inspire positive social and environmental change. I am a multi-disciplinary writer whose works include plays, fiction, children’s fiction, nonfiction and creative nonfiction. Through this study, I wanted to learn how I could use my writing skills to contribute to a world in which our environment, animals and people thrive. My research has been undertaken using a reflective, creative-practice-led, autoethnographic framework, influenced by ecofeminism. This thesis reflects upon three of my works (three artefacts)—a children’s book about a rescue cat, a book of short stories about the ways in which humans treat animals, and a web series about miscarriage—and a case study on how I have used the written word to change the law. Following the analysis of the artefacts and case study using reflection on-action, the thesis moves to reflecting for-action and in-action, providing an overview of my works-in-progress and how the lessons learnt during this research inform my creative practice now. I also discuss the texts that were instrumental to the development of my creative practice and examine my personal positioning in relation to the themes and ideas explored in my writing. Although some tools are identified as supporting the facilitation of positive change through writing, there are difficulties in assessing the ways in which writing—particularly fiction writing, with its open-ended possibilities for interpretation—directly leads to positive change. It became clear that the real change must occur not within the reader, but within the writer. Therefore, the tools the writer needs are the tools to change themselves and their creative practice—tools including reflection, the ability to position themselves within a wider professional practice, intentionality, and an understanding of the values that drive them. Recently several other ecofeminist texts—both academic and literary—have emerged, demonstrating that many writers wish to spark or contribute to positive social and environmental change. Future work on the power of writing to help make a better world might focus on the ways in which writing classes could be elevated beyond skills-based study to empower writers to discover their values and learn how to write with intention.
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