Kickstarter Literacy

Blog » Kickstarter Literacy

Posted on 22 Mar 2013 13:06


My proposal is to research how people can create successful Kickstarter projects in technology. Specifically, I will discuss and analyze:

  1. The characteristics of the Kickstarter discourse community
  2. The elements of a successful Kickstarter tech project
  3. The different types of literacy tech project creators need in order to find success.

A discourse community, as defined by John Swales, is a group of individuals with the six following characteristics:

  1. A set of common goals
  2. Mechanisms of intercommunication among members
  3. Uses participatory mechanisms to provide information and feedback
  4. Uses certain genres heavily that help further the community’s actions
  5. Has specific lexicon
  6. Has changing membership ranging from novice to expert.

Description of Current Situation

The general idea I’ve been getting from our readings is that while different people define discourse communities in different ways, people seem to agree that:

  1. Discourse communities may be studied qualitatively
  2. Every discourse community has insiders and outsiders
  3. Various types and degrees of literacy are required to function and understand a discourse community, respectively.

John Swales and James Paul Gee, the two authors of the texts on discourse communities we have studied, differ on their definitions of discourse communities. Swales believes that discourse communities are kind of like forums people can join and leave at will in order to work towards something. Gee, on the other hand, believes that people are born and raised with certain characteristics and personality traits, and those aspects of a person define which discourse communities they become a part of. If you are not meant to be in a discourse community, no matter how hard you try you will never become an insider.

Two discourse community researchers whose works I’ve read are Tony Mirabelli and Sean Branick. While they studied widely different communities – restaurant waiters and football coaches, respectively – they both studied literacy in their communities through direct observation and interviews. Both wanted to clear up some misconceptions and show the complexities of their discourse communities by studying literacy.

While I will not be able to copy Branick or Mirabelli exactly in the way they studied their respective discourse communities, I did get the idea to study literacy from them. They succeeded in convincing me that literacy places a powerful role in how discourse communities function. I’ve been interested in Kickstarter for a while, and I thought it would be interesting to really dig deep and find out why certain projects are successful and what role literacies play in how successful a person is in gaining funding.

The obstacle holding back many people from creating successful projects is a lack of knowledge on how Kickstarter really works – the mindsets of the Kickstarter backer community and what gets people funding. Kickstarter provides very basic guides on how to set up project pages, but it doesn’t explain how to effectively grab peoples’ attention and convince them (within a short time period) that your project is worth supporting. Furthermore, getting a project funded in tech is more difficult because there are average people with great ideas but no experience competing with well-established businesses who just want to reach a larger audience. Therefore, I would like to create essentially a guide on what it takes to create a tech project that will be funded.

Description of Project Plan

My research will take the following steps:

  1. Determine the characteristics of a successful Kickstarter tech project
    • Study previous successful projects and observe the qualities that made them successful
    • Study ongoing projects and observe what goes on
    • Pay particular attention to organization of project page, use of genres of communication, language used in communication, background of project, and creator profile, and publicity
    • Determine the characteristics of a failed Kickstarter tech project
    • Same methods as step 1
  2. Determine the mindset of Kickstarter backers
    • Interview myself, Kickstarter, and fellow Kickstarter backers
  3. Interview Kickstarter and project creators with questions regarding project success and the thought process timeline of creators. Some ideas:
    • What is the percentage of tech projects that get funding?
    • What motivated you to create a tech project?
    • Why did you decide to use Kickstarter for funding?
    • What preparations did you make, if any, before placing your project on Kickstarter?
    • How far were you into development before turning to Kickstarter?
    • What sort of publicity did your project obtain?
    • Describe your experience with your project before taking it to Kickstarter
    • Describe the competition level you see in Kickstarter technology projects
    • Describe the average person you see funding your project
  4. Group my findings into several categories as follows:
    • Project page: organization, presentation, content
    • Project details: type of tech, competition of project, timeline
    • Use of genres: updates, emails, perks, comments, FAQs
    • Communication: language style, complexity, lexicon
    • Anything else that may come up
  5. Formulate categories of literacy based on step 5
  6. Present findings based on steps 5 and 6

Since I have a general idea of what I might look for, I based my steps on my knowledge of Kickstarter. If I observe anything that is new, I will modify my procedures as necessary.

Review of Qualifications

I have approximately three months of experience as part of the Kickstarter community. Although I have not created any projects, I have browsed hundreds of projects in all categories (including hundreds more on another crowd funding site – Indiegogo) and funded one project. I have a good idea on how to differentiate good projects that have a high chance of success from projects that seem destined to failure.

More importantly, I am part of the backer community and will therefore be able to provide my insight on the thought process I take when I look at projects and decide whether or not to help it out.

I have experience interviewing people in person, over the phone, and through e-mail from multiple research projects starting in middle school. I also have experience planning and carrying out steps of research projects, so I see this project as a way to test and build upon my aforementioned skills.

Discussion of Costs/Challenges

One major challenge is whether or not I will be able to effectively solicit information from Kickstarter, fellow backers, and project creators. Without the information I can get from interviewing those people, I will not be able to discuss the literacies that go along with the thought processes of each of those members of the community.

Another obstacle is my personal bias and passion for technology. I love technology, and I will admit that the technology I prefer tends to share some similar qualities. As a result, I may become distracted from my research by just gawking at the innovative projects out there or mistakenly assume that my thought process while going through a project is similar to that of other backers.

Benefits and Conclusion

The main benefit of my study is that my peers will (hopefully) become more of an expert at creating Kickstarter projects before they create their first project. Since most, if not all, of my peers are aspiring engineers, it is not hard to imagine that many of my peers will be looking to help fund some technical project or product at some point in their careers. If they should choose Kickstarter as their funding platform, then my project will be able to give them a leg up on other, less informed, project creators.

I honestly have no idea what I will discover. I hope to discover information that is logical and useful, but I may just as well end up with a lot of observations that cannot really be linked (although such a conclusion is extremely unlikely).

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