Teaching Idea: Prompt for “Build Your Own Micronation” research project

Sealand

The Principality of Sealand, established in 1967 and (self)-declared a nation-state in 1975. More here. Image found here.

Back in May, I posted about offering my students in Comp II, as an option for their research project, the chance to create and build a website for their own micronation.  Last night/this morning, I finally got something worked out that I think will work; it appears below the fold.

My hope is that this semester and next, at least a couple of students will give this a try so I can see what problems they encounter.  My long-term goal is to make the planning of a micronation the subject of a Special Topics course–something that gets called “English” but is actually interdisciplinary in its content.

Anyway, here it is.  If you have any thoughts or questions or concerns, I hope you’ll share them in the comments.

BUILD YOUR OWN MICRONATION (FOR 16-WEEK CLASSES ONLY)

This scenario does not require you to write a formal research essay; rather, your final project will be a Web site.

The Wikipedia article on micronations provides this definition:

A micronation, sometimes referred to as a model country or new country project, is an entity that claims to be an independent nation or state but is not officially recognized by world governments or major international organizations.
Micronations are distinguished from imaginary countries and from other kinds of social groups (such as eco-villages, campuses, tribes, clans, sects, and residential community associations) by expressing a formal and persistent, even if unrecognized, claim of sovereignty over some physical territory. (“Micronation.” 16 Aug. 2015. Web. 16 Aug. 2015.)

(The Wikipedia article is quite detailed; for a shorter introduction to micronations that may help you decide whether or not to undertake this project, look online for Jordan Pearson’s article, “ How the Internet Forever Changed Starting Your Own Country” (Motherboard. Vice.com. 11 May 2015. Web. 16 Aug. 2015). Also, my personal blog, Domestic Issue (johnbuaas.com), has some links to the websites of micronations on the right-hand side of the home page.)

Whereas micronations have existed in some form or fashion since the 19th century, the emergence of the Web has given rise to many new ones. As the Wikipedia article makes clear, many of these are exercises in harmless fun and self-aggrandizement, but some are fairly serious in their political and consciousness-raising activities. Should you take on this project, I hope you will combine the two–the seriousness and the fun.

Here are the minimum requirements:

Build a website (some free webpage-building sites are Wix, Webs, and Weebly; you can also use a blogging platform that allows you to have multiple pages, such as Blogger or WordPress) and set up a Facebook page for your nation. Your nation’s Facebook page’s content should reflect in some way the work and interests of your micronation. As soon as you establish these, send me a link to the website and send my Facebook page a Friend Request from your nation’s Facebook page. Use the Facebook page to provide updates for content you have added to the website, links to articles in some way related to your micronation, etc.

Your nation must be in locatable, physical space on this planet; provide a map of it. Your nation can be located in your bedroom or backyard; as with the Dominion of British West Florida, its location can be based on land claims made by groups of people or nations from the past; or, as with the Free Republic of Liberland, it can be located in a place that seems not to have been claimed by another nation, or there are conflicting claims as to what nation it belongs to.

Your website must have at least one of the following: 1) a history for your micronation that uses as its starting point the history of the lands and peoples adjacent to it; or 2) identify and write about a cause or issue (environmental, political, cultural, or social) that is important to you and is in some way connected to or associated with the lands and peoples adjacent to it. It must also have an “About” page that identifies you as the builder of the site, and that the site is a project for this class.

You must give some thought to, at the very least, your micronation’s system of government and economy (the latter being appropriate to the larger geographical region within which it’s located).

As with the other research options, your website must make use of and properly cite at least five (5) secondary sources and should also have a page titled “Works Cited.”

As you will see when you visit the websites of micronations, these sites contain such things as flags, official seals, currencies, lists of other micronations with whom they have established diplomatic relations, etc. Some even have online shops that sell merchandise associated with their micronations. None of that sort of thing is required of you for this project, but I certainly encourage you to include them as you see fit.

Here are three things to keep in mind: 1) Remember that some of the micronation sites you’ll visit are the product of years of work and thus are quite elaborate. Because you do not have years but 16 weeks, I will not be grading your site by comparing it with them, but solely on the basis of the extent to which your site satisfies the minimum requirements, writing that pays proper attention to the expectations of Standard English and, with regard to your use of outside sources, current MLA citation style. 2) As with any of the other scenarios you see here, it is imperative that you start on this one as soon as possible. 3) Take it seriously, but don’t be afraid to have fun with it. If you enter into this with the proper mindset, it should engage your imagination as well as your intellect.

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