Friday, November 13, 2009

How the NMAP Made RTB Reflexively Cry

NMAP: "I'm kind of tired of people claiming that academics and researchers are trying to 'tell practitioners what to do' - when nearly all of us these days who are researchers WERE and still ARE also practitioners. Why is the assumption that we don't listen to practitioners? That we have no real world experience ourselves? That practitioner knowledge should automatically trump theory?"

RTB: IMHO, the problem is that researchers DON'T tell practitioners what to do. Researchers in general do a lousy job of making their research findings praxiologically transparent. We talk at them, not to them. But we can't blame researchers for that...academe does not reward it. Consequently, the job often falls to some intermediary (for CALL@UTK, that would be me). But then the intermediaries get "uppity", want to try their hand at changing the world, only to find out that the only one changed is themselves. You teach, but are no longer a "teacher". You practice, but are no longer a "practitioner". You are a researcher...a new member of a particular flavor of cognoscenti. It is a position I will never be comfortable in...but I could never go back. It is a position in which there is no room for apathy because intense ambivalence fills every available bit of space. I lack the words to reflect on this at a 'meta' level, but images flash in my head...the poor/fortunate man freed from Plato's Cave is one. But for those of you who are closet fans of Cyrano de Bergerac, perhaps you will understand when I tell you that the image that resonates with me like a massive earthquake is the Comte de Guiche as he reflects on his life after becoming a Duc. I can totally see me playing this out in a decade. For those of you qui ne parle pas très bien le français, perhaps taking his reflective lines from the English edition and inserting myself into them somehow will help you understand. All I ask in return is that you send me a little something to give voice to my tension. A little theory-as-therapy, palliative philosophy. Even a citation will do...I know my way around a library:

(walking from Claxton to the Library)

RTB (AS THE FUTURE NMAP) (speaking of a teacher): Ay, there is one who has no prize of Fortune!--Yet is not to be pitied!

THE TA (with a bitter smile): But Dr. Berchot...

RTB : Pity him not! He has lived out his career, free in his thoughts, as in his actions free!

THE TA (in the same tone): Dr. Berchot!

RTB  (haughtily): True! I have all, and he has naught;. . .Yet I am proud to shake his hand!

(Waving to a colleague): Bye!

COLLEAGUE: I'll go over with you.

(RTB waves goodbye to the TA, and goes with the colleague toward the ramp.)

RTB (pausing, while the colleague goes up the ramp):
Ay, true,--I envy him.
Look you, when life is full of scholarly success
--Though the past holds no action foul--one feels
A thousand self-disgusts, of which the sum
Is not remorse, but a dim, vague unrest;
And, as one mounts the ramp of scholarly renown,
The NMAP's leather wheeled briefcase trails within its wheels
A sound of dead illusions, vain regrets,
A rustle--scarce a whisper--like as when,
Mounting the ramp to the sidewalk, your  leather wheeled briefcase
Sweeps in its path the dying autumn leaves.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Flavors of Discourse Analysis Questions One Might See in "Misty Mountain Hop"

Discursive Psychology: "Why don't you take a good look at yourself and describe what you see..."

Progressive Discourse: "And baby, baby, baby, do you like it?"

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Now Spreading the Prezi Love

I have never considered myself a PowerPoint hater...I use it at conferences, I'd like to think I can make a pretty dynamic PPT, and putting them on Slideshare for others has proven popular, at least I have a decent hit count. I work at a university where I get MSOffice for free, and while I have largely moved to Google Apps, I remain relatively content with PowerPoint, and haven't had much desire to move from it.

So what on earth would come along to make me tell you that I WILL NEVER MAKE ANOTHER POWERPOINT AGAIN?

Can I just say how much I LOVE Prezi? It's like having a table onto which you can dump the contents of your brain (and your document folders), arrange and rearrange your content, and then add a path to which you are not beholden to stick...jump (or let others jump) around as you/your audience please/s.

And again, 100MB of free space to create...the price is right! AND...once I have perfected my Prezi, I can download a self-contained Flashapp presentation that plays nice with any computer I use....or link out to it...or embed it wherever I like embedding things....

I like this one so much, I'm likely to upgrade this one to take advantage of the offline creator for use in our faculty development center.

Please share with me your Prezi stories...I can't be the only one out here who is smitten with this app!

Hey, you in the Ivory Tower: the Technology Gap is Real!

Do you really still think Prensky has been debunked?

Think again:

Use by Students and Faculty Members of Various Technologies in Conjunction With Education

Faculty Members
Course management systems
Social networking
Open source applications
iPod / MP3 player

Hope and Hype is Always Better Than Hate

Remind me never to apply for a position at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. With a cyberstructure researcher who hates cloud computing and a CIO who hates Twitter, can you imagine how well RTB would fare there?

My favorite observation from the site (made me think of something Dr. Counts would say...which then made me cry):

...academics remain enormously hidebound about social utilities. I routinely hear academics who have never laid eyes on Twitter or Facebook dismiss them with would-be clever put downs based on sheer ignorance. Such people sound like nothing so much as medieval scribes grousing about the advent of movable type.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Spreading the Dropbox Love

Thanks to J. for turning me onto Dropbox, the 2nd free app this week that has radically transformed how I work (more on that later). My files are now always in sync on my PC and Mac (even on my iPod Touch!), sharing folders with friends is easier, I have my critical documents backed up OFFSITE, and since Dropbox has a 30 day undo history, it's even RTB-proof! It has saved me from stressful situations on several occasions this week...and I've only had it for a week!

And did I mention that it's free? 2GB of! (Actually, 2.25 GB if you use the links in this post!)

And since I know that the NMAP loves the CommonCraft "In Plain English" YouTube Series, I thought she'd appreciate that they were commissioned to craft the Dropbox promotional video:

Save yourselves. Get Dropbox. Friends don't let friends use flash drives.....(can you believe we're "past" flash drives already?)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Questions about Sneijder & te Molder (2009)

"Normalizing ideological food choice and eating practices. Identity work in online discussions on veganism" Appetite 52 (2009) 621–630. 
(I'm looking at p. 623)

"In the first fragment, participant Anne, who categorizes herself as a novice by the activity of introducing herself..."

Perhaps I'm the only one who finds this observation problematic, but it seems to me that Anne could very well have been lurking on the forum for a year or more for all anyone knows. Not sure the activity of introduction categorizes one as a novice the way Sneijder & te Molder want you to think. Seems to me like there was other data in Anne's transcript that would have made a stronger case for her being a novice (as a vegan or as a member of the online community) than the fact that this was an introduction.

"The analysis was performed on the Dutch materials. It informed the translation to the extent that it was designed to capture the social actions found by the researchers in the data. In line with discursive psychological practice to ensure as much transparency on data and analysis as possible, the original Dutch postings are also made available to the readers."

I think this was well done...and makes my argument that "in line with discursive psychological practice to ensure as much transparency on data and analysis as possible", original video and audio recordings should also be made available to the readers in other research projects....

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A free APA 6R after all.....

Thanks to the American Psychological Association for FINALLY listening to their PR people and doing the right thing (which you should have done, oh, say....WEEKS ago!).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I {heart} James Gee

Was tooling around on Edutopia and found this:

Nowhere does this ring more true than in the language classroom, IMHO. Great stuff!

Not sure you want to want to invest 12 minutes yet? (shame on you!) Check out Shiv's blog for a breakdown...should give you the motivation to take a crowbar to your planner and find the time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

RTB Likes "Promoting Confusion in Educational Psychology"

Casie, no need to skewer rjmr...I've got it. Better yet, I hired a hit-theorist:
Fenstermacher, G., & Richardson, V. (1994). Promoting confusion in educational psychology: How is it done? Educational psychologist, 29(1), 49-55. (The Bereiter Stuff is on pp. 50-51)
I try to do a bit of irritating condensation, of course...(sometimes in medias res...) The bullets are mine. Anything in medias res is tagged as mine.
We tease you because we love you,bro!

(now there's a great example of a productive "non-progressive" discourse!)

  • Progressive discourse = Bereiter's attempt to graft behaviorism/cognitivism to postmodernism:

    • "Bereiter deserves praise for his honest and straightforward effort to work out the implications of postmodern thought for his own conception of what is involved in doing educational psychology. This exploration has, it seems, moved his thinking away from the behaviorist and cognitive theories of learning for which he is well known toward a conception of scientific method that places empirical warrant within a discourse community."

  • Progressive discourse = Bereiter's attempt to impose the hegemony of research/science on education/praxis:

    • "There are still signs in his article, however, of a conception of theory into practice that promotes the authority of some (i.e., researchers and theorists) to prescribe the practices and thought processes of others (i.e., teachers and students). This continues a long tradition in educational psychology that assumes that educational reform is a linear progression from the development of formal knowledge by researchers to the adoption of principles from this research by teacher-consumers."

  • Progressive discourse = Bereiter's attempt to "put lipstick on a pig":

    • "In accommodating to the postmodernist view, Bereiter redefined the scientific method as a commitment to progressive discourse. This allowed him to maintain a sense of scientific progress — a position at odds with postmodernist thinking — while accepting the postmodernist position on the impossibility or irrelevance of a concept of objectivity in research. Locating the judgment of progress within a scientific community allowed Bereiter to reject a realist position that there is a reality external to an individual that may be apprehended through the scientific method-while moving the judgment of progress to a position that is external to the individual. For Bereiter, it is the discourse community that determines whether new ideas and their research evidence should be rejected or synthesized, or whether they should replace other ideas. He developed a set of prescriptions or entailments that ensure that the discourse process leads to progress..."

  • Progressive discourse = Bereiter's attempt to equate progress with consensus, and by so doing, silence heterodoxies:

    • "Bereiter's commitment to discourse as the forum for the creation and judgement of  scientific progress joins a strong and growing literature in social theory that proposes that dialogue, as engaged within certain sets of rules or entailments [<RTB>Let's call these discourses</RTB>], is our only hope for enlightened political and social decision making — as well as empowering educational processes...Unlike Bereiter's, however, most other sets of entailments [<RTB>discourses</RTB>] deal with the issue of equality of participation. Further, the goal of such discourse processes may not be consensus. Equating progress with consensus is precisely what postmodernists...would suggest leads to the hegemony that silences marginalized voices."

  • Progressive discourse = Bereiter's attempt to be "'da Man" for teachers, and to have teachers be "da Man" for students:

    • "When Bereiter moves to the educational implications of his progressive-discourse theory, one can see why equal participation in the discourse is not one of his criteria. The concept of authority is strongly represented in his conceptualization of the discourse community classroom. The first authority is Bereiter, himself, who, as a learning theorist, developed prescriptions for teachers on the nature of the progressive-discourse classroom, and for the role of the teachers in such classrooms. The next authority is the teacher, whose role is to lead students forward by having them examine authoritative texts and other expert sources and come to common interpretation of their meaning. The teacher would also determine whether the discourse is progressive and would intervene if it were not. Thus, authority over the nature of the classroom discourse and the goals and role of the teacher resides in the theorist — Bereiter — and authority related to [<RTB>Insert your discipline here</RTB>] resides in the text, the teacher, and other forms of expertise."

  • Progressive discourse = Bereiter's attempt to impose a hegemony of knowledge, and by so doing, promoting inequality and marginalizing democracy:

    • "Bereiter's article represents a provocative attempt to accommodate the subjective elements of postmodernism within a postpositivist approach to scientific method, but it ignores a most important issue in the postmodern thinking — the critique related to the hegemony of knowledge. By ignoring the concern that discourse communities may be undemocratic, Bereiter's approach would not appease the postmodern critics nor would it contribute to reducing the inequality present in the enactment of [<RTB>Insert your discipline here</RTB>]."

RTB throws down his keyboard and walks off à la Ralphie May........

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Un pretendido discurso progresista?


So, all you progressive discursivists...what about this one? Is learning occuring, or is this just nonproductive college hoodlums mocking the sacrosanct textbook (which of course we all know is the gold standard for learning)?

As seen on TV…

Thanks, Barbara!

Hold Off on Your APA 6th! - Inside Higher Ed

Might want to wait until the APA gets it's act together on the new style guide.....

apa / 13 - Inside Higher Ed

Shared via AddThis

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Todos somos impostores

If you're feeling down, go read this post on Casie's blog, as well as the comments. Guaranteed to make you feel better.

Thanks, Casie.

There are, according to some, places where that imposterism can more easily be concealed... A bit of self-ironizing satire that still makes me laugh. No, I'm not "reclaiming the stereotypes that have harmed me and my community", whatever that means. Sometimes cracking jokes is just cracking jokes (now the video, I'd analyze!):

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Philip Oakey: Discursive Constructionist avant la lettre?

"Just looking for a new direction in an old familiar way…the forming of a new connection to study or to play"

"Well the truth may need some re-arranging…stories to be told…and plain to see the facts are changing…no meaning left to hold"

"And so the conversation turned…"

Progessive/Productive Or Non-progressive/Nonproductive?

It must be exhausting, being an advocate for prescriptive DA...I imagine that those who live in a world of how discourse should be instead of how it actually is feel either like Don Quixote or the Cassandra of Greek mythology. I certainly don't have the stamina for it...besides, I think descriptive DA makes more sense. Given that Bakhtin sees discourse as ongoing and unfixed anyway, I'm sure he'd scoff at the concept of placing value judgments on discourse.

In that spirit, I'd like to pose a question: Is this discourse progressive/productive? Why/why not? If you feel it is non-progressive, how wide does your lens have to get before you see it as progressive, or does your lens never get to that point?

Inquiring minds want to know...

Happy (belated, dagnabbit) birthday, G'Ann!

My wife reminded me today that I had forgotten G'Ann's birthday. Boy, do I feel like a heel. I even dug up and scanned literally EVERY picture I have of her to put on FB for the event. Don't know what happened. Really, what kind of a father am I?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Who let the doxa out?

I may have the beginnings of some empathy for Casie's irritation at the festering sore that is the negotiation of definition. As the NMAP has stated elsewhere, "The more you start digging, the harder it gets to answer questions with much cohesiveness".

The more I align my theoretical lens with sociocultural and activity theory à la Lantolf and Thorne, the harder I find it as a researcher to conceptualize Platonic epistemology or even Platonic nomenclature (although a conversation I had with Dr. Barb this week showed me that one can espouse a rabid relativism and still believe in the Allegory of the Cave…I hope to blog about this sometime soon). I've found it harder to just bracket the classical rhetoric lately since I'm expposed to it in a Cultural Studies course, so I actually had to squint a bit at Casie's post.

While the binaries seem reasonable to what's left of my understanding of classical rhetoric, my SCT and Foucauldian ids were unsettled…Thorne is constantly reminding us that EVERYTHING is culturally mediated, even our "invisible" doxa attached to some cultural artefacts, which resonates with Foucault's desire to resist the epistemes in covert loci of power…the fundamental and pervasive assumptions that are "invisible to people operating within" a given society.

Then it hit me…I had read (a loooong time ago) Bourdieu's Esquisse d'une théorie de la pratique, and it was there that I saw a "repurposing" of doxa to position it in relation to discourse. The figure from the English translation is below:

To Bourdieu, doxa connote a society's taken-for-granted, unquestioned "truths". It reminds me a bit of the Wells article...on p. 111, the Matusov observations that "without some disagreement there would be no need to communicate", and therefore no discourse. Bourdieu describes it as what “goes without saying because it comes without saying”. Once the doxa are questioned, you have an "orthodoxy" or "dogma" which is resisted by one or several "heterodoxies" or "iconoclasms", which enters the universe of discourse.

So, I would arrange the binaries like this (today at least):

doxa (episteme) :: discourse

orthodoxy (dogma) :: heterodoxy (iconoclasm) ...[but it's all discourse]

I would bracket unfounded/founded and fact as valuations.

I'm not sure what to do with techne. As techne has more to do classically with performance and production than knowledge per se (like episteme), I'm not sure doxa is a good fit, because while there are some pervasive assumptions that "go without saying" in any techne, at some point those assumptions were challenged and were part of discourse. Aristotle uses the term endoxa to describe a "more stable" doxa because it was at one point challenged and discussed in the polis. So I guess I'd go with that (appropriated into Bourdieu's taxonomy, of course).

Yes, you can have techne without the Platonic episteme (let us hearken back to the NMAP's mental furniture argument....there is no "there" there). Techne seems to me a social construct that is negotiated like anything else.

[side note to the NMAP: how you can espouse the "no mental furniture" argument and not take "The Matrix" leap into free-fall relativism is beyond are, IMHO, about as close to Sartre's "Roquentin" stance as you can get...let me know when the coffee starts discoursing with you...]

But I will admit to being troubled by episteme, because Foucault (being French, after all) seems to want the word to mean both doxa and what could perhaps be best expressed as "gestalt" or even "spiritus mundi". He seems to use the word to describe both a wider range of Discourse and the invisible assumptions held by the people within that wider range of Discourse.

I think my head is telling me it's time to stop blogging and start eating my lunch...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

From "Discourse in Activity and Activity as Discourse"

"[L]ook at the following transcript from a science classroom taken from Lemke (1990):"

Transcript 1: Carbon

  1. Teacher: Ron?
  2. Ron: Boron?
  3. Teacher: That would be—That’d have uh . . . seven electrons. So you’d have to have one here, one here, one here, one here, one here . . . one here—Who said it? You?
  4. Student: Carbon.
  5. Teacher: What’s—
  6. Students: Carbon! Carbon!
  7.  Teacher: Carbon. Carbon. Here. Six electrons. And they can be anywhere within those—confining—orbitals. This is also from the notes from before. The term orbital refers to the average region transversed [sic] by an electron. Electrons occupy orbitals that may differ in size, shape, or orientation. That’s—that’s from the other class, we might as well use it for review. (pp. 17–18, 20)

"Lemke explained that this is a conversation between a teacher standing at the blackboard on which a chalk Atomic Orbital Diagram is drawn. As the teacher talks, he gestures at the diagram and a periodic table hung on the wall. The drawing and table are more than mere props of the teacher’s and students’ dialogue, and they are more than mnemonic devices for the students. At the least, they serve as part of preparing contexts (Lemke, 1990) within which particular questions and statements make sense. When students miss these preparations, they might not even understand what is expected of them as interlocutors, much less the science content of the talk (Lemke, 1990). In terms of our discussion, the students are expected not only to learn to talk about atoms and their orbitals in the correct way, but also to recognize and use such diagrams and tables in the correct ways as well to perform adequate identities as science students. Because science talk is a gateway to further education as well as career choices, such simple routines as this one are important as apprenticeship activities. When we employ turn taking as the unit of analysis and fail to include any description of the activity that co-occurs with the talk and contextualizes it as part of the transcript, some parts of the talk become virtually meaningless to the analyst (i.e., pointing out electrons—“one here” or referring to the diagram “that’s from the other class”). If we are interested in how the mediational means (like diagrams), talk, and activity work together as a distributed system, with how both talk and action shape each other over the course of an activity, and thus with how people learn to use the linguistic and nonlinguistic stuff that makes up Discourse, then we need a different kind of transcript."

Rowe, S. (2001). Discourse in activity and activity as discourse. An introduction to critical discourse analysis in education / edited by Rebecca Rogers.

Unimportant and Unimpressive? Really?!?

"...So what? Big fat deal. What's so great about long-held and politically powerful communities of practice anyway?..."

Brava. Spoken like a true humanities scholar.

Having had a true "near miss" (at times regrettably so à la Paul Simon) as a scholar of Old French Literature (with a postmodern lens, no less) and working in technology-enhanced language learning as a discipline, I feel at times like a humanities scholar trapped in a social sciences degree program, at times a social scientist trapped in the humanities. (cliché)Some of my best friends are humanities scholars(/cliché), others are social scientists. So when posts like this arise, I am truly torn. I don't know whether to cheer "w00t!" or shove a spoon down my throat à la Frank Zappa. I feel like I need to defend the humanities to my social science friends, and make my humanities friends aware of the plight some social scientists face as they strive to achieve the sugar-plum-fairy-and-gumdrops world the humanities scholars will for them…now.

Social science / Ed. folks (of which I consider myself an adoptee): 

Humanities scholars really do love you. They're not "normally combative" or "obnoxious" (well, within their own ranks, they might be, but that's another post). You have taken philosophy and critical theory from which "their disciplines" are the "fount" and you have crafted qualitative tools to rival the quantitative tools of some of your colleagues, tools that both ask and answer questions that those quantitative tools cannot. 

Never forget this one thing, though: try as they might, most humanities scholars are never fully able to escape the discourse of hubris in which they marinate, lodged within those ivory-tower fact, one might say that "the system" encourages it...the longer you are steeped in it, the more likely it is to become reified in your own scholarly activity, and the more likely you are to have your name memorialized on some obscure page of the MLA Website. Or perhaps to roam the halls of some ivy-covered building, with a throng of young acolytes hailing you as the next Stanley Fish. All I'm saying is "don't hate the speaker, hate the discourse!"

The discourse (at least our localized permutation of it) goes something like this (I've "unproblematized" it some to hasten this along): 

We are Guardians (think Republic Book VII).Your "long-held and politically powerful communities of practice" are irrelevant. "Disciplinary quibbling" is futile. We wish to restructure your discipline(s) in a way that "refigures both educational practices and scholarly research". We will add our "more complicated relations" to your "reductive and/or incomplete methods and concepts". "Clamoring for disciplinary credibility" is futile. Your "rarefied and hegemonic" discourses are over. From this time forward, you will "assume that DA is a Science in its own right, as defined by practitioners in 'the field'".

Humanities folks (from which I consider myself an on-again, off-again expat): 

Social scientists envy you at times. What other discipline could pull off a session at  a medieval conference, perchance a dissertation, and a "shout out" in a popular biography around the topic of theorizing the male nipple? (we could argue about which discipline is really rarified, but to what end?). 

Some of us want to move in interesting and new directions, but are hampered by the hegemonic (or at least problematic) position that quantitative methods hold in many of our disciplines. We learn how to explain what we "do" in qualitative research in terms that quantitative methodologists (dare I can understand, because we like graduating and we like tenure. We envy the wide-eyed counter-hegemonic abandon of your manifesto, but if we actually went about "deconstructing received boundaries" and castigating the "incompatible systems" under which we are often compelled to operate, we would get our dissertations (or worse, our tenure dossiers) placed firmly back in our laps. These discussions are important to us, because they will take place over and over again and the friction between the boundaries helps us to understand how to position ourselves. We're glad you don't have this burden. We do.

Some of us want to move in interesting and new directions, but are not convinced that your privileged discourse isn't just trading one hegemony for another:

  •  We've been "quibbling" about what discourse is, what constitutes a legitimate "mode" of inquiry. We thought your vision was Gee's vision (that it is not enough to get just the words “right,” but also one’s body, clothes, gestures, actions, interactions,ways with things, symbols, tools, technologies and values, attitudes, beliefs, and emotions as well). Then we see this desire to conflate DA with Composition Studies, which, unmodified or undeveloped (or unexplained), invokes in most of us a discourse of privileging writing, which seems even more restrictive than rjmr at his most extreme moments. Not sure we're all interested in this avenue.
  • One of your own has been quite critical of the lens used here to position Composition Studies, which he characterizes as having "a lockstep, scholastic uniformity and, far from being comprehensible to the masses of teachers and students... seems calculated mainly to win prestige for composition theory by elevating it to the level of the most arcane (and now outmoded) literary theory; 'doing theory' now often has become a substitute for teaching writing, as it earlier became one for teaching literature."  We get privileging your own discourse (don't agree, just "get it") but reject the desire to maintain or expand a certain theoretical hegemony to the exclusion of our praxiological concerns in general, or to something that we get hung up on, like foundational nomenclature.
  • You speak of DA as if it were a monolith ("DA as a method and product of inquiry", "DA is a Science...based on its...adherence to common method") with "disciplinary best-practices establishment". So, which DA are we talking about? DASP? CDA? Foucauldian DA? CA? The various flavors of linguistic DA? Emerging subdisciplines? What is the common method? Is there even a "common" method in DASP (the one we are ostensibly focusing on), and will I ever use it in my discipline? Which discipline(s) get to establish this "common method" and these "best practices"? Why can't every discipline use every flavor of DA, develop their own common methods and best practices as they evolve? What happened to the interdisciplinarity you were espousing? Or better, are these the kinds of questions you were hoping to get to rather than the ones that are, apparently, not a "big fat deal"?

I couldn't agree more with the desideratum for the speedy arrival of the sugar-plum-fairy-and-gumdrops world...but the praxis of academe is not one of speed. Forced to live in and with the shadows of Plato's Cave,  I, for one, have considered our exchanges (both in class and online) to be anything but unimportant or unimpressive...quite the contrary. If there are some that wish to make that discussion a leitmotif for the course, who am I to say no?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

χρηστομάθεια or ἀνθολογία?

"It seems to me that the real task in a society such as ours is to criticize the workings of institutions which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticize and attack them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them." - Michel Foucault

Now, I'm not going to say that rjmr's reasoning is "faulty", but rather that it is "informed, or should I say misinformed, by the conventionalized positivist paradigms that center on such outmoded empirical notions as…" (OK, now even I'm getting sick of the "Deconstruction Breakfast Food Product." No more…I PROMISE…)

Shall we take a trip into the RTB "retrospective-stream-of-consciousness" rabbit-hole?

rjmr: "Within a discourse community if we are speaking of something of value which we need to define (for example we are both stakeholders), the opinions we have should not be flights of fancy."

RTB: Ummm…we all come into conversations adhering to discourses that inform our perceptions, none of those perceptions being the same (tot sententiae quot homines). Social construction of reality within a discourse community has less to do with defining meaning and more to do with negotiating meaning. And lest we forget, Wegerif (2006) posits that the source of meaning "is to be found not in the figures or in their backgrounds but in the difference between the two because it is the boundary around a figure that makes it exist as a thinkable thing." (p. 145) . Are you remembering this, kiddies? There _will_ be a quiz later….

rjmr: "We would hope that each contributing member of the community has done their part to be thoughtful and can back up their opinion using reason to the fullest extent possible."

RTB: Ahhh…nothing like the smell of fresh logocentrism in the morning! Could you please define reason for us?

rjmr "I heart the scientific method" medley:

  • Within the discourse community the definition (i.e. description of reality) that finally becomes accepted should be that which can best be defended by supporting scientific information
  • As a condition of membership into the category science, DA must reach its conclusions in a certain way: it must have its own social-scientific method.
  • I would now define science using your phraseology: a field of inquiry whose claims exist in terms of reasonable support.
  • any two claims may be judged against one another by comparing their supporting evidence.
  • (In response to “Requiring your version of scientific, empirical evidence, without acknowledging other viewpoints, shuts down communication.") "No, it simply limits communication to that which can be supported. As noted by Casie, this happens all the time in academia. If you write a paper filled with unsupported ideas, it is unlikely to get published. Hence, communication is shut down.

RTB: OK, I think we get that you profess an objective epistemology, and that is certainly one way of looking at the world...can I share another with you?:

  • "Myths can be produced by the same sorts of methods and held for the same sorts of reasons that now lead to scientific knowledge"
  • "Competition between segments of the scientific community is the only historical process that ever actually results in the rejection of one previously accepted theory or in the adoption of another"                          -Thomas Kuhn

Let me elaborate…

On the level of [D]iscourse, the scientific method depends upon a negotiated set of skills within a community of practice and rests on agreement within those communities, so not only is the social determination of scientific knowledge possible in spite of the scientific method…the scientific method itself is a social construct, and the output from the scientific method is constructed knowledge, not discovered truth. The "truth" gets to be told by the "champions"… those who find themselves within the "dominant discourse" of the age. 

Recent example: is Pluto a planet? It was 10 years ago…..

On the level of [d]iscourse, scientific experiments depend upon framing the terms of the argument, the kinds of questions one asks, and the hypotheses that are proposed which depend in large part upon one's relation to the object[s] of study. Seems pretty "squishy" to me (as opposed to Educational Research: The Hardest Science of All…).

So, in the end, the scientific method is just one discourse among many. You of course want to privilege your discourse, which is easy to do…science is a huge cash cow, and where there is money there is power. You have to know that there are other discourses that live to resist the one you want to privilege…that criticize the workings of the scientific community as neither neutral nor independent; that attempt to unmask the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through science in order to fight it…(before you think it, five names: Oppenheimer, Nobel, Kevorkian, Mengele, Rascher).

rjmr (in imagined response): "How do you compare two arguments before you? Or are they above comparison?"

RTB: This is a perfectly valid question for someone coming from an epistemology of objectivism to ask…but it is a question that rings false in the ears of someone coming from an epistemology of relativism, which may explain the lack of response.

Let's use your blog title as an object lesson.....

Chrestomathia is a fitting title for an objectivist: from the Greek χρηστός (better) and μανθάνω (learn or understand). It is used in philology to describe a book with a sequence of texts used as exempla, to demonstrate the "development" or "perfection" of a language over time. This fits in nicely, IMHO, with a scientific view of the evolution of scientific thought.

If I had created a blog from scratch for this course, I would likely have named it Anthologiai from the Greek ἀνθολογία from ἄνθος (anthos, “flower”) + λέγω (legō, “I gather, pick up, collect”). These were originally collections of small Greek poems and epigrams, because in Greek culture flowers symbolize the finer sentiments that only poetry can express. There need not be an overarching rhyme or reason to the inclusions, arrangement, etc...and if there was intent in any of these, it is of no matter...what matters is how the discursive community of practice receives and perceives the scent of each flower adds to the bouquet, how they interact and resonate with each other and with the researcher.  Bakhtin held that the meaning of discourse is not "reducible to the intentions of the speaker or to the response of the addressee but emerges between these two." (Holquist, 1981, pp. 429–430) Wegerif explains that "the way in which each generation of scholars re-visits and re-interprets textual fragments from ancient Greece is used by Bakhtin to illustrate his claim that there can be no final or fixed interpretation of an utterance."

Having had what I'll call a "near-miss" with a career in the hard sciences, I think I can empathize with the sentiment that this kind of investigation is not for everyone. One must be comfortable with loose ends, with ambiguity, with participation and the “holistic” view of things. Those who come from disciplines that have their roots in the traditional scientific method feel uneasy with research that relies on the personal factor in which the main form is socializing and the main instrument is the researcher. Hopefully, I've done my part to demonstrate that all research instruments are culturally mediated and that what social scientists do (my world view) presents a “picture of reality, of life as it exists in time and space” (Neisser, 1976, p. 2). 

Postscript: On a completely different note (the note that sounds something like "I don't heart discourse that ain't talkin' or writin'), might I recommend Chapter 4 (entitled "Discourse in Activity and Activity as Discourse" by Shawn Rowe) in Rebecca Rogers' An Introduction to Critical Discourse Analysis in Education (2004).......

BTW, the answer to the question in the post title is "yes".

Friday, September 4, 2009

"Is there any way out?"

NMAP: "I like the idea of various factions "resisting" whatever is dominant - but, of course, then the oppressed become the oppressor and before you know it we have myriad "disciplines" all screaming for relevance, making claims of importance, and proceeding to shove their own view of what is "important" and "true" down the next generations' throats. Is there any way out?"

...Not according to this  clip (especially the Foucault part):

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How Discourse Made the NMAP a Colonialist

Everything is political, as "Pictures at a Conversation" illustrated quite well. And any discussion of how education "should" be necessarily ends in aporia.

Case in point: the NMAP seems to advocate for teaching education as a monolith (I'm guessing the NMAP would call it "utopian interdisciplinarity") while I advocate for a more granular application of general principles, or even that general principles don't often contextualize as well as the NMAP would like us to believe (which I'm sure the NMAP could call something totally different). Disciplinary relationships are tenuous...take CALL, for example. Even though ESL and FL CALL have been happily "married" for decades, at its foundation it is still a power struggle.

I'm reminded of a book by Adrian Holliday entitled The Struggle to Teach English as an International Language that shows that, if anything, disciplines tend towards becoming even more granular, not less. Holliday uses a discourse of colonialism to challenge "native-speakerism" and advocates for the divestiture in the ESL profession of what has increasingly become an outdated perception of language "ownership" by native speakers, and this as a way to include NNS as not only worthy lecturers of the profession, but a subset worthy of disciplinarity themselves.

It occurs to me that it would be easy (perhaps facile) to take the NMAP's "we are all educators" paragraph, which seems quite interdisciplinary/collaborative, and make it seem quite nefarious and even nativist by hijacking Holliday's discourse and applying it to "education". It could be argued that the NMAP espouses an "essentialist" view of education, a historical force rooted in colonialism, pressuring us into a kind of mindset that colleges of eduation have a monopoly on the proper characteristics of pedagogy, critical thinking, and so on, that reduces 'non-native' education colleagues to suit its own structures...devalues their realities; and ignores the way in which these realities resist the 'dominant' educational dialogue.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pictures at a Conversation

Written on an LCD wall...Observed by RTB:

Concerned Student:

I’m torn.
I appreciate the chance to interact with people in other disciplines over things we discuss in class, but I’m concerned about the research in small groups, not only because people like to see how praxis plays out in their _own_ research field, but because there seems to be a lot of polarity about appropriate modes for research. ...I don’t see how that plays out to everyone’s satisfaction if the disciplines are so different that not only is there a gulf of transferability that could likely not be bridged ...but even basic assumptions of what constitutes “discourse” and “research modes” are diametrically opposed.

...I’m not sure whether the history of this proposal is simply the previous impossibility of creating disciplinary teams under the guise of disciplinary diversity or whether there really is a true belief and personal confirmation that this is for our own good. I’m willing to go on some faith, but I’m worried that I’ll end up dreading this research project (or worse, that my group will) especially when I know that there is a chance for some real synergy with some like-minded folks from a “3rd cousin twice removed” discipline...
If it were discussing / dialoguing / debating / anything but researching, you could put me with anyone and I’d be perfectly happy. I’m skittish about the research, because in the “real” world, you get to choose your research colleagues......
Here are a few clarifications/my take on the group assignment.

1. Calling this a "research study/project" was probably an overstatement on my part. I do want you to get practice analyzing data from a DASP perspective, but it is by no means a full study...I am also going to be somewhat prescriptive with how you approach the assignment (even though I haven't spelled that out yet.)

2. No one has IRB approval to conduct a study in this class, so it isn't like you are working on a "real" study in which the stakes may be higher regarding your concerns.
3. As far as I'm concerned, everyone in the class IS from the same discipline - education. Everyone is concerned with teaching and learning. Counter to how colleges of education tend to be organized, I believe that a lot of teaching and learning is teaching and learning, regardless of the discipline.
4. However, I completely agree that there are likely varying epistemologies in the class - and that's precisely why I wanted to group you with people OTHER than whom you are used to working with or with whom you share beliefs. This is particularly important when doing analysis from a DASP perspective - you want to identify all the possible angles, assumptions, beliefs going on in a particular conversation segment, and working with people you don't share a lot in common with can help with this.
5. You seem to be anticipating or creating problems where none may exist. You are assuming no one else will have an interest in multimodal data. It could be that everyone in your group will be quite interested in this, but of course it's up to you to pitch that to your group by enacting your best collaborative skills - building relationships, honoring each other's perspectives, listening to their ideas, being willing to be influenced by someone who may have an even better idea than yours. I will certainly encourage this kind of exploration.
6. I really wish the statement "in the real world you get to choose your research partners" was true. It's not. At all, actually, especially in this very interdisciplinary, collaborative research world that we live in. Even if you THINK you know what you are getting when you start to work with someone, you don't.

Concerned Student:

As an aside, can I just say that you rock! I know of very few NMAPs willing to engage in the dialogic process to the extent that you do...validating, responding to and challenging our positions when your "id" would most likely rather have a Steven Seagal moment with us.

Now, to some thoughts/reactions to your response:

1. The devil is always in the details...."somewhat prescriptive". And here I thought the DASP/constructionist definition was prescriptive enough. I realize of course that there is method in the perceived madness (just like we all did qual. a certain way to begin with, even if we wanted to "go boutique")...I'm just eager to jump off of the "one-size-fits-all" (was that not a leitmotif of the your response?) bandwagon and research how DA can fit/complement other research orientations I'm likely to have:

Vine, E.W. (2008). "CA and SCT: strange bedfellows or useful partners for understanding classroom interactions?" Discourse Studies, Vol. 10, No. 5, 673-693.

Levine, P. & Scollon, R., Eds. (2004). Discourse and technology: Multimodal discourse analysis. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

2. I'm not sure that (for me at least) it was a question of stakes. My position was that it would be more helpful (in my current understanding) to see how the praxis of DA plays out in one's_own_ research field. I understand the exercise in Intro. to Qual. of going outside the field to gain an experience free of some of the engrained notions one has about things, but I'm not sure that makes as much sense here, but I could see that rationale being valid.

3. I realize that you are coming at this from the instructional designer / subject matter expert POV, but I would argue that this is only working (and increasingly so) in the business world. You espouse a centralized view of instruction and pedagogy that is not only diametrically opposed to my point of view, but to the overwhelming view of higher education. Pedagogical and research environments in most institutions of higher education are decentralized to some degree, with greater decentralization in large research universities. Larger institutions with a significant research mission (such as ours) tend to emphasize disciplinary academic efforts in both instruction and research and place a great deal of authority at the department level. If we extend your argument, then we should have a universal methods course to teach pedagogy as a monolith, and cast off entire subdisciplines that have been devoted to the idiosyncracies of teaching and researching certain subjects. While I believe that there is room for interdisciplinarity to some degree (you have programs like film studies or Latin American studies, etc. that administratively codify this idea), even your own college is structured to reflect the reality that there are content areas, and that content areas have their own discourses and vocabularies and idiosyncracies that no centrality is going to fully comprehend or effectively provide for praxiologically. An excellent math teacher...even if they were fluent in French, would likely make an awful French teacher were they not trained how to teach in a second-language acquisition context, and I would argue that a "one-size-fits-all" class would not do that.
4. This actually makes sense to me!
5. It would appear that I’m fine…my group seems at least open to the idea of multimodal, and we can likely find enough in common to come upon a topic. Others, on the other hand, are being flat-out rejected. I didn’t want to end up in that situation…it would have made this course miserable...
OK…maybe the “you get to choose your research partners” is over-reaching…but you get to choose your research focus…I’m not going to ever be compelled to study the intersections of CALL and Engineering., even if I might in five years get roped into research with some moon-bat I’m not thrilled with because the research takes a wicked curve into psycholinguistics…or…heaven forbid…Ed. Psych. ;-)

This is AWESOME (snippet below) and I would love to have a whole class on the nature of academia and why things are structured as they are. How did we create these "realities" about what academic departments are and how they are organized and what is "real" about a discipline? These decisions are made not because there is a "truth" about the existence of a field, but because we CREATE it. Excellent, excellent example that maybe I'll use in class. (It's fine by me if you want to blog this stuff.)
(And I've seen lots of excellent language teachers who never had classes in pedagogy or SLA. Also seen lots of awful ones who have..go figure. IT's the class "is teaching an art or a science? argument. )
I realize that you are coming at this from the instructional designer / subject matter expert POV, but I would argue that this is only working (and increasingly so) in the business world. You espouse a centralized view of instruction and pedagogy that is not only diametrically opposed to my point of view, but to the overwhelming view of higher education. Pedagogical and research environments in most institutions of higher education are decentralized to some degree, with greater decentralization in large research universities. Larger institutions with a significant research mission (such as ours) tend to emphasize disciplinary academic efforts in both instruction and research and place a great deal of authority at the department level. If we extend your argument, then we should have a universal methods course to teach pedagogy as a monolith, and cast off entire subdisciplines that have been devoted to the idiosyncracies of teaching and researching certain subjects. While I believe that there is room for interdisciplinarity to some degree (you have programs like film studies or Latin American studies, etc. that administratively codify this idea), even your own college is structured to reflect the reality that there are content areas, and that content areas have their own discourses and vocabularies and idiosyncracies that no centrality is going to fully comprehend or effectively provide for praxiologically. An excellent math teacher...even if they were fluent in French, would likely make an awful French teacher were they not trained how to teach in a second-language acquisition context, and I would argue that a "one-size-fits-all" class would not do that.

Concerned Student:

And I've always been of the opinion that methods courses largely give you the vocabulary you need to articulate what you do in praxis. I taught for a while before I hit a methods course. It simply gave me the "jargon" to explain in a "meta" way what I was already doing.

Still, I think I would be a terrible math teacher....

And I agree that we have created the reality in which we live. You just strike me as the Don Quixote here...tilting at windmills....

[etc. etc. etc.]

Thursday, August 27, 2009

RTB pleure

"I free myself for today and forever from human immobility"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

RTB Wants You to Show & Tell Your DA/CA Tools!

I'm looking forward to going hunting for good discourse analysis tools during the semester. I have a list of things to start looking at, and I'd like to hear what experiences any of you have had with these or other tools I fail to mention:

CLAN (supports Jeffersonian notation)...the most general tool available for transcription, coding, and analysis.

Phon ...phonological and phonetic data analysis ...transcribed in CHAT. Fully compatible and interoperable with CLAN.

ELAN ...analysis of gesture (from video) and conversational overlap. Complete interoperability between ELAN and CLAN.

EXMARaLDA ... "Extensible Markup Language for Discourse Annotation"....XML for DA? Think of this linked up with A/V. Very powerful concept...but how's the praxis?

TalkBank and the SIDGRid Project seem like good places to learn how to do/approach all of this.

Also looking at retail options as well...any advice / personal experiences welcome:

Friday, August 21, 2009

RTB Likes Validity — Hates the Hegemony of Print Culture

I finally have some time to respond to the second issue that in my mind arose from Week 1, the idea of multi-modal data and its "published" representation.

To understand my position(s), it might be helpful to look at a post I made last year about an article by Marc Prensky concerning a shift in media culture and the rise of a new concept of literacy. Just as the affordances of an emerging print culture (permitting people to generate, store and retrieve ideas as needed across time efficiently and accurately, affording the development of complex ideas) displaced the dominant oral culture of the ancients (Remember, Socrates was a vehement opponent of the emerging print culture, calling it "inhuman"), so new media, with their ability to fuse orality, performance and text to convey meaning in ways a print culture simply cannot, are poised to supplant that print culture, naysayers notwithstanding. Which brings me to two thoughts:

  • Given where we stand, it puzzles me that discourse analysis (at least what we've seen and discussed so far) concentrates on such a small sliver of the meaning we convey as to render it hollow. Communication ("speech" or "illocutionary" acts in the broadest sense), has always been multi-modal, as communication is not exclusively fact, go out and find an article that discusses the various components of communication, and most will spring from or reflect Mehrabian's (1971) "7%-38%-55% Rule"...only 7% of the meaning we convey is linguistic...38% comes from paralanguage, and 55% comes from non-verbal communication. Yet, DA/CA privileges linguistic speech acts as data, with some token aspects of paralanguage. Does it occur to anyone that this might cause one to unwittingly produce an analysis akin to Horace Miner's Nacirema? My mind goes back to one of the earliest cases of "deconstruction experts" in the courtroom (of course, I can't remember the name of the case now, does it ring a bell to anyone?). Someone was accused of an intentional criminal act, and the prosecution hung their case on the dialog transcript from a video, and had the defense let that go, it likely would have been an open-and-shut case. The defense, however, hung their case on a frame-by-frame deconstruction of the paralanguage and non-verbal communication, which was in their representation diametrically opposed to the sense the prosecution was trying to establish via the dialogue. The defendant was acquitted. I can think of a million "faux pas" that could occur in intercultural analyses if non-verbal communication was not taken into account. I don't know whether to blame the hubris of a logocentric Western society, the slow-grinding wheels of "les vieux dinosaurs" of academia, or my own impatience for not letting Trena "get to that" later on in the semester. I guess I'll know before long, won't I?

  • But (perhaps) more to the point: for a discipline that places high value on the analysis of 'naturally occurring' language use, you would think that there would be an equally high value placed on conveying that information in a 'natural' or 'contextualized' way, especially given the affordances of new media. That having been said...have you looked at the Jeffersonian notation system? Could anything be more de-contextualized than rendering the intricacies of speech acts via text and an arbitrary set of signifiers for which one must acquire a taste? Now, in her defense, if I were operating in an academy that was the paragon of print culture, and the technologies of another/emergent literacy were not available to me, I would have done the same thing...what else could I do? I cannot blame Gail Jefferson. But we know better. We have known for some time that this kind of reduction strips communication of the system of references and repetitions between the three modes, as well as intermodal discourse indicators that we rely on when "reading" a conversation. We have the means to fix it...we can display video, play audio, and mount text simultaneously, with any one of the modes serving as gloss for the other (although it makes the most sense for the marginalia to be textual). We have infinite storage and a society (and, mirabile dictu, administrators) willing to embrace a switch to digital scholarship. We as scholars are the ones standing in our own way, and I find that lamentable.

Mehrabian, A. (1971). Silent messages. Wadsworth, Belmont, California.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

RTB Likes Transparency

Ah, the joy of the blog! If some ridiculous idea gets floated out in class and you don't really have the opportunity to refute it, you can tell Blogger all about it...Blogger will kindly inform those who care (and a few who don't if you're beaming to FB) that their stances are informed (or should I say misinformed) by conventionalized Procrustean research and scholarship paradigms that center on such outmoded dissemination notions such as the sufficinecy of print culture, the essentiality of intellectual property and single authorship, and the primacy of the signifier. (Man, those Foucault Flakes are really making mileage this year!)

If you haven't figured it out yet, writing for me is a process of irritation: I usually have to be provoked to write, and I like to write to provoke. Call it catharsis, call it "paying it forward"...whatever.

In my mind, there were two issues that arose out of the digital scholarship (DS) provocation: one was the idea of the motives behind the dissemination of DS, the other was the promise/fear of multimodality in DS. This entry deals with the former...the latter will come...don't you worry.

I think the arguments that I was trying to make in class in the way of dissemination of scholarship largely parallel those in Sally Magnan's (2007) commentaries on digital scholarship, among those being: electronic access facilitates the discovery of previous studies, and the archiving function of databases provides durability for published research.

This is needed to avoid what Nina Garrett (2008) calls "the unwitting reinvention of...research that is carried out in ignorance of earlier studies"(p. 386). We should not be doing the same research / testing the same pedagogies over and over on new media and technologies...we should actually be REFLEXIVE and TRANSPARENT about our pedagogical frameworks and research tools, seeing them as culturally-charged, and modifying them to reflect changes in the affordances of the new tools and media.

I think that my point may have been poorly communicated, because what the NMAP had to say in response seemed in my mind to be entirely disconnected from the narrative I was following:

"What I have a problem with when people start to want to videotape is because what they're really saying is 'I'm afraid I'm going to miss something, and I need to videotape everything, because I need to accurately capture exactly what happened', when you're never going to be able to do that. And the researcher is always making these decisions as to what's important and what's not."

I agree. The researcher is always going to make decisions, have an organizing a reader, I would like to see not only what choice was made, but what the choices were. I'm all for seeing things through another's lenses...I would like to then take them off and see them through my own, or another's and another's and another's. I don't see this as damaging to scholarship, but encouraging it...In fact, in some disciplines, a nascent form is already happening, both with audio and video. I envision lively discussions and debate and scholarship around available and multimodal phenomena, seeing them through various lenses, understanding that even that is not authentic, but it is a lot closer than a Jeffersonian transcript.

In an era of digital scholarship, using multi-modal data collection is not an issue of chasing the vain dream of having the perfect "thick description", it is a matter of academic transparency. To take something the NMAP said completely out of her contect and put it into mine: "Everything that everybody sees is there for researchers to analyze...and you can analyze it in a much more thorough way."

But this movement challenges elitist notions like single authorship, intellectual property, and the primacy of the print culture, so fear leads to skepticism. Academe looks upon digital scholarship like newspapers looked upon blogs back in the day.

Academe will soon find out what newspapers did:

Resistance is futile.

Garrett, N. (2008). "The Reinvention of Different Kinds of Wheels..." The CALICO Journal Vol.25, No.3, pp. 385-386.

Magnan, S. (2007). "Commentary: The Promise of Digital Scholarhip in SLA Research and Language Pedagogy." Language Learning & Technology Vol.11, No.3, pp. 152-155.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

RTB is Eating his Words

Wiggins, S., J. Potter, et al. (2001). "Eating your words: Discursive psychology and the reconstruction of eating practices." Journal of health psychology 6(1): 5.

I'm guessing that the newly-minted associate professor (heretofore referred to as the NMAP) had us read this article for practical purposes: two doctoral students carrying out research write a paper with their discourse analysis professor...we'll likely discuss quality and clarity of flow, choice of transcription scheme (I hope to high heaven that the NMAP or her minion** have some alternate schemes to show us, because I'm not enamored with the one here), etc. I'm certain we'll talk about how a discourse analysis was able to enearth some complex dynamics about speech acts and food acts that a quantitative study could never discover on the best of days. I'm sure that the NMAP had her reasons for picking this article over others, and it is a very interesting concept indeed.

Perhaps a little too interesting.

The whole juxtaposition of speech acts and eating sent me back almost 15 years (has it really been that long?) to a course on Psychoanalysis in Literature that I took with Esther Rashkin. Hands down one of the most fascinating courses I have ever taken...Dr. Rashkin is hardcore, which makes for an excellent professor. Heavens, I could go on for pages about the discussions had about TNG episodes, Poe, etc., but you can get a small taste of the experience by simply reading her two books:

We waded through Freud, Lacan, Ferenczi and a host of others, but I most remember Dr. Rashkin's discussions of Abraham and Torok's L'écorce et le noyau (that's The shell and the kernel: renewals of psychoanalysis for those of you who have not yet acquired the celestial language) and specifically the chapter entitled "Mourning or melancholia: Introjection versus incorporation." Don't worry, I wouldn't dare attempt to resume any of this for you...go read it yourself if you want. But from these readings we were invited to read and watch Babette's Feast and write a psychoanalytical paper drawing from the text and/or film. That exercise was exciting on the front end, and almost laughable in retrospect. But the analysis she shared with us after our feeble attempts was truly amazing, and actually make up Chapter 1 of her 2008 book, which you can read in its nascent form here in Style. The Wiggins article made me flashback to a conversation that reads something like this point in Rashkin's Babette article:

"Abraham and Torok's idea that the literal ingestion of food can function as a figure of the introjective process specific to nonpathological mourning also seems highly pertinent since the transformation of loss into speech in Dinesen's story occurs following the consumption of a feast."

The point of all of this beyond subjecting you to my stream of consciousness? Well, if anyone pursues any of this in their COPIOUS amounts of free time, they'll be intructed and delighted. As for the reflexive moment here...well, I doubt I am voiding myself of potential unintended analytical "lenses", but at least I'm making myself aware of the ones I have, right?

Anyway, once I left the trip down memory lane, I came across a couple of things that might interest / made me stop. I was looking up some of the articles that Wiggins et. al. cite to debunk traditional, quantitative methodology in regards to eating practices/attitudes, and I had to giggle a bit, because at least one of the articles has a Technorati-esque "citation-roll" that proudly displays that it is cited by the Wiggins article! I guess any kind of publicity really is good publicity....

Oh, and I found this on Skribd (It's must be good...but I suspect it won't be there long...because this strikes me as being a tad bit on the shady side of shady):

Conversation Analysis & Discourse Analysis

**The minion should know by know that I respect her (and the NMAP) too much to call her "the assistant", and I can't very well call her by her first name (don't want RTS and FB folk confusing her for my bien aimée, and she may not wish to have ID traces here, frankly). I've never understood why minion is taken so originated as a term for protégés, especially those of a monarch. "Henchman" or "lackey" really aren't synonyms (although you'll find dictionaries that claim they are), because even if minions are of subordinate rank to their patrons they are likely to be of noble birth or to be raised to the nobility, and are more companions and confidants to monarchs than servants or bodyguards. So "minion" she is...

Monday, August 17, 2009

RTB gets reflexive!

As you may or may not know, I have blog entries from the Rocky Top Bear Show (don't ask) beamed over to FB, because I have some friends that asked me to. They may soon regret having asked, but I hope not!

I've been looking over syllabi for my courses this semester, and noticed the following assignment for my discourse analysis class:

"As outlined by Watt (2007), engaging in regular reflection on the research process and on your growth as a researcher is an integral part of all qualitative, interpretive research. This is particularly true of discourse analysis from a discursive perspective. This assignment asks you to begin a reflexivity journal this semester and to make regular entries throughout the semester. I suggest that you use a blog for this purpose and post the link in the discussion board. If you would rather keep your journal private, you can send the link only to me. Alternatively, you may keep your journal in a Word document or some other electronic means that can be shared with me on a regular basis. At the end of the semester please write a synthesis of your journal entries/experience in the class, particularly how you have developed as a researcher and your understanding of the theory and practice of discourse analysis, discursive psychology and its applications to your own research agenda."

I gave some thought to how I wanted to keep this reflexivity journal and what would be most meaningful to me. My mind went back to a powerful article by Rupert Wegerif (2006) that I had occasion to read in a recent CMC/CSCL course, where he at one point channels Merlau-Ponty channeling Heidegger:

"...[T]he source of meaning is to be found not in the figures or in their backgrounds but in the difference between the two because it is the boundary around a figure that makes it exist as a thinkable thing." (p. 145)

This resonated strongly with a previous allusion to Bakhtin in the same article:

"the meaning of an utterance is not reducible to the intentions of the speaker or to the response of the addressee but emerges between these two". (p. 144)

I could very well keep this a private affair between teacher and student, or perhaps even open it up to classmates, but I'm certain that the entries would not _mean_ as much to me, because if I buy into this idea that meaning emerges in the boundary between "figure" and "background" or "speaker" and "addressee", why would I not want that boundary to be a granular as I could get it? Besides, a lot of my FB friends either are profound colleagues whose opinions I respect immensely and who "get" what I'm doing or are good friends who have my implicit trust and who often "don't get" what I'm doing, and the reactions on both ends of the spectrum are very helpful in reformulating my thinking.

So I'm using the Rocky Top Bear Show (well, a part of it) to house my reflexivity journal, which means that entries will also pop up in FB. Please feel free to react / discuss / whatever, either on the blog or on FB. Tag = epc531. If you're not inclined to play the part of "background" or "addressee", please ignore the posts. I just wanted you to know that no, I haven't become completely unhinged, I'm being "encouraged" (with a 30-percent-of-your-grade gun to my head) to essentially "think out loud". So you have my sincere thanks or most abject apologies, whichever is most befitting.

Watt, D. (2007). On becoming a qualitative researcher: The value of reflexivity. The Qualitative Report 12 (1), 82-101.

Wegerif, R. (2006). A dialogic understanding of the relationship between CSCL and teaching thinking skills. Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning 1 (1), 143-157.