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.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Need Another Reason to be a Gator Hater?

As if a Vol really needed any more reasons to hate the State of Florida, stupidity has won out yet again in the Sunshine State.

Apparently, the terms "upgrade" and "virtual machine" aren't taught down there.

I can think of some GTAs that would grovel mightily for the iBooks...