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.