Friday, August 19, 2011

And the Karma Train strikes the Asylum!

I hope that ma chérie amour won't mind my purloining a bit of her Canfield composition today...The amount of coincidence involved in the buildup that led to an armed officer  doing a sweep of my home today (with gun drawn, mind you) is absolutely not coincidental... I should probably go buy a lottery ticket today.

The younger of the twins (we'll call him Simon) is quite the talker and gadget hound… Always sneaking away with an iPod touch or an iPad and playing some games  we play together. He has called about everyone on my wife's cell phone. On several occasions. With abandon.  Finally put a lock  on the cell phone. I found out today that 911 is not included in such locks!

 So… the twins (we'll call them Simon and Levi)  were caught red-handed dismantling their closet AND/OR dumping chemicals on the carpet that  have no business being on the carpet AND/OR  orchestrating general mayhem in their room, at which point they were grounded to sit on their beds while my wife took a shower. Simon must have thought that she went to lie down ( I got tired just hearing the story!)  and decided to see who he could call to gripe about his "incarceration" with the contraband cell phone he managed to smuggle in ...please enjoy the following  dramatic transcription of one of his 6 calls to the 911 call center:  

"911, what is your emergency?"  
Response: heavy breathing.  
"Hello?  This is 911.  What is your emergency?"  
Simon:  "My Mom is not talking to me.  She's tired."  
Operator: "Why is she tired?  Is she sick?  Is she hurt?"  
Simon:  "She tired.  Of me.  She's sleeping."  
"Can you wake her up?"  
Simon:  "No, she not talking".  
Operator:  "I'm sending a unit.  Can you tell me your address, Honey?"  
Simon:  "Wee-vi and I make a mess in our room.  We in trouble".  
Operator: "Honey, where do you live?"  
Simon:  "My neighbor is building a swim pool".   (of course… Simon can't remember his address… but notices out his window that the neighbor is building a swimming pool… Makes perfect sense, doesn't it ?)

Going on just that information, Officer Krupky does a sweep of the neighborhood until he hears the blood-curdling screams of the "incarcerated" Simon and Levi, and proceeds to enter the home. Fortunately, my wife managed to finish showering and dressing at this point, but I can't imagine that assuaged her much as she met an armed officer on the stairs who didn't know whether she was a victim, suspect, or person of interest at that point.

Needless to say, Simon had the riot act read to him today...and he's mulling the "wait till your father gets home" soundbite over and over, I'm sure. in trouble all right...but I think the mess in the room is the least of your worries!!! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Day the Left Bank Died....

Waxing nostalgic....I LOVE this video:

It has the flavor of "American Pie" (with all of the embedded cultural references) with  French twist, of course.  Watching the imagined draining of the Seine still brings a tear to the eye. I used to offer this song up as the "road to an automatic A" if a student could identify and explain all of the hidden cultural references. They worked like gangbusters for a week or two, then figured it was easier to just do their homework. But they would hound me about it semesters after the course was over.

Somehow, I don't think Alain needs to worry as much anymore about US, given how impuissant we've become....

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cloud, meet Atlas. Atlas, meet Cloud.

Somebody with two similar Windoze machines running atlas.ti needs to try something for me…

Theoretically, if one were to put one's hermeneutical unit within a folder in Dropbox, along with all associated files, one should be able to call all of that up on two separate computers running atlas.ti, non?

 Well, I've poked at least one hole in that theory…

  I can open up the hermeneutical unit… no problems. However, the primary documents do not appear, as they cannot be found. The problem seems to be the fact that atlas.ti links PDs to the HU using * absolute  pathways*!! And since pathways on a Mac running Windoze  are not absolutely identical to the pathways on a PeeCee running Windoze... you see the problem.

 Dear Atlas.ti: * relative pathways*...learn them, use them. And while you're at it, port your program to MacOS already!!

 Dear rich fat-cat with two PeeCees running Atlas.ti:  will you please try this experiment with your computers and report your results here?  I'm dying to know if this works between oranges and oranges, since it obviously doesn't work between Apples and oranges.

 I'm sorry,  I meant to say lemons...Apples and lemons....

A bit of situational levity in the midst of EOS chaos

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

While other places have ponies, or parrots... we have dragons.

I am in transcription hell.  I would have quit well over an hour ago were it not for the lovely and talented Dragon.

Looking at a multimodal transcript after-the-fact is pretty fun, but, just like sausage, no one should ever have to see it made. It's not pretty. How "not pretty" is it, you ask? Let me tell you...I'd rather take the GRE over and over... how's that for you?

At least my fingers are not throbbing and popping... love the Dragon... feed the Dragon...

In my scholarly meanderings this week, I came across an interesting article that I started to read ( I probably should be reading the stuff I should be reading, but I couldn't resist the shiny PDF), not because I really believe in it, but it's helping me to separate a ( flavor?) of DASP from other flavors and from other theories:

 de Rosa, A. (2006).  The “boomerang” effect of radicalism in Discursive Psychology: A critical overview of the controversy with the Social Representations Theory.  Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior 36:2, 161–201.

It offers itself up as a critical overview of the catfight between radicalized DASP and this "SRT", but it does a really good job of giving you the range of  DASP stances and some theories, affinities, and battles on the margins. Or so it seems so far.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Participant observation this week...not looking forward to transcription. JT comes to mind this week...(Well, JT channeling GJ...actually, AG does a nice version):

"Well, I'm just a researcher, and I don't like my work...but I don't mind the data at all...."

Fortunately, I don't feel like this often. I guess if I ever get to the point where I have "translated" the entire song, I need to pack it in and content myself with praxis and anecdote...

Potter/Edwards/Hepburn...burn...burn...burn Sacks...

Did you know that the 1200 pages of the Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning was insufficient? That there is a second volume of similar magnitude?

This week, I pine for the simpler days....

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Went to see J.'s defense today.  Stunning… absolutely stunning. However, stunning in a very affirming, unexpected way.

J. would never in a million years talk about herself in these terms, but many of my colleagues (and myself) talk of her in terms that echo people from my former life as a medievalist. There were professors and students all those many years ago who were lovingly (love meaning in this case admiration, respect, collegiality, but mostly idolatry tinged with a perceptible hue of envy) referred to as "sick-savant".  The professor who could quote pages upon pages — verbatim and in Middle English — from the Riverside Chaucer and most of the secondary literature... the student who had seemingly memorized their entire dissertation, the annotated bibliography of their literature review, and most of the major articles they cited.  We were all so much in awe and amazement, yet at the same time so conscious of our own foibles and feelings of imposterism that the quasi-natural reflex was to pathologize the behavior, because to do anything short of painting their performance as non-normative would have us all asking for their autograph and then running back to our offices for a dose of our Cymbalta (actually, back then it would have been Elavil or Pamelor, but I digress.....).

Today, I think a lot of us saw side of J. that those who know her much better likely take for granted, but which makes the rest of us think that we could actually emulate her in many respects and be the better for it, regardless of whether we're quite as brilliant. I can't speak for everyone else ( they all have their own blogs...) but I wanted to share at least a couple of places where I took great solace and comfort from what J. had to say.  This is not to say that these were the only places where I felt great solace and comfort... there were a lot of places where expository snippets of her theoretical and methodological perspectives resonated strongly with what I want to do, and brought some of those things into sharper focus.  I'm more interested for now in what follows.

Dr. G. asked the immortal Dr. G. question: "What do you know now that you didn't know before?"  This was the first time that I heard J. talk about her struggle with moving away from the medicalized language of her dissertation topic and the journey of inscribing herself in the critique of the constrained use of language as she wrote.  I cannot begin to tell you what a painful process it has been (and continues to be) for me personally to attempt to extract myself from the cognitive nomenclature and discourse that I marinate in on a daily basis. Neo got to take a pill...the rest of us aren't that lucky.  I know it has been the source of some critiques of my writing, and I was beginning to think that it was just me. You have no idea what a cathartic moment the answer to that question was to me!

Another cathartic moment was when J. discussed the travails of research… the tedium and neck pain brought on by the transcription process, the mental and emotional exhaustion of  participant observation... it is so refreshing to have something so mundane in common with someone you admire so much!

Oh, I could go on...  the discussion of what inclusionary communication practices would look like in a radicalized version of higher education, her gracious offer to send those who ask her journal entries pertaining to personal reactions to doing research (by the way, I'm asking...)... What about her avowal/observation/accusation that "This" (she was likely referring to her dissertation but it doesn't take a whole lot of mental horsepower to see that there is a j'accuse about what we do in academics...indeed, what we do period...buried in her confession) "is trafficking in some version of the world."?

So, I'm an unashamed groupie now. I'm making a club. Line forms behind me. I will read her journal, and her dissertation. Anyone who knows Dr. G. knows that she doesn't "blow smoke", so when she holds J.'s dissertation up as an excellent example of clarity for other students to follow, that is genuine praise couched as an invitation to everyone else in the room. I may not be smart, but I know what smart is.....

Monday, March 28, 2011

Representing Reality in the Social Studies of Science

Potter, J. (1996) Representing reality: discourse, rhetoric and social construction. London, Sage.

Science would like you to think "that everyone's knowledge claims are assessed by essentially the same impersonal criteria" which lends to the idea that "scientific status is gained through merit rather than patronage or social position." (18)


I like Potter's  (well, Collins', really) example of the gravity-wave controversy as a confirmation of Rorty's formulation that: "no interesting epistemological difference could be identified between the pursuit of knowledge and the pursuit of power." (36) Science is constructed.

As it is constructed by humans situated within unique social realities, scientific inquiry will result in "homologies between the structure of knowledge and the structure of society", meaning that scientists "will be literally rediscovering or redescribing the structure of their society in their test-tubes and cloud chambers." (38) Scientists "are also involved in processes of selective ironization and reification as they assemble an account" (39).

I'm thinking it might be a good idea to delve into the history of efficacy studies in CALL and link it up to
Potter's argument on interest theory.....

Lego Therapy for Undergrads!

Now THIS is a midterm.

#BSawhill needs to be cloned and injected into about 5 or 6 disciplines that I can think of off the top of my head...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Literature Review: To ti or not to ti?

I'm torn.

I have to admit to LOVING having scanned everything I am reading for lit. review / dissertation. Using Acrobat, I can highlight, add notes, have searchable text, and my scribblings can be immortalized in my PDF and tucked away nicely in Mendeley, searchable and all!


I can't really synthesize anything beyond that, which I find VERY annoying. There is no way I am going to keep links I saw, gaps I realized, etc. straight in my dysfunctional brain.

I am going to credit J.L. for giving me the novel-to-me thought of the potential of using Atlas.ti for facilitating the lit. review process. I don't remember whether she was explicit about it or whether I just noticed it as she was taking us through her data, but it led me to feed "literature review in atlas.ti" into the gaping jaws of the Google, which then gave me this article straight from Atlas.ti, as well as this PDF on using NVIVO for the lit. review. I agree with the premise that the act of formulating arguments and research questions from a body of literature mirrors the qualitative data analysis process. You read, reflect, and  interact with the literature, identify themes, compare and contrast ideas and strands from different works, and construct arguments with links to supporting evidence in the literature. What's not to love?

Thinking that I had just made my life infinitely easier, I plugged a PDF into Atlas.ti. I was excited when I saw my highlights made in Acrobat show up on the PDF in Atlas.ti...then less excited when I noticed that my embedded notes did not make the cut on the import. Then, I got to thinking about all of this wonderful mental light that would play colorfully upon these documents, and how I was going to save it in something like Mendeley...Holy qualitative quandry, how AM I going to export ANY of this into something durable?

Now what do I do?
What would you do?
What do you think?

Monday, March 14, 2011

J'aime la groupie du technologue

I am fortunate beyond words. Ma chérie amour is not just out of my league, but my galaxy. There's a Michel berger song for that:


I have gone from thinking "mais Dieu que cette fille prend des risques...amoureuse d'un égoïste" to realizing that "elle m'aime, elle m'adore. Plus que tout elle m'aime, c'est beau comme elle m'aime." I know that "elle me suivrait jusqu'en enfer et même l'enfer, c'est pas grand-chose". I look at the track of 15 years and learning how to dance everything from a pas de deux to a pas de neuf, and I can't wait to see that the next 35 bring!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Exercises de style...version 80s


Look at me, you never look at me,
Ooh, I've been sitting, staring, seems so long.
But you're looking through me
Like I wasn't here at all.
No reply, there's no reply at all.


If I looked all over the world
And there's ev'ry type of girl
But your empty eyes seem to pass me by
And leave me dancin' with myself.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Saldaña 4-5

Resonant Saldaña quotes in 4-5:

"Second Cycle coding methods, if needed, are advanced ways of reorganizing and reanalyzing data coded through First Cycle methods." (So when would second cycle coding NOT be needed?)

"Pattern Coding develops the "meta-code" -the category label that identifies similarly coded data. Pattern Codes not only organize the corpus but attempt to attribute meaning to that organization."

"Sometimes we become overwhelmed by the magnitude ofour studies and thus need to intentionally focus the parameters of our investigation in progress to find its core. Forcing yourself to select a limited number of various ideas that have emerged from your study encourages you to prioritize the multiple observations and reflect on their essential meanings."

Codeweaving "as a heuristic to explore the possible and plausible interaction and interplay of your major codes."

" assured that discussing one thing at a time keeps you focused as a writer, and keeps us focused as readers. After you've discussed each element separately, then you can begin your reflections on how these items may connect and weave complexly together."

Monday, February 28, 2011

More Saldaña

Saldaña, Jonny (2009). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. London: Sage. (chs. 1 and 2)

I liked Saldaña's description of the "reverberative nature of coding"...the idea that "the qualitative analytic process is cyclical rather than linear." (45) I liked that Saldaña embraces almost a play with coding but at the same time eschews "employing too many methods for one study (such as ten First Cycle coding methods) or integrating incompatible methods." (47)

Is this why I am having trouble with coding? Saldaña mentions that "some research genres, such as discourse analysis, may not employ coding at all but rely instead on detailed transcription notation and extensive analytic memos about the data", yet I think that even DA and CA folk would admit to coding, would they not? Perhaps for different reasons and as a means to zero in on things, perhaps?

And I CAN "develop new or hybrid coding methods or adapt existing schemes, customized to suit the unique needs and disciplinary concerns of [my] study. (60) But perhaps when I get my "sea legs".

Perhaps now just a few shout-outs for what I liked/thought made sense. We could work on any of these I liked...not so much the ones toward the end of First Cycle:



  • Grammatical Methods
    • Attribute Coding (as a management technique as Saldaña suggests)
  • Elemental Methods (many seem to come fron GT)
    • Structural Coding (because if you have a structure to apply, this would make a versatile template, no?)
    • Descriptive Coding (easy to conflate these two...I may use them too interchangeably, but I think the essence behind them is a good template for any similar approach)
    • In Vivo Coding...was shocked last semester to see that this sprung from GT, because I felt it liberating to use in ethnography.
  • Affective Methods (for the most part I am uncomfortable with these because I think they are too tricky to use...ethically is not the word I want, but effectively as a good researcher, but I find that...)
    • Versus Coding (may be useful for DP because you can identify discourse that form mutually exclusive divisions, the necessary binaries for the type of deconstruction DP is good at.)
  • Literary and Language Methods (not feeling anything here)
  • Exploratory Methods (I thought maybe Holistic Coding, but the others seem so quantitative to me, I decided to stick to the elementals...
  • Procedural Methods (Procedural coding methods are prescriptive. 'nuff said.)



"advanced ways of reorganizing and reanalyzing data coded through First Cycle methods"

  • Pattern Coding ("They are a sort of meta-code." Could be used to discuss what discourse is doing. Could be helpful!)


Helpful nuggets of wisdom from Saldaña:

The "top ten" list: would thiese be what I ultimately "go Jeffersonian" on?

"If you find yourself unable to start at the beginning, then begin with the conclusion"

"You can't see the frame when you're in the picture."





Brise Marine

«Brise marine»...still works. Books may look different, as do lamps and what paper gets defined as nowadays, but the sentiment still holds, even if it morphs some and has much different targets for Mallarmé's readers than for Mallarmé. This part especially resonates with me tonight:

La chair est triste, hélas ! et j'ai lu tous les livres.
Fuir ! là-bas fuir! Je sens que des oiseaux sont ivres
D'être parmi l'écume inconnue et les cieux !
Rien, ni les vieux jardins reflétés par les yeux
Ne retiendra ce coeur qui dans la mer se trempe
Ô nuits ! ni la clarté déserte de ma «lampe»
Sur le vide «papier» que la blancheur défend...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Saldaña ▒ Codes and Analytic Memos

Saldaña, Jonny (2009). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. London: Sage. (chs. 1 and 2)
Ochs, E. (1979). Transcription as theory.  In E. Ochs & B. Schieffelin (Eds.), Developmental Pragmatics.  New York: Academic Press.
Barron, P. (2010). Four principles of using digital tools to assist humanities research. Retrieved from

I appreicate the fact that Saldaña spells out, deductively and up-front, what his book is and isn't. To me, it is a "repertoire of coding methods in broad brushstrokes" (1) that doesn't hurt to read just to see what the possibilities are. You know, sometimes theories resonate with you and it inspires you to study associated methods in detail, sometimes methods resonate with you and it inspires you to study associated theories in detail. I like that he intends to purposely juxtapose coding methods "to illustrate and highlight the diverse opinions among scholars in the field." (2)

Saldaña gets right to the point and defines the basic unit of his book: "A code in qualitative inquiry is most often a word or short phrase that symbolically assigns a summative, salient, essence-capturing, and/or evocative attribute for a portion of language-based or visual data." (3) When you realize that those attributes are assigned by you, the researcher, it becomes easier to see that data transcription/analysis really is theory generation (Ochs 1979). I appreciate the fact that he defines, then gives several concrete examples from different general approaches to the coding process, and then channels Charmaz to explain why we can't conflate codes and are the bones, categories are the starting work in assembling "those bones into a working skeleton" (8), from which will eventually spring themes and theory.
It sounds like we get (have) to code everything, but that as one becomes seasoned, it becomes easier to decide for oneself what can be overlooked. I'm thinking of this as "I know the tell-tale signs of what I'm interested in observing, so that's what I look for", which I get, but does that not stultify your research at some point? How do you keep research fresh and exciting if you are not looking for new things to resonate with you, or is this an admission that you know what will resonate with you, so if you don't see that, you move on?

How would I know? I'm a n00b...

I appreciate the walk through manual and CAQDAS coding (wish I would have seen that elsewhere...). And the attributes! Although, I almost wish the first attribute would have been better explained:
  • organization: It frustrates me that he defines organization ("a set of disciplined skills that can be learned and cultivated as habits", p. 28) but, unlike when he defined coding, he offers no concrete examples! What skills? Am I missing all/some/any? I mean, I get that one "will
    ...encounter and manipulate many pages of paper in qualitative work
    " and that even CAQDAS programs only go so far, but after laying the heavy on us, his advice is to "[d]ate and
    label all incoming data and keep multiple digital and hard copies as backup
    "? It's a sad day when I have to dig into advice from digital HUMANITIES research to find solace! A recent post from Phillip Barron discusses the more important skill of learning to SEARCH, and that in fact it is increasingly more important than organizational skills, because "[k]eeping your work organized is a valuable skill, but at some point in your research, you are working on a project that is too large to hold in your head." So, "if you have been tagging information all along the way, then you have a way to search through your own stuff." Developing a strong sense of your own folksonomy seems to me a much more valuable way to burn brain cells than the traditional sense of "organization" because, as Barron (correctly, IMHO) points out, "I don’t know about you, but I am never going to remember that a pdf from JSTOR with the filename [dateauthorsmalltag.pdf] is an article on gender discrimination in the death penalty". When looking the data tsunami (Barron channeling Blatecky, not mine...I wish, though!) of a dissertation head-on, tagging and searching skills look a lot more life-saving than organizational skills. Of course, maybe that's what Saldaña was thinking of when he mentioned it. Too bad I'll never know.
  • perseverance: No kidding! When one is looking at the prospect of having to eat an elephant, it's perhaps not eating the elephant that seems daunting, but the prospect that you'll be eating elephant omelettes, elephant stew, elephant fricassee, elephant goulash (you get the idea) day in and day out for months. I have no suggestions, I'm hoping you do.
  • ambiguity: One of Trena's mantra. I'm OK with this.
  • flexibility: You know, I think this goes hand-in-hand with ambiguity. How can one cope with ambiguity if one is not flexible?

I LOVE Saldaña's description of analytic memos...It's where you get reflecive about your data and analyses, codes being "a prompt or trigger for written reflection on the deeper and complex meanings it evokes." (32). He then goes into detail on a few scenarios that he then gives examples for, mentioning that this process will also "generate codes and categories" (41).

Monday, February 14, 2011

Putting the Finish on Grbich

Grbich, C. (2007). Qualitative data analysis: An introduction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Chs, 14-17.

Grbich, C. (1998) Computing packages for qualitative data measurement: what is their real impact? Australian Journal of Primary Health - Interchange 4 (3): 98-104.

I'm definitely a "theory generation" type of person...theory directing seems a bit too "old-school" for me. Grbich's explanation resonated with me:"where you draw a range of 'theories' from the literature and from available theoretical ideas of relevance. Some of these will fall by the wayside as their explanatory power cannot be sustained in view of your research findings, while you may combine others with what is emerging from the data to form the basis for new theoretical explanations and models of practice." (186)

I was less impressed with the folksonomy she uses to discuss theory and its levels, but the small blurbs on different approaches to theory generation was nice.

I really don't know what to say about "Incorporating Data from Multiple Sources". It just rings false to me. If you have more or less subscribed to the notion that quantitative research in educational psychology places an emphasis on absolutely decontextualized cognitive states and appraisals at the expense of the interactive context in which cognition occurs, and then has the unmitigated gall to pass itself off as somehow more objective, scientific (see: superior), any talk of mixed methods sounds like a request to adulterate your otherwise pristine foray into ambiguity. I'm willing to be convinced otherwise.

I enjoyed the list and description of available display options Grbich put into Chapter 16. I can see referring to that while dissertating to see what would be the best fit for something I wanted to display.

Chapter 17...what to say about Chapter 17? At first, I was thinking that it simply was a bit too "SouthPacific-centric" for my sensibilities...and I still think that way about the layout of the software, most of which I either don't recognize or recognize as being out of date...which a simple nod to a group like the CAQDAS project and mention of some of the programs with staying power would have corrected. But then I noticed in the "concerns" section that (as some of my neighbors might say) Grbich has a dog in this hunt! (see 231) Was this whole thing just a straw-man argument?

Under the general concept of "tools constructed for a particular program must inevitably impact upon the data" (230), Grbich then opens up a five-page salvo (which, to my remembering, she has done nowhere else in this book) on CAQDAS programs, with volleys on the "framing" of knowledge (as if all knowledge wasn't framed), the "texturing" of reality (as if all reality wasn't textured) and its impact on knowledge, the "unnatural" structuring of collaborative communication in CAQDAS programs (as if there was a "natural" communicative structure) and, OMGG, REIFICATION (which she likely says with the same tone of voice as SINGULARITY). She then gives voice (minimally disturbed, I'm sure) to several researchers for a pastiched gripe session she frames as "users' comments".

If you look up her article, she at least admits that all data sets are disturbed by collection and framing, but that computer framing takes it up a notch by adding an additional frame embedded in the metaphors and ideology of the program. The SCT folk would call this "cultures of use", which they argue have existed in all technology from time immemorial, but of course, since we're talking about computers, and since Grbich might have a blind spot to SCT herself, all of the sudden CAQDAS framing is diametrically opposed to the center of a qualitative community of inquiry which values context, thick description and conveyance of participant voice..."minimally disturbed".

At this point I was having only a Tums moment. But then Grbich had to go and get shrill: "The way knowledge is constructed in our society is important, as is the hege­mony of logic which determines which statements become knowledge. As human beings we have the capacity to create an inner representation of life which is multidimensional, complex and characterised by spontaneous reflexive actions. Processes involving segmenting and ordering data "ave the capacity to distance us as researchers, to limit perspectives, and to favour outcomes of homogenisation and standardisation. The tyranny of a system, however useful, which has the capacity to direct and simplify the construction of the views of researchers and ultimately those of readers, will thus always be problematic."

Excuse me, I need to go grab some

Monday, February 7, 2011

Grbich 8-13

Grbich, C. (2007). Qualitative data analysis: An introduction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Chs, 3-7

Aarseth, Espen J. (1997). Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Chapter 8: Content Analysis of Texts
I know that this kind of research would not necessarily be offensive to some flavors of grounded theory, but I can't help thinking to myself that this isn't REALLY qualitative research. If I have to know Cohen's kappa to do my research, then...I'm not doing qualitative research.

Chapter 9: Narrative Analysis
I found this to be an interesting and somewhat amusing read...perhaps a bit anachronistic. To say that "[t]he definition of what constitutes a narrative and how it should be treated has shifted and polarised over the past half century" (p. 125) and then to split that down structuralist/post-structuralist lines is soooo 20th-century. Of course, I'm sure that proponents of narrative analysis really don't want to deal with anything too recent, because they're in a sort of "death-match" with ludology right now. The narratologists want you to think that reading games as narrative is the thing to do, but I'm seduced by the thought that “to claim there is no difference between games and narratives is to ignore essential qualities of both categories.” (Aarseth 1997) I got a chance to listen to Espen Aarseth when he was here, and have pretty much abandoned narrative analysis as a viable tool for virtual world research. I sometimes have to think hard about if/how/when I would ever use "ludology" as an analytic tool, but they certainly do a good job of deconstructing narrative analysis to the point where you no longer have a taste for it. And yes, I get the irony that I've glommed onto a post-structural feature of ludology while pooh-poohing the binarity.

I had to chuckle when Grbich defined narrative. A nice slap in the face (albeit indirect) to the ludologists:

"How can we define a narrative? It is evident that the term can cover a wide variety of textual possibilities from fairy tales, myths and legends, paintings, movies, books and journalistic articles to personal autobiography, but not, however, instructions regarding how to do things." (p. 125, emphasis mine)

Chapter 10: Conversation Analysis
I'm not going to rehash much of what has been hashed on this blog over and over the past 3 years or so. I love CA. Gail Jefferson is not the be-all-end-all, just the base from which something else can spring, especially if you are doing anything multimodal. I like Shawn Rowe and Elinor Ochs. This type of transcription is not for the faint-of-heart, nor is it for those who easily decompose from listening to/watching the same 10 seconds over and over for an hour. Transcription IS analysis. Analysis IS transcription...

I was encouraged that Grbich at least made a nod to multimodality on 143-144.

Chapter 11: Discourse Analysis
Trena might remember how bent out of shape some of us got when we found out that our Discourse Analysis class was really a "cover" for a class on Discursive Psychology. It turned out to be the right call (for me at least, thankyouverymuchTrena), but I get just as steamed when it's something I like (say...Foucauldian) that gets virtually passed off as the whole. Yes, she does mention in the key points that DA "spans a broad field from formal linguistic approaches through Foucauldian analyses to cultural and communication studies approaches", and some of her passing examples point to it, but I just don't think it would hurt to have a small blurb on some major strains and how they me unreasonable.

This chapter would give you the impression that the limitations of Foucauldian analysis are the limitations of discourse analysis, when there is such a thing as feminist DA and critical DA. Seriously, Trena, if you had to write a NON-ENCYCLOPEDIC overview of DA, would it only be 8.5 pages long?

Maybe Trena needs to write a qual. book...

Chapter 12: Visual Interpretation
This is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. Small blurbs on major strains with examples. Brilliant. BTW...I highly recommend the Pink text...very compelling...especially the chapter where she raises awareness about the ethics involved in doing a visual certainly makes one think!

Chapter 13: Semiotic Structural and Poststructural Analyses
Semiotics is the one area where I think an understanding of structural/poststructural underpinnings is critical. How can one understand Derridian semiotics if one does not first understand Saussure and that history? I'm also convinced that it's hard to do certain types of analysis -- like discursive psychology or certain flavors of visual interpretation -- without understanding Derrida. But then, I'm from "across the street".

And I always dislike the criticisms...

"the deconstruction of the deconstructed text...can very quickly lead to meaninglessness." (180)
"The lack of finite conclusions through the constant deferral of meaning also presents difficulties in terms of evaluation and policy decisions."(180)
True dat.
Are you done?
Your statements are informed...(recite the mantra and stick in the appropriate vocabulary while pouring yourself another bowl of Foucault Flakes)...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Facebook: The New Symbolism?

Facebook est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L'homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l'observent avec des regards familiers.

shameless appropriation of Baudelaire's Correspondances

Catching up on my blog reading gaps, I unearthed an awesome piece from danah boyd on social steganography. I think many (if not most), people do this...a lot. I've done it on FB and on the blog. Different communities attach different meanings to different snippets of pop culture. You could throw up a reference and a YouTube video and be directly addressing 1, 2, even 3 of your several discourse communities. If someone is able to consistently decipher the message of a particular discourse "channel" they are welcome into the community. If not, tant pis.

Do you find yourself doing this at all? I personally find it to be a more entertaining and even easier way to channel messages than messing with Privacy settings.....

Dad Loves His Family

I fell upon my favorite duet this week:

I always imagine the story behind it to be heartwrenching. It was written for Betsy Asher, the wife of the album's producer, Peter Asher. They were apparently in the throes of an ugly divorce, and the song was meant to convey Betsy's emotional vulnerability during this time. But you have to remember that JT and JD were also in the throes of ugly breakups . So you essentially have three guys producing a song that had to be like constantly picking at painful emotional scabs. Painfully cathartic, perhaps. But painful nonetheless.

I can only fathom what is going through JD's mind about the "Faithless Love" of Linda Ronstadt as he is singing this song. I think JT's story is even sadder for me. I'd like to think that he saw his music as medicine. He married someone who loved music. But when you have a family, you no longer live in a vacuum (not that you ever did, but families will make that more pronounced). Carly Simon seems to have chosen to sacrifice supernova status, to settle for being a star, and to spend time with her family. She was understandably upset with JT for placing a priority on the work of the music career, as opposed to spending time with the family. She gave him an ultimatum: cut back on the work, or it's over.

I can only imagine what a wrenching decision this was for him! If your experience is that your well-being is wrapped up in a particular flavor of creativity, then any choice you make is going to be painful. His ultimate answer was in the title of the album: Dad Loves His Work. A year later, she got the house and the garden, he got the boys in the band...

I'm just the opposite. While such a decision would be likely just as painful (because I love what I do) I would boot it all to the curb to keep the family, because my experience is that my well-being is wrapped up in the creativity I make, find and foster at home.

Of course, no one wants to make that decision if they can avoid it. As a result, there have been and continue to be sacrifices to afford me the opportunity to fulfill some part of my reason for being. But those sacrifices go both ways...fortunately, technology has allowed me to make those tradeoffs easier to bear and manage. But that is a part of my life that I never get to shut off, and that is an arrangement that I have made.

I respect people that make the conscious choice to compartmentalize their lives. I have made a conscious choice not to be able to compartmentalize mine as much, and during times of major life events, I commit all sorts of breaches of etiquette, and might even come off as downright impolitic at times. But the most important discourse community I belong to knows that they are the most important discourse community. Let the consequences follow....

Monday, January 31, 2011

Cognitive Dissonance, and Thoughts on Grbich 3-7

Grbich, C. (2007). Qualitative data analysis: An introduction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Chs, 3-7

Did anyone catch the introduction to Part Two? Grbich is now the second person I've heard espouse something close to the "spotlight theory" I described earlier, which (to my ears) sounds diametrically opposed to what we're discussing as a group:

"Although these procedures have a strong historical attachment to the design approaches within which they originated, they are flexible entities and can be lifted out, used and adapted to suit the needs of individual researchers in order to illuminate particular aspects of a research question." (p. 37)

Why does it sound in my mind like turfishness is being espoused in class, but then we read people like Grbich saying that "it is most appropriate that you hunt through the tools and procedures available to find the best one for the job at hand and, where none quite fits, to adapt several in order to provide answers to your research question"(p. 37)?

Is turfishness something endemic to certain approaches? And should those warning voices be ignored? I mean, I get that "as most analytical approaches have been strongly linked to particular forms of data collection and may also be underpinned by specific epistemological and conceptual or theoretical underpinnings, you will need to know what it is you are adapting in order to see more clearly what limitations and advantages may eventuate" (p. 37), but that doesn't make it impossible or even undesirable, does it?

This obviously needs to be the focus of some of my energies this semester, since I think that discursive psychology and cultural-historical activity theory can be blended in a way that will beneift my research. Maybe. Hopefully.

Classical Ethnographic Approaches / Newer Ethnographic Approaches

Understandably, these chapters don't even scratch the surface of the myriad approaches ethnography takes/wants to take. It's no wonder that I get the sense that all qualitative research (and some of the quantitative, too) is ethnography to ethnographers. Seriously. Phemonenology gets interpreted as a particular flavor of event analysis, discourse analysis is a fancy term for linguistic ethnography, etc. etc. I took the first half of Allison's year-long ethnography course just to see what all of the fuss was about. I wish I could have stayed for the entire year, if for no other reason than to be able to talk to ethnographers, not at or past them. I got exposed to a couple dozen ethnographic lenses (no kidding). If you think this is an avenue, I would suggest the class. These chapters will seem even more cursory than they are.

Grounded Theory

I really didn't like this section...I thought that the intro book (Creswell) Trena used when I took it did a better job walking through GT, or maybe it was Trena, I forget. I mean, Grbich does a fine job depicting the Glaserian / Straussian schism in GT, and even walks through some alternatives that I have not encountered. But I don't know how you talk about GT and not talk about the constructivist grounded theory of Charmaz or the situational analysis of Clarke, both of which have emerged as THE major alternatives to Glaser and Strauss.


I have to admit that it is hard for me to conceptualize "doing" phenomenology, and not for the standard/obvious reasons. When I was learning the concepts of phenomenology through some of Sartre's "nauseated" characters like Roquentin, I was trained to look at how Roquentin (or his reader) was able to recognize "bracketing" as a socially-imposed construct, and the effects of ignoring or "unbracketing" things. Good times...I just have a hard time telling myself to go in the opposite direction, and why I would want to. But I am intrigued by the idea that the term lifeworld (Grbich defines as mundane daily occurrences...I prefer Husserl's world of immediate experience) springs from phenomenology, because I am noticing the term pop up at conferences now, and attached to projects that I would not think were phenomenological on their face. Might be worth a look-see....

Feminist Research

So far, this chapter seems WAY out of place. It's like we have had this wide-angle shot of all of these general theories, then we get a jarring zoom shot of a flavor of critical theory. It would have made more sense, IMHO, to have a section on critical theory, then to do a fly-over of critical race theory, critical gender theory (which would include critical feminist theory), etc. If the intention was to highlight one as an ensign for all, then just say so. I suspect that Grbich just knows a lot about critical feminist theory and felt compelled to include it, perhaps not realizing that omitting everything else would look eye-soreish to some. And don't tell me that feminist research doesn't have to be critical, that she may not even be going there. I may even agree that feminist research doesn't have to be critical, but that is NOT how Grbich is framing it (p. 96):

... there is inequality in our society which has been constructed along gender lines and this has left women as a group unequal with and subordinated to men in terms of socio-economic status and decision making power. Structural and cultural expectations and practices continue to reinforce these inequalities...current modes of knowledge disadvantage women by devaluing their ways of knowing and their forms of knowledge construction....highlighting the experiences of women through research and allowing their voices to be heard may go some way to making these inequalities more widely recognised and may also encourage political action to redress oppressive practices.

Which analysis approach to try?

I suppose that "ask me next week, when we get to discourse/conversation analysis" isn't an option...So...I guess it depends on whether we are trying to practice on something we know, or trying out something we don't, just to see....I like the appeal of the latter. It would be nice to "hook up" with others to try some of these out. I've been doing GT and ethnography, so I'm not terribly concerned/interested with those. I'd like to play around with phenomenology, but I'd like to work with KF, who has been doing it and could ge me a sense of the "rhythm" of doing phenomenology. I wouldn't know what to do if you just told me to go "do phenomenology" with the sample interview data...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We need more banners banning "banners" (aka RTB likes debunking myth)

You would think we were talking about contraband or something. You can't carry them on UK aircraft, coffee shops are starting to discourage them, and college campuses more or less require their use but their faculty show little more than contempt for them. Laptops and other wireless devices are great tools for students to retain information and recover information for just-in-time use in the classroom, or an avenue to express opinion when that expression is not possible or discouraged in the classroom. Why are many faculty against their use in the classroom?

Ask them and they'll usually give you a one-word answer: abuse. They caught an unsuspecting soul on GMail or Facebook or eBay and feel the urge to save students from themselves. For the most part, I suspect that these students are saving themselves from Death by Formal Pedagogy, but that is a subject for another post. Please do us all a favor, take some Latin and infuse this maxim into your souls: Ex abusu non arguitur in usum...Students have virtual lives, it is infused into everything they do, and universities actually encourage it...don't think for a second that they will happily leave their virtual lives at the door of your classroom just because you have a problem with it.

More nuanced, tolerant yet concerned faculty at least have legitimate concerns of distraction and engagement. They'll tell you stories (is that not what anecdotes are?) of their personal encounters with distraction and engagement...the most recent tale I've been regaled with was about how maintaining eye contact is vital to good relationships in a class, and how this enables you to have effective discussions with others. This line of reasoning suggests that effective discussions and good relationships are not easily had without eye contact, and insinuates that laptops, by stealing your gaze, actually make you a less effective discussant.

Being an on-again, off-again adherent to the idea that the plural of anecdote is not spelled d-a-t-a, I decided to do some very cursory digging. Turns out that data might suggest that "laptop students" demonstrate higher participation,learning interest, motivation and pressure to perform than their laptop-challenged counterparts. (Trimmel & Bachmann, 2004) Furthermore, their creativity, social intelligence and mental stress were no better or worse than the pen-and-paper set. And while I've yet to find anything directly salient to the concept of gaze and communication, I did find some information that suggests that this view of communication might be...for lack of a better term...sexist.

There is a growing body of work that looks at the persistence of nonverbal social norms on virtual worlds. Nick Yee's "The Unbearable Likeness of Being Digital" discusses gaze and interpersonal distance (IPD) in both physical and virtual worlds. The literature review suggests that previous research has demonstrated gender differences in mutual gaze in the physical world. In particular, female/female dyads are more likely to exhibit mutual gaze than male-male dyads and mixed dyads. And males seem to have larger IPDs than females, with male-male dyads having the largest IPD, and female-female dyads having the smallest IPD. This is all superfluous until you get 5-10 students and 1 professor around a seminar discussion table. In comes the Equilibrium Theory, where research has shown that there is a harmony between gaze and IPD. The closer we are put to each other, the more we avert our gaze to return to that equilibrium state. Given that the average IPD is 12 feet, with males trending larger and females trending smaller, taking away laptops is likely to have no effect on male students (and generally annoy them if they're IT Ph.D. students)

However, being ever-at-the-ready to extend the hand of compromise, I am toying with the idea of doing my part of breaking the "wall of laptops" by stowing mine away...and pulling out my iPad... >:-)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Philosophical Foundations

  • Crotty, M. (1998). Introduction: the research process (Chapter 1) and Positivism: the march of science (Chapter 2). In The foundations of social science research: Meaning and perspective in the research process. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Grbich, C. (2007). Qualitative data analysis: An introduction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. 1/2
  • Willis, J.W.(2007). World views, paradigms and the practice of social science research (Chapter 1). In Foundations of Qualitative Research: Interpretive and Critical Approaches (pp. 1-26). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Pretty standard introduction(s) to the flow from ontology/epistemology to theory, methodology and methods. I'm not sure if the quantity was helpful...I'm thinking you should find one that resonates rather than take them all in. My $0.02.

I personally find it helpful to see the flow from epistemology to praxis, and not research praxis, the REAL praxis...we are educators, after all. Oddly enough, it sometimes helps me to better understand the research orientations. This comes from page 54 of Reiser and Dempsey's Trends and Issues in Instructional Technology (2007):

Now, Grbich talks about how "some design types occur in more than one tradition, while combinations of design approaches and traditions of inquiry can occur in the same study." This sounds a lot like what I've heard from a prominent ethnographer...the idea that methods are like spotlights trained on a problem...more spotlights are always better. And yet, methods seem to be the most "turfish" things...discursive psychology would want nothing to do with phenomenology, phenomenologists might cringe at critical methodologies. So, someone has some 'splainin' to do.....

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Mac App Store is Ruining My Life, or "I Want My Prezi on My iPad...NOW!"

Recently, I got all excited about a geek-out morning I was going to have at home...I was going to finally update my MacBook Pro to include the Mac App Store, and I was going to put Prezi on my iPad! I mean, look at this!:

But first, the Mac App Store, then the creshendo to PREZI...

So, MacApp Store downloads like a charm...I download a few free apps. Like my iPod Touch, I provide my Apple ID to download said free apps. then the kids wake up, so I leave my computer to take care of breakfast so I can return to finish up and move on.

...I return, and my 3-going-on-18-y.o.-mix-between-Tim-Tebow-and-Sheldon-Cooper son, Simon, is on my computer, gleefully purchasing software! Forty dollars worth, to be exact. Worse that I already own.

I know it is a long shot, but I decide to open a complaint with PayPal, in the hopes of getting Apple to show some mercy, and perhaps to take to heart a couple of my suggestions. I understand the draw to have your Apple Account always on with your iPod Touch or can close them, put them away if needs be, and then whip them out and be downloading in seconds. But I had just learned the hard way that this may not be the best of ideas for a desktop computer... that perhaps Apple might add an extra layer of security (or at least have the option available) for those of us with kids that can secret away cell phones to call Shanghai or install most of a Sesame Street game on a momentarily unattended computer without assistance.

Of course, this epistle takes the time I would have spent downloading and playing with "PRRRRRREZI FOR THE IIIIIPAAAAAAD", so I have to wistfully pine away until the following week, when I can carve out some time at work to play with it.

The time FINALLY arrived, and I prepared myself for Prezi nirvana. I opened the App Store on my iPad, hit the chartreuse INSTALL button on the Prezi app page, and plugged in my Apple ID. The wait seemed eternal, but finally, there was some motion on the screen...

"Your Apple ID has been disabled."

It was like Richard Collier looking at the anachronistic penny that sealed his fate to never again see Elise McKenna.

Email: no luck.
Phone: So very sorry to not be able to assist me.

I'm trying again today, hoping against all hopes to reach someone in Cupertino. Only Cupertino can save me now.

How about a fresh cup of hypocrisy to start the day?

Civil discourse, indeed:

Politicians could at least feign effort. They make this too easy.

It's like shooting fish in a barrel.
It's like taking candy from a baby.
They leave themselves wide open for potshots.

You all live in glass houses, okay? Enough said.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Reflections on Becoming a Qualitative Researcher I: Lovitts

Lovitts, B.E. (2005). Being a good course-taker is not enough: a theoretical perspective on the transition to independent research.Studies in Higher Education30(2), 137-154.

Killing for recognition: Perhaps this rankles because Tucson and the mundanity of shrill rhetoric from all corners of life got under my skin this week, perhaps it is the perceived and unspoken need of scholars in the social sciences to pathologize the nonpathological. Did Lovitts feel this was needed to grab my attention? Did it add anything to the strength of the argument? Or does it actually harm more than help? I can already tell I'm going to have to compartmentalize this section so that it doesn't cloud how I take in the rest of the article. This introduction, however a propos, seems gratuitous.

Introduction: This all sounds about right, and I know that Trena and I have had discussion if not discussions about this very phenomenon. It happens to the best of us...and I speak from experience. I don't think every instance of non-completion can simply be attributed to this, but I think the article touches on other areas that suggest other reasons that are more nuanced. Coming at this from a praxiological lens, I always wonder where teaching, course-making ends up in these discussions. Many of "us" come from the teaching ranks, thinking that the doctoral education will enable us to learn how to better stand as an alma mater to our students. Well, if "the central purpose of doctoral education is to prepare a student for a lifetime of intellectual inquiry that manifests itself in creative scholarship and research" (138), how does this translate to praxis unless our research and scholarship deals with the scholarship of teaching?

The nature of the critical transition: Did 140 speak volumes..."The little research that exists on the transition to independent research indicates that the transition is affected by programme organization and structure...some transitions are ‘highly structured, with clear benchmarks; others are more informal with loose or shifting criteria'." It would be interesting to see how those working in qualitative research fare...hard to say. I'd like to think that, being drawn to a type of research where one becomes comfortable operating with high amounts of ambiguity would tend to make this group as a whole more successful. But I could see where the failure rate is even higher due to the more informal nature....

What is creativity?:It "inheres in the relationship the individual has with the domain and its gatekeepers."...So it really IS who you know...otherwise, how would you stumble upon "graduate faculty’s implicit standards" that are critical "to help guide students to higher levels of performance" ? And here is another thought that hit me as very true, especially given my experiences as of late: "graduate students and their work should be judged relative to the student’s capabilities and not a universal standard...a student’s ability to produce a dissertation that establishes a new conceptual framework is often a function of the state of the domain at the time the student is in graduate school." I think that if you happen to be in the right place at the right time reading the right become a rock star. Research and scholarship as surfing: someone with equal or superior intelligence that hits the stage when a wave has already crested is left to make do, and try as one might, will never be as cool as the mediocre hipster who fell upon the monster wave.

Six resources for creativity and their role in graduate education: I fixated on the section concerning intelligence, and particularly the idea that "everyone has a combination of three types of intelligence: analytical, creative and practical." (143) If we agree that there is an "overemphasis on analytical intelligence in primary and secondary education, and even undergraduate education" (144), then this would be an appropriate place to begin is nonsensical to think that a doctor would recommend a triathlon to someone with monster arm muscles but atrophic leg and core least not without a protracted and intense relationship with a physical therapist coming first to bring all required muscles up to a par for the demands of a triathlon. Bad analogy perhaps, but does it not seem that society values analytic intelligence to the detriment of the others, then laments over the the fail rate of Ph.D. programs, and wants to pathologize the student instead of the system?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jogging for paranoiacs!

I happen to live in a subdivision where the roundtrip distance between my house and one backroad outlet is exactly 5K, and the roundtrip distance between my house and the second backroad outlet is exactly 10K. There are hills, inclines, it's away from the hustle and bustle of the city...makes for a perfect run, right?

Yeah, if I had a death wish. In the day, you have to leave one ear out of the music zone to protect yourself from crazy inattentive drivers who are absolutely positive they are the only ones out on that road. Night? Just add to the aforementioned the need to light yourself up like a Christmas tree, which invites a whole different set of problems stemming from attracting the local fauna to yourself.

FINALLY it looks like someone is reading my mind. Looks like Panasonic and Nordic track are hooking up to give me the scenery and workout variation without courting danger:

It looks like they are using the 3D and Street View power of Google Earth for eye candy, while adjusting the intensity of the treadmill to match your chosen terrain.

Sure, I wouldn't be able to virtually run my route (Google's Street View people zipped right past my neighborhood, apparently), but I think running circles around the Arc de Triomphe is an acceptable second....