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....