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....