Sunday, October 31, 2010
“Making the Most of Your Video Trends in Patron Access and Resource Sharing” by Barbara J Bergman.
She used survey method for her research study. The steps and principles that she used for her study is very practical. Although this research is more towards academic libraries but her approach to find solutions for circulating the video collection could be used in any libraries. This research study made me to think about the methodology of my own research.
By reading this article I realized that choosing the right research method is more important than choosing a few different methods. Because even by choosing one method you can find different ways to approach the subject matter in the research study. Therefore the findings will be in more details to support the research statement, and also more reliable for the future study of the same field.
I’ve chosen the ethnographic study on the role of the internet in social change in the Middle East to review, and I’m finding the explorations of different facets and applications of ethnography very interesting. Shaffir and Stebbin’s articles demystified some of the methodology, especially on the issues of personal preparation for working in the field, which my experience of the direct interview had brought well forward for me as I wrote in my previous post. I found Stebbin’s reminder that the researcher needs to have a credible level of competence in the area of study, and Shaffir’s discussion of the role that modifying oneself or even dissembling to some extent, might play in winning the confidence of the subjects of study (people!), especially notable. Whether the encounter is structured, semi-structured, or informal, I am now acutely aware of how much difference the researcher’s knowledge of context could make to the direction and depth of the Q and A process. Empathy also comes into it. Which is where participation can change the character of the interaction in some fundamental ways, as Boellstorff also emphasizes in his observation that while it’s impossible to fully observe and fully participate simultaneously, it’s in that paradox that the best connection can be made.
The van Dijk article’s exposition of critical discourse analysis and his dissection of how discourse control in policy debate functions to manage public views and the status quo in the maintenance of racism struck a particular chord with me. Derrrick Bell (Faces At the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism) has some amazing multi-layered and multi-disciplinary analyses in this area. Critical theory and many other theoretical approaches tell us that power relations are a fundamental aspect of social analysis; the role of racialization in those relations can hardly be exaggerated and would be especially important in ethnographic studies of a wide range of topics and contexts, yet discussion of its role has been so successfully discredited or otherwise discouraged that in my experience it’s rare outside of specific forums dedicated to that discussion.
|Now you see Trotsky standing next to the podium where Lenin is speaking...|
|Now you don't|
I am still finishing my reading of Knight, but in the meantime I have posted these two images after being inspired by the discussion on p.104. It is useful to consider why Trotsky was removed from the second pic (e.g. by whom and to what end?). This story is very revealing. Knight's comment that understanding the "context if production" and that "published images are carefully chosen and have been produced under certain constraints of creation [e.g. totalitarian regimes, my example] and the process of selection and editing helps researchers to attribute significance to the images" (104) is bang-on in my opinion and very insightful.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Homo sapiens have always been a technologically dependent species, and since the development of archeology, the technological extension of humankind has proven to be a fruitful way to interpret human culture and social relations. Is the ethnography of infrastructure not then, in essence, a continuation of this tradition? I suppose one key difference between the two children of anthropology (archeology and ethnography of infrastructure) is the focus on living versus past humans, which is a significant conceptual difference. However, the commonalities between the two in terms of their focus on technology and artifacts as the basis for interpreting human social life is too compelling to be ignored. Both the archeologist and ethnographer of infrastructure have a privileged detachment as researchers for examining social phenomenon (past and present). I will give two brief examples to illustrate my point:
First, artifacts from an aboriginal burial ground tell the archeologist a story of customs and rituals common to a tribe during a certain time-period. Second, the health care infrastructure in small-town Ontario tells the ethnographer of infrastructure a story of customs and rituals of physicians who need to cope with a lack of resources and networks. In both cases, and for arguments sake, those who are directly involved in the use of such technologies are less likely to produce a scientific account of their social implications. On the other hand, the ethnographer-archeologist is in a suitable position to examine such implications by means of the researcher’s own technological extension, namely the tools used for building an appropriate framework of analysis.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Basically Participant Observation (PO) is the main key for methods such as; focus groups and interviews. The requirements for these methods are based on the theory and questionnaires that the researcher is conducting. In order to build up our theory, it is important to look at the cultural aspect of the people who are being interviewed.
It is very true as I read this week articles that the PO must get close enough to the people of the study and yet be far enough to be able to analyze it.
In my research study I will find out about the community outreach/organizations and build up the practices and questions to discuss during focus groups and interviews.
These methods will be very useful in my research study because the programmes in the library is very much related to our community needs and interests.
This week I had an interview to do for INF1300. It was a sobering exercise. So easy to write, I’ll use this method and that method… reality is a bit more demanding. Even a one-on-one Q and A with someone you know, can surface a lot of issues about the process.
It’s a challenge to word questions without leading; to prompt without suggesting; to receive all answers with the same benign inscrutability that will (hopefully) disarm anxieties and neutralize any desire to give a more pleasing or less ignorant answer.. etc etc.
It’s a process that made me aware of how weighty the ethical issues are or can be. I didn’t find too much guidance on this in the readings for this week. But I can see that participant observation of any kind is going to be a many-layered challenge.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
By fixating our attention on the “validated” means for producing “acceptable” generalizations, I think we run the risk of overlooking a world of “truths” which can enlighten our sense of “social reality.” For example, if an oppressed South African living in jail during the apartheid era produces a journal of his experiences, I would not penalize his work for leaving out a discussion on methodology. If anything, a preoccupation with social science methods would, somewhat ironically, render obscure this important piece of “reality.” This example speaks to the attractiveness of post-colonial literature (as well as poetry, music etc.) as a source of “truth” in our complex world.
In other words, if we accept that Luker’s (and similar scholars) methods are highly westernized, then it is not unreasonable to claim that they affectively perpetuate a western mindset in our society (also consider the immense influence of the academy).This affect is not only a hindrance to our pursuit of knowledge, but can also be quite dangerous. Take for example the Jews from the Frankfurt School whose critical theory (note the lack of capitalization) rose from the oppression of Nazi Germany. Although society has progressed since his time, Foucault, whose thinking was also unconventional in this sense, was a homosexual. You get my point.
As a final note to close this tirade, I believe that often important “truths” are too personal or humanistic to be attained by conceptual “methods,” as much as the established order would steer us to believe.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
I really believe in what Luker says about “generalization”. The case of my research study began when I had some informal conversations with colleagues and staff at larger-sized public libraries and realized that this problem is general, therefore the audience for my research study will be far beyond our community.
Knight: Chapter 4 made me to consider all the different types of questionnaires; including rating scale questions for each programmes, semi-structured interviews with different groups in the community, and use q-sort to get a better understanding of adult groups beliefs and expectations.
I am not sure, but based on Annette Lareau school study, is sampling the same as comparison?
Friday, October 15, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
The workshop that Eleonore and Jennette organised last Friday on the Artlab approach gave us a good look at the actual workings of the exercise. It facilitates more abstract thinking and, paradoxically, more direct communication. Using modelling material to express our responses seemed to generate material that was more complex and revealing than the verbal information exchanges. All good! from the researcher’s viewpoint. But as we discussed in our post-exercise review, this could need some sensitive management in groups where participants might feel uncomfortable about exposure. As well, though there’s a lot of good potential for layered, authentic information, as Knight observes in his review of face-to-face methods analysing it systematically could present challenges.
On another front; reading through the SSHRC proposal samples I’m struck by the issue of language use; it seems to be very difficult to avoid using specialised vocabulary. Coming to a working understanding of many of the basic terms of contemporary information studies is one of my own challenges at the moment. I am appreciating just how much of a gatekeeping function specialised vocabularies have, especially in the process that Innis’ Minerva’s Owl thesis critiqued -- the building of knowledge monopolies. (At the same time as his writing itself demonstrated the sin, being almost unreadable in both content and form!) The other side of this issue is expressing one’s ideas accurately and appropriately, which might demand technical terms – which, as the information age has and continues to evolve so rapidly, are already common usage within vanguard users in the community. The Seiter article/interview – which was indeed troubling – also demonstrated some of the barriers that class-and-knowledge based language differences can present in just relating, never mind information-gathering. It’s a problem with many dimensions and implications, I find.
I'm going to go back a little bit for this entry and talk about Luker's Chapter 4 and her discussion of translating general ideas into a research question. She uses the analogy of an intellectual cocktail party, different groups focusing on different conversations and having to find a way to insert yourself into a conversation. I am still concerned with being original in my research proposal. Everything I think of seems to have already been done. I'm really struggling with finding a way to make my research stick out from everybody else's. In my undergraduate degree I did my research on Afghan-Canadians and ethnic identity and it was a really original topic. Afghan-Canadians hadn't been researched extensively at all and my literature review consisted of studies done on other immigrant groups. I'm looking for that same spark of originality that I had with my undergraduate research but it seems to be eluding me.
Hope your proposals are going well!
Monday, October 11, 2010
Sunday, October 3, 2010
I was struck by the centrality of feedback in some recent methodological discussions. David Gauntlett, having invited people to model their identity in Lego bricks, observes that people need time to think about their models and reflect on the meanings embedded in them. He concludes that people need "reflective time to construct knowledge." Peter Lunt and Sonia Livingstone, in their article Rethinking the Focus Group in Media and Communications Research, point out that feedback is part of the "new, critical approach to methodology that emphasizes empowering and respecting respondents as participants in the research process" (80). Interestingly, Gauntlett represents feedback as a conclusion of his research—it's an essential part of identity formation—which happens to confirm his method. Lunt and Livingstone represent feedback as an ethical quality of modern research.
Looking closer at Gauntlett's Lego experiment, we can see that the model itself acts as feedback. For example, he says that some people "balance" their design, building new elements in a discursive relationship with elements that they have already built. In this case, the feedback is not mediated by the researcher, perhaps increasing the validity of the findings. However, saying that the 'feedback is not mediated by the researcher' is not the same thing as saying that the feedback is not mediated. Obviously, the feedback is mediated by Lego. To what extent do the Lego pieces themselves suggest certain qualities or options? After all, they are meant to be connected together in very orderly and symmetrical ways. How does the symmetry of Lego pieces affect someone's desire to achieve "balance" in his or her model? At the same time, note that many people build their Lego models on a large base, effectively linking the various elements into a unified whole. How does that influence their model and our 'reading' of their model?
Saturday, October 2, 2010
In the three lectures so far some big questions have arisen -- the nature or at least the form of truth, the methodology paradigms and who asks the questions, of whom, and how, and now the big nut (that may be hard to crack before midnight!) – what’s our own interest? and how can it be defined in an essential question?
Some of the information that has been raining down on us in these first three weeks is starting to coalesce into some kind of synthesis though. In INF1003, highlighting the progression from data > information > knowledge gave me a useful framework for analysing some of that “information,” much of which was actually only data for me initially. Having integrated and organized some of it now, I can think more usefully about how information becomes knowledge, and that that process is both the process of learning something, and of being able to apply, manipulate or expand it into related or entirely other areas.
The data that our key question may generate has to become information before it will transmute into the knowledge that might provide new insights or solutions to perceived problems. But long before we get to that point, it seems that the process of generating a meaningful question is the same – data (our multitude of thoughts, observations, interests and inclinations, not to mention all the feelings that go along with them), has to be processed into coherency, out of which the question/s will emerge.