Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Picturing the PhD

It follows that making a picture inevitably frames an event and the frame, which the resulting picture encodes, guarantees that it will attract the attention of a viewer for at least a split second. The picture maker, therefore, is first of all a viewer. She frames the picture by her own act of looking and her motivation to realize the event often involves finding more and more to interest her in the scene. We are able to align ourselves to the picture and the events it depicts because, in a very real sense, someone else—the picture maker—was aligned to the scene when she made the picture.
John Grady (2008) in Visual Research at the Crossroads Vol9;3 FQS Forum Qualitative Social Research.
Seems to me that the life of text messaging is also only really appreciated on the small screen, I could spend a lot of words describing the constraints, the imagery still does it with different impact. Debates might continue on the merit of picture vs prose and of whether a picture is truth or just one rendition thereof...and that how it might be interpreted is also subject to the eye of the beholder....none the less, with ANT the environment is a valid field of study as it shapes the performance.
There are at least 2 levels to consider- that texting is shaped by constraints
and that a phd with pictures is also a performance shaped by context.
I'm planning on putting images in the PhD, will just need to provide persuasive rationale on their validity.

In another article Giolo Fele (2008) using images in qualitative research provides an example of emergency service use contrarting the audio with the visual, demonstrating the intense coordination of work requiredshows that
a dispatch does not consist purely in information transfer, but is the outcome of intense coordination work among the actors involved face to face and through technological media.
This is the stuff i too am finding. I've really got to get stuff out there, seems i keep tripping over my own thoughts before i have them!

Now i have a whole new field of reading for me to catch up on Visual methods research interest.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Having a txt life, and being a txt worker

Being without a social life as a part time PhD student, FT academic, and most time human being, I was enticed into a conversation with an elderly article (its all relative but in communication studies 1996 was a long time ago).
The social life of documents by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid had me considering how such a document might now be written upon; writing in the margins superseded through hyperlinked blog.
Their article predates blogs, wikis, wikipedia, text messaging, twitter yet still carries a knowing wisdom;
fixity is not as limiting as might be thought. The document, they note, changes by virtue of staying the same. This paradox draws attention to interactions between fixed documents and flexible social practices.

There is a lot worth commenting on here, and which deserves better treatment than i will be giving it. However, my task is not to write or right the world but to get a phd done, so I try not to structure, edit or wordsmith it (much), and I'm just going to blog; an al2gether more liber8ing way 2 live with txt :)

I was pulled into this acquaintance via another blogger, google alerts told me of someone in the blogosphere writing of Bruno Latour, so I tripped upon this article and was brought up by the reference to 'qualifiers in writing.' What delineations are made as to what's in and what's out. One of my earlier phd writing forums had required me to consider such qualifiers for placing ones work in the world, and this one's hard to beat:

Art and eternity are beyond the scope of this essay.

And so enticed with such frivolity I was enticed into a really good read.
In its entirety, the qualifier, which btw comes near the end of the essay, states:
Art and eternity are beyond the scope of this essay. Nonetheless, the idea of an interchange between the immutable and the transient, the fixed and the fleeting seems central to understanding documents and their many uses.

The article begins with the exaggerated rumours of death; what lives or dies when a new technology is born.
Documents as darts brought made the transport notion of documents more lively. Important here, these writers claim, is that the conduit notion of message bearer fails to observe that what is observed as written typology also underwrites social relationships; that text becomes evidence of performed social interaction, a way of being with others. The article draws in both Bruno Latour and Anslem Strauss in support of the idea that documentation is so much more than type on a page, that it also is community, if not social world building.
(And this is where life is surely breathed in; for i think- and yes there it is, another of my fav authors Susan Leigh Star links to Anslem, and a colleague Antoinette via Anslem & Glasser...and so the social wold is made smaller, a bit more of a community is built).

Brown and Duigan also point to the community and nation building quality of documents, such as with establishing treaties which they see as being as much about the words on the page as about meeting. A sense of community is built through circulation, where documentation creates the audience for community to occur.
Similarly here, I make the claim that txt is more than an immediate message of pixels on a screen, even without consideration for the content of the message; it is a catalyst for, and evidence of, connection and of engagement.
The life of the message goes on, there's an ephemeral quality where even in the absence of the message, there is memory of its existence.

Txt provides a context for finding meaning.

This can be manipulated further in text messaging for counselling. As much as there is a lot of press on text bullying, and that erasing the message does not 'make it go away' so too is there possibility for affirming messages where a counselling centre can also counter such messages, acknowledging difficulties, affirming actions taken, demonstrating empathy of it being tough, and reinforcing strengths the person has in seeking assistance. The anywhere anytime nature of the message carrier, a cell phone, supports choice for maintaining affirmative messages, allowing for a tangible positive message that transcends time. There is potential through text to connect with supportive counsellors and agencies such as Youthline for assistance, and through this connection to be aligning more strongly with one's inner strengths. The cell phone becomes the conduit in assembling and strengthening both interpersonal and intrapersonal relating.
Being txtually active is undoubtedly linked with both positive and negative possibilities, and neither outcome is inevitable. Given that having a txt life is a wide spread activity, then its more useful to think of such technology as enabling and to actively foster the conditions supporting positive outcomes. Such work is not determined by the technology itself but by those who invest creatively, negotiating and working the medium for connecting with young people in the places of their choosing.

Friday, April 17, 2009

mobile duplicity

NZers are 108% saturated. Its not that we're wet, its that we are a canny bunch (apparently).

NZ Herald Thursday April 16, 2009

If you lined up 100 New Zealanders, then emptied their pockets and purses, you'd retrieve 108 mobile phones. The fact that there are more active cellphones than people in this country is not a sign that we're a nation obsessed with mobile communication technology.

For those who have more phones than cents its the answer to high calling costs which cross across service providers. The fees competing telcos charge each other for passing on calls made to the other's network currently stands at 15c per minute.

The answer (apparently) is its cheaper to have two phones on two service providers, use one for calls to telecom users and the other for calls to vodafone users.

In response to threats of Government interventions, Telecom and Vodafone have proposed reducing termination rates gradually between now and 2014 to 10c and 11c respectively. The Commerce Commission preliminary view is that the proposed cuts do not go far enough.

The Telecommunications Users Association (Tuanz) agreed, saying someone making 10 minutes of calls to mobiles a day was currently paying $300 a year in excess charges, and would pay a total of $1300 in excess charges by the time the rates fell to the proposed 2014 levels.

Obviously, the answer is get another phone...its cheaper...and of course its a win win situation, making cell phones even more pervasive is their business afterall.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Witnessing 'withness'

Getting digital with counselling
Auckland Youthline is a youth counselling agency that has in recent times begun using digital formats such as sms messaging, email and social networking sites to provide avenues for counselling. The intent in transitioning to 'new' media is described by the CEO of this organisation as meeting with young people in the places they are in. It is this 'withness' I want to tell of.

There is 'withness' that involves the philsophical intent between agency and its members, being with is also a counselling inherent in the therapeutic relationship of counsellor and counsellee, there is also 'withness' of each of these parties with the instruments required in conveying a message. And 'withness involving the curious melding of old with new, getting 'with' the times. In this research such times are a changing with a counselling approach historically based within an oral tradition being melded into a digital text based one.

The underlying concept of withness is outlined by Nick Bingham (2009). He describes his interest as stemming from coexistence, ideas of being with. To engage with coexistence he described storied research from different domains: Technology where technological praxis involves coexistence of protocols; Ecology in species more classically involving social science in inter-ethnic notions of peaceful coexistence. His own research is of GM in agriculture that explores the ways in which legislative and practices make it possible for GM and non-GM coexistence without contamination. Interrogating the practices of these domains, he argues, involves getting to grips with the specificity of the domains and of 'withness'.

In looking at change, the concept of 'withness' is somewhat neglected. The literature such as that of E M Rogers in Diffusion of Innovation explores newness by focusing on the something old as superceded, but whats brought forward, transitioned with, may also be worth exploring. People come with their memories of what was, they do not leave these at the door as it were.

I'll hold this thought for a while, the exploration and performance of withness...

Monday, April 13, 2009

specifics as species creation

Nick Bingham lost me a bit when discussing specificity to do with creating species. He was talking GM and non GM so species creation is central to his thinking. But i took him to be taking this broadly and think he was eluding to the production of species as an outcome of specificity. Taking this a step further and exploring spatial identities; identities as produced within specific spaces/places was provoked by reading a book review by Cristina Ros i Solé of Discourse and identity, by Bethan Benwell and Elisabeth Stokoe (2006). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

This book discusses spatial identities, both as they are produced and as they are located in discourse. In undertaking this, the authors identify a ‘spatial turn’ in discourse, one which regards space as dynamically produced and as part and parcel
of social processes. They argue that ‘physical space is not an objective, neutral phenomenon but is inescapably socially constructed by human agents and their semiotic practices’(p. 208). What I find of value here, is not the discourse as much as the descriptions; identity being produced as a function of where we are, have been and/or are going. That spaces do not contain people but create them.

- a very ANT way of thinking.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The path less travelled

How my writing is informed by materiality and specificity.
In line with Nick Binghams exploration of this subject, I now have another way of conceptualising change in terms of how this and that get together, coexist and shape each other/or not. He explores the ideas of being together; of 'withness'. His own topic area involves GM and non-GM (as well as the presumptions that these might be able to co-exist). In this he describes the need for specifics, that the general is only known by the particular, and his approach (informed by ANT) he describes nicely as 'interrogating the parts'.

I like this turn of phrase. I have attempted to interrogate the peoples involved (counsellors, counsalees, and the techy peoples, as well as those with non voice carriers; the mobile phones, the computer software and hardware, as well as the artefacts of policy.
Nick Bingham also discusses the specfics in terms of how far from a source a thing might travel.
In change theory. or at least in innovation diffussion theory, the fragility of a thing and the bumpiness of the ride is given insufficient cognizance.
A 'general' cant be rolled out just anywhere...the particularities are important; the rolling out from general to local or from local to global is a questionable practice. Such paths are not given, but require work.
The mapping of such paths, with attendance to the minutae of detail fits well with the close to the ground ANT traveller.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

ontological politics and multiple realities

Establishing a talking familiarity with the jargon.

Annemarie Mol(in Actor Network Theory and After, 1999, pages 74-75) describes
"Ontological politics as a composite term. It talks of ontology - which in standard philosophical parlance defines what belongs to the real, the conditions of possibility we live with. If the term ontology is defined with that of politics, then this suggests that the conditions of possibility are not given. That reality does not precede the mundane practices in which we interact with it, but is rather shaped within these practices."
and that the term politics refers to this shaping.

The politics then of 'whats real'.
And of what 'reals' are enacted.
It is this second question that opens the discussion to consider the multiple realities that are being enacted, concurrently.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

An incomplete work; a workstory of researcher responsibility

Enacting relations of responsibility in research;
Youth counselling as a case in point.

The development of communication and computer technologies allows for significant alterations to develop in the ways counselling can be offered. Whether such alterations are a ‘good’ or bad’ thing is an unknown, it's a bit like saying conversations are good or bad, or talking loudly, softly, face to face or at a distance... Logic suggests that each of these aspects is going to be met by a response of ‘it depends’. Consideration then of the factors creating the conditions of goodness or badness is therefore required. One consideration is for services provided to be responsive to the needs of the group that the service purports to serve. Responding to this mandate would involve hearing the voices of those using the service and articulating what is valued. Given that this process involves a relationship developed in confidence, involving privacy and sensitivity to the intimate nature of issues discussed, creates a point of tension balanced alongside a need to provide a research basis for practices hitherto unknown. In this paper, the enactment of such research is reflected upon with the foremost issue being one of researcher responsibilities.

This paper on the enactment of responsible research is situated within a wider PhD study on change and the use of emergent technologies within a youth counselling centre. This paper focuses on a key issues of responsibility associated with the ethics of studying what is usually kept underwraps; uncovering and making visible personally intimate details of distress and of counseling received. There are concerns for the privacy of those involved. There are also concerns for the validity of new practices and the maintenance of a service that aspires to ‘do good’ and to ‘do no harm’. The absence of an evidence base for practice is also of concern. In addition, there are tensions involved in sensitive research that may privilege some whilst silencing others. In line with the work of Dianne Mulcahy (2007) this involves a focus on empirical performative responsibility extending beyond the presentation of perspectives; an exploration of the ontological politics involved in having voice, and in ‘giving’ voice.

A story of change.

This is not a story for idle spectators. I do not want this to be read voyeuristically. I do not write that you might be entertained. My intent is for change. The issues addressed lie deep in the folds of the moral fabric of society; How do we treat people who are smaller, have limited practice in decision making, have little purchasing power, and have limited voice in the world? The very measures set up to protect simultaneously create conditions of disempowerment.

In the act of researching and writing such wrongs might also be redressed. What I write, is written with intent. The written artefact becomes an actor, not merely a story, but a technosocial actant that pushes and pulls. Tugging at heart strings, and through these to the people and the structures that maintain a status quo, to be a persuasive influence on the undertaking of research into things that are also sensitive.

What are the currently established stories?

The artefacts of policy are written by providers…

This incomplete workstory of change provides me a prompt for considering sensitive research as well as researcher responsibility, an ontological dance inside of my doctoral studies.

Imagining in the forest dark

A timely read from Cynthia Tananis.
As I write, so am i (re)written.
Where i was coming unstuck in my writing was in the ontics of researcher responsibility, and it may just be that i need to travel further through such woods/words rather than avoid them.

Procrastinating a PhD

Last 5 blog entries seem to have a subtext occurring, being: topic
2.despondent up
5.mistaken for a dummy well as being stuck in a conundrum
My last exercise in 'writing in the style of' is an article on researcher responsibility and is still on my laptop, albeit a shiny new one :)
but the article is not writing itself :(
Seems to have got waylaid.

Today i have
...synched the phone camera to the laptop
...moved photos into my iphoto library
...been to starbucks and read the newspaper, opened the laptop, edited a paragraph and got distracted by a friend
...tidied the study a bit more
...done the washing
...checked the emails several times
And avoided the phd
I have surfed the net looking at PhD procrastination and been advised:
Look at the small picture rather than the big one; Make the steps smaller and visible
ok I can list several useful tasks on the way rather than staying with nebulous stuff like waiting on immersion in data, or writing a whole article. I could split the time a bit more creatively eg read one article, put it in endnote, watch or listen to a Latour audio, spend x mins on the writing, put the last interview from ipod onto laptop, make notes from it ... (I aim to do all of these by...I now think of a reasonable timeframe and double it)

Rethink the priorities: Could have said look at the big picture rather than the small one... i could be stuck/avoidant because what I am up to is not really needed (its a possibility). Separating wheat from chaff. I'm cool with the PhD, the article/chapter could be a distraction. Maybe shelve it for the moment and move on/ maybe blog whats there and move on without requiring completion.

If you have a writers block, write about it.
So write about being blocked...mmmm...not very successful so far.
Write intention statements
What am i going to do today? mmm And then I get to feel guilty or like a failure for not getting there? I dont think so.

Seek psychological help for perfectionism and fear of failure. I am really not in this space, at least not at the moment, I'll revisit this one when i dont want to part with what I've written.

So; I think its about not liking what I bit into with the current writing.
And maybe its about not finding it so easy to pick it up and put it down on a weekly basis as a part time student
Or maybe I'm getting a bit fudged in my thinking- crystalised vs fluid where multitasking isnt what it was, i seem stuck on completion even when its not helping me.

Back to outlining the small steps needed to complete the large one.
Finish the PhD is a bit nebulous. Andthere is also no requirement to start at the beginning. Latour advocates starting in the middle, so again I will try this (notice that, that was an intention word).
The tasks may be organized as follows: Open the colloquium document again, redate, save to the desktop.
Parts: Summary, intro, ch1:contextualising the problem, ch2 lit review; Ch3 Research methodology, ch4 Research design, ch5 Data analysis= workstories of change , incl sensitive research and my own workstory
all in less than 80,000 words, current count 24,000 words

Each tasks entails smaller tasks.
ch 2. The literature review requires annotating with whats in , out, needing additions.
ch 5. requires data immersion (in the too hard box with picking up and putting down).
But also could be added to, I think i need more artefact data analysis at YL, again, picking up and putting down frustrates this.

Overcoming Procrastination: Getting Organized to Complete the Dissertation

Tara L. Kuther, at the APA website gives some of the more useful advice: "In terms of completing tasks, it is not necessary to start at the beginning of the list, in fact, believing that one starts the dissertation proposal by writing his or her introduction and thesis and ends with the plan for analyses will detain progress. Begin where you feel comfortable and fill in the gaps. You will find that you gain momentum with the completion of each small task. Feeling overwhelmed by any particular task is a sign that you have not broken it down into small enough pieces."

Or it might be that I'm just off task;A need then to realign.

My friend Barbara Grant always said Write, write about writing...
Me, I blog it.
Being pragmatic, the thoughts are not enough, someone somewhere has to see them, they dont happen without being put out there...
William Makepeace: a thousand thoughts lay unknown until we take up a pen to write them...

Ok, i feel a bit more on task now :)