Tuesday, August 24, 2010

21st Century enlightenment

Excellent video by Matthew Taylor of RSA Animate, follows on the thoughts i am aggragating in my networking of the literature for my thesis:

Turkle (2003) suggests “the challenge is to deeply understand the personal effects of the technology in order to better make it suit our human purposes” (p. 44). A challenge not dissimilar to that previously pointed to with regard to designing spaces suited to the humanity required by Latour & Sloterdijk, (2009).
Latour and Sloterdijk (2009) argue for designers to be mindful of their role in humanizing both public and private spaces, for such spaces create the conditions for being. For Sloterdijk the role of the designer is to create such desirable spaces as make human life possible, to consider aspects that make intimacy more and less likely. To create supportive, environments that cultivate humanity and cooperation “an architect has to know more than a simple hut maker.” To recapture the healing spaces of the past, places that provide immunity spaces, understanding the conditions of being become a crucial area of investigation.

Latour and Sloterdijk (2009) both approach ‘being’ as something made, rather than something inherent. And as stated by Latour,
There’s not the slightest chance to understand being when it has been cut off from the vast numbers of apparently “trifle” and “superficial” “little beings” that make it exist from moment to moment.
In saying this, Latour introduces what he names a ‘radical theory of the social’ where ‘being’, whether of people, things, or practice, is created within continuously moving networks. Two important aspects develop from this account; one is the continuously emergent nature of things, that nothing is ever fixed whether it be practice or the identities of those involved, that these emerge as a result of contingent relationships. The other aspect is that this is an existentialist account of being, and one oft repeated by Latour: “existence precedes essence”. In the context of this research, this would mean that more or less therapeutic interactions are not held in the tenets of counselling, or in policy guides, but created moment by moment, practiced into being.

In looking at the use of emergent technologies in a youth counselling centre, this thesis directs a mindfulness to the less visible spaces of CCTs, and particularly to the non-verbal spaces of the Internet and the digital spaces accessed by mobile phones. When CCTs are used not only to exchange ideas, not only to exchange pages of knowledge or data, but also for emotional support, understanding the facets that make 'being' possible becomes vitally important. How might such spaces be humanized and actively created for conditions of being? Rather than addressing this question in the abstract, this thesis explores the shaping involved with such spaces when newer forms of CCT’s are used within a youth counselling centre. And it explores such new constructions of practice as they occur rather than after the effect.

Latour and Sloterdijk (2009) argue for designers to be mindful of their role in humanizing both public and private spaces, for such spaces create the conditions for being. For Sloterdijk the role of the designer is to create such desirable spaces as make human life possible, to consider aspects that make intimacy more and less likely. To create supportive, environments that cultivate humanity and cooperation “an architect has to know more than a simple hut maker.” To recapture the healing spaces of the past, places that provide immunity spaces, understanding the conditions of being become a crucial area of investigation.

Matthew Taylor talks a little fast, i can see myself watching this repeatedly as there is so much crammed in. What is needed he suggests is empathy- but how to put this into our 21st century world in the digital spaces many of us relate within remains a challenge.
I would suggest that there is a need to look beyond the social to make headway on this. The many little things that make up being need further study...and hence my thesis...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

lived experience of an actor-network in a Phd thesis

Networking a thesis begins to get tiresome when the same recalcitrant keeps wandering off and doing her own thing; endnote really is a pain in the behind.
I do not need this lesson in gathering; working the same damn thing just to keep it at the same point let alone moving forward.
I already know that keeping things the same takes work.
(Ok so it was just a weak moment where i almost wrote that an absence of change maintains a status quo. But please, I deleted that already.)
This week, the laptop battery got to a stage where it wouldnt hold a charge for 20 minutes.
The disc drive wouldnt copy to discs. At least flashdrives are now big enough to cope with the endnote library.
Im having to work on a somewhat lesser life form, having been temporarily downgraded, I am already sufficiently appreciative of the fact that the technology and social are enmeshed.
However endnote is driving me batty.
She doesnt format when i have her programmed to do this. She doesnt do this when i manually ask her to either.
Eventually after a lot of fluffing around, creating a new doc, turning off track changes, unformatting all previous citations, ensuring i dont have any boxes ticked on whatever else the Norton endnote website suggested, she would do them one by one....and then i could move each pretty little citation back to my original document...or so i thought, but no, they dont get added to the reference list.
Damn sulky programme.
I am beginning to suspect either the document is too big for endnote or that endnote is too small/frail to cope with the amount of notes, attachments and references she is holding. Ok so this is no little librarian holding 759 refs and somewhere in the order of at least 400 attachments, plus notes from here to there on almost every one of them, and doing this 24 hours a day for 6 years...what is her problem?
OK i concede perhaps its a hard ask.
How much gravel rashing can i expect to do before she decides to play nicely with me again?
Its really difficult to seduce her back in when i am actually really pissed off.

OK, seems i need to stop working with a large document. Even though this stopped me getting repetitive, and handled the cross overs between contextualising the problem, networking the literature and discussing the sensibilities of actor network theory as well as discussing the praxis of research methodology. The technology is adamant that it can no longer cope.
I will, split the chapters into separate documents...just like it suggests in the endnote help for creating a bibliography from multiple docs...and re-enter all the refs it doesn't remember were entered... a guestimate of a few days...

For some black humour have a look at this for a Dear John/thesis breakup letter

I am not ready to part from the thesis, but endnote could well decide on a parting of the ways.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

a (PhD) thesis is like chocolate

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hozinja/4864042453/ cc

Both make you fat
Can be bitter sweet
Some look better on the outside and have centres that dissapoint
Can be a self indulgent activity
Both give highs and lows
Both can result in guilt
Over indulgence in either is sickening
Some are better quality than others

Thanks to Nick for reminiscing on winter schools long past
Please feel free to add to the list

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Opening the black box that is text counselling

The 3 minute thesis has parallels to text counselling; i want to say more- I have to miss lots out, the constraints are huge, it makes me come to the point, it stops me going round in circles. And did you notice the staccato rhythm that evolved?
Ironically this matches what occurs in text counselling.
The medium we use shapes us.

The phones hardly ring anymore at YL; youth still have problems, and still seek help, but this happens silently.
So what happens when counselling moves into text spaces of mobile phones?
How are such spaces both shaped and shaping those involved?
This introduces a political agenda, seeing the things that make something happen provides opening for seeing that things could also be otherwise.
I Traced what’s involved that makes texting the first thing young people reach for when they reach out.
There’s seductive advertising. Bestmates are shown as unconditionally accessible and willing to be available, suggesting lonliness can be bypassed.
NZ is also in a pricing war making for cheap texts. But cheapness is only one factor; when it’s free to call YL, texting is still preferred.
So I looked at reasons young people and the environment that online spaces provide for them.
Texting provides Control: on talking about her dad who had died, one said: talking makes it too real, with texting I can take it slow.
I don't hear my own voice breaking
Another described how texting stopped her going round and round re-traumatising herself . The visual trace reminded her of ground already covered.
Texting provides Voice For example: txtn is ok because i cn keep goin evn if im crying.
Texting provides connection
If you've run away at night or
ur hiding under the house from your dad whose going to give u a beating, texting works.
‘its in ur pocket, its where u r’
Anywhere anytime also allows for keeping strategies and evidence of being connected in the world. I was shown a pocket full of Affirmations, texts not deleted even 6 months later, she said they felt good.
What’s important for counsellors is to see texting as a conversation and not an expectation to mend everything in one utterance
However, Receiving 18000 txts a month provides challenge in sustaining the threads of the conversation
Counselling is Reshaped some skills work in the medium, some don't.
Caution is heightened in a medium where digital traces feel ephemeral but are more solid than conversation or phone call.
Textual traces provide advantages as well as risks.
Privacy remains an area of ongoing tension.
Fewer cues requires caution.
Opening up text counselling allows us to see how practices are shaped, and might be shaped otherwise.
Currently There is no evidence base for text counselling, there never is for something new. This thesis is seen as providing insights into the practice of text-based counselling.
My hope and intention is that practice is shaped in listening primarily to the voices of young people.

Value of the 3 minute thesis is that it forces consideration for the 'so what' question. At the same time i found myself forced into overwriting what participants had said, so as to fit this medium. An actor network approach lets me explain so much more in taking littler steps but covering the distance. in contrast, this covers the distance but at a height where there is a loss of so much detail.
Where this has really been significant is in making me aware of the responsibility i have in writing of practice-
i hope i do it justice.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Counselling by text

The NZ Herald reports on the findings of the Health and Disability Comissioner where text messaging for counselling is dangerous:

"A young man committed suicide after his counsellor told him by text message not to take his medication, provided he was undergoing regular counselling.

Acting Health and Disability Commissioner Rae Lamb, in a finding issued today, said the case highlighted the importance of consulting other health professionals working with a person, the dangers of providing advice by text message, and the risks associated with "no suicide" contracts."

While not wanting to take away at all from the fact that suicide is tragic, always, what I am going to do is an intellectual argument here on text not being.
The counsellor involved was unethical. There was a lack of assessment and a lack of professional boundaries. One might have said counselling is dangerous, or that this specific counsellor in this particular situation was dangerous.

To pit texting within a context where it can be considered seriously, it needs to be noted that it is an extremely common practice now. It is not just for the young and it is not just for trivial interactions. It is a serious application. SMS text messaging is the commonest use of mobile phones, is used by 53% of people world-wide, and is now the most widely used data application on the planet.
At some stage it would be used for giving wrong advice.

All conversations have the potential for error ...all mediums through which messages can be conveyed whether face to face, phone, letter, or SMS, have given wrong advice at some time with tragic consequence.

Text/SMS messaging has its own foibles, and rather than demonizing it, there is need to attend to the particular factors and foibles with regard to it's use for counselling (and hence my PhD in this field).

1. Messages are brief. 160 characters per message, and a cost per message encourages brevity. With brevity there is less information on which to base any advice. This brevity need not restrict an ongoing conversation. As with a verbal conversation, an utterance may be short, the conversation may be longer.
2. Beyong brevity, the medium also shares less information. There are fewer paralinguistic and non-verbal cues, and the ones that are there are ambiguous. Slowness to respond may say as much about the state of the telephone network service provider as the person sending a message.
3. The medium may be chosen because of 2. While I have something difficult to say, I may be able to construct my response more deliberately , more carefully, because the medium provides me time to compose myself and my message.
4. The apparent anonymity along with 1,2 and 3, has a disinhibiting effect. Things can be said in a forthright tone that would not occur face to face without checking for more obvious cues.
5. Identity flexibility (Suler, 2005) is associated with 4, 3 and 2. I can elect how I present myself by text. Male, female, young, old, gay, straight, happy, sad, attentive, distracted.
6. Absent presence (Gergin, 2002)
6. In entering into text, attention is shifted, reality moves. One is no longer attentive to the present but engages with an invisible other. At the same time, in the virtual space of talking with someone silently, in conjunction with 1,2,3 and 4 this inokes imagination as to what is going on, it involves projections; the world engaged by text becomes surreal- it is what i perceive it to be. It creates a space in which I am not fully here, or there, but somewhere else instead. I'm not sure that this isnt always a condition of counselling regardless of the medium. I have compassion invoked- I try to appreciate the world view of the other...however with text I have so much less to go on, projections (or assumptions) in the absence of cues increase.
7. Flexibility of anytime. I don't have to wait for the person to be ready to respond with messaging, they can get back to me when they are able, and i can leave the message when i think of it.
8. Flexibility of anywhere. Its where you are, its in your pocket. It doesnt matter where they, or I, are currently situated.
9. Digital traces allow for messages to be kept, this allows for a pocket full of evidence that one is connected in the world, strategies and affirmations can be as close as one's pocket.
10. Associated with 8 is that messages that are unpleasant are also as close as one's pocket, and associated with 7, they can also be intrusive. Strategies to manage these can be taught.
11. Privacy in spite of the sense of intimacy is questionable. In hitting send, errors can be made. As with 9. there is risk of others accessing ones phone and its messages. Messages can be intercepted. Message are visible to network service providers, or police (with warrant).
12. Its affordable. Financial costs can be kept small. Whether charged by the text, 20 cent per message by major providers in NZ today, or on a preplay plan allowing unlimited or very generous texting such as 2000 texts for ten dollars, texting is a cheaper option than being charged over a dollar a minute for a call. In addition texting does not have the transport or opportunity lost costs that might occur with an appointment.
13. The microskills of counselling such as empathy, active listening, sensitive confrontation, translate into the new medium (Haxell, 2008). An empowerment approach of being strength's based can also be identified within text counselling as performed (at least at Youthline NZ)

Gergen, K. J. (2002). The challenge of absent presence. In J. E. Katz & M. A. Aakhus (Eds.), Perpetual contact, mobile communication, private talk, public performance (pp. 227-241). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Haxell, A. (2008). Cn I jus txt, coz I don wan 2b heard: Mobile technologies and youth counseling. Paper presented at the Ascilite; Hello! Where are you in the landscape of educational technology? Retrieved January 23, 2010, from http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/melbourne08/procs/haxell.pdf.
Haxell, A. (2010). Empowerment in tight spaces: Youth counselling in a text-messaging medium. Paper presented at the E-Youth Multidisciplinary Conference Balancing between opportunity and risk.
Suler, J. R. (2005). The Psychology of Cyberspace Revised edition version 2.2. from http://www-usr.rider.edu/~suler/psycyber/basicfeat.html

Friday, August 06, 2010

Creating heart; the conditions of being in 'online spaces'

Latour and Sloterdikt(2009)in a presentation to architecture students at Harvard point to the need to design creating conditions of being, healing spaces perhaps of the past in the sense of spaces that might nurture. This led me into a consideration of how online spaces might also be so created.

This particular blog evolved out of a discussion where Sarah came home surprized that her education had left out that NZ had had wars on its land. The learning moment evolved with the story of Parihaka, an introduction to the music clip of Tim Finn and Herbs and the paintings of Colin MacCahon and the Dick Scott's book, Ask that mountain, the story of Parihaka.

Where this links with the PhD is my own serendipitous connecting, and which is in regard to a distinctive NZ historical take on the use of technology.

While incarcerated Te Whiti and Tohu were shown the wonders of European technology. At the Kaiapoi Woollen Mills Te Whiti is cited as being perhaps the first person in the country to speak on a telephone. (Or at least the first to have a conversation reported upon).

When asked what he thought of the European technology Te Whiti replied that -

"indeed the Pākehā did have some useful technology but not the kindness of heart to see that Māori also possessed much great technology which if Pākehā were prepared to adopt would lead to stability and peace and the building of a great new society".

Te Whiti was incarcerated in the Sth Island because of his leading a passive resitence movement against the Government of New Zealand.
Recognising the destructive effects of war, Te Whiti and Tohu declared they would use spiritual powers rather than weapons to claim their right to live on land their iwi had occupied for centuries. The population of the village was the largest Maori settlement of the times and European visitors are cited as being impressed with its cleanliness and industry, its extensive cultivations producing cash crops and food sufficient to feed its inhabitants.
When an influx of European settlers in Taranaki, demand for fertile farmland outstripped availability. The Grey Government stepped up efforts to secure title to land it had confiscated but subsequently abandoned. Māori near Parihaka and the Waimate Plains rejected their payments, however, and the Government responded by force.

Obviously Pakeha had a lot to learn.
For my Phd studies, it is about how kindness of heart might be integrated in new spaces.

Latour, B., & Sloterdijk, P. (2009, 17 February). Networks and Spheres: Two Ways to Reinterpret Globalization Harvard University. Retrieved March 3, 2009, from http://webcasts.gsd.harvard.edu/gsdlectures/s2009/sloterdijk.mov

Monday, August 02, 2010

Getting from 'raw' to 'cooked'

Working with ANT sensibilities, cooking with the data seems more and more akin to cooking the books than having a recipe to follow.
I am tolerant of the ambiguity involved, I just need to explain it well.
Seems to involve an ethical regard for the data and for oneself- as Simone de Beauvoir said- being ethical isnt about applying a recipe, but is about being thoughtful
There is need to be reflexive in the process. This was a timely find after my last skype chat with my peers and supervisor on methodology.
I read a little Spinuzzi today- and then tracked down the article by Peter Smagorinsky on method being poorly written of.
Smagorinsky, P. (2008). "The method section as conceptual epicenter in constructing social science research reports." Written Communication 25(3), 389-411.
I think Peter Smagorinsky places a reasonable demand on the writer to explain themselves, not for reasons of replicability but for understanding of where conclusions come from- explicate.

The round up the usual subjects and put them in a blender just isn't going to be enough. Here's what he says:
First, select all ingredients that could conceivably go in the dish. Review them carefully, then pick the ones you want to use and put the rest back in the pantry, perhaps saving them for another meal that you will prepare later. Then reconsider the ingredients you’ve selected and decide which are most important. Do this again just to make sure. Then mix the important ones together and give it a taste, adding other ingredients as necessary. Put them in cookware, heat, and serve.

OK- as he says,have we got cake, fondue or Thai?
I muse that even dog food could be an option with this level of description.
As an editor he rejects such articles saying:
I have the same feeling all too often when reviewing manuscripts for journals: I have only the vaguest sense of what the author is doing with the data in order to render it into results. If I don’t know pretty clearly how the researcher is conducting the study, then it doesn’t matter much to me what the results are because I have no idea of how they were produced.To me, that’s reason enough to recommend that the article not be published.
Fair enough.
Its not that he wants replicability, he provides the reasons why this will not be likely, but he does want to know what he's eating. Nice.