Wednesday, November 28, 2007

only in hindsight

It looks so easy to birth a gadget at least according to Wired magazine. (Gads, why did i have a child ...)
But the ease of conception is true only with hindsight, a more realistic rendition of change is described by Czarniawska & Joerges (in Weick & Quinn, 1999, p. 362)

First there were losses, then there was a plan of change, and then there was an implementation, which led to unexpected results.

So where are the losses, the blood on the floor, the relationships won & lost. And what of the unexpected results...
The retrospective application suggests there was but one route to an end. Not immaculate conception, but according to this representation, a well planned conception. I wonder what really happened?
Too-ing and fro-ing, reshaping, contamination, adaptation, translation...
Reality is much messier outside of biblical Genesis stories.
Fascinating; the performance of a clean story.
No smut, no blood on the floor,so what is the story's pulling power?
Do we like to simplify to pretend that its easy? Does this make it more likely that we might enroll others? Does tidiness have this attraction? Are we that gormless?
Give me a decent plot any day and a decent analysis.
When social science tries to deal with things that are complex, diffuse, and messy, the answer John Law argues, is that it tends to make a mess of it. Simple clear descriptions do not work well when the stuff itself is incoherent. The attempt to be clear, increases the mess.
For further reading, see After method. Mess in social science research by John Law.
The story in Wired is superficial, so much so that it might aptly be considered a work of fiction, but still fiction too is a performance in its own right.
I find it so hard to humbly accept that the actors might know what is going on.
I am struggling with letting go of critical analysis.
But i guess no one asked the writer... the editor...the reader...
However, as a reader, I'm not persuaded; the simplistic rendering has made a mess of it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Drowning in description

I lost the plot.
And revisited Bruno Latour

Professor — So… I take it that you are a bit lost?
Student — Well, yes. I am finding it difficult, I have to say, to apply Actor Network Theory to my case study in organisations.
Professor — No wonder— it isn’t applicable to anything!
Student — But we were taught… I mean… it seems like hot stuff around here. Are you saying it’s really useless?
Professor — [ANT's] a theory, and a strong one I think, but about how to study things, or rather how not to study them. Or rather how to let the actors have some room to express themselves.

So, no more discourse analysis.
I'm a slow learner.
The discourse analysis was a means to considering how txt is shaped by the cell phone. That being invisible to each other requires questions of identity and of clarification. That the first letter is default capitalised, that there are 160 characters incl blanks so messages are constrained.
(so why do people write txt as short as poss? They rarely use 160, seems the average would be between 50-70)
Back to following the actors....

Professor — ... I would abstain from frameworks altogether. Just describe the state of affairs at hand.
Student — ‘Just describe’. Sorry to ask: but is this not terribly na├»ve? ...
P — Because you think description is easy? ...I have, myself, always found this incredibly demanding.... we go, we listen, we learn, we practice, we become competent, we change our views. Very simple really: it’s called field work. Good field work always produces a lot of new descriptions.
S — But I have lots of descriptions already! I’m drowning in them. That’s just my problem. That’s why I’m lost and that’s why I thought it would be useful to come to you. Can’t ANT help me with this mass of data? I need a framework!
P —‘My Kingdom for a frame!’. Very moving; I think I understand your desperation. But no, ANT is pretty useless for that. Its main tenet is that actors themselves make everything, including their own frames, their own theories, their own contexts, their own metaphysics, even their own ontologies… So the direction to follow would be more descriptions, I am afraid... if your description needs an explanation, it’s not a good description, that’s all. Only bad descriptions need an explanation. It’s quite simple really....I have never seen a good description in need of an explanation. But I have read countless numbers of bad descriptions to which nothing was added by a massive addition of ‘explanations’! And ANT did not help…

I just revisited cj's advice on data collecting, its succinct:
stay broad, eschew structures

back to following the actors...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

help, not waving, drowning: Discourse analysis of SMS

I am not strong on discourse analysis.
I spent one summer trying to read Foucault and this convinced me two summers doing this would be unwise.
Please help. seriously.
This is not my intended methodology, but it may prove useful. If you are experienced in discourse or even curious regarding the application to an intriguing application, please play with me here. Beginning with a toe in the water rather than full immersion because i don't like drowning, here is my tentative discourse analysis of a series of txt messages in counselling. (Feel free to push me in deeper if needed, or tell me to get out of the water....)
This series of interactions are from one side of a txting counselling scenario.
(The stream of txt was never seen, it is based in reality rather than actual reflection of reality. To do any type of data collection wherein one does not have the consent of the authors of the text is not ethically defensible. To do discourse analysis on a reported composite of a text is also methodologically dubious. This is a work of fiction).

1. "I just want to disappear"
2. "I cant talk"
3. "what diff email"
4. "r you a counsellor"

Discourse analysis
line 1, an opening, a cry for help, a reaching out.
Txted to a 'netherworld" an unknown entity. The txter doesnt know the person who will receive it, Maybe the anonymity helps. A confirmation of no one responding might confirm the sense of disappearing. There seems an ambivalence, will i disappear, am i disappearing, do people notice me. There is also an 'i want to' do i hurt so much i just want to vanish, i just want it to end?
(Did you notice that, I switched from 3rd person to first, not only do i project in, i begin to imagine myself in...)

line 2, a response to an invitation to talk further. The counsellor has responded (affirming the person for making contact, acknowledging their distress or difficulty, and inviting the person to use a ph line to talk about it). Line 2 rejects using a phone. "I cant" without punctuation. Punctuation is extra difficult on a cell. Plus it may or may not be known by the sender. Or may not be important to the sender, it takes extra time and it doesn't significantly alter the message. But the message in its brevity remains ambiguous. I cant talk because its too distressing (I cant talk because I have no money on my phone? I cant talk because others will hear? ...)
The use of capitals for I, is probably auto generated on the cell phone.

line 3, responding to the counsellor suggesting other options, seeking clarification on those options. The txt is truncated, a word is shortened and syntax condensed presenting an incomplete sentence. The meaning is sufficiently clear regarding a clarification request. There is another quality though, the person sending the message is engaged in concrete specific concerns. The concern though becomes about the equipment, how do i , rather than this is what i am distressed about. My sense is not that there is no difference in that 'i' cant talk regardless of the medium. But a seeking of clarification, i may not want to verbalise it because its distressing. 'i' might be able to enter into an email dialogue if 'i' can see a reason.

line 4, in the invisible space of txting whose on the other end seems to need checking, asking. Just as with internet cartoon where noone knows your a dog, in txting too no one knows whose there. sex is indeterminate, age is indeterminate, role is indeterminate. If I can enter into conversation via txt with you, is it because you are a counsellor and this seems ok so far and i might generalise from this counsellors therefore seem safe. Or is it a question of if i take the next step will i see you. Interesting some words truncate some dont. The use of the cell phone and the ease of some words versus others?

Please, I am really happy to receive input on this naive analysis and will now go (internet) surfing to reduce my naivity.

Other theory relevant:
Sproull and Kiesler (1991) regarding emails say "people talk with other people but they do so alone". This too explains the need for checking out who is the person at the end of the txt receiving "my' message. In addition,they write of the conventions for communicating being weak - This may be reflected in the question of are you a counsellor- who are you, what are you, as well as other conventions of social practices such as grammar being weaker.
Constance, Sproull and Kiesler (1996) Reflect on the kindness of strangers and the strength of weak ties.
Turkle (I think, but i cant find this so maybe it is more Sproull and Kiesler) talk of the projection onto messages. In the absence of more cues- tone, body language and the amount of information exchanged, there is a tendency to read more into a message- project more onto the message- than is actually there.
Bloch (2002) said email is used for creating and sustaining relationships. and also
showed email not just about language but is also about negotiating identity in a way not done in a classroom. Suggests in a counseling scenario there is also the use for negotiating identity, who am I, who are you, can we work together.
Rich Ling, Telenor R&D (2005) on discourse analysis of sms in Norway: note that its cheap, relatively unobtrusive (can be done silently), they describe sms as an "odd duck": the size of the screen limits readability, the 160 character limitation of screen, the lack of traditional of keyboard. They also discuss the differences Male to Female with female being more attentive to emotion, to flourishes of writing (punctuation), longer messages male average 5.54 vs female average 6.94, females also use more salutations. I wonder if use by women is greater as women, at least stereotypically maintain connection, relationships. Its also cheaper to sms than a ph call, and maybe women have less discretionary income. These writers also identify the liklihood of first letter capitalisation because of a default mechanism.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

do u txt b4 sex?

am i the only parent of a teenager distressed about txt for a condom?
I am seriously concerned, not because condoms will be mailed out, but because two days later, or however long the post takes, is just not going to do it. Please, if a condoms needed, the mail service aint going to be of much help till its too late. Whats needed has got to be a sub 60 minute courier service!
condom alarm
Might take even longer if it has to cross the Tasman, but I found this also and although it targets a different group, on the end of a cell no one knows who you are. I do remember passion, and I dont remember it patiently waiting for mail.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Things that go bump


And then
something went BUMP!
How that bump made us jump!

I am musing about the right word/s to use. I want to demonstrate a second rendition of the network I am studying, the first was just a whose who, I am now finding that its not enough- the people who connect are only one facet of whats going on. And dare i say it for a counselling modality, they may not be the most important part!!!! So back to looking at whats going on, and i thought I'd place it here, but even imposing a title gets problematic.
As Latour himself says the actor network theory and the hyphen are all problematic.
One step at a time: The actors. The language assumes masculinity and actresses doesnt make it any better. Actants then. yuk. sounds like a chemical reagent.
Things that go bump...are not always human.
Latour is critical of the word Network and despite thinking i knew what hhe was on about, I still fell into this one. Just mapping those i connected with and how they were connected with others gave me a bit of the picture, but it was more about who was important to me in what I'm studying. Not the purpose of the study. Mapping the network in this way was not effective. To put it crudely; its not a sewer sytem. And this 'network' doesnt just flow one way.
So more words:
Typology: lists with out substance.
Topographic: a topographic map characterized by large-scale detail and quantitative representation of relief, usually using contour lines. But its static
Chorography: a systematic, detailed description and analysis of a region or regions. OK, slightly better but it doesnt encompass the alive nature, or the influence of one's self in the analysis.

Two words describe it better, but connotations need clarifying, and the rationale for long words is that short ones dont quite do it:
Ontology: the connotations in health tend to be about disease development and particularly cancer development. However, here is a word that describes the push and pull, and the 'alive' state of a network. From my online thesaurus:
1. A systematic account of Existence.
2. (From philosophy) An explicit formal specification of how to represent the objects, concepts and other entities that are assumed to exist in some area of interest and the relationships that hold among them.

1. the art of composing ballets/dances and planning and arranging the movements, steps, and patterns of dancers.
2. the arrangement or manipulation of actions leading up to an event.

Ann Marie Mol talks of the network as ontological choreography. And i confess to finding the language distancing. (Makes note to self: sounds academic but doesnt make the work readable).
Meantime, here is a draft on the choregraphed ontology of a txt counseling message :) The confidential nature of counselling meant that this is a 'for instance' type of counselling scenario, a composit of scenarios rather than an individuals experience.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

iphone: therefore I am

Time magazine 2007, November 19.Invention of the year
The phone, a mobile phone, not just any phone; the iphone.
Time's stated reasoning:
Its pretty 'surface is depth'
Its touchy-feely
It will make other phones better
Its not a phone: Its a platform
What will come will be better.
A huge indictment on Time magazine to grant magnamity based not on what is, but on what may come! And not for what it is: a phone, but on iphones not being a phone...
Whats left: its pretty and it feels good.
i want one.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

whose acting when I'm acting?

Wendy saw the shadow on the floor, looking so draggled, and she was frightfully sorry for Peter. "How awful!" she said...
Fortunately she knew at once what to do. "It must be sewn on," she said, just a little patronisingly.
... and sewed the shadow on to Peter's foot.

"I daresay it will hurt a little," she warned him.
"Oh, I shan't cry," said Peter, who was already of the opinion that he had never cried in his life. And he clenched his teeth and did not cry, and soon his shadow was behaving properly, though still a little creased.

...Peter, boylike, was indifferent to appearances, and he was now jumping about in the wildest glee. Alas, he had already forgotten that he owed his bliss to Wendy. He thought he had attached the shadow himself. "How clever I am!" he crowed rapturously, "oh, the cleverness of me!"
It is humiliating to have to confess this conceit ...

Just like Peter, my dark side gets left behind, and it takes effort to restore my shadow.
Creating the online persona takes active work, whether in 2nd life where self creation is overt, or on a blog space. There is still work in constructing as well as in deleting and hiding the unintended.
So in my blog I have blogs that never see the light of day, but saved as drafts they maintain thoughts, and chronology for me.
The shadow.
The stuff that would be unwise to shout in a lecture room, the stuff that would be stupid to have in a cv.
While tripping through delicious blogs I tripped up on thoughts on the less intentional profile

The unintended profile can publicly display my predilection for what I save, whether its music or websites or articles or my reading (self conscious and belatedly I note the trashy murder mystery is not listed in what I'm reading)....delicious puts some of me out there, but is it a part i want?
I find myself thinking twice (or more) about do i put this in endnote or in delicious... such as revolting articles involving a darker side of text or social media...
The intimate feeling created between myself and my laptop is deceptive, if i choose to hit post, a part of me is in the public domain.
I found myself surprized by the updated mindmapping tool, a work in progress. But a visible one. A widget so I should have known it would remain current...I embedded it in a blog, now i need to be careful about what's in; whats out.
I was surprized by my weather pixie dressing herself with logos in my blog, but i also found myself editing out names of logos that i have a problem with...
So, do I deidentify myself? or create myself deliberately without a shadow?
The foucodian panoptican is fully functioning here.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

actor net working

Using, thanks to a link on mindmapping and tracing connections on
A piece of free social software that lets me trace connections. Posting this edition, lets me demonstrate the starting phase of data collecting post ethics, in this research performance. You can move it to centre it, increase by zooming in... My posting it is more to keep a chronology going (as per Latour's suggestion of notebooks for different purposes).

Monday, November 05, 2007

How to do something worthwhile and have fun doing it

Unashamed advertising.
"Needed 400 volunteers for Coca-cola Christmas in the Park!!!"
Youthline is NZ s most recognized help site for young people. Its also best in terms of having a social life while having a social conscience. If you're keen to donate but can't afford it, try donating time...
8th Dec Auckland. Contact •
Any queries to or phone Caleb Butcher 09-361- 4167
If you still send christmas cards: $10.00 a pack of ten,
cool, blank inside, by leading designers: P Money, Trelise Cooper, Jon Bridges

Saturday, November 03, 2007

feeling used

Insidious use of product placement on my blog!
i just noticed the product placement on my weather pixie today, apple logo on her tshirt and carrying, i think, a clamshell apple ibook. Just as well i like apples, but am still feeling mildly used....
If other companies i do not have an affinity for, start dressing her I will have to revisit our friendship.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

evidence based practice

And where can i get some?
I am finding it hard to move on.
The day job has a mountain of marking, the family juggling has my mum in hospital after a fall and after a further fal while in hosp, a broken hip. The PhD would benefit from some uninterrupted dedicated thinking and data collecting time.

Meantime I have had reason to revisit my ethics application using the NEAF Australain system.
4.2.9 (c) The research aims to benefit the category of children or young people to which this participant belongs
The target group for Youthline is young people aged 14 years to 24 years. The research aims to benefit young people who access Youthline counselling involving text messaging, message board postings or email.
The purpose of the research is to investigate the use of text messaging, message board postings and email for counselling so that there is a better understanding of how these services are received, as well as provided, and to inform the shaping of services to best meet the needs of young people. There is currently no evidence base for practice in the provision of text messaging for counselling. There is no research in the transformation of a telephone counselling agency moving from verbally mediated counselling to include the use of txt and text mediated counselling. There is no research in the transformation from verbal to text mediated services of a telephone counselling agency whose target group is young people. There is local and international research identifying txt as a predominant mode of communications for young people (BBC News, 2004; Joyce & Weibelzahl, 2006; Statistics New Zealand, 2006).
The proposed research is responsive to having services shaped by and for young people. Requiring parental consent for young people has at times hampered research into adolescent health and is described as unethical when it is a barrier to participation, research validity, and improving health outcomes in response to research findings (Dagmer, Sanci, Patton, & Sawyer, 2005; Renzetti & Lee, 1993; Sanci, Sawyer, Weller, Bond, & Patton, 2004). To deny the participation particularly of young people who are estranged from their parents, or who are wary of parental involvement, denies an evidence base for practice that could result in improvements to health care as a result of the research.
There is no other group that the information could be obtained from.

Just sometimes, having an evidence base for practice feels incredibly important.