Saturday, April 12, 2008

Here be dragons

Such dragons are begat by Wilma White in Kaiaua New Zealand. I have several of this dragons siblings...

In trying to map the invisible, one risks destroying the positive aspects of invisibility – should the map simply be marked, “here be dragons?” Star and Strauss (1999)

In my research interviews I have data that has left me in a conundrum.
What gets told, what gets told in a de-identified way, what will be less important with the passing of time, what might be portrayed to different audiences...
I am reminded by cj that research is an inherently political act.
The article by Susan Leigh Star and Anselm Strauss (1999)titled Layers of Silence, Arenas of Voice: The Ecology of Visible and Invisible Work, provides an excellent synopsis of such dilemma: There is both good and bad invisible work. Positive invisibility requires discretion. Within the the visible-invisible matrix it is impossible to define anything as inherently visible or invisible; similarly, it is impossible a priori to say that either are absolutely good or bad, desirable or undesirable.
These authors are not recommending “more visibility” in any simplistic form, but cite Grudin’s (1988) and Robinson’s (1993b) criteria of equity as an evaluation precept. This discusion of “good invisibility” and “bad invisibility,” is traced to questions of discretion, autonomy, and power over one’s resources. They identify the relation between invisible and visible work as a complex matrix, relational, with an ecology of its own. For every gain in granularity of description, there may be increased risk of surveillance. In the name of legitimacy and achieving public openness, an increased burden of accounting and tracking may be incurred. The phenomenon is one of tradeoffs and balances, not absolutes and clear boundaries.
Some suggestions they make include:
In managing the balance of visible and invisible work, it may be important for
processes to become visible for a time, or remain invisible for a time. It may be of value to consider time release (it may be possible with the passing of time that the issues are deemed less important or a forgivable 'passing phase') 'Stuff' may fade decay over time.
A metaphorical curtain might be drawn. Deidentification of data being one part of this.
Having the analysis consider tradeoffs and balances because increasing the visibility of work processes has pluses and minuses.

I can move forward now.
The dragons can rest easy for the time being.

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