Saturday, October 31, 2009

The hinterland that Markers of PhDs find themselves in

I've been reading John Law (2009) on performativity in social research method, where he discusses the hinterland inside of which things are done.
And there's scope here for studying the hinterland inside of which PhD marking occurs...
More to add to the box for the post doc life :)

Here's a taster that didnt use ANT or hinterlands taken from Kiley and Mullins (2002)

Examiners assume PhD candidates are still apprentices in the profession of research in their discipline; and so their theses are judged in terms of current competence and future promise as academic colleagues. If there are particular problems, then the examiners regard the department, the supervisor and the candidate as all being potentially implicated; and if there are remarkable achievements, the recognition likewise extends beyond the performance of the individual candidate. Similarly, the examiners themselves are conscious that their own reputation is being judged through the quality of their reports. (pp. 13–14)

There are then marking concerns that are right outside of the thesis itself, ones that a PhD student writer has no ability to control for.
Does the marker have time for this, is it a duty or a passion, is the thesis to be compared to several assessed or are they are relatively new academic with the thesis being judged against the markers own work...for the criteria themselves are broad and open to wide discrepancies in interpretation. What else are in these dark woods?
How are markers there respect for the research method, at the very least one would hope a marker was coming from the same or similar paradigm.
Getting past what makes for a passable thesis to one that is outstanding, Kiley and Mullins note the metaphors used valuing the artistry of the thesis. Personally, and as a PhD student 'sparkle' comes easily to me. My worry is that what I see as sparkle the marker may see as tinsel. While there is a level of art in a thesis, what i like and what others like in art is always going to be a debatable and possibly, a fashion commodity.
"I know what I like, and I dont like that."

I am back to wondering about the circumstances of markers, and their tolerance for difference.

I wonder what else is in the hinterland...

Mullins, G. & Kiley, M. (2002) 'It's a PhD not a Nobel Prize' Studies in Higher Education, 27(4).
Kiley, M. & Mullins, G. (2006) Opening the black box: how examiners assess your thesis, in, Doctorates downunder: keys to successful doctoral study in Australia and New Zealand, ACER, Melbourne, pp 200 - 207.
Law, J. (2009). Seeing Like a Survey. Cultural Sociology, 3(239).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Exploring the dark wood. #CCK09

In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself in a dark wood
for the straight way was lost.

From the opening terza of the Divine Comedy. Dante.

Susan Saltrick used this for her opening lines as a keynote speaker at a conference on learning communities and I have always been struck by the resonance this has in my own exploration of the unknown. She continues;

For the world we once new has changed...and we need to consider what we are being asked to change into.

A similar thread is explored by Latour
A new vaccine is being marketed, a new job description is offered, a new political movement is being created, a new planetary system is discovered, a new law is voted, a new catastrophe occurs. In each instance, we have to reshuffle our conceptions of what was associated together because the previous definition has been made somewhat irrelevant. We are no longer sure about what 'we' means; we seem to be bound by 'ties' that don't look like regular social ties. (Latour, 2005, p. 6)

Ulises Mejias (2006) also explores the unknown, The tyranny of nodes, saying 'my thesis is that the network undermines productive forms of sociality by over-privileging the node. It might be difficult to see this because nodes are not anti-social (they thrive by forming links to other nodes), nor are they anti-local (they link to nodes in their immediate surrounding just as easily as they link to other nodes). But what I am trying to say is that to the extent that the network is composed of nodes and connections between nodes, it discriminates against the space between the nodes, it turns this space into a black box, a blind spot. In other words, networks promote nodocentrism. In this reconfiguration of distance, new ‘nears’ become available, but the ‘far’ becomes the space between nodes. To ignore this dark matter is to ignore the very stuff on which the network is suspended, much like the fish ignoring the water around it.

And given the composition of any 'fish' is also that it is imbued with the substance of its surroundings...there is need to explore what it is 'we' are becoming.

I have until now shied away from the 'dark spaces'.

There is scope for looking internally at shadows, a reflective take on what one does and doesn't attend well as there being the creation of shadowed spaces in throwing illumination on some aspects and not others.

There is also scope in looking at the effects within change: what is and is not in the assembly?
Who does this new assemblage include as 'we' and what have 'we' become?
And what possibilities might be made possible if one were to take flight into the paranodal?

These questions are ones that relate to power, for they are questions that frame scope. With connectivism as a learning theory, the questions prompted by Mejias might include: who is advantaged, and who is not? What types of learning gain currency, and what does not?
And what then of the role of an educator?
One aspect informed by Latour, is to keep the knowledge of how the world is constructed, the knowledge of how institutions are shaped and shaping, an awareness of how technologies contribute...and to keep such knowledge sufficiently open, 'to maintain the reversibility of foldings'. I would agree, this is my moral concern when I consider education and its encounter with (current) technologies.

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mejias, U. (2007). Networked proximity: ICTs and the mediation of nearness. Columbia University, New York.
Saltrick, S. (1998). Through a dark wood. Paper presented at the Conference on Learning Communities, University of Miami.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hitting the wall; redecorating with a phd; a literal take on phd literacy

The PhD approach to redecorating.
1. Write on the walls
2. More colourful, redecorate with postit notes
Alternately try vacuuming the ceiling, cleaning the stove, washing the cats...or best one I've found in a while, washing windows and gardening till you are too sore to move so being with the computer becomes the easy choice.
At least i now have really really clean windows :)

A Pulp fiction take on a thesis

In a po mo* to go loose moment,I found myself (very un po mo...i lose myself) looking up words like pastiche to explain the way my thesis writing is not following a clear trajectory.
Fortunately my methodology values this, sadly academic markers probably not.
What i have done is meandered across the terrain, and with every intention of mixing metaphors: this thesis is like herding a river.
Nonetheless, a brief excurion into metaphors that might explain the pastiche, I refound pulp fiction. And here's the added bonus, another use for a mobile phone :)

Pumpkin: The way it is now, you're taking the same risk as when you rob a bank. You take more of a risk, banks are easier. You don't even need a gun in a federal bank. I mean, they're insured, why should they give a f#ck? I heard of this one guy, walks into a bank with a portable phone. He gives the phone to the teller, a guy on the other end of the line says, we've got this guy's little girl, if you don't give him all your money, we're gonna kill her.
Yolanda: Did it work?
Pumpkin: F#cking-A right, it worked. That's what I'm saying. Knucklehead walks into a bank with a telephone! Not a pistol, not a shotgun, but a f#cking phone. Cleans the place out, doesn't even lift a f#cking finger.
Yolanda: Did they hurt the little girl?
Pumpkin: I don't know, there probably never was a little girl in the first place. The point of the story isn't the little girl, the point of the story is, they robbed a bank with a telephone.

* po mo = post modern

Visit here for a fast tracked recap mashup on pulp fiction in angryalien bunny style

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

magic dust time

Mining for fairy dust but will also accept an other useful strategies for helping to enroll me in my own phd.

Reward self; chocolate for each paragraph written
do not go straight to the chocolate

Write a chapter, then post it through wordle
do not be tempted to reword it to make a prettier wordle

Wear self out on cleaning. When you cant move, writing is a viable choice...
and then use strategy 1.

If you cant write, read... and then write about it.
try to restrain the reading choices here relevant to the main goal
or at least keep finding relevance to the main goal.

Put going to starbucks or similar on a strict reinforcement schedule. No less than two hours of dedicated, meaningful, chapter writing to an hour of down time.

Cindarella's Fairy Godmother could do wonders with pumpkin and mice, if you want to add your tuppence worth, it might just help, so please do add to the magic dust list. I am so desperate I have even turned off the bot troll detectors so as to make it easier for any suggestions :)

an archeology of the mobile phone

These great vintage advertisements clearly demonstrate that there has always been a market for making phones personal (size and colour matter).

The intent has always been to be more accessible; to communicate more rather than less.
And what's inside the box getting harder and harder to fathom. Blackboxing (a Latourian phrase) the innards makes replication and therefore competition more difficult? In conjunction with the demands for small, portable, multitasking on microchips that makes it all too intricate to fathom.

With multitasking Bell and Motorola have come a long way :)

And that's just a part of it, as there are the assemblages behind the assemblages, most times such concerns are hidden from consciousness until there is a 'need to know' a breakdown or a justification for charges, for costs...

....the telecommunications network grew with jacks... power sources...power optic cabling...transmitters...
Such telephone networking required significant work and a vast hinterland of historical advances to move from there to here. 'An ant account draws attention to the negotiations that needed to occur for a stable assemblage to be formed.... as patterns are laid down, grooves formed, a kind of template is created which also limits, proscribes, {contains, constrains, constructs} what can come next (Bigum & Rowan 2004).
Clay Spinuzzi has this well covered in his book, Network. The competition between US providers is a fascinating read well supported by the Machiavellian analysis lent from actor-network theory.
Spinuzzi describes the 'accretion of sediments'. In what has gone before, the laying down of grooves makes particular contingencies more and less likely. Competition between service providers is hugely difficult where one company owns the lines and wouldn't share without threat of Government interventionism. Duplicating such a network is a nigh impossibility. Issues of scale make it financially viable to compete only in areas of high population density. And then along came competition that circumnavigates the high transmission costs; microwave towers can go from here to there without the maintenance costs of lines, linesmen.... Cell phones then evolve.

Change comes in increments that have discernible traces.

Bigum, C., & Rowan, L. (2004). Flexible learning in teaching education: myths, muddles and models. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 32(3), 213-226.
Spinuzzi, C. (2008). Network: Theorizing Knowledge Work in Telecommunications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

An etymology of texting

I take the elusive object, text messaging, as one of the objects i am studying, and find that far from a flat unidimensional subject, this simple question takes me into multidimesional spaces.
I could consider the unexpected with traces of ink on a page that with sufficient magnification would bring to me a three dimensional view of ink on textured paper, or of a two dimensional imaging of pixels involving an intensity of variable coloured light shining on a flat screen.
However neither of these descriptions provides substantive meaning. I turn instead to considering text as a synergistic whole rather than as a sum of its parts. Taking the latin derivative 'texere', text involves a weaving, a bringing together. There would be no ability for a text message to communicate were it not for a writer as well as a reader. There is then need to consider text as making a 'coherent whole' (Noth, 1990,p332). In the processes also there would be no communication of such a message were it not carried through a medium that transcends time and space. A weaving is required in transmitting thoughts from one person to another. In this study such a weaving is multidimensional for the means of transmission required multiple actors to make it so.

This study of text traces pathways through the three dimensional terrain by following the actors involved. I explore the text(ure) following actors through the tightly knotted as well as the loosely woven threads, but it is also my intention that it is a symphonic texture that is held at the end of such travels. It is not my intent to unravel what is, but instead to create conscious regard for the cloth that is woven.

Textile: ORIGIN late Middle English (denoting a woven fabric or something resembling this): from Latin textura ‘weaving,’ from text- ‘woven,’ from the verb texere.

Text: ORIGIN late Middle English : from Old Northern French texte, from Latin textus ‘tissue, literary style’ (in medieval Latin, ‘Gospel’ ), from text- ‘woven,’ from the verb texere.

Nöth, W. (1990). Handbook of semiotics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Studying the blur; hunting for elusive objects

The more i look, the less distinct my research becomes, what hope then for any reader?

It is with joy that I discover, again, the writing of Casper Jensen who found it so hard to know his own object of study, the electronic patient record.

I take heart from this for I am studying emergent changes in counselling wrought with technology in a youth counselling centre. To explain to others that I am studying change, and my focus happens to be a youth counselling centre undergoing change as it alters its ways of relating because of technologies such as text and email and internet message board processes is also correct.
But then the problems start coming in thick and fast for when i voice this I am asked for a clear delineation of whether text counselling is good or bad or should even be called counselling. And that's where it gets trickier, because counselling is an indistinct entity also.
Pop on top of that the study of change and looking for what's there now but wasn't then, or what wasn't present then but is now, plus consideration for what was planned with what actually occurred, as well as the sequalae of a ripple effect ... a fractal object spread in textual artefacts occurring within a network of moving actors and of no clear geographical location ... and it feels like I'm studying a blur.
I am heartened that i am not alone for Casper Jensen also writes of conversations assuming involvement in the practical development of a specific technology. Alternatively the political processes relating to current events; and asked for evaluative judgments of good or bad. He says "Such understandings are rather far from the mark, however, offering a lucid exposition of just what and where that mark is has proven insistently elusive throughout my project."

At least i am not alone
And thankyou Peter for introducing me to endnote groups as it was because i reopened Casper Jensen's article to decide what topics to place it under that this gem of insight fell out.

Jensen, C. B. (2004). Experimental devices. Studies in STS and electronic patient records. University of Aarhus, Aarhus.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Todays half glass is half empty and the spirulina is green slime.

I have confirmation today that peer review in academia is a fickle process.

A paper I wrote for Ascilite 09 is accepted.
(I'd say yay, except the celebrations are somewhat muted.)

It scored between three reviewers ranging 4.5-6.15 on a 7 point scale.
As was my experience last year, what some reviewers like others hate. The instruction then is to respond to the feedback.
Pity no-one checks to see if there is any consistency between the reviewers comments.

What is confirmed is that "you cant please all of the people all of the time."


Reviewer 1 said nothing positive but accepts the paper.
Reviewer 2 comments on the melodramatic tone then continues,
"Despite the paper being written with excellent grammar and spelling, the writing is quite complex and requires re-reading to fully grasp the ideas
expressed in the paper."
Reviewer 3 says
"The paper is well expressed and presents a strong argument for the need to re-examine how text messaging is perceived in educational contexts. The argument put forward is logical and well supported by the literature cited."

I'm happy with the paper.
When I wrote it I felt there wasn't much new and there wasnt much to do with education.
And I wasnt sure i could write.

Rereading it, i know I can write.
There is newness in that content applications had not been addressed previously.
And I now have more space to make relevant links more formally to education.
Still its descriptive, but that's what actor-network theory does.
To me it feels lightweight, but with applications worth sharing.

Here is the abstract:

In what ways do the media we shape, shape us in return?

The concept of young people being negatively affected by the ubiquitous mobile phone, has taken firm hold in the public consciousness. Unfortunately, an instrument blaming perspective fails to consider the relational issues involved. Questions of how we are both shaped by and shape our technologies are neglected when questions collapse to binaries of good or bad. This paper draws on the work of French sociologist Bruno Latour as a means to understanding the discourse positioning the mobile as an object of harm, and for strategies considering how the mobile might be positioned otherwise. In an attempt to redress the negative evaluative imbalance associated with mobile phones, an example taken from research in progress involving Youthline’s text messaging for counselling is explored. Implications for teaching and learning are suggested, including strategies for text messaging and for positioning the mobile as an adjunctive instrument supporting students through their studies.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

actors are not always human, a demonstration

Actors are not always human, in this example people are responding to a non-human actor ... previously people were choosing the convenience of speed and rest in using an escalator where the escalator could have been deemed a non-human actor also.
The alteration to the stairs brings in new actions, interestingly the new behaviour also involves in many instances an added delay. Enjoy!