Monday, November 22, 2010

The plot thickens: Conversational moves in phd writing

Kamler and Thomson suggest developing the thesis as argument might be progressed through conversational means, so here goes:

So here's the problem
Change is bloody hard to make happen. (Ch.1 contextualising)
Even when its seen somewhere else and looks like its the best thing since sliced bread, making it happen, getting others to align, how then to win friends and influence to get all the ducks in a row...And as much as i think i might be making a change happen, whats it doing back?
So I'm going to look at change.

I take the example of emergent technologies in a youth counselling centre.
How do things get off the ground, where's it come from...everyone's implicated, and so are things...
Something that's not been done before evolves, there were a few things up in the air, one of them really takes off. Whats involved?
How does it reshape those involve; people, practices, and the things.

So there's a multitude of ways change gets looked at, and they only ever get part of the picture.
How would we know whats needed and whats possible if we only get part of the picture?
And how could we intervene to make such a change more positive, and on what grounds, because things might be otherwise.
And this brings up alternate realities, for which groups or individuals do we talk of when we consider the positive?
Ah there's a controversy in this: What to do with concurrent positives and negatives? And what of multiple realities that sometimes converge, clash or are distributed so that they not clash.

This change that happens crosses disciplines and has never been explored before, so there's a need to check out education, health, psychology- inter and intra-personal, and there's organizational change, top down and bottom up.
And there's consideration for the technology, and consideration for counselling.
So i make a space inside of which I can portray the multiplicity involved. I make a space I can talk from. (Ch2 networking the theory space being clarifications and ch 3 illogics and logics of change lit review)

And in looking at approaches to change, I can say why they are flawed, or at least fractional, and partial in both senses of the word. Can it be otherwise: no.
They give a part of the picture, they simplify too far. I use the literature on change as an example of how realities do this; they're partial always.
I introduce ANT, an approach that seems more robust, while at the same time is very humble; it doesnt prescribe, and it doesnt do causation, and it works with partial- in both meanings. Considerable justification is given to my choosing a method that openly acknowledges no claim to understanding everything nor provides answers.

(ch 4 ANT sensibilities) how to do an ant informed study, what further knowledge of ant is needed

(ch 5 methodological praxis)I negotiate work with a not-for-profit organisation i have been associated with who are expanding the repertoire on approaches they have taken to counselling.
Its important to understand whats going on in as much as we can because:
1. the agency wants to understand how change may then be shaped for good. Shaping services for good matters, it matters for young people; they have a need to be heard and to be taken seriously with regard to services that purports to meet their needs.
2. this research shares practice that has not previously been written of (text counselling).
3. to contribute to discussions of social material relationality particularly in regard for how digital spaces might be interfered with for good; to better meet human purposes

(Ch 6 Slices of practice) So what i did was a three dimensional capture of the network involved in the semisolid practices of text counselling particularly.
I present the findings, some of the findings, sufficient of the portray the knowledge of whats shaping the service. These are presented as slices of practice.(ch 6, data analysis)
This involves giving voice to artefacts, to data- 6000 text counselling messages, to CCT's, interviewing clients and providers of the service, and staff who make the serive possible.

(ch 7 discussion) And it allowed me to see

1. how things might be otherwise, considerations for the organization, including opening up areas of discussion, opening up questions of what if...what of scale, what of 'stickiness of the medium, what of smartphones, broadband access being more available, costs shifting...
2. considerations for practice: writing up a practice shift; identifying the significant aspects of this new practice
3. consideration for ANT in regard to issues of identity and agency; of multiple realities; of making digital spaces more amenable to human needs

(Chapter 8, conclusion)Realities are multiple; diversity required, conclusions are multivocal:
Whats learned in doing this?
That things can be/are now otherwise:
for the agency
for ant
for counselling
for me: that change takes work; that research involves researcher repsonsibilty.

Some further plot thickening: how to turn the genre of a storyline into the argument of a thesis... I think there's a tautology involved: Seems to my mind that a networked approach just isnt going to do nice straight trajectories.

Kamler, B. and Thomson, P.(2006). Helping doctoral students write. New York, NY.: Routledge

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Poetics of place and space

Ze Frank's web playroom reached a TED talk

Ze Franks TEDtalk begins with a picture, a metaphor of the virtual world.
And he says something like how every talk of the web uses a picture like this, the digital traces made apparent. Its a tracing of the social web from wikipedia, it might have been a network via ANT but the anthrocentrism of social networking per wikipedia doesnt acknowledge the non human actors.

Ze Frank also brings in a picture of a Netherlands street crossing sign. The person looks to be really interested in the button, but seems he's not that interested in crossing the street, having fixated on the button...
and it reminds Ze of a photograph from any current street corner, a person looking at the text on their mobile phone. And what he makes of this is:
"Truth is, life is being lived there,
when they smile,
life is being lived there, somewhere up there in that dense network.
To feel and be felt...

He might have said instead: To love and to be loved in return...
Really connecting with people isnt easy"

But Ze Frank manages it, mediated by web
His examples include the very beautiful audio hug; Hey you're ok, you'll be fine, just breathe...Made by strangers around the world.

And it reminds me of my phd study with youthline and its text counselling. What it takes to be supported, to feel affirmed, to be connected, might look small, but its a moment in reality nonetheless.
Its not necessarily the people i am with geographically with that make me feel connected. It can be the book I'm reading, the ideas of writers long past or very distant, people I am unlikely to meet, but whose thinking resonates, and a web of connection made it easier.
And the connections don't stop with the people, but with things of import also.
Transitional objects Sherry Turkle calls them.
And her book Evocative objects, things we think with demonstrates the point, we are shaped in connection not only with each other, but also with things.

Taking this a bit further, into philosophy and into metaphysics, what is, is shaped in connection with us, its not a chair or a table or a ...unless i think it so...its there...but its purpose is established in connection with me.
My mobile is also my outsourced memory, my torch, my holder of talismans- the little messages i dont delete.

Its what helps me feel good about myself.
oh...and its also a phone.

Both human and non-human identities are shaped in connection.
And neither are totally separable one from the other, but entwined, the sociotechnical is made in conjunction.

Gregory Bateson in an ecology of mind explores such connection also:
Is there a line or a sort of a bag where I can say that "inside" that line or interface is "me" and outside" is the environment or some other person? By what right do we make these distinctions?

This challenges bounded ways of thinking, arguing that relational processes are entwined in the forming of people, and of potentials:

It is through relational process that whatever we come to view as independent beings are given birth.... in whatever we think, remember, create and feel, we participate in relationship... we carry with us traces of myriad relationships, past and present, existing or imagined. These traces essentially equip us with multiple and often conflicting potentials for action. (p397)

Its not only our relating with people that has this import.
The social and technical are entwined, identities of both made in the moment, and the agency of both made in networks of possibility.

One of few memories of my Grandad was him repeating the maxim 'clothes maketh the man'
On reflecting, across time, and networking with dead people's thoughts, I find this a very ANT like saying.

But the ANT connection here that I really want to make is that there are people constructively using digital spaces that enhance the very human condition of feeling loved, feeling heard and being connected.

For Peter Sloterdikt, the spaces we make to live in, while talking of architecture, might also consider the digital spaces we choose to shape and be shaped by. Using the metaphor of spherology: a bubble's interior and exterior are made in the same breath. In designing where we live, such shaping influence us.
In moving into digital spaces how too are such spaces shaping us, and how might we shape them better to meet our human needs?

To use cutting edge technology in order to orchestrate the most archaic of all needs to be met, the need to immunize existence, to construct protective islands, to nurture human fragility...we arrive in a world of fingertip buttons.
Sloterdikt refers to his own explicative work; he refers to the dynamism of our being-in-the-world...where every created space enatils a projection.
That we take into each new space the memory of a different space, a past space we have been in.
What interiors are/were needed...becomes...what environments might produce such interiors...
Interiors that trace immunizing capacity, a protective capacity, a protection against the less fortuitous moments of life is what is wanted.

And so he infers that for architects geometry is not a starting point, but instead the atmospheric effects of space.
SO in teaching an dlearning, the starting point shouldnt be ppt...
Obviously not everyone's idea of what is desirable in nurturing spaces will be the same. But there are places to start from that are more and less helpful, the tools or the human values...shouldnt really be a hard question, mmm?

To appreciate technology's usefulness consider a functionalist question of what does the system achieve in current form? and at the end, What could be done instead? Rather than what do we use, begin with intent.
Just as modern achitecture sees itself as molders of humanity, , if one ignores the shot of meglomania, so too might designers of digital spaces.

This links a media as environment approach, in using emergent technologies consideration might first be given to the design of such spaces attentive to the needs of the human condition, remembering that variation exists and that diversity is therefore required.

'Language is the house of being' postulated Heidegger
'The medium is the message' asserted Mcluhan

I'm thinking that reals are made in unreal spaces also.

Bateson, G. (1972). Steps to an ecology of mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology. Chicago, IL: University Of Chicago Press.
Sloterdijk, P. (2009). Spheres theory: Talking to myself about the poetics of space. Harvard Design Magazine, 30(Spring/Summer), 126-137. Retrieved from
Turkle, S. (Ed.). (2007). Evocative objects. Things we think with. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

beautifully entwined

Dont show them, tell them,
a beautiful example of this writing technique:
And I dont even like tennis, nor does Andre Agassi it seems.
He's beautifully entwined, mind, body, family, the tennis opens...
The opening pages just pull.
What tennis means to his children- failure would mean a new puppy...
Realities are multiple.
His children 1, and 3 know not to run into him, his body is known by so many others in so many ways. For himself in these opening pages he knows his body as pain, his children, such young children, know his body as fragile.

There's seamless movement from one aspect of the network to another, Ramon his racket stringer, the art of tension held physically in his Agassis' own body and also within the focused work of the craftsman tennis rackett stringer and within the physical entity of the rackets.

This is a beautifully written illustration of actor-network theory, beautifully descriptive, the network just gets shown.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Persuading an octopus into a glass jar; literature review writing in a PhD

Persuading recalcitant octopi into glass jars could well be a future vocation.

Certainly i have enough practice. I had wrongly it seems considered my lit review section an an extension of my own thinking, it just needed a bit of shaping. I now know it as a thing that writhes, seemingly with a mind of its own. Seems my having will is not enough to constrain it, it needs to want to go.

Wish it would stop sucking to me, I'm sick of its tenacious clingyness and want it to let go.

The gem with which I have titled this blog comes from Kamler and Thomson (2006) in their text Helping Doctoral Students Write.

How to write to lead a reader in the directions I want...
Involves making it palatable- plain white bread loses its appeal...sprinkling it with glitter doesnt make it taste any better.

Is gritty better than bland? Mmmm masterchef question...

And I get through the tough patch for another day with a little help from Bruno Latour: I put myself at the top of the arc of that excitement.
And then i can tell a story that doesnt want to choke me, let alone the reader.

This links in well with reading some John Seely Brown on the power of pull.
Heres a pdf from a keynote, good slides on the difference between Cartesian learning and social learning (again, I nod my head to Latour, Networked learning)
Another good slide: Change the music and you change the film.
What we see, how we see it...all networked...
...its back to Turtles all the way down.