Saturday, January 9, 2010

Technology Ov erload

Yesterday I experienced one big technology snafu--unable to view my internet connections from my main computer because it had become confused after lunching with me at an internet cafe (how's that for anthromorphism).  This came on top of several other technology hurdles--synching Iphones with Outlook and Google (still unsuccessful) and the many technology challenges I set for myself this fall--wiki's in teaching, digital storytelling, etc. 

Suddenly I was overloaded and overwhelmed.  When will it end I thought?  What have we set ourselves up for?  Is this it for the rest of my life--nothing but electronic devices that have to coddled and cajoled into doing what I want?  I'm not an engineer.  This isn't the path I meant to sign up for.  How did I get on this track?  In hopes of creating some internal peace--I actually decided to go back to the paper calendar for the next six months.  I feel like a loser and a wimp for making this decision--but there is just too much of this darn technology and it is SO needy sometimes.

This morning, I realized that my technology overload meltdown had a lot to say about the things I've been thinking about in regard to the adoption, or lack of adoption, of qualitative data analysis software (QDAS) by most qualitative researchers.  Many have felt, like me, 'it's too much' 'don't force me to do this when I have so many other things to pay attention to' 'it's too complicated' 'I'm fine the way I am, thank you.'  After yesterday's flurry, I don't blame them. 

QDAS is complex software and, over time, it has gotten more complex, not less.  It's comprehensiveness has brought new layers of features that add immensely to its value, but baffle the newcomer, who asks:  How do I get started? How do you do it right?  Will I be able to learn this in one lifetime?  To its credit, each new version of QDAS takes great strides in terms of format and usability, but it's still a bit foreign to the first time user. 

Then Web 2.0 enters the scene and suddenly many new digital tools appear that are super-easy to use, have simple, intuitive interfaces, and are visually attractive, even catchy in appearance.  Web 2.0, I believe, has set up an entirely new standard of beauty and functionality for digital tools.  QDAS is aware of this challenge.  And yet, Web 2.0 is still that 'darn technology', which, as I experienced yesterday doesn't lack for its own challenges. 

This brings me to another, related story.  Last year, a really bright young qualitative researcher visited my campus.  A recent doctorate with excellent theoretical training in qualitative research, she was surprised when I started to talk about my work with QDAS.  "I don't know what that is.  I never encountered it in my doctoral training," she said honestly.  This surprised me because she was very technologically savvy, working with Web 2.0 tools in imaginative and creative ways, but she had totally skipped over the QDAS stage.  It reminded me, in a way, of countries that are jumping into cell phones without having experienced landlines. 

Right now we are in the QDAS 2.0 phase--a mixture of the two, but what is coming next?  Will QDAS simply be translated/uplifted into Web 2.0?  Or will Web 2.0 which seems more oriented to smaller, combinable units create new kinds of tools that are more adaptable by individual users?  Will we continue to need the large comprehensive, workhorse tools that QDAS represent?  How much will all of this cost?  Will individual researchers be able to afford any of it? 

I have to go now--I have a paper calendar to update! 

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