Monday, June 20, 2011

Visual Memos Again...The Family History Memo

 Visual Memos Again...and again...and again...

As I have been wandering through my stored images, I realized that I had another visual memo to add to the collection I've already put on the blog (at least I think I haven't shared it before).  This one was created early in the work on the Journal Project.  Actually I think it was produced during the Fall 2008 Qualitative Research course where we were all getting on board with autoethnography and arts-based research. 

This memo examines my early life, describing the experience of growing up in the particular household into which I was born.  I'll forgo commentary. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Technologies and Art in Qualitative Research: How they are similar

Today I had a productive dog walk.  Yes, there she is--the little minx. 
Where the walk took me, in my head, was about the issue of working in technology and working in art--design problems--and how I solve them in both. 

What got me started on this was thinking about the ongoing argument between NVivo and Atlas-ti (and probably others of these forms of software).  Atlas-ti insists it is not hierarchical, but works in a more phenomenological way.  NVivo says--"I can do that too.  Try my free nodes."  As I watched Suzanne Freise demonstrating Atlas-ti at the Qualitative computing conference in Istanbul, I realized she was using naming strategies to achieve what NVivo does with tree nodes.  It was a work around that I used once upon a time in NVivo 2 to create categories and lists in the forms I wanted.

I'm not bringing this up to argue one direction or the other, but more to muse on the role of work arounds in technology.  What happens when we come up against a barrier or a limit with a tool?  How do we manipulate it, reshape it, do something to get to our desired goal? 

This reminded me of the challenges that had been set for me in art class (Contemporary Practices at the Essex Art Center with Cathy McLaurin).  We were presented with many design challenges.  I remember when we had to bring in a kitchen object.  I brought in a kind of European vegetable grater.  I had to draw it multiple times--the little holes, their shadows, the handle--it was a lot for someone with limited drawing skills.  But then I was required to make the object in a different material--I chose cardboard and aluminum foil, and it never really resembled the original. 

However, this process--of a design challenge--has much in common with what happens when I try to work out a technology work around.  AND, it also closely resembles what happens in coding in qualitative research.  I have to focus in on the features, analyze what is there, look at it from many angles.  I must extract what appears to me to be the significant feature for the task I am trying to accomplish.  This is a choice, that sets other choices aside.  It puts some features in one box and some in another--I don't call this hierarchical, I call this selecting, boxing, containerizing, clustering.  My mind can only deal with so much. 

So that's what happens on a dog walk.  

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Sexting, Cell Phones and Arts-Based Research

I am currently serving as qualitative researcher on a three-state study of youth views of sexting.  We are just finishing up the youth focus groups, moving into analysis, and getting ready to plan for the adult focus groups in the fall. 

In working on this project, I can't help but think about it from the perspective of arts-based research.  What are the possibilities for thinking with arts-based approaches to this subject.

My primary medium is felt--one of the world's oldest, slowest, most primitive textile techniques.  [And some mixed media].  This is the antithesis of the world that the cell phone typifies (the technology most closely associated with sexting).  Cell phone worlds are fast, quickly shifting...I would even say 'itchy'.  Click, click, click, move on.  Felt is fuzzy, soft, foldable, rollable, of many shapes and sizes.  Cell phones are small, hard, and while they have variety--they most often appear in our minds as little rectangles with shiny digital surfaces. 

My interest in applying art to cell phone got me looking online for what is out there.  I didn't realize how much cell phone clip art exists.  I didn't know anything about cell phone charms...and cell skins (some designs I found were taken from Miami Ink artists!).  I found artists that were making new kinds of installations with discarded cell phones, people who were creating drawings inspired by the inner workings of cell phones, and gallery installations that were created through cell phones--photographs or other capacities.  I cllipped out all the pictures and cartoons of cell phones from copies of my old New Yorkers (as you can tell I was really getting serious!)

I thought about the ways that cell phones and bodies interact.  At first I focused on hands--how do hands hold the cell phone.  I thought of the way that bodies appear in cell phones.  Self-pictures that leave our faces and smiles distorted.  The way that we accidentally snap a part of us (half a head, a foot, etc.) as we try to figure out the camera. 

So, I am clearly on my way to the next, new thing--the cell phone project.  How is it going to intersect with youth views of sexting?  I'm not sure...but it is ready to evolve. 

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The Future of Qualitative Research

I have been playing around with a diagram of the issues I have been thinking about in relationship to the future of qualitative research.  Here is the really messy drawing that I made in my journal.

 I think you might need some translation help.  That messy circle in the middle is qualitative research.  It is standing at the intersection of vast changes we are facing in numerical, spatial/geographical, and sensory technologies.

I think I have come to the same conclusion that Tim Berners-Lee did--it's all about data.  Big data, little data, data displayed visually, tracked geographically, understood on a visceral body level through probes that provide feedback on every sense.  We can do all this--at the broadest and finest levels. 

These worlds of expanding data are bringing together the virtual and the ways we could not have imagined even a few years ago.

So what will qualitative research look like in the near future?  How will it be practiced?

When I think about the people and movements that point us forward in these areas, these names come to mind:

Numerical--Big Data--Nathan Eagle

Cultural Geography--Mei Po Kwan, Marilyn Cope

The sensory and qualitative research:  Walter Gershon, Alex Ruthmann

These are random names in a sea of much activitiy that is emerging within and around qualitative research.

This is the picture I will be thinking with--what is that future going to look like?
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