Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Edward Hackett and Emergent Technologies in the Human Sciences

Hackett, E. (2011). Possible dreams: Research technologies and the transformation of the human sciences.  In The Handbook of Emergent Technologies in Social Research, edited by Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber.  Chapter 1:  pgs 25-46.  Publisher:  Oxford Press. 

Hackett has made a follower--me!  This was a great chapter to lead off this volume--BIG PICTURE!  I note that he refers to "the human sciences", a term that takes me back in my mind to Dilthey, but he brings a new twist to the idea with the notion of "complementary research in the social and behavior sciences" (p. 27).

Another term that brought back memories to me was "ensembles" as in "ensembles of research technologies".  Years ago when I was working on the Hanau Model School Partnership I wrote about the ensembles of school technologies (I presented this at AERA, wrote the paper, but never finished the revisions--such is life).  Hackett points to environmental studies and the ways they have made strides through assembling new "ensembles of research technologies", urging the human sciences to consider this model.

Hackett brings experience working at NSF to bear on the discussion.  Clearly it provided him with the opportunity to look across emerging areas of science/social science and consider the lessons that were being learned. 

I like the way he has integrated history (a discussion of the development of the survey) and the future (the new models described above) to provide a context for thinking about the integration of research approaches.

He identifies four critical domains that research in the human sciences must contend with:  place, scale, time, and engagement.  Here's the quote that ties this all together for me:
In sum, ongoing changes in the importance and nature of place (from local to virtual), the scale of phenomena (from genetic or neural to global), the scope of time (from briefer than a blink to evolutionary), and the terms of engagement with research subjects and users are combining to form the ensembles of research technologies that will be developed by the social and behavioral sciences (p. 35).
  He offers 8 "categories of innovation" (p. 35) that address these issues--not to be missed.

What I take away in my quest to understand what this all means to qualitative research is:
-he doesn't mention qualitative research (nor quantitative research specifically)...he is talking on another plane
-he doesn't mention qualitative data analysis software...and yet is talking about the next generation of technologies that build on the CAQDAS base

-he IS talking about the kind of inclusive (multi-disciplinary/multi-methodological) research that I blogged about not to long ago.
-he IS talking about constant experimentation and purposing/repurposing of technologies to support the goals of research

A very good start to the reading of this book.  

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Emergent Technologies in Social Research

I recently got my hands on The Handbook of Emergent Technologies in Social Research edited by Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber in the Sociology Department at Boston College.  Sharlene is also the founder/leader of the qualitative research software Hypertext. 

 It's the volume that announces a new era in qualitative computing, that is, the era (that I referred to in earlier posts) that is post stand-alone qualitative software, or QDAS 2.0...This is jumping outside of that software box and jumping onto the Internet.  This book is also moving beyond the 'isms' of qualitative research and merging qualitative research into the vast continuum of data that is now available and asking questions of how to work large and fine. 

I am going to be reviewing this volume for a journal, and I realized that one way I could layer the review (work up to it so to speak), was to discuss the individual chapters in the blog.  It's also one way to keep myself reading (it's 687 pages with 28 separate articles--that's no small item).  So, that's what I am going to do.

Let me give you a bit of an overview.  Hesse-Biber gives the broadest latitude to defining what emergent technologies are and what they do:  "New technologies can open up new areas of inquiry, provide researchers with the tools to answer new questions, and change the landscape of knowledge building within and across disciplines." 

The book is divided into 4 parts:
1.  Emergent Technologies in a Broad Social Research Context
2.  The Rise of Internet Technologies and Social Research Practice
3.  Emergent Data Collection Methods:  New Forms of Data Production 
4.  Audiovisual, Mobile, and Geospatial Technologies' Impact on the Social Research Process
5.  The Impact of New Technologies for Studying Social Life in Naturalistic Settings

These are excellent categories for consideration.  As I move forward I have a couple of questions that I will be keeping in mind:
1.  What happened to QDAS (Qualitative Data Analysis Software)?  I don't see it in the chapter headings...And I don't raise this as a criticism, but rather as a question--is it all over for QDAS? 
2.  This leads to my next question--there is a lot here about data collection...but what about analysis?  One of the reasons that, I think, QDAS got short shrift in QR circles was that many people were more interested in data collection or data representation than data analysis...and they found the transparency of QDAS unsettling in regard to making public data analysis processes...so I am reading to understand this issue also. 

Some of the names in here are familiar to me, but many more are new to me.  I am very interested to meet these researchers who are new to me and find out what they are thinking and working on.

Onward and upward with Emergent technologies. 

The book is published by Oxford University Press.  It's out just this year--2011.  

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Arts-Based Research and Jennifer Lapum

This last May, I had the honor to exhibit my arts-based research work in the same room as Jennifer Lapum, a Canadian who was presenting a fantastic exhibit related to the experience of heart patients.  The exhibit was both visual and spatial...and poetic.  The text and words came together in the most fascinating way.  It was very moving on many levels. 

This link will take you to a You Tube video about her work.  

Jennifer Lapum's Art-based Research Presentation

We have both written about our experiences presenting these exhibits and they will be published in the next year, hopefully side-by-side.  Stay tuned for more on this front. 
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New Qualitative Research Book

I am very excited to share news about a new book on qualitative computing that has been recently released. 

Cesar Cisneros Puebla is the editor. 
The title is:  Analysis Qualitativo Asistido Par Computadora: Teoria a Investigacion
And, yes, it is in Spanish. 
Cesar has been a leader in bringing qualitative computing to the Spanish speaking world.  He has helped all of us in qualitative research to realize how North American Centric our views of the history and issues in qualitative research can be.

Thanks Cesar!

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The New Research Paradign is NOT Mixed Methods: It's Inclusion

A segment of a social networkImage via WikipediaIt's strange to wake up and think, "Oh, I've had a blog."  But that is what happened this morning.

I was giving thought to the wonderful team I am working with on the Sexting and Teens project...and that led me to thinking about how it was different in nature and quality from the structure and qualities of so many other research teams...like various kinds of research projects that try to 'work across the aisle' (as in mixed methods)...which led me to think about dissertation committees...and then that led me to thinking about  the work I have done over the past two years as an Associate at the UML Center for Women and Work...and now as a participant in their new Emergent Scholars program for undergraduates. 

What it brings me to is that I think in addition to all of the other revolutions our world is engaged in, we are also undergoing the throes of a paradigm shift in the ways we consider research methodology.  We are shifting from the old reality in which single disciplines dominated, hand-in-hand with single methodological approaches.  I find these studies to be, what I would call, descriptively based.  This is the world in which the separate divisions of qualitative research grew up--grounded theory, case study, ethnography, symbolic interactionism.

The new paradigm of research is highly interdisciplinary in subject matter, and highly integrative in methodology.   It is grounded in complexity and is what, I would call, as problem-based.  It requires far more community to find the answers--a community of researchers working in and with communities of users/experiencers.  It is driven by the factors that are driving so much of world change:  globalization, new technologies, new forms of visualization. 

Currently, we are passing through a hybrid stage that we refer to as "Mixed Methods".  It mixes the best and worst of both worlds. 

I think one dark side of the old paradigm is that it leaned toward the exclusionary--exclusion of other disciplines, exclusion of other methods, purism in methodological perspectives.  In this world, you were valued when you are pure.  You were valued when surrounded by others who are just like you.  When you leave those enclaves you needed to be wary...which leads to be prickly.  Micro and macro discrimination were prevelant around methodology. 

The light side of the new paradigm as I have experienced it is inclusion.  As a qualitative researcher, I feel included, honored, and valued.  I can be part of research discussions addressing a range of topics with a range of methodologies and I feel that my methodological approach is valued.  I can be expert in what I am expert in, and don't have to prove expertise in every other kind of methodology because to solve the problem, understand the phenomenon we all have to pitch in and bring what we have.  

This is not to say that single discipline, single method studies are suddenly useless or to be denigrated, but the ground is shifting under our feet and as research methodologists we will need to be able to enter these new environments.  I like the fact that I can be expert (a qualitative research) and be valued in an interdisciplinary group.  I like the fact that in these new environments the various kinds of blatent and less blatent discrimination that has been practiced against my kind is not considered acceptable. 

But this creates a dilemma...because now I also have to come up to the mark myself and practice inclusion, not exclusion.  This is a dirty secret that qualitative researchers would rather not say much about, but it is also there. 

Many, many thanks to the members of these research teams/groups/experiences that are inclusively moving forward. 

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