This morning I was privileged to be the object of attention of my fellow Center for Women and Work Research Associates at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. We meet on a monthly basis to discuss our research projects and learn from the discussion of an interdisciplinary group of scholars. This is my second tour of duty with this group. [Meg Bond, CWW Founder to Right]
During the first tour (two years), I was working on my Journal Project. Thanks to this internal research support, I was able to conduct some very risky and experimental research around the integration of arts-based research and qualitative computing...and that work is now being exhibited, published, discussed, etc. Centers like this are critical on universities to provide encouragement for faculty to germinate new ideas, take those first steps, and work through a project--the in-kind support they offer is every bit as important as a financial award.
As I said, this is my second tour of duty, and in this period I am working on the sexting project, a three-state, interdisciplinary study of teens and sexting. I am the official qualitative researcher on the project. PI Andrew Harris from our Criminal Justice Department joined me. We described the initiative, showed the NVivo Project, and shared our notion of the continuum of what sexting means in the teen mind.
As I explained to them in showing NVivo...leveraging the transparancy and portability of this tool--and showing you what the coding looks like--makes me vulnerable. Most people don't publicly share their research in this way, but its a commitment we have that goes along with using the software. [It is scarey...a project is like the inside of your brain, it's like letting people into your file cabinet, your closets.]
Then the group asked us questions--really good questions (as they always do). The group ranged from psychology and sociology to economics; there were qualitative and quantitative researchers. They were awestruck by the size and amount of materials--number of sites, focus groups, students involved (9 schools; 3 states; 123 students...and that's only part 1...I know we went "data heavy"...but when you are a data hog--it's hard to set boundaries!) They were pleased with the way we were building up from the emic perspective. That struck them as important. And, they asked for some things we need to dig for in the data to better set the cultural context for understanding the responses:
1. What are the opportunities at each school to hear messages about sexting? Where do they occur? Are they in separate places or integrated in any way?
2. What are the school's written policies about technology use?
They, like the students we interviewed, had a range of views about what sexting was--"Is it this?" "Is it that?" Everyone gets confused, whenever we start talking about the project...but they asked very astutely, what do these messages/photos actually look like? That's not for this study--we are looking at views expressed in interviews (and I hate to think of the IRB issues related to procuring young people's sexting examples...), but it was an excellent thing to think about--because that is truly where the rubber meets the road!
Thanks to CWW for providing opportunities for this kind of discussion!