Friday, February 27, 2015

Hans-Ulrich Obrist: Where have you been all my life?

Recently I was stuck in a medical waiting room trying to amuse myself and picked up the 12/8/2014 issue of The New Yorker.  The New Yorker seemed a better choice than Parent Magazine, Modern Oncology, or whatever else medical staff had brought in to cheer us up as we waited.  

But what a gift this issue proved to be.  The profile, "The Art of Conversation: The Curator Who Talked His Way to the Top" by D.T. Max turned out to be one of those life-changing articles that only The New Yorker can offer. To my chagrin, I seem to be one of the last people n in the modern world to hear about Obrist. That will teach me to drop my subscription to the New Yorker! 

I had a long wait at the medical center, a blessing in disguise, because it allowed me to soak in every word about this amazing person who has revolutionized and popularized the notion of curation, not to mention providing important new models for understanding the the interview.  Both curation and the interview were of interest to me as a qualitative researcher.  Obrist offered new and exciting models for thinking about both. 

Naturally, I stole the issue from the waiting room and took it home with me.  I was sure I needed it more than anyone else who might have been there.  Then I spent most of the rest of the weekend reading about Obrist, listening to videos and interviews of him online, and ordering and reading his books from Amazon.  In fact, reading that Obrist had become a devote of Instagram, using this tool to capture glimpses of his many conversational encounters with artists, I returned to the Instagram account I had ignored for months (Artful_Inquiry) and began to follow Obrist through Instagram, I felt like a voyeur examining his photos of crumpled post-its written at various locations on his travels.

Pieces that struck me as I read:
-fascinated by the way he has thought about geography, space, architecture, placemaking as components of art AND curation
-his notion of the conversational interview with artists--a project he has been working on since teenhood--offers a new model of the interview for qualitative researchers.  (I intend to read more of these interviews...wondering if they would be good material to practice analysis on!)
-I like the fact he is publishing his interviews, but wish he would also release as audio items.
-I want to suggest that these materials should be carefully archived in a library where they can be accessed by the world.
-He helped me to understand how the artS, not simply art is what is evolving today. I realized that my eclectic approach to arts isn't that strange...why shouldn't poetry nourish felting or play with collage feed an understanding of architecture or gardening!
-I'm going to experiment with Instagram as a data collection tool--for creating various kinds of visual collections (just started with my meeting scribbles...we'll see where this goes)
-I am in the process of developing an applied anthropology project for my social anthropology final assignment...thinking of how Instagram data collection, conversation, and curation might be used in different parts.  (Oh dear--don't tell the Institutional Review Board!  I promise to get the paper work in before I do anything.)

Thank you to the New Yorker, D.T. Max, and, of course, Hans-Ulrich Obrist himself. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sexting: Gender and Teens

Sexting:  Gender and Teens—Findings from my new book!

I will be doing a couple of campus presentations on the study discussed in my new book, Sexting: Gender and Teens, and thought it would be timely to share some of what I have learned.  These are  
findings related to teens.  Jump below to find information on the original study and the data set. 
How do teens define sexting?

Sexting is a term imposed upon youth by adults.  Youth had great difficulty defining sexting.

Youth regard sexting as a range of practices  in which intimate relationships, desire, and sexuality are expressed.  

How do teens describe the gendered motivations for sexting?

Girls assert they want romance and one-to-one intimacy. 

Boys assert they are swayed to participate by a desire to shine among male peers.   

Some youth believe that sexting is not sex, because it does not include direct physical contact, and they see moral and practical benefit in that fact.  

Some youth believe that if you are truly in love with the other person , then sexting is not sexting—it is romantic intimacy.  

How do teens view the gendered consequences of sexting?

Girls and boys recognize that boys will likely gain “bragging rights” from their sexting activities.

Girls and boys recognize that girls will likely be shamed by others if they are found to be involved in sexting.  

Girls who are identified as engaging in sexting are labelled “whore”, “slut”, “bus”, “flip” and other derogatory terms, suggesting they have low moral standards.

There are no similar terms to be applied to boys.  

The shaming of girls comes not only from their peers (boys and girls).  A girl who engages in sexting may be shamed by family members and other adults, such as teachers, school administrators, and neighbors.  

By engaging in sexting a girl may likely bring shame on her family, who will also be shunned by others for her actions.  (Parents of other children, school officials, and others in the community).

Boys face embarrassment, not shame, for their involvement in sexting activities (if such activity does not merit legal response).  

These findings are derived from a secondary analysis of data collected in:
 Building a Prevention Framework to Address Teen “Sexting” Behaviors.  
(Grant #2010-MC-CX-0001).  Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Office of Justice Programs.  U.S. Dept of Justice.  (2011-2013)
P.I.  Andrew Harris, Dept of Criminal Justice, Umass Lowell

Mixed Methods:  Focus group interviews and surveys
Data Parameters:
       Three States:  MA, OH, SC
       Teens: 123 total
       44.7% male; 55.3% female
       18 gender segregated focus groups
       Parents and Other Caretakers: 92
       9 focus groups
       Other Adults: 117
       Variety of groupings including educators, law enforcement, and community leaders

Read more about this in:  Sexting: Gender and Teens from Sense Publications.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Social Anthropology: Going Back to the Mother Ship

Merrimack River Bed
This semester I have had the great privilege to have been allowed to teach the course "Social Anthropology", and I am loving it!  Offered by the sociology department of UMass-Lowell (we don't have an anthropology program at our university), it fulfills the undergraduate core curriculum requirements for a social science.  45 undergraduates are sailing on this ship with me.  I don't think they've ever had an instructor who keeps saying--Thanks so much, I am so glad I have been allowed to teach this class! 

I call this experience "going back to the mother ship", meaning that as a qualitative researcher I am going back to the roots of anthropology--its definitions and arguments.  This has been a great refresher for thinking about the history, meaning, and techniques of qualitative research.  I have been teaching qualitative research in some form since 1999, and I didn't realize that it (or I?) had become a bit stale. 

Teaching social anthropology requires I think and talk about:  what is culture? This is something I realize I had stopped thinking about at some point in my career.  I guess I thought it was implied in everything.  It's great to have it brought back front and center.

In my doctoral qualitative research course, at the beginning of the semester we talk about: what is numerical/non-numerical data and we debate the various paradigms.  Philosophy leads and practicalities come next.

In social anthropology, however, I started by jumping into examples of descriptive vs applied anthropology--after all, these are undergraduates--and, quite rightly, they would like to know:  what do these people do?  Why do they do it?  And, can you get a job in this field?

Of course, this semester--Spring 2015--has been exceptionally snowy and we have had many class cancellations, but I think we are beginning to get into a rhythm now at Week 6.  We had an exciting class today on the topic of subsistence and economic strategies for survival.  The class was divided into multiple small groups focusing on foragers, horticulturalists, pastoralists, or intensive agriculturalists.  It was fascinating to watch the way discussions of the characteristics of these different economic strategies led students to consider how different cultural areas (marriage, kinship, language, religion, political structures, etc.) are connected to the economy.  By the end of our class time, I was quite impressed with the ways they had dug into this topic.