Sunday, October 30, 2016

International Congress on Qualitative Inquiry: Call for Proposals

It is that time of year again.  The International Congress on Qualitative Inquiry is getting ready for Year 13--2017.  The Digital Tools Special Interest Group needs your submission.  I have posted the call for applications below.  Or, you can go to our web page for more information, and to see what we have been up to.  The submissions are due at the beginning of December, and the conference is in mid-May.  Join me on the University of Illinois-Champaign campus for another exciting year discussing qualitative research with fellow hard core aficionados!

The Digital Tools track at ICQI 2017
The theme of the 2017 Congress is “Qualitative Inquiry in the Public Sphere,” and the Digital Tools for Qualitative Research SIG will once again host a special track during the conference. Please note that the emphasis of this SIG is on the intersection of digital tools and qualitative researchers rather than the findings of qualitative studies that address questions of technology use. See prior programs for examples and consider submitting sessions on distance learning, computers in the schools, etc. to other tracks or to the general Congress.
You may submit poster, paper or panel proposals related to the conference theme and/or to one of the following themes:
  • Digital Tools for Qualitative Research:  What are they (old and new; hybrid or repurposed)?  What are the various and intersecting sub-groups of tools that comprise qualitative research technology? How are they being used?  What constitutes good use?  How do we know?
  • Methodological Quandaries:  How are qualitative researchers making sense of the methodological issues raised by the use of digital tools? What methodological tasks are served by the use of new tools?  How do digital tools impact the use of different interpretive frameworks?
  • Ethics and Social Justice:  What ethical issues do these tools raise?  Whom do they help?  Whom do they hurt?  How is justice or injustice occurring through the use of digital tools in qualitative research?
  • The Literature of and Theoretical Perspectives on Digital Tools in Qualitative Research:  How are we theorizing and contextualizing these tools? How do researchers’ affiliation with or critique of these tools shape our communities of practice?
  • Other: A topic of your choice that addresses our focus on the intersection of digital tools and qualitative researchers (or digital tools and qualitative methodologies).
Submitting a poster, paper or panel proposal
Please submit your abstracts to the Digital Tools for Qualitative Research SIG through the conference website:
  • Abstracts must be 150 words or less.
  • Each submission should clearly specify its category: poster, paper or panel.
  • Choose the Digital Tools for Qualitative Research track during the submission process.
  • To assist in the grouping of papers, you might also identify one of the themes described above (Digital Tools for Qualitative Research, Methodological Quandaries, Ethics and Social Justice, The Literature of and Theoretical Perspectives on Digital Tools, and/or the Congress theme – “Qualitative Inquiry in the Public Sphere”).
  • Submission Deadline: December 1, 2016.
  • Proposals that are not accepted by the SIG will be considered for inclusion in the general Congress.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Diana Eck: India: A Sacred Geography—Writing at the Intersection of Anthropology and Religion

Lotus; courtesy of Creative Commons
Recently shopping for some light reading for a short vacation, I came across Diana Eck’s India: A Sacred Geography on Amazon.  I was surprised to see Eck's name associated with a book on India, because my knowledge of her was related to work on diversity in the American religious scene.  In fact, at first I thought the odd last name was only a coincidence; but not so!!  Eck's decades long work with Indian religious issues is actually the catalyst for her current work with pluralism and American religious change. 

India: A Sacred Geography is a rich treat.  A book that has been gestating in its author for many, many years.  This long process of production started with her earliest work on Benaras (her dissertation I would presume), and includes many years of visiting India, going to numerous places of pilgrimage, and thinking about landscape, architecture, literature, language—how it all fits together. 

The underlying premise is that India was India long before the latest colonial invasions.  India created itself by foot and pilgrimage, endowing the landscape with a sense of meaning and story that is re-enacted again and again by the constant visiting that crosses various territories.  More powerful than any boundary drawn by British or other parties, India’s sense of consolidation is written on the landscape through the circulation of pilgrims. 

“Many Indian scholars have noted the significance of the network of pilgrimage places in constructing a sense of Indian “nationhood” not as a nation-state in the modern usage of the term, but as a shared, living landscape, with all this cultural and regional complexity,” says Eck (location 365) 
 A landscape that is created in this way is mythic, historical, and contemporary.  It is both natural and contrived.  Of the natural—rivers play a huge role, of which there are many, many crossing the geography of the country.   Of the contrived, temples, buildings, and cities are significant.  Tirthas, dhams, lingas—I began to lose count of the many kinds of constructions that could be linked to weave together this landscape. 

The anthropologic piece, for me, is the way Eck understands this landscape of vast proportions from a kind of participant-observation perspective.  She has walked the ways of the pilgrims…and yet she has also read and constructed a theoretical understanding of the ways goddess bodies are distributed across landscape, the way cities are connected through myth and pilgrimage, and the role that rivers play throughout it all. 

Studying the Indian sense of India as constructed through a religious landscape that has been evolving for centuries is a different kind of anthropologic feat than sitting in “x” village for a year and trying to figure out water rights (although there is nothing wrong with that).  And I am not at all sure that Eck would describe herself as an anthropologist.  But there is something here that is highly anthropologic and deserves to be thought about as a form of qualitative research.  As such it provides insights about how to study things that seem irregular, large, diffuse—not a village, school, or business department.  We need, I think, to make use of qualitative research tools to study the irregular as well as the regular and confined (made strange).  I would assume she has some items that count for traditional data, but I would also assume that much of her thinking is not data-driven in the traditional way we are using it right now—time bound and scientific—but incorporated in embodied memories of visits and time spent watching and thinking.  I think her method required lived experience, and, as she says, it was gestating for a long time. 

As I page through my digitally highlighted notes of the book it’s hard to know what to stop and share—there is so much that I felt was significant.  It is definitely a good read for a qualitative researcher in search of new models. 

 Diana Eck.  2012.  India: A Sacred Geography.  Published by Harmony Books, a division of Random House.  New York. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Making Sense of Obrist and Ways of Curating

Hans Ulrich Obrist’s book, Ways of Curating, is a marvel for many reasons.  He is so widely read and so deeply intertwined with artists and curators through his decades long interviewing activities that he is able to make amazing connections between the history of curation and the current trends.  There are many lessons and overlap with qualitative research. 
Below is a curated collection of quotations drawn from my highlights in the Obrist text.  Taken from various parts of the text, they began to form a new narrative about the bringing together of the arts and science, which was one, but certainly not the whole of Obrist’s discussions. 
As he has done in many sphere’s, Obrist suggests ways of creating connections, making sparks fly through juxtapositions, miming, and reorganization.  My question to the world of qualitative research is:  How might we change the way we bring things together—people, ideas, conferences—to “allow different elements to touch”?  What would happen if we did? 
Page 1 · Location 33
There is a fundamental similarity to the act of curating, which at its most basic is simply about connecting cultures, bringing their elements into proximity with each other –the task of curating is to make junctions, to allow different elements to touch. You might describe it as the attempted pollination of culture, or a form of map-making that opens new routes through a city, a people or a world.
Page 20 · Location 264
Zones of contact was my working phrase for what Boltanski, Lavier and I were trying to create. I took it from the anthropologist James Clifford, who had written about a new model for ethnographic museums, in which the peoples whose culture was being ‘represented’ by the museum proposed their own alternate forms of exhibiting and collecting. They were taking it upon themselves to recollect their own story and create their history from the inside. This changed the whole historical narrative of the ethnographic museum, which has mostly been a place for one culture to tell the story of another.
Page 23 · Location 305
The current vogue for the idea of curating stems from a feature of modern life that is impossible to ignore: the proliferation and reproduction of ideas, raw data, processed information, images, disciplinary knowledge and material products that we are witnessing today.
Collecting Knowledge
Highlight(orange) - Page 39 · Location 526
Though the aim of amassing evidence may sound like a rather scientific way to think about collecting, it is necessary to remember that the hard distinction between science and art which marks more recent centuries was not evident as late as the sixteenth century. The separation of art and the humanities on the one hand, and science on the other, is a fundamental feature of modern life, but it also constitutes a loss.
Highlight(orange) - Page 40 · Location 534
To study the Renaissance is to gain a model for reconnecting art and science, sundered by history.
Curating (Non-)Conferences
Highlight(yellow) - Page 152 · Location 1921
Having suddenly been introduced to such an interdisciplinary mixture of people was like a revelation to me. So I thought more about how to connect the arts and the sciences within my own curatorial work.
Highlight(yellow) - Page 153 · Location 1932
So I thought it would be interesting to apply the idea of changing the rules of the game for a discursive event like a conference, similar to what I had done in exhibitions. A mischievous idea occurred to me. What if one had all the accoutrements of a conference: the schedule, hotel accommodation, participants with their badges, but dispensed with the ‘official’ elements of panels,
Highlight(yellow) - Page 153 · Location 1937
The idea was to create a contact zone where something could happen but nothing had to happen. And so the ‘conference’ we organized at the research centre, ‘Art and Brain’, had all the constituents of a colloquium except the colloquium. There were coffee breaks, a bus trip, meals, tours of the facilities, but no colloquium.
Highlight(yellow) - Page 154 · Location 1943
the role of the curator is to create free space, not occupy existing space. In my practice, the curator has to bridge gaps and build bridges between artists, the public, institutions and other types of communities. The crux of this work is to build temporary communities, by connecting different people and practices, and creating the conditions for triggering sparks between them.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sharlene Hesse-Biber Does It Again! The Oxford Handbook of Multimethod and Mixed Methods Research

I consider Sharlene Hesse-Biber to be the absolute queen of handbooks about qualitative research (and related subjects).  When some people get to the "handbook stage" of their career, the reading gets dull.  But this is not the case with Dr. Hesse-Biber.  Recently I found myself sitting at a desk with multiple handbooks assembled by Hesse-Biber...and they were all good and worthwhile!  Her latest volume is not a disappointment. 

I selected a couple of articles from it for my "Advanced Topics in Qualitative Research" course for this fall.  I wanted to provide students with cutting edge topics in qualitative research, and mixed methods definitely counts as one of those.  The two we reviewed were:

"Introduction: Navigating a Turbulent Research Landscape: Working the Boundaries, Tensions, Diversity, and Contradictions of Multimethod and Mixed Methods Inquiry" by Sharlene Hesse-Biber


"A Qualitatively Driven Approach to Multimethod and Mixed Methods Research" by Sharlene Hesse-Biber, Deborah Rodriguez, and Nollaig Frost. 

I was particularly pleased to see interdisciplinary and team research issues discussed at length in Hesse-Biber's introduction.  This emphasis is contrary to what one sees in the majority of textbooks on qualitative research up to now, which describe research methodology as primarily an act performed by individuals.   The inclusion of these issues here illustrates the way Hesse-Biber stays current with developments in research. 

She does not shy away from the difficulties present in trying to mix methodological approaches. 
Important in fostering a robust mixed methods analytical and interpretative process as well is the development of a profound appreciation for the potential contributions a given methodological perspective can bring to a mixed methods project. (xli)
Border tensions thread throughout the Introduction from the qual/quant divide to disciplinary differences to the colonial divide of the global North and South, to technology divides.  Not surprisingly Hesse-Biber is also the editor of the excellent "Handbook of Emergent Technologies in Social Research."  She speaks with authority when she says:
The MMMR community is witnessing a shift from a 'one data set' study structure toward multiple data sets aggregated from a range of structure levels (micro/meso/macro/emanating from a variety of sources (online/offline/mobile/hybrid). (xliv)
 The notion of multiple data sets and structure levels was part of the class conversation about the second article as we considered the different models the authors offered of qualitative driven research that was also mixed method and/or multi-level.  My students grappled with the idea of a qualitative research study with multiple levels of qualitative research data--what that might look like, why you might do it, what the pitfalls could be, and how you would manage it. 

In thinking about these issues, the case studies included were invaluable.  There are three.  The first about rape culture.  The second about enhancing the validity of clinical trials with Asian-American patients.  The third case study took up gender inequality in the workplace. 

Throughout the chapter, the authors used simple visuals (squares inside of or relationship to other squares)--so simple, but very effective. 

I appreciated the caveats or cautions the authors offered.  Here is one that stood out:
In addition, pursuing a qualitatively driven MMMR design also requires new research skills and resources, and here it behooves researchers to being to question the extent to which they may need to retool their research skills or approach their project with a team of differently skilled researchers (18) [the emphasis is the authors]
 I can't wait to see how the concerns we encountered in the discussion of these articles translate into the future dissertations that will come out of this group. 

The full reference is:

Hesse-Biber, S. & Burke Johnson, R. (Eds.) (2015).  The Oxford Handbook of Multimethod and Mixed Methods Research Inquiry.  Oxford University Press. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Reading Deeply: Kindle, Obrist, and Ways of Curating

I have been experimenting, slowly over many months, with the notes function of Kindle.  I wasn’t quite sure how it would work for me to read full books digitally, to highlight as my form of taking notes, and to import into other forms.  It was all fuzzy for me.  I tried out different aspects, moving carefully, and, interestingly, without reverting to “Google It!” to solve the problem or give me an overview. 

Reading digitally in the kindle is important to me because the time is already upon us when there may not be a paper form.  I was also concerned about the 10% limit on highlighted sections for export rule.  Would I capture enough for my purposes?  A third concern was, how was I going to keep a sense of the whole, the chapter structure in which the quotes were embedded? 

Obrist’s Ways of Curating was the first text where I really went to town with the highlighter and have now imported the notes.  Here are some things I learned.

1.       Go ahead and save in the html format, because there is an option for editing in Word 2016.  It works.

2.      The highlights will be in embedded in the chapter format—the chapter headings will be there.

3.      You can also highlight the table of contents and it will save at the beginning (but in a long line of text like a single sentence). 

4.      In the digital version you can see the top places others have highlighted—I, therefore, didn’t highlight there, but if it is something you want, go ahead and do it also so you can bring it into your notes. 

5.      Reading the captured highlights is similar and different to reading the larger text.  It’s like an out-of-body experience.  Reminds me of how people quote/place quotes everywhere today.  We are “quote crazy”. 

My next possibilities for using this text was to import to NVivo if I were going to use it in a particular study…and eventually export to Endnote with the reference.  This is overkill until I have a specific use for it.   

In my next blog post I will share selected quotes from the Obrist reading to give you a sense of what all the quoteness feels like.