So long, farewell…

My favourite part about Luker so far has been the Figuring Out What You Think You Know section within chapter 7.  That exercise that she mentions is priceless.  Really.  I feel like even though I’d already done quite a bit of work on my research proposal, the idea of writing a memo to someone (I imagined it was to one of my past professors) helped me tie up so many loose ends that I was having difficulty stringing together.  It also brought up new loose ends, to my initial dismay, but then allowed for an outlet by which I could address them, so that now I don’t feel like I have to worry about it all as much.  I know she was talking about issues larger than just a proposal, but it helped all the same for our final assignment.

 On a different note, I just want to say that though Knight’s work has been helpful in a pragmatic sense, Luker’s exercises are what really spoke to me throughout this process and helped me not only develop my initial interest but, most importantly, become pretty gung-ho about it all.  So, if you’re out there in cyberspace, thanks Luker!


Mini Online Research Assignment

I think that Facebook would be an ideal case study for the “Emotional Information Seeking: ICTs and the commercialization of emotion and affective spaces online” project.   It has been in existence for a number of years and has established itself among the global technological and social community nearly since its creation.

Facebook was initially tailored towards university students, but has since branched out so that anyone who wants an account can sign up for one (from the very young to the very old).  It has also changed quite a bit since its inception in early 2004 in terms of its emotional information seeking capacity.  Even though it has always been a social networking site, it did not start off with the option of providing emotional outlets for its users, such as “status updates,” which actively encourage you to tell your network of friends “what’s on your mind?” and provides a space for you to write out your thoughts.  It also provides features that allow you to include who your family members are and what your relationship status is at any given time.  Facebook also began free of advertisements and now has many; plus the company just re-vamped their advertising ideas, which might be interesting to investigate.  For all these reasons, including that it has ‘progressed’ and expanded since its beginnings, Facebook would be an ideal candidate for this project.

Some methodological challenges this project might pose would be getting around Facebook’s privacy rules in order to conduct the study and getting ethics approval for the network of individuals involved in the study.  Lastly, the sheer size of the site and the global impact it has had over the years would also be difficult to take into account by just one project.

Studying the Mundane doesn’t make you Mundane

The entire time I was reading the Star article, I just kept thinking: ‘she is spot on.’  I really appreciate that there are dedicated researchers out there (and I think you have to be pretty darn dedicated in order to consciously decide to study the “profoundly mundane aspects of cyberspace”) who are not only smart enough to point out that you need to study things like infrastructure in order to gain a more complete understanding of what’s being studied, but also brave enough to pave the way.  I’m going to try, after reading this article, to keep issues like infrastructure in mind while going about my research.  After all, as the Moses example illustrates, it would be a serious error to overlook the importance of infrastructure on the lives of others and society as a whole, not just in practice but in theory as well.

Making a Case

I like case studies.  I think they’re cool, and for some reason I’ve always trusted them (for no reason I could definitely explain).  Now, thanks to Yin’s article, I feel that my trust is a little bit more justifiable and well founded.  Because case studies can incorporate so many different kinds of research and can be done in so many different ways (they can be big/small, qualitative/quantitative, etc.), I feel they often capture the holistic type of research that I prefer, as I mentioned in my blog last week.  I know that they have their problems, as all methods do, but as Yin points out, they have benefits as well and maybe the problems are solvable or at least manageable.

“It is true that the study of the artifact is not a substitute for the study of practiced behavior.  It is also true, however, that the study of practiced behavior is not a substitute for the study of the artifact.” – Thomas, 1994, p. 684

OK, that sounds perfectly reasonable to me.  However, it also sounds perfectly obvious.  In fact, I’d go further to say that, in order to understand most types of social phenomenon, shouldn’t you try to get to know both these things if you’re resigning yourself (not that it’s necessarily a bad thing) to working with qualitative data?  Wouldn’t it be misguided to publish conclusions about a society when you’ve only let yourself engage with one facet of it?  I know that resources and time are always an issue when it comes to conducting research, but if you’re going to bother with it at all than you might as well be thorough and, in the end, at least a little bit more on target.  I guess I just feel that it’s always better to have more holistic approaches to studies, when possible, rather than pitting different methods against one another and treating them like substitutions.

The Ivory Tower Blues

One thing that I’ve learned time and again throughout my university experience has been to choose your quotes wisely, and I think this applies to Stebbins this time around.  His article rubbed me the wrong way and it’s really all due to a block quote he used (and seemingly agrees with?) on page 104.


I’m naturally a bit wary of ethnography/anthropology in general, so maybe I’m just sensitive to this kind of thing, but what Lofland said seems absurd.  I’d go so far as to say that it epitomizes the issue I have with the field as a whole: how can someone, anyone, ever hope to produce an objective study of a culture (that statement there is already a pretty hot potato in terms of whether objectivity even exists) if they view the experience as one that is humbling because they have to appear ignorant in front of “laymen” (not the troglodytes!) or become “mere student[s] in need of instruction” (how perfectly plebian!).  Give me a break!  If you can’t learn something new from people who know more about it than you do without feeling humbled, you have no right to try to do so.  After all, according to Luker you’re supposed to be reporting on and investigating society, but how can you do this if you’re so high above it all?

The Importance of Operationalization

This week the Luker chapter really stood out for me, and I have to admit it was mostly due to her example of the impact of operationalization in the context of rape.  Well, I have to say, reading all that was frightening!  I mean, she basically illustrates that operationalizing can produce numbers that differ by the hundreds of thousands (102,560 vs. 683,000) in terms of rape victims, and all I can think now is how that SHOULD NOT HAPPEN!  I mean, I understand that different studies will bring back different results, but this is absurd, especially considering the importance of the issue at stake.  It really drives home for me how researchers really do have power and need to be so, so careful when exercising it.  Alternately, those reading the findings of researchers need to be equally careful to always do so with a grain of salt.  Lots and lots of salt.