September 29, 2004

Barbara's Reflections

Week 4 Reflections, Barbara Schulman
Rhetoric 8011

I am struck by the contrast between views on what constitutes appropriate methodology in history. Tierney, for example, describes himself as a postmodern historian who is writing a history of the present, who unabashedly aligns himself with postmodernism with a particular focus on what life histories (i.e., the testimonio) can add to the discipline. His emphasis then is on opposing the disengaged modernist who presumes himself or herself to be discovering facts or knowledge, on honoring individual lives “represented” in oral histories as societal and cultural constructs, on cultivating sensitivity to his own role as a societally and culturally situated researcher and on being cognizant of how these issues impact the production of knowledge with respect to the “facts.” His process approach to history, his strong concern with decolonization and social activism (echoed in his arguments for vulnerability in the voice of the researcher) are all elements of his postmodern project.

Contrast this with Kynell and Seely who posit that historians tend not to be too deeply concerned about issues of methodology or about contextual frameworks (what Creswell would call knowledge claims) as compared to researchers in the social sciences and humanities. Historians, they write, have a basic pragmatism when it comes to methods: historians use those methods that will most help them to obtain the kind of information they need and are not shy about adopting methodological tools from other disciplines. In further contrast to Tierney, we have Schiappa’s program for historical reconstruction and that includes concerns about the way in which postmodern historical research is conducted. As was pointed out in class, Schiappa feels that “rational reconstruction” is a conceptual tradition that is no longer appropriate for the study of Greek thought, particularly because of a tendency towards “doxagraphies,” towards casting philosophical and rhetorical history in generalizing trends or as conceptual constants that stretch throughout the history of Western Europe; as a result, researchers miss historical nuances (i.e., they miss the local). The other problem is that history then becomes a sort of Rorschach; in short, historical accounts “tend to become self-affirming discoveries of early anticipations of voguish philosophical theories” (Schiappa, 196).

In reflecting on these issues, I have two responses. First, I wonder how helpful it is to put these ideas into dogmatic camps of thought (i.e., postmodern vs. modern). In some instances, the boundaries do not always seem that clear or clean. For example, Schiappa is clearly concerned about accuracy in uncovering what factual data can be had, but so is Tierney on a certain level (see page 303 where he writes that “no one I know who subscribes to postmodernism suggests that the veracity of a statement should go unchecked…”). And Schiappa is concerned that historical research not be about projecting one’s own agenda onto the facts which is not at odds with postmodernist concerns about the situated researcher; but perhaps I am being naïve and Schiappa is just turning postmodernist theory back on itself as an argumentative technique.. Kynell and Seely, however, go too far. Simply ignoring the issues created by postmodernist theory (i.e., by giving them a back seat) means backing away from complexities that surely would enrich their research; Longo’s Spurious Coin is a case in point. (Also, is it true that Kynell and Seely represent “most historians”?)

Second, we are faced with what all this means for a rhetorician choosing historical research as a methodology. For example, what constitutes responsible and competent historical research? What is the line between historical research and the social sciences (Is ethnography a tool for the social sciences or for history or for both?) And where does rhetoric fit as a discipline? What are its boundaries, if any? Although I realize that disciplinary boundaries have blurred in the last 15 years, rhetoric as a field seems to be more multi-disciplinary than most (just look at the range of backgrounds students bring to this class). This creates key challenges because it means a rhetorician may need to have facility with a variety of approaches; it also raises issues of professional training: What kinds of coursework would one need to become truly competent in historical reconstruction, ethnography or survey design?

Posted by schu0429 at 4:13 PM

Schulman, week 4 discussion questions

Week 4 Discussion Questions
Rhetoric 8011, Barbara Schulman

Question 1:
This week’s readings gave us an overview of the differences and tensions between modernist and postmodernist approaches to history (ranging from William Tierney’s arguments in concerning the postmodern approach to life histories to Kynell and Seely’s more casual approach to the issue of contextual frameworks). If you were to conduct historical research, where would you fall in the spectrum and why would you make those choices?

Question 2:
How would you differentiate the historian’s methodologies from those of a social sciences researcher? What arguments would you make that historical research is not to be differentiated from social science research?

Question 3:
Edward Schiappa is clearly concerned about the effect that postmodernist approaches might have on historical research as a discipline. Compare Tierney’s conception of historical research as a history of the present (i.e., investigating the creation of the past as a comment on the present condition) and Schiappa’s position on historical reconstruction.

Posted by schu0429 at 4:11 PM

Barbara's Reflections, Week 4

Posted by schu0429 at 4:09 PM

Anthony's Reflections Week 4

Historical inquiry is near and dear to my heart, so I have much to say on this topic. But, for the sake of brevity and completeness in beginning to address the issue, I will restrict my comments to one aspect of the Kynell and Seely chapter.

The Kynell and Seely chapter contends that historians are not very concerned with methodology (73), or theory (71), and that they work with theory intuitively rather than explicitly (72). According to the authors, there is supposed to be an underlying assumption that historians will just, somehow know how to interpret the text once they have explored all of the primary and secondary sources, and that the historian will know intuitively how best to represent the data they have painstakingly sifted through. Additionally, the authors suggest that historians, or those doing historical research of any sort, will be able to antecedently pick from a vast array of theories gathered from statistics, humanities, social sciences, or other humanities disciplines. The theory that the historian chooses can be any that will coincide with their findings.

I question both the veracity of their research into the field of historical theory and methodology, and the audience for which this article is written. If the authors are correct in their assertion, then what would the work of such people as Hayden White, Victor Turner, Paul Ricoeur, Martin Heidegger, and others constitute? Let me give just a cursory review of a few examples of theories of history and narrativity. I do this to show both the breadth of theory in the field, and suggest the complex nexus of theoretical nuances that historians must deal with is much more involved than the authors suggest.

Victor Turner’s concept of social drama was developed to model a dialectic nature of social facture and reconstitution. For Turner, social drama is a spontaneous social process that occurs within groups of people who have a real or alleged common history. The social drama was developed as a heuristic tool for organizing historical events that happen within a community. Social drama enlarges our filed of reference and increases the scope of inquiry into the causes of social transformations. If a political process is looked at through the lens of social drama, then the guide provided by Turner will afford a description of the “event,” or public spectacle of happenings which Hayden White described as the inaugural, transitional, and terminating motifs.

Paul Ricoeur, like Heidegger, proposes a bonded reciprocity between time and narrative. For Ricoeur, our within-time-ness experiences are always being ordered in terms of a narrative, not a succession of episodes, events, or moments. The notion of within-time-ness according the Heidegger, “historicizes from day to day,” thus events are not separable within time; they are only separable through “historicality.” For this reason linear time can be viewed as an artificial construction used to frame events historically. For Heidegger and Ricoeur, within-time-ness is the constant state of how we experience time, thus the notion that there is such a thing as linear narrative, or chronology is fallacious. Hayden White suggests that this belief in chronology is linked to the notion that somehow “real” events can tell their own story, and that the succession of events will speak for themselves. For White, it is the narrator, historian, or storyteller, who must reveal events as possessing a structure, an order or meaning, which they do not possess as mere sequence. Sets of events that happen over time must be gathered and arranged into a narrative by the storyteller, or historian.

How then do historians deal with knowledge claims and processes, for example? It is difficult to see how historians, with limited access to theoretical frameworks would not conflate epistemology and ontology. How do historians decide the narrative structure in which to place their findings? What about the inclusion of pictures or a time-line in the book? What does that say about the historian’s epistemological claims about the notion of “real” events and the ordered chronology rather than narrativity? All of these, and many more questions need to be addressed by the historian. It is difficult to see how a historian would produce any credible work without a strong basis for deciding these and many other daunting issues. The remedial and glossed suggestions of the authors of the article are puzzling, and show a lack of veracity in their research.


For more information about theories of history, and narrativity see the following suggestions.

Abbot, H. Porter. The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative. Cambridge University Press. 2002
Bruner, Jerome “The Narrative Construction of Reality” On Narrative Ed. W. J. Mitchell. The University of Chicago Press. 1980
Ricoeur, Paul. “Narrative Time” On Narrative Ed. W. J. Mitchell. The University of Chicago Press. 1980
Turner, Victor “Social Dramas and Stories about Them,” Critical Inquiry, Autumn University of Chicago (1980) 141-168
Turner, Victor. The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY (1967)
White, Hayden. “The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality” On Narrative Ed. W. J. Mitchell. The University of Chicago Press. 1980

Posted by arrig002 at 12:17 PM

September 28, 2004

Kenny's Reflections for Week Four

Kynell and Seely mention the importance of framing clear and specific research questions that may later have to be adjusted and altered the more one encounters the historical material. But if one wishes to use a historical method in conjunction with another (like rhetorical analysis), what is the line between doing the work of history and doing the work of interpretation? Also given what they say about the tentative nature of research questions in historical methods, isn’t it entirely possible that the scope and direction of an historical study might change the more one gets into the research?

I think of Tierney’s questions of Meriwether Lewis’s sexuality, a line of thought that I find (whether or not appropriate in this case) tremendously importantly both politically and historically. The normative assumption that one is straight until proven gay does more to obscure the historical truth (whatever that is) than uncover it. At the same time, Tierney’s brand of postmodernism (and queer theory) seems contradictory and naïve. He aptly defines queer theory as the “’ongoing deconstruction of sexual subjectivity’” (294). Yet asking whether or not Lewis was gay is not the same thing as asking whether or not his desire for Clark was a homoerotic or even sexual one.

If Tierney is saying that “we cannot use the ways we define identity today to define identities of yesterday,” then how can he use the “G-word” without acknowledging the cultural identification that goes with that word? Clearly, I am not saying that homosexuality did not exist before Ulrich’s definition in 1870. But I am saying that his use of that word is not only antithetical to his epistemological project but also (arguably) inappropriate when it comes to speaking of past representations of same-sex attraction. Of course, Tierney himself makes this point, and then goes back to discussion of a gay Lewis. As Zoe said in class today about Schiappa, Tierney seens to want to have his cake and eat it.

What I see as the naivety of Tierney’s argument surfaces in his discussion of the decolonization of the subject. What makes testimonio so decolonizing? How does allowing someone to tell a perhaps willfully-constructed version of their life bring about a sense of agency and empowerment? If one views historical and third-person narratives as totalizing (Lyotard), what makes a first-person narrative different? After all Menchu is criticized for misrepresenting not only herself but others in her family and community. In that sense, can’t her narrative be understood as colonizing those about whom she speaks and speaks incorrectly?

In making these statements, I suppose I am somewhat (and tentatively for the moment) siding with Schiappa in his debate with Poulakos. The terms we use are extremely important, because of the interdisciplinary nature of all humanities-based research. If we unproblematically deploy obscure terms or conflate entire bodies of texts and ideas, then those other scholars using our work will unknowingly be doing the same. Not having read the original Poulakos work that Schiappa is critiquing, I cannot say which one of them actually wins the debate, though I do find Schiappa’s (and Rorty’s) categories of historic reconstruction and rational reconstruction (or modern appropriate, as Art mentioned in class) very useful as broadly-defined categories.

I am wondering whether or not it is surprising that I see historical methods as conservative and the ideas of Kynell and Seely and Schiappa as extremely cautious. After all, isn’t history used by so many other disciplines and fields of inquiry as the foundation on which they can base their work? For example, literary new-historicism either makes liberal use or unfortunately no use of “reliable” published historical accounts as the “truth” on which their theorizations can rest. Would we really want to read a history if we thought that is was more interpretation than “fact”? Would we want to use this history in our own research?

Posted by fount012 at 7:17 PM

September 25, 2004

Tension between management and labor

To me one of the most interesting things about Longo's book was her discussion about the tensions between management and labor, specifically how technical communiation can work as a way to control labor--to have them internalize the system, report on co-workers, and keep them "happy" and in their place.

It seems to me that technical communication can be used as just one way to reinforce class distinctions and an oppressive attitude by management toward labor--the attitude that labor is a natural resource to be exploited. This is the same attitude that encourages workers to believe that their work isn't valuable and by extension, that they are not valuable as workers or as individuals. It's a way of internalizing the system, ensuring that there will be enough cheap labor to exploit. If workers don't believe that their work is valuable and that they deserve a living wage, then they won't demand it. They get locked into a position where they cannot get ahead and their individual needs and lives are not valued.

I think this book would be very valuable to anyone involved in the labor movement in helping to understand some of the tools of oppression in the work place. I had always thought of technical communication or organizational communication as being kind of benign. I think Longo's book was very illuminating about this issue.

Posted by north015 at 1:10 PM

blurring lines between science and industry

I may be more of a product of corporations than many people in this program, or at the University. I worked in a research and development group. Tensions between science (recruiting more subjects, giving more time to analysis or testing, the ideal) and industry (considerations about time to market and cost of development, the practical) were very real. Wrestling with those tensions and balancing them in a way that allowed valuable work to be done was interesting and satisfying. I was glad to hear Bernadette Longo acknowledge the good jobs and money industry supplies. I was also glad that Kliemann ended her article with a note that corporate work can be interesting and satisfying.

The idea of placing research projects in a larger cultural context is interesting to think about. Industrial research seems to straddle some of the lines we have drawn between science and industry. Because the research takes place in a particular time and the end products are sold to people who live in a particular social context, that context is perhaps more explicitly influential on what research gets done and what products get developed.

Does anyone else have experience working with research in the corporate sector rather than an academic sector?

Posted by renda003 at 10:49 AM

September 22, 2004

Week 3 Reflections

Reflections on Week 3 Readings, Barbara Schulman, Rhetoric 8011

I found the Longo text, Spurious Coin, to be compelling on a number of levels, but I was particularly taken with the following concerns: 1 )the rationale for her methodology (i.e., social constructivism vs. historically situated cultural research); 2)the contest between legitimizations of systems of knowledge (her application of Foucault in discussing the contest of power and knowledge, and, in particular the struggle between scholasticism and pursuit of pure and applied sciences); and 3)ties between science and industry not just in terms of product development but in terms of systems of management (i.e., social engineering).

For me, the most striking discussions related to the way in which contests for power and knowledge play out, not just in terms of education, but in terms of larger economic, political and social institutions. Bacon’s program for a public science then is not just about legitimating a discipline for study. Engineers gaining power through positions of privilege and economic power also bring their knowledge/power construct to the development of systematic management structures. As a result, scientific engineering manifests in social engineering (one that is based on a military management style no less); this is a relationship I had never considered, and one that I find rather appalling. (I cannot escape the notion, however, that accuracy in engineering is a high value, often involving issues of human safety and well-being—who wants to ride trains that derail or occupy buildings that sway?) Again, I am impressed by Longo’s use of Foucault’s ideas of discipline and control and the way in which she traces this manifestation in the administrative structures of the workplace, particularly in reference to the “progressive objectification of individual behavior” and the development of management systems to monitor discipline. The “panoptic” nature of the workplace--the systems of reports and surveillance--informs relations between management and labor, relations between fellow workers, and even the relation one has to one’s own work.

One of the things that also impressed me was that the contest for knowledge legitimatization is not just about what area of knowledge dominates, but is also about how we are “authorized” to approach knowledge (e.g., as evidenced in the discussion of the move from Hermetics and scholasticism to the scientific method, to approaching nature directly through observation and experiment). And it occurs to me that the current approach to methodologies is a response to these contests of power and knowledge. Creswell’s orderly presentation of the knowledge claims introduces us to options, but it is really the reading in Denzin and Lincoln’s Strategies of Qualitative Inquiry that gives us an idea of the multiple and multiplying approaches that researchers have adopted and are adopting. And in her final chapter, Longo returns to the importance of using multiple methods in research, and I think that her arguments for legitimization of knowledge in the social sciences are telling.

Longo’s methodology is particularly interesting to me given my own academic training in literature and art history during the early 1980’s. At that time, students in English departments were trained in a type of interpretative analysis that left no textual stone unturned. However, the problem was that we often approached texts as if they inhabited an autonomous literary universe; we did not historically situate a text in a fuller cultural context unless the area of literature we were studying required that groundwork as a foundation for not seriously misreading the text (i.e., one cannot read Chaucer accurately without some grounding in medieval culture). Thus, research questions often focused on meta-critical questions of interpretation. I do remember often wondering why certain narrative structures or styles appeared when they did and what we might discover if we looked outside ot the text for some kind of context. In any case, I find Longo’s methodology and her historical-cultural analyses really intriguing. I learned a lot.

Posted by schu0429 at 6:25 PM

Week Three posting

Question: How can we think about the idea of habitus within emerging technologies, especially those tied to the scientific method?
Ex: In stem cell research, the "technology" is a human product with (like any technology) implicit values and attached sociopolitical conditions and ethical ramifications. In such a provocative topic, how can we practice technical writing?

My comment for this week is below.

While for other technologies (such as a new software piece) the idea of habitus is more prevalent (some genres are highly regimented, predictable of standardized, what we might call 'stable genres'), technical writing in provacative technologies, especially those with a history of traditional scientific writing (such as technologies coming out of a biological writing tradition) seems problematic. On one hand, we can focus on the technology itself, attempting to write neutrally, making comparisons to things familiar for the reader, using the "teach to learn to do" model, and practice an explanatory approach to interpret SME language. These are some of the principles we learn pedagogically in technical writing classes (the principles of which are still taught). However, not all technologies fit easily into this prescriptive model. In this case, the technology is still a "product," which, while not gender or value-neutral, still seems very separate from the people who created it or the issues it might create. In this case, when we deal with life products, such as stem-cell lines or glow-in-the-dark bunnies, can we ethically refer to them in a value/gender-neutral way? Reading Katz for the second time in conjunction with Bernadette's book, I had to wonder whether our society as it stands now could ever refer to genetic products neutrally--could we distance ourselves enough from the "object?" Would writing this way come across much like the Nazi tech comm of transferring victims of genocide to extermination camps? Would writing this way even be appropriate for our society? When previous methods no longer fit the technology, I wonder if we can challenge our own habitus, especially in "techtific" (technologies who have strong ties to scientific method) fields where both tech writing and scientific writing have strong presences.
I really enjoyed Bernadette's book, as the apparent tension between technical writing movements demonstrated to me what could be going on now. It seems that we, even as scholars, tend to treat technology as one thing, both in pedagogy and in practice. It is still the object to be described, the artifact to be explained. Perhaps naturally the technology will outgrow its boundaries and force a new style of technical writing. How can we, however, initiate change as tech writing teachers? How can we teach creative approaches and still retain basic form and rule?

Posted by tsch0070 at 1:31 PM

Charlotte Week 2 Questions

(Excuse duplicate postings, but my post didn't appear to me, so I'm assuming others didn't see it either. :( )
My questions targeted the practicality of mixing methods, especially triangulating methods. As I had asked in class, I wondered if triangulating methods is really just using three different methods and creating three different studies (meaning, do you use a combination of all three, work-load wise, or do you essentially do three different studies? )

My thoughts on triangulating are in the extended entry.

I've played with the idea of triangulating methods for my thesis. I'm currently in the prospectus phase of my thesis; my goal is to have this done by the end of this class. As a topic, I'm looking at studying AIDS collaboratories. Collaboratories are "online" (from the standpoint that the data is exchanged online but is not stored there, to my understanding) laboratories that allow people in different locations (who might normally not be able to collaborate in a very productive way (sending findings via mail, re-entering data, translating, etc.) to exchange and compile data. In AIDS research, for example, researchers in the United States working under the umbrella of some pharmaceutical company's monies could collaborate with researchers in, for example, Madagascar, where the AIDS/non-AIDS ratio is 1:8. In this case, data can be collected much faster in an "affected" population.
My concern here is naturally not only with the results of this collaboration, such as the "data mix," but also what this could mean for scientists' individual careers as indicated by resulting reports, scientific papers, patents, and notoreity in general. Finally, what do the scientists themselves think? Do they believe they are participating in "equal" collaboration? Does one kind of data rank higher in importance/relevance than the other (i.e. information regarding sexual behavior v. drug research), and how does the weight of each kind of data affect resulting benefit (such as free/reduced price AIDS therapy for the affected population or country participating or monetary rewards for researchers developing the drug)?
Naturally, there are far too many questions to fit within the scope of one thesis, which is why this could easily become a dissertation.
If I take a starting research question of "How do scientists weigh the importance of each others' work in the X online collaboratory?" I could easily follow up with questions related to data flow/mix, analysis of resulting reports, and interviews/observation with the scientists involved.
In this example, it would be useful to do a quantitative analysis of how much data comes from each side and the type of data collected. However, it would also be useful to do a qualitative textual analysis of resulting reports, such as published scientific journal papers and tracing which information comes from each location. Finally, it would be helpful to note the attitudes of the scientists involved by observing and interviewing (potentially on-site)--an ethnography.
Is it wise to try to triangulate for a thesis? I've heard from some people in our department that it's too much for a thesis, but if the work is largely background (i.e. only the salient information makes it into the thesis), wouldn't triangulating work?

Posted by tsch0070 at 12:55 PM

Question about a complex method

If objects that seem ‘invisible’ to research (because they are culturally ubiquitous, &c.) are actually objects that silently support the dominate culture, then these mundane objects are worthy of study on the grounds that they have an important position in the cultural power structure. So, to study such objects, you must make those objects strange; you must juxtapose those objects and their contexts with another culture (or with another period of time in which understandings of the dominant culture were different) in order to create a tension that you can study.

Studies that use this methodology, it seems to me, face several challenges:

- How do you construct legitimate cultural models of appropriate scope (for either the initial culture or the compared culture)?

If you are studying scientific drawings, for instance, you would, of course, have to choose a specific type of drawings or a specific image group as an exemplar (unless you had a staff of hundred and a hundred million dollar grant). There are a number of institutions and environmental factors that influence (and audiences who are influenced by and thereby influence) the construction of such drawings. Since those audiences probably don’t conveniently line up in one to one correspondence today and in sixteenth-century Europe (or, to use a culture example, in the United States and in China), how do you make sure that your construct of sixteenth-century Europe includes all the contributing factors and describes and weights their contribution appropriately?

This of course assumes you have already answered the more fundamental questions:

- How do you choose an exemplar and how does your choice of exemplar limit the claims that you can make over similar objects?

- And how do you choose a comparative culture and how does your choice of comparative culture limit the claims you can make in a broader institutional setting?

Posted by kmiec004 at 9:45 AM

September 21, 2004

Ethos and The Humanities Writer

Even though I have been aware for some time, I was amazed as I read Bernadette Longo’s Spurious Coin just how sensitive the rift between the humanities and science can be to scholars and professionals alike. In her telling of the history on technical writing, a defeatist tale is told of the technical writer. At best, one is transparent and efficient, an elegant machine to be managed for optimal transcription of ideas generated in the higher realms of science, management, and technology. There is no glory, perhaps a certificate of appreciation will be generated by a graphic artist down the hall. This will be good, for a T.A. Rickard states, “comfort of the many is preferred to the glory of the few” (142). This practical form of art will be your reward. Whether the certificate was made for you or is just another stylized pre-formatted celebration printed off the same ream of paper through the same printer is irrelevant since authenticity is no longer a concern (125). It does not matter who prepares the certificate, it only matters whose signature graces the gloss (117). Given this reading, there should be no surprise then that technical writer should sit on a little stool called apologia and be pleased with the scraps that fall from the big tables of science, management, and technology. Just how difficult it is for Longo to take technical writing beyond this ludicrous tale is telling. It is not for lack of effort or ability that Longo struggles, I argue it is for the simple lack of ethos.
While a lack of ethos can be blamed for the demise of many efforts, whether it be a drunkard trying to convince you he was nearly being drafted by the Vikings in 1972 before being injured or a Communist Party candidate running for the U.S. Senate in 1956, this case is poignant because Longo would seem to have every reason to be credible except that she is not a “producer” of science, management, or technology. She is a Professor of English. Because Longo is from the field of English [I didn’t know she was in the Rhetoric Department when I wrote this], she has to be meticulous in the construction of the history of technical writing in order to garner enough credibility to put forth a few recommendations in conclusion. Compare it to Rudy having to overcome being so small by having tremendous dedication just to get in on a play at Notre Dame. Interestingly, our literary tales are filled with the underdog, often in cases such as Star Wars, we find a young Luke Skywalker steeped in Jedi (occult) training up against the forces of evil and technology. If we trace this tangent and the history presented in the book, we find science and technology in the time of Agricola attempting to separate from the “books of secrets” and “occult teachings” (32, 34). To borrow from cinema, Agricola’s 16th century marked the departure of Darth Vader (Anikan Skywalker) from Luke Skywalker’s life. Sure they were to meet, but with sabers instead of compassion. If Longo could cite Rudy and Luke Skywalker (giants in the literary realm) as proof of the need for a humanistic technical writing and a rejoining of the humanities (Luke Skywalker) and the sciences (Darth Vader), the argument could have been neatly framed in a short essay. Since scholarly preference is clearly on the side of established principles and reviewed publications, Longo sticks to the likes of Foucault and Derrida instead of Rudy—probably not a bad idea.
The contrast in its true black and white is what a Professor of “Science” with similar views to Longo can “get by with” without lengthy prefacing. Straight from the University of Wisconsin, Professor of Botany Tim Allen delivered one of my all time favorite quotes, “inefficiency is a virtue.” Scandalous. “Put more strongly, science is not about finding out the truth. Science is about socially acceptable perception” (Heirarchy Theory 75). Allen, while not necessarily in line with all of his peers, is able to be a whole lot more bold with a lot less bibliography than Longo because he sits at one of the aforementioned “big tables.” Allen concludes Hierarchy Theory with a statement, “New questions, not new truths, guide the path of science” (197). If ever there was a preeminent role for the technical writer in the sciences, this question should pull back the curtains to reveal a certain state waiting to be taken. Perhaps start with a little popular culture, a little quiz on preferences, challenge the scientists, managers, and techies as to why we cheer for Luke Skywalker and Phrodo, Rudy and Rocky, and you better grab a pencil to start some humanistic technical writing. Call it destabilizing, supplement, or some other fancy term, but the effect is the same—the question and thus the torchbearer of ethos has shifted.

Posted by tayl0464 at 5:29 PM

The practice of technical writing

I should begin by saying that I enjoyed the reading for this week. They were illuminating and thought-provoking. The Katz and Kleimann articles proving to be effective examples of what “Spurious Coin” advocates, i.e., the understanding and complexity of technical writing as a field and its roots both in positivistic science and in the humanities (Longo references Katz on p9). I enjoyed the coin metaphor and appreciated how it tied in so well with the larger context of Western history—the growth and development of capitalism and science/technology as dominant knowledge/power bases in our society.
I also particularly appreciated Katz’s example of the Nazi memo. It is an exceptional tool in helping him appeal to the ethics of his current audience—generations who now understand the horror of Nazi Germany. Below are my thoughts—both geared towards thinking about the practice of technical writing.

1) Though I am sold on Bernedette’s objective—to increase our understanding of technical writing role in society so we may better attempt to destabilize dominant power/knowledge grids, I am still conscious that as a teacher of technical writing I often find myself reiterating all the positivist aspects of technical writing to my undergraduate students. I think Kenny brought up this point in class last time, but I’m not sure if we talked about practical ways around this. I would like to spend some time discussing how, pedagogically—while teaching applied-science and applied-economics students who take many of these classes (I’m thinking 3562 in particular) as a requirement and come in with adverse notions of humanities—how one can do more to incorporate instruction of some of the complexity and richness of technical writing that allows it to function at destabilizing the “system”?

2) Bernedette uses Foucault as a theorist with which to analyze her subject, but she doesn’t touch on his claim (granted contentious) that no individual can consciously change or control the power/knowledge framework. Instead there is the explicit claim in “Spurious Coin” that change, or at least destabilization is possible if individuals consciously act to resist the current power/knowledge framework. I believe this claim is also in Katz’s “The Ethic of Expediency.” In both cases I am left with the question—“now that I understand technical writing a bit differently, how do I change my practice?” How do I practically constitute a resistance?

Posted by mona0046 at 1:44 PM

Old Fears about the Instability of Text

I'm not officially posting this week, but I couldn't resist adding something regarding Longo's cultural history of systematic management and communication textbooks. The anxieties that oral vs. written text can create for managers, teachers and students were shared in the late 14th century by Geoffrey Chaucer. He wrote a poem to his student/secretary, Adam, chiding him for his careless copy errors:


ADAM Scrivener, if ever it thee befall
Boece or Troilus for to write anew,
Under thy long locks thou may'st have the scall* (= *scab )
But after my making thou write more true!
So oft a day I must thy work renew, composing
It to correct, and eke to rub and scrape;
And all is through thy negligence and rape.* (= *haste )

Posted by nyssa003 at 11:50 AM

Paula's Wk 2 Questions

Paula Lentz
RHET 8011 Week 2
Discussion Questions

1. Do the additional complexities involved in conducting research over the internet, mean that IRB approval is more difficult to get?

2. As we learned in the readings, IRB approval is denied when research projects are structured inappropriately. In these instances researchers can simply restructure their designs to ensure that human subjects are treated fairly. However, are there certain topics in technical communication that would not earn IRB approval? Can you think of what these topics would be? And if so, does this mean that there is certain knowledge that is just “off limits”—knowledge that will never be discovered or constructed?

3. One of the main issues in this week’s reading is the legitimacy of qualitative research approaches, compared to quantitative research. Do you think researchers who engage in qualitative methodologies do the field a disservice by trying to address such issues as validity? For instance, Cresswell states that validity, in qualitative research, is more accurately thought of in terms of credibility. If this is so, why even try to borrow the term “validity” from the qualitative realm and force a qualitative definition on it? Does doing so raise the suspicions of quantitative researchers who may see this as a means of legitimizing a “weaker” methodology? Would a better strategy for promoting qualitative research be to establish it as a distinct methodology with its own standards for rigor rather than to try to relate it to quantitative research by adapting its (quantitative) terminology to qualitative strategies?

Posted by lent0064 at 10:43 AM

September 20, 2004

Walt's comments on week 2

The main discussions in class on week 2 (qualitative/quantitative research and the IRB) showed our need as researchers to understand not only our fields of inquiry, but to understand the nature of research itself. In the first discussion, we questioned the division between qualitative and quantitative research: is it actually a division or is it a spectrum? The idea of a spectrum could apply to the second discussion as well.

The positivist in us all (a brash generalization, I admit) would like a simple distinction between qualitative and quantitative research or between research that should have IRB approval and that for which the process is ridiculous. The authors try to create this distinction by contrasting extreme examples. For example, Shea shocks the reader with a description of Nazi experiments, and then points out the ridiculousness of making historians submit to extensive IRB reviews. Historians (here’s another generalization) study the words of dead people, so it’s hard to imagine the harm they might do to their subjects.

Nevertheless, as scholars of rhetoric, we fall somewhere between these extremes. We certainly don’t expose our subjects to mortal danger, but nor is our research entirely innocuous. Most of our subjects (again I generalize) are living, and as such have certain rights—for example, to expect privacy or profit--that our research could potentially compromise. The value of these rights must be balanced with the value of the knowledge our research will create, and we cannot credibly say that a self-evaluation would be unprejudiced.

Lee-Ann commented that she views the IRB process as a heuristic that helps her define her research. She is able to do this because she understands the process, not only how it restricts research, but also how it helps. Only by thoroughly understanding the issues involved can we succeed in our research now and effect change--as more social scientists join IRBs-- over the long term.

Posted by jone0850 at 11:40 AM

September 17, 2004

Skeptical...Grace L. Coggio

At the risk of being completely irritating...I was simply trying to add my name to my posting. Perhaps I will have this thing called Blog figured out by week #3!

Posted by coggi007 at 10:02 PM

Skeptical, Amazed, and Delighted

I'll figure this

Posted by coggi007 at 9:58 PM

Skeptical, Amazed, and Delighted

After two weeks of extensive reading and discussion in research methodology, I find myself struggling with the breadth of approaches one can take. It's exciting to know that so much along the methodological spectrum is open to STC research, and that the clarity of the research question, rather than the expectations of a 'community,' illuminates which method to use. While I am inspired by the possibilities inherent in the interpretive, holistic nature of qualitative methods, I feel a deeply rooted tug back to the quantitative end of the spectrum. The issue of audience (specifically scientific, technical or business audiences) and my concern over which research methods they value pulls me toward the perceived safety of reliability, validity and generalizability. Doesn't research make a more useful contribution (pragmaticism!) if it is reliable and can be generalized beyond the specific sample or situation studied? Perhaps my struggle with the 'usefulness' of wholly qualitative research stems from the emphasis on quantitative method and statistical accuracy during my Master's thesis in 1990, or perhaps it stems from the fact that I am married to a Ph.D. polymer chemist whose career has been steeped in the scientific method! No matter the reason, I am beginning to realize that I am at once skeptical, amazed, and delighted by the research possibilities in STC. I look forward to discovering the true richness of it all!

Posted by coggi007 at 9:55 PM

September 14, 2004

Week 2 Questions/Reflections - Mike

Question/Reflection #1
In regard to fears surrounding IRBs and the implications that it limits academic freedom, there seems to be some misunderstanding between the two sides, or maybe better stated as an incomplete understanding of the context from which each side is coming. IRBs as I understand them, are really set up to protect the human subjects, and from the point of view of IRB advocates, it seems perfectly logical to subject all human subject research proposals to some level of scrutiny in order to provide that protection and regulation. I can see from the critic’s side, though, why a regulating force could seem too authoritative and limiting to their work. However, I believe that the issue people are having against IRBs is not a fear or opposition to the purpose of the IRB, per say, it is rather with the overall idea of a regulatory board in general. Once in place, the power could be abused, as power so often is, to control research, and, eventually, there will likely arise cases where the power is abused. This is similar to fears surrounding the Patriot Act – once civil liberties are surrendered, even if, supposedly, done so in the name of safety and good intention (I will leave my deeply held opposition and criticisms of the Patriot Act aside, and simply grasp the similarity of fear of abuse of authority.). But it is important that the critics also step back and look first at the purpose and intention of IRBs, and secondly the academic community/peers that are doing the regulating, and provide at least some leeway and benefit of the doubt that the power will generally be used correctly and as it is intended to be used – because that overall intention is a good one, and I think furthering the common goals and integrity of the academic community as a whole. What is needed, I think, to assuage the fears of the critics is well-defined system of check against the IRB system – a place to petition, and an authority that can overrule an IRB in cases where abuse of authority is suspected. The AAUP report discusses this need in it’s section on “Opportunity to Appeal an IRB Decision”, and there seems to be an agreement that such a body needs to be put into place, and there are some procedures in place in some circumstances, but overall, their assessment seems to be that the appeal opportunities, as of yet, are poorly defined, not adequately in place, and as currently conceived, place too much burden upon the organizations housing the IRBs. It would seem to me that the answer may lie in a joint commission of some federal committee in conjunction with professional organizations – such as the American Historical Association for historians – which by peer review and approval by a certain majority among those most familiar with the subject being studied, could possibly overrule IRBs at a national level. The American Bar Association does engage in at least some of this type of self-regulation. Such a system redistributes some of the power away from federal authorities. Of course this would likely require some acquiescence and troubling politics at the university level. What is to be done about an appeals process, because issues will inevitably arise, and this seems to be a major one?

Question/Reflection #2
In the AAUP report, there is a reference to a discussion that occurred at UNC in the Journalism School about concerns that IRB review of gathering information for news articles violates rights of freedom of the press under the First Amendment. It is stated, “The faculty, the students, and the IRB agreed that most news stories do not contribute to generalizable knowledge and therefore are not subject to IRB.” This issue of journalists being exempt from IRB regulation because of First Amendment rights came up elsewhere, as well. I would agree that the work of journalists should not be subject to IRB review, however I would strongly disagree that news stories do not contribute to general knowledge. If fact, there is much general knowledge that is really only received and/or documented through news type documentation (The reasons for this are plenty and I will not try to list them here.). This then raises a fuzzy area for me about where to draw the line with IRB review. Perhaps journalists are unique or perhaps there are studies in other disciplines that should receive some greater exemption, as well. And what about the journalist from the Shea article who, while working can interview all the subjects that he wants, but once he’s at school he’s regulated. There is clearly some inconsistency and how are we to resolve this? Can IRB review go too far in the sense of where its authority ventures?

Posted by bank0019 at 3:09 PM

Week 2 Questions: Endless Ineffable Narrative?

In Denzin and Lincoln’s Introduction they describe how montage may be used as an alternative to validation in research projects. “Readers & audiences are then invited to explore competing visions of the context, to become immersed in and merge with new realities to comprehend.” If everyone brings own paradigm and interacts with the text uniquely, how is the intersubjectivity between researchers and their subjects of inquiry breached? How are research results to be communicated from one researcher to another, including research team members to each other? Given the assumed inherent ineffability of the lived experience of each person (whether researcher/performance artist or participant/unemancipated other) will the same research outcomes be apprehended by all parties? How will consensus be reached even about questions of when the research program is complete?

Denzin and Lincoln anticipate my reservations on page 17 in their discussion of criticisms of the rhetorical turn. “Realists and postpositivists within the interpretive qualitative research tradition criticize poststructuralists for taking the textual, narrative turn. These critics contend that such work is navel gazing. It produces conditions ‘for a dialogue of the deaf between itself and the community’ (Silverman, 1997).” To me, more dangerous still is the implication that the “navel-gazing” of qualitative researchers may be self-propagating through the ranks of the academy. As new graduate students enter the field and form their own continuously interactive, intersubjective relationships with faculty members, each student is schooled in the particular subjectivities of their advisor. Disciplines fragment into ever-smaller shards of specialization and “navel-gazing” as each research group develops its own incommunicable webs of context. Disclaimer: I’m playing devil’s advocate here and do not buy into postpositivist worst-case scenarios.

Posted by nyssa003 at 2:50 PM

Week 2 ?'s-Marv

Well, I just lost my nearly completed entry, so here is a condensed one...

Q1: The APA directly and others indirectly cite 'competence' as key ethical consideration in research. Being new the formalized realm of research and having wide ranging interests and always finding myself diving into new ones, am I being bold, an ethical minimalist, or just a harmless fly who lacks the wisdom of an old owl if I delve into a research project that is "over my head?" Q1a: If I do such a project, to what extent is it my ethical responsibility and to what extent is it the responsibility of a supervisor (whether it a board, advisor or mom and dad)?

Q2: The Belmont Report (p.10 Gurak/Lay) talks about justice as a key principle in the ethics of research, stating justice is based on the question, "Who ought to receive the benefits of research and bear its burdens?" Should I then be asking myself if "cows" ought to be the benefactor of my research while "sheep" get the short end of the stick? Substitute different terms and then flip-flop and serious ethical problems do emerge. While many marginalized person proponents (MPP's) like the idea of research to support their cause, the same MPP's find the flip-flop to be inflammatory. This is not a new argument just turn into Rush Limbaugh sometime. The question I have, is that if the ought question invariably leads to finger pointing, is it a viable principle for the ethics of research?

Sorry, only slightly condensed.

Posted by tayl0464 at 2:00 PM

Week two q's - Brenda

My questions focus on IRBs. I noticed the articles covered the process and potential hindrances of obtaining approval, but did not go into what might occur should a breach take place once approval has been secured. What is the IRB's role beyond that of initial evaluation? For instance, what is their role should a researcher inadvertently publish the names of participants on the web without their consent? Do IRBs have punitive powers? Are consequences for infringement standardized in any way?

I have had some experience working with IRBs at the Medical School here and would be interested to know if their approach differs from the IRB that oversees social science (I believe they are separate bodies). One of the major concerns mentioned in the articles is IRBs using a biomedical model for social science research. What is the approach for consent for field surveys or ethnographic studies? Are there typically administrative hold-ups or is the IRB office generally well-staffed and efficient? Is their philosophy to help expedite research or is it more guarded? I have heard mostly favorable feedback about the medical IRB in terms of time-lines and support. I know that consent forms, especially in light of new regulations for privacy (HIPAA), tend to hold things up more than anything.

Posted by bhudson at 1:58 PM

Week one question - Brenda

Regarding social constructivism, Creswell says that researchers recognize that their own background shapes their interpretation. If interpretation of a qualitative study is influenced in this way, how does one examine these potential biases and perspectives that a researcher brings to a study? It seems this would be an important element in evaluating a study. Creswell does mention that researchers "position themselves" in the research, and in this way, acknowledge how their interpretation is influenced. But how reliable is this? It assumes that the researcher is aware of his or her influences, as well as how those influences affect their interpretation.

Posted by bhudson at 1:36 PM

Jenifer's week 2 questions

1. I think Fenkel and Siang's discussion of ethical aspects of doing human subjects research on the internet raises more questions than it answers. How do researchers define public and private sites on the web? If it's by levels of accessibility (p. 8) then what is the critical level? Where do researchers draw the line? Can we create guidelines for Internet research or is it always a judgement call?

I thought I understood this issue pretty well but after reading Frankel and Siang's essay, I'm wondering if I should have approached some of my research projects differently.

2. Davida Charney's article seemed to be openly hostile to those scholars who have questioned the authority of "objective" or positivist (science) research. This article made me wonder about the orgins of the debate between hard and soft science. It seems that there is so much at stake in this debate. Does the debate work to de-legitimze either hard or soft science, or does it open up a space to claim academic legitimacy as well as a space to describe the merits of one kind of research over another?

Posted by north015 at 1:33 PM

Influencing the IRB and Research Journals

1) As Barbara already noted, many of the specific examples show the frustration, irritation, and inconvenience that researchers feel about having to get approval from the IRB. These researchers believe that their research will have no risks for the subjects and that IRBs and the public should trust them. The researchers do not grant that same level of trust to the IRBs—accusing them of controlling the agenda of knowledge or stifling truth. I tend to agree with Hicks (from Duke University), who was quoted as saying that "there's a way to do just about any research and follow the guidelines." Wilmouth (the researcher who interviewed the old man) could have been someone with nefarious intentions; his subject was vulnerable. I am not willing to trust researchers, even myself, to protect subjects all on their own.

IRBs generally include representatives from throughout the organization, so these individuals should be able to carry the concerns of their field to the IRB and influence decisions about research and requirements. What message would we as researchers communicate to our IRB representative? What conversations do we think IRB members should be having that they are not?

2) The idea of keeping a research journal (Breuch, Olson, and Frantz) is interesting and would give a richer description of the process. However, I have a hard time believing that researchers would follow through with keeping notes on their attitudes in addition to their filed notes. One reason being the time such journaling would take. Given the resistance there is to getting approval, are researchers—are you—willing to record all attitudes that come up during a research project?

Posted by renda003 at 1:17 PM

Jenifer's week 1 questions

1. Dobrin's discussion of jargon (p. 117) reflects other scholars' discussions of discourse communities. If we look at jargon in this way, how does that influence how we teach our technical communication classes?

2. Connors writes about the historical tension for teachers of technical communication between teaching genre conventions as students would like and teaching a deeper understanding or appreciation for the humanistic concerns of writing. Why are we in Rhetoric/Communication Studies/Technical Communication still having these same arguments today? Have the arguments changed significantly?

Posted by north015 at 12:56 PM

Paula's Week 2 Questions

Paula Lentz
RHET 8011 Week 2
Discussion Questions

1. Do the additional complexities involved in conducting research over the internet, mean that IRB approval is more difficult to get?

2. As we learned in the readings, IRB approval is denied when research projects are structured inappropriately. In these instances researchers can simply restructure their designs to ensure that human subjects are treated fairly. However, are there certain topics in technical communication that would not earn IRB approval? Can you think of what these topics would be? And if so, does this mean that there is certain knowledge that is just “off limits”—knowledge that will never be discovered or constructed?

3. One of the main issues in this week’s reading is the legitimacy of qualitative research approaches, compared to quantitative research. Do you think researchers who engage in qualitative methodologies do the field a disservice by trying to address such issues as validity? For instance, Cresswell states that validity, in qualitative research, is more accurately thought of in terms of credibility. If this is so, why even try to borrow the term “validity” from the qualitative realm and force a qualitative definition on it? Does doing so raise the suspicions of quantitative researchers who may see this as a means of legitimizing a “weaker” methodology? Would a better strategy for promoting qualitative research be to establish it as a distinct methodology with its own standards for rigor rather than to try to relate it to quantitative research by adapting its (quantitative) terminology to qualitative strategies?

Posted by lent0064 at 10:36 AM

Some Discussion Questions, Week 2

Discussion questions per the IRB issue,
Week 2, Rhetoric 8011 (Barbara Schulman)

Of the articles we read on the IRB controversy, the AAUP report and the Gunsalas article in particular make recommendations for addressing the problems IRB’s cause social scientists. They include suggestions such as expediting reviews, expanding exemptions or implementing processes for qualifying for exemptions, involving more social scientists in IRB board governance, and working to have IRB’s tailored to meet the needs of specific methodologies and disciplines within social science disciplines (e.g., re-working or re-thinking the idea of consent forms and questionnaires to meet the needs of social scientist). But these articles were published in some years ago (the AAUP report in 2001, the Gunsalas article in 2000 and the Shea article in 2000. Have any of these changes been implemented in the four years since these articles were written? Does the medical model still dominate?

All three documents (Shea in particular) delineate the frustrations social scientists experience in having to get IRB approval. Are they overstating the problem? Is this just irritation with bureaucratic inconveniences or is social science research really impacted in a serious manner? Are the problems here mostly procedural and bureaucratic issues that could be addressed by IRB reform or does the clash of agendas go deeper than that?

The problem of the consent form.
Can an ethnographer’s relation with participants really be adversely impacted by having a consent form signed (i.e., the AAUP report refers to the ethnographer’s need to “hang out” with participants, to build relationships in a way that might not be possible if forms need to be signed)? How can an ethnographer meet research goals while still ensuring that human participants are respected and protected?

Does it matter whether the consent is given before or after the fact of the research?
(Did the Shea article’s example of Michael Duncier’s methods of obtaining consent after research was complete seem ethical? Does it matter to the success of the study? Does it matter to the participant? Duncier’s participants did not seem to mind.)

Do the examples in the literature {e.g., the concern by the researcher in Turkey who felt the consent form threatened her participants (Shea article) and the problem of needing to protect the identity of the native healers (the curanderos in the AAUP report, 63)} reveal the inappropriateness of requiring IRB review of social science research or do these seem like problems that could be addressed through re-forming IRB’s?

Also, how much information about a study do participants really need? Are there times when informing the subject of the specific goal of the research might harm the results of the study? How much information really has to be shared in order to fully respect the participant and meet the needs of the research?

Has anyone in the class designed or conducted research using human participants? I would love to hear their experiences in relation to these issues.

Posted by schu0429 at 9:33 AM

Week 2 Reflections

Reflection on Week 2 Readings, Rhetoric 8011, Barbara Schulman

My first impressions of Creswell’s text are that I was reading an extremely useful, if not compulsively ordered, guide to Social Sciences Research. Creswell’s level of ordered specificity in terms of options and process is impressively practical, and there are constant sign-posts to ensure that readers thoroughly understand the key points (the charts that organize and summarize concepts, the summaries within and at the end of each chapter, etc.). The text’s mission is to foster clarity, understandability, and to give practical usable information in a systematic format. Even the knowledge claims, the most philosophically complex components of the text are listed in an orderly format, as if for easy access (though I have to admit discomfort with this charting out of stances: just choose a stance and the rest will follow…). Were I a novice, preparing to design a Social Sciences research project, I would be grateful to have a text that seems to demystify the research process and which anticipates the issues I might have in terms of processes, procedures, and organization. However, after reading Davida Charney’s essay, “Empiricism is Not a Four-Letter Word,” I believe I gained a deeper understanding of Creswell’s own agenda per viable research methods as well as gained insight into the complexity of knowledge claims, and how contrasting world views can complicate research decisions and methodological choices.

Charney outlines the conflict between what Creswell would call the post-positivist approach and the advocacy/participatory knowledge claim with a plea to those in the latter camp that the lens through which they view the world is blinding them to the value of objectivist methods as well as closing down an avenue of research that might enhance their own work (e.g., the example of the prominent feminist sociologist whose work was rejected by a feminist journal for utilizing “inherently patriarchal” quantitative research methods (Charney, 572)). The biggest problem is that subjectivists are confusing methodologies with ideologies and thus rejecting objectivist methodologies because they are associated with politically distasteful values that advocacy/participatory research is dedicated to resisting). Charney works hard in her article to answer the charges that objectivist methods are elitist and serve oppressive power structures and that the impersonal stance of an objectivist researcher dehumanizes the “other” and reflects a lack of respect for human participants and smacks of authoritarianism.

Charney answers most of these charges admirably (although her arguments answering the ways in which power structures utilize science are less convincing). For example, she points out that objectivist methodology is, in fact, anti-elitist as well as communal and collaborative, for the information objective methods yield is often public, available for scrutiny and adds to a body of knowledge that is communally considered by other researchers; in this way, objective methodology can sustain a “disciplinary cohesion and foster criticism” (Charney, 570). In addition, she feels scientific methods can support feminist goals and “transcends political, religious, racial, and national boundaries” (Charney, 572); thus scientific collaboration is, in fact, inclusive. As for the authoritarian stance of science, she also reviews the indeterminate nature of scientific research and the fact that scientific knowledge grows out of a collectively self-critical progressive discourse that is socially constructed in its own right. I have listed only a few of her arguments (her essay is extensive) but I must add one more. At one point, she makes the point that the characterizations advocacy/participatory researchers make against objectivist methods “smack of the worst kind of exclusionary identity politics” and that “methodological choices are taken as reliable indicators of morality, personality, and epistemology” (581-582). I found this fascinating and would love to see the responses to her essay.

Posted by schu0429 at 9:18 AM

Lynda's Questions Week 2

Research Design: Quantitative, Qualitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches

According to Creswell, Crotty’s (1998) ideas offer a framework that requires three questions of the researcher: 1. What epistemology—theory of knowledge embedded in theoretical perspective—informs the research? What knowledge claims are being made by researcher? 2. What theoretical perspective—philosophical stance—lies behind the methodology in question? 3. What methodology (strategy or plan of action) links methods to outcomes and what methods of data collection and analysis will be used (4-5)?

When placing myself in the research (feminist methodology) is it necessary to fully identify my philosophical stance (e.g., positivism, postpositivism, interpretivism, critical theory, etc)? I understand the necessity behind discussing the feminist lens or theoretical perspective yet wonder where a discussion of where and how I fit these categories seems unnecessary. Are there specific types of research where the inclusion of these categories might be necessary? Are answering all of these questions enough to satisfy a methodology beyond the actual description of the work?

Ethical and Legal aspects of Human Research Subjects on the Internet

In this article Mark Frankel and Sanyin Siang illustrate many problems with standard IRB practices and Internet research. One of the most interesting is the idea that, “. . . people invest in their pseudonyms the way they invest in their real identities within a physical community” (6). Since human subjects research and IRB’s attempt to ‘do no harm’ would a researcher need to give a pseudonym for each participant’s pseudonym? In your research have you encountered this problem of confidentiality and privacy? If so how did you handle it?

Posted by koem0006 at 2:31 AM

Lynda's response to Week 2 readings

“Protecting Human Beings: Institutional Review Boards and Social Science Research”

Currently in process of completing and submitting my IRB application for exemption, I grew slightly paranoid as I read that IRB is the “final authority at the institution regarding the ethical acceptability of proposed research involving human subjects” (66).
The IRB gatekeeping, suggested by a number of the readings, doesn’t seem that different than the gatekeeping that occurs in academic journals. Much of the IRB process seems to be about the adherence to the acceptable genre conventions of the process. These conventions are spelled out clearly on the application form. However, where researchers may need assistance is determining within which category (exempt, expedited review, full review) their research fits. For this reason the recommendations section of this report was of interest in the suggestion that “IRB members can be helpful (perhaps with staff assistance) by preparing and distributing synopses of the research proposals they have reviewed with a brief description of their disposition” (67). I feel this gives researchers both a scope of research under review and examples of what gained approval and what was rejected.

”Don’t Talk to The Humans: The Crackdown on Social Science Research”
I do commiserate with fellow social science researcher about the difficulties of the IRB process. However, while these steps or hoops that researchers have to jump through can be tedious there are obvious and historical reasons for the protection of human subjects and the production of ethical research. (I say this now but wait until I'm awaiting approval).

What Shea’s article does illustrate is the problematic expectation of research destruction within a specified period of time (32). I find this practice limiting as one research project may later morph into additional places to engage research already collected. Furthermore, in Shae’s and Gunsalus’s discussion of who does and does not and what does and does not need approval - the field of journalism came up. Here I felt there should be more clarity on the question of why a journalist doing interviews isn’t doing research and in need of IRB review yet students in a journalism class are. These distinctions are unclear and should be applicable to journalism as a field not research versus practice.

I felt the workshop on Ethical and legal aspects of Human Subjects Research on the Internet offered realistic research and action agendas. What I found most interesting was their call for IRB members to have knowledge of virtual communities, methodologies, etc. They further recommend that because of complexities in online research exemptions requests should be evaluated carefully. These suggestions mirror those in the social sciences who have complained about the difficulty and limiting nature of the IRB. While many Institutions attempt to expedite IRB’s that don’t require full review the process is not always prompt. In Florida during my first IRB experience it took 3 months to get approval leaving very little time for the data collection and reporting part of my research.

Posted by koem0006 at 2:29 AM

September 13, 2004

Crisis of representation

Discussion Question

What would we find if we departed from objectivity-through-generalization and investigate qualitative research in a specific context to see if it holds up to the tests of validity, reliability, and objectivity - three concepts that Denizen and Lincoln suggest represent a crisis of representation in the field of qualitative research? Let’s consider a qualitatively ethnographic research field like journalism - specifically war correspondents covering Iraq.

Journalists dispatched to foreign lands to cover wars can be thought of as field-worker ethnographers who have remarkable claims to authority. War correspondents from the NY Times, the BBC, and the Washington Post, for example, are regularly relied upon for trustworthy, legitimate, and impartial information on the day-to-day developments in Iraq. The world of lived experience is captured by the journalist/ethnographer in a way that empirical science and reason never could. The montage created by the political bricoleur cum-journalist, supercedes most all of empirical science, thus, in this case the journalist/ethnographer’s political, rhetorical, and social authority far surpasses that of the empiricist.

The vibrancy of our free democracy and the direction of public policy depend on the journalist/ethnographer recording their personal experiences within any given social context - capturing the lived experience of a soldier at war for example. Does the journalist/ethnographer, then, answer the representation and legitimation crisis of qualitative field research?

We should also examine how technology adds to the complexity of this issue. With every new technology - near instantaneous electronic communication, internet web sites, personal web-logs, satellite telephones, and the like - the validity, reliability, and objectivity of the journalist/ethnographer becomes more immediate. The “reality” or “lived experience” of the journalist/ethnographer can be validated reliably and objectively by, say, a live video feed direct from the battlefield where the journalist narrates the action while the camera broadcasts the images. The real-time imagery and narratives are instantly available for the world to see and to which the legitimacy fairness can be judged. There is no time for “filework” or field-note review; the documentation is broadcast as it is discovered by the journalist, and thus, the political interpretation is subject only to the location of the researcher, and the specific images framed by the camera. What could the positivist, or empiricist researcher add to make such an ethnographic scenario significantly more valid, reliable, objective, or vivid? Is there another, or better example responds to the crisis of representation in qualitative research?


Posted by arrig002 at 10:46 PM

research methods

My questions are primarily related to the readings in Creswell.

As I read all three chapters I began by trying to design my own
dissertation ideas within the provided frameworks.

1) My primary confusion is with Creswell's knowledge claims frameworks. I
am not sure how or why he chooses these four knowledge claims categories.
Are there more? It seems as if one could define others though I can't
think of specifics. In addition, I am not sure the boundaries between
these categories are as distinct or as simple as Creswell seems to
indicate. For example, a pragmatist approach defined as "problem-centered"
seems to incorporate all the other claims. After all isn't an
advocacy/participatory knowledge claim attempting to solve the problem of
inequality? And isn't a constructivistic claim attempting to solve the
problem of postivism? I can see my own dissertation research drawing on
all four knowledge claims to make its case. More discussion will help.

2) In general, I understand that there will be greater detail in the
ensuing chapters, but I'm missing clarity on certain terms and definitions.
What is grounded theory (p14)? What are quasi-experiments (p13), how do
structured interviews (p14) classified under quantitative methods differ
from interviews (p17, Table 1.3) under qualitative methods? How do
integrative, theoretical and methodological reviews differ (p32)? Perhaps
some concrete examples will assist me.

3) With regard to the articles we read: how does scientific writing relate
to technical writing? Miller addresses this issue, but Connors seems to
unconsciously combine them and Dobrin traces the association of technical
writing with scientific use of language? More discussion on this issue
will be helpful.


Posted by mona0046 at 9:57 PM

Arguments for qualitative and quantitative methods

Here are my questions and thoughts for the readings for this week. I’m sure I’m not the only one who probably found the Charney article and the Janesick chapter in Denzin and Lincoln the most thought-provoking of the readings.

1) I enjoyed both articles, but found myself wondering if Janesick isn’t doing what Charney criticizes researchers in humanities and social sciences doing. Despite this criticism of Janesick’s view of quantitative research, I believe her description of qualitative research is well made and the dance metaphor is effective. I found the description of qualitative research more complete and nuanced than Creswell’s I am not so sure of her final reasons for optimism in the growth of qualitative research (p75). Some of these seem a bit naïve and convoluted, e.g., her belief that reduced governmental funding for research will force people to turn to qualitative (presumably equated with cheaper research). This assumption seems to undermine the complexity of the funding machinery. In times of budget cuts we seem to hear more about the arts and humanities being cut than the quantitative research fields.

2) I had the hardest time with the Charney article. Again, as with the Janesick article I concur with his basic theses—that all types of research should be considered in the social sciences and humanities if we want to answer questions in the best way, and that researchers must not be confused with the research (objective research is done by researchers who are themselves objective). I appreciate his call to rethink and overhaul current ways of thinking within the humanities:
“is it fair to hold scientists responsible because we did not appreciate the rhetoric of their discourse better than they did? We are supposedly the ones skilled in discourse analysis and steeped in rhetorical theory. But if we now dismiss objective methods as irrelevant or as opposed to the social functioning of scientific disciplines we will again be misconstruing the case,” (p581).
However I believe that in his criticism of critics of quantitative research Charney falters by giving too much credit to scientists. It is only in passing that he acknowledges that most scientists “are not as self-conscious of their methods as they should be” (p591) suggesting that understanding scientific practice can excuse ideology. He wishes to separate ideology from practice, but I wonder how possible this really is—to do one type of research be it quantitative or qualitative is to buy into the ideological myth. Even he admits that scientists buy into this myth “many scientists say and even believe, that their discourse is free of argument and interpretation” (p580). He’s asking humanists and social scientists to change their ideologies and perspectives, but doesn’t make a strong enough case for scientists to do the same.

3) I found all the readings on the IRBs and their role in social sciences illuminating. I’m considering doing interviews for my dissertation and it’s good to get a sense of what I might need to think about when working with IRBs. I did notice that most of the articles date from the 1990s and 2000. I’m interested to know where the debate is now in 2004. I am sure Lee-Ann will expand on this.

4) In Creswell I was confused by what exactly an instrument was in survey research. An example would be great.


Posted by mona0046 at 9:52 PM


Our first week's readings were a good foundation for me to understand a discipline to which I am not a member. There was a feeling of relief to see another field grapple within itself about it's identity and boundaries. This seems constant in my field of family science and especially for me as an individual beginning to look at a segment of families and about interdisciplinary! Family science is a meshing of disciplines (historically) and technology is being researched from multiple disciplines and the convergence of studying the two together is sometimes "gooey".

Just some of the questions that came to me ..

If you did open ended interview for a phenomenological perspective, could you also develop a grounded theory from those same interviews?
How does a researcher reconcile their personal philosophy of research with their fields paradigm when they are vastly different?

This is my first time blogging and I am amazed at how time consuming it is to read everyone's postings. However, I wouldn't want to miss anything either.

Posted by habe0076 at 6:58 PM

Week 2: Questions of Ethical Methods (Kenny)

One of Janesick’s major discussions of ethical concerns emerges from her rejection of objectivist assumptions and her call for the researcher’s analysis of his/her own ideological assumptions and complex subject positions (56ff). This move obviously constructs ethical qualitative research as an anti-objectivist production of local, particularized knowledge. Charney, in both defense of quantitative methods, which by the end of the article she conflates with objectivity (589), and critique of qualitative methods, agrees with Janesick’s assumptions without sharing her enthusiasm. Charney questions the use of a research method that unapologetically favors un-generalizable results (588, Janesick praises this aspect of new qualitative research, 70).

Do we take Janesick and other’s position that there is what we might call a tyranny of generalizability in the academic research methods? If so, does that mean we should only value subjectivist-quantitative research? Or do we agree with Charney’s point and find usefully only studies that seek to redefine and increase objectivity and generalizability? For example, what does one usefully draw from ethnographical studies of workplace/industrial/scientific settings if not some sense or wish for generalizability? Could the communal critique/public scrutiny that Charney sees as invaluable to the objectivity of quantitative research methods be understood as an example of what Janesick calls methodolatry (Charney 577; Janesick 64)? What does Charney’s discussion imply about historical methods which, through interpretation, retrace and retell one representation of the past? Is this merely an ideological impasse that we, as grad students, will simple have to maneuver by acquiescing to?

Considering that IRBs are concerned with the oversight of research that posits generalizable results (Shea), what part do they play in this debate? Most journalists see their work as irrelevant to the debate and are often free from IRB governance. Yet many ethnographers make the same argument. Should generalizability be a marker of IRB involvement? Can’t journalist interact with human subjects in a way that most would consider unethical? And if the exemption is merely a matter of first amendment rights, couldn’t that be the case with other academic disciplines?

How much of the onus should reside in the actual academic field, in the name of which this research is conducted? Can the disciplines ethically “regulate” themselves, given that the CCC statement and the article by Kastman-Breuch et. al. imply that many people in our field still have questions about ethical practices?

Finally, is there, in fact, such a thing as inherently ethical or unethical research methodologies? Or like the old adage of the devil and the details, is ethical practice a question of how a researcher conceives, creates, proceeds with, and “writes up” a research study?

Posted by fount012 at 6:49 PM

Group discussion - week one

Regarding the articles, our group (Paula, Heather, Dave, Walt, and Brenda) looked at the various ways the authors approached the field of rhetoric and technical writing from a historical perspective. For instance, Connors' piece offered an explanation of how the field evolved, referencing the social context across the various periods (the increased demand for technical writing during WWII, the oft-times tense relationship with English departments). His approach to this study almost seemed more "quantitative" (to me, Brenda, anyway), in the sense that he referenced only written records, eschewing any data from oral history, memoirs, and other ethnographic methods. Paula pointed out though, that while a timeline may appear quantitative, she thought the gist of the article was a qualitative description of what tech comm "looked like" during various points in history. Regardless, Connors believed that the past functioned to help shape the future, and his study is based in social constructivism.

It could be said, it was pointed out, that Miller's piece addressed the topic from a "knowledge claim" level. That is, she examined the field from a broad, philosophical sense. According to her worldview, technical writing (specifically) can and should be identified with the humanities. As she writes, "technical communication borrows concepts, theories, and methods from other intellectual disciplines . . . Strengthening intellectual relationships with both humanistic and scientific discplines . . . will provide the best rationale for technical writing."

We then discussed the order in which we read the articles and chapters, and whether this had an impact on how we processed the information. For instance, reading Connors' piece first provided a historical framework of the field; whereas, left for last, it was reiterative. We also thought that those who had read the text first and then the articles would have had a framework for analysis - for example, Paula wondered if the universalists in Dobrin would take more quantitative approaches to the study of writing; whereas, the monadists would take more qualitative approaches. Those who read the articles first and then the text may have taken a more deductive approach about applications of Creswell in these specific settings. Basically, that some very general assumptions could have been made about the articles based on the reading of Creswell. And others may have made some very different generalizations simply because they didn't have that methodological framework. However, we couldn't say whether the reading of Creswell first facilitated clearer understanding of the readings or hampered it.

Finally, we looked at rhetoric as a field of study, and how it has been and continues to be influenced based on where it "sits" within a university setting. Research in rhetoric has borrowed methods from various disciplines, including the humanities and the sciences. This colors the questions that are asked, as well as the methods and assumptions used.

Posted by bhudson at 6:07 PM

Paula's Wk1 Discussion ??s

Paula Lentz
RHET 8011 Discussion Questions
Week 1
September 7, 2004

1. Given Cresswell’s description of mixed-methods approaches to research and the value of triangulation (p. 15-16), why would anyone want to use a purely qualitative or quantitative approach to research? Can you think of any research topics that would lend themselves to a purely quantitative or qualitative approach? Granted any research can be done using only one approach or another, but would a mixed-methods approach generally be the best of three regardless of the research question at hand.

2. Given Cresswell’s descriptions of qualitative and quantitative research methods and Dobrin’s descriptions of the monadist and universalist views of language, would a fair assertion be that someone who subscribes to a primarily universalist view would prefer quantitative research methods and that someone who subscribes to a primarily monadist view would prefer qualitative research methods? Could either preference lend itself to either research method? Would a mix-methods approach generally yield richer results, regardless of one’s philosophical orientation?

Posted by lent0064 at 3:08 PM

Week 2 Questions: Qualifying the IRB

My questions focus on contemplating the place of the IRB within the Academy:

  • The IRB seems to position itself as the keeper of the University's ethos. Is such a thing really feasible? Do all colleges and/or departments impart a uniform ethos that can be centrally governed by the University?
  • Does the IRB procedure subvert the spirit of the tenure system? Does it place the University in a position of power it wasn't originally accorded?
  • If the answer if yes, is this the price we have to pay to preserve the Academy within a capitalist, litigious society? Does any of this have to do with protecting human subjects so much as it does with avoiding litigation?

Posted by kenne329 at 2:47 PM

Is the researcher obligated to advocacy?

What I remember best about our group* discussion last week is our contemplation of this question:

Is the researcher necessarily obligated to an "advocacy/participatory" approach, particularly if that researcher is a public intellectual (as some bloggers consider themselves to be)?

I've been wondering about this ever since last summer, when a colleague suggested that my research on texts and authorship in the digital commons obligated me to advocate open-source software. Ultimately, our group decided that your sense of obligation depends on your upbringing and your training, and that there isn't a universal standard that we can be held to. We also discussed several variations on the ethics of internet research and the results of different approaches - lurking vs open identities in chat rooms, etc.

I'm remembering this best because it was one of my questions. However, we did discuss a couple of other questions, and I hope that other group members will add to what I've posted here.

*I'm terrible with names, and apologize to the other members, who were all wonderful.

Posted by kenne329 at 2:35 PM

September 12, 2004

Week One Question

Firstly - I'm assuming this is how we're to post weekly discussion questions?

Having been absent from academia for quite a few years, and new to the direct study of rhetoric, in and of itself, I'm finding myself having to grapple with some lower order/foundational considerations. Please bear with me for a week or two as I figure out once again how this part of the brain works.

As I read Miller's discussion about rhetoric's irrelevancy for science, "Rhetoric relies upon 'artistic proofs,' those which are created by the art of the speaker or writer. Science has to do with what Aristotle called 'inartistic proof,' facts or artifacts which exist independently of human intentions and emotions and about which deliberation is unnecessary," (p.50) I was drawn to the fact that such a view is inherent to a rhetoric of science's own - by assuming and trying to persuade that there is anything concrete and out there that science can itself rely upon, and to advance it's own theories and studies of that assumption. How can a positivist claim, at any time, that their views are independent of rhetoric, that rhetoric is irrelevant, when the epistemology of science itself requires a rhetoric to advance itself among its practitioners? Call it what you want - positivist, scientific method - but this is clearly a view of the world with it's own inherent rhetoric, is it not?

Miller is critical of the statement I cited, and goes on to state that, "Science is, through and through, a rhetorical endeavor." This wouldn't be a wholly radical statement now, but for some historical perspective, I suppose in the history of science, I'm curious if this article generated any sort response or stir from the scientific community when it came out in 1980?

Posted by bank0019 at 9:13 PM

Week One Questions: Truth Claims Cont'd.

All of my discussion questions from the first week reflect epistemological anxieties. (Mine, perhaps?)

>From Creswell:

Several statements seem problematic. In Chapter 1 Creswell discusses of the
relative strengths of mixed method research strategies compared to purely
qualitative or quantitative strategies. She states that using a mixed
methods approach may "neutralize" the biases inherent to the individual
methods. Is this a valid assumption? Or might the biases instead combine
additively to increase the bias of the study findings?

As well, Creswell instructs qualitative researchers to "use the literature
sparingly in the beginning of the (research) plan in order to convey an
inductive design
" (p. 33; my emphasis). If in their qualitative study the
researcher had proceeded deductively after an extensive review of available
literature, is it ethical, or good intellectual practice, to couch the
study post-hoc in inductive terms?

>From Dobrin:

In his discussion of the truth claims of scientific writing and the lack of
truth claims in technical writing, Dobrin states, "If the statement about
salt were found in technical writing. it still would not make a universal
truth claim; it would be contingent, referring only to this salt at this
time in these circumstances" (p. 110). Why is this true? Are the readers
less likely to believe objective claims about the world if they read them
in technical manuals compared to scientific articles? Is this because of
the more respectable ethos scientific articles command? Do readers
recognise this provisionality of truth in technical communication, perhaps
recognising "degrees" of objectivity and "degrees" of objects corresponding
to the "degree" of discourse (scientific versus technical) they're reading?
How does this provisionality increase or decrease the alternity of
technical writing, if at all?

Posted by nyssa003 at 7:55 PM

Group Response to Week 1 Readings

In reading the three articles, our group (Zoe, Anthony, Lynda, Jen N. and Merry) noted that the same kinds of debates continue today in the fields of Rhetoric and Technical Communication. At the same time, contemporary debates are more complicated than those examined in the articles: these articles were written as RSTC was emerging as a distinct field with academic departments and funding independent of English and Literature. Advances in communication technologies (primarily those related to the Internet), the changing character of undergraduate education (especially the increasing size and diversity of that population) in relation to TC service courses, and the increasing focus on a participatory/advocacy theoretical orientation have shifted the age-old TC debates. Several of us noted that the growing pains of RSTC mirror those of English Departments over a century ago, or, as Lynda pointed out, Women’s Studies Departments two decades ago: the same struggle for recognition as an academic discipline, the same competition for scarce university resources, the same exercises in professional boundary maintenance (i.e. X counts as a valid RSTC research program/graduate course/method of inquiry/epistemological assumption/publishing venue but Y does not).

We talked for a while about the use of jargon and its gatekeeping function within discourse communities. Although the Dobrin article attempted to rehabilitate jargon for this use, the teachers among us were uncomfortable with encouraging our students to use jargon similarly. On the subject of teaching, Jen N. also wondered whether it was better to teach students the conventions of different genres, or to teach TC in a more holistic way. The subject of professional boundaries also segued nicely into Lynda’s reflections on the temptation to situate oneself within a single theoretical orientation (postpositivist, constructivist, etc.) Lynda (and, I think, some of the other group members) believed that boxing oneself into a single theoretical perspective would limit one’s ability to deal with the overlapping categories and nuanced situations researchers frequently face.

In addition to myself (Zoe), two other group members (Anthony and Merry) posted separate perspectives on our group discussion. As a group we spent a lot of time discussing Dobrin’s statements on truth claims in science and TC. Both Merry and Zoe explore that issue further in these individual postings.

Posted by nyssa003 at 7:48 PM

truth claims in science and tech comm

To me the most interesting discussion in my group (Anthony, Zoe, Jennifer, Lynda, and Merry) was about truth claims. I thought that was a helpful way to distinguish between scientific writing and technical writing. Science writing is claiming a truth about the world. Technical writing addresses more specific applications and doesn't have to prove each point. It assumes a lot of truths that other scientific writers would take pains to prove. This difference helps explain the reason the writing would occur, the practical application of the writing, and why there are different expectations for the writing in the two different areas.

The lines, of course, are not clear, but a theoretic understanding--like a science writer might give us--helps me place the specific, practical, technical writing. I have done a lot of practical technical writing and realize it has some very different expectations than scientific writing. Our reading and our discussion helped me articulate value of each--a very valuable thing for a technical communicator to do.

We also talked quite a bit about how the "field as a whole still grapples with a self-definition," as Grace was asking about. We felt that these issues were still very relevant today. I think technical communicators have an especially troublesome image problem outside of the profession. Many of our co-workers are pretty fuzzy about just what it is that we do and do not characterize it as creative or fulfilling.

Posted by renda003 at 4:03 PM

September 10, 2004

Reflections on Ethnography and Advocacy

I found our discussion with our group about ethics and advocacy very thought-provoking. When conducting research for a field like rhetoric, our concern has to be with the ethics of ethnography. For example, which approach better suits our aims--ethnography where we participate fully with the people we study, ethnography where we linger or lurk but do not participate at all, or ethnography where we participate to the extent that we are present but not entrenched in that group's norms? We also have to balance what is most advantageous for our research, where we presume to gather the most data. In the quantitative methodologies, this separation from people is of utmost importance. Disciplines with a history of more quantitative methodologies who then turn to ethnography (I would imagine) choose the approach which assumes a full separation from the "subjects." In rhetoric, especially in such things as genre research (read C. Berkenkotter's and T. Huckin's Genre Knowledge in Interdisciplinary Communication), it is important to have a close relationship, at least at the interviewer/interviewee level. This close relationship is integral to gathering "rich" data, or data that allows multi-directional analysis.

I think in internet Research, there seems to be more of a phenomenological approach to ethnography--the chat room, the dating site, the usenet group, and others--are a phenomenon. To study phenomena, you must be separate from them. As a result, I think most internet research strives to use the most separate approach possible. This creates problems, however, when dealing with sensitive information. Be it support groups, dating sites (with personal information), or professional discussions, there is always the chance that individuals may resent an invasion of their privacy if you publish a resulting report.

Further, if you are studying a groups with particular understandings (such as emotional support, participation, etc.), is it ethical to not be a contributing member of that group? Since you do not fulfill the conditions for entering that group, is it ethical to be there? Conversely, does pretending to be involved in the group ethical? Seemingly, there is no "right" way to do it. Most of these challenges with methodological approach have to be decided on a case-by-case basis and, following, be approved with an IRB (I think) form. So even if you think what you're doing is ethical, there is a chance the board won't.

Posted by tsch0070 at 1:02 PM

September 9, 2004

One group’s discussion of the readings

We (Grace, Mike, Salma, Smiljana, and Kenny) discussed primarily the ways that the Miller and Dobrin articles articulated a very social-constructivist stance, while the one by Connor’s was more difficult to place ideologically. Though I (Kenny) thought that his use of gender-based metaphors throughout seemed conservative and ideologically-telling (For example, he mentions the masculine profession of engineering versus the perception of English teachers as practitioners of an ‘effeminate’ knowledge. These gendered metaphors, obviously, were not created by Connors, and they do in fact exist in technical communication and in human culture, in general. Admittedly my own queer-social-constructivist ideological world-view is implicated in that reading of Connor’s article.).
We also wondered what type of call-to-action article would be written about the field today. In other words, where are we now in relation to a more humanistic and social-constructivist conceptualization of the field? How far have we come? Are their research questions and research subjects that we have yet to explore? We saw that some perspectives mentioned by Creswell, like race, sexuality, and disability, have yet to be fully and consistently explored by technical communication research (which is not to say that there is no tech. comm. research in these areas). We wondered what this means for us as graduate students of technical communication, who are entering a field which has in no way exhausted the possibilities of new, engaging research.
Again in relation to both the Miller and Dobrin articles we mentioned the stylistic and rhetorical differences of their pieces, particularly Dobrin’s use of a very self-consciously philosophical argumentation. The two writers’ reflections on their work, namely what was happening in their academic careers when they wrote the essays, offered a nice lens through which to view the rhetorical choices they made. For example, Miller’s more direct style matches her very real concerns of being fresh out of a Ph.D. program and teaching in an English department that was wrestling with those very issues addressed in her essay. Lastly, I remember our discussion of the difficulty of balancing our world-view and our pedagogy. Supposing we do agree with Miller and Dobrin, and we are more inclined to social-constructivism, how do we bring this into the classroom? If we agree with Miller’s critique of the postpositivist assumptions behind what we teach about style and audience, how then should that reflect the way we teach style and audience in our own courses?
(I fear that I am only remembering the issues and topics that I found most compelling. If so, I do hope that another member of the group will correct me.)

Posted by fount012 at 4:10 PM