All posts by K M

Direction and a Sigh of Relief

Of the articles assigned for today, "What is Digital Humanities and What's It Doing in English Departments?" by Matthew G. Kirschenbaum was the most meaningful for me.  Even though it was meant as more of an overview of the field, it has helped me to realize exactly where Digital Humanities is situated, what resources are available to scholars of it, and how much of a history it has.  That stuff may be more common-sense or basic knowledge to others, but through my thesis I've kind of been thrown serendipitously into the field of Digital Humanities.  Just a few months ago, all I knew was that I had an idea to study original species communities, and I wasn't even sure if that was "allowed."  I've only just begun to realize that Digital Humanities a thing, and this article said to me "Katherine, it's not just a thing; it's a serious thing.  Studying your original species stuff is SO allowed."  I have this weird habit of assuming that anything I'm passionate about can't be a serious or valid field of study; I don't know why.  This article made me feel like I'm not just trying to take something silly and say "But, wait, look!  There's value to it.  Just hold on like 2 seconds!"  Now I'm joining a community of scholars with conferences, journals, institutes, and a heritage.  Dr. Zamora has helped me to realize the value of my research interests too, but somehow reading it in an article has made it more "real."  This article also gives me hope about my academic future.  Maybe I don't need to restrict myself to trying to beg my way into a Composition and Rhetoric PhD program; instead, there might be digital Humanties programs actually begging to get their hands on me!

Additionally, this article presented info that I can use in my Lit Review and continuing work on my thesis.  Now I have some starting points of where to direct my research (and maybe even where to present it one day!) instead of just casting a net into the databases and Google Scholar to see what bites like I have been.  Most notably, it introduced me to the Library of Congress's "Preserving Digital Worlds" project.  What a great springboard!    


Direction and a Sigh of Relief

Of the articles assigned for today, "What is Digital Humanities and What's It Doing in English Departments?" by Matthew G. Kirschenbaum was the most meaningful for me.  Even though it was meant as more of an overview of the field, it has helped me to realize exactly where Digital Humanities is situated, what resources are available to scholars of it, and how much of a history it has.  That stuff may be more common-sense or basic knowledge to others, but through my thesis I've kind of been thrown serendipitously into the field of Digital Humanities.  Just a few months ago, all I knew was that I had an idea to study original species communities, and I wasn't even sure if that was "allowed."  I've only just begun to realize that Digital Humanities a thing, and this article said to me "Katherine, it's not just a thing; it's a serious thing.  Studying your original species stuff is SO allowed."  I have this weird habit of assuming that anything I'm passionate about can't be a serious or valid field of study; I don't know why.  This article made me feel like I'm not just trying to take something silly and say "But, wait, look!  There's value to it.  Just hold on like 2 seconds!"  Now I'm joining a community of scholars with conferences, journals, institutes, and a heritage.  Dr. Zamora has helped me to realize the value of my research interests too, but somehow reading it in an article has made it more "real."  This article also gives me hope about my academic future.  Maybe I don't need to restrict myself to trying to beg my way into a Composition and Rhetoric PhD program; instead, there might be digital Humanties programs actually begging to get their hands on me!

Additionally, this article presented info that I can use in my Lit Review and continuing work on my thesis.  Now I have some starting points of where to direct my research (and maybe even where to present it one day!) instead of just casting a net into the databases and Google Scholar to see what bites like I have been.  Most notably, it introduced me to the Library of Congress's "Preserving Digital Worlds" project.  What a great springboard!    


Presentation Essay


Hello all!  Here is my essay for tonight's presentation.  Additionally, I am including a link to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's livecams.  https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals-and-experiences/live-web-cams   Please take a look at the livecams they offer (but don't watch any of them yet!), and decide which one most interests you.  This may seem way off-topic, but it's part of an activity I have planned related to grounded theory.  See you tonight!

Together in Harmony: Grounded Theory and Participatory Culture
            The two articles I have examined, "Grounded Theory: A Critical Research Methodology" by Joyce Magnotto Neff and "Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century" by Henry Jenkins, offer a research method and a topic of study for which the method would be ideal.  Neff’s article explains the basics of grounded theory, while the highlighted portion of Jenkins’s article introduces the concept of participatory culture.  When one looks at the characteristics of participatory culture as defined by Jenkins, it becomes clear that the relationship-focused, collaborative, fluid method of grounded theory is the best way to go about conducting research on the topic. 
            Because grounded theory is concerned with relationships between data, it allows researchers to examine and forge theories from the wide range of data pools they would need to gather to get a clear picture of a given participatory culture. The hallmark of grounded theory is that it “is based on ‘systematically and intensively analyzing data’ not just to order them, but to examine conceptual relationships and to generate theory” (Magnotto Neff, 1998 ,p. 125).  Take this in concert with Jenkins’s recommendation for studying new media technologies: “we would do better to take an ecological approach, thinking about the interrelationship among all of these different communication technologies, the cultural communities that grow up around them, and the activities they support” (Jenkins, 2006, p. 8).  If one were studying interactive technologies themselves, as is common in the field of new media studies, another method might serve as a more effective way to conduct research.  It would be easy and sensible to set up an experiment where an experimental group uses a certain technology, a Wi-fi-enabled tablet for example, and a control group does not.  Researchers could get a picture of how that technology affects learning, and whether or not the results fit their hypothesis.  Participatory culture, however, is not such a straightforward topic; it relies on a large number of data types, many of which are qualitative, and their relationships to one another.  In order to manage the different types of data and make meaning out of them, a researcher would need to employ a method that is equally concerned with finding relationships and deciphering their meanings and impact.  Grounded theory meets that requirement.
            Grounded theory is also a research method that encourages collaboration between multiple researchers; this is necessary when studying something as multifaceted as a participatory culture.  Participatory culture is defined by Jenkins as having five key characteristics: low barriers to expression and engagement, strong support for creating and for sharing one's creations, informal mentorship, members' belief that their contributions matter, and members' perception of social connection to others in the community (Jenkins, 2006).  Each of these five characteristics could warrant a study in and of themselves, but with grounded theory they don't have to.  Instead, five researchers could team up, and each of them could focus on collecting data for one characteristic of the culture being studied.  When the researchers share their data, they also benefit from each other's varied thoughts, styles, and expertise in the arduous process of data analysis.  For example, a sociologist who collected data on mentorship in a community might also have a unique insight into the data their composition scholar colleague has collected about creative support in the community.  Magnotto tells us that “grounded theory develops agents for change through the inclusion of participant-researchers, and it opens up spaces for action and reciprocity” (Magnotto Neff, 1998, p.132).   Interestingly, this sort of collaboration mirrors the features of the “affinity spaces” (Gee 2004, as cited in Jenkins, 2006) that so often breed participatory cultures.  It allows each researcher involved to “feel like an expert while tapping the expertise of others” (Jenkins, 2006, p. 9). 
            The mirroring of competencies between participatory cultures and grounded theory becomes even more pronounced when one considers the fluid, adaptable natures of both the research method and the research topic.  Jenkins tells us that participatory cultures are beneficial and necessary because “youth need skills for working within social networks, for pooling knowledge within a collective intelligence, for negotiating across cultural differences that shape the governing assumptions in different communities, and for reconciling conflicting bits of data to form a coherent picture of the world around them” (Jenkins, 2006, p.20).  He also implies that within new media participatory cultures “meaning emerges collectively and collaboratively” and that  “creativity operates differently in [such] an open-source culture based on sampling, appropriation, transformation, and repurposing” (Jenkins, 2006, p.20). Compare this with Neff's description of grounded theory, where “data are examined for dimensions and properties, compared with similar phenomena, regrouped and reconceptualized until a provisional theory emerges inductively from the analysis and is further tested through theoretical sampling” (Magnotto Neff, 1998, p.125)  It almost sounds as if they are talking about the same thing.  Meaning, artifact, or theory are flexible, formed collaboratively, and subject to change based on the interplay between data and researchers, or between community members and artifacts. 
            Having highlighted the harmony between participatory culture and grounded theory, found in their shared concern with relationships, their emphasis on collaboration, and their room for adaptation, one can see how well the two fit together.  Although it is not necessary for a research method and its topic to have such similarities, it does make for an easier, more fruitful, and more engaging research process.  Other methods which lack such harmony would likely fail to give as extensive data or as solid a theory when studying participatory cultures. 





References
Jenkins, H. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st       century. Building the Field of Digital Media and Learning. Retrieved from                   https://www.macfound.org/media/article_pdfs/JENKINS_WHITE_PAPER.PDF
Magnotto Neff, J. (1998). Grounded theory: A critical research methodology In C. Farris & C. M. Anson (Eds.), Under construction: Working at the intersections of composition theory, research, and                practice (pp. 124-135). Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press.


Presentation Essay


Hello all!  Here is my essay for tonight's presentation.  Additionally, I am including a link to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's livecams.  https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals-and-experiences/live-web-cams   Please take a look at the livecams they offer (but don't watch any of them yet!), and decide which one most interests you.  This may seem way off-topic, but it's part of an activity I have planned related to grounded theory.  See you tonight!

Together in Harmony: Grounded Theory and Participatory Culture
            The two articles I have examined, "Grounded Theory: A Critical Research Methodology" by Joyce Magnotto Neff and "Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century" by Henry Jenkins, offer a research method and a topic of study for which the method would be ideal.  Neff’s article explains the basics of grounded theory, while the highlighted portion of Jenkins’s article introduces the concept of participatory culture.  When one looks at the characteristics of participatory culture as defined by Jenkins, it becomes clear that the relationship-focused, collaborative, fluid method of grounded theory is the best way to go about conducting research on the topic. 
            Because grounded theory is concerned with relationships between data, it allows researchers to examine and forge theories from the wide range of data pools they would need to gather to get a clear picture of a given participatory culture. The hallmark of grounded theory is that it “is based on ‘systematically and intensively analyzing data’ not just to order them, but to examine conceptual relationships and to generate theory” (Magnotto Neff, 1998 ,p. 125).  Take this in concert with Jenkins’s recommendation for studying new media technologies: “we would do better to take an ecological approach, thinking about the interrelationship among all of these different communication technologies, the cultural communities that grow up around them, and the activities they support” (Jenkins, 2006, p. 8).  If one were studying interactive technologies themselves, as is common in the field of new media studies, another method might serve as a more effective way to conduct research.  It would be easy and sensible to set up an experiment where an experimental group uses a certain technology, a Wi-fi-enabled tablet for example, and a control group does not.  Researchers could get a picture of how that technology affects learning, and whether or not the results fit their hypothesis.  Participatory culture, however, is not such a straightforward topic; it relies on a large number of data types, many of which are qualitative, and their relationships to one another.  In order to manage the different types of data and make meaning out of them, a researcher would need to employ a method that is equally concerned with finding relationships and deciphering their meanings and impact.  Grounded theory meets that requirement.
            Grounded theory is also a research method that encourages collaboration between multiple researchers; this is necessary when studying something as multifaceted as a participatory culture.  Participatory culture is defined by Jenkins as having five key characteristics: low barriers to expression and engagement, strong support for creating and for sharing one's creations, informal mentorship, members' belief that their contributions matter, and members' perception of social connection to others in the community (Jenkins, 2006).  Each of these five characteristics could warrant a study in and of themselves, but with grounded theory they don't have to.  Instead, five researchers could team up, and each of them could focus on collecting data for one characteristic of the culture being studied.  When the researchers share their data, they also benefit from each other's varied thoughts, styles, and expertise in the arduous process of data analysis.  For example, a sociologist who collected data on mentorship in a community might also have a unique insight into the data their composition scholar colleague has collected about creative support in the community.  Magnotto tells us that “grounded theory develops agents for change through the inclusion of participant-researchers, and it opens up spaces for action and reciprocity” (Magnotto Neff, 1998, p.132).   Interestingly, this sort of collaboration mirrors the features of the “affinity spaces” (Gee 2004, as cited in Jenkins, 2006) that so often breed participatory cultures.  It allows each researcher involved to “feel like an expert while tapping the expertise of others” (Jenkins, 2006, p. 9). 
            The mirroring of competencies between participatory cultures and grounded theory becomes even more pronounced when one considers the fluid, adaptable natures of both the research method and the research topic.  Jenkins tells us that participatory cultures are beneficial and necessary because “youth need skills for working within social networks, for pooling knowledge within a collective intelligence, for negotiating across cultural differences that shape the governing assumptions in different communities, and for reconciling conflicting bits of data to form a coherent picture of the world around them” (Jenkins, 2006, p.20).  He also implies that within new media participatory cultures “meaning emerges collectively and collaboratively” and that  “creativity operates differently in [such] an open-source culture based on sampling, appropriation, transformation, and repurposing” (Jenkins, 2006, p.20). Compare this with Neff's description of grounded theory, where “data are examined for dimensions and properties, compared with similar phenomena, regrouped and reconceptualized until a provisional theory emerges inductively from the analysis and is further tested through theoretical sampling” (Magnotto Neff, 1998, p.125)  It almost sounds as if they are talking about the same thing.  Meaning, artifact, or theory are flexible, formed collaboratively, and subject to change based on the interplay between data and researchers, or between community members and artifacts. 
            Having highlighted the harmony between participatory culture and grounded theory, found in their shared concern with relationships, their emphasis on collaboration, and their room for adaptation, one can see how well the two fit together.  Although it is not necessary for a research method and its topic to have such similarities, it does make for an easier, more fruitful, and more engaging research process.  Other methods which lack such harmony would likely fail to give as extensive data or as solid a theory when studying participatory cultures. 





References
Jenkins, H. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st       century. Building the Field of Digital Media and Learning. Retrieved from                   https://www.macfound.org/media/article_pdfs/JENKINS_WHITE_PAPER.PDF
Magnotto Neff, J. (1998). Grounded theory: A critical research methodology In C. Farris & C. M. Anson (Eds.), Under construction: Working at the intersections of composition theory, research, and                practice (pp. 124-135). Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press.


Presentation Essay


Hello all!  Here is my essay for tonight's presentation.  Additionally, I am including a link to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's livecams.  https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals-and-experiences/live-web-cams   Please take a look at the livecams they offer (but don't watch any of them yet!), and decide which one most interests you.  This may seem way off-topic, but it's part of an activity I have planned related to grounded theory.  See you tonight!

Together in Harmony: Grounded Theory and Participatory Culture
            The two articles I have examined, "Grounded Theory: A Critical Research Methodology" by Joyce Magnotto Neff and "Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century" by Henry Jenkins, offer a research method and a topic of study for which the method would be ideal.  Neff’s article explains the basics of grounded theory, while the highlighted portion of Jenkins’s article introduces the concept of participatory culture.  When one looks at the characteristics of participatory culture as defined by Jenkins, it becomes clear that the relationship-focused, collaborative, fluid method of grounded theory is the best way to go about conducting research on the topic. 
            Because grounded theory is concerned with relationships between data, it allows researchers to examine and forge theories from the wide range of data pools they would need to gather to get a clear picture of a given participatory culture. The hallmark of grounded theory is that it “is based on ‘systematically and intensively analyzing data’ not just to order them, but to examine conceptual relationships and to generate theory” (Magnotto Neff, 1998 ,p. 125).  Take this in concert with Jenkins’s recommendation for studying new media technologies: “we would do better to take an ecological approach, thinking about the interrelationship among all of these different communication technologies, the cultural communities that grow up around them, and the activities they support” (Jenkins, 2006, p. 8).  If one were studying interactive technologies themselves, as is common in the field of new media studies, another method might serve as a more effective way to conduct research.  It would be easy and sensible to set up an experiment where an experimental group uses a certain technology, a Wi-fi-enabled tablet for example, and a control group does not.  Researchers could get a picture of how that technology affects learning, and whether or not the results fit their hypothesis.  Participatory culture, however, is not such a straightforward topic; it relies on a large number of data types, many of which are qualitative, and their relationships to one another.  In order to manage the different types of data and make meaning out of them, a researcher would need to employ a method that is equally concerned with finding relationships and deciphering their meanings and impact.  Grounded theory meets that requirement.
            Grounded theory is also a research method that encourages collaboration between multiple researchers; this is necessary when studying something as multifaceted as a participatory culture.  Participatory culture is defined by Jenkins as having five key characteristics: low barriers to expression and engagement, strong support for creating and for sharing one's creations, informal mentorship, members' belief that their contributions matter, and members' perception of social connection to others in the community (Jenkins, 2006).  Each of these five characteristics could warrant a study in and of themselves, but with grounded theory they don't have to.  Instead, five researchers could team up, and each of them could focus on collecting data for one characteristic of the culture being studied.  When the researchers share their data, they also benefit from each other's varied thoughts, styles, and expertise in the arduous process of data analysis.  For example, a sociologist who collected data on mentorship in a community might also have a unique insight into the data their composition scholar colleague has collected about creative support in the community.  Magnotto tells us that “grounded theory develops agents for change through the inclusion of participant-researchers, and it opens up spaces for action and reciprocity” (Magnotto Neff, 1998, p.132).   Interestingly, this sort of collaboration mirrors the features of the “affinity spaces” (Gee 2004, as cited in Jenkins, 2006) that so often breed participatory cultures.  It allows each researcher involved to “feel like an expert while tapping the expertise of others” (Jenkins, 2006, p. 9). 
            The mirroring of competencies between participatory cultures and grounded theory becomes even more pronounced when one considers the fluid, adaptable natures of both the research method and the research topic.  Jenkins tells us that participatory cultures are beneficial and necessary because “youth need skills for working within social networks, for pooling knowledge within a collective intelligence, for negotiating across cultural differences that shape the governing assumptions in different communities, and for reconciling conflicting bits of data to form a coherent picture of the world around them” (Jenkins, 2006, p.20).  He also implies that within new media participatory cultures “meaning emerges collectively and collaboratively” and that  “creativity operates differently in [such] an open-source culture based on sampling, appropriation, transformation, and repurposing” (Jenkins, 2006, p.20). Compare this with Neff's description of grounded theory, where “data are examined for dimensions and properties, compared with similar phenomena, regrouped and reconceptualized until a provisional theory emerges inductively from the analysis and is further tested through theoretical sampling” (Magnotto Neff, 1998, p.125)  It almost sounds as if they are talking about the same thing.  Meaning, artifact, or theory are flexible, formed collaboratively, and subject to change based on the interplay between data and researchers, or between community members and artifacts. 
            Having highlighted the harmony between participatory culture and grounded theory, found in their shared concern with relationships, their emphasis on collaboration, and their room for adaptation, one can see how well the two fit together.  Although it is not necessary for a research method and its topic to have such similarities, it does make for an easier, more fruitful, and more engaging research process.  Other methods which lack such harmony would likely fail to give as extensive data or as solid a theory when studying participatory cultures. 





References
Jenkins, H. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st       century. Building the Field of Digital Media and Learning. Retrieved from                   https://www.macfound.org/media/article_pdfs/JENKINS_WHITE_PAPER.PDF
Magnotto Neff, J. (1998). Grounded theory: A critical research methodology In C. Farris & C. M. Anson (Eds.), Under construction: Working at the intersections of composition theory, research, and                practice (pp. 124-135). Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press.


The Diamond in the Rough

 Image from Disney's Aladdin

This week's readings both got me thinking, but in very different ways, about the place of creative writing in an academic environment that seems to become more and more hostile toward humanistic learning with each passing year.  As can be seen in my annotations, the studies outlined in Addison and Gee's "Writing in High School/Writing in College: Research Trends and Future Directions" made me angry, some of them for their results, and some of them for their content.  I was particularly incensed by the table on page 156, which showed just how few creative writing activities were assigned in high school and college.  Less creative writing activities than lab reports, for Pete's sake!  In my annotation, I try to understand the logic behind this lack of opportunities to write creatively in school; my main hypothesis is that administrators don't see the value in creative writing when compared to more "academic" forms of writing.  With that in mind as I read Amicucci's "How They Really Talk," I was able to see a lot of parallels between digital literacy and what I'm going to call "creative literacy."

Without having done any kind of study or extensive research, I can only draw on my personal experiences in high school to inform what I'm going to assert.  So keep that in mind, and take my words with a grain of salt.  I think downplaying creative writing in writing classes is forcing the same kind of "code-switching" as not acknowledging chatspeak.  Aside from the type of writing done for instant messaging and social media, creative writing is probably the type of writing students engage with most outside of school.  I know that was the case with me.  I wrote a lot more outside of school than inside of school during my high school years.  I can honestly say that I hated my expository writing course.  And I think I even failed an elective writing course my senior year.  I constantly wrote creatively in my free time during those years, though, and it is that kind of writing that got me hooked on the craft.  Yes, there were exceptions.  Great teachers made my freshman English course enjoyable, and my Honors Imaginative Process course was one of the highlights of my entire high school career.  Generally, however, High School Katherine loved writing DESPITE her writing classes, not BECAUSE of them. 

I'm positive that's not what teachers of writing want to hear, but I'm pretty sure it's the case for a lot more people than we'd like to admit.  Perhaps by bringing more creative writing into high school writing classes, we can allow a sort of "genre code-meshing."  High school students don't have a writer identity developed enough to realize that if they get a bad mark on one kind of writing, they might still be an amazing writer in another genre.  For most of them, their sense of being or not being a writer is tied directly to what grade is written on their essays.  What about the kid who's reamed out for taking up half a science paper on a poetic description of an oak leaf's veins?  Sure, Johnny Oakleaf may not be a science writer, and he may need to learn a hell of a lot more about organization, structure, and audience, but Johnny's clearly demonstrating an enthusiasm and aptitude for nature writing or poetry.  If we only assign research papers or lab reports, though, all Johnny is going to learn is that he's a bad writer.  He gets Fs on all his papers; that clearly means he's a bad writer, right?  And if Johnny thinks he's a bad writer, then he's probably going to have low self-efficacy, and he's not going to want to learn how to improve his organization, etc.  You see the cycle?  The same thing could be said of a student who can't limerick her way out of a paper bag, but can give you the most cogent, detailed science report you'd ever ask for.  The difference is that Susie Science is going to be validated for her report-writing, whereas Johnny Oakleaf won't get the opportunity for validation.  Why?  Because creative writing isn't included widely enough in the teaching of writing for adults and adolescents.  Because stories and poems are somehow less valuable, or more childish?  If we're having serious discussions about how to bridge the gap between extracurricular social media writing and academic writing, then why can't we have the same kind of discussion about bridging the gap between extracurricular creative writing and academic writing?  It would have the same sort of benefits for another chunk of the student population.    

The Diamond in the Rough

 Image from Disney's Aladdin

This week's readings both got me thinking, but in very different ways, about the place of creative writing in an academic environment that seems to become more and more hostile toward humanistic learning with each passing year.  As can be seen in my annotations, the studies outlined in Addison and Gee's "Writing in High School/Writing in College: Research Trends and Future Directions" made me angry, some of them for their results, and some of them for their content.  I was particularly incensed by the table on page 156, which showed just how few creative writing activities were assigned in high school and college.  Less creative writing activities than lab reports, for Pete's sake!  In my annotation, I try to understand the logic behind this lack of opportunities to write creatively in school; my main hypothesis is that administrators don't see the value in creative writing when compared to more "academic" forms of writing.  With that in mind as I read Amicucci's "How They Really Talk," I was able to see a lot of parallels between digital literacy and what I'm going to call "creative literacy."

Without having done any kind of study or extensive research, I can only draw on my personal experiences in high school to inform what I'm going to assert.  So keep that in mind, and take my words with a grain of salt.  I think downplaying creative writing in writing classes is forcing the same kind of "code-switching" as not acknowledging chatspeak.  Aside from the type of writing done for instant messaging and social media, creative writing is probably the type of writing students engage with most outside of school.  I know that was the case with me.  I wrote a lot more outside of school than inside of school during my high school years.  I can honestly say that I hated my expository writing course.  And I think I even failed an elective writing course my senior year.  I constantly wrote creatively in my free time during those years, though, and it is that kind of writing that got me hooked on the craft.  Yes, there were exceptions.  Great teachers made my freshman English course enjoyable, and my Honors Imaginative Process course was one of the highlights of my entire high school career.  Generally, however, High School Katherine loved writing DESPITE her writing classes, not BECAUSE of them. 

I'm positive that's not what teachers of writing want to hear, but I'm pretty sure it's the case for a lot more people than we'd like to admit.  Perhaps by bringing more creative writing into high school writing classes, we can allow a sort of "genre code-meshing."  High school students don't have a writer identity developed enough to realize that if they get a bad mark on one kind of writing, they might still be an amazing writer in another genre.  For most of them, their sense of being or not being a writer is tied directly to what grade is written on their essays.  What about the kid who's reamed out for taking up half a science paper on a poetic description of an oak leaf's veins?  Sure, Johnny Oakleaf may not be a science writer, and he may need to learn a hell of a lot more about organization, structure, and audience, but Johnny's clearly demonstrating an enthusiasm and aptitude for nature writing or poetry.  If we only assign research papers or lab reports, though, all Johnny is going to learn is that he's a bad writer.  He gets Fs on all his papers; that clearly means he's a bad writer, right?  And if Johnny thinks he's a bad writer, then he's probably going to have low self-efficacy, and he's not going to want to learn how to improve his organization, etc.  You see the cycle?  The same thing could be said of a student who can't limerick her way out of a paper bag, but can give you the most cogent, detailed science report you'd ever ask for.  The difference is that Susie Science is going to be validated for her report-writing, whereas Johnny Oakleaf won't get the opportunity for validation.  Why?  Because creative writing isn't included widely enough in the teaching of writing for adults and adolescents.  Because stories and poems are somehow less valuable, or more childish?  If we're having serious discussions about how to bridge the gap between extracurricular social media writing and academic writing, then why can't we have the same kind of discussion about bridging the gap between extracurricular creative writing and academic writing?  It would have the same sort of benefits for another chunk of the student population.    

Wearing Lots of Hats: Research and Multiple Identities

 Image from Team Fortress 2 by Valve Corporation


In reading "Out of Our Experience: Useful Theory" by Mohr, Rogers, Sanford, Nocerino, MacLean, and Clawson, I was most intrigued by the indentity-related implications I saw in it.  The authors advocate very strongly for teachers to "wear more than one hat": they assert that the most valuable theory comes from researchers who are also teachers.  It doesn't stop there, though.  In addition to wearing the teacher hat and the researcher hat, it seems the authors want teachers to also wear a sociologist hat in order to better understand the varied life experiences and environments of their students.  Taking it even further, the article encourages teacher-researchers to explore methods "from a variety of fields- sociology, ethnography, psychology, and anthropology" (Mohr et al.18).  Additionally additionally, the article advocates writing-to-learn, which would give an individual the writer hat too.  That's a lot of hats, and a lot of identities, for someone to take on!

This is fascinating to me, because the social narrative in American society tends to guide adults toward possessing only one professional identity.  The evidence of this narrative can be seen in that oh-so-common introductory question at parties: So, what do you do?  How many party guests do you think would actually listen if one responded with "I'm a teacher-researcher-sociologist-ethnographer-psychologist, with a little bit of anthropologist on my mom's side, but she was raised by teachers, so..."  That got me thinking... what is the taboo about having more than one professional identity?  Do people think it means one is not devoting their full attention to their job?  And, if multitasking is seen as such a valuable skill, then why would that be a problem?

I personally agree with the multiple professional identity approach.  I think it allows teachers, researchers, sociologists, etc. to have a bigger "Crock Pot" from which to pull.  Everything they learn, every slice of research, chunk of method, or pinch of multidisciplinary understanding, adds to their ability to understand, interpret, and criticize subject matter; teach; and relate to students of multitudinous backgrounds.

In contrast to the "everything can be research, and you can research every way!" approach of "Out of Our Experience," "Empiricism Is Not a Four Letter Word" by Charney, favors quantitative research methods, such as those used in the hard sciences.  Although I had a hard time understanding the article, and didn't even get through it,  I don't agree with what I gather of Charney's opinion.  If writing studies is more closely related to the social, or soft, sciences, then why should we be trying to cram its research methods into a tight and ill-fitting article of clothing that's tailor fit for a whole different discipline?  That's like a human trying to wear a sweater made for dogs!  

      

Wearing Lots of Hats: Research and Multiple Identities

 Image from Team Fortress 2 by Valve Corporation


In reading "Out of Our Experience: Useful Theory" by Mohr, Rogers, Sanford, Nocerino, MacLean, and Clawson, I was most intrigued by the indentity-related implications I saw in it.  The authors advocate very strongly for teachers to "wear more than one hat": they assert that the most valuable theory comes from researchers who are also teachers.  It doesn't stop there, though.  In addition to wearing the teacher hat and the researcher hat, it seems the authors want teachers to also wear a sociologist hat in order to better understand the varied life experiences and environments of their students.  Taking it even further, the article encourages teacher-researchers to explore methods "from a variety of fields- sociology, ethnography, psychology, and anthropology" (Mohr et al.18).  Additionally additionally, the article advocates writing-to-learn, which would give an individual the writer hat too.  That's a lot of hats, and a lot of identities, for someone to take on!

This is fascinating to me, because the social narrative in American society tends to guide adults toward possessing only one professional identity.  The evidence of this narrative can be seen in that oh-so-common introductory question at parties: So, what do you do?  How many party guests do you think would actually listen if one responded with "I'm a teacher-researcher-sociologist-ethnographer-psychologist, with a little bit of anthropologist on my mom's side, but she was raised by teachers, so..."  That got me thinking... what is the taboo about having more than one professional identity?  Do people think it means one is not devoting their full attention to their job?  And, if multitasking is seen as such a valuable skill, then why would that be a problem?

I personally agree with the multiple professional identity approach.  I think it allows teachers, researchers, sociologists, etc. to have a bigger "Crock Pot" from which to pull.  Everything they learn, every slice of research, chunk of method, or pinch of multidisciplinary understanding, adds to their ability to understand, interpret, and criticize subject matter; teach; and relate to students of multitudinous backgrounds.

In contrast to the "everything can be research, and you can research every way!" approach of "Out of Our Experience," "Empiricism Is Not a Four Letter Word" by Charney, favors quantitative research methods, such as those used in the hard sciences.  Although I had a hard time understanding the article, and didn't even get through it,  I don't agree with what I gather of Charney's opinion.  If writing studies is more closely related to the social, or soft, sciences, then why should we be trying to cram its research methods into a tight and ill-fitting article of clothing that's tailor fit for a whole different discipline?  That's like a human trying to wear a sweater made for dogs!  

      

Introspection on Research

At this point, I don't feel like I have much of a research identity.  As an employee of the Writing Center, I've participated in some writing center research, and I have attended conferences to present that research as part of a group; however, I'm not sure if writing center studies is where I want to make my research "home."  As much as I love the writing center, I have a greater interest in researching writer identity and the creative process as it relates to writing.  Other research areas of interest include: teacher feedback and its effect on students; and the relationship between the visual arts and written composition, particularly among student writers. 

The idea Dr. Zamora presented about quantifying and validating the independent, intuitive research undertaken by creative individuals also sounded pretty appealing to me.  I've always done independent research as a kind of hobby.  In first grade I can remember scouring the school library for books about carnivorous plants because I thought the Piranha Plants in the Super Mario Bros. video games were cool.  Whatever topic appealed to me at a given time, I would research it extensively.  I still do this, but it usually takes the form of reading nonfiction books before bed or conducting random Google searches.  On many occasions, this random for-the-fun-of-it research has found its way into my creative and academic writing.

As far as research skills I'd like to learn, setting up a decent study is first on my list.  Last semester I had to write a research paper based around creating a study, and I really struggled with figuring out what would generate valid data.  I feel somewhat confident in my ability to call upon secondary sources, but primary research is a puzzle to me.