Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sung Woo, The last and may be the longest.

1. I sympathize with Potter that quantitative studies are reductionist(259). He mainly pointed to the content analysis. But I think, often in social science, and notably in our field, scholars tend to study only those variables that are quantifiable, rather than quantifying the variable. Question remains however, is qualitative research free from this accusation?

2. The terminology of convergence that Potter used, or blurred genres is really blurred. There could be various patterns of convergence, he stopped short of specifying what type he is aiming towards. There may be a tendency to assimilate between approaches, or one complimenting the other, or one becoming a main and the other a sub. Also, since his book was from 1990s, I’d like to know what the latest trend is. I mean, who is winning? Isn’t there a study that analyzed major publications?

3. Some scholars see qualitative approach as having and antecedent value (306). Actually this is what I had gathered while doing assignments for this course. Focus group, participant observation or reception analysis gave me ideas and intuitions for future studies. And numbers of cross-national comparative studies I read used extensive case studies to establish a typology , then moved on to quantitative analysis. I have a proposition. Why don’t we discuss Dr.Harp and Ingrid’s paper that had both quantitative and qualitative method, and talk about which should have been the main and which should have been the sub.

4. I think Potter gave a very nice descriptions about why qualitative and quantitative approach are destined to be complimentary, and what quantitative can’t do what qualitative can. For example, “there is a premium placed on more phenomenological research where there are no prior expectations” (318). For me, joy of doing qualitative assignments was to find something that was not conceived before. Put it simply, I was glad when I got something unexpected in doing qualitative work, whereas when doing quantitative study, the joy was when I got the expected result.

5. Potter argued the most important force behind convergence is the desire of scholars to want it happen(331). I disagree. The most important force behind convergence is that both the quantitative and qualitative approaches are imperfect. And the most important force against convergence is scholars who don’t want it to happen.

Yu kun's questions

From page 251 to 251, potter discussed the issue of barriers to enter the field of qualitative study. But the barriers he listed also could be found in the quantitative studies. In my opinion I would say the author had an assumption that quantitative studies dominated the field of mass communication. Based on this assumption, all scholars have quantitative backgrounds or must be familiar with the quantitative methods. However, if observed this issue from the historical pattern, we could find that qualitative methods were developed before their counterparts.
From page 265 to 266, the author quoted Toulmin’s argument that “In sciences and humanities alike, we must be prepared to consider the products of human imagination and creation---whether idea or artifacts, poems or theories---from a variety of different points of view”. In my personal opinion, the aim of our research is to solve the problem in this world. But I find quantitative studies can limit our imagination and the issues we can study. On the other hand, qualitative studies can give us more flexibility. Issues in the field of qualitative studies are more interesting.
In page 275 and 276, the author discussed the lack of guidance on methods. I believe that the qualitative methods or theories are so comprehensive that it is impossible to establish a framework to include every methods or theories. In addition, there are still a lot of debates about the communication theory which stand on the shoulders of other fields such as political science and sociology. In the field of qualitative studies, the evidence of borrowing the concepts from the other fields is more obvious.
In page 291, the author indicate generalizing is the direction that scholars in qualitative studies have to go. But I doubt how the qualitative studies can do this. Like what he mentions in page 292” This is a paradox to say that the more specific the descriptions, the more general the results”. In this issue, we need new thinking to deal with this paradox.
About the issue of convergence of those two fields, in my opinion, those two fields all have their own characteristics. Instead of using the term “convergence”, I would prefer to use the term “complement”. The research methods are different tools for me. Facing different issues, I will decide which tools I can use. Will you expect the convergence of the glut and the knife? Because their functions are totally different, the answer is no.

Yonghwan's questions

1. It has been stated that “if the scholars who identify with the term qualitative are to show that they have formed a community, then they need to show some conceptual cohesiveness” (Potter, p. 249). What’s meant by conceptual cohesiveness, and what seem to be examples of showing some conceptual cohesiveness?

2. It is very interesting to see technical terms as barriers to enter qualitative research community. And I totally agree with a statement that neophytes must learn the specialized language consisting of technical terms that are the tools that scholars use to access the ideas that are important to the area; however, some languages exhibit characteristics that make them more difficult than others. It seems to me that it can be a very similar case in quantitative research; for instance, statistical knowledge is very important to the area of quantitative research and sometimes makes people who are not familiar with quantitative concepts hard to enter this area. Then what seems to be examples of technical terms we as graduate students or neophytes must know? I think we haven’t have many chances to get familiar with these important key technical terms (e.g., ideology—what kind of ideologies?, hegemony—what kind of hegemony and between which groups?, semiotics, symbol, deconstruction, signified and signifier, what else?).

3. It seems to me that technical term in critical studies is important given that the deconstruction (?) of meaning and power relationships is complicated so that it requires complex or complicated tool to analyze them. This is just my general sense. What is original purpose of (difficult to understand) technical terms in qualitative research? Why it should be that hard?

4. Continued to technical terms, then, who seem to be readers of qualitative research? Only for a community of qualitative research, not for ordinary public? I am not saying quantitative research is for both a community of quantitative research and ordinary people and ordinary people like to read academic quantitative research, even though I’ve been told that quantitative articles should be written easy to read for ordinary people. Qualitative research, however, seems to more focus on its own community.

5. It seems to me that both qualitative and qualitative scholars tend not to consider convergence of both paradigms that much when it comes to writing a research paper. If this is the case, what seem to be reasons of this? If this is not the case, to what extent and how convergence has been done?

Marcus' questions

Q1) I was surprised by Potter’s comment about researchers rarely building on each other’s work. Then why does it take longer to write lit reviews than any other section of a paper? It seems like there’s a lot more consolidation of academic ideas than he’s admitting. I understand that he’s noting a difference between consolidation and cooperation, and that qualitative research is fairly fragmented, but I still wonder if he’s taking it a bit too far.

Q2) Richardson made me want to turn the tables a bit. He argues that much qualitative research, when written, is “boring” because of limitations on language needed to get published, and that qualitative research – the search for “meaning” – can’t be hamstrung like that. So, I’d ask … what is “boring?” How do you define “boring?” Can “meaning” not be found through “boring,” or is “meaning” the opposite of “boring?” Sports use rules, are they “boring?” What about poetry, which often has regulated verse? You can’t use abstract, personality-based concepts to criticize a lack of abstract, personality-based values; that’s the whole point of quantitative research, that everyone has a set starting point and can draw whatever conclusions they want from the data. I understand what he’s saying, that he wants readers and researchers to be more open minded, but he’s also setting himself up for criticism.

Q3) I think “convergence” is a really qualitative way of looking at the topic of academic integration. I understand that quantitative research is the standard, and that it is a kind of power structure; but just the term “convergence” implies a melding of minds, more conglomeration than cooperation, and I’m not sure that’s the best way to boost the status of qualitative research. I think the better appeal to conventional quantitative researchers would be a representation argument, making the point that the field is expanding into qualitative fields and particular institutions risk being left behind without staffing to meet that expansion. There’s also a capitalist argument – OMG, I used that word again! Beware, the hegemon speaketh! :) - that most grad students base their enrollment on detailed programs and research interests, not regional concerns or cultural loyalty (like most undergrads and myself). So, the school with the most diverse repertoire stands to gain the best and brightest graduate students, which would definitely make sense to a quantitative dean. “Convergence,” I don’t think, would carry the same weight.

Q4) I’ve also been thinking about Dr. Jensen’s comment last week that journalism departments are an awkward concoction of disciplines, theories and work experiences. That made particular sense coming from him, since from what I could gather, none of his pornography research has focused on news media, or “journalism.” It’s media research, certainly, but not traditional news media; yet he’s at the j-school, not RTF or Comm Studies. So if there’s a fuzzy difference between the disciplines anyway, and other branches are more open to qualitative research, then how much carryover is there from journalism grad programs to RTF or Comm Studies programs? This will sound tacky, but if qualitative researchers are doing the same work next door and having a party, why keep arguing with the bouncers outside the j-schools? Like I said, it sounds tacky, and I like the idea of qualitative research in journalism – that’s why I’m taking this class – but still, I may be in the minority.

Q5) I also liked the discussion about personally constructed reality, and I think it does speak to the heart of qualitative research … I just don’t agree with it. Either it’s raining or it’s not, and everybody knows which. So is that one of the fundamental gulfs between qualitative and quantitative research, or are their quals that like the idea of an objective reality?

ALEX Questions - Nov. 23

Q1 – Potter writes (p. 249) that researchers “rarely build on each others work,” in systematic ways that lead to a shared definition of concepts, adding to “clutter.” This seems like a critique, but there are advantages to redefining concepts. The criticism implies that research is haphazard and doesn’t add to collective knowledge. Isn’t that the point of research? To add to collective knowledge and to build on each other’swork? Or is Potter’s point merely the fact that methodologies are so varied that it’s almost like comparing apples to oranges?

Q2 – Potter goes on to comment on the “barriers to entry” within qualitative fields and how lowering the barriers promotes a diversity of approaches and fresh ideas. Is this practically true or a romantic ideal? At the very least, it assumes one has to have a PhD to be allowed entry, or at the least be a PhD student or candidate. Can any neophyte who learns the language and ways of the system and the correct academic jargon reaally have entry into these fields?

Q3 – It seems that Potter’s early point is that definition is everything. He makes semiotic arguments of how appropriate technical language is used by different researchers within different fields. Proper use of technical terms as opposed to common language seems to be the academic code to participation. Is this the key to acceptance?

Q4 – Potter’s whole question about “community” whether it be national or regional or technical or academic or subcommunity is easy for me to understand as a Latino. The concept of dual-indentities or even multiple identities is not difficult for me. I can be a Mexican, Mexican-American, Tejano, Chicano, Latino, Austinite, UT-football fan, Texas football fan, Mexican futbol fan, etc., and still be an American. Much of it depends on the context. Does Potter believe that the context is unclear in his criticism of community?

Q5 – Potter criticizes poorly written justifications for use of methodologies in qualitative studies, and I believe rightly so. Well-written justifications are extremely helpful. I always thought that the method depended on the research goals. Obviously, external practical considerations also play into it. Are there researchers who focus on just one method and try to make all of their studies fit their method simply because they find they can do that method well?


I think we’ve discussed the issues covered in this chapter over and over. So, I have very few comments.
Potter asserts that despite there is lack of shared meaning over what is qualitative research (some say it’s a method; others, a paradigm), qualitative scholars feel there is a sense of community. I wonder to what extent this happens because they feel they’re in a minority position or they are part of a minority group in front of the dominant paradigm. Minorities are usually lumped together despite their diversity.

Potter asserts that sometimes there are positive reasons for high barriers of entrance. What at are those positive reasons? On a similar note, I understand that sometimes scholars have to invent concepts for new phenomena or that it’s hard to explain a complex idea in simple terms. But there is no excuse to write a five-line sentence without a period. I tend to think that qualitative work is more densely written. Why? For example, Baudrillard is very hard to understand. But when you explain it Gabino, it seems a lot easier. Why? What’s really the purpose of writing in such a dense way?

Then Potter talks about the misunderstandings about quantitative research. I think the misunderstandings come from both sides. These mutual misunderstandings are due to lack of knowledge… lack of knowledge leads to stereotypical portrayals and misrepresentations. Therefore, the only way to overcome this problem is being deeply and honestly exposed to both approaches. Only then, people would avoid talking about different approaches in simplistic terms.

I havent finished, so I'll keep reading...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Last post!

And so we come to the last post. So sad! In any case, I think my first question comes a little too late: what is meaning in research? Are we talking about linguistics? Semiotics? If we can’t answer this satisfactorily, should we just conduct descriptive research? If the “qualitative approach is so amorphous that it is and always will be, undefinable” (p. 249), how dare we criticize it and ask for more of this or less of that?
I appreciated the discussion on writer’s meanings that begins in page 253. As we all know, Saussure, Foucault and Derrida are as erudite and eloquent as they are poetic and abstract. Nevertheless, what the author did not mention that needed to be there was the fact that this authors, through lack of a clear meaning, grant us the freedom to interpret… to make meaning of what they were saying…hah! On the other hand, I have to play the devil’s advocate here: clarity is overrated. So is generalizability (p. 291-292).
I also enjoyed the critique of quantitative research and its reductionist ways, but I feel like that’s not what the end of the book should be about. Why is it so hard to celebrate qualitative research without mentioning quantitative research? Let the counters do their thing and pay them no attention! If the critique “cuts both ways” (p. 269), just drop the damn knifes and do your thing!
The discussion arguing that reality is constructed by us was very interesting and, in my humble opinion, constituted the strongest point in favor of doing qualitative work: we need to give individuals a voice in which to express their reality-building process. It is that process and the things that surround and affect it that we should be studying. Likewise, the point made on page 284 about the researcher becoming part of the making-meaning process is truly important… and something that, I feel, really scares researchers.
I also enjoyed the critique of the way we call ethnography things that are not…but what should we call them if we use the same methods (only not the same amount of time)?
The discussion about writing on page 295 was quite… hypocritical. Researchers seldom feel a powerful need to share their findings with the world; they would write differently if they did. Writers don’t think about what the reader needs, they think about what the editors need. The fact that everyone writes to get published is rarely addressed in books and academic writing, along with the fact that almost nobody writes the stuff that gets published.
Are we headed towards convergence? Hell no. Everyday the counters become bigger and stronger, they get their rather repetitive stuff published and, in a sense, academia has found a way to entice new brains with its “obscure statistical innovations” (p. 304). Thankfully, some folks out there are still doing research that matters.
The last part of the book was a tad boring, or “long and detailed” (p. 308). In a sense, I felt like it was a rehash of the previous chapter. In any case, convergence would be great… but the chasm academia has built between two ways of doing things that should be complementary seems insurmountable. And I don’t care!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Paul's Questions for 11/23

Potter does not suggest that all qualitative scholars conform to a standard of thinking alike, but that it would be beneficial to have a greater sense of general community. Potter also believes qualitative scholars should be better at communicating this to others intellectually, not just emotionally. It seems to me that whenever I ask someone familiar with qualitative work to describe it, or compare it to quantitative research, inevitably the answer seems to involve the notion that qualitative work is free from the constraints of numbers and statistics and is, rather, focused on thoughtful interpretation of various forms of text. Isn’t this the best answer at the most basic of levels? To me, this seems to constitute a “general community.”

Richardson described most qualitative research as boring because most authors “suppress their voice to a scientific style of writing.” Potter adds that it is ironic that researchers who focus on language are not more careful in their use of it. I imagine many of these “boring” scholars write this way to get published. Are journals that are deemed qualitative more accepting of writing that may be more journalistic in style than academic? If not, why not? Surely it’s not because qualitative theoreticians want to put up barriers to the uninitiated in the qualitative field, right? Potter suggests this as one possible reason for a lack of clarity in most qualitative writing.

In defining the qualitative approach, Potter names seven methodologies: ethnography, ethnomethodology, reception studies, ecological psychology, symbolic interactionism, cultural studies, and textual analysis. Potter adds that scholars using them share a common basis of five axioms, one of which is that researchers “should strive to see the situation from the perspective of the other rather than from predominantly their own perspective.” While I get the reason for this, how realistic is it? Isn’t this difficult to do since we use our own experiences to interpret text? While we may try to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, don’t we know the fit of our own the best? Even later in the reading is a section asking, “Does reality exist apart from one’s perception?”

The two tensions in qualitative thinking, Fluid-Order and Reflection-Transformation, seem like they can be mixed and matched, depending on what’s being examined. If, for instance, I’m observing the procedural behaviors of a newsroom staff, I may approach the project from the “reflection” perspective since I want to observe activity for as long as possible to best reflect reality. Yet, I may still choose “transformation” to take the information gathered and provide a point of view to transform, or fix a problem I may perceive. Can you have both the reflection and transformation themes working together for the same research project?

I’m hopeful about convergence for my research into presidential debates. For instance, I want to know how often a certain topic may come up during a debate, and compare it to other topics in order to get an accurate picture of the “pie.” But I want to interview the people responsible for the questions that helped “bake” that pie. In this way, the quantitative and qualitative approaches are equally important to answering my questions. That’s why I like Potters belief that “scholars who focus primarily on the question can make a greater contribution.”

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Yonghwan's Questions

1. It has been stated that interpretation is a part of all aspects of qualitative research; however, when we talk about interpretation as a purpose signaled in the writing, we expect to see a high degree of “self-reflexivity” where the author illuminates the decision points in the interpretive process (Potter, Chapter 10, p. 172). What seems to be examples of a high degree versus a low degree of “self-reflexivity” in journal articles? In other words, how can we demonstrate a high degree of self-reflexivity when it comes to writing a qualitative research paper?

2. Is qualitative approach horizontal? It has been described that quantitative research can be viewed as a “vertical” movement from specifics to abstract explanations; in contrast, the qualitative approach is much more horizontal—that is, a premium is placed on examining a wider range of meaning making and the exceptions to the norm; therefore, qualitative researchers require a wider range of expressive tools in order to help them capture the greater variety in the phenomenon and to communicate this in such a way as to make it interesting and useful to the readers. This makes sense to me, but it seems to me that qualitative approach could be vertical as well in a sense that qualitative research seems to be the case of a vertical movement from specifics to abstract explanations (note, for instance, ideological analysis).

3. Contextualization seems interesting and important to me when it comes to doing qualitative research. What is difference between the contextualization and description of background of the study? I can see some (especially case) studies describe the background of research (e.g., a certain countries’ specific historical background, a certain events’ background). Describing “the background of study” is one of ways of contextualization or different one from contextualization mentioned here?

4. If it is the case that describing the background of study, what seems to be differences between quantitative research and qualitative research in terms of contextualizing in each studies. In other words, there are descriptions of background of the study in quantitative research; then what seem to be different aspects of this description in qualitative research?

5. What seems to be examples of “conceptual leverage,” which is one of the things the external quality of qualitative research raises? It has been stated that “conceptual leverage is the concern about the degree to which the researcher can extend his or her results from the concrete evidence to more abstract explanations.” Isn’t this “vertical” movement, which was mentioned in question # 2, and characterized as quantitative research?

Sung Woo's questions

This week’s readings dealt with two queries I had, since the early stage of this course. Are standards possible? How much interpretation should be allowed or required in writing? As excited as I am, I address more questions that came along.

1. Shouldn’t the qualitative researchers have a more formalized, or standardized way of evaluating methodology? In other words, would it not be helpful if we had sort of consensus about the meaningful standards of judging the quality of qualitative research?
-I concur with Altheide (1996) that one way to argue validity for qualitative research is to “share methodological decision or limitations.” (Potter, 200). But how can we share when we are presented with different standards of evaluating methodologies, or with the idea that every study is different, specific to authors? I think more works should be done about the methodological issues of qualitative studies in communications studies.

2. Is there anything like code of conduct for administering triangulation as a way of cross-checking? Shouldn’t the studies that are cross-checked valued more?
-I think for the purpose of establishing validity and reliability, triangulation should be used under specific guidelines. For example, multiple observers should have at least some contexts in common, such as time or questionnaire. I think respondent validation is also a good way or increasing reliability of qualitative works.

3. How do you distinguish between explanation and interpretation, in the real writing? Where is the place for explanation?
-I know this is explained in the book (p.165). Potter said, interpretation is more short-term whereas explanation is more long-term perspective and purposeful. However, when we did discourse analysis for assignments, I thought the distinction was blur. I thought interpretation should have been right beside the discourse, explanation should have separate place somewhere else in the writing.

4. Can you contain analysis and a meaningful action advocacy in one study? Should it not be separate?
-I think action plan for some cause requires another dimension of study. It needs to be treated as different study because action plan requires analysis of its own. For example, Schwichetenberg’s study showed that the TV series “Love boat” has a stereotyped bias. To provide academically responsible action advocacy for this phenomenon will require information gathering on the network, a feasible plan and projection on the possible outcome of such plan. Not just to sink the boat. Studying what action would be effective will take quite amount of time. I often see activist’s research works that are very irresponsible on this aspect.

5. Can standards of evaluation be extended to both qualitative and quantitative work? Could there be a general set of rules for evaluating all works?
-Denzin’s argument is to apply the standard of quantitative approach such as validity, generalizability, reliability as the major standard of qualitative work (196). I like the idea of applying the same yardstick.
Potter argued quantitative research can be viewed as vertical movement from specifics to abstract explanations, and qualitative research as horizontal, because it deals with variety of phenomenon. I oppose to this idea for the same reason.
I think all academic studies should be vertical, seek generalized truth that could be only termed abstractly.
-I think a qualitative study that is more objective, more valid, reliable and more applicable is possible. I would like to cite Ruth Benedict’s The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, 1946.The book is the result of a massive research on Japanese national culture supervised and funded by US government during the World War II. Methodology used is interviews with Japanese POWs and Japanese Americans, text analysis and historical analysis. Benedict was an anthropologist who has never been to Japan nor studied Japan before. Yet her work produced the two most influential predictions that lead to the success of US occupation after World War II. One is that Japanese will be very compliant after surrender, and continuation of Emperor will contribute to stability. Let’s just think of the numerous studies with statistical correlations that may had influenced US policy in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Sebastian's questions

Q1. In quantitative writing, I have realized that it is preferable to name a concept and stick with all throughout the article, even if it becomes repetitive and cacophonic in literary terms. The purpose is to be accurate. For instance, if we are talking about news, it’s news, not media or information. Undoubtedly, this makes the text more boring. How do we deal with this problem in qualitative writing? One the one hand, we want to engage the reader and write well, as Richardson emphasizes, but on the other hand we don’t want to be less accurate along the way.

Q2. Similarly, metaphors are key in social science writing. But if we overuse them, do we risk lack of accuracy? That is, do we risk being clear in what we are trying to say or describe?

Q3. Description, according to Potter, refers to writing occurrences without making any inference. I can’t help but think that describing for the sake of describing is the realm of journalism or, at least, a first, initial approach to address a larger issue. I was impressed to learn that there are whole books dedicated to describe (Potter cites Hobson’s work on British soap-opera viewers). Now, why would anyone in communication research be interested in describing without analyzing, interpreting, criticizing or advocating for a specific position when conducting research?

Q4. I appreciated Potter’s treatment of the idea of contextualization, especially the two points of Anderson: that contextualization is a basis for theories of the midrange, and that only through full contextualization we can make sense of what is being examined. It seems to me that some qualitative methods lend themselves better for contextualization than others. For instance, ethnography versus focus group. However, when contextualizing, we must bear in mind to whom are we contextualizing the situation, right? If I’m publishing in Chile, the level of contextualization is lower if my research is on Chile that if I’m publishing in the U.S. How does the purposive audience of our research affect what we include in our contextualization?

Q5. I also found ironic Potter’s finding that “qualitative empirical literature closely resembles what many qualitative theoreticians criticize about the quantitative literature, that is, that the quantitative approach is defective in its assumption that of an ordered reality and a belief that there is an objective process of knowing that reality.” Why is this?

Sungsoo's Questions

Q1. In Ch 10, Potter introduces action advocacy. I agree that scholars can have specific political opinion. However they should keep proper tensions between academic integrity and passion for social change when they are doing research. Otherwise their works often fall into the cheap political agitation.

Q2. I think Potter’s explanation on degree of self-reflexivity, in CH 11, is very helpful regarding to the matters of objectivity and subjectivity. I think it is important not only for those who are doing qualitative research but also for those who are doing quantitative research. My tentative opinion is that the more the better. However I am still confusing what degree of self-reflexivity I should choose in limited time and space.

Q3. In Ch 11, Potter introduces three degrees of contextualization which is one of the most interesting arguments. I would like to know the way how I can decide which degree I should choose

Q4. What are ethnographic fictional representations? Where can I find writings base on ethnographic fictional representation?

Q5. As Richardson supports experimental writing, it is critical to write creative and experimental. I believe that it is quality of writing that makes some research standout from writings: fact-based, well-organized structure, simple and clear sentence which show the balanced observation by researcher, etc.

Teresa's questions

1- Richardson asserts that the model write-when-you-know-what-you-want-to-say has serious problems because it ignores the role of writing as a dynamic and creative process. In practice, what does this mean? How do we approach our writing process? Does it mean start writing as soon as we finish collecting data? Do the analysis and interpretation when we’re writing? Or it just simply suggests that we have to be flexible in the process and incorporate the interpretations that emerge in the writing process?

2- When Richardson talks about experimental writing, she names various approaches including narrative of the self, ethnographic fictional representations, etc. These types of writing allow the researcher to exaggerate, swagger, entertain, and make a point without tedious documentation. I tend to disagree with this approach. If the author is allowed to exaggerate to make a point and get close to fiction, it seems easier to entertain. But the main purpose of research is not entertainment; it is explaining why certain phenomena happen, building knowledge, and promoting social change. Therefore, the main challenge is not to be boring when meeting these goals.

3- Although, the following questions are not my original questions, I think they’re worth discussing in class: Is experimental writing (or experimental research in the sense of very exploratory and original one) a luxury open to those who have secured their jobs? Can only the tenured professors write or do research in experimental modes? Is it a disservice to students to introduce them to alternative forms of writing? Do we have to introduce these types of experimental writing and teaching in realistic or strategic terms?

4- When describing the role of interpretive approaches to qualitative research, Potter presents several examples of scholars selecting data to fit a particular interpretation (e.g., Horowitz, 1987). (Data-driven) quantitative researchers tend to have the same approach: let me run the numbers, first, and then let’s find a theory that supports our “interesting” results. This reminds me of the idea of persuasiveness in research. That is, beyond collecting good data, we have to tell a good story and be persuasive. Therefore, my question is: what is the role of persuasion in communication research?

5- Denzin asserts that the usual standards of quantitative research, that is, reliability, validity and generalizability, can be applied to qualitative research as well. The question I have is how can these be achieved? Didn’t we agree earlier that qualitative and quantitative research have different philosophical approaches and different definition of those terms? If qualitative research is much more about case studies, the particularities of a specific context, and the meaning we attach to it, how can reliability, validity and generalizability be applied to it?

YUKUN's Questions

Question about self-consciousness
In page 162,”Interpretation reveals a self-consciousness by authors who acknowledge that their findings are not objective facts but rather products of his or her subjective decision”. In my opinion, even in quantitative methods, it is also possible for researchers to interpret data by their self-consciousness. It seems that self-consciousness should not be a basis for a qualified paper. Here Potter wanted to reveal that the basis of qualitative researches is on subjective judgment. But, in my thought, qualitative researches’ interpretations sometimes are still based reliable data, which are even not numbers.
Would it be possible for a researcher using quantitative research methods to be an action advocator?
In theory, the answer is yes. But in my personal experience most scholars becoming action advocators all have background of qualitative methods. Maybe the reason is that in the field of qualitative methods scholars have to make their own decisions in anytime, but in the field of quantitative methods scholars have to keep their judgments away from their studies as far as possible.
Question about contextualization
In page 184 “Contextualization is a major point used by theoreticians to differentiate the quantitative and qualitative approaches”. In my opinion or bias, no matter in quantitative or qualitative approaches, it is very hard to write a paper without any contextualization in the field of journalism study. Without contextualization, a paper will purely to find a causal relationship between factors. Though this is necessary for building a theory, journalism study is different from other fields such as psychology or personal communication studies. Without any contextualization, the research questions or issues studied by researches will be limited.
Question about the standard of writing a qualitative paper
One standard proposed by Anderson is generalizability. However, some qualitative studies are very unique. Generalization is not the goals for those studies. How can we fit those studies with this standard? Denzin also argued for reliability, validity and generalizability for major standards for qualitative studies. In my opinion, those standards can fit with quantitative studies not qualitative studies.
External qualitative and generalizability
“Generalizability is the concern about the degree to which the researcher can generalize his or her findings to other texts, people, or institutions.” Like what I wrote in the former question, sometimes the characteristic of qualitative studies is very unique. How can we make it Generalizability? How can we build a theory by those studies?

Alex Questions - Nov. 9

Q1 – I learned long ago as a student journalist that there is a fine line between accuracy and truth. Perhaps now is the time to learn the fine line between subjectivity and bias. We’ve had the subjectivity discussion several times in class this semester. And again it is raised in the readings. How do we clarify subjective but not biased once and for all?

Q2 –The more I read quantitative work, the more formulaic it now seems to me. There’s good and bad involved in formula. But since the beginning of this class, the “wide-open” nature of qualitative was both intimidating and hard to grasp. Potter’s focus on contextualization, to me, gets to the heart of the matter in terms of the main difference between qualitative and quantitative methods. This reading helps to formulate what had been growing in my head all this time – the “essay” is everything. Is this what our “writing” focus will be?

Q3 – Obviously one of the advantages of formulaic qualitative research is the ability to scan through the tables, glance at the results and get a quick idea of what happened in a particular study. Richardson’s point that qualitative research is in the words can be taken to heart. But doesn’t this “experimental” writing take time and experience?

Q4 – Richardson’s point, that “writing” is the “method of inquiry” sums up qualitative method better than the original Denzin & Lincoln introduction that we read. This is an exciting article in many ways. To me “academic” writing often seems deliberately dry and violates many of the tenets of good writing we learned as journalists. Do journalists make better qualitative researchers because of the writing? (It would seem so.)

Q5 – I think I learned a lot in the focus group I did with Sebastian. We had done some advanced reading. We thought about our research questions. We felt that a focus group was the best way to answer these questions. So the nature of the research and what we wanted to know dictated the method. But even after conducting the focus group, I did not really know what we had until we talked about what we observed and then actually sat down and wrote it up in a way that made sense to us. Is this how it’s supposed to work?


The first reading by Potter, Part III, was a thick, uninteresting reading. I had thought that decision making and the way we organize ourselves were more of a natural, almost organic process. For example, the “expectations for data variable” (p. 211) had two choices, b and d, that, at least for me, have sort of come into being all by themselves in different researches. Could we say that all these depend on what we ask? Maybe on how we work?
In any case, I accept that I was naturally biased against the first chapter. I was absolutely ready for chi square, nonsensical-yet-all-important “statistical significance”, a truckload of tables and deviance to NOT pop up in this class, but I guess we need to learn to do a bit of everything when it comes to mixed methods. At least I was happy to see that he threw a few jabs at quantitative writing at the end of the chapter.
It was interesting to read on page 227 the discussion on how “qualitative empirical literature closely resembles what many qualitative theoreticians criticize about the quantitative literature, that is, that the quantitative approach is defective in its assumption that of an ordered reality and a belief that there is an objective process of knowing that reality.” Maybe they (notice I didn’t say “we”) should start looking at subjectivity in different way…
Also, the author was very brave when he accepted that his research did not deal with “non-American” journals. Not dealing with Europeans, for example, makes all the sense in the world. Why would we even look over there when Baudrillard, Eco, Foucault, Lyotard, the recently deceased Lévi-Strauss, Barthes, Saussure and van Djik, just to name a few of the ones we’ve been reading about lately, are so DAMN CLEARLY AMERICAN! Anyway, who the hell cares what the rest of the world thinks?
The second part of the reading, in which I thought he would discuss articles or simply show us how to write “qualitatively”; turned out to be more like a guide on how to write a book. At least the author didn’t turn the whole discussion into the usual “qualitative is just something that’s not quantitative”.
Part II was very thorough in its description and explanation of description, interpretation and explanation. Should our “level” of description have more to do with the questions we asked or with our ability to write? I was surprised, and truly enjoyed reading, the discussion on types of literary criticism.
The author was, again, very brave when he presented the idea of that scholars can “advocate social change” (p. 171). I already asked this in class: can we do it from academia? Should that be a guiding factor when we’re doing research? Doesn’t advocacy utterly destroy any pretense of objectivity? How can we separate ethical advocacy from passionate feelings about something in our research?
Richardson asks “How do we create texts that are vital?” (p. 347). The answer is: you don’t. We can only make a text vital to ourselves and hope that our readers feel the same way about it. A novel is juts words put together until people interpret it, recommend it and loan it until it becomes a best-seller. A vital text about something that we enjoy can bore to death someone else… especially in academia.
As or the rest of the chapter, I guess I only have a few more questions: Where does experimental writing get published? Isn’t a “narrative of the self” (p. 355) more like a literary essay? Where can we find an “ethnographical fictional representation” (p. 356)? Why does the author dance back and forth between postmodernism and poststructuralism? If we have all these ways of writing, why does everyone stick to the same old same old? How do the journals mentioned on page 361 look on your resume of you want to teach journalism?

Sun Ho's Questions - 11/8

1. This question came up while we were writing our method section of our final project proposal. I'll address this here since our topic of discussion is writing. We had a lot to say about data gathering but not so much about data analysis. Is this common on qualitative research or is it because we chose to conduct focus groups? We wrote that our analysis will be based on grounded theory and categories or themes will be developed as the two researchers review transcripts. That was about three or four sentence-paragraph. I found the same thing from our past readings and other articles that used FG's. So how detailed or long should an analysis part of the method section be? I always thought articles should describe more about their analysis so readers could learn how they did it but they usually jump to their results and discussions, which is more important..?

2. Another thought on elements to be included in a method section. Some articles explain why the chosen method is appropriate for that particular research but others don't. Is this something you would include or exclude depending on how frequently the chosen method is used for a typical research on that topic - like we don't ask why survey and content analysis are used for agenda setting research?

3. Starting on page 183, Potter introduces three degrees of contextualization. This seems to be one of the most important elements of qualitative research. And I found myself putting this in when I wrote essays for assignments. However, once my writing format changed from an essay to a research paper, I felt like my interpretations are too subjective to be included there. Following Potter's definitions, which is the typical or reasonable degree of contextualization to be included in a research paper among the three - strong, low degree, no conceptualization?

4. How can those standards mentioned in chapter 12 be reflected in writing? I see how qualitative researchers put much effort to establish internal and external validity and I think it should be reflected in their final product just as it happens in quantitative research.

5. I liked the Richardson reading because she suggested researchers to open ourselves to experimental writing but also raised some practical issues we have to face by doing it: getting published. Like she mentioned, there are prescribed writing formats (e.g. discouraged use of footnotes, 150-word abstracts, etc.) and her thoughts on the issue is very encouraging. And I do find it exciting and interesting to read those creative ones. However, I still think experimenting with writing styles would be a luxury to graduate students. Am I too pessimistic?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Paul's Questions for 11/9

Richardson’s reading is very refreshing. He says unlike quantitative work, with its tables and charts, you can’t just scan qualitative research. The meaning is basically in the words. Does it therefore spoil a really well written qualitative piece to include any kind of tables or chart? That’s my inclination, but I know some qualitative work we’ve seen sometimes has more than just words.

If poststructuralism allows qualitative writers to nurture our own voices, then putting ourselves into our work is certainly part of this. But I realize that does not mean writing in first person exclusively. There is a time and place for this, especially when we’re a participant observer, for example. But is it okay to ever write in first person when the text is not about the writer?

Are there specific journals that encourage metaphoric writing, and others that prefer a more “scientific” approach to writing qualitative articles? I definitely want to stray away from the latter!

Whether its metaphoric, experimental, or any other style of qualitative writing, do qualitative researchers typically stick with one style, or does the subject at hand typically dictate that style? When writing a news story, I typically have a particular style, but it’s more pronounced for profile pieces, and almost invisible in spot news coverage. However, my style is always present, just in varying degrees.

Ethnographic fictional representations seem to me to be an extreme way of conducting qualitative research, and I’m not sure I understand this style entirely. However, I will use a hypothetical to make a point in an article, making it clear that it is such. Is this an example of this type of writing, or is it all or nothing?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Yonghwan's Questions

1. Regarding the politics of research, what seems to be examples of this politics of research (e.g., personality and institutional affiliation) may cause; and what seems to be results of this politics of research? What’s the implication of knowing the politics of research?

2. What could be examples of ethical issues when it comes to conducting various qualitative studies? In other words, one may confront with different ethical issues when doing qualitative research with different qualitative methods. For instance, when we do a participant observation research, to what extent we disguise ourselves in observation setting can be an issue; while others such as discourse/textual/semiotic/ideological analyses may have different issues. What seems to be examples of ethical issues, for instance, of discourse/semiotic/ideological analysis?

3. When we did a group assignment (Newspaper text and photo analysis), I confronted with this kind of issue. One of my group members mentioned that it seems an ethical issue to analyze a news article with a sort of biased interpretation. He contended that the article we analyzed seems pretty balanced and has a significant role in suggesting one of the aspects immigration issue may have; while I interpreted that the news article articulates immigration issue to only limited aspects—economic aspects, and even to low-SES people. Then, is what I did considered an unethical issue or an interpretative biases/flexibility based on my personal background? Or did I wrong, which may mean low validity?

4. As seen, this example may raise another important question, validity of qualitative research. It seems to me that validity and ethical issue conflicts each other in some sense. For example, when we do a participant observation, disguising researcher would be appropriate to get a better validity of the research. Then, in my case, given a raised ethical issue, which was considered too biased, what could be ways of getting higher validity of my interpretation? Mentioning the opposite side as well could be the case?

5. To sum up, what are the validity issues that have been raised in qualitative research the most especially in various qualitative methods; and what seems to be ways of overcoming these issues when conducting qualitative research we, as graduate students, should keep in mind?

Teresa's questions

Gans’ description of the psychological costs for researchers who conduct participant observation in regard to being dishonest to human subjects made me wonder about the costs that others types of qualitative methods have. For instance, in a focus group, participants know the general topic of interest to the researchers. However, they still don’t know our guiding research questions. Is this deceiving? Does it have a psychological cost? So what are the risks involved for researchers using other techniques beyond participant observation?

Punch advances the position for a more pragmatic approach to qualitative research, for the “get out and do it” perspective. This runs in contrast to Lofland’s position that fieldwork in qualitative research should be done after adequate training, supervision and careful consideration. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each approach?

From the readings I conclude that it seems there is no point in comparing the concept of validity that derives from the positivist approach with the one that derives from qualitative perspectives. The meaning and purpose of these two words is different. While for quantitative and positivist researchers, validity is equated to truthfulness (i.e., making sure we’re measuring what we intent to measure) for qualitative researchers is equated to usefulness (i.e., is it relevant or valid what we’re studying).

The readings consistently repeat that the process by which the ethnography occur must be clearly stated and delineated so the reader can assess it and judge it. Does this disclosure of ourselves (i.e., who we are, our background, etc) apply to other qualitative approaches such as focus groups or textual analysis? Why?

Denzin classified writing styles into three categories: Mainstream realism (i.e., thick descriptions that assume the author can a give an objective accounting of the object being studied), interpretive realism (i.e., the authors insert their own interpretations), and descriptive realism (i.e., rthe author stays out and let the world being described to speak for itself). What is really the difference between the first and the third category?

Marcus' questions

Q1) Hopf’s comment about the rights of criminals being less important in a society than the rights of average citizens reminded me of a quote by Dostoyevsky, who argued that “A society can be judged by its treatment of its prisoners.” (And by Dostoyevsky, I really mean John Cusack in Con Air, who attributed the quote to – I think – Dostoyevsky; my Russian Lit knowledge is pretty weak, but I think the quote fits well with Hopf’s argument, regardless of who said it) I can understand the urge to analyze such a power structure as a power structure, even with a Marxian analysis, since a prison system clearly functions on a “have” and “have-not” basis; but it’s also not designed to be arbitrary, and it’s intended to be a reverse meritocracy – admittance into the penal system is not ostensibly based on class, but rather on actions. So, why the focus on prisoners, why not analyze the society from the crime itself?

Q2) I think that working in journalism research, it’s easier to grasp what Hopf is talking about regarding anonymity and ethics. Reporters grapple with the same issues all the time, and weird circumstances lead to weird ethical dilemmas; having been there, it’s easier to deal with them as researchers as well. So I’m curious, is our field better adjusted ethically because of that experience? Or is it pretty much the same as other fields?

Q3) I think Punch is being a bit short-sighted when he says that the ideas of “public” and “private” are debatable. One of the things that I liked about government reporting – particularly compared to the cops beat – is that just about everyone involved in government knew what they were getting into, and that as public figures, arguably anything they said was of public interest. I’d say that at least in the ‘States, we’ve got a pretty good idea of what constitutes “public,” and there are plenty of issues that fall clearly into that category; I’d say it’s the “private” part that gets murky, and there’s a subtle difference there.

Q4) The discussion about writing, I thought, was a bit hypocritical. It also made me think of that scene – getting back on the movie train – from Dead Poets Society, where there’s a very structured rubric in a textbook for analyzing and correlating eloquence and impact, and Robin Williams tells everyone to rip out that entire section of the book. Why complain about rubrics, and the burdens of publishing and the rigidity of quantitative research, and then turn around and play the grammar snob? Qualitative research is designed to be flexible, that makes sense – but don’t ask for flexibility and then enforce your own evaluative scale, you know? How do you define, or interpret, “good writing?”

Q5) I also liked the German Ethics Code, and the point about letting participants withdraw after the fact. I’m not sure I’d call it “deception,” though – I’d approach it the way I’ve approached journalism interviews before, with a “I’m being deliberately vague so I don’t put words in your mouth, and I can be more specific when we’re finished.” That’s not really deception, is it? Or am I just trying to split hairs?

Sebastian's questions/comments

  1. Punch lists several dimensions that shape the “politics of research” and have a significant impact on qualitative studies that are seldom mentioned. These are personality, geographic proximity, researcher’s institutional background, just to name a few. In my opinion, these features apply to quantitative research as well. In fact, it is a reminder of a point I’ve made several times in class before, which is that the whole idea of discussing bias in social scientific research is nonsensical because there is no such a thing. Our personality, our geographic location, our institutional affiliation and many other aspects shape our research interests, questions, objects of study, methods, etc. That we acknowledging or not is something else, but we should stop saying that some research is biased or unbiased, that our research questions are biased or unbiased, that we did this or that in a biased or unbiased way.
  2. In Altheide & Johnson, Laura Nader criticizes the increasingly reductionist concept of ethnography. She asserts, "'ethnography' has been gradually reduced in meaning in recent years and in proportion to its popularity (...) ethnography entails deep immersion and is seldom accomplished in short periods of time. It is a special kind of description, not to be confused with qualitative and descriptive studies." Why does the concept have to fixed? What does she mean by other descriptive studies? What are the pros and cons of fixing boundaries to a methodological approach?
  3. Some authors have been criticized for investigating social groups while they are not part of the group (i.e., did not know Italian, was not an insider to the group studies, did not understand the importance of the family in Italian group life, etc). Why being an insider or "native" turns out to be a requisite for doing research? Why would that be more valuable than observing from outside? Does this mean that whites cannot do research on African American or Asian Americans and vice versa? What are the pros and cons of this insider/outsider dichotomy?
  4. Hopf defines two key principles regarding research ethics in the social sciences: informed consent and damage avoidance. How about others, such as integrity, responsibility, honesty, competence and transparency? Why single out informed consent and preventing harm?
  5. When Hopf argues that “what is not acceptable (…) is that questions of balancing costs against benefits (…) should be left to committees of research ethics, as is partly the case in the United States,” is she referring to IRBs? Or to panels that decide ethical complaints after they have been brought to the attention of an association, such as the ASA?


While reading the articles for this week I couldn’t help feeling that we have been posing questions regarding to them since the beginning of the class. In any case, I think a question posed by Hopf more or less sums up what we have all been trying to ask/argue: “Do utilitarian aspects play a decisive role in defining research ethic regulations or is it possible to argue for single deviations from the rules in a utilitarian way, for example with respect to the gain of knowledge? (p. 335) Also, how can we gauge “partial deception” (p. 336)? How can we come up with a set of guiding rules when what we do is something in which agreement over ethical issues is “rarely possible” (p. 339)?
Altheide and Johnson brought us back to the tired idea that ethnographers are “nonobjective” and that qualitative research is “inextricably bound to the contexts and rationales of the researcher” (p. 288) and then they exposed how the positivist approach is now defunct, leaving an open space that the “hyphenation” phenomenon filled.
The discussion about all the types of validity was a tad confusing: aren’t they all interrelated? How much do they truly matter if we are supposed to “remain loyal or true to the phenomena under study, rather than to any particular set of methodological techniques or principles” (p. 290). I agree that “all knowledge is perspectival” (p. 293)… so where can I find the author’s perspective in a quantitative article?
If we try to follow the “topics” discussed on page 296, wouldn’t we end up with a book instead of an article every time? Also, the discussion about tacit knowledge was quite interesting… but I raised a lot of questions. For example, how much tacit knowledge can there be when academia usually works with very specific theories, subjects, etc.? How can we marry interpretation with tacit knowledge?
In academia, who is that “generalized other” (p. 306) for whom our writing is intended?
Denzin says: “Interpretation is and art; it is not formulaic or mechanical” (p. 317). I agree. If representation is “self-presentation” (p. 319), isn’t the act of interpreting similar to getting naked? I loved this chapter!
The discussion abut writing was probably the best one I’ve read so far. In my humble opinion, the structure of a quantitative paper is stressed so much in academia that the writing per se get thrown to the bottom of the list. What we call a “good writer” in academia is generally someone that has published many papers; what would they be called if 100,000 people read their article? Carver had many of his short stories turned into film because the narrative really told a story… how many articles could we say do the same?
I was surprised that, even though the subject of recreation was touched (p. 328), memory and its faulty nature was not discussed. In our memory (and I’m borrowing from writer J.M. Caballero Bonald) things are always seen as better or worse than what they really were: our memory is always tainted by what we expected, feared, etc. While reading this chapter, the idea that we think of ourselves first as researchers and only then as writers came to me. How can we change this?

Yu kun's questions

In Hopf’s article p 336, “How can it be justified that the personal rights of a criminal should be less respected in sociology than those of an average citizen”? It reminds me the right of a reporter. I am wondering if it is a privilege. The Upper classes (I mean the press or researchers) always make rule beneficial for themselves. The rule was made by the researchers, therefore, it is nature for them to ask more rights than average citizen.

In Altheide & Johnson’s article (p 289-290), they list some problems about validity: VAC VAI VAG VAL VAR VAS. Though they indicated that the criticism on the validity is from the insiders of qualitative approaches, it seems that the positivism also criticize the qualitative research from those perspectives. In addition, though the quantitative research reduces the bias as much as possible, it still has those faults.

Altheide & Johnson indicated the “reflective turn” is from the insiders of the qualitative approach. In fact, there were a lot of debates between the qualitative approach and the quantitative approach. Did the “reflective turn” mean the qualitative approach adjusted its route to follow the step of the quantitative?

In addition, those faults indicated by the authors also exist in the quantitative approach. Do they believe that the symbol has more validity than the text? In my personal opinion, I don’t agree with that.

In p 296, “Even the most ardent social science wordsmiths are at a loss to transform nuances, subtleties, and the sense of the sublime into symbols.” Then Altheide & Johnson proposed the concept “ tacit knowledge” and exemplify Harper’s case using photography to study a local craftsman. However, in my opinion, it depends on different situations to use different communication tools. In this case, photograph can increase the validity of this study. It doesn’t mean that photograph can increase the validity in every case. In most cases, the text is more capable of conveying the meaning than the image.

Alex Questions - Nov. 2

Q1 - Hopf, (2004) writes about the general issues behind the rules of ethics laws and policies, and how exceptions can be made but must be justified. At one point, Hopf seems to be splitting hairs, especially when it comes to the issue of complete disclosure and how some temporary deception sometimes needs to be employed. This appears to be acceptable. But isn’t what Hopf really talking about is keeping things from the research subject that could lead to biases in their response? And if so, why then would temporary deception even be an ethical issue?

Q2 - Hopf, (2004) - So what are the confidentiality laws today in terms of researchers and their data? Can courts compel researchers to turn over their data and field notes? Can “anonymity” be “guaranteed” or only promised “to the extent of the law?”

Q3 –I found refreshing in Altheide & Johnson, (1998) the lines written where ours is an interpretive world rather than a literal one. This opens validity up to greater academic possibilities. But is there a fear that this can be taken too far? Afterall within a certain point of view, or within very specific contexts, almost anything can be considered valid.

Q4 – Denzin writes about sense-making, representation, legitimation, and desire. And I follow it all well… except desiring. Can you explain this better than Denzin tried to in the two and a half paragraphs? (Sorry, no long setup for this question. I just don’t rightly understand what is meant by desiring in the writing process.)

Q5 – Denzin’s position that a researcher cannot make sense of his or her field notes and truly understand what happened until he or she sits down and writes it makes a lot of sense to me. In the last couple of assignments, we would examine the news program or article, talk about what we saw, but at that point, all we had was some sort of text, some notes, and an assortment of ideas and concepts that have little to no relationship until the writing process puts it all together. Is this how it is supposed to work? If so, why does it seem that most qualitative researchers work alone?

Sun Ho's Questions - 11/2

Week 10: November 2 – Politics & Ethics, Interpretation & Validity

1. Before I go onto the readings: It seems like ethical issues are more difficult to solve in qualitative research compared to quantitative methods. What could be the reason? Like Punch concluded, "there is no consensus or unanimity on what is public and private, what constitutes harm, and what the benefits of knowledge are" (p 94). If this applies to both qualitative and quantitative research, why are these readings assuming that it is much more difficult for qualitative research to deal with this?

2. Hopf article includes a paragraph about the problems of participant observation Gans stated: "he observes even when he does not appear to be doing so,...he asks questions with covert purposes of which his respondents are likely to be unaware...In short, the observer is acting dishonestly." And what is a consequence of this? Observers' feelings of guilt. Hopf emphasizes the importnace of informed consent by mentioning this and I felt the same way when I carried out assignments 1 and 2. While I felt like I was "spying on them (p. 336)" as a participant observer, running a focus group was much more comfortable because participants were already informed about what I was doing and why. I wonder how others overcame this problem of "psychological risks" coming from "partial deception."

3. On page 338, Hopf mentions about problems of publication. After looking at the Springdale case, topics covered in our area of research don't seem to cause much problem compared to those in other fields. What are some of the typical problems we may face in future research?

4. While Punch article was very practical, Altheide & Johnson reading is very conceptually oriented. They map out issues about interpretive validity by laying out five dimensions of qualitative research. Although it provides us with a firm framework of principles of the ethnographic work, following these principles, however, seems extremely difficult. How do we do that considering there are inevitable and unavoidable problems at the same time?

5. Denzin argues, "interpretation is an art that cannot be formalized." But then like he said, where do we place importance when interpreting news text; lived experience vs the point of view of the Other?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Paul's Questions for 11/2

Paul’s Questions for 11-2

In the Hopf reading, the section on the principle of informed consent made me think of the observation Alex and I did at the Austin High School football game at the beginning of the semester. Again, this was a group setting with thousands of people there, unaware of our plans to observe. The German Code of Ethics apparently wants “temporarily deceived participants” to be given the chance to withdraw from participation after the fact. I understand that in certain cases you can’t explain the true purpose of an observation ahead of time, because it might spoil things. But in a public setting, what is ethical when you unintentionally recognize someone. Whether in Germany, or anywhere else, are they fair game to identify if relevant to the research?

The so-called “Springdale case” was interesting to me as a working journalist, because my news director has always maintained that we must do our best to minimize harm. That’s not to say that harm won’t be done. In fact, my news director argues that someone is inevitably harmed by a news story, so it’s our obligation to minimize that harm as much as possible through the words that we use and the images that we show. But ultimately it is up to journalists, or at least their editors, to make the determination of weighing this harm against the greater good. In the Springdale case, the participants were given fictitious names and a fictitious setting, yet were easily identified due to their roles. Even so, it was published for scientific progress. In the spirit of what my news director believes, is this what Hopf means in terms of research when stating that it’s not acceptable for committees of research ethics to make such publication decisions?

The Altheide and Johnson reading states that analytic realism is “based on the view that the social world is an interpreted world, not a literal world.” It also says that reflexivity means the observer is “part and parcel of the setting, context, and culture” being observed and represented. Isn’t this the case when journalists approach a story? While the reporter may not be part of the story that’s seen or read, clearly his or her view of the world has had an influence in the final product. What is observed may not be what was intended. A person arrested for a crime who is wearing a Chicago White Sox baseball cap, for instance, may be described as a baseball fan, when in fact is only wearing the cap because of gang colors – the interpreted world versus the literal world. At least ethnographers do, or should, strive to address the problems of validity, as this reading describes, “with straightforward and honest integrity.”

Also in the area of validity, I liked the description of ethnographers in the Altheide and Johnson article. It says that most ethnographers focus on the processes subjects use to create activities, and the established order involved. The article also states ethnographers use descriptions of language, nuances and routines as their foundation in reporting their findings. To me, it’s like comparing information in an encyclopedia on a topic to a news story on the same topic. If the topic is how surgery is done, for example, the encyclopedia may provide a step-by-step description, but the news story would detail the decision-making, routines, and feelings involved. Is this a fair analogy?

Hammersley (1992) is quoted in the Altheide and Johnson reading, stating that “research is a process of inquiry which is collective not individual,” and that assessing ethnography is more about “what we intend by ethnography.” Couldn’t the same thing really be said about quantitative analysis as well? There may be numbers and statistics used to make a case, but really, isn’t the method developed for both quantitative and qualitative research based on our individual beliefs?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Yonghwan's Questions

1. We did a group assignment (News Program Analysis), a discourse analysis of 60 minutes reporting a sort of unknown prison called Supermax in which inmates are terrorists and gangs. We found that each person had different interpretations on latent meaning and implicit patterns of the text. This may emphasis the interpretive position of the researcher when it comes to “reading” a text. Then, what seems to be differences of positions they (literature) refer? Individual background? Stereotypes or bias? How can we explain what makes different interpretations?

2. Turned to triangulation for showing a validity of the research, in our case, it turned out two researchers showed different analysis or interpretation on a same text. Then does this mean a low validity of the study or a flexibility of qualitative research?

3. It seems to me that a discourse analysis and a metaphorical analysis are closely related each other. What’s the relationship between these two analyses? What’s similarity and difference between these two analyses? When I did a group assignment, I found several metaphors such as “a clean version of hell” and “the perfect of isolation.” And I interpreted that these metaphors may employ/indicate a powerful system of the US for maintaining the US security. Is this making sense?

4. It has been stated, which is interesting to me, that “Foucault’s theory of the social order, discourse practices enact and reinforce dominance relations, by which social position, relations, and identity are constructed”; and “while cognitive metaphor research focuses on isolating the governing type of discourse material, and explains metaphor’s unique role in conceptualizing the social order, Foucault’s model offers a more comprehensive explanation of the discourse processes by which the social order is established and maintained” (in Ana’s piece). In which sense they are different? What could be examples of these two models/approaches?

5. I am still not clear on what are the differences of thematic analysis, critical discourse analysis, ideological analysis, genre analysis, and cultural analysis in terms of interpretative strategies? More practically when it comes to doing research, which research question or topics are most appropriate for each analysis? (which I asked last week) In addition, what seems to be examples of semiotic and Marxist analysis?—anyone who shows examples of research questions and appropriate topics, and method for each analysis?

Sungsoo's Questions

Q1. I think that Eco’s notion, “if sign can be use to tell the truth, they can also be used to lie (Berger, p13),” elucidates one of the strong point of the semiotics. It enables us to catch the nature of symbol manipulations by the oppressive power. Dictators and its friends always tried to mask their oppressive nature by producing images and rhetoric.

Q2. Berger suggests useful ways of interpreting the television grammar by showing the way how camera works to convey its images: fade in, fade out, pan down and pan up etc (p 31). As Berger notes that semiotics analysis need to focus on the TV program. I see many possibilities of research in this area.

Q3. My answer to Berger’s question in Ch2, “each of us has to decide whether Marxism still makes sense” is that Marxist perspectives have fundamental limitations to analyze the period we are living: it is based and developed in the early stage of capitalism, mass production and mass consumption. There is no class conflict or class consciousness without class.

Q4. According to Van Dijk, the central issue of critical discourse analysis is reveal how discourse plays in reproducing social dominance: how hierarchical social relations are enacted, sustained, and legitimated through discourse. However some critics argue, “How can we explain Hollywood movies that usually describe “the rich” as greedy and selfish, “the core class” as conspiracy-oriented snob?”

Q5. It seems to me that neither Herman and Chomsky’s views on media, news media marginalize dissent and allow the government and dominant private interests to get their messages across to the public, nor Entman’s argument, corporate-owned media have strong power to organize the public opinion, have explanatory power on Internet age we are living now (Santa Ana, Section 6). They seem to reiterate old Marxist’s perspectives: media as an apparatus of ruling class or media owned by ruling class sing a song of their own. We cannot say that corporate-owned news media support the interest of military-industrial complex. Although some corporate-owned news media are supporting conservatives, there are many news media owned by corporate company or family that do not support conservatives.

Marcus' Questions

Q1) I thought Ana’s “Brown Tide Rising” was an interesting read, and in a way, it made me think of those ‘chicken and the egg’ scenarios in media research – did the media begin referring to Hispanic immigration with storm metaphors, and then politicians picked it up, or were the media responding to language used in the public already? It reminded me of agenda setting theory, which struggles with the same question of timing.

Q2) It also made me wonder about terminology used in stories on actual severe weather. It’s been a really calm hurricane season – which is great, don’t get me wrong – and Austin is usually pretty temperate, so maybe we just don’t see those stories very often, but what words do the media use to describe actual floods and storms? Is it the same language used to describe immigration, or does it just seem like it should use those classic weather terms, and it really isn’t? It’s one of those questions that sounds like a no brainer at first, but it might not be after all.

Q3) I think using Sherlock Holmes as an example for semiotic analysis works perfectly – particularly since there’s a new Holmes movie coming out in December. The plot is, of course, preposterous, and Hollywood has taken a clear departure from the old Arthur Conan Doyle stories, but for at least a few years, when today’s kids hear “Sherlock Holmes” they’re going to think of Robert Downey Jr., not the hounds of the Baskervilles. Another example of different images meaning different things to different people, and the same iconic image being used for very different ends.

Q4) I liked Berger’s usage of Agatha Christie to explain semiotics, and I liked the idea of decoding a mystery as an example of decoding images and meanings. But there’s a critical assumption there that, I think, goes unsaid – it assumes that readers can “crack the case,” so to speak, and there are plenty of mysteries out there where it’s just impossible for the audience to do so. Viewers may be able to solve Murder on the Orient Express based on the clues the story gives out, but what about the Usual Suspects, or Reservoir Dogs? Or even the new Sherlock Holmes, which, once again, is preposterous? Stores aren’t always designed to be unraveled, so is there a sense that some images cannot be definitively decoded?

Q5) I thought Berger’s commentary on Marxism made some sense, particularly his comment that “each of us has to decide whether Marxism still makes sense.” And I think much of it has to do with the loaded baggage – much of it appropriate for semiotic analysis – that terms like Marxism and Communism carry; your average American is going to associate both with the Soviet Union and/or Russia, and possibly its cranky judo-master of a leader. Those words aren’t going to trigger concepts of power relationships or academic analysis; more often than not, it’ll be images of nuclear –nucular? - weapons. And for those few of us that have experience with company towns, like me, that bear some resemblance to classic socialist economic systems, the words have further different meanings.

To comment on Sebastian’s post, I don’t think it has to do with “American exceptionalism;” I’m not even really sure how exceptional most Americans think we are, since there’s a difference between loud patriotism and honest-to-God egocentrism. Our politicians, maybe not, but that’s another story. But I do think we have a unique perspective on Marxist ideologies, rooted largely in the Cold War, that gives us a different interpretation on Marxism than scholars from other nations – but that’s not exceptionalism, that’s classic semiotics.

That being said, I can fully understand the other perspective as well – American culture, and academic ideas, are very prolific, and we do mass produce both for wide export. So I can understand why we would be considered dominant, and why any ideas we don’t favor could feel repressed; I just don’t see it that way. I think yes, we tend to be a bit hegemonic, but I don’t think we’re actively trying to quash Marxist ideology in an academic sense; we have our own reasons for not embracing the ideology, and the two are incidental to me.

Is this blog a metaphor?

As I said last week, it seems like we can never have enough explanations about the signifier and the signified: people will get confused no matter what. And speaking of confusion, I think I agree with the idea that “everything can be analyzed semiotically” (p. 5); why didn’t Berger offer up examples of how the idea can be “questionable”? In my humble opinion, using Sherlock Holmes as an example to explain signifiers and signifieds was brilliant. Likewise, Eco’s work was explained in a very simple way and had very good examples. Isn’t propaganda the art of creating signs that lie beautifully?
Finding Baudrillard here was a treat. A brilliant and misunderstood thinker, Baudrillard´s ideas must hold the record for being the ones most taken out of context. As usual, hyperreality was only granted a few paragraphs and the three branches that grew from it were totally ignored. Why is this? Why can’t people realize that Baudrillard was very right in what he was pointing out?
I also had a small problem with the fact that Berger discussed “codes” (p. 15-16) without ever mentioning culture. Thankfully, he then mentions culture as soon as he begins his discussion on connotation and denotation. The perfect example of this is given on page 27 when it is stated that: “In order for parody to be effective, audience members must be familiar with the original text…”
For my thesis, I used something that could be compared to Propp´s functions (along with some Foucault), but I don’t think so much space should’ve been dedicated to his work in this chapter…especially after hyperreality was dispatched with by a couple of paragraphs. Could it be said that Berger has more of a quantitative mind?
It was great to see Ana clearing the idea of “socially engaged scholarship” (p. 17). It was also interesting to see that the author brought back the idea that “power-defining discourse practices become so automatic that people do not notice them as they go about their everyday lives” (p.18). In that case, why is discourse analysis never presented as a way to understand ourselves? Why has it become so specialized (i.e. working on a single text)? Should we blame academia for not making discourse analysis available to the general public?
Ana also writes about how public discourse reproduces “societal dominance relations” (p. 21). If we take this idea and the one discussed in the previous paragraph, could we say that the main difference between the public and the “powers” is intent? Doesn’t all this come back to cultivation theory and, in some degree, to a hypodermic-needle idea in which power creates a discourse that gets absentmindedly repeated by the masses?
I agree that metaphor is way more than “poetic color and superficial ornamentation” (p. 26) in most cases, but it can also be used just for that: decoration. The thing that we really need to pay attention to is the fact that the decoration is usually used to paint over something else, to hide true meaning. Also, the discussion about “love as madness” was interesting, but doesn’t it prove that even metaphors can become overused morsels of discourse?
It was interesting to see that the author used “unpacking” (p. 36) to talk about decoding; did he “mean” something by it? In my humble opinion, the first part of the chapter explains metaphors in everyday life pretty well, so much so that the discussion about metaphors in law and social policy were a tad boring and long.
The author calls mass media “undeniably powerful” (p. 50) (he says they “have tremendous power” in the same page) in his discussion of it. Nevertheless, access is mentioned only in passing: should we assume that he expected us to know something about the trickle-down effect of mass media? Last but not least, the discussion in which he included Martín-Barbero (whom I was very glad to see mentioned here) was not complete because Stuart Hall was missing. A conversation about mass media, homogeneity (or lack there of) and culture cannot be had without Hall’s three decoding schemes. So why did Ana wait so long before finally bringing Hall into the discussion?

Alex Questions - Oct. 25

I was a communication studies major for two years before I switched to RTF as an undergrad and remember being exposed to semiotics in the 1980s. And I’ve always accepted this expanded definition of “text” in semiotics to include all kinds of signs, symbols, TV programs, etc. and how they comprise something of a language in and of themselves. But then this connection to linguistics starts to lose me a little. Is a background in linguistics really all that necessary to do good semiotic examinations?

It’s clear that Marxist theory can still be valuable in terms of critical approaches to examination media as manipulation, etc. But the themes of a conflict in class systems, I think, still complicate modern approaches to media criticism. Is there a post-Marxist approach or theory emerging into modern media critiquing that does not attempt to view everything into a dichotomy of class struggle?

I found the Murder on the Orient Express chapter enjoyable reading. And I can see the value of it as a required reading assignment as an example of analysis. But was it textual analysis? Discourse analysis? Semiotic analysis? A bit of all of the above? I ask because there were times that I did not feel I was reading an academic chapter so much as reading a story about a popular story.

Otto Santa Ana evoked Sweetser in describing polysemy as homonyms with distinct meaning, using the example of “over” (p. 30). So I understand that the use of a word takes on distinct meanings depending on the context and use of the word. Is this one way of approaching metaphor? That is, analyzing the distinctions of meaning based on context? Or am I misunderstanding polysemy?

It’s hard for me to read a work like Santa Ana’s Brown Tide Rising without getting worked up. I guess it’s too real to me not only as a Latino but also as a journalist… one of a small group of national Latino journalists at that. I am particularly sensitive to language, in particular. As I was re-reading this chapter (I read the book when it first came out) I started thinking about recent issues like new Supreme Court judge Sonia Sotomayor, and how her “wise Latina” comments were taken out of context and how news outlets like FOX insisted on mispronouncing her name as Soto – mayor. I always felt something insidious was behind that deliberate mispronunciation and it makes sense in the context of this book and chapter. I don’t really have a question but this observation. Is it possible for a researcher to be too close to a subject that subjectivity starts to get lost? When I read Santa Ana, I personally feel he is preaching to the choir.

Teresa's questions

1. It seems that mastering a language is necessary for conducting a semiotic analysis. For ESL people, this represents a huge barrier. Are there any examples of semiotic analyses conducted by non-native speakers? From what I could gather, I saw no example of this, which I find it amusing and discouraging at the same time.

2. Berger mentions that Marxist scholars face the danger of knowing the answers before asking the questions. I wonder whether any deductive approach to science faces the same problem: we have a preconceived idea of what is going on and we conduct our research study to demonstrate that this is or isn’t so. If several studies replicate an initial finding, the results become a theory. Does Berger’s critique really apply to Marxist theory only or to the deductive approach in general?

3. Discourse analysis can be approached from two different perspectives: (1) as a linguistic practice (e.g., van Dijk) and as a social practice (e.g., Foucault). In practice, how these two approaches are manifested in a research study or analysis?

4. In order to conduct an ideological analysis, the researcher should be immersed or deeply understand that ideology, so as to make sense of the codes and symbols that reflects the ideology in the text. But if the researcher is so immersed in that culture or ideology, how he/she can question assumptions that became natural or taken for granted? What’s a good practice to follow before doing an ideological analysis?

5. When Santa Ana talks about “the media” he means “mainstream media.” The advent of the digital media represents greater possibilities for the creation of alternative sources and voices; therefore, what are the consequences for the representation of marginalized or underrepresented groups? Does the creation of more alternative media diversify the hegemonic representation of certain groups or they become mere echo chambers of the mainstream media? Also, given that many of these alternative media have allowed the expression of polarizing views, I wonder whether the representation of these groups improves or worsens.

Sebastián's questions 10/25

Within textual analysis, we can adopt a discourse, an ideological or a metaphoric approach. What are the boundaries between these different approaches? All of them seem to be strongly interrelated. For example, through discourse analysis we are searching for latent themes or ideas that organize the discourse. In order to become meaningful, however, these latent principles must refer to shared ideologies. On the other hand, many of these latent issues become manifest in the discourse through the use of metaphors.

Santa Ana seems to place so much power in the media that he reminded me of propaganda theory and the bullet theory of media effects. I agree that if we are going to conduct a textual or content analysis of media representations we have to be convinced (or, at least, convince others) that the media are powerful so as to justify the importance of research and our findings. But if we focus on media messages only and not on audience responses, don’t we risk overstating the potential power of messages? Isn’t this too much of a media-centric approach? If so, what are the risks of becoming media-centric?

We learn that in semiotic analysis oppositional relationships between concepts is crucial. Concepts don’t have a meaning per se but in relation to other terms, and this relation is always on some topic that connects them. However, I can see that there are several dimensions on which apparently oppositional concepts can be related. Taking the example of rich versus poor, the topic may be wealth, but also a number of other things: information, education, leisure time, health, and –dare I say it?— happiness. How does one make the case for a topic as the connecting theme between concepts, when it may be that several of them apply? Does this matter at all?

I have some questions for semioticians: From a communication perspective, which types of research questions are better addressed through semiotics? If everything is a sign, does that mean that semiotics is a method to study the whole human experience? If the appropriation of signs is what drives advertising, how does this idea apply to news consumption, that is, what does news consumption signify?

On a minor note: I was particularly attracted by Berger admitting the resistance of U.S. scholars to deal with “foreign” ideas, such as semiotics and Marxism. I wonder the role that American exceptionalism plays in explaining this resistance. Perhaps there is a Marxist explanation: the U.S. is the dominant class, hence foreign ideas are seen as, literary, second-class.

Sun Ho's Quesetions - 10/26

Week 9: October 26 – Semiotic, Marxist & Metaphorical Analysis

1. In chapter 1, Berger (2005) wrote about semiotic analysis of television. Although my group's assignment wasn't grounded on semiotic analysis, there was one thing I kept thinking about while writing up my analysis and Berger also mentions about it in the chapter:

" its [semiotic analysis'] concern for the relationship of elements and production of meaning in a text, it ignores the quality of the work itself" (p. 34).

He says it may be like "judging a meal by the quality of the ingredients, without any concern for how the food was cooked or how it tasted like." For example, see how the signifier and signified are defined when camera work and editing techniques are examined: e.g. pan down (signifier) - power, authority (signified); cut (signifier) - simultaneity, excitement (signified). It indeed is exciting to look at the "ingredients" but after a while you think, okay what was the meal again? How was it cooked? Does it taste good? I completely agree and would like to think about some of the solutions to it.

2. Berger concludes chapter 2 by saying, "ultimately, each of us has to decide whether Marxism still makes sense...if not, he or she should approach media analysis from another viewpoint" (p. 70). Interesting to see this part where he recognizes the primacy of individual subjectivity when talking about Marxist analysis..!

3. Berger starts chapter 5 by explaining the process of code-breaking in these analyses using Agatha Christie's work, Murder on the Orient Express: "All kinds of signs and significations are observable, but the connections among them are not obvious. Once we see how they are related and 'break the code' the mystery is solved" (p. 143). As an example, the author examines the story in multiple dimensions including oppositions, social and political dimensions of class vs communality of interest. I guess my thoughts are going back to our conversation last week about interpreting one's grandmother's activities as feminist or not. In journalism and mass communication research, I think we need to be more careful in assembling the codes and making sense of the meanings - but what makes our analyses more powerful when we deal with news programs?

4. Ana (2002) provides a great framework on topics of metaphor and public opinion. Methods and examples included in section 7 was particularly interesting. However, the author once compares journalistic writing with fiction writing about similar political topics and concludes that "the metaphors in newstexts are relatively underdeveloped stylistic devices." Now can journalistic writing be compared to fiction writing in these analyses?

5. Faux & Kim (2006) suggest a multileveled dialectical analysis for examination of photographic images. I really enjoyed reading the first two sections, layering of the image and dialectical perspectives. However, after reading the methods section, I had to read again the above two parts to find out how their method matches the concept of multileveled dialectical analysis. Is it only me who wanted to hear more about their method?!