Sunday, October 18, 2009

Alex Question


OCT. 19


Manning & Cullum-Swam write in their section on content and narrative analysis that the “microinteractional aspect of content analysis has never been fully solved (p. 248)” and that this remains an “open or moot” point. But if I understand correctly what they mean, they are discussing what and how people believe things, or more basically how they apply meaning to words, texts and symbols. Is this what they are talking about? And if so, doesn’t that go to the heart of communications and semiotics? (Why would it be so easily dismissed?)

Doesn’t the McDonald’s example in Manning & Cullum-Swam actually provide evidence in favor of semiotics? I remember traveling with my wife once and she wanted to go to a McDonald’s that was nearby our hotel. I complained that I don’t like McDonald’s at home, why would I like it here? She explained that she was hungry and was not familiar with the town, the local food, and was filled with uncertainty. McDonald’s, for her, represented assurance. Sure, I did not like the food at McDonald’s. But at least she knew what she was getting and her uncertainty was diminished as a result. (So we ate there.) The meaning that is given seems to cross many cultural and regional barriers.

I agree with Stuart Hall (Grossberg interview) that modernism and post-modernism are essentially western constructs. I have always had problems with those definitions. I guess in my mind, post-modernism has always been associated with media being aware of itself – like when a TV character suddenly breaks the rules and addresses the camera directly, in effect addressing the audience directly. But the emergence of schools of thought such as post-post modernism, I believe, exemplifies the unsustainability of the notions of modernism and post-modernism. At the heart, I think, is the notion of abstraction. But you can’t blame me for confusion on these concepts. I understand that Hall was coming from a 1980s perspective when this interview took place. But where is the academic world today on the whole modernism, postmodernism, post-postmodernism question?

Makus describes Hall’s theoretically framework in terms of pluralism and conformity v. disenfranchisement and stigmatism, and how these are social constructs. But it seems that while elements of that seem true today, there is a general tolerance for deviants in society, particularly online. In fact, as Makus tries to prove with her look at hackers, a deviant can even have positive societal impact. Not that I’m especially familiar with Stuart Hall’s theory of ideology, but doesn’t Makus’ premise – “Hall's theory of ideology problematizes democratic pluralism (p. 497)” – seem even more true today, 19 years after her article was published?

I think the entire Makus article smacks of the entire “Big Brother” cold war thought and this dichotomy between democracy and Marxism. With the decline of worldwide Marxism, the growth of what Habermas would call the sub-altern has greatly emerged as a result of the digital age. So imperialist type of thinking, creation of meaning, centrist thought, etc, from an ideological or cultural elite seems to reek of pre-21st century thought. So, are we in a post-post-postmodern age?


OCT. 12


I am not at all familiar with “retrospective studies” as a research design and Flick only devotes a paragraph to its description. Is this particular to “biographical research” or are past studies actually re-examined in this approach using more modern or updated tools, information or points of view? I think the latter would be an interesting exercise as particular “truths” or points of view change over time, which could lead to different conclusions of historical studies if they were re-examined in this way.

Some academics simply love to use models as a quick and easy way to describe processes or give big picture summaries. But I have found that the depiction of models almost always requires an accompanying explanation of how the model is supposed to work. I say this because after describing several basic research designs, Flick offers a nice looking model diagram (fig. 4.1.1 page 149). It looks great. But can you explain the relationships that the model is supposed to be making for us?

I understand Potter’s declaration that there are no absolute truths, only interpretations of the truth, and how the debate surrounding those interpretations can change. But the truth is (ha, ha) some people’s versions of truth take on wider acceptance. A good example is the recent Columbus Day holiday. It used to be that Columbus was hailed as a great explorer who discovered a new world and aided in bringing Christianity to millions of people and opening up new trade routes. Modern interpretations now paint the man as a tainted character who stumbled onto a land already populated by millions and he brought slavery, disease and death to native populations. Now, neither of those versions are the “truth” per se, although some elements of truth can be found in both. So, hundreds of years after his so-called “discovery” of millions of people unknown to the European and Asian worlds, we are still debating the truth about Columbus. In this example, the truth debate is in flux depending on point of view. Can we see other examples of truth “imposed” on people, like the long-held belief prior to Columbus that the world was flat?

I was very pleased to read the section in Potter on expectations and to see a debate on this issue in writing. To me it seems that the entire expectations issue is similar to that of objectivity. Just as you can’t really be totally objective because of the baggage of a personal history and a point of view, you can’t NOT have some expectations as you begin your research. I seriously doubt that researchers begin some kind of fishing expeditions out of the blue just to see if they might find something. Even fishermen try to focus where to fish based on knowledge of waters, time of day, weather conditions, feeding habits, etc. Then they pick where to fish in the expectation that their strategies have put them in a place where they will actually find something. We all know that quantitative researchers work from either research questions or seek to test hypotheses. So how do most qualitative researchers handle the expectations issue?

Honestly, I found the whole etic-emic and subjective-objective discussion difficult to wrap my head around. And here’s why. As I read, I generally can follow the line of argument Potter outlines. And all that is fine. But if I put the book down for 30 minutes and then ask myself, “Okay, which one is ‘etic’ and which one is ‘emic’?” I can’t distinguish. “Well, one is more subjective, written from the ‘me’ point of view,” is my response. But which one? If I ever had such a question on an essay exam, I couldn’t really say with confidence. So, my question, really, is: What is the most important thing we need to remember from the whole etic-emic and subjective-objective discussion?

1 comment:

  1. So, are we in a post postmodern age?


    I think so: