day 1: intention
January 25, 2016
It’s Monday once more, which means it’s back to writing and back to intention setting. Last week my intention was to engage with materials that explore the relationship between the academy and the art education world, with a particular emphasis on the fuzzy place that is training in vocations that once were considered “craft” and thus outside of formalized academic learning but for the last almost 100 years or so have moved into institutions of higher learning.
What that ended up meaning—which feels somewhat appropriate retroactively—is that I did equal parts reading articles and spending time with people actively engaged in these fuzzy spaces learning about their experience of learning and teaching. I spent an evening with fellow designers/design educators breaking down design real life versus academic real life (I wish there wasn’t an binary but I think there still might be…), talked hair styling pedagogy whilst I got a wicked fade from my stylist (what if graphic design had gone the route of hair cutting/color/styling and stayed true to its trade roots rather than jumped ship and become “academic”? So many questions about identity and where you plant your disciplinary silo!) and read lots I didn’t record because I just ran out of both time and words.
My intention for this week is: for real, for real begin landing the plane of my dissertation topic. Though I’m all about serendipity and chance encounters and staying open to new ideas…I know at this point I’ve put enough time and probing into this beast that the next step is not to jump down another rabbit hole, rather it is to set a few posts in the ground, declare some things in a more formal way, and begin building.
When I’m working on a design project there’s a key moment every time where I have to take all the inspiration I’ve gathered and all the ideas I’ve dreamed up to a blank page in front of me and begin making. I’d love to say it’s this beautiful romantic moment of creation and eventually it is but…at that single start moment it’s scary and so hard. Moving from head to heart to hand to page is uncomfortable and awkward and difficult and revealing because what comes out is both completely me and no longer me. The words or ideas or images I create are both all mine and begin to live a life of their own the moment I write them. I set them free and I hope the relationship is reciprocal.
I think I’m at that place with this whole business. I’ve thought and researched and tried and failed and learned in an iterative cycle over the past two years, which has grown me in profound ways as a researcher and as a human. Now comes the time to begin making.
I know who I am. I know what I want. And it’s scary stuff but…I also know that I am strong enough to see it through and bring it into the world.
So this week begins that process of declaration and statements—of signals and foundations—of stepping out and stepping into and seeing what might happen next.
day 5 pt. 1: #acwridraw
January 22, 2016
(my research process illustrated)
day 3: conversation as paper…with difficult questions
January 20, 2016
Today’s “paper” takes yet another experimental form which is that of a two hour chat with friends who are working as both graphic designers and educators, thus their lives embody the relationship between design education and professional trade that fits with my intention for the week. What follows are five questions that stood out most to me from the meandering stream of our conversation. Though the night raised more questions than answers, what did crystalize in my mind is that through this whole dissertation process, it is vital that I continue to immerse and vet my ideas not only through my supervisor, committee, etc. but also through the very people who live in the places where one day my work will come to reside.
The night ended with my friends expressing confidence in me because they knew my dissertation was going to solve all these issues, create clarity, and basically bring world peace. Though I am hopeful for all those things…I think at this moment my dissertation will be a win if it delightfully perturbs people who are deeply enmeshed in the structures of design education. My dissertation will be a win if it becomes a catalyst for conversation about who we are as designers and how we are teaching our students. My dissertation will be a win if it opens up connections and space for new ideas.
5 Hard Questions about Graphic Design + Design Education
Why is there such a disconnect between what I do as an in-house designer on a daily basis and what I learned in school/what I am required to teach my students?
How can students better learn to receive and react to critique from a client so that they’re better prepared for professional life?
Why are design programs so much in separate silos when I never only just work with designers?
Why aren’t students taught more tactile/hands on creation skills?
Why don’t we hear and expose students to the voices of more “middle/average designers” and instead elevate freelancers and well established superstars?
day 2: caves, images, networks
January 19, 2016
This weekend I came across the work of Dr. Daniel Rubinstein, a philosopher, photographer, artist, and researcher. Rubinstein is writing, researching, and curating work on the place of the image in contemporary culture, studying how the fundamental shift in photography from film to digital can be seen as a lens through which to understand larger societal shifts from the industrial age to the technology age.
After doing some internet investigating, I found a video recorded titled “Five Untimely Meditations” recorded in July 2015 in honor of the opening of the NEW WEAPONS exhibit (a collaborative exhibit between Central Saint Martins and the BLITZ art space in Malta.)
NEW WEAPONS explores, “the proliferation of the networked image in the online environment” with particular focus on the idea that “an image can exist in many different areas simultaneously – across technological, geographical and social borders.”
In the past, photos were somewhat (relatively) scarce and were about capturing particular moments. Today with the proliferation of technology, photos are more a continuous stream that people are producing at all times and distributing widely via networks. Thus, today photos becomes less about the actual captured image and more about the time/atmosphere from which it was created as well as the ways/networks through which it is distributed.
Rubinstein advocates moving beyond the whole Plato’s cave idea where images (or things you can perceive visually) are merely surfaces and the actual substance/truth is found in its core/essence. His feeling is that the world as being constructed now is all surface and essence simultaneously and to try and divide, distill, or otherwise find binaries only degrades the experience. When we’re working in an online environment, there isn’t a distinction between the appearance and the essence because the new scheme of logic under which we’re working is one that does not abide by binaries. Surfaces beget surfaces beget surfaces and that is actually alright because within the surface itself there is depth and essence.
Regarding images produced by, distributed by, and mediated by technology, Rubinstein says: “When the surface is produced by the code, the surface is an essence.”
As a designer, these ideas deeply resonate with me as it means that every time I make an illustration or an invitation or a set of digital slides for my students the manner and choices with which I make what I’m making matters and convey a message just as much as the end piece matters and conveys a message. The surface is just as valuable as the essence because they’re fundamentally intertwined.
It’s interesting stuff to think about particularly when you insert an actor-network filter (which I think lends itself seamlessly). The talk ended with Rubinstein saying that he thinks we’re currently creating what will be the cave paintings of the digital age.
Kind of wonderful and mind-blowing, eh? Though the work is admittedly quite heady, the ideas are fascinating to think about particularly in light of how they might also speak to online arts education, networked learning, and the larger philosophical underpinnings of what is played out day to day in art/design education.
day 1: intention
January 18, 2016
It’s Monday which means it is back to reading, reflecting, and writing. After my travels, birthday, and general back-to-work logistics hiatus, writing feels both wonderful and intimidating. All the people who say writing is a habit even more than a flash of genius and the best way to write better is to write poorly with great frequency…are correct. Writing allows me to get ideas in my head out into a visual space and in so doing begin to untangle, sort out, admire, critique and generally sense make. It’s hard at times because doing all of the above requires slowing down sufficiently to be mindful.
But now, I’ve climbed back aboard the #5papers train which means I’m back to not only writing more regularly but also reading, reflecting, and generally structuring my week so that I can be more mindful.
Today being Monday means it’s time to set the week’s intention. Last round I was all about exploring narrative inquiry as a potential methodology and design educators currently teaching hybrid/online courses as my research subjects. Though this larger idea and I only been together a short time, I’m totally in love and ready to commit and may be fantasizing about our long-term future together. As every good love story must have conflict, my supervisor still doesn’t know and I should probably clue him in sooner than later. But…that’s a conversation for another day.
My intention for this week is to engage with materials that explore the relationship between the academy and the art education world, with a particular emphasis on the fuzzy place that is training in vocations that once were considered “craft” and thus outside of formalized academic learning but for the last almost 100 years or so have moved into institutions of higher learning.
Last week I had an interesting discussion with a friend (who is a design educator) and he brought up the tension that he sees regarding identity and legitimacy for arts educators. He said he thinks that because we as a field tend to be outside so much of traditional academic structure, we in many ways are more willing to dilute our pedagogy to fit into the larger structures (to gain legitimacy) than to view our place on the fringe as a privilege for the unique vision it provides. Things like online studio pedagogy and online learning in general for art and design education can be seen not as a good, progressive, step but rather as a threat because we’ve only “just” convinced everyone that the studio needs to be on college campuses and is legit so suddenly denying the need for geographic presence or even calling for a new twist on things can threaten everything.
I think he has something there.
With these things in mind, what would it look like for my dissertation to be part of more a reconciling than anything between two very different ways of thinking? Could my dissertation be an artifact that begins to open the door for people who think very differently to come together in commonality, seeing that human connection / online methods of delivery are not binary?
So, it’s with these questions that this week begins! It will be interesting to see where the meandering takes me.
A Week in Articles, with No Charts
January 9, 2016
Today’s post is a nod to Martin Weller’s A Year in Books, with Pointless Charts (which in itself is a nod to Jane Rawson’s post) with a few small remixes…like a week instead of a year, articles instead of books, and no pointless charts….basically today’s post is nothing like Weller’s except in the fuzzy way that everything manages to bleed into everything else when the internet is mediated by a human brain. What is completely like Weller is that what follows is admittedly self-indulgent and most likely of little interest but as Weller says, “hey, blogging!” : )
What I read:
I wasn’t really sure I’d made a good choice with the whole #5Papers thing thus bided my time by writing some stuff about life + research under the guise of “setting the intention for the week.” Looking back…though I know posting was more of a guilt reliever than anything, I like the idea and think Mondays will be intention days.
What I read:
Caine, V., Estefan, A., & Clandinin, D. J. (2013). A return to methodological commitment: Reflections on narrative inquiry. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 57(6), 574-586.
This was a banner article for me as it deconstructed narrative inquiry in a way that revealed its depth and grounding. Narrative inquiry is about stories but like any methodology…it’s also got a whole host of other supporting elements (i.e. ontology + epistemology) which if ignored makes research shallow. I became curious about narrative inquiry because I thought hearing people’s stories would be a bit like having reality television as my research methodology. I now see that choosing to engage in narrative inquiry is not something you should enter lightly because you’re not just a passive vessel who watches—you’re a co-participant and co-constructor as the story itself weaves through and forms something larger….which you then try to untangle and understand and the whole process begins again.
What I read:
Trahar, Sheila (2009). Beyond the Story Itself: Narrative Inquiry and Autoethnography in Intercultural Research in Higher Education [41 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 10(1), Art. 30, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0901308
This article expanded on Tuesday’s article as Trahar both summarized the high points of narrative inquiry and described her own use of it in researching international student experience of Higher Ed in the UK. She included many passages from one of her research conversations and was transparent in explaining her process of sense making. Reading this piece helped me flesh out and make sense of out many of the ideas I’d read earlier.
day 4: self-praise reading + practice
January 8, 2016
Dayter, D. (2014). Self-praise in microblogging. Journal of Pragmatics, 61, 91-102.
Today’s article focuses on “self-praise in micro blogging” which is basically a fancy way to say Tweeting good stuff about yourself. The author did an in depth study of the speech acts on Twitter of ten ballet students and discovered that self praise formed an important category of communication. She was intrigued by just how self-praise is enacted within a community of practice, particularly how it might be used in constructing a “dancer image” amidst the community.
Apparently there is a whole area of study called “compliment research” which grapples with, among other things, politeness across cultures, what counts as boasting, and reactions to receiving compliments. As self-praise is essentially complimenting yourself, the author compared Pomerantz’s six common ways to reconcile a compliment with how the dancer’s expressed self-praise. The goal was to see if indeed self-praise followed a similar route to compliment response.
After coding all tweets, three main categories of self-praise emerged amongst the dancers:
- Explicit self-praise without modification
- Explicit self-praise with modification
- Disclaim the face-threat
- Shift focus away from self
- Refer to hard work
- Self-praise followed by a complaint
- Self-praise framed as a third party complaint
The article concludes with the assertion that self-praise somewhat overlaps with compliment response but serves many purposes all its own including: positive identity construction, self/autobiographic narrative construction, and group membership reinforcement.
Overall it was an interesting article particularly because I am such an avid micro-blog user and I enjoy thinking about how the identity we construct in online spaces relates to the identity we construct in face-to-face spaces.
In order to take my article engagement one step further and test the categories Dayter distilled (and check my own level of self-praise via Twitter) I did a little DIY coding on my own Twitter feed. I wasn’t able to hit all the categories Dayter identified (I skew heavy on alcohol and light on complaints…hmm…maybe a correlation there?) I did hit many of them.
Study Limitation: I only went back to fall 2015, which is barely scratching the surface of my 5,000+ tweets.
Re-reading tweets outside of the moment/context/emotion in which I wrote them gives them a weird out-of-body feel. I know I wrote them, I can mostly remember the context and yet reading my own words from afar and analyzing them still feels odd. I think this act was a good one to get me thinking more about coding, speech acts, and narrative analysis. I like the reflexivity of this exercise and I think that looking through this form of self-recording, one does get a pretty true picture of who I am. There may be something to this whole narrative analysis thing…..
Lisa’s Self-Praise Analysis
Explicit self-praise without modification
Explicit self-praise with modification
Shift focus away from self
Refer to hard work
Self-praise followed by a complaint
Compliment Research Resource:
Pomerantz, Anita, 1978. Compliment responses. In: Schenkein, Jim (Ed.), Studies in the Organization of Conversational Interaction. Academic Press, New York, pp. 79–112.
day 3: visuals + words in a narrative theme
January 7, 2016
Upper Quote from: Andrews, Molly; Squire, Corinne & Tambokou, Maria (Eds.) (2008). Doing narrative research. London: Sage.
Lower Quote from: Riessman, Catherine Kohler & Speedy, Jane (2007). Narrative inquiry in the psychotherapy professions: A critical review. In D. Jean Clandinin (Ed.), Handbook of narrative inquiry: Mapping a methodology (pp.426-456). Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Sage.
day 2: research, relationships & narrative inquiry
January 6, 2016
Caine, V., Estefan, A., & Clandinin, D. J. (2013). A return to methodological commitment: Reflections on narrative inquiry. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 57(6), 574-586.
Narrative has become a buzzword in research today. Though the authors acknowledge that diverse opinions allow the field to be enriched, they are concerned that narrative inquiry is being used as a catchall that does not represent the larger ontological underpinnings of its origins. This article is meant to be a refocusing, setting an ontological true north for narrative inquiry.
The authors begin asserting that narrative inquiry is more than a research methodology…it is in fact a narrative view of experience (p.575). When narrative inquiry is viewed solely as a research methodology, it runs the risk of being a one-way street where the researcher holds the power as she gathers the stories of research subjects. When narrative is viewed as an experience, it opens the way for narrative to become something multi-dimensional, co-composed, and changeable within social context. No longer do researchers become the harvesters of narratives, rather researchers acknowledge and live together in the endlessly complex/changeable social world with research participants and from that place of interwoven relationships begin to distill and sense make.
In addition, the authors deem that a “narrative ontology” is key to narrative inquiry. Narrative ontology “implies that experiences are continuously interactive, resulting in changes in both people and the contexts in which they interact” (p.576). The researcher’s lived experience too becomes an important part of the research process because narratives are not received in a sterile lab rather are received in the thick of daily life.
“To engage deeply with experience, an ontological commitment is, then, a relational commitment. It is a commitment to a form of togetherness in research that seems to explore how we are living in the midst of our stories” (p. 576).
In narrative inquiry, the researcher always draws on personal experiences when encountering research puzzles and attention to these personal experiences become the genesis of the relational commitment that is foundational to narrative inquiry.
This was an interesting article for me because previously, when thinking of narrative inquiry, it was more from a place where my participants would tell me their stories, I’d dutifully record/code, and form some larger theory of experience, phenomenon, etc. To me, narrative was a unit of measure and though it might make me feel something…I’d do my best to bracket and stay true to the facts that were presented. After reading this article, I’m thinking that view was reductionist of me.
The idea that narrative inquiry promotes an interweaving of a researcher’s narrative with the narratives of research subjects rather than a bracketing out of researcher’s narrative is very appealing to me. In addition, the idea that narrative inquiry is relationally constructed resonates with me because I tend to think all of life is relationally constructed and understood. In my case, I am researching a topic that I am passionate about and have experience working within. Hearing relationships are okay within narrative inquiry (and indeed even part of its core) makes it attractive.
That said, I wonder how objectivity is achieved within narrative inquiry. Could the relational construct obscure or gloss over the truth of a phenomenon? Or am I only thinking that because I’ve been steeped for so long in the validity of research that retains no fingerprints of the researcher? If narrative inquiry is all about exploring the interweaving of your life as a researcher and the lives of your participants…how can you avoid getting hopelessly tangled up in their lives and vice versa? What is professional (or even mental health) distance as a researcher engaged in narrative inquiry?
Overall by defining its boundaries in general and the importance of a narrative ontology in particular, this article was a good way to begin my narrative inquiry exploration. My overarching takeaway is that not all research that uses narratives is narrative inquiry. If I do want to follow a narrative inquiry focus…I must be prepared for a deep level of engagement, immersion, and co-construction with my participants because research really might be in relationships.
day 1: finding, figuring, and settling in
January 5, 2016
In September I began writing my first, draft dissertation proposal. Couched within the penultimate doctoral course, Research Seminar 1, the idea was that we’d all write practice condensed dissertation proposals to test-drive research questions, methodology, and literature review
After writing juicy research questions about the experience of co-presence within the online graphic design studio, I began the hunt for a methodology. (Though graphic design education as a whole tends to skew opposite…I strongly believe in the potential of the computer-mediated + distance-distributed. I think it’s possible to listen well (even if your ears aren’t involved in the sensory process), walk with someone through a difficult season (even if you can’t be there to physically hold a hand), and have learning epiphanies that make you feel deeply connected to the larger world (even if you’re home alone and clad in pajamas.)
Having been impressed by dissertations that used ethnography, I decided it was “the one” and began writing. Though I came to ethnography because I resonated with its embedded focus, I soon began to wonder about if my own ontology might not be quite “ethnographic.” For example, in the literature there were many cautionary mentions of “going native” or losing outsider objectivity.
While I understand the rationale, one of my delights is the ease with which I “go native” with those I meet, actively interweaving my life with theirs. I love being a catalyst in forming/fostering community. I believe strongly in co-creation, collaboration, and that if one is curious–it’s quite possible to find and be accepted into the most significant moments in people’s humble, daily places. To me going native feels in many ways like the best validation ever because it means you’ve moved beyond an “I’m studying you” mentality and into a space of co-construction where we’re both living in “it” and studying/constructing/navigating what that experience might look like.
These realizations made me think that maybe I didn’t know myself as a research as well as I thought and…it might be advantageous to reflect on just what I bring to this process. Though I believe it’s important to choose a methodology that fits research questions and best serves the unit you want to measure, I think it’s just as important to choose a methodology that fits your own ontology as a researcher otherwise….eek…the process could be very square-peg-into-round-hole-awkward.
When I turned in my first draft proposal in early December, it was with the knowledge that I was still on the hunt and even more that I needed to clarify a couple more things within myself before I could commit to a framework. And so…over the past three weeks I’ve begun to window shop once more to see if there might be something else out there that’s a bit more in line with both my research questions and myself as a researcher.
I’ve currently settled into narrative inquiry. Though I have yet to fully decide if we are MFEO, I do know I’ll be spending this weeks #5papers looking at different facets + foci of narrative inquiry in an effort to better explore all it has to offer.