Sunday, October 31, 2010

Titles are for people who are creatively able

I actually thought the Knight material this week was a little slim, and the two articles (the artifact one and the critical discourse analysis one) were great supplements. (Is the Knight coverage of DA slim and the Luker coverage nonexistent because they privately think discourse analysis is unimportant?) I found it thoroughly amusing that discourse analysis is allegedly thought of so poorly in the social sciences (can this be true?), since it sounds much more manageable to me than field work of any kind. ("Field" work always conjures up images, in my mind, of strapping on your hiking boots for a three-week stay in the wilderness, struggling to figure out which plants can be used medicinally and which will kill you. No one here gets out alive, etc., but perhaps I am just lazy.)

Two thoughts about the readings this week: My first thought while reading Knight and then the Thomas (artifacts) article was how simply the criticisms she alleges are levelled against artifact analysis could be levelled agianst ethnography, focus groups, or any other research method we've talked about.  To this extent, I thought her assertion that research methods "only provide data that may be interpreted as reflecting [an individual's meaning-making-and-subsequent-application] processes" (685) to be an important recognition for any researcher seeking to de-legitimize discourse analysis or artifact studies.

[Insert personal anecdote: I was once part of a research study that combined interviews and focus groups. The researchers had sought out people in a "support group" setting who were dealing with a sensitive issue. Nearly every person interviewed and/or in the focus group told the researcher some combination of the "truth," what they thought the researcher wanted her to hear and what they thought presented themselves in the best light. I came away wondering what sort of research this could possibly produce, or if social science researchers were somehow trained to detect when a group of people are lying through their teeth. I was wondering if this is what Knight meant when he said that research participants might "fake good" (108). End anecdote.]

Although discourse analysis still requires the researcher to take into account the "positioning" (can't think of a better word) done by the subject/producer of the discourse/artifact/etc, the process of dealing with a "researcher" in any official way (being interviewed, being studied, etc.) is typically removed. This might eliminate some aspect of power-positioning that happens when people are faced with someone that looks/sounds/seems "authoritative." (This isn't to say the two are in any way equal, or that one can be a substitute for the other. It's just a different set of problems, I suppose.)

Second thought: Whereas "artifact study" might be a method of discourse analysis, critical discourse analysis doesn't seem like a "method" on its own. It seems that one might incorporate any number of discourse analysis "methods" to produce a critical discourse analysis? For example, it would be possible to incorporate image or artifact study or document analysis to produce a critical discourse analysis. This is probably totally obvious but by virtue of it having popped into my head it is being recorded here for all to see.

FINALLY: What are the rules around the ethics of discourse analysis? I'm thinking of the paper given to us for Assignment 3. I imagine that with a little bit of determination it would be pretty easy to find this Facebook group, presuming it still exists, and locate all of the people the authors were talking about. I don't think consent was mentioned in the article, and since the group is "public" perhaps it isn't necessary. I know this is only one particular kind of discourse analysis, but it kind of stood out to me.

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