- Highlight on Page x | Loc. 51
"feminist methodologists like Patti Lather, Liz Stanley, and Sue Wise"
In working on my MA thesis my adviser recommended that I read Lather's Troubling the Angels for its method and organizational structure. I didn't. I skimmed it, but it did not seem germane to me at the time. I'm thinking now that I should return to it. I'm definitely interested in feminist methods and methodologies that present research in ways that differ from the traditional academic article/essay. It might behoove me to read Lather and go back to folks like Chela Sandoval, Donna Haraway, and Katie King--women who present their work differently. One of the confusing or even tense spots in my prospectus defense stemmed from how I organized the prospectus and how I used citations. One person on my committee said that I showed too much reverence to source material and that I was still writing in prelim mode. I was deliberately trying to give m sources their due attention, not out of reverence, but because I don't appreciate the sort of synecdoche that passes for research in academia. I don't like it when folks boil a book down to one sentence or an article down to one quote to serve their purposes. It's destructive and runs counter to the idea that the text exists and gets interpreted in particular situations. It covers over, in some ways, the text's manipulation by the author citing it. I know some feminist theories move away from traditional citation practices. For example, in Methodology of the Oppressed Sandoval never uses someone else's concept. She uses her term and idea and relates it to another's concept to show solidarity, then she moves on in constructing her argument. She demonstrates kinship rather than simply mincing someone else's words.
- Note on Page ix | Loc. 45
starts with thesis and list of their assumptions, leaving definitions for chapter 2
One aspect of the dissertation I feel most daunted by is structuring my argument. Part of this relates o not knowing exactly what I want to say. At this point there are many directions in which I could proceed. The preface gives me some ideas about how I might structure my firs chapter. The first chapter should position my research squarely in rhet/comp, though it can allude to greater implications for the field (particularly service-learning, institutional service, and Professional Writing).
As a writing exercise/drafting work, should compose a list of my own assumptions. I might also construct a context and audience analysis not dissimilar from those I teach in Tech Writing.
This section of the preface also goes a long way in terms of making Sullivan and Porter's underlying assumptions clear. It's a defensive move, but also an ethical move to deal with critics from the outset.
- Highlight on Page x | Loc. 58
"The specific site of analysis for this project, however, is the field of computers and composition,"
The preface sets the tone for the text. The authors use the language of empirical research by addressing their assumptions, then discussing the field as a research site. However, they also also use language that reflects feminist or postmodern concepts as noted below. They use "feel" and "felt" repeatedly as well as drawing attention to the limitations of any and all research.
- Note on Page xi | Loc. 66
- Note on Page xii | Loc. 85
The authors don't argue that complaints against empirical research are invalid, but they continue their research regardless. They frame the situation with the understanding that all empirical research (QUAN, QUAL, and MM) is limited, so what can we do about it. It will be important for me to position myself and state my assumptions about my dissertation research, and the lesson here may be that I should do so from the outset. Let the readers know where I am coming from, why I have this perspective, and what they might expect from my line of inquiry. This may involve discussing how I see rhet/comp's attitude toward service as something that needs revaluation. We hold onto residual attitudes toward service based in part on our experiences as a field and early work that helped move rhet/comp from a subjugated position to one of power within English Departments. While we still grapple with maintaining this foothold, we also need to address how network conceptions of service are changing the conversation entirely.
- Highlight on Page xii | Loc. 94-96
"What we want to do is push empirical research beyond its reliance on either of these two traditional forms, to a postmodern empiricism that recognizes morefully the role of power in the research enterprise and that acknowledges as valid the political and ethical relations between researcher and researched; the rhetorical situatedness of all research activity; and the institutional constraints under which research proceeds."
Sullivan and Porter's goals get at the heart of research as rhetorical action.* Research does something in the world. This take negates the idea that academia in particular and research in general are separate from the world in which they exist. As an aside, I get tired of people referring to all experience outside the classroom as "rel-world experience." The classroom is not a magic circle protected from or separated from the "real world." While classrooms may offer different affordances and constraints than other spaces, not all classrooms are the same, and understanding how local differences and possibilities (the rhetorical situation) extends beyond the classroom and reflects differences in all manner of sites and spaces.
(* connects to Institutional Critique articles)
Turning back to my project, Sullivan and Porter offer a way to approach service from a postmodern perspective. Academia tends to view service as separate from the goals of the university or the demands of teaching and research because it clings to modernist notions of service, that is to say forms of describing and conducting service that are derived from and representative of modernist institutions, particularly the school, church, and government. If service is viewed as integral to the mission of the institution, then the rhetoric surrounding service often reflects moral or ethical principles, particularly at land-grant universities and in religious institutions. Service gets depicted as an also ran--a lesser requirement for faculty and staff that contributes to the personal growth of the institution. Service gets depicted as something one engages with out of a sense of community responsibility. We attach a lot of baggage to service based on individual or social/collective senses of responsibility. Conversely we shape our identities within and relationships to others within these institutions by how we approach service. My research approaches service from another vantage: by examining what service means and how it works in networks, I attempt to offer other ways to understand, address, and approach service within the academy. The goal of the project is to work past the devaluation of service in academe and to come to understand service as central to the university as a we move into new academic structures and sense of what an academic institution should do. In short, service is at the center of everything. Sullivan and Porter contribute to my argument by pointing out that research is never neutral, and it's never just the presentation of data. In this sense, as Pat says, data doesn't speak for itself. Research is presented from and representative of certain values and it builds something around those values. Service may be approached similarly. Also, research isn't a series of methods or tools one chooses from. Research is ubiquitous in the university even if we don't recognize it as such. One of my goals is to demonstrate the ubiquity of service without diluting it to meaninglessness. I'm reminded here that I must keep in mind he flattening effect that this goal may have and the attendant risks this flattening may pose, and to some extent already poses (if service is imbued in everything, why do any service beyond day-to-day activities?).
I need to keep in mind that my project's goal doesn't negate the public good that academic institutions espouse and deliver (when they do) in offering a liberal arts education. Nor does it ignore the changing shape of institutions as those changes relate to rethinking and reworking institutional spaces.
- Note on Page xiv | Loc. 121
Sullivan and Porter fold together empiricism and postmodernism by using the term "site" to describe a field or subfield. By doing so, they points less toward disciplinarity than toward the discourse of research--in that sense there is a lot of positioning going on through the choice of words. This raises questions about another project I'm working on that uses mapping to raise questions about how folks in queer rhetorics conceive of and visualize the (sub)field. I'm curious is subfield is a term we want to adhere to in describing or discussing that project though we do so throughout the article.
- Highlight on Page xv | Loc. 136-37
"But no book has yet offered a distinct philosophy and rhetoric for the design of studies of computer writing. We feel that such a book is vitally necessary if the computers and composition community is to develop its identity as a research field."
Again with the feels. Also, I'll need to consider to whom I'm speaking directly as I can't claim to be speaking to all of academia though I obviously find important implications for academia and approaches to service across institutions. For the sake of the dissertation I will limit it to R/C. Ways of doing that relate to the first chapter, which I imagine as a historical look at how we talk about and describe service. Service was seen as something oppressive to composition and something we needed to get out from under. It was a pejorative term applied to teaching first-year composition. The problem as I see it is that R/C maintains this view today without acknowledging changes in the discipline and changes in institutions. We've devoted so much energy to defining ourselves against the "oppressors" within English Departments that as a discipline we've been unable to recuperate this term, though I think certain aspects of R/C know that service means and does something more, and isn't always reflective of easily defined and maligned power dynamics.
- Highlight on Page xvi | Loc. 146-52
"We are especially interested in advancing the cause of electronic writing, to make it more rhetorically grounded-by which we mean to make it more sensitive to the act of writing as the act of exercising power (politics) and the act of constituting relations (ethics). We want, finally, to articulate a notion of research as practical action (as opposed to the modernistic view of research as generating knowledge). Good research, we are going to argue, has a practical aim. It does something good for somebody. It helps people in a disadvantaged position (and that can be variously defined) achieve some improvement in their circumstances. Research enables that improvement to happen, we argue, to the degree that it attends to the particular situatedness of its participants, to the degree that it is sensitive to human practices and does not subordinate them to Theory, to Method, or to Disciplinary Rules. Good research has to clearly and directly connect itself to the function of teaching (to put this in the terms of another debate), and not simply in a remote way (e.g., `bur research results may eventually help affect X") but in its day-to-day operation."
I'm curious how the use of the words "interest" and "feel" help defend against critique while at the same time offering the limitations of the work. How much is a language game for academia/academic writing, and how much of this points toward different (postmodernist and feminist values)? I'm not sure it's worth pursuing any of these questions, but it is important to note these tactics as such.
In general I struggle to connect my research with my teaching, and while this project won't deal with implications for teaching explicitly, I do see why Sullivan and Porter make this point.
- Highlight on Page 4 | Loc. 202-4
"How do your goals (to improve team play, to study family experiences, to examine fan-dom, to critique the male dominance of major college sports for women, or to examine the professionalization of women's sports in Division I Programs) interact with the ways that you frame the study and, indeed, what you perceive to be the results?"
In the example employed by the authors (a group of people "watching" a Purdue Women's Basketball game), each indidividual interacts with the event differently, and this interaction is shaped by the individual's attachments (or lack their of in the case of the small children) to the event, that is to say what they find important and what they are able to observe. Sullivan and Porter use this example to address the limitations of any research project and any researcher.
- Highlight on Page 4 | Loc. 206-7
"Our interest is in how research practices, institutional ties, researcher identities, technologies, politics, and ethics percolate together in the events that lead to how we frame our questions and, ultimately, to what we label knowledge."
There's a warts and all quality to Sullivan and Porter's methodology, which I find appealing though I'm not sure that I'm far enough in the text to see the warts. I don't see them in the section discussed in this post. Instead, I feel reassured by the authors that they're there.