Archive for January, 2009

Plan of Action

By js, 28 January, 2009, No Comment

As I think about all the books that I still have to read to prepare for qualifying exams, I realize that I have to be disciplined about the work that I do.

I have been very involved in my job recently, teaching and administering my dept., that it is difficult to find much time to read. If I have two hours to read daily, I consider myself lucky. Two hours daily though won’t get me very far in one semester. I have to be able to dedicate more hours than that.

One of my friends has a daughter in grad school and she said she tried to study for a minimum of eight hours a day. What a luxury!

When I was in Lubbock one of the graduate students said that she read for several hours in the morning and then she took notes in the afternoon. That seems to me to be a pretty good plan.

This means that I have to add at least two more hours. The difficult part is leaving work early. I didn’t leave the office until a little after 8 pm. Late nights at the office are going to have to change. I have to try to get the studying done before the kids come home from school. Once they are here it is difficult to shut myself off and not spend time with them. What is worse is that I can’t work too late. The tiredness just gets to me and I don’t absorb much of what I read.

This means that the best time to process information is in the morning and the afternoon can be devoted to notetaking. That is going to be my plan for the next several weeks and I have to see if that works out for me.

I also have to think about the books that I need to read now. I have been concentrating on the cultural theory for a while, so I’m going to turn to the methodology books especially now that I have had contact with two of my participants and they have agreed to an interview.

Exams Planning

By js, 27 January, 2009, No Comment

A friend asked me about the planning that I am doing for the qualifying exams. Every program has specific requirements and expectations about how the path set up toward the exams will help the candidate.

Texas Tech TCR program is specific. We have the following stages:

  • dissertation preproposal
  • reading list
  • discuss exam questions
  • take exams
  • dissertation proposal
  • submit dissertation
  • defend.

The first two, I think, must be worked on recursively although many students have said that they add things to their reading lists after they submit them.

Even though the preproposal has that “pre,” which gives it the sense that it is more informal, the experiences others have had show that the preproposal is a solid idea of what you will do although it needs to be phrased as if you don’t know the outcome yet. Most of us don’t do quantitative research so we don’t send up hypothesis, etc., but I think we do need to have an idea of what we will find through our research. Although, of course, that idea probably will change/shift as we work.

The preproposal, generally 10 pages long, provides the questions we will focus on, the rationale for that research, a discussion of relevant research, and a discussion of our proposed methods. This preproposal needs to be approved by the committee chair. Once it has his/her approval it goes on to the other two committee members.

After the preproposal is approved, the reading list is submitted and approved. The reading list and the preproposal give the committee members the direction for the questions they will write. We know we probably will get a topic question, a tech comm/rhetoric question, and a methods question. My committee chair has said that he will ask me for suggestions for questions. The committee uses the reading list, the proposal, and the suggestions to draft the reading list. We have four days for the qualifying exams. Our committee responds with the outcome and a meeting is held during which the date for the proposal submission is set. The student becomes a candidate after she has passed the qualifying exams.

The structure which the program has set seems logical to me, but what I have had issues with is writing the dissertation preproposal. I have spent much of the last semester doing background reading to help me understand cultural theory and chicano scholarship. It seems to me that I can’t have a good grasp of how I will provide a rationale for my project unless I do so.

I can provide a rationale by only turning to mainstream rhetorical texts and digitial rhetoric theory. But because of the focus of my subject, Chicana bloggers, I think it is important to understand cultural theory especially as it relates to Chicanos. This, of course, may be too large of an undertaking since it can take several solid years in the field before I feel confident of my understanding.

Not much of the cultural studies scholarship or the Chicana studies scholarship will probably end up in the preproposal, but I do think I need a solid understanding to solidly understand the direction I am going. One of my PhD colleagues said that she felt after she took exams that she did too much reading in preparation and instead should have concentrated on those texts which she had already read and which she knew were going to be central to her work. I’m beginning to feel the same thing.

Preproposal Attempt #2

By js, 26 January, 2009, No Comment

My goal is to finish the preproposal by the end of February but I still think that it may be too soon. I want to be able to finish some of the background reading that I think will inform my discussion of the subject. Perhaps taking the quals in early summer is not a good idea.

As I was working on the preproposal, I found that I have alot of gaps in what I have to write. I know the sections that I want to include but some of the sections will require that I do more background reading so I can articulate those ideas better.

I will continue to write the preproposal and see how many holes I have to fill in. I’m hoping to have a completed draft finished by Friday.

Full steam ahead!

Mac or PC?

By js, 25 January, 2009, No Comment
image from AppleInsider 1/24/09

image from AppleInsider 1/24/09

I remember this type of computer was the first computer I ever purchased.

I learned how to type on a typewriter that I had to push a lever to return. My dad bought me my first typewriter when I was in high school, an electric one. I used computers in a high school class in which we learned about PASCAL.

When I got to college and first used the Mac, I remember I was fascinated by the simplicity of use. The hardest part about using the Mac was walking 5 minutes to get to the nearest lab and hoping that all the computers were not taken. (I still have some of those old floppy disks that I used to save some of my college essays.)

For me, the sign of a wealthy freshman was one who came to school with a brand spanking new computer. I don’t think many of us knew exactly how important they were going to be for getting our papers done, so many who could afford them didn’t purchase them until well into the first semester.

When I became a sophomore, I used one of the college programs which helped students purchase computers on a payment plan and used my work-study money to pay it off. It took me about a year. I’m not sure how much I spent on it, but I remember loving the fact that I had the computer sitting on my desk. It didn’t help me get my papers done any earlier, but I only had to go to the lab to print a paper. After a few trips to find a printer, I splurged on a printer too.

After a year with the desktop, I realized that the lack of mobility was one of the setbacks. Of course, I was also seduced by the images of the college student doing homework sitting under the shade of a tree on cross-campus. That was when I bought my first notebook computer. It was a used and looked something like this. It was the first time I paid cash for a computer (I didn’t pay cash again until I bought my kids computers in 2008) and it was the first and only time that I trusted someone enough to take their word that the computer would work. The computer worked fine for the rest of my undergrad years and the perk was that I could hook it up and use any printer on-campus.

When I moved back to Texas and began teaching I did not find a Mac anywhere. All the computers on campus were Windows-based. Still I was used to my Mac so I splurged again and bought myself a computer I couldn’t afford.  Not long after I had finished parying for it, the connection between the screen and the keyboard on the Mac laptop split. The only tech in town wanted to charge me what I thought was an unreasonable amount. Since I didn’t use the computer very much, I chose not to fix it. Ultimately I came to use Windows exclusively.

As I’ve become more and more involved with designing web sites and as the iPhone beckons me, I wonder if I’m on the road to becoming a Mac user once again.

On Becoming Legitimized as a Citizen

By js, 23 January, 2009, No Comment

I applied for a passport about 12 years ago. I was denied. I never pursued it since the opportunity to go overseas disappeared and I no longer needed it. I was convinced that the reason why I was not issued the passport was because I filled out the application incorrectly.  I have a middle name in my birth certificate and since I never used it in my documents, I decided to exclude it.

I’m reading Ralph Cintron’s *Angel’s Town* and am struck by what he argues about the control of official documentation. My attempt to apply for the passport using my name as I have chosen to represent myself is not something that is officially sanctioned. I did not use the middle name because when my birth certificate was officially submitted someone filled it out with my mother’s maiden name as my middle name. The Mexican custom is that children retain the mother’s name after the paternal last name. In the US, this custom is lost unless parents decide to hyphenate the last name. I’m not sure if the decision to give me my maternal last name as the middle name was my parent’s decision or someone else’s. I have to find more about that. I have always assumed that it was some ignorant US government worker who decided to put the name like that. In my view, the use of the name like that is just plain wrong. It preserves the mother’s name but not in a way that reflects the Mexican culture.

What I came to find out when I reapplied for the passport now that it is being required to go to Mexico (which is only about 6 miles from where I currently live) is that the name was NOT the problem. The problem was the birth certificate itself. Even though it is a government issued document, there were people who were consciously resisting the system by “selling” birth certificates. I have heard someone say that going to a midwife to deliver the child cost $50 while buying the midwife’s signature on a “fake” birth certificate cost $150.

Apparently there were several midwives who live near the border who were convicted in the 1970s of forging documents. This caused more strict regulation of midwife licenses but the veil of suspicion for anyone who was born with a midwife in a border town would still cause problems more than 50 years later.

I had to produce many more documents to receive my passport than anyone else. The fact that a midwife delivered me called into question the validity of the birth certificate. This is the case for many individuals who were born in South Texas. The fact that I excelled in school, that I went to one of the best colleges in the nation (with the government’s help), that I have been working as a teacher and giving back to my local community did not matter at all.  What legitimizes one as a “citizen” who participates in the improvement of society has nothing to do with how one is legitimized as a “citizen” by the state. If one has a forged document, it doesn’t matter what else you have done you will be deported. The only way to become a citizen would be by applying and giving the state the power to determine your “worth” as a potential citizen. If “they” deem you worthy, then you may succeed.

Of course I don’t know what happened when I submitted the documents the state department asked for. Did it matter where I lived, what my current job is? What were the criteria they used to determine that my birth certificate was in fact “legitimate”? There are individuals who have worked and retired from the Social Security Administration Office, from the military, from school districts who have also been denied a passport. Of course, the language of the letters of from the State Dept. do not say that we have been denied but that they need further documentation and if we cannot provide any then they will “close” our application. This puts the burden back on the citizen/applicant to prove their citizenship and the proof has to be in the form of documentation. The state department requests do not make it clear what these documents are supposed to prove. I assume they want documents which show that the mother was physically in the United States during the time of the birth. Isn’t the birth of child on US soil proof enough? Apparently not.

Making a new plan

By js, 23 January, 2009, 1 Comment

I’ve been hesitant about jumping in to this work until I know exactly where I’m going.

I don’t think that strategy is going to work for this project. I have to jump in and be confident that things will turn out well.

I’m currently working hard at reorganizing my responsibilities in order to focus the time that I need to prepare for the qualifying exams. I am not teaching more than I have to and I am deligating responsibilities to my assistant chairs.  I was still tempted to step down from being department chair. I hope I don’t have to still take that decision.

So far I’ve contacted one of my participants and have received an affirmative response from her. I am waiting on the second.

I have three very rough draft of the preproposal. The problem with what I have done so far is that each one is taking me in different directions. I am trying to find a way to merge the different interests that I have. I keep thinking that each is a different research project and that I will have to commit to one of the directions. Still part of me is convinced that all the questions are related and getting at something that I am not sure I have articulated yet.

If I keep writing, it is bound to crystallize.

Blog Awards Pt. 2

By js, 4 January, 2009, No Comment

After having found all those sites for blog awards and no site dedicated to awards for Hispanic/Latino/Chicano blogs, I’m wondering about the usefulness of these awards.

For most of the awards, bloggers can nominate themselves and then presumably send readers to the site to vote for their blog. At least one site, charges bloggers to nominate themselves. Some of the results that I saw did not have that many votes.  The blackweblogawards has judges as well as a popular vote.

What do bloggers get out of winning the award? Most of them get to put a badge on their site that says that they were nominated, a finalist or a winner. This probably builds some prestige with the audience.

But does winning a blog award make a difference to the readers or the blogger? How does winning an award change the experience or value of blogging?

The award tag in some form legitimizes the blog and gives it a stamp of approval, but isn’t that really done by the readers who visit the blog or receive the blog feeds and then come back to comment and interact with the blogger.

Much of what I have read about blogging puts the value of blogging on the interaction with the audience (see Blogging Becomes More Mobile by Steve Inskeep and Andy Carvin http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17668917&sc=emaf). Many of the popular bloggers have experience already as writers, either by working for marketing companies (writing) or by being journalists (which means they were writing). Most of these bloggers have a very particular “voice” and a particular focus to their blog. Most are conversational and even intimate. Whether the blogger is writing about their own musings about life lessons (http://www.annhandley.com/) or giving tips of how to use tech tools better (http://www.chrisbrogan.com/27-blogging-secrets-to-power-your-community/), all speak to the reader in an informal tone. Many remind me of the newspaper column genre.

The blog award may have value in several ways:

1. if the blog award is given by people who read blogs, then as “experts” they can pick out/select those that have value for them. If  a blog is popular, then by extension that means that the readers find the blog of value either because it is entertaining or enlightening or both.

2. the blog award badge signals to readers the value that others have found in the blog

3. the blog award sites direct readers to the blogs; therefore, the blog gains readership and thus popularity (that is assuming that the readers return)

Readers have value because

1. they interact with the blogger; and after all, isn’t the interaction what it’s all about?

2. they draw advertising revenue. Most of the blogs that I have seen have ads on them. Many have made initial attempts at putting ads as part of the blog but for others the ads are a big portion of the blog. Revenue, of course, is important because the blogger needs to pay for the space which runs the site and for the bandwith which is used especially if it gets many readers. Someone who doesn’t get very many readers can afford to pay for their own hosting but I can imagine that many bloggers who have popular sites would need to start brining in money to help pay for the site.

I wonder how many readers/visitors a site actually needs before the alloted bandwith given by the hosting company is used up?

The fact that award sites direct readers to the blogs is fascinating to me. There are so many different sites out there that someone who is new to blog reading may not necessarily know where to get started. If the blog award site appears as one of the top hits on a Google search then a novice blog reader may turn to the blog award site to get recommendations about where to begin reading. Also, the blog award legitimizes the content and design of the blog. So a novice reader may not have the necessary background to make their own evaluation of a site and will depend on the evaluation made by others.

I think eventually as the blog reader becomes more experienced s/he will not depend on the award site as much but will begin establishing their own criteria to make their own evaluations. In the end, the criteria will probably end up being:

1. does it entertain me?

2. do I learn something?

3. can I identify with the writer?

After all, isn’t that what all faithful readers look for?

Blog Awards

By js, 4 January, 2009, No Comment

I have been following alot of blogs recently. Most of them are tech blogs and the Chicana blogs that I identified earlier this year.

The more blogs I read, especially those blogs that discuss blogging, I am becoming much more interested in looking at how Chicanas and Chicanos are using blogs and if they are similar or different to the ways that blogs are being used by the majority of bloggers (read white and male).

There have been some studies that have looked at how male and female bloggers use the medium so I’m going to have to go back to those in the next few weeks.

I wanted to get a sense of what other people of color are doing with blogs. I used Google to search for African American Blogs (11,300,000 hits) and for Black blogs (38,000,000 hits).  Both searches have proved fruitful. One interesting blog was the blackweblog awards. I searched through the categories and through some of the blogs. Interesting. I found another research direction.

This lead me to try to find out where blog awards came from and I was surprised to find many blog award sites and some have specific awards for Latino blogs.

Best Latino, Caribbean, or South American Blog – The 2008 Weblog

2008.weblogawards.org/nominations/best-latino-blog

Voto Latino Blog: Rosario is a WINNER at the Environmental Media ..

Blog Awards: Best Latino, Caribbean, or South American Blog

blogawards.blogspot.com/2008/02/best-latino-caribbean-or-south-american.html

Eighth Annual Weblog Awards: The 2008 Bloggie

These are the blog award sites:

http://weblogawards.org/

http://bloggerschoiceawards.com/

http://www.blackweblogawards.com/

http://www.chinalyst.net/node/55211

http://blogofthedayawards.blogspot.com/

http://www.thebestofblogs.com/

http://www.christianblogawards.com/

http://www.catholicblogawards.com/ballot_results

http://animeblogawards.com/

Canadian blog awards http://cdnba.wordpress.com/vote-2008/

Wine Blog awards http://fermentation.typepad.com/fermentation/2008/03/american-wine-b.html

Blog Awards (blogger) http://blogawards.blogspot.com/

Oklahoma Blog awards http://okiedoke.com/ok/08awards/index.html

http://edublogawards.com/category/blog/

http://edublogawards.com/category/blog/

http://www.chapeaublogawards.com/about.php has an entrance fee

Performancing Blog Awards http://performancing.com/performancing/announcing-2007-performancing-blog-awards-call-nominations

There have also been a couple of stories (that I have found so far) that discuss blog awards.

Blog awards: Like blogs, they’re diverse, global and freewheeling– a story on blog awards http://www.ojr.org/ojr/stories/050215glaser/

BECOME FAMOUS: Top 10 Blog Awards — http://mashable.com/2007/10/30/top-10-blog-awards/

Defining Chicana

By js, 4 January, 2009, No Comment

I got the following from JAM who teaches a class on Chicano Rhetorics.

Here’s a working definition of the term Chicana, which can also be applied for Chicanos.

For the purposes of our class, we’ll be relying on this definition.

In Learning from Experience: Minority Identities, Multicultural Struggles, Paula M. L. Moya states the following:

I want to consider now the possibility that my identity as a “Chicana” can grant me a knowledge about the world that is “truer” and more “objective” than an alternative identity I might claim as a “Mexican American,” a “Hispanic,” or an “American” (who happens to be of Mexican descent). When I refer to a Mexican American, I am referring to a person of Mexican heritage born and/or raised in the United States whose nationality is U.S. American. The term for me is descriptive, rather than political. The term Hispanic is generally used to refer to a person of Spanish, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Cuban, Chilean, Peruvian, and so on, heritage who may or may not have a Spanish surname, who may or may not speak Spanish, who can be of any racial extraction, and who resides in the United States. As it is currently deployed, the term is so general as to be virtually useless as a descriptive or analytical tool. Moreover, the term has been shunned by progressive intellectuals for its overt privileging of the “Spanish” part of what for many of the people it claims to describe is a racially and culturally mixed heritage. A Chicana, according to the usage of women who identify that way, is a politically aware woman of Mexican heritage who is at least partially descended from the indigenous people of Mesoamerica and who was born and/or raised in the United States. What distinguishes a Chicana from a Mexican American, a Hispanic, or an American of Mexican descent is not her ancestry or her cultural upbringing. Rather it is her political awareness; her recognition of her disadvantaged position in a hierarchically organized society arranged according to categories of class, race, gender, and sexuality; and her propensity to engage in a political struggle aimed at subverting and changing those structures. (41-2)