Archive for ‘Dissertation’

Universal vs. Particular

By js, 27 September, 2008, No Comment

Laclau and Mouffe both discuss the concept of the particular and the universal.

This is something that has had me worried for some time. We get that push from all directions especially in working on the dissertation and any research project. We either start from a question-problem which  may be universal or we eventually have to look at our results and how they can or will be generalized.

I know that I want to focus on the particular and I think we should in order to make our research manageable. But then in order to create “interest” for the results and conclusions which you have created you have to connect somehow to the universal.

Choosing what strategy to take has been a struggle. Because so little research has been done on my topic specifically and what has been done has been looking at it in a more “universal” way, then I have several paths that I can choose.

I can choose to compare (as Rich suggested) the blogs that I have chosen with what has already been written about blogs. This does not seem like a viable option for me; at least, it is not a choice which aligns with the philosophical-epistemological choices which I have already made. For example, I have chosen to use critical race theory as one of my theoretical constructs. One of the tenets of CRT is that we start our study by looking at people of color rather than looking at a theory that has been created without critically engaging what people of color may be doing and then applying that theory to my work. I think doing something like this would be completey irresponsible. First, I would be assuming that the theory (which more than likely is being pushed as being “universal”) would apply at least in part to my population. This makes sense at least initially since all people must have something in common and we can begin with the commonality and then transcend to the difference. I think this is the process that Jaime took in his dissertation. He was looking at/applying certain concepts but in the process of doing the research he realized that it did not apply and he had to move beyond what he had started with. So in this case we can say “see this theory does not apply to this particular situation-context-population”; this is also what Pablo Vila did in his study of border identity. He took the theories of Laclau and Mouffe and others and he realized that they only applied to a certain extent but then he had to create a new theory which would explain what he saw happening with identity construction in the border people he studied. So he goes from the universal to the particular and then creates a theory based on the particular and in constructing the theory he goes back to the universal.

In my case, I wonder if beginning with the universal will taint what I find and that it will blind me to other things which may be there. For example, when I started and I thought I wanted to look at Yossos theory of cultural capital, then all I was going to do was going to apply that theory to the blogs. That seems like a pretty simple study. I could hope that I will find something more going on that Yossos theory does not account for; perhaps find what Yosso laid out but also find other things. The problem that I ended up having with this theory was that it seems to me that those things which Yosso points out are not necessarily just applicable to people of color. In fact, in reading the Massey book, many of those elements of cultural capital are present in the structures which cause inequality. Instead the difference is who is part of what group; different groups seem to manage the negotiation of the capital in different ways; it is not that the forms of capital are necessarily different but the way in which and the ends to which the cultural capital are gained and put to use are different. According to Massey, the structures are set up to give one group of people an advantage.

For example, if we think about navigational capital and social capital and apply those in the college environment, we can see how it works for the dominant group. Colleges are environments which need to be navigated in very specific ways, from the application process to the completion of graduation requirements. One doesnt inherently know how to navigate these structures; they are not set up in a way which is in any way “natural.” Instead, in order to be successful one needs something which helps one navigate it. Usually that something is really going to be a “someone”; this is when the social capital comes into play. We will know someone who will help us navigate. The way in which we learn to navigate those structures from the people can be from talking about it all your life if you have parents who went to college so that it becomes something that you “just know” how to do. If that hasnt been part of your conversation-life then you will be clueless when it comes to entering that structure. Then everything must be explained because from the outside there isnt necessarily any logic that can been in how this structure was created. For students of color who are primarily first generation students to attend college, then certain programs, if they are lucky, have been set in place to help them navigate. The main problem with many of these programs is that they only help with part of the structure rather than helping to traverse the entire structure from enrollment to graduation. All the knowledge that is “tacit” and natural for those who have the privilege of having generations who will contribute to their social and navigational capital is very difficult to make explicit especially when there are so many layers to the structure.

So I could decide to examine the blogs looking for these elements of cultural capital and how the blogs construct or negotiate those; but ultimately, I think that it would be more productive to go to the blogs to see what is there first. To go in with no preconceived ideas or theories to apply and see what I find there first.

Coming back to my decision of where to begin, the universal or particular–I am much more committed to starting from the particular, that is, starting from the blogs rather than the theory, to look to see what I find; then I can say that it applies to theory a, b, c or not which then means I will have to come up with something. I think the danger here, and one of the reasons why I am having a hard time taking the leap, is that I dont know what I will find–I  am not confident that I will find anything  which is worth finding (although this may just be my internal critic talking)–and if it does end up applying to theory a, b, c which I initially decided to ignore then what does that say about my epistemological and political choices.

I am also very reticent about saying that I want to look at what Chicana blogs tell us about Tech Comm. I have to come to terms with the fact that most of what I have seen about technology and people of color is all about how to “use” them/us; how to reach us in order to persuade us. I have written before about how I do not want my work to become part of the structure which helps to oppress. I have to think about how my teaching, administrating and my research may be doing this. Since my research agenda is just beginning then I have to keep this in mind as I design my work. The bad thing and what is very disconcerting is that much work that begins with good intentions ends up working in very different ways and for the detriment of one particular group.

Now am I going to be forced to think about Tech Comm first as I design my work or can I “get away” with only thinking about “rhetoric and technology”? I think I will resist this as much as I can and I will have to find my own way of dealing with/defining Tech Comm so that I am working against what I see as the oppressive tendencies of this field.


By js, 14 September, 2008, 1 Comment

Interesting post on identity:

When we speak about our identity I believe that we are referring to four different things: 1.) how we see ourselves as we relate to society around us, 2.) how we want others to see us, 3.) how others see us as we relate to society, and 4.) how we perceive others’ perceptions of who we are.

Technorati and Other Blog Ranking Tools

By js, 14 September, 2008, 1 Comment

One of the things that I have to articulate are the reasons for choosing the blogs that I choose to study.  Other studies that I have looked at which dicuss blogs have chosen their “subjects” by turning to blog indexing and blog ranking tools. I know that Technorati is one of the most popular ones.

Research for Blogs

By js, 14 September, 2008, No Comment

As I finished drafting proposals for IRB, I once again began thinking about how to search for blogs.

My purpose is to find blogs which have

  • chicana on the title
  • chicana on the description
  • chicana in the content

What I want to find are blogs written by women who self-identify as Chicana. Jaime shared a wonderful definition of what Chicana/o means and I will use that one for now but will need to also look for others, but that is mainly what I had in mind when I chose to study women who self-identify using this particular term.

So finding blogs in which the term is used in the title or the description would point to the fact that these women construct a particular identity which more than likely will be tied to the content of the blog.

It will be much harder to find blogs which have Chicana in the content of the blog or even in the titles of the posts. I just tried using the beta Google Blog search and was very disappointed at what I found. It gave a few links to posts but alot of those links lead to porn which just supports Nakamura’s argument that Chicanas, Latinas and Asian women are represented online in a way that provides a voyeuristic, sexualized and stereotypical view of the female body. The only redeeming part of my Google Blog search was a “Related Blogs” section which listed blogs which I have already come across.

So I turned to Technorati and I found much of the same. It does provide a way to search from Posts to Blogs to photos and videos. Technorati did not give me much different information in the posts tab; again it pointed to alot of porn. The blogs tab was a bit more revealing. It did find blogs but mostly on MySpace.

Rich had suggested that I could also find blogs on MySpace but I think that the look and feel of those blogs are different and I want to focus on more mainstream blogs. I know I have to define what that means but one detail that I noticed recently is that the age range for blogs on blogger or in a hosted domain are written by women in a very similar age range. Also, alot of the blogs on MySpace are private so who can access those blogs is limited to the blogger “friending” the reader.

The implications of these two differences are important:

  1. the blogger with a hosted domain ultimately may have more control over the “look” of the blog and the feeling of ownership; it also requires a higher level of digital literacy because hosting requires that the blogger choose which options will be available to her as a writer but also to the potential reader
  2. the requirement of “friending” someone so they can read the blog creates a different dynamic for the blogger and the reader; for example, a blogger who hosts her blog in blogger or on her own domain does not necessarily know who is reading the blog unless the reader is willing to interact with her by commenting on the blog. The blogger can look at her site statistics and may get some general knowledge of her readers with this information but does not know each one unless they decide to comment, leave a link to their own blog, and/or email address. This then gives the blogger the option of trying to research her readers. The MySpace requirement of “friending” (which most blogs I checked have turned on), gives a bit more control to the blogger over who will read her blog. Only people to whom she provides permission will be able to access. She, of course, will not know exactly which posts the reader reads unless the reader leaves a comment. (I’m not an expert on MySpace but I don’t think that it tracks who reads each post?)

Now I have to try other blog indexing tools to see if I get a different result. I also plan on asking how exactly those bloggers expect they will be found or have been told they are found. If I search using those methods will my search lead to different results?

Race and Class Matters at an Elite College

By js, 12 September, 2008, No Comment

Interesting book by Elizabeth Arias…. adding it to the list

My study shows racial stereotypes to be prevalent on campus (e.g., blacks are less intelligent than whites, blacks have more athletic talent than whites, blacks are poor/whites are rich) but that the development of cross-race relationships and interactions inside and outside the classroom can make an important contribution in breaking down these stereotypes and changing students’ notions about race. The potential for learning from a racially diverse community, however, was not realized for many students.

Two other important findings about race pertain to whites’ misperception and lack of knowledge about blacks. Many whites tend to see black students to be self-segregating. When black friends eat together at tables in the dining hall, or hang out together in groups, whites take notice. Yet no one comments on the tables of whites eating together in the dining hall or on whites hanging out together on campus. The students showing the greatest degree of self-segregation are white. White students reported on average that two-thirds of their close friends were white, but only a third of black students’ close friends were black. In addition, many whites saw black students on campus as a homogeneous group, and were relatively unaware of the divides between black students: divides in social class; in the centrality of race to identity; in whether they are African American, Caribbean American, or African; in preferences for “black” forms of dress and music or “black” forms of speech; and in their experiences with racism in society. My study highlights the importance of these differences and how they are being negotiated between blacks.

Reading Mestiz@ Scripts

By js, 9 September, 2008, No Comment

I have just started reading Damian Baca’s Mestiz@ Scripts and once again I find myself learning how much I still need to learn.

Baca covers alot of ground in his book and it may take a second read before I am actually able to articulate what his argument is.

What strikes me thus far is that he focuses on Anzaldua’s texts, only one of which I’ve read and that was a long time ago. I need to go back and reread those. He critizes critics for watering down what Anzaldua says and not really engaging those parts of her argument which are more difficult but which are most critical in helping us to reconceptualize rhetorical possibilities which come from indeginous peoples rather than providing an alternative to dominant western discourse since doing so privileges it and places the indeginous as an “other.”

I think I’m so used to seeing things as binary and it is difficult to wrap my brain around a concept which isn’t binary. For example, if I say that I want to give those who are silenced a voice, don’t I alreadyimplicitly put in power that which has silenced. Similarly, if I am resisting am I not already working within the binary.

Baca (and I think others; I have to read more) argues that Anzaldua wants us to break free of the binary and accept multiplicity without falling into the binary trap.

I remember my gut instinct reaction to her writing was that it certainly created an us/them binary which was very powerful but also contained alot of rage. That rage scared me; it was the same rage that I saw in those around me who experienced the most discrimination, my male gay friends. It was a rage that I really couldn’t understand since I had not experienced overt racism while growing up and I did not yet recognize all the microagressions which I did experience. I wonder what my reaction will be when I reread her work.

Black American and the Digital Divide

By js, 8 September, 2008, No Comment

Digital Divide Narrows: Two-Thirds of African Americans Online

July 10, 2008

The digital divide between Black Americans and other groups in America has narrowed, with 68% of African Americans reporting they are online (compared with 71% of all Americans), according to a survey by Yankelovich that was sponsored by Radio One Inc.

Among Black teens, the number of digitally connected is even higher, with 90% reporting they are online. Of all Black Americans, two-thirds say they shop online. Blacks who live in the south are least likely to be online (63%).

These findings are part of the “Black America Survey” of 3,400 African Americans age 13 to 74.

The large-scale study finds strong group identity among Blacks across age and income brackets but also reveals differences in segments among Blacks that should preclude marketers from approaching Black America as a monolithic group.

The Rhetoric of Deficiency in STEM

By js, 8 September, 2008, No Comment

Reading the article Increasing the Representation of Women and People of Color
in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM):
Scan and Synopsis of Approaches and Opportunities. at

Shifting the burden
In the existing framework, it is women and people of color—and their lack of skill—that become the problem, and the solution is to fix them by equipping them with the necessary STEM skills. Researchers using the pipeline model to understand and address underrepresentation have asked: “What do women and people of color need to be successful scientists?” But what if we asked: “What does science need to be successfully inclusive?” Suddenly, it is science itself that needs to change. The burden of responsibility is no longer placed on individual women and people of color, but on the field itself. While barriers to the full participation of women and people of color exist in many areas, they are especially extreme in STEM, suggesting that we must look closely at issues within these fields to understand the underrepresentation within them.

I am seeing this more and more. This is the rhetoric of deficiency which others such as Yosso discuss. This is definitely something worth pursuing further.

In order to fully incorporate the perspectives of women and people of color, in STEM fields, women and people of color can not be simply “fit into” science as it is; science itself must change. For this to happen, in turn, we need to bridge the gap between our understanding of the culture of science – either as developed by those who study it, or as understood by scientists and practitioners themselves – and the practices of implementing the reform necessary to increase diversity in STEM fields. Some of the most interesting answers may be revealed through the stories and reflections of those scientists – women and people of color – that have “made it” through the system.


The Problem of Representation

By js, 7 September, 2008, No Comment

In the blog of Tomas Summers Sandoval ( he says:

Both the cases of Obama and Palin are illuminated by the study of the past.  In particular, my thoughts turn to the legendary Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.  She ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 1972–a woman and an African American and a true progressive–and, yet, has received far too little mention this past year.  In her 1970 autobiography, Unbought and Unbossed, she wrote:

“That I am a national figure because I was the first person in 192 years to be at once a congressman, black, and a woman proves, I would think, that our society is not yet either just or free.”

Chisholm, never one to let her status as a Black woman be used for the purposes of absolution for a national record of historic oppression, carefully avoided the very common place and common sense analysis of her achievements at the time.  Most saw her “historic” career as proof of her individual success, as well as evidence that the system of the past was changing, however slowly.  But Chisholm doesn’t make her election about herself, she makes it about the system at large.  She diffuses the significance of representation, saying instead that the odd interest in it only serves to highlight the continuing inequalities and inequities in society at large.

Shirley Chisholm knew the historic record of racial and gender oppression was not about representation, about whether or not women and people of color were “allowed” to attain visibility.  In other words, the lack of women or persons of color in nationally-elected offices was not the problem.  It was a symptom of the problem.  The problem was always a larger collection of institutionalized beliefs which held that both women and nonwhites were inferior.  These beliefs–once situated as the rationale of a political system–become the “common sense” of how it operates.  Of course there are no women or Black presidents.  Of course all presidents are white males.

In a way, if racism and sexism were just about representation, neither would be a real problem today.  The solution to each would be clear, achievable, and easy to measure.  If both were just about peoples’ belief systems, we’d be fine, too. But sexism and racism are not that simple.  Both have much more to do with power and how it is allocated.  For example, the widespread belief in Black inferiority would have done nothing than strain interpersonal relations if it had not become institutionalized into our systems of power.  Once it had, it served as the rationale for distributing economic and political advantage.  In the 20th century, then, you have government bodies like the FHA giving out low cost loans to whites only, creating them into a legally protected, property-owning class, while Blacks and other nonwhites had to coninue to find alternate means of achieving that part of the “American Dream.”

Representation is but a symptom of those systems of power.  To make another analogy, you can cure a symptom without curing the cold.

These are seemingly simple differences of analysis but they carry heavy implications.  The election of Barack Obama or Sarah Palin into the executive branch of this nation’s government will be something that has never happened before.  It will carry with it an important set of consequences, helping to slowly dismantle and rebuild people’s expectations of leadership.  But, that is not change in and of itself.  Real change is rarely so easy and free of struggle.

Meaningful change in a society historically obsessed with disempowering people of color and women will be the (re)formation of egalitarian and equitable systems of power.  When we can produce equal measures of opportunity and success in this nation, then something really historic has occurred.

Of course, you don’t have to be a woman or a person of color to do that.

This is the phrase which really caught my attention

Representation is but a symptom of those systems of power.  To make another analogy, you can cure a symptom without curing the cold.

So is my focus on representation and what people who DO have access to technology do with that technology misguided. Should I be focusing on the issue of access to technology feeds into the inequality in this country. BUT it seems to me that this discussion has already happened. It has already been broached by Cindy Selfe and others who discuss the digital divide.

So if I want to focus on how that discussion of the digital divide focuses us too much on the materiality of the problem which as Sandoval argues is easy to solve and not on the unequal nature of the frameworks involving technology. For example,

  • the fact that technology is a money making enterprise really restricts who can have access; it costs money to own a computer, it costs money to get internet access, it costs money to get a phone and to get phone service
  • the skills of being computer literate and computer savvy cannot be gained without the use of the tool
  • it is like teaching literacy to students without letting them have books
  • therefore, the tool has to be provided to everyone and not only those who have the money to purchase it

So I can focus my discussion on how digital literacy is like all other literacies which are tied to economics and tied to a “white” and priviledged identity

More Focus

By js, 7 September, 2008, No Comment

How are people of color using technology to take control of their representation in online spaces?

are they taking control of their representation?

do they know that they are creating a self-representation

what are their goals in online spaces?

how do they feel/what do they think about representations of themselves which they encounter in online spaces?

why am I interested in all this?

I think that individuals need to be conscious of the fact that they do create a representation of themselves. what happens when there is no representation? what happens when all they do is participate in the representations of others? how does a critical self-aware life in off-line spaces, being politically active or aware, help in creating awareness of the representation? do these bloggers know they are creating a representation of themselves, a representation of themselves as women, a representation of themselves as Chicana/Latinas; do they just want to “express” themselves or is their a conscious construction and manipulation of the image that they create; if so, who is that image for? if they only want to “express” themselves, do they have a clear sense of audience? if they are conscious of their representation, do they have a clear sense of audience?

this is what my question points to but I feel like I still need to think about it.