Archive for ‘Dissertation’

Thinking about Focus

By js, 6 September, 2008, 1 Comment

Being there when Lennie’s pre-proposal got approved has given me some renewed energy. I’m going to have to consciously ignore everything else that is vying for my attention. Here goes…

So I know that I want to concentrate on

  • People of color and technology

Of course, that is too broad. I know, I know. So I have to focus even further. This was my path…

I started researching people of color and technology and this lead me to the discussion of the digital divide. This discussion, of course, is very big and very important. This is a discussion about

  • access to the technology which means
  • access to those skills which means
  • access to future jobs
  • access to self-representation
  • which ultimately means access to a better life via economic opportunities gained by those jobs and control over how one sees oneself

Now access to technology does NOT mean that the rest will follow but only that they CANNOT follow without it. Why is this important? Because alot of the research that I have seen has centered on access to the equipment and that research has been funded by industry which means that those providing the funds for the studies want to know how to reach those people who have alot of money to spend. It is all about market share. That is what I have seen about Hispanics. Hispanics are a big part of the population. Hispanics have a lot of money to spend. Hispanics are not accessing the web as much as others. That has alot of implications for advertising on the web (who the audience on the web is) and for designing advertising geared for that particular population which is NOT online. So one recent study looked at the fact that Hispanics are using the phone alot more than the web especially older Hispanics are adopting that technology alot more readily than they are online/internet technologies.

So one result of this is that advertisers will continue to assume that the web means a “white” audience, which means that if others go online and find that they are not being wooed then they may not feel welcomed. They will turn to other places (as consumers). If they don’t see themselves represented, then….then what? what will they do?

This particular question…I’m not really interested in answering especially because that only gives those in power more information about how to exploit this population. If they don’t see themselves represented, they will go someplace else. There is plenty of market data to prove that already. i don’t think the web is any different.

The question of NOT seeing themselves REPRESENTED is what interests me. What “excuses” the majority from representing everyone POC (my interest is primarily CHicanos), what representation ARE they creating and who do those representations benefit (according to Nakamura those representations only benefit the majority, they construct reprsentations that they can use as entertainment, voyuerism).

Partly, what helps the majority to “excuse” themselves is the discourse of the digital divide. The digital divide discourse basically looks at POC as deficient. The discourse uses an assumption of cultural capital as defined by the majority. That is, cultural capital as meaning education, economics, connections.

That boils down to

  1. having the money to get the goods (technology)
  2. having the education to make use of the goods (tech skills)
  3. having the connections to get the technology and the tech skills

So we know from digital divide research that not everyone has access to the equipment, software, physical connections to the internet. There are alot of different reasons for this. Partly, though, this discourse accomplishes one thing and sets one goal for policy

  • get people the equipment, put them near a computer and it will help
    • the problem with this is that getting someone near the computer does not mean he will learn how to use it or how to use it well (what well means, of course, is being defined)
  • from the research follows the logic that not many POC are using the technology so our effort should be in getting the technology to them
    • the danger here (and we see it now) is that this focus creates a dearth of research about POC who are using this technology;
      • who are they?;
      • how are they using it?;
      • why are they using it?;
      • how did they come to use it?;
      • how are they representing themselves through the use?
      • all of these are questions which are unanswered.

Now the research about digital literacy tells us that people need to have particular skills regarding the technology. They need to know

  • how to use specific tools (they need to have the instrumental skills)
    • instrumental skills, though, do not mean that they can use the technology critically
  • specific ways of  using the tools to produce specific results (they need critical thinking and problem solving skills)
    • using the tools to produce growth in critical thinking and problem solving skills requires different access to technology; having blocks, having one computer per classroom, having teachers who only use technology as presentation tools, having assignments which require uncritical use of the tool, do not lead to this type of growth
    • this, though, seems to be leading me to policy and pedagogy and NOT towards representation
    • but I think that students need to be able to use the tools critically and for problem solving so that they can get to the level of thinking about self-representation
    • if they only learn instrumental skills (like Word to make a specific product rather than BASIC which is to produce a specific process) then they will not get to the level of self-awareness; they know how to use the tool to produce a specific product but can they retool the tool to solve a specific problem
      • the focus on the tool, then, does NOT help us to ask questions about how the tool is used with the focus on a problem rather than producing a specific product

Rethinking Race and Cyberspace

By js, 6 September, 2008, No Comment

Just reread my seminar paper for Digital Rhetoric Race and Cyberspace http://www.janiesantoy.com/5369/CRT_and_Cyberspace.pdf

and I am seeing what my concerns were. I’m going to try to detail them below:

  • what research is there on people of color and technology?
    • most research has to do with the digital divide
  • what is the problem with research on digital divide
    • it helps to create a rhetoric of deficiency
    • though it does point to inequality, it gives us a sense of what people DONT have which then closes off those avenues to research
    • this is supported by the dearth of research on POC and their use of technologies
    • they also construct the POC as passive; they are not constructing their own representation but are being represented
  • the only people studying how POC use technology are
    • some POC scholars
    • industry backed studies which seek to know how to reach consumers
    • again being represented as passive; not constructing their own representation
  • so studies about POC are not about how they are constructing themselves but generally  point to them not constructing their own representations but are being represented/constructed online by majority users and by scholars

Reactions to Massey

By js, 5 August, 2008, No Comment

I have finished reading my first complete book. Now I have to write my notes. I have chapter 1.

I will continue thinking about the book especially as I write my notes. One thing which disconcerted me, but which may be a function of the discipline out of which this book comes, is the focus on the problem and no discussion of the solutions. I guess that is what the rest of us are for.

I now feel I am at a loss. The information and compilation of data that he presents is so overwhelming. Futhermore, it seems to me that the book is not strong enough in tone denouncing those who are most responsible and with the most power to change things. Of course, that is probably the idealist in me speaking.

I have also read the essay published in the Harvard magazine and have ordered the book that focuses on inequality and education. I think that one may have at least one chapter in which possible solutions are discussed.

The main question that I now have is: how does technical communication help create stratification? I will continue pondering that question as I write my notes.

Now what do I think about the competence and warmth categories. The way that he discusses them make sense to me although I do think that how those categories are defined exactly are culturally determined. He seems to be operating on the tenet that stratification is caused by how we apply those categories but how we define the categories depends on culture, too, so I expect that there are more layers that need to be unraveled.

Also, I was thinking of what a friend said about Mexicanos being against Mexicanos and it fits exactly with the concept of emulation and adaptation which Massey discusses. In order to get ahead and be part of the in-group, some Mexicanos choose to disassociate from other Mexicanos and copy the behavior of the control group which includes exploitation and opportunity hoarding. This behavior seems to be very individualistic, but again it is more complex and what Massey argues seems to suggest that it is more a reorganization and balancing of who is in the in-group.

Now how does the postmodern idea of the shift away from the voice of a single-authority affect these ideas? Does it mean that we see the decentering of authority only in rhetoric but not in the actual material conditions? Or has the discourse not caught up with the material conditions yet and will eventually? When will it happen? What can each one of us do? or will it take a catastrophic series of events like war and depression which affects all our society for our society to become more egalitarian?

OR

Should we all move to Finland? :-)

Qualitative Research Design Notes

By js, 2 August, 2008, No Comment

I’m looking at the book, Qualitative Research Design by Joseph Maxwell.

Since I’m going to be looking at focusing my research question, I thought that it would be good for me to go back to Maxwell and to look at the memo writing he suggests as part of articulating the question and focusing in on what it is that I really want to study. listen

So Maxwell says, that one of the things that we need to think about are what our goals are for our study. Our goals include: our motives, desires and purposes. (page 16) We have to think about how they’re going to guide our other design decisions and they help to insure that our study is worth doing. They also help us to justify our study, especially if we’re seeking funding for a particular topic. listen

Maxwell says that there are three types of goals that we have to consider. There are the personal goals, the practical goals and the intellectual or scholarly goals. The personal goals are those that are going to motivate us and that are connected to the things that we’re really interested in personally. That’s going determine what the topic is, the question we select and it is also going to help us consider our validity threats. listen

So according to Maxwell, he says, what is necessary is for us to be aware of these goals and how they may be shaping our research and to think about them, how best to achieve them and deal with their influence. And of course they also help us to think about what our practical and intellectual goals are. listen

He says practical goals are focused on accomplishing something and in my case it’s going to be changing some situations and trying to affect what happens in that situation. The intellectual goals are focussed more on understanding something. That is, gaining an insight into what is going on, why it’s happening and asking some questions that previous research has not adequately addressed. listen

Maxwell does caution us about separating practical goals from the intellectual goals, so that the question that we are asking are actually intellectual goals. So, our research question could look more like “what effect has this new policy had on program equity” and not “how should this program be modified to make it equitable.” listen

So it’s important how we frame our research question because that’s going to help us to achieve our practical goal. But the particular goal does not necessarily need to be embedded in the research question. And of course, it’s going to be part of our justification but it doesn’t have to be part of the question itself. listen

So our goals also help us to decide what our approach is going to be. In my case, I’m doing qualitative research it makes sense for me to try and follow Maxwell and it also helps us to think about what the validity threat to our project is going to be. So our personal goals are gonna drive and influence our research and it is necessary, he says to be aware of these goals and how they influence our choices. listen

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Research Questions

By js, 31 July, 2008, No Comment

These are the research questions which I began with:

  • Do blogs written by women who self-identify as Chicana exhibit the various elements of cultural capital as defined by Yosso: aspirational, linguist, familial, social, navigational, and resistant

Now it seems to me that this theory is flawed. I think all people have these elements of cultural capital. The way in which the different forms of cultural capital are created and utilized may be different.

For example, everyone probably has aspirational capital. For POC, the aspirations may be more difficult to attain, but (according to Massey, data shows that these aspirations are becoming harder and harder to achieve) the fact that POC believe that they can achieve more if only the work harder and smarter helps to maintain the status quo which benefits white people who benefit from societal structures which will help them to achieve those aspirations. As long as POC also believe they just have to work harder and smarter does not put any pressure on society to make societal structures more equitable so that everyone can reach their aspirations.

Similarly, everyone uses their linguistic capital. POC may have different languages which they can use but those languages, be it Spanish or an English dialect, do not command the same power in society. On the other hand, those in power do have linguistic capital; they are able to control the different forms of language which help to distribute power, such as legal language, structured language, disciplinary languages, etc.

Familial capital is also something that everyone draws from especially those in power. According to Massey’s research, family connections help poor people when they have rough patches because they are able to turn to one another for support but it also depletes any reserves which may have been saved by the family. On the other hand, affluent families help each other to prosper because they seldom experience rough patches which deplete their reserves.

Social capital….

Navigational cap..At least a couple of the types, navigational and community capital are not exclusive to people of color. In fact, Massey argues that people in power have been very successful in using their navigational capital and their connections in the community for advancement.

By looking at what the inequality literature is arguing, people are just adapting to their contexts in different ways. So how people use their navigational capital is going to be much different if they are not in power. So those in power, namely white people in the US, will navigate institutions in ways that will benefit them and those institutions are designed for just such use. On the other hand, those who are disenfranchised will not be able to navigate the institutions in the same way. Their methods will have to be different. But that does not mean that only POC have navigational capital, but the ways in which this capital comes to be and how it is utilized is different. Massey makes the same argument about how poor people, usually POC, react to violence around them; they will become violent in response to violence, more distrusting, and less willing to get involved. Whereas white people deal with violence by moving away from the places with such dangers. So both have to deal with the reality but they do so in different ways because of the context in which they find themselves.

The important part in all this is that none of these are exclusive to POC as Yosso and others claim.

If we follow Massey’s argument, then we can argue that the forms of cultural capital which Yosso points out are only manifestations of the way in which POC deal with their situations but those same types of capital are also used/created by non-POC.

So if it is not exclusive to POC (chicanas), is it worth looking at?

  • If so, what rhetorical strategies do these bloggers use to construct each type of capital?

I can revise this question to ask: what rhetorical strategies do Chicana bloggers use to communicate online?

  • What implications does this knowledge have in the writing classroom?

I guess this question does not need to be changed.

Technical Communication and Inequality

By js, 31 July, 2008, No Comment

Reading Massey and Gaudin about inequality really makes me think about how my own work either contributes to or helps to fight inequality.

This reading has made me look at my research questions and I’m wondering if I’m looking at the wrong thing.

According to the theory that I am testing, people of color have different cultural capital which they value. At least a couple of the types, navigational and community capital are not exclusive to people of color. In fact, Massey argues that people in power have been very successful in using their navigational capital and their connections in the community for advancement.

By looking at what the inequality literature is arguing, people are just adapting to their contexts in different ways. So how people use their navigational capital is going to be much different if they are not in power. So those in power, namely white people in the US, will navigate institutions in ways that will benefit them and those institutions are designed for just such use. On the other hand, those who are disenfranchised will not be able to navigate the institutions in the same way. Their methods will have to be different. But that does not mean that only POC have navigational capital, but the ways in which this capital comes to be and how it is utilized is different. Massey makes the same argument about how poor people, usually POC, react to violence around them; they will become violent in response to violence, more distrusting, and less willing to get involved. Whereas white people deal with violence by moving away from the places with such dangers. So both have to deal with the reality but they do so in different ways because of the context in which they find themselves.

This reading has lead me to different research questions:

Does technical communication contribute to inequality? If so, how?

I know this particular question is too broad but that will be the guiding question as I seek to focus it even further.

How does assessment contribute to inequality?
How does the structure of online learning contribute to inequality?
How does design of online spaces either contribute to or help fight inequality?
How does change in literacy requirements to include digital literacy contribute to inequality?

This particular question has been at the center of much of my thinking but I have not been able to articulate it. I have noticed in TC a lack of discussion about race; how does this lead to inequality. For example, even in usability there have been those who say that race does not matter; how does that contribute to inequality? Perhaps race itself is not central to qeustions of usability but what is central are those realities/inequalities which people have to deal which are connected to race.

Even when I was thinking of participatory design, I was thinking about inequality. In fact, participatory design seeks to level out the field by giving everyone involved in a project an equal say in the design of the project. The question would be if the ultimate outcome of participatory design also redistributes the benefits derived from the participatory project back to everyone.

Where has participatory design been implemented? What have the short term results been? What have the long-terms results been? Do the long-term benefits of participatory projects get distributed among all participants?

When I think about how literacy is being redefined to include digital literacy, I wonder how those people who do not have access to the technology will gain access to that literacy. Even as schools bring in technology to schools, students use the computers in passive way rather than in an active, critical activities which will help build their digital literacy. Schools have substituted programming classes with classes which teach students how to use specific office tools. The approach to the classes themselves provide students with significant messages about what they are capable of doing with the technology they learn.

As I moved to the discussion of race in online spaces, I was interested in looking at the way in which the online spaces are designed give unequal opportunity for POC to control their identity. The design itself assumes a white user unless someone has the audacity to actually articulate their identity in direct ways, but unless someone has the knowledge and experience in doing this, they may not know that it is an option.

Reading about inequality

By js, 31 July, 2008, No Comment

Reading Massey and Gaudin about inequality really makes me think about how my own work either contributes to or helps to fight inequality.

Unequal America

By js, 31 July, 2008, No Comment

Summer of Distractions

By js, 29 July, 2008, No Comment

As the second full month of my summer ends, I am distressed about the amount of work that I have NOT completed.

I shouldn’t be surprised; summers never go as intended, but I am disappointed. I know that I will be unable to complete my goals. It’s time to look at my timeline again.

Questions

By js, 4 July, 2008, No Comment

How does the discourse about the digital divide affect policy?

How is computer literacy/ digital literacy another form of literacy for which minorities are at a disadvantage? Does Pendergast argument about literacy as white property supported by the documents surrounding the digital divide?

Who publishes the studies, who funds them, and how do those elements affect the studies and the reporting of their findings?

How are those studies used to make policy decisions? Can that be tracked?