Posts tagged ‘dissertation’

CRT and Tech Comm

By js, 8 September, 2008, 1 Comment

Critical Race Theory and Technical Communication

this seems like a possible presentation for ATTW

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.

Rethinking Race and Cyberspace

By js, 6 September, 2008, No Comment

Just reread my seminar paper for Digital Rhetoric Race and Cyberspace

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?


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.


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?

General Plan Ideas

By js, 2 July, 2008, No Comment

1. General structure is typically followed, but there is flexibility in the details

a. Introduction (Background, Motivations, Literature review)

b. Objective/Purposes/Hypothesis (need not be a separate section, but often is)

c. Methods

d. Preliminary Results

2. Introduction

a. Start broad (e.g. injuries, need for ergonomics, etc.), become increasingly specific

b. End with a review, and broaden out to discuss potential applications (importance) of the proposed work

c. Topics to be addressed: what’s been done; what hasn’t; what is needed and why; indicate your part or contribution (scoping your domain)

d. Intro should contain some statements of objectives, purposes, and hypothesis. Placement is flexible, though, and these could be in a separate sections between

e. Intro and Methods, or even part of the Methods. Depending on the specifics, not all of these (objective, purposes, and hypotheses) will always been relevant. More important that it be clear and readable.

f. How long should it be? Long enough to satisfy the above goals. Typically 10-30 pages for an MS, longer for a PhD proposal.

g. When summarizing existing literature, it is not enough just to describe what authors X, Y, and Z did. Results should be interpreted, in the context of the overall review and study objectives.

h. In particular, discuss contrasting evidence, possible sources for discrepancies (experimental design, lack of controls, sensitivity of measures, etc.), and the importance of resolving the differences.

4. Objectives/Purposes

a. Non-quantitative, but specific and clearly filling some hole/need addressed in the Introduction.

b. The Intro should have motivated and ‘scoped’ the stated objectives and purposes.

5. Hypotheses

a. Non-quantitative, but again specific and clear.

b. There should be obvious connections to the objectives, and clear (though not

c. stated here) indications of how statistical methods would be used to evaluate thehypotheses. In the methods, your statistical tests should make reference to these hypotheses.

d. Not every statistical test should have an associate hypotheses (otherwise it would be unwieldy); instead, the hypotheses can be general (e.g. there will be an association among several variables; factors A and B will have effects on several measures of performance).

e. Don’t use words like ‘significant’, save this for the description of statistical methods.

6. Methods

a. What will be done, how, and why

b. With respect to how and why, there is typically more than one way to do something, and you must explain (and sometimes justify) your choice.

c. The methods should have clear connections to the hypotheses.

d. The Methods tends to be a difficult and sometimes complicated section. In general, proceed from broad to specific, but also ensure that a context is provided before specific details are raised. For example, don’t describe specific experimental treatments before you’ve even explained the overall approach and the different independent and dependent variables.

e. Note that ‘repeated measures’ refers to a study design, while within- and between subjects refers to specific independent measures (or treatments). Crossed and nested factors are synomymous.

f. The reader should be able to understand what you’re talking about, given what was provided before (use of a colleague again helps here).

g. Subsections are often used such as: Overview; Subjects; Procedures; Instrumentation; Experimental Design; Data Reduction; Analysis (stats)

h. The specific ordering of the sections in g., should achieve the goals of d. and f.

i. Somewhere (typically in Experimental Design), there should be an explicit statement of the independent and dependent variables (or factors, or measures)

So how do I get there? Unfortunately, this is as much an art as a science, but here are some things to consider:

1. Some General Tips:

a. Each paragraph proceeds from general to specific.

b. Some have suggested that reading the first sentence of every paragraph in the document should convey the essential meaning of the whole.

c. Vary the structure of your sentences and paragraphs.

d. Use transitions between paragraphs (either the last sentence of the proceeding one or the first sentence of the subsequent one, should tie the two together).

e. Avoid one-sentence paragraphs (generally at least 3 sentences comprise a paragraph)

f. Consider optional presentation methods (always using good HF knowledge and practice). Often the same thing can be conveyed by text, graphs, tables, diagrams, etc. Pick what is the most effective, but avoid duplication.

2. Some common mistakes to avoid:

a. Repetitive sentence structure (The… The… The… or However, … Additionally, … Therefore, …)

b. Avoid complex words and convoluted sentence constructions, where simpler ones will convey the information (like utilize vs. use; cognizant vs. aware; though personal style always has a role). Eschew obfuscation!

c. There is no advantage to be gained by making something obscure. The scientific value is not enhanced by complicated words and prose, and to someone that knows the field, you don’t sound any more knowledgeable. If you look at some of the best journals, they are typically written in a very dry, boring, direct, and terse style. It tends to be the weaker journals where creative writing flourishes!


Dissertation Proposal How To Handout