So Get This

A few months ago, one of my prof asked us to write about our research workflow: how do we find information? how do we store it? what hardware/software/devices do we use to make the magic happen?

If you’d asked me then, I think I’d have told you that I was good with my process, my tools, and that nothing I learned in class was gonna change that. Because I was, you know, good.

Dude. Dude. How wrong I was.

So here, some three months later, are some of the tools that we were introduced to in that class, tools that I use pretty much every damn day as part of my ongoing (never-ending) research process:

  • All My Tweets: This site will pull all of a user’s tweets for you, in reverse chronological order, including (or excluding, your choice) re-tweets and replies. Having the text for all of a user’s tweets on one page makes it easy to search for a keyword. The site also provides a link to each tweet, so you don’t have to scroll through a user’s Twitter feed to find the one you’re looking for.
  • Awesome Screenshot: Just what it sounds like. It’ll capture an entire page, a selection, or just the visible part of a screen, and then let you edit the results; you can crop an image, add arrows, etc. Super easy to use, though it can be a little moody in Chrome. For me, it seems to work better in Firefox.
  • Zotero: If you’re in grad school, or doing any kind of freelance research, check this program out ASAP. Zotero will free you from worrying about the whims of MLA or APA or freaking Chicago-style citations: it’ll make ’em for you. And it can help you organize PDFs like a mofo. I’m looking forward to field testing this bad boy as I prepare for my comps in the fall.
  • Freedom: This is the program that’s saved my productivity. I’m almost embarassed that I need it, but hell, so glad that I found it. What it does is this: it prevents your computer from connecting to the internet for a time period of your choosing, from 15 minutes and up. I have zero willpower when it comes to the internet, so I use this baby to force me to work offline [to write!] in 25 minute increments. It’s helped me stay on task with both my fic and my schoolwork this term and it is just. awesome.
  • Savetu.be: Brilliant for downloading web videos and saving them in a variety of formats. Like Awesome Screenshot, it can be a little twitchy in Chrome when you’re trying to save a YouTube video because of the relationship between Google and YouTube. But it’s no big deal.  Again, I work around this by flipping to Firefox.
  • Twitter: Although I used this as a human, I was dubious about using it as an academic. My Digital Self class forced me (with love!) to give it a shot and it’s turned out to be a generator for both my research and my writing. It’s a space where my interests in rhetoric, porn, and fandom have productively combined.

An Engine of Discursive Pleasure

This post is a metatextual exorcism: me trying to get the stupid out, as my directing teacher used to say, in re: my research project about the rhetorical tactics of the Overlord. It’s also an excuse for lots of pictures of Misha, so. If that turns you off, you know, I’d suggest you check for a pulse.

Ok, so. Here’s why it’s been hard for me to wax academic about Misha Collins:

It was easier for me to [gleefully] objectify the dude than it was to take him seriously.

Like, bro: I could write some smoking hot RPS about you without breaking a sweat, but put on a Random Acts video and I went all Crayola.

Fangirling over his body? Fine. Fangirling over what he actually did with that body in real life?

Oh hell no.

Continue reading “An Engine of Discursive Pleasure”

Load ‘Em Up

The biggest lesson of graduate school for me? You gotta come to terms with how much you don’t know.

You gotta get to a Zen sorta place where that knowledge is a given: there’s way more in the world, in your field, than you even know to ask about. So have another beer and relax, ok?

Or, uh. Try to.

To that end:

I spent this past Thursday at a day-long symposium at Drexel University called Life Online: The Ethics and Methods of Conducting Research in a Digital Age.

Yeah, it was spring break this week. And yeah, I spent it learnin.’ Though I look at it as gathering arrows for my dissertation quiver. Because sooner rather than later, I’m gonna have to start doing research rather than just talking about it [ahem], so I say: load ’em up.

A few arrows I came away with:

Of immediate interest for wee young researchers like me is this chart from the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR). Said chart sketches the different types of data that a researcher might collect online, the venues in which that data might be collected, and the concomitant ethical questions that a researcher might then consider. Interested parties may also find AoIR’s comprehensive Ethical Decision-Making and Internet Research (2012) useful in generating a set of vocabulary for talking about and planning online research projects.

For me, the most useful part of the day was Mary L Gray‘s presentation on IRBs and the difficulty some have in dealing with what she calls “ethnographically-engaged” digital media research.

Dude, Dr. Gray was nine kinds of awesome: amazing research, super-smart as hell, and a great speaker. She was talking about Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), for gods’ sake–snore–but she had the whole room with her from go.

You better believe it.

Somehow, Dr. Gray was cut off for time when other speakers were not and we lost a good 20 minutes of her talk. That was—unfortunate. Especially since some later speakers had time left over. Ah well.

For me, here were the key takeaways from her presentation.

General concepts/questions re: digital research:

  • Websites are both texts AND sites; digital media are both a tool AND a location.
  • Online research regenerates the question: what constitutes a public space?
  • There are no unembodied moments online; the body is always present.
  • “The notion of privacy is a privilege,” which—

—holy crap!! One of those things that sounds so obvious and yet, damn.

Central questions re: ethics of online research:

1.  Ethical dilemmas are an index of methodological flux/growth in fields of inquiry. Such dilemmas can be generative and productive and we shouldn’t shy away from engaging with them directly.

2.  Ethics in online research are ad hoc and (re)constructed: they evolve over time, over the life of a project, and researchers must attend to this evolution.

3.  Online researchers should talk through the ethics of a particular project with a trusted colleague, peer, or professor.

AMEN! Especially when your advisor’s own research is generating simliar questions.

4.  Gaining IRB approval doesn’t signal the resolution of ethical issues around a project. Indeed, Gray argued that the setup of many IRB forms and procedures can obscure, rather than shed light on, ethical questions that can spring up around digital research.

5.  Those who study worlds online should not let the computer screen become the sole terministic screen through which they study a given population or community. Gray emphasized the importance of talking to the people whose activities you see online; there’s much that’s lost without pushing into the broader context within which the user’s digital engagement sits.

This last one really got to me, especially because Gray was pretty damn convincing on this point. But such in-world examinations work directly against both my own instincts (eek! people!) and my sense of the “norm” in rhetorically-inclined digital research. Goddamn it. Because of course, the resistant aura that in-world engagement holds in this context is like catnip to me, man.

fire

Or batnip.

All in all, I came out with more questions and angst than answers, and that, for me? Is the sign of a day well spent.