Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 12 seconds

#rhizo14 autoethnography and representation

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 12 seconds

In case you haven’t heard, we’re all trying to do some sort of emergent coding in order to analyze the #rhizo14 autoethnography. That’s quite normal practice for qualitative data, and I’m one of the people who has experience with emergent and am rooting for it… it helps one find themes in large sets of data, and decide what to do with it. BUT


Important as I think this is, important as I think it will be for those of us who someday want to write a publication out of this collaborative autoethnography, I have several concerns (not to stop the emergent coding thing, but things to consider beside it. Keith has written a lot reflecting on rhizo-rhetoric and his posts are all worth reading and discussing… I’ve got other slightly different concerns, I think…but there may be some overlap. Will need to go re-read his stuff)

1. The autoethnography is not just the narratives in the google doc. It’s also everything else we’ve all been saying about the course on our blogs, twitter, fb, etc. There are ethical issues with using the fb, slightly less strict ethical issues with twitter, but I consider the blogs “public domain” and I think we should find ways of looking at that data as well.

2. Having particular people do the coding means those particular people have a kind of “privilege” as researchers and interpreters of other people’s narratives. I’m sure this was gonna happen at some point. I’m hoping we can all go back to the original authors of each narrative and check we’ve interpreted them the way they’d like to be interpreted. This is not actually bad practice in qualitative research. In fact, for me, if we’re doing participatory research, this means we try to include each participant as much as possible as an actor, not an object. I’m not critiquing anyone here… just thinking out loud. We had agreed we’d do this, so it’s not like I’m arguing with anyone 😉 Just documenting that thought on my blog as well

3. Representation is a big concern for me. At one point, there was a twitter chat where we talked about finding ways to represent all the stuff that’s been written/made for rhizo14, finding ways to link up narratives, make the end product be a non-linear unbook thing, where people can click on a node (representing a person) and follow that person through to their narrative, blogposts, other makes like poetry, photos, videos. For some people, this will be really rich, like Terry Elliott or Kevin Hodgson. For others who don’t blog or don’t create too much stuff, it might just be the narrative they wrote (because we can’t take their facebook and twitter quotes for ethical reasons – though we could, with permission). It occurred to me suddenly that as someone who believes in experiential learning, I kind of believe that maybe the best way to understand the rhizo14 experience is to have the “reader” sort of simulate “living through it”. But also, as Scott Johnson says somewhere, it’s already pretty illegible as it is, you want people to be able to read it and understand it. Then again, it’s too complex to be made legible, so are we stripping it of its complexity by making it legible? I think both are true, at the same time. You need to aspire to some level of legibility, while offering a less legible version that one can “experience”. The problem with the latter is: how do you do it? Is it a visualization with a timeline that can be a video? Can the user navigate on their own? Is this technically too complex to think about right now?

4. Inclusion/exclusion: we talked about this in the hangout (Keith, Sarah and I) – that we need to remain mindful of the partiality of the autoethnography. Only folks who participate in it are represented, therefore there is a whole side to the story that we cannot see. The narratives are also partial in that they’re written at some point in time (though many of us updated them over time) – and that’s where for me #1 and #2 become really important.

5. Consciousness: as an interpretive researcher with critical leanings, I am also aware that any self-narrative, interpreting oneself, is partially blind. Even if I intend to tell my full story, even if I give myself lots of time to come back to it, to fill in holes and gaps, it will almost always be missing some things. Not because I intentionally left them out (though of course, I could do that, too), but because I may not be aware of all of them. Even though they happened to me, or I did them, or I saw them. My hope is that by having it as a collaborative effort, the combination of all the individual pictures will give a fuller picture of what rhizo14 was like

For now, thought, I’m quite happy to keep going on with the coding 😉 The rest can come later 🙂 Just didn’t want to forget it 🙂

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