Assorted musings on repair & black boxes, & also pluralism & site access.

Reflecting on the methodology question in my quals, yesterday’s conversation about participatory and critical research, and this week’s readings on repair in particular.

That ol’ Black Box. A constant worry I have had about DP and CA is the ease with which they might be interpreted as a kind of “linguistic behaviorism” in which access to the mind is an impossible project & therefore the mind is not the site of claim-making. This is explicitly not the position taken by DP researchers from the field’s initiation (Wetherell & Potter, 1987) through contemporary understandings 30 years later (Wiggins, 2017). Nonetheless, the relationship between DA and cognition feels a tense one, though I know many have written about this. When talking about epistemic rights, inevitable seems the urge to wonder who “actually” has K+ or K- knowledge.

In my recent thinking, I have contrasted LS approaches that treat languages as broadly revealing of thought with those that treat interaction as the site of learning. To me it seems obvious that what one says has only a limited relationship with what one thinks – and the example is the kind of communicative autopilot on which we often run (talking without thinking). So last week, in reading the review of CA online (Paulus, Lester, & Warren, 2016), I thought – who cares about screen capture data? If the communicative action is not visible to the other interactant(s), why should the researcher take up the privileged position of accessing that part of the articulation process when it can’t possibly be of meaning to the interactional participants (lest they orient to wait time for an utterance to be produced – but I’m talking about deletions, opening other tabs, etc.).

I have been convinced otherwise by Meredith & Stokoe (2013). At first, I think I was promoting a kind of black-boxing, that said we would never be able to fully access the utterance production process in verbal talk. But this does not extend to online talk! They compellingly show that we easily can “see” at least some aspects of utterance production. Seeing repair-in-production is not something we even could really do with verbal talk, short of MRI scans, etc. I found that analysis (and the transcription) compelling for this reason!

Assorted thoughts & questions

Consent. I find that much of the data we read feels, to me, highly sensitive – and that this is especially true of UK contexts. What am I missing? I feel like if I asked people to participate in this facebook chat study they would never agree. Of every aspect of my scholarship, the one that produces constant anxiety in me is site access (this after years of failed studies and soured relationships with collaborators). I feel as though I will never actually be able to do empirical research because of this, and that most of my life is going to spent working theoretically. It is completely unclear to me how our faculty have gotten so many local teachers on board, etc. This is not a skill I have.

Methodological Pluralism. Yesterday, you mentioned an appreciation of methodological pluralism. I think I am having trouble balancing my methodological commitments – the ones that make me think DA is a better fit for me than multivariate statistics or ethnographies or even CA over MDA – with a general appreciation for all research. We can evaluate quality/validity/whatever in multiple ways – from “within” the research community and from a more “external” sort (traditional internal v. external conception). But if you think language cannot reveal mental structures, how do you take seriously research that claims to do this? I think it is possible, ish, but hard to navigate when you are also asked to defend your own methods so rigorously all the time. But for example I do not dismiss cognitive theory entirely – that would surely be silly. Someone should be engaging in that project – it’s just not me. But I’m still figuring out how to do that methodologically.


One thought on “Assorted musings on repair & black boxes, & also pluralism & site access.

  1. Great points and questions — first I think this issue of methodological diversity is a HUGE one. At least with the qualitative community, it is something we/I are grappling with, as we navigate “camps” and new generations of scholars resist the idea that this is in the least bit healthy for our work/community/relationships/theorizing/writing, etc. As an example, in the qualitative community there are a few camps: post-quals, interpretivist; the criticalist (who are also a bit interpretivist); those who are more post-positivist and do lots of case study work; and the list goes on. In my current role as chair of our SIG (which has about 800 members drawing upon/writing around a variety of qualitative methodological and theoretical perspectives, I’ve made it our priority to prioritize writing-thinking-being-sitting next to our differences and learning from one another. A brilliant example of this is Mark Vagle’s work around phenomenology. He has generated with is being called post-intentional phenomenology — which embraces poststructural thought and some of the “posts” ideas that really haven’t been present in phenomenology. Work which emerged by sitting/being with our differences — and its so productive and useful within educational research settings today — being taken up fairly rapidly. So, just within qual we have to continue working on this and it is something I’m strongly committed to. I may do work from a particular perspective but can appreciate the value, for instance, of case study framed from a more post-positivist perspective for the purposes of generating policy implications — it’s brilliant, makes sense, is grounded, and I get it. It is needed and has clear implications for that particular field — just another example. BUT…what about qual-quat divides — there are of course philosophical thinkings-writings around this, but we have lots of work to do here. I think the simple answer is “oh look at mixed methods” — but that’s not really an example that I find to be particularly fruitful. I think it is going to take more work and time working together with our differences. Have you read the Moss et al. article on methodological differences in ed researcher? I’ll send it out. It’s really good.

    About ethics and gaining access — they, from my perspective, require time and energies and often relationships. I work with primarily highly sensitive (medical) data and in my “big” dataset from the 2-year ethnographic work, I built a relationship first for about 4 months. For my work in Southern Appalachia with Burundians with refugee status — gah, there are/were many ethical challenges across spaces/places…and if you are interested in reading about this, I’m happy to share. It is has been the most heart wrenching work I’ve engaged in and has taught me perhaps the most about doing research/not doing research/sitting down/not sharing and sharing work. The psychiatric assessment data I work on with Michelle O in the UK required 1 full year of ethics reviews prior to being approved. I’ve actually found the ethics process to be far more rigorous in the UK than the US, but this is not the case across countries (as there are several that require no reviews/discussions of such, etc.).

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