Tag Archives: methodologies

On “A Letter to the Humanities: DH Will Not Save You”

I really like Adeline Koh’s stuff, and her recent “Letter to the Humanities” is no exception. Here are some of my favorite parts of this piece:

After explaining the basis of Humanities Computing: “Too many in this field prize method without excavating the theoretical underpinnings and social consequences of method. In other words, Humanities Computing has focused on using computational tools to further humanities research, and not to study the effects of computation as a humanities question.” Not only do I agree with Koh on this point, but I’d further argue that a lot of humanists (who may not see themselves as having anything to do with computers or the digital world) would do well to hear her call. Reflexively revisiting the connections between methodology and method is a move that should be taken up broadly and far more seriously.

Koh suggests that humanists interested in the digital humanities should “champion the new wave of digital humanities: one which has humanistic questions at its core.” In other words, let’s pay attention to the potential value of new tools and methods, but let’s not abandon what we’re good at. “[I]nstead of pouring more money into tool building or the latest and greatest 3D printer, let’s not limit the history of the digital humanities to humanities computing as a single origin point. Let’s consider “sister fields” to the digital humanities as actually foundational to the digital humanities.” Koh’s focus on what I might call origin stories here is one that can be productive in a number of ways. In the final chapter of my dissertation, I resist drawing hard conclusions and instead imagine how the field of technical communication might look different to us if we imagine origin stories for it other than the most commonly accepted one.  What becomes possible then? Who gets included if we see technical communication as an ancient tradition rather than one born to serve U.S. engineering departments alone? Koh points out that for digital humanities, such a move means we can “redefine what we mean by the “best,” … digital humanities research. ”

Finally, this:

“The insistent focus on computing and methodology in the humanities without incisive, introspective examination of their social implications is devaluing the humanities. We shouldn’t be pouring federal money into building tools without making the ideological structure of the process explicit and their social effects and presuppositions open to inspection; we shouldn’t be funding the digitization of canonical (read: white, often male) authors without the simultaneous digitization of works by people of color, especially women of color. To do both is to betray some of the most important lessons which the humanities has learned with the rise of women, gender and sexuality studies, race, ethnic and postcolonial studies and disability studies.”


23: Blakeslee/Fleischer Prompts, Ch. 7

Prompt 7 (p. 211): Selecting a Format and Style for Your Write-Up

Given the audience, purpose, and goals for my research and the examples of narrative approaches that I’ve looked, I think that narrative could be an option for this work–but only if I find a participant whose experience is relevant and who is willing to let me focus the case study on him/her. In fact, this narrative-opener style is one that I’m very familiar with. In the field of journalism, we sometimes refer to this as “Wall Street Journal style.” This refers to the type of story that opens with a narrative, gives the hard facts, then closes by coming back to the subject of the narrative (also known as sandwich style). The truth is that I can’t really decide on a format and style for the final article until I’ve collected data and have an idea of what that article’s focus will be.

Prompt 8 (p. 213): Obtaining and Using Feedback

There are two stages at which I generally want feedback. Those are 1) in the early drafting stages, when I need to talk out my ideas and 2) when I have a complete draft done for someone to look at. In any case, I prefer holistic feedback; I see this as more akin to the way a potential reader would formulate critiques. Also, like many writers, I don’t like people (unless they are very close friends) seeing the mess of my work before I can call it a draft.

One of the best ways to receive feedback is as part of a class. The feedback I have received in this class has been quite helpful, and I think that is because of the sustained relationship we’ve developed as fellow students and because of our prolonged exposure to each others’ work. This also eliminates the problem of soliciting feedback. However, I’ve found a way to get feedback outside of class as well, and that is by joining student groups that feature opportunities to get feedback on work in progress. Of course, participation in this sort of group requires that I also do the intellectual and emotional work of supporting and offering feedback to others, which I think is the best form of gratitude I could show.

22: Blakeslee/Fleischer Prompts, Ch. 7

Prompt 5 (p. 206): Thinking About How Authors Position Themselves

Rhetoric Society Quarterly authors seem to position themselves as both rhetoricians and everyday people. By this I mean that they are interested in applying rhetorical theory to issues that involve common interactions. For example, in volume 40 number 1, Stephen Yarbrough takes up the question of why people sometimes “don’t get it.” This is a colloquial term that most native speakers of English understand, yet it’s difficult to articulate what “it” is. In the same issue, William Rodney Herring explores “a widespread crisis in representation, a crisis that seemed to threaten speakers’ ability to communicate” that is often associated with “the presumed decline of civilization” (23). In volume 40 number 2, Michelle Smith takes up how othering happens in relation to the Amana Society and draws conclusions that can apply to the rhetoric used to describe other marginalized groups. And in the third issues of volume 40, Nathan Crick and Joseph Gabriel point out the importance of public opinion in scientific controversies in democratic societies.

Prompt 6 (p. 206): Determining Your Own Authorial Position

Like Ann Blakeslee, I am interested in working with scientific discourse. This means that I will have to be very careful to determine the specific audience for any piece I am writing for publication. Blakeslee says that she publishes in both rhetoric and interdisciplinary journals and “in the latter, she made sure that she situated her work in a broader literature” (198). In other words, straddling two disciplines increases the need to prove one’s credibility to an audience. Remembering always to take the time to prove this ethos will be important given my audience and purpose in the writing I do.

21: Blakeslee/Fleischer Prompts, Ch. 7

Prompt 1 (p. 194): Who you are as a writer

  • I start writing by taking notes and then organizing them thematically. From there, I usually start with a new document and create an outline to see if the information has already achieved an organized form in my mind. I then work from one document to another, matching chunks of thematic material to points on my outline. This process differs quite a bit from project to project, but this is generally close to the path I follow. I do struggle with organization, and it always helps to have someone else look at a draft and tell me what pieces go together and what pieces need to be moved, changed, or deleted.
  • I revise largely based on feedback–either a peer’s, or my own after I’ve let the document site for a while. I usually revise for organization because this is the part of writing that I struggle with the most.
  • I’m generally pretty successful with completing a draft early so that I have time to revise. I also don’t typically have trouble determining audience or working with more surface-type issues like sentence structure.
  • I do my best composing at a computer because it allows for a more multimodal method of revision. I often work best when in a situation where there is some activity in the background, but where people aren’t demanding my attention.

Prompt 2 (p. 198): Identifying potential audiences

One potential audience for my work–probably the main one–is other scholars. Although I am interested in a role as a public intellectual, at this point in my career I am developing my understanding of a variety of academic theories and it is important for me to practice this sort of writing. This audience will already have a basis in theory, but will need more information on what a check-in kiosk is and how they are used. They might question my application of theory, so I will need to be careful in making sure my methodology matches my topic.

However, a secondary audience would be medical practioners interested in thinking about check-in kiosks. They will already know what kiosks are and will be more interested in looking at my findings as far as patient satisfaction based on sex, age, and ableness. They might question my understanding of a medical setting, so it will be important to be careful in my data gathering.

Prompt 3 (p. 200): Identifying purpose

For my scholarly audience, my purpose is to show my ability to engage with theory and apply it in a smart way to a setting that has a major impact on people’s lives. In order to do this, I will need a sound understanding of the theories I draw upon and some good ideas that will spring from my data.

For my practitioner audience, my purpose is to show how medical kiosks might affect patients differently depending on their sex, age, and ableness. My major obstacle in this case is to assert my ethos in such a way that I can point out problems and make suggestions that might actually get taken up.

Prompt 4 (p. 202): Selecting a genre

For my scholarly audience, a journal article or chapter in a dissertation would be an appropriate genre. Some potential journals that might be interested in this research are:

  • Information Management Online
  • Technical Communication Quarterly
  • Journal of Medical Practice Management
  • Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association
  • Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety
  • International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

For my practitioner audience, a technical report that is publicly accessible or a journal article in a practitioners journal (many of these overlap with those listed above) would be appropriate. As practioner articles are typically short, a technical report might serve best. Options include:

  • A white paper published on a blog or sent directly to healthcare facilities
  • Information Management Online
  • Journal of Medical Practice Management
  • Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association
  • Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety

20: Blakeslee/Fleischer Prompts, Ch. 6

*For Prompts 1 & 2, see entry 18. For Prompt 3, see entry 19.*

Prompt 4 (p. 173): Rereading

Although I am not finished with my literature review, I re-read the article that I presented to the class last week: “Toward an Accessible Pedagogy: Dis/ability, Multimodality, and Universal Design in the Technical Communication Classroom.” It was a little difficult to find new connections to my own data since I haven’t begun collecting data, but I’ve been trying to imagine how starting to collect data might change my reading of this article. I’m really caught up on how to identify disability in order to study it. My variables of sex and age are relatively easy to guess based on the way a person looks, and asking people to self-identify in these ways is pretty standard–as is asking (in survey form) about disclosing disabilities. However, as Walters points out, observation is another story. It may be hard to analyze the ways that disability affects check-in kiosk usage because I may not know until later if a person using the kiosk as I observed identified as disabled.

In retrospect, I have realized that this is where my one critique of Walters’s article came from. I wanted more information about how she knew the ability status of her students the first day of class; she didn’t provide this information, but presumably collected it in an ethical and legal way. I’d like to know how she did that, as this part of her study is the equivalent of the part I’m having trouble imagining. How can I find out how people identify in this context for the purposes of observation? And, like Walters, I also think it’s important to pay attention to my own social placement. (I used a Wordle, shown below, to look for major themes and found “social” to be one of them.) I identify as temporarily able-bodied; this means I need to take particular care in representing groups that do not identify in this way.

Wordle showing major themes in my analysis of "Toward An Accessible Pedagogy"

Wordle showing major themes in my analysis of "Toward An Accessible Pedagogy"