Not Random, but a Rainbow...

Too much of anything is regarded as bad. But would we say the same about information. In an age where information is readily available and gaining knowledge would supposedly lead to wisdom, one would certainly announce that there is no harm in producing or assimilating knowledge. And we surrender our soul to the passion of gaining that which has not been achieved – in other words that hypothesis we can absolutely believe in and proclaim to the world. However that knowledge often comes at the cost of something opposite of frivolous. Then we question our methodologies, ethics but rarely do we turn ourselves away from finding out new truths and soon it becomes something acceptable even if it is more than just stem cell research.

Trusting a particular methodology and trying to get results through its application is yet another dilemma. There is always choice and also invariably the wrong choice. Someone, somewhere, sometime might come up with something that would nullify previous claims, solve a bigger mystery, – and there might not be an end to it. Life with its various speculation and realities would raise more issues by the day. Trying to make meaning, finding a path, meandering through information I try to see light of day, hoping that the interdisciplinary nature of my stream would garner some kind of enlightenment. These random thoughts help to put me in perspective – sometimes deep, sometimes coherent but always elusive – catching them and transforming the written world – is the motto needed to follow through in life’s travails and thus embark on a path, chosen for life.

A Research Daisy

I'm also a visual thinker. Not that I don't like writing; in fact, I work with writing and drawing to crystallize my thoughts. When working on websites or publications, for example, I am usually responsible for the architecture and the content, and I often send scanned drawings to my graphic designer to illustrate how I want the information to flow before I even start writing the texts. I was therefore thrilled when Luker suggested that we draw a Venn diagram to illustrate the multi-disciplinarity of our research.

After having done a few of her exercises, it seems that my "intellectual itch" involves investigating how architects of websites aimed at various cultural groups define how to structure the information in a way that will appeal to their various publics. You may have noticed that, if you change the language on a multilingual website, you may see more or less text, more or less graphics, and even a different navigation system.

It seems to me that website architects have a lot of power over how information might be represented to members of different cultures and may contribute to changing their preferences over time. Given that power, do they choose designs intuitively? Using primary data collection? Secondary data collection?

This idea will, I hope, evolve during the course of the semester, but as a beginning, here is my first research daisy. It was drawn using Aviary, a free online tool that is very similar to Photoshop.

But wait, there's more!

Hi, my name is Martin Driessen and I’m a latecomer to the class. Since most of you are probably wondering who I am, I thought an introduction might be appropriate.
I’m an Edmonton, Alberta native, and spent my Undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta. My focus was in the History field, so I naturally had the opportunity to take a Historical Methodology class. It has, however, been about four years since my Undergraduate, so it was strangely refreshing to see Foucault’s icy cold stare in class today.
I look forward to integrating Luker’s unique brand of methodology in my own research. Specifically, I want to look at issues surrounding information piracy, net neutrality, and copyright law.

Students in a Post-Foucauldian Era

Very much like the student who spoke up in class today, I was very excited to see Foucault mentioned so early on in the Luker text. I come from a cultural & social history background, so Foucault has been the bread & butter for many of my favorite classes.

However, Luker admits that her generation of scholars "were trained in a pre-Foucauldian era, and we have not really come to terms with what Foucault has done to our taken-for-granted ways of thinking, much less with what he has done to theory, and still less what he has done to methods." (7) Now, here for me lies the crux of the issue I have with Luker's text thus far.

Today's generation of MLIS students have been raised in an academic environment where Foucault's theories permeate deeply across disciplines - even if a student hasn't read Foucault, he/she most likely is familiar with social construction, and understands this belief to be extremely important to today's social science studies.

So who is Luker writing for? Today's student understands Foucault's theories, just as today's student understands the present info-glut situation, and intuitively knows how to navigate it. While I find Luker's text readable & entertaining, I suspect that it will not impart any ground breaking research information to me (or to the rest of the class).

But it's only the 2nd week so I'm keeping my hopes up!

A Confession

I am not a writer. I’m not even a good speaker; I get tongue-tied, clumsily trip over words and somehow screw up saying what I’m thinking. I had a philosophy professor tell me in undergrad that unless my thoughts could be rationalized into words (be it written or spoken), then they do not actually exist. 

I heard echos of this accusation while reading Luker, where the writing process is praised as the sole method of crystallizing thoughts. Coming from the design field, I am a little suspicious of this claim. Most of my undergrad research projects began with visual research, composing visual essays and generating ideas through sketching; writing (for my studio courses at least) was more of the end of research, the dissemination of the information found though visual thinking. 

I recognize I’m a minority here, but I think its worth to point out the bias of the medium as researchers. Language is a temporal medium; it is sequential and linear, where words follow words, thoughts follow thoughts, arguments follow arguments. Images do not mimic this building progression, but rather presents everything at once and lets the viewer independently dissect and comprehend the patterns and orders; it is more a holistic medium, a synthesis of structure. 

I bring this up, in part, out of concern that this writing-is-thinking assumption shades our anthropological view: Is the belief that rationalized language is the only form of thinking, in and of itself, a fetish of the mind, one that dismisses the sensory experience as, at best, subservient to the intellect and at worse a distraction to higher, 'more human', activities? 

Alas, I’ll try to become more versed in writing, but I don’t want to dismiss visual thinking completely. I was happy that Luker suggests mind mapping as a type of personal informal writing, and I just wanted to share with you all my passionate approval for mapping relationships, charting out ideas and diagramming categories. Just a thought :)

Yes, this blog post started with some sort of flowchart.

Writing for “n” minutes

Several times I’ve heard about 15 minutes-a-day-dissertations or books, and again I hear about the magic of “piecemeal” writing from Knight and Luker. But it is so hard to believe them! Sometimes I try to help skeptical myself by applying a larger scale. 15 minutes a day turn to be 91.25 hours per year or rather reasonable 3 hours per day for one month. Isn’t that enough for a book or at least a half? Maybe…

Only for me to have 15 minutes of actual writing means always adding to those 15 more minutes of prior preparation. After that I can even last for 30 minutes of writing or an hour - I won’t follow the clock. It can be alright, but does it mean I am doomed with mediocre and not very large works? I want to believe no; and at the same time I can’t stop wondering whether I miss valuable training and getting my hand in writing by committing preparatory thorough thinking for several days and then at last writing for a lot more than 15 minutes in a row. And I am speaking not only about book writing but also about composing any valuable record. Being able to remember things for more than a day I build thought over thought without going astray and without help from a paper or file. By the way, in their roots, days are artificial time divisions, so maybe they don’t determine that golden frequency for everyone. I want to believe again that you can find your way and that the main idea is never to dismiss taking notes, never leave writing till “someday in the future” when you already have thoughts or material for a paragraph, and as someone roughly said:

The worst thing ever written is always better than the thing never written at all.

P.S.: All the same, after words of persuasion I can’t get rid of a little bit of envy for such people as Balzac who acquire their best thoughts from writing or for authors whose characters surprisingly act as if by themselves on paper. Is it still another way or a better one?

The very last thought, I promise, that occurred to me: there is a use for 15 minutes rule. When you don’t have a theme, a work, or research, you better come up with something for a fraction of a day and write simply to stay in shape, to prevent blocks and to use this beautiful phrase you so treasured to come up finally with another and a new one. It seems that this is also the author’s idea.

Research Group Ideas and My Intoduction

Hi Everyone and Prof. Grimes!
I introduce myself as a Meenaxi Prasher, MI student.
Social and Academic interactions are very important to me, and I am always keen to meet new people. I also enjoy keeping fit and regularly go to my local leisure centre. In addition I enjoy computing and creating websites that allow me to communicate with people from across the world. I have always believed that education in itself is the most satisfying pursuit, a value instilled by my mother, herself a teacher for many years. Along the way I have learned to focus that value and match it closely to my increasing experience and desire to work on the current, most advanced issues in my field and research and research methdologgies is one of them.
Throughout the course of my education, the only field of my studies which I have valued, cherished is Library and Information Science. These lifelong interests had naturally primed me to pursue a Master degree in Library & Information Science with an emphasis in librarianship from India, and motivated me to further my academics with MI program programme at University of Toronto.
I found blogging very useful in Reseach to interact with the group and connect our thoughts with each other. The purpose of research is to have informed action. Thus, our study should seek to contextualize its findings within the larger body of research. Research must always be high quality in order to produce knowledge and consclussions that is applicable outside of the research setting with implications that go beyond the group that has participated in the research. The Reseach methods and resesech methdology is the key to have better decisions. I am excited to be part of the reseach group.