Saturday, April 4, 2009

Schizoids vs. Fascoids

Vitanza creates a catalogue of historiographies to "establish a category that would destroy the categorizing, that would unname the naming" (84).  What's at stake is none other than the attenuation of fascism.  Let's get to it.

Fittingly it is a system of 3, which produces a host of subcategories.

1.  Traditional
(a): time/narrative as a controlling device
(b): time/narrative not as a controlling device

The logic that binds here is the "covering-law model." Events have causes.  They can be sifted to the surface.  Facts can be archived.  Historians can be objective.  Ideology can be put off, cast aside, silenced for a time for the good of the history being written.  This is, of course, a fiction and in itself an ideology.

2.  Revisionary
(a):  full disclosure
...seeks to bring overlooked evidence or incorrect interpretations to light.  This doesn't mean that revisionary history must address a previously made argument (i.e. as "correction/addition"); it can also assemble evidence in a new way to demonstrate the erroneous thrust of a prevailing ideology or convention (i.e. working as "recollection/reconception").  Thus, it is more ideologically aware than traditional historiography.

(b): self-conscious critical
...admits no facts as facts.  Everything is an interpretation, even the self-aware ideology (see full disclosure) a form of self-deception.  It springs from Vitanza's triumvirate of "Post-Enlightenment, self-conscious critical practices"—Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud.

3.  Sub/Versive
A practice that radicalizes Nietzsche's call to doubt and suspicion.  It distinguishes itself from "self-conscious critical" by how it approaches the gaps and ambiguities in the writing of history.  Instead of merely trying to speak to them, address them, Sub/Versive historiography endeavors to exploit them, to play within their contradictions and thereby reveal the machinations of power that heave and ho within every history.  This last category posits possibility as a curative to power, the schizoid instead of the fascoid, all the while knowing that a final revolution, an ultimate cure, is impossible.

Now to categorize some essays via vv:

vv himself names him so.  But to defend my label on my own terms, take this one sentence:

"Of all the rhetorical systems that have appeared down through the ages, classical rhetoric had the most to say about style, so that if we want to consciously cultivate style, we will get the most help from the classical rhetoric texts, which took style seriously." (67)

The visual metaphor of "down through the ages" itself is a tip of the hand.  One can see almost the straight, unbroken line of narrative, peaking stylistically in the classical period before sloping into our own time.  Also, clearly for Corbett, classical texts comprise a period with marked conventions and unities.  They can, thus, be ascribed a single voice, one that proclaims "We take style seriously."  No mention is given of the generalizations and exclusions necessary to make such a claim, nor of the politics involved in doing so.

Revisionist (full disclosure)
The article is specifically and consistently directed to "professional communicators" who are likely to be under the influence of false or muddy understandings of copyright law and are in need of "a more thorough understanding of the principles upon which modern copyright laws are based" (407).  Prevailing social conventions need realignment.

So the essay is recollection/reconception, falling at times into the methods of traditional historiography (see the "facts" of the British origins of copyright law), and, at others, into the ideological awareness of Post-Enlightenment self-criticism (see the preface), but never exploiting ambiguity enough to subvert the article's purported power to empower professional communicators in the workplace.

Revisionist (self-conscious critical)
Zappen is primarily concerned with "differences in point of view...both historical and historiographic" concerning the scientific rhetoric of Francis Bacon (74).  In delimiting these, Zappen is careful to situate his own view of a plain style within a network of other approaches.  His qualification that "these possibilities are not exhaustive or conclusive" finishes an argument that embraces pluralism, is skeptical of monolithic voices, yet still strives to clarify an ambiguity which more sub/versive writers would exploit.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Quantitative Description & Quasitrue



PURPOSE: To judge the frequency with which barriers interrupt the effective listening of college students.  Falling under this general aim were the more particular goals of identifying the barriers students thought were most frequent, the factors of the barriers themselves, and the way those factors differ over certain demographics.

SUBJECTS:  1200 students comprising three sections of a communications lecture at a southwest state university.  These lecture sections were then divided into 33 breakout sessions, each containing about 35 students.  The study randomly selected 10 of these sections, or 350 students.

COLLECTION:  Questionnaires were distributed to the students, comprising 279 different prompts.  They asked students to rank the frequency of listening barriers of a 5-point Likert scale.

ANALYSIS:  The original barrier factors were developed from a review of the literature and consultation with "several" professors.  Then a pilot study with 65 communication students refined the material used on the test questionnaire.  Answers to that questionnaire where then ranked and calculated for standard deviation.


PURPOSE:  "to record and understand the ways nanoscale science and technology continues to be represented in public examine the concepts and the process by which nanoscale science and technology was first represented in the public media" (147).

SUBJECT: Mr. Faber is proud, and he should be, of reading 885 articles on nanotechnology, covering the period between January 1986 and December 1999.  He framed that original population by using his university's ProQuest server to ferret out articles with the keyword of "nanotechnology."  From that large pool he then excluded popular publications and repeat article printings, leaving him with final collection of 203 articles.

COLLECTION: He came up with the marvelously precise and equally arcane method of separating sentences into themes (left of the verb) and rhemes (after the verb).  He then took those elements and examined them for topics of nanotech.  That yielded 39 topics, which he then labeled representations and returned back to the 203 articles to sift those representations (this last pass is the one that is most obscure).

ANALYSIS:  With his list of representations, Faber then could easily rank them temporally and discern the frequency of their occurrence.  He categorized these frequencies in three groups: high, average, and low-occurring.



PURPOSE: The study emerges from Norton's communicator style, especially its dimensions of Openness and Dominance.  It seeks to understand what effects these different communicator styles produce between salesman and customer.

SUBJECTS: 80 undergraduate business students at Bryant college.  No real indication was given as to how these subjects were selected.

COLLECTION: Two performers staged four videos.  In each the customer remained neutral while the salesperson shifted pitch across a four-step scale (Dominant; Dominant/Open; Open/Dominant; Open).  "A small group of subjects" was then asked to match the videos to the 4 step scale.  Everyone (testers and experimenters) were in agreement.  Groups of 5-6 subjects from the sample were then asked first to self-evaluate alla Norton's communicator style.  They then viewed the tapes and filled out a 42-question Likert-scale questionnaire.

ANALYSIS:  Many of the questions had been pre-determined to relate to similar ideas.  Thus, the raters were easily able to generate six composite scores: perception of salespeople in general, the product being sold, the interaction on tape, the act of buying in general, and the actual salesperson on tape.


PURPOSE: The overriding goal had a long reach: "to explore...patterns of thought and language that characterize growth in informative writing ability across junior- and senior-high-school years."  A little less broadly, the study looked at the capacities of students to navigate and communicate information change over grade levels by seeing how they pass on directions of a board game they have just played.

SUBJECTS: 24 5th graders, 26 seventh graders, 19 hs freshman, 27 hs juniors, and 27 college freshman were pulled from English classes at four schools from the same city in central Iowa as well as Iowa State University.  But the researcher eliminated those subjects who could not demonstrate a basic proficiency with the game (this is a little vague—plus, aren't they an important part of this range?).

COLLECTION: First, students watched a silent film showing a teacher and a student playing the game.  Three days later they watched it again.  Using a small card identifying the game pieces by name, students then had to write out the directions to the game as completely as possible.  A multiple choice quiz followed, which had been validated by administering it to college seniors unversed in the game; they didn't score much better than chance allowed.  (Yuck: why is it a quiz when kids are young and a survey when they get older?).

ANALYSIS: This was involved.  The game was broken into 10 elements, each element given a value depending on complexity, and then scored by two raters.  Extra points were given for extra clarity.  The experimenter evaluated the college student work and was checked against another rater (who didn't rate all the college submissions).  Two raters also checked for evidence of "orientating information" at the start of the instructions.  Again, two raters evaluated the mode of address the information used.  Finally the scores were adjusted for grade level, crunched for trends, and subjected to chi-square tests.


Ex 1

PURPOSE: To show why a minimal manual is better than the standard maxi-manual.

SUBJECTS:  19 people who "were experienced with routine office work" and had little experience with computers.  A temp agency screened them (!).

COLLECTION: Groups of two to three were plugged into a simulated office environment, some with maxi some with mini manuals, and given a task list to perform on the computer.  For help they could phone a fake hotline.

ANALYSIS:  Efficiency (key strokes), correctness and timeliness were the qualities prioritized in rating the task performance.

Ex 2

PURPOSE: Same as EX 1, this one adding the variables of "learn by the book" or "learn while doing" to the maxi and mini manuals, yielding four categories to test.

SUBJECTS:  32 people were chose by similar means as EX 1, only this time they were distributed into the four groups to control for age.

COLLECTION: Subjects were given 5 hours to preform 6 tasks.   They verbalized their actions and an observer time stamped all recordings, intervening if the subject became flummoxed or stuck for more than 20 minutes.

ANALYSIS:  Time and success (the number of sub-tasks completed) were given priority.  Observers also tried to measure attention and effort durning the process (a slippery task, it seems).  Finally errors, of course, couldn't be overlooked.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ethnography Notes (or, blunt title, blunt blog)

First, the blog questions, answered by Lauer and Asher:

Ethnographies are distinguished from case studies by their emphasis on context.  Many variables are considered over substantial stretches of time, and thus interrelationships are easier to discern.  This can happen in case studies, but the key difference is the centrality of environment in the study of behavior.

Triangulation is the effort to incorporate a variety of approaches, sources, and  methods into the study.  In soccer, this is the way the ball is worked up the field and often the prettiest goals are scored.  The same applies for ethnography.  A single approach, a single method, equals single-mindedness.

To ensure their work is valid ethnographers must have an excellent understanding of the behaviors within an environment and be able to accurately interpret them.  This is a loose gauge of validity from Hymes, but it is the one the book offers up.  Reliability is determined largely from the selection of the environment.  A good setting will be representative of a number of other environments.

Onto the ethnographies...


PURPOSE: To call attention to the value of autoethnographic research, particularly the value of analytic autoethnography over evocative autoethnography (i.e., moving the reader to feel as the autoethnog. feels).  Analytic autoethnography should be 1) a full member of the environment/group being studied 2) obvious as such 3) focused on “improving theoretical understandings of broader social phenomena.”  

In sum: this is an argument for a particular methodology based on a review of the literature.

SUBJECTS: professional autoethnographers

COLLECTION: His data are previously published autoethnographic studies. The criterion used to select them, presumably, is their usefulness to Anderson's argument.

ANALYSIS: Anderson’s close readings of past ethnographies, supplemented by a survey of autoethnographic metacriticism.


PURPOSE: Not enough attention has been paid to writing in social settings, outside the classrooms.  D-F wants to know the ways writing factors into structuring organizations during their nascent phases.

SUBJECTS: Employees (5 executives, 2 managers, 2 consultants) engaged in the collaborative construction of a document at Mircroware, a software company founded by NSU students.

COLLECTION: 3-5 visits/week for 8 months at the Mircoware facilities, each visit lasting 1-8 hours, including formal and informal gatherings.  Sources include field notes, tape-recordings, open-ended interviews, and interviews based on drafts of the document being written. 

ANALYSIS: Data was reviewed chronologically, plugged into categories, each category in turn defined by properties.  The links between the categories formed the study's themes and sub-themes.


PURPOSE: To explore the connection between social roles and writing as well as the process by which novice writers and newcomers to a community advance within a social structure.

SUBJECTS: A non-profit organization located in an urban setting which offers ESL services.  The study involves four “informants” and a pool of “experts” (seemingly the executive directors and “experienced writers both inside and outside” the site), but focuses on the reports of only two of the informants, Pam and Ursula.  

COLLECTION: Weekly interviews (open and discourse based) with each informant, copies of the writing they produced each week, observations of a “full range of activity” at the agency.

ANALYSIS: Lots of looking over notes and texts for patterns.  Comparisons were made between complexity of texts and complexity of tasks.  Triangulation was possible via comparisons of interview responses, responses over time, and responses to the author’s own assumptions.


PURPOSE: To help others “work their way through” the trauma of the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001.  This includes encouraging others to tell their own story, to find companionship within her story, and to effect dialogue between those working in the social sciences (and, hence, the narrative’s appearance in an ethnographic journal; this begs a question: can we then say other tellings, like a film, like Greengrass’ United 93, could in fact be just as capable, if not more, of provoking this kind of dialogue?  What separates that film from ethnography?)

SUBJECTS: Primarily herself; also everyone she comes in contact with on her way to Dulles Airport.

COLLECTION: Her five senses.

ANALYSIS: She weaves into her account terminology and conclusions from social scientists, for examples, Karl Weick’s study of framing.


PURPOSE: To question standardization of writing in order to discover techniques of re-appropriation (i.e., how does idiosyncrasy reemerge through standardization?—ironic, me writing that here, in this way), and manners in which power is exchanged over modes of standardization.

SUBJECTS: 30 students from the seventh-grade class, working through a speech assignment based on the 5-paragraph essay. Also 3 teachers and an adult community organizer (aside: I’ve never thought of myself as a “Euro-American boy,” but I suppose that makes sense; also: does this include the British?).

COLLECTION: Sheehy admits she was not consistent as a participant observer, moving between roles of researcher and teacher.  She divided the pool up into focus groups “based on [her] rapport with some of the students in these groups.”  Methods of observation included field notes, taping, transcription, interviews, community surveys, student work, and classroom texts.

ANALYSIS...breaks down into two levels.  The first consists of charting the project as an event, broken into categories of production, consumption, and distribution.  The materials noted above for collection were then used to chart instances across the categories.  The second level attempts to isolate tensions in the chart and examine their centripetal (or “unifying”) and centrifugal (or “stratifying”) forces.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Survey Says

No messing around.  Let's get to it: the Purpose/Subjects/Data/Generalizations heuristic meets surveys.

As usual, they set up the discussion, explain the heuristic at work.  They do so through three studies: (referring to them as they do) a Texas study, Eblen's study, and Bamberg's study.

Surveys qualify as descriptive research and make descriptions of large research populations "possible with a minimum of cost and effort" by working with a sample part of the group.  Surveys work via broader synecdoche than case studies. 

The tables in this section have the power to stupefy.  Table 4-1 lists percentages of confidence limits based on projected sample size regardless of population size.  There are adjustments on the back end (see 4-2), but still the confidence scores are spectacularly confident. I would appreciate very much if, in class on Monday, someone would explain the equations at the bottom of page 58.

Oh, and subjects must be randomly chosen.  See table 4-4 for The Incredible Wachowski Brothers' Mystifying Number Table of Randomly Drawn Wonders.

A decision must be made between multiple choice or open-ended, the latter being fraught with ambiguity.  The logic here seems to run opposite of my instincts as a teacher: A,B,C, or D (none of the above) makes the empirical world go round.

Whichever method is chosen, the composition of the questions themselves is the most interesting step with surveys, requiring knowledge of the field, anticipation of the audience, a review of past trends in similar studies, not to mention critical thinking and writing skills.  My bias of course is showing: this is the 1/2 step that doesn't demand much counting.

Simply said, your n (sample size) should be larger than your K (variables).  If not, you're doing a case study.

Then comes the classification of the type of data collected: nominal, interval or rank order.  Sprinkle atop some mean, range, standard deviation, and variance, and you're ready for...

Cause-and-effect statements should be avoided, and representation should only be extended broadly if the sample was randomized (for help, see the IWBMNTRDW table, 4-4).

Stay tuned, as I revert to metonymy to explain the synecdoche of surveys. First, I need to listen to a conference.

Ok, break in the conference.  As an example of Lauer and Asher at work, I'll try to work Wolfe's study through the various categories.

--purpose: to discern "which, if any, annotations will be useful to students" (301).

--subjects: 122 students, enrolled in composition courses, which were volunteered for study by their instructors.

--data collected by post-writing questionnaires to gauge recall, source text analysis to gauge mimicry, and student essay analysis to gauge writing quality.  An additional questionnaire was issued when the two test groups produced radically different results.  
---The data analysis was directed at "the effects of annotations on memory, attitude [subdivided into local and global], process, and written products" (307).

--generalizations: here the study goes into the no-no zone of discussing cause and effects (predictions): "Continued exposure to a variety of readers' annotations might help students, over time, develop better models of how readers interact with texts to construct meaning" (323).  The problem here seems to be the the "better" outweighs the "might."  In other words, if I'm following what these modes are supposed to do and supposed not to do, the descriptive study should limit itself to proving that the variables exist, not necessarily what they do.  The study could argue that it is justified in this by the essay analysis portion of the study (which went beyond survey).  However, this portion of the study was crammed into a time period that the analysts themselves admit was too short. 

I'm trying to find a problem here because, I think, that's the point.  Have I missed the mark (or, rather, have I missed the mark that missed the mark)?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Case in Point

The first case study I remember reading is "Shut Those Thick Lips!" A Study of Slum School Failure by Gerry Rosenfeld.  The book was given to me by an anthropologist with whom I was team teaching.   A label marked it as from the "Case Studies in Education and Culture" series; otherwise, I might not have labeled it that myself.  It attempts to convey the disadvantage done to students in an impoverished, urban school, concluding that there is a perpetual exchange of condemnatory typing between teacher and student, student and teacher.  The teacher thinks the kids will never learn.  The students think the teacher is out to get them.  

Being written in the seventies about the sixties, the book's thesis drew attention.  It described the difference of these "slum" schools in a new way.  From reading Lauer and Asher, I can graft onto this the language of variables.  Rosenfeld's purpose was to describe them.  L & A would add that descriptions raise questions for future research.  While this more precise definition of case studies fits with Rosenfeld, I remember, also, the highly rhetorical nature of his questions.  He was clearly invested in them, in a different way than say Flower, Hayes, and Swarts, whose "provocative question" wonders how widely we should apply their "scenario principle"(a revision method that relies on a human-centered network) (56).  I don't mean to undermine questions proposed in either study; rather, I too am attempting to describe the variable of their difference.  

For Rosenfeld that seems to be his sense of advocacy.  His audience needs to take notice of his question.  Whereas Brandt's descriptions of Midwestern dairy farmers are rich with detail, Rosenfeld's descriptions are designed to evoke an emotional response.  One gets a sense of this strategy simply from his title.  He will reveal an injustice, an atrocity.  Part of his commitment emerges from his involvement as a teacher at the school being studied.  Brandt, Flower et al. have much more apparent critical distance; but, then again, perhaps not.  Flower is, likewise, a teacher of the subject she studies.

We have been asked to reflect on both the appropriate purposes of case studies and the kinds of generalizations possible.  Rosenfeld, paired with the readings we were assigned, has led me to these questions for future study:

-Is the kind of description that belongs to narrative—one which does not seek to submerge the signifiers of its rhetorical design—appropriate for case study?

-How much can a case study appeal to pathos before the study becomes something different, something we must seek another label for?  When does it disqualify itself?

-Is an author's complicity in the case being studied inversely proportionate to the level of generalization possible?

-To what extent can social justice be a part of one's purpose?  Does a case study become inappropriate with this as its starting point?

Brandt offers a perspective that seems to be important when approaching these questions.  His close analysis, he claims, is not, like Flower and Hayes, to "predict particular outcomes, but to understand better the struggles that economic transformations bring to the pursuit of literacy.  With this knowledge, educators might be in a better position to find ways to compensate for tears in the social fabrics that these transformations leave behind" (377).  The passage is remarkable for two reasons: first, it is a naked call for empathy; second, it would deploy this empathy as a restorative tool, as a means of achieving social justice.  If this is an acceptable purpose for case studies, perhaps, then, the questions that remain are just a matter of language.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Avatar DNA

The IRB's testing module for internet-based research identified concerns that were similar to those in the unit on "Genetic Research in Human Populations."  The most significant challenges for each field emerged from the "problem" of information "that can be stored, transmitted, and analyzed with ease and power."  

Some common questions seem to be: Should information stored for one purpose be repurposed for another?  If the information in these samples holds stigmatizing data, how can that data be protected without blocking the flow of other critical, but unthreatening data?  How can we identify what may be a stigmatizing indicator before it becomes stigmatizing?

It may be worth noting here that genetic testing and internet-based research are not mutually exclusive methodologies.  In fact, the former can more easily reconstitute itself into a field of study (genetics), whereas the latter is still in its nascent days of formal study.  Moreover, with increasing frequency, genetic testing and DNA services are going online and appealing to a mass market.  

Take, for instance, the image above from DNA Portraits, a company that offers its clients "the opportunity to enter the world of unique, personal art."  All one needs do is request the company's "collection kit," send in a swabbing of cheek cells, then choose from "25 custom combinations" to generate one's very own DNA art piece.

If we admit that our presence online leaves behind a kind of DNA, not an equivalent, but certainly a strand of data that can be parsed for a variety of details about our makeup, how many of these strands do we inadvertently leave behind each day?  And if we have not sent away for a "collection kit," who, if anyone, has the right to collect them?

The IRB, in establishing its rules for the ethical treatment of human subjects, has established standards designed to fortify subjects' expectations of privacy, and, at a more fundamental level, their control over their own subjectivity (simply being present in a public space, physical or digital, should not automatically make you subject to federally sanctioned observation, although the "should not" here is continually being eroded).  But the more we swab ourselves, the more difficult it becomes to protect the integrity of our personal information.

Yet, to switch our sympathies from subjects to observers, there seems to be a more pressing concern for online research.  Unlike DNA, the analysis of which can boast 99% reliability, the cells left online are wonderfully prone to manipulation.  Web 2.0 is here, multiplying social exchanges.  But so is the age of the avatar.  What we exchange is not necessarily ourselves.  The traces we leave behind are modified in intricate and often contradictory ways, and with them, this new manner of mediation seems to have developed a natural resistance to standardized testing.

The scientific communities as well as those who govern them face a slippery beast when data, subjects and experiments migrate online.  If virtuality can indeed be regulated, I look forward to logging back in and taking the test.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Reality's Yard Stick

The closest I've come to the language of "measurement" before reading Williams, Lauer & Asher, Morgan, and Goubil-Gambrell was when I was rooming with a graduate student in cognitive psychology, who, after entering the dissertation phase of his work, would travel to Chicago schools and conduct what I now can label correlational studies of ADHD.  I liked listening to him.  The literature he was immersed in sounded like a foreign language.  And although he had no great love for it, he was passionate about what it could describe.

I enjoy learning new languages.  The grammar of measurement, however, is based on calculation, a muscle that I haven't trained in a long time and probably wasn't all that big to begin with.  So I apologize in advance if some of the questions listed below are ignorant of the obvious.  First, some definitions.

Qualitative  & Quantitative

Morgan is most helpful distinguishing qualitative research and its subgenres of ethnography, case study, and description as best serving research designs "concerned with process and description" (27).  Goubil-Gambrell adds that the method is particularly valuable in "identifying key variables" (584) and can be distinguished also by its lack of  "treatment" (which, in its "administration" reminded me of the menu of treatments spas let you choose from) (588).  

Since Goubil-Gambrell as well as the prompt for this blog constructed "qualitative" in opposition to "quantitative," I'm going to assume that Morgan's categories of "correlational studies" and "experimental studies" both make up the quantitative category, the former being more concerned with relationships, the latter with "outcomes or effects" (26).  Williams prefers the terms "descriptive method" and "experimental method" but they seem, especially in reference to treatments and variables, to overlay "qualitative" and "quantitative" (9).

Validity & Reliability

These were the most difficult terms to parse.  Lauer and Asher offer this: reliability "is the ability of independent observers or measurements to agree" (134); validity is the ability of a "measurement measure whatever it is intended to assess (in these introductory survey of terms, terms tend to repeat) (140).  Goubil-Gambrel isn't particularly helpful with the brief definition of validity being "whether the experiment actually measures what it says it will measure" and reliability "refers to whether the experiment precisely measures a single dimension of human ability" (587).  It being the most obscure, I wish I had read that definition first rather than last.  

Still, after going through Lauer and Asher's handling of the two terms, I'm somewhat confident concluding reliability often calibrates inward—among its own elements, both those of the study (measurement instrument) and those of the studiers (interraters), to determine if they are equivalent and consistent—before turning outward to judge if the results can be repeated under the same conditions.  Validity, on the other hand, focuses more on calibration of the result itself, how it relates with past and future studies, how well "the researcher measures what he claims to measure" (Williams 22).

Probability & Significance

Probability is the frequencies of (population, sample or sampling) distributions, "generalized to cases where there are different total numbers of units involved," such as, to take an example from Williams, the probability of coming up "heads" after 64 coin tosses, a number based on the frequency of generating that result.

Next step: probability becomes vital when it comes to the null hypothesis, that which must be rejected in order for grounds of a research hypothesis.  The probability level, then, is a "criterion for rejecting a null hypothesis" (61).  If the studies measure comes in under or equal to the established probability level, the null hypothesis can be thrown away.   (I'm assuming that the null is something everyone wants to avoid or get beyond, the research hypothesis being a kind of imprimatur.  This could be very wrong.)

The level of this probability, this zone of "accept or reject," becomes the "significance level": "if a calculated value of probability is such that it falls within the rejection region, the researcher will often call whatever difference or relationship he is studying statistically significant" (Williams 61).

I had a minor epiphany when reading this section of the text: the "significant" language of CNN polls and medical findings suddenly became clear.


Some confusion lingers.  Some of this is just musing.

Lauer and Asher say "reliability is to a large degree a social construction" (134).  Then they say that "validity depends in important ways on social consensus" (141).  So are both social constructs?

Morgan asserts that "experimental designs are different [from correlative and descriptive designs] in another way: comparison" (37).  So how do you do correlation without comparison?  

Goubil-Gambrell tells us that "the reason for all the statistical apparatus in quantitative research is to explain that relationships between variables are due not to chance but to cause-and-effect relationships" (586).  How does this square with Williams admitting "our knowledge of the laws of chance" informs us about the "degree of variation" among samples" (43).  This "knowledge" of sampling underpins probability which governs the whole "null" or "research" decision—a huge point of accuracy and distinction.  My question then: how much do you need to know about chance for it to become knowledge?  And isn't that then a little, what's the word....chancy?  To call chance predictable or consistent leaves me scratching my head, even though I know they list the "odds" on the back of a scratch ticket.

Aside 1: I love it when Morgan calls theory a "bin" (28).  I take my bins to the recycling center every week, otherwise they start to stink.  How big is your bin?

Aside 2 (and this isn't sarcastic):  I find it fascinating how quantitative research generates particular language (see Williams 58, 67)

Lastly, Williams (23) and Lauer and Asher (145) claim that you can get to reliability through validity, but not vice versa.  Again, I'm probably confusing something basic, but it seems to me that a valid result can be generated in an experiment, but it might not be based on reliable measurement tools.

I hope there has been some "truth value" to all of this.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

This One Goes Here, That One Goes There!

A circular arrangement:

Garret is: classification.
Miller is: classification.
Plato is: classification.
Hackos and Redish is: classification.
Kinneavy is: classification
This blog is: classification.

This, then that, then this, then that, then he goes here, then she goes there, etc.

Kinneavy: "Classification, on the other hand, is not concerned with the unique thing, but with things as members of groups" (7).

And later: "In each case I consider the attributes which the object possesses in common with other members of a given group" (8).

Or, in the words of Bravo: "Are you in or are you out?"  I was usually out.  No one picked me in gym class.  I was only good at soccer.  Dodge ball left me covered in large red welts.

Garret: "The skeleton is designed to optimize the arrangement of these elements for maximum effect and efficiency" (22).  Classification in action.  Arrangement mobilized.  Cut In and Cut Out to maximize profit margins.  "Now we can map that whole confusing array of terms"—because things must find their place, meanings must be locked down, the gates must be closed—"By breaking each plane down into its component elements [divide, divide, divide], we'll be able to take a closer look at how all the pieces fit together [unify, unify, unify] (31).  

That's how things make sense.  That's how people are paid and accounted for: "It's not necessary to have a member of your team who is a specialist in each of these areas; instead, you only have to ensure that someone is responsible for thinking about each of these issues" (35).  It's the language of efficiency. 

In Miller there is practical and there is non-practical.  There is in-the-classroom and there is in-the-workforce. There is descriptive and there is prescriptive.  There is good and there is non-good.  "My discussion so far has relied on a set of related oppositions that pervade the discourse of higher eduction" (21).  Miller tells us we're full of oppositions.  He lists them. 

inquiry versus action
gentleman-scholar versus technician-dupe
contemplation versus application
general versus general
etc. versus etc.

Oppositions, binaries, contrasts—they are the tools of classification.  And they "pervade our discourse." We are a departing constantly over our divisions.

This all, of course, goes back to Plato.  The master divider.  The great kicker-outer.  He demands that speech must be defined.  Rhetoric split from dialectic.  Knack from knowledge.  Soon after discussing Tisias, the professional sophist, Socrates concludes "unless a man take account of the characters of his hearers and is able to divide things by clases and to comprehend particulars under a general idea, he will never attain the highest human perfection in the art of speech."  If you are not dividing, if you are not classifying, if you are not working dialectically, you are wiping up the garbage.  You're a mess.  You're a mass of indistinct red welts.

Hakos and Redish turn the scalpel to movement.  Work will be split from Jobs.  Tasks from Goals.  Processes from Sequences.  Environment from Culture.  Noise from Hazards.  "We can take tasks at any level and decompose them—divide them up into pieces—to see the tasks at greater and greater levels of detail" (73).  Everything will be made distinct so that everything can be fixed.  Improved. Profitized.  Inefficiency will be removed.  

Whether you are novice, advanced beginner, competent performer, or expert, if your process is idiosyncratic, it will be analyzed and, eventually, reconfigured.  Maybe not this time round.  But the next software release will fold you into the efficient whole.

Miller ultimately discards the classifications, or perhaps tries to out-classify the old classifications by proposing a merger of some of the old oppositions: Aristotle's techne, joining description and prescription, theory and practice (22).  Finally, a third option to "this" or "that," "here" or "there."

I don't mean to upset Kinneavy.  Part of me wants to classify Plato as Narrative, Miller as Evaluation, and leave Classification to the others.  But that box won't do.  Modes tend to spin.  I agree that we approach subjects usually through a single side, a single door, a single fixed point—as when a writer decides to write a story, a review, a biographical sketch, etc.  But as Frank D'Angelo argues, we often fall under the sway of non-logical modes as much as logical modes.  We may enter through one side of Kinneavy's box, but we swirl around, up, down, out the other side. 

There is a power in inefficiency.  There is something fun in failing to divide.  There is revelation in de-classification.