Monthly Archives: March 2014

Taking Stock

I have been chipping away at the data gathering part of my methods section over the past couple of weeks. Tiny chips. I’m taking a short break over this weekend and early next week and I’m leaving my work in a not-so-great place. I am feeling a bit frustrated. I’m not making progress as quickly as I would like, and I’m not finding the hours to put in to make it happen. So, in a way it feels like a shitty time to take a break because I’m not finished the draft of the chapter, by any means. In another way, I think it’s an excellent time to take a break. I don’t have good momentum at the moment, I’m floundering a bit, and it can’t hurt to stop, take stock, have some fun, and then get back to it with a positive attitude.
So that is the plan. Tomorrow I should get about and hour and a half work-time in the morning. In that time I want to do the following:
– Quickly read through the chapter as it stands.
– Flag the areas that need work and identify next steps for each area.
– Update the reference list
– Identify reading required to move on
– Adjust timeline
Then I have to pack for a family of four (LJ is a lousy packer: leaves everything to the last minute and forgets really obvious essentials). Traveling (even when it is a relatively local trip) with kids is sooooo different from traveling without them. I am excited though – on Thursday evening I will be drinking beers with some pretty awesome women that I haven’t seen for a while. I’m going to get to meet some new babies and introduce friends to baby Z. Yes, perhaps a holiday is just what I need.

‘Me and My Shadow’

Brief thesis update: I got some feedback on my ‘chapter sketch’ which was encouraging and devastating in equal measures. Not really devastating but there’s always a bit of a crisis of confidence for me with the first reading of criticism before I pull it together and start to see how the critique is helpful. I spent my work time on Monday going through each comment and either making quick revisions to address a simple problem or planning how I could start to tackle the major issues. I have about two weeks to revise and flesh out before I submit a more substantial draft. Yikes.

In the meantime I thought I would post one of my favourite essays. ‘Me and My Shadow’ is by Jane Tompkins and was published in the late 1980’s (a LOT of my favourite pieces are late 80’s/early 90’s which I may get into at another time). You can find a pdf of the essay here. I first read this when I was doing my MA in Women’s Studies and it has become one of those foundational pieces of work that I return to again and again when I’m trying to articulate how I see my scholarly work as part of my life and my life as part of my scholarly work.

It’s the same person who feels and who discourses about epistemology. The problem is that you can’t talk about your private life in the course of doing your professional work. You have to pretend that epistemology, or whatever you’re writing about, has nothing to do with your life, that it’s more exalted, more important,¬† because it (supposedly) transcends the merely personal…The public-private dichotomy, which is to say the public-private hierarchy, is a founding condition of female oppression. I say to hell with it.

Me too, Jane, me too! Now, I have to go change a diaper, do some grocery shopping, and work on some focus group theory.

Thematic Analysis and Theory

I sent off my ‘chapter sketch’ about ten days ago now and since then I have been working on developing strategies for my analysis. I have made some progress:

I looked through my existing files in the ‘analysis’ folder and it turns out that I had made a bit more progress when I stopped working in 2012 than I thought I had. I had (thematically) organized my discussion of my data into two main sections (chapters) and had begun to shape the coded data into a coherent discussion in one of these areas. Another sweet find in the mess of old files! What I hadn’t done, and what I need to do next, is to develop strategies for a closer analysis of the data.

My approach to this has been to return to the theory (retreat! retreat!). A couple of years ago I attended a workshop with Sally Wyatt, who was a visiting scholar in our department. It was extremely generous of Dr. Wyatt to do this and it’s something that I wish I had done more of in the past and would like to get the chance to do again. Dr Wyatt pointed out that even though I did a good job of getting into how I conceptualize blogging, I didn’t really talk about or unpack (I kind of hate that term but it is useful sometimes) my approach to value. It was very helpful and a bit embarrassing to see that I had made this (glaring) omission and it’s been on my mind since then to return to the chapter to address it. So…I have sketched my approach to value into three main questions:¬†First, how has value been taken up in debates over the validity/legitimacy of popular culture in scholarly work?

Second, how is value talked about in scholarly work on specific popular culture forms and practices.

And, finally, what do I mean when I talk about ‘value’ in a basic, philosophical sense? What is value? How does it operate?

In the process of working out this part of the theory chapter, I kept notes on any strategies or points of focus for my analysis. I’m slowly beginning to put together a list of ‘things to look for’ in my data. The next time I post an update here I hope to have put together a starting-point list and also to have worked out specific techniques for the analysis. I like the back and forth between theory and methods.

In other news, this week has been better in terms of not feeling so conflicted about time spent with family and work-time. I do think it is smart for me to be aware of how my experience is shaped by my social and cultural context and to think about what could be done in order to create a more supportive environment for graduate students with children and other family commitments. Perhaps there is something I can raise in my department or an initiative I could become involved with while I am finishing so that students who are starting out or thinking about graduate work have a bit more support.