So, I may have mentioned this already, Monday is the only day of the week right now where I have childcare for R&Z and it is the day where I should be making great progress on my thesis. Today, not so much. I did some grocery shopping this morning, and then my mum phoned and we hadn’t talked since last week, so we talked, and then it was so sunny outside, and I’m reading a really fabulous book (still reading the one I talked about before for the highly anticipated feminist book club), so I have been outside on a deck chair reading and sunning myself. I wrote one measly paragraph before I slid out the back door and on to the deck. I wrote about how complicated it is to code for something as slippery as ‘value’. Sure, we talk about value with the language of judgement – what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – we talk about what we like or what we don’t, and paint ourselves through our associations and tastes if we have the privilege and time to do so. But, so much of our expressions of value are cumulative, implicit, subtle shades that can’t be so easily picked out of a transcript, highlighted, coded, cross-referenced…. I’m torn between the understanding that my analysis must (serious voice) above all, be systematic, and a growing realization that this is often a smokescreen for something that is perhaps unavoidably arbitrary, or at least based on intuitions more than I can ever dare to admit. So, while I struggle to reconcile my duty to systematic coding with complex data which struggles against the yoke of ‘units of analysis’, I sit outside and read.
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.