Fostering interview researchers in an interview society

Challenging, no doubt, but one good thing is that there is never a shortage of resources for classroom discussions.

Fox News interview with Reza Aslan (July 2013)


Fairytale prisoner by choice: The photographic eye of Melania Trump
(Kate Imbach, Medium, 16 April 2017)

Trump gave an ‘impromptu’ interview to the NY Times. Did it grill him hard enough? (Keith Wagstaff, Mashable, 29 December 2017) — in reaction to Excerpts from Trump’s interview with The Times (The New York Times, 28 December 2017)

Uma deserves better (Anne Helen Petersen, 4 February 2018) — in reaction to This is why Uma Thurman is angry (Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, 3 February 2018)

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My precious

I am someone who just has to have a knick-knack box. I have always had one since, well, as far as I remember. Much of that compulsion has now gone digital. I see my Tumblr page in particular as my virtual knick-knack box and treasure it more than any other spaces I have carved out in this vast digital world.

My only complaint, however, is about its search function. It sucks. So this post is to move one of my collections from there to here for easier navigation. I have collected quite a few ‘pedagogical gems‘ over the past couple of years. <puffed with pride>

Learning Theory (crossposted 7 Feb 2016)

Cognitive bias cheat sheet (crossposted 4 December 2016)

Media Theorised (crossposted 25 March 2017)

An Illustrated Book of Bad Argument (crossposted 27 December 2013)

Tea Consent (Blue Seat Studios, as part of a campaign by Thames Valley Police, 12 May 2015)

A timeline of earth’s average temperature (xkcd, 2016)

Timeline Tools (Florian Kräutli, 8 April 2016)

DH101: A highly opinionated resource guide by Miriam Posner (crossposted 30 June 2017)

How to choose a research method (Eva Nedbalova, NCRM, 2017)

Which stats test (crossposted 15 June 2017)

Discovering Statistics (crossposted 7 February 2014)

Seeing Theory (crossposted 1 March 2017)

Data Viz Project (Ferdio, 2017)

One Dataset, Visualized 25 Ways (crossposted 6 February 2017)

Fundamentals of Data Visualization (Claus O. Wilke, free e-copy of a forthcoming O’Reilly Media book)

Introduction to Social Network Methods (Robert A. Hanneman & Mark Riddle, 2005)

The Philosopher’s Web (via Open Culture, 20 October 2017; see also 14 July 2016 and 25 July 2013)

How to get that pdf (via @elotroalex [Super useful list of #openaccess strategies to help you find that PDF, including sci-hub (with the legal caveat, of course)], 2 March 2018)

***

And to the makers of these — I heart you.

Like a magpie

Kind of a (growing) YouTube playlist with my methodology students in mind. To borrow Ed Yong’s words, I scour the internet so that you don’t have to. 😉

Common errors made when conducting a literature review (Michael Quinn Patton, 2015)

Methods 101: Random sampling (Pew Research Center, 12 May 2017)

Increasing validity in qualitative research (Denise Clark Pope, 2017)

[Linked]

Why you can never argue with conspiracy theorists (Wired, 17 June 2017)

Relativity & the equivalence of reference frames (Hillary Diane Andales, 1 October 2017)

Surrounded by nebulae

Last week I attended a pan-London meeting of researcher developers. My opposite numbers, so to say. It is actually one of my favourite meetings. There I heard a colleague saying that researcher development is not a profession for life. “We have come from different places and we are on our ways to different places”, she concluded. This remark was meant to be a positive one, and I did understand the point she was making. Nevertheless, my heart literally ached a little when I heard that, and I have been pondering since about where that pain came from.

I took on my role at my current institution five years ago. Besides how the role has evolved, the way I see it is that I wear two hats. When I wear the researcher developer hat, I help students grow into researchers themselves. When I wear the researcher hat, I contribute to the scholarship of researcher development while also carrying on with my usual research in digital sociology. This three-way split of identity has been posing challenges, and I have been asked by different colleagues if I am going to ditch the researcher developer hat anytime soon.

Perhaps that is a strategic thing to do, as a recent anonymous article in the Guardian seems to suggest, and last week’s meeting got me wondering whether I am being unwise. Then I recalled this following quote that a PhD student shared with me last year. The words were from her son.

The process of forming a new idea — be it a dissertation, a book, a work of art — is similar to the process by which a star is formed. In the beginning, it is just a cloud of particles — a nebula — floating in space. Slowly, over time, these particles are drawn by gravity toward the centre, coalescing into a more solid form — the first semblance of the star, of something new. As these particles continue to amass, the energy of the centre of the nebula builds and builds until finally, after crossing a critical point — after absorbing a critical amount of information — the cloud ignites and the new star — the new idea — is born.

I am eyewitnessing the births of stars everyday. In a courtside seat, no less. I guess that’s the privilege I can’t quite give up.

Researchers’ complicated relationship with data

RT @rasmus_kleis No, your findings did not “emerge” from your data. Frogs emerge from ponds. Findings are arrived at through analysis of data. In the first case, the frog does the work, in the second, you do the work. (8 November 2017)

Immediately hearted it, but then there is also this one below, reminding me that we cannot try too hard either.

“If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything you’d like.” (Ronald Coase, n.d.)

I guess we are all flirting somewhere in between.

Computer says so.

In Mr Monk Goes to the Ballgame, the murderer lures his target to a deserted industrial park by manipulating the GPS in their car the previous night – because he knew they would be unsuspecting of the instructions from that little machine.

I have just had one such moment myself. My Calendar indicated I had a Committee meeting this afternoon, so I planned my day around it accordingly. When I arrived at the venue, there were already people in the room, but they were not the usual faces. I asked them why they were there. Oh so authoritatively. It took me longer than it should to realise it was I who barged into their meeting. I just never doubted the Calendar.

After thinking about the Monk episode, I also remembered a casual list that I was compiling for students on a related topic. Related in my mind, at least.

Sliding on the participant-observer continuum

Denmark awaits Seoul’s extradition request for Choi Soon-sil’s daughter (The Guardian, 2 January 2017)

So the presidential scandal in Korea is far from dying down. On the contrary, it’s like peeling an onion; there is always more and it stinks.

Yesterday Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter of the woman at the centre of the scandal, was arrested in Denmark. It has been alleged that Chung herself has also been heavily involved in the wrongdoing. What is particularly interesting about this latest development is that this arrest was made possible by a Korea journalist tipping Danish police off Chung’s whereabouts. The journalist belongs to a cable station called JTBC. The station has been playing a crucial role so far, including this latest exclusive. JTBC’s news reporting division, led by the iconic journalist Sohn Suk-hee, has therefore been lauded by many as doing what politicians and law enforcers should have been doing but failed to.

Then an op-ed came out today. Written by a director in a media consulting firm, the piece has triggered a heated debate about whether it is appropriate for journalists to intervene. The author categorically argues the JTBC journalist shouldn’t have, citing Rachel Smolkin’s 2006 article on the topic. It’s like the criticism levelled at Kevin Carter and his famous photograph of a vulture and a child, but only inversely.

‘When to step in (if at all)’ is an age-old dilemma and not limited to journalism. I too discuss it extensively with our doctoral researchers, so I am adding this case to my metaphorical scrapbook. One I turn to most frequently in class is the following passage from Kenneth Good’s Into the Heart: One Man’s Pursuit of Love and Knowledge among the Yanomami (1991: 102-103):

I stood there, my heart pounding. I had no doubt I could scare these kids away. They were half-afraid of me anyway, and if I picked up a stick and gave a good loud, threatening yell, they’d scatter like the wind. On the other hand, I was an anthropologist, not a policeman. I wasn’t supposed to take sides and make value judgements and direct their behaviour. This kind of thing went on. If a woman left her village and showed up somewhere else unattached, chances were she’d be raped. She knew it, they knew it. It was expected behaviour. What was I supposed to do, I thought, try to inject my own standards of morality? I hadn’t come down here to change these people or because I thought I’d love everything they did; I’d come to study them.

The author of the op-ed is of course entitled to his concern for the integrity of the field he cares about. I think, however, he has missed the point that ‘observer’ and ‘participant’ are not two dichotomous states. To draw on Junker (1960), it is a continuum along which we all slide back and forth, guided by our professional moral compass.

Grey matters (pun intended)

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to speak about research integrity (as outlined in Singapore Statement, 2010; Universities UK Concordat, 2012) to a cohort of first-year doctoral researchers in the School of Arts. One message I wanted to get across was that RI is not to throw in some nice, Boy-Scouty words such as honesty and respect, and that it is something very close to our everyday life as a researcher.

20160119_side_mirrorPhoto by Carol Blyberg (smilla4) under CC A-NC 2.0

Considering the little choices that we make at every turn of a research project, nothing is black and white. There are instead a lot of grey areas with shifting boundaries (or ‘multiple boundaries’ as one of the discussants put it during the seminar), and you will just need to draw a line somewhere – a line that is acceptable in your context but more importantly you are comfortable with.

So, as brain exercises (hence the pun), I presented some hypothetical dilemmas to the participants. I don’t mean dilemmas that are as dramatic as those in the famous Justice lecture series but rather small and mundane ones. I then asked the participants where their lines would be and how they had come to their decisions.

Those exercises generated rich and vibrant discussions in the classroom. I was quite pleased with how the session went, and now I keep having more ideas that I could have used. So I thought I’d build up a list here – for my own resource but perhaps also for anyone looking for essay prompts or something.

CFP: Interdisciplinary Discussion on Visual Methods

The RC33 9th International Conference on Social Science Methodology

11th – 16th September 2016, Leicester, UK

Session organiser: Dr Yenn Lee, SOAS, University of London

This session is for researchers using ‘visual methods’ – in the broadest definition of the term – in their work. Visual methods have long been practised in different disciplines, and with the development of digital technologies their place has been further highlighted in recent years.

However, recognising the need for a further effort to synthesise fragmented practices, the session aims to bring together visual anthropologists and sociologists, cartographers in human geography, and multimodal analysts in digital communications, to name a few. The unique contribution of this session is that it will provide a forum where participants can draw methodological inspirations from one another beyond disciplinary boundaries and traditions.

To that end, we are inviting submissions that will reflect the diversity of approaches. Doctoral and early career researchers are particularly welcome to join.

Deadline for abstracts: 21 January 2016 (Update: Call extended to 21 February)

How to submit:

1. To submit a paper abstract for the RC33 9th International Conference on Social Science Methodology, visit http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/sociology/research/rc33-conference. After landing on the homepage, navigate to ‘Abstract Submission’, which appears in the left-hand column of the page. See the image below.

RC33_instruction1

2. Complete the form in full. You may wish to cut and paste your abstract into the Abstract field from another document. Each abstract is limited to 5000 characters.

3. Choose the relevant session for your stream. To do so, you will need to select the session organiser’s name [Yenn Lee] from the drop-down menu highlighted in the image below. To check you are submitting to the correct session, you can view a table of sessions and session convenors by clicking the link titled ‘View the list of sessions and session convenors’. Once complete, click Submit.

RC33_instruction2

For all additional information, please contact Dr Yenn Lee (yl22 [at] soas [dot] ac [dot] uk).

* Crossposted at SOAS News.