Sociology of Culture - Cultural Sociology - iResearchNet
Examining similar methodological perspectives in information work research in the social sciences—namely, authority creation, hermeneutics, and becoming answerable—informs how we might apply humanist theories to research on information-as-process in the digital humanities. Comparing these perspectives from the viewpoint of social science and digital humanities studies not only allows us to develop a better understanding of methodological perspectives in general, but also offers specific examples of how these similar perspectives play out in different epistemic cultures.
Though shared across disciplines, these perspectives ultimately reflect unique epistemes through their employment of technique and method in individual studies. Learning to express these differences is vital not only for digital humanists who seek to situate their work in conversation with social science research, but also for those who seek to situate themselves in common as humanists. Concerns about the validity and relevance of research are prevalent in the social sciences and digital humanities alike, especially as research paradigms evolve in accordance with rapidly changing information and knowledge economies Becker, Harpham.
Considered together, humanistic and social scientific studies of information work demonstrate how authority creation constitutes a methodological perspective, one that can help us understand the value of the new forms of inquiry that arise within the context of evolving technologies and techniques. Such a perspective is epistemologically performative, shaping expectations about what practices comprise good scholarship even as those practices evolve.
MLCS 795 Information Literacy & Scholarly Communication
Mindful that scholarship cannot be constructed through quantitative trace data analysis alone, other scholars such as Geiger and Ribes argue that observing such traces must be achieved alongside more traditional interviews and observations, which allow for a qualitative understanding of the cultures—the activities, people, systems, and technologies—that contribute to their production. Their methodological perspective therefore includes adapting new to old epistemic traditions. In digital humanities, studies in new kinds of information work have also exposed new ways to create authority while simultaneously unearthing deep-rooted assumptions tied to publishing and promotion traditions.
Online peer-reviewed publications, scholarly electronic editions, specifications, research tools, research blogs, and hypermedia and new media works each provide an opportunity to consider how authority in the humanities has traditionally been established. This scholarship draws on the methods and practices associated with scholarly editing, bibliography, and philology, activities that have been long regarded as less scholarly or rigorous — As a response, Geoffrey Rockwell has developed a taxonomy for new types of digital publications, demonstrating how a consideration of authority creation as a methodological perspective can engage theoretical issues related to historical context, community impact, and the projected sustainability of research Rockwell, A single example from digital humanities literature shows the potential risks for digital humanists who seek to establish their authority in DH information work studies with out an understanding of social science methodological concerns.
On the other hand, social science researchers have done much work articulating self-reflective ethnographic approaches to studying information work. From this position, Rosner argues, she can better focus on the social and functional role of book artifacts.
By denying self-study as a valid approach to information work in digital humanities, we potentially raise concerns about the methods of authority creation in DH that are implicitly tied to theories of power, influence, and privilege—questions of whose information work may be discoverable—especially when the authority to speak is in large part based on experience.
General Reading on Culture/Cultural Studies (incl. Readers)
DH scholars such as those involved in transformDH 13 and postcolonial digital humanities have indeed engaged in important work that attempts to broaden and dismantle systems of authority, power, and influence. But without sufficient reflection, such methods can establish limited forms of skill or experience as authority—a turn that would limit the reach and impact of DH in the humanities.
Authority creation is at the foreground of recent conversations in large part because our hermeneutical methods, and therefore our principles of interpretation, have begun to shift within the context of information technologies. Indeed, while the studies mentioned demonstrate the expanding scope of objects to read, the hermeneutical methods associated with reading remain largely unarticulated.
That reading is universally understood as a reliable hermeneutical method in the humanities means that humanists are not typically required to argue for it as a method. To be sure, new hermeneutical methods in digital humanities represent unique opportunities for researchers to articulate methodological perspectives—that is, ties between theory and technique—that concern the very nature of interpretation. Hayles, for example, uses her study of reading methods to compare existing techniques and to explore new ones, such as hyperreading through associative links or distant reading —using computational methods to reveal patterns 61, Ethnographic studies that situate the hermeneutics of reading as an alternative practice can therefore provide useful examples of methodological perspectives that acknowledge the theories they engage.
Treating cultures as an assemblage of texts emphasizes how the interpretive act of reading is only one among many hermeneutical methods for thinking through the formation of culture. For instance, digital humanists have focused on data visualization, new forms of publication, and critical making as interpretive modes of knowledge representation, but often without explicit statements about how the use of these technologies might impact larger theoretical concerns. The necessity of having to treat the audiovisual materials as static objects in a database, however, precludes an understanding of these materials as emergent events for which meaning changes and evolves, as well as any means for computational engagement with the media objects themselves—such as audio or video analysis.
In such cases, digital humanists must be able to articulate the hermeneutical methodologies that might help foreground the multiplicity of cultural influences at play in the sociotechnical systems we use in our interpretive work. Some digital humanists have taken up this call through social actions that are both policy-based 19 as well as project-based.
By and large, however, these actions have reflected traditional humanist methodologies. The projects featured through the transformDH hashtag and Tumblr, for example, apply traditions of radical inquiry to digital and new media work in the humanities. These projects present necessary critiques of social systems through acts of inclusion, provocation, and disruption.
In terms of information work, however, many of the techniques they employ are methodologically problematic since they rely on unexamined information technologies. A complementary trend has emerged in the social sciences in which studies seek to become answerable on behalf of their findings about the social and cultural biases of information infrastructures by actively dismantling those same problematic systems. When applied to studies of information work, such a methodology is often characterized by using redesigns—or modifications on the level of coding and encoding—to expose and then examine the invisible social orders that influence and are influenced by information technologies.
In digital humanities, such techniques must be employed with explicit ties to humanistic goals, but any additional links to theory that we can make when we describe how we achieve these goals will deepen and broaden their impact. For example, Evans Watkins and Janice Radway, literary theorists who have employed interviews and observations in their studies of, respectively, the daily practices of the English professoriate and the situated practices of women reading novels, have done so in the context of Marxist and reader response theories deeply familiar to literary study.
While their methods are not traditional for the humanities, the subject matter and the theories they engage—in other words, their methodological approach to becoming answerable—situates this work squarely in the humanities. It follows, then, that when digital humanists employ methods from outside of the humanities, they must explicate the links between their methods and their theories so that their work can be situated in the field, and in relation to other disciplines, as a contribution to humanist knowledge production. Methodological perspectives in the social sciences and the humanities might jointly engage reflexive processes and constructivist paradigms, issues of authority creation and power relations, questions of hermeneutics and interpretive stances, and the desire to become answerable to the publics with whom we do our most important knowledge work, but the goals and values of these two epistemic cultures are still diverse.
Typically, humanists have been interested in methods that employ idiographic investigations, while social scientists have engaged in nomothetic explanations. As Borgman suggests, we can learn from the social scientists who have impacted and continue to impact how information-as-process is conducted.
Read Doing Research in Cultural Studies: An Introduction to Classical and New Methodological
But if we learn to describe what has thus far remained implicit in our own ways and modes of research, we must also begin to teach. Digital humanists must articulate these methods to ourselves and to others, because to do so is to understand where we can build bridges across diverse discourse communities, where we can learn from each other. In the humanities, for example, the connections between methods of close reading and the politics of reading suspiciously or symptomatically are easily intuited, but the connections between the objectivist methods that are regularly employed in other epistemic cultures and the theories that encourage uncertain knowledge production are not easily ascertained.
As humanists, we must be explicit about our desire to distinguish ourselves from the objective stances that are still praised in social science epistemologies when what we do is deliberately open-ended, circular, situated, subjective, or personal; but we must also know when theories about situated knowledge production have deeply impacted scholarship in sister fields. Indeed, such theories should also impact ours.
To articulate methodology—that crucial link between method and theory—is to explain our work to potential collaborators, in both the humanities and social sciences, and to those to whom we are accountable, as activists and as educators: our administrators, our students, and the world. Scholars in science and technology studies STS also rely on organization and management scholarship in workplace studies in which researchers study workers including consultants, doctors, or engineers in the context of particular organizations Garcia et al.
From a reflexive position, Rosner focuses on the social and functional role of artifacts as objects that are spatial and temporal flows with emergent compositional elements and constituent surfaces. This definition is from a grant proposal narrative that is not publicly available.
This stance is unlike social scientists such as Donna Haraway and Sandra Harding, who use a feminist epistemology to critique objectivist stances and to claim that valid scientific methods require that we claim our situatedness on what we are able to see Harding, Whose Science? Whose Knowledge? That epistemology has bearing on the methodological discussion is not lost on Harding. Such insights were often the result of gaining the confidence of and having and showing empathy for subjects.
As in literary study, ethnographers made a postmodern, postcolonialist turn in the s and s that is reflected in books that challenged the efficacy and ethics of ethnography as an objective or impartial look at the world and insisted, instead, on the potential of fieldwork that produced subjective, contingent, and situated knowledges Adler.
Through a methodological perspective concerned with authority creation and gendered information work, Beaulieu engages feminist theories that are concerned with making previously unseen work observable and therefore discoverable as new subjects for study. Chun and Balsamo are excellent examples of this kind of methodological perspective at work in digital humanities. Blanchette gives an excellent overview of critical making in particular from the social science perspective. Posner has made this call in her keynote at the Keystone Digital Humanities Conference, which she has published on her blog.
The ACH Association for Computers and the Humanities has gone to great lengths to help support open access and fair use in DH by joining the DH community in filing two amicus briefs in lawsuits related to digitization of in-copyright and orphaned works in the Google Books and HathiTrust corpora. While some of these examples come from DH scholarship, these authors, as professors and graduate students in iSchools or professionals in libraries are scholars whose work has been heavily influenced by both the humanities and information studies.
The work done by Feinberg, Carter, and Bullard describes a process in which they purposefully use selection, description, organization, and arrangement to explicate resource collections as forms of rhetorical expression. Guided by feminist inquiry, Radway seeks to understand how romance novels impact gender relations.
Watkins identifies the practices that must and do promote disruptions in the formation of human capital in which graduates from English departments inevitably engage. Adler, Peter N. Membership Roles in Field Research. Newbury Park, Calif.
Balsamo, Anne. Durham, N. Beaulieu, Anne. Becker, Howard S. Robert M.
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