Monday, October 8, 2012

Horizons in Researching Digital Media

For a recent job application, I was asked to write out a research agenda for my future as an academic. This makes sense since I project myself in the future as primarily a researcher/educator. Anyway, this is what I came up with. If anyone is interested in cooperating or collaborating on similar research topics, send me an email. Cheers!

Research Statement

My primary research methodology is guided by van Manen’s human science inquiry founded in hermeneutic phenomenology, which I transmute with Don Ihde’s philosophical synthesis of phenomenology and pragmatism, postphenomenology. This means my primary research method involves reflective writing and the variational “worlding” (Heidegger, Being and Time, 1962) of my participants’ lived experiences in the everydayness of their lifeworlds. I apply this methodological and philosophical grounding to researching digital media, digital literacy practices, and the ways of being and meaning making through these digitally mediated worlds. My primary focus is on the lived experience of digital storytelling—digital ethnography, digital memoir, video gaming, transmedia stories, invisibility projects, and participatory community research projects using digital media—as it applies to social justice issues. In essence, I consider myself a qualitative researcher grounded in an empirical approach that avoids induction and/or reduction. I firmly believe the research question guides the methodology and use and have used quantitative methodologies to help make visible latent phenomenon. Overall, however, I remain oriented to capturing the narratives inherent in my participants' lived stories and make manifest the essences of our human experience.

The following question guided my inquiry for my dissertation topic: In what ways do participants world their lived experiences of designing and producing digital teaching stories? The secondary question undergirding this investigation entailed an exploration of the possible ways these experiences reveal the deeper meaning structures and orientations of how digital media and technology mediate our experiences with story, peace, and justice. My dissertation question is grounded in hermeneutic phenomenology as a basis for narrative inquiry. I feel this is an important approach to my phenomenon of interest because I focus on the particulars of the students’ experiences of narrating digital stories designed to project peace and justice. My participants were all undergraduates enrolled in core Humanities class, a class with a purpose to help students gain a purpose for developing a sense of stories, both traditional and digital,  in order to help students make meaning with them and apply them to their own lives.

In addition to my research dissertation, I have co-authored two paper presentations for national conferences. One paper involved researching how teachers developed an online community of practice through the social media applications of Facebook and Twitter. The second presentation involved analyzing scientific argumentation within a Facebook application designed to explore topics of environmental science and ecology. I am currently in the process of co-authoring a paper on the literacy practices inherent within this same Facebook application using the same data sources. I am hopeful to have a publication on this topic by the end of the year.

The next phenomenon I would like to investigate involves seeking out the ways students experience the literacy practices involved in game-design or design-based pedagogies within project-based and experiential pedagogical frames. My plan is to incorporate principles of research-by-design with my methodology of postphenomenology. In what ways do they “read” and “write” these new media experiences?  In what ways does the research-by-design concepts change the ways we make meaning with these new media? I feel this research horizon involves seeking new ways of viewing literacy with the possibility of shifting educational paradigms away from industrial-aged concepts of educational space, time, embodiment, and relations with others.

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