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Fernando Hernández-Hernández and Juana M. Sancho-Gil
Researchers from various disciplines collect and generate field notes as a strategy to describe and reflect (through texts, photos, drawings, diagrams, or recordings) the complexity they face when addressing entangled and many-faceted phenomena. Field notes are as common research strategy not only to capture and amass instantly what researchers listen to, observe, think, and feel, but also to make explicit their reflexivity process, based on their observations and experiences. Field notes are not only a method for generating evidence, but a reflection of the ontological, epistemological, methodological, and ethical positionality that guide the researcher’s gaze. Paradoxically, although field notes are something most researchers use and are fundamental in their reports and publications, they are generally the hidden and idiosyncratic side of academic field work.
The preparation of field notes is an extremely intricate issue, as the very same meaning, purposes, and roles of field notes heavily rely on the ethnographer’s onto-epistemological positioning. It is useful, then to contextualize field notes within the tradition of ethnography, without ignoring the fact that they are used in a wide range of disciplines (including anthropology, deology, architecture, geography, ethology, archaeology, and biology). It is also important to problematize the practice of taking, collecting, and generating field notes by taking into account the fact that the traditional vision of field notes as written (alphabetic) notes is being challenged by the availability of mobile applications that enable researchers to create and organize multimodal information. It is important to note the relevance of the so-called “headnotes,” as there are many impressions, scenes, and experiences that cannot be written down or can be difficult or impossible to document. In addition, the text goes beyond the reflection of interaction by introducing the notion of intra-action to overcome the metaphysics of individualism underlying conventional understandings of “interactions.” The growing multiplicity of languages, modes, and means of expression and communication must be examined alongside the strengths and limitations of multimodal field notes. Finally, the practice of keeping field notes requires a recognition of the reflexivity imbedded in this process. Field diaries can be seen as the first step toward ethnographic reporting, and here reflexivity becomes a fundamental part of the analyses involved.
Researchers who use qualitative methods, especially ethnography in educational settings, have to make conscious decisions about how to write about their results, their methods, and their experiences as investigators. Since the 1980s, initially in the discipline of social anthropology, but later across all the social sciences, there have been vigorous debates about how texts should be written and also about how they should be read. Before that, qualitative and quantitative educational research was written up in a similar way: reported in a passive or anonymous style designed to create an authoritative account. Over the course of 40 years, ethnographic writing has developed new literary forms, polyvocal texts, and authors have become visible and individual in their own texts. A wider range of texting genres is now published, and reflexivity is central to writing and reading. The causes and consequences of those changes are analyzed.
Writing qualitative dissertations represents an internationally recognized pinnacle for students of higher education. The pressures and incentives for students approaching the dissertation writing landscape are undeniable. Unfortunately, too many doctoral students are offered limited strategies to begin navigating it. Moreover, doctoral students seeking maps from Education and other social science literature to guide them will find limited peer-reviewed scholarship that addresses the complexity of writing defensible qualitative dissertations. Too many doctoral students instead turn to some of the most popular qualitative dissertation textbooks that tend to provide limited representations of the writing landscape, albeit unintentional. These students may begin writing only to find that such landscape representations prepare them inadequately for the complexity of the territory. It is a territory filled with a variety of evolving writing tasks and possibilities. Doctoral students may consider at least seven evolving sets of tasks (ESTs) as strategies for navigating the messy terrain of the qualitative dissertation writing territory.
Stuart R. Poyntz and Jennesia Pedri
Media in the 21st century are changing when, where, what, and how young people learn. Some educators, youth researchers, and parents lament this reality; but youth, media culture, and learning nevertheless remain entangled in a rich set of relationships today. These relationships and the anxieties they produce are not new; they echo worries about the consequences of young people’s media attachments that have been around for decades.
These anxieties first appeared in response to the fear that violence, vulgarity, and sexual desire in early popular culture was thought to pose to culture. Others, however, believed that media could be repurposed to have a broader educational impact. This sentiment crept into educational discourses throughout the 1960s in a way that would shift thinking about youth, media culture, and education. For example, it shaped the development of television shows such as Sesame Street as a kind of learning portal. In addition to the idea that youth can learn from the media, educators and activists have also turned to media education as a more direct intervention. Media education addresses how various media operate in and through particular institutions, technologies, texts, and audiences in an effort to affect how young people learn and engage with media culture. These developments have been enhanced by a growing interest in a broad project of literacy. By the 1990s and 2000s, media production became a common feature in media education practices because it was thought to enable young people to learn by doing, rather than just by analyzing or reading texts. This was enabled by the emergence of new digital media technologies that prioritize user participation.
As we have come to read and write media differently in a digital era, however, a new set of problems have arisen that affect how media cultures are understood in relation to learning. Among these issues is how a participatory turn in media culture allows others, including corporations, governments, and predatory individuals, to monitor, survey, coordinate, and guide our activities as never before. Critical media literacy education addresses this context and continues to provide a framework to address the future of youth, media culture and learning.