Notes on my PhD methodology: weblog studies
Earlier in this series:
What I call "studies" is something that has been part of my PhD before I came into recognising an ethnographical layer of it. I started from the idea of understanding personal knowledge management through studying specific blogging practices through the several studies. Since then the focus on studies stays more or less the same*:
- weblog conversations
- weblog reading
- weblog as personal knowledge organiser (often hides under "weblog writing" label, but it's only one-sided view on writing)
- weblog communities (this one that wasn't in the original list)
I think of these studies as about different 2D projections of 3D phenomenon**: I try to look at different practices of blogging in order to (re)construct personal knowledge management issues (don't like the word, but struggling to find something better) they manifest. It could be considered as "viewpoint triangulation" rather than "cross-case analysis".
Each study has specific research questions and specific methods to approach them, however all to some extend combine "artefact analysis" with "making it meaningful". The first one is about looking at artefacts: weblog text, linking, subscriptions, categories. The second one is about understanding what is behind artefacts and practices as visible through artefacts (~ does link indicates a relation?) usually through interviewing or meta-blogging (my own/others independently or in a dynamic).
The studies reflect the multidisciplinary approach I have chosen to look at personal KM – each of the viewpoints is interrelated with others, but also heavily informed by a particular field (e.g. "weblog as personal knowledge organiser" connects with studies on personal information management).
In this respect I hope that each of studies also makes sense in a stand-alone mode, but conceptual and especially methodological dependencies do not make it that easy. This is where reflective ethnography and blogging come into play.
Simply explained reflective ethnography provides a foundation and a frame for the weblog studies I do. Reflecting on my own blogging experiences and interacting with "similar others" provides ideas for research questions, sampling, data collection and analysis methods informing and shaping specific weblog studies.
Of course, there is a complex explanation as well. Blogging is not only a way to participate in the community I study. I also blog my reflections, notes on research, interpretations, work-in-progress and final papers, so my research findings become an input for my blogging community, influencing things I discover during stages that follow.
[May be continued]
* I haven't made enough progress in these studies as a result of "other work" pressures and lack of methodological and conceptual clarity for my overall approach. I'm event not sure that I'll finish all these studies – depends on how far I go in those heavily in progress, how much time I have and when I reach "enough is enough" point in my PhD.
** 2D/3D metaphor has some connections with the issue of invisibility/implicitness of PKM that I frequently talk about: one can think of (in)visibility as a lack of dimensions. Something like: 2D creatures do not see 3D phenomenon in a full glory because they don't have senses to perceive it (which of course doesn't mean that they are not aware of it – you can sense that there is something of another dimension observing irregularities of 2D).