Metaphors for blogging PhD ideas: maps, mirrors and masks

by Lilia Efimova on 26 August 2008

Referrer logs bring me to the post on high-stakes reflection (mirrors, maps and masks) by Jen:

One of the things I found really fascinating in the e-portfolio literature was Barrett and Carney’s idea of ‘conflicting’ or ‘competing’ paradigms: ‘positivist’ (product-driven, performative, externally assessed, based on externally defined outcomes), vs ‘constructivist’ (process-driven, reflective, learner constructed outcomes) (2005, p7-8). These are also sometimes described as ‘map’ and ‘mirror’ portfolios. […]

Then I became interested in the extent to which the tension between these ‘conflicting’ paradigms might in fact be an intrinsic part of professional reflective practices. […]

To describe this, along with ‘map’ and ‘mirror’, I have added a third category: portfolio as ‘mask’. I’ve been working on this metaphor a bit over the past few months and am delighted by its richness – so far I’ve identified at least 6 (overlapping) genres of mask: protection, disguise, performance, memory, transformation, punishment.

This post, together with the one detailing the six mask genres, provides metaphors to think on some of the comments I’ve got on the PhD chapter that looks at blogging PhD ideas. Part of the struggle I had while working on it was drawing the boundaries between the different perspectives I use to look at blogging ideas, (knowledge base / process / context). Although the metaphors do not easily fit onto what I have written (they are also more appropriate for someone looking at blogging from the outside), but they do provide an input for reflecting on it.

The mask metaphor (read the post on six genres) is an interesting one to look at the blogging in the context of my PhD research. Here a quick look on the genres in respect to my weblog research-wise (reordered):

  • Memory (trace in the second post) – literally, to keep traces of my thinking.
  • Performance / disguise – presenting myself through writing, intentionally and not.
  • Punishment – being shaped by the mask, the traces I leave via blogging and the image that others construct of me.
  • Transformation – what happens with the ideas as they have been blogged and with my own identity as I go through the process (re: Kamler&Thomson, 2005).
  • Protection – the choices I made in bringing blogging back into the dissertation as an instrument to address methodological challenges (a bit here, but more in the paper I’m supposed to write instead of this post). [Update: finished paper – Blending blogging into an academic text]

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jen 27 August 2008 at 12:32

Hi Lilia,

How excellent to find that the masks resonate with you in methodological terms.

I am still really fascinated with them, and particularly with tensions in unraveling how much a mask is chosen and deliberate, and how much we are inscribed and ‘masked’ by our educational and professional contexts. In fact, I have changed the name of one of the six genres from ‘punishment’ to ‘discipline’, now, which I think opens up lots of new ways of thinking through constraint and learning – being in a discipline, being disciplined.

I’ll be talking about this, particularly the ‘trace’ as archive and as inscription, at AoIR in Copenhagen in October – will you be there?

Thanks for your post – I was getting ready to write a few new blog entries anyway, and now I feel quite inspired to do it!

2 Lilia Efimova 27 August 2008 at 12:55

I will be at AoIR as well* – would love to talk a bit more on it with you. Do you have anything (paper draft?) written on it? I could benefit from reading more on your thinking on masks for writing concluding chapter of my dissertation (which is ideally should be done in some form before Copenhagen :)

*The paper I’m working on right now is for the AoIR workshop IN THE GAME: Ethnographic relationships, mediation and knowledge. I’m playing with an idea to use your six genres in a discussion, but not sure it will fit given the focus (the proposal).

3 Jen 29 August 2008 at 15:04

Wow, that workshop looks amazing. I’m going to the doctoral colloquium on the 15th, which I’m really looking forward to.

I’ve posted a PDF of my AoIR paper at – I would really welcome any comments.

The discussion of ‘role conflicts’ in your abstract:

“As my blogging served me in both roles, a researcher and a blogger, it was not always easy to separate them and to make choices in the case of a role conflicts. Writing my weblog as a way of participating in blogging cultures I study and writing academic texts with the results of those studies turned into a struggle with writing conventions behind those two. Being a researcher who blogs I held myself accountable for my weblog writing in a similar ways as in writing papers. Being a blogger who does research I kept wondering if there are ways to write research papers in a way that is understandable and engaging for non researchers.”

– the blogger as researcher and researcher as blogger – would seem to link in with the mask genres in lots of ways – but maybe especially as discipline. The disciplined academic and the disciplined blogger may not easily co-exist. I like Mortensen’s 2004 article on academic blogging: – she calls it a ‘twilight zone’! :-)

Really interesting, all of this. Yes, please let’s have a chat in Copenhagen. Good luck with your dissertation, in the meantime!

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