August, 19, 2013

From Dissertation in Progress
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>Talking to Craig

The idea of doing the dissertation as a series papers is great. Actually, several friends from the media lab at MIT have done their PhD dissertations using that model. I think it is very productive and efficient to do it that way. And it also makes the work more generative in terms of journal publications and conferences. Since the core themes I want to address in the dissertation are participation, literacies, creativity, and digital media, I could certainly develop them across three or four different papers. For instance, one about the digital video COP, other about latino families, another about information seeking behavior (search practices), and finally one about social network sites and audiovisual culture.

On my current version of the diss proposal, I was imagining structuring the thesis by creating case studies of 7-8 latino/hispanics. Specifically I was thinking about Sergio, Javier, Antonio, Inara, Gabriela, Diego, and the brothers (Miguel and Marcus). In each case study I would look at the core themes and how they do develop across specific realms and media practices. My hypothesis is that participation is fluid, a continuum. It changes across realms and media practices and is determined by the socio-cultural position of the actors and their families (class, ethnicity, generation, language). The degrees of empowerment, agency, and control, that these subjects have vary according to the realms where they are and the media practices they do. For instance, most of them seem to be very powerful agents inside their families because of their position as tech and media savvy, their knowledge of english, and their new media literacies. Very few of them, seem to be powerful in the realm of the online information communities (hives). However, despite not having well developed collective intelligence and negotiation skills or having bidirectional kinds of participation, they do pull information via search engines and they do access free entertainment via popular online platforms. Another realm, the after-school is closely related to their peer world, and many of them exercise power and agency in this realm with the media practices they are able to do (e.g SNSs). The case studies approach could be productive in terms of comparison, but it also has the risk of being too long and too thick in the description of each case.

Since my working draft of the proposal is still very raw, it would be easier for me to accommodate it to a combination of articles approach. However, I wonder if it would be complicated to have the specific questions for each paper listed together. Maybe the questions remain general in the proposal? Also, it could be also challenging to group a literature review in the proposal that can work for the 3-4 articles. I haven't seen diss proposals that work for this multiple-articles model. If you know some, please let me know.

>Craig reply

I like the way you frame the dissertation. I especially like the way that you frame the students as having agency and how they are, in fact, powerful agents in their families. This both works in their favor (e.g., they develop autonomy and a sense of their agency early) and against them (e.g., without powerful adult/parental influencers their ability to capitalize key social relations and resources are severely limited).

The article approach to the dissertation is just an idea; let me know what you prefer. Either model is fine with me.

I don't have access to specific dissertations that do this. But you could frame each article around a specific concept, theory, or critical question. Take for example after school. What specific concept, theoretical idea (i.e., social capital, COP) would you want to develop your analysis of the role of after school in this community? Another question might form around the digital media literacies and practices of youth in the study. You could draw from relevant research and use data from the study to build both an empirical account and analysis of the challenges to gaining greater competency in the participatory cultures of digital media.