/A space for additional advice, examples, etc./

Table of Contents:
  1. Notes on the memos
  2. General lessons, advice


Coming Soon:
Zotero screencast guide to installing and using
A note on footnotes



this note, like the class overall, and like life much of the time, may feel a bit overwhelming. the key is to keep up, spread it out, build your thesis gradually, do not procrastinate. that's not a commandment, but if you don't follow it at least somewhat, i guarantee you'll have a hell of a time.

the goal of this note is to a) once again ask you to individually check in whenever stumbling blocks arise, b) provide lists of things to work through, all in once place, expanding on the schedule and providing some extra detail, for the next few weeks, c) provide some links to my own initial attempt at these study components, not because they're the best (far from it) but because i can easily answer questions about them and they show that i, too, struggled with these memos and this research process the first time around.


1st, some key things to do:
  1. keep up with your research record / journal / time logging
  2. make sure your proposal has lots of citations throughout and a rich bibliography (which should only include references that you cite in the text) and has a detailed research schedule (i.e. who will you be interviewing, when?) which of course is subject to change, but that doesn't mean attempting to plan precisely is a waste of time. like any good improvisation, it's good to have a refrain to depart from.
  3. take the IRB training (social/behavioral research course)
as y'all know, sunday you had a bunch of things due. besides the updated proposal, these are:
  1. short annotations (you're familiar with this, but so it's handy: 2-4 sentences noting the main argument and evidence of the reference, and how it could inform your research)
  2. long annotations (as you might have figured out from the name.. a bit longer. if you're still struggling to come up with a solid conceptual framework, you might want to try this template out on some key texts. you'll get serious depth. try that template out on your own project as well, and if you hit stumbling blocks, shoot me a note and i'll help you work through, over, around them.
  3. historicizing a project
    1. what it sounds like.. i always like to keep a running timeline, helps me understand important moments that may not be immediately obviously related, but nonetheless shape the context of the object of research
    2. from the framing section of the wiki: This memo should include at least ten events that had significance in the historical build up to your project space. It should also select a nodal year – like 1984 for a project on Bhopal – and list ten events in that particular year that partly defined your project space. Thus, there should be both a diachronic (chronologically ordered) list and a synchronic (snapshot of a historical moment) list.
    3. my initial work on this
  4. structuring a project
    1. from framing: This memo should identify the time period of your project (a decade, more or less), and chart forces that shape that period. The template for this is filled in for a dissertation project by Jason Patton focused on efforts to develop multimodal transportation in Oakland, California.
  5. peopling a project
    1. from framing: On the "peopling" memo, "catalysts" are things (money, honorable reputation, etc) that enable that group of people to get what they want. "Corrosions" are things that undermine their ability to get what they want (lack of money or status, youth, gender, poor organizational skills. In filling it all in, you create a quick map of power dynamics. See Pedro de la Torre's "peopling a project" memo. Pedro is studying the massive environmental clean-up at Hanford Nuclear Reservation See Guy Schaeffer's "peopling a project" memo. Guy's research focuses on Troy's composting initiative:http://figuringoutmethods.wikispaces.com/schaffer_peopling
i didn't get many questions on this round, which can be good if it means you're figuring it out on your own (that's obviously a key thread of the course, putting you in the driver's seat of your own education/research) but could be bad if you're getting lost and trying to forge ahead anyway.

does everyone get the wiki structure at this point? with the templates and the framing section? since a number of you didn't complete these assignments, i provided a little extra guidance above, but you really should be able to either figure it out on your own, with the resources on the wiki, or be reaching out to me for help (reaching out is actually part of being self-directed, though that may seem paradoxical..).

for next week, please get started early to give yourselves time to figure things out and ask questions. this is the heaviest theory week by far, before diving back into the empirical material the following week. anticipating the need for a bit of help, here are some extra details:
  1. short annotations: 18 more, now you should really be getting some breadth and depth on your topic. so much of research is mapping what's already out there so you can figure out where to make a contribution.
  2. for this round of long annotations, we'll get a bit more structured, using this template)
  3. hegemonic backdrop: grapple with this the best you can, and then let me know if/how you're struggling. i imagine this will be a bit of a stretch for some of you.. a stretch that will help you grow, but perhaps not without growing pains..
    1. For this memo, you should write a few hundred words describing conventional or hegemonic ideas about your object of concern. See Bruce Pfaffenberger's description of hegemonic ideas about technology in "The Social Anthropology of Technology, "Annual Review of Anthropology. Volume 21, Page 491-516, Oct 1992 (available through Folsom Library).
    2. my work
  4. shifts in sign systems: now we're cookin'! another big stretch..
    1. For this memo, write a few hundred words describing a critical discursive shift that you think is going on in or around your object of concern. A shift in sign systems is a shift in what is common sensical. Examples are in the reading section: Daniel Botkinand I. Scoones(in separate pieces) describe shifts in conceputalizations of nature; Steven Lansing's essays asks what it would look like for social scientists to shift to thinking in terms of complex adaptive systems. Gayatri Spivak's essay reads the work of the South Asian Subaltern Studies collective as charting shifts in sign systems. See Ali Kenner's essay on a shift in sign systems around asthma care and disease/health more generally.
    2. my work
  5. core categories:
    1. This memo should identify at least two “core categories” that your research will flesh out, describing the material you can use to make them “dense.” The concept of a “core category” comes from the grounded theory tradition of sociology. See Strauss & Corbin (1990) Basics of Qualitative Research. Newbury Park: Sage. See Ellen Foster's core categories for a project on "hacker/maker spaces/cultures." “Advocacy” is a core category in Advocacy After Bhopal, for example. A core category
      1. accounts for a phenomena or pattern of action/language that is relevant and problematic to people in the study
      2. recurs frequently in the data itself -- such that the intellectual project is a matter of taking up theorizations already initiated by our informants; then we return them, a little more robust, a little more broad in their explanatory power, infused with theories we bring from different scholarly traditions
      3. is integrative, providing a theoretical concept densely saturated by empirical detail
      4. yet privileges scope -- accounting for as much variation as possible, compelling a researcher to "code" for its many dimensions, properties, conditions, consequences, and connections to other things
      5. can be related to many other key categories in the research
      6. overall: is intended to draw different things together, while privileging variation -- creating, in process, new idioms with which we can engage the world.
    2. my work
then the following week we get back into the events, people, etc. that make up your project. but we're not just describing things for the sake of description (although contributing to the historical record does have its own merit). we're engaging with the empirical material and doing analysis.there are different ways to do analysis, but i often think of it as simply making a point that can travel. observing and describing a pattern that can be interesting to people whether or not they care about your very specific data. it can also be thought of as telling a story inspired by your material, saying what concepts/articles in the social sciences and humanities it reminds you of, it resonates with, etc. it's about making connections.
  1. describing people, to make an analytic point
    1. This memo should include a 200-400-word description of a person that you have encountered, or may encounter, during your research, leveraging the description for analytic insight. In other words: make the description speak to a social theoretical question or point. You can fabricate the person described if you haven’t yet had relevant field encounters. For an example, see Kim Fortun's “Environmental Right-To-Know and the Transmutations of Law.”
    2. my work
  2. describing a place, to make an analytic point
    1. my work
  3. describing practice, to make an analytic point
    1. The practice you describe could be a communicative practice, a technical practice, a bodily practice, or some combination of different kinds of practice. You can flesh out your description imaginatively if you don’t yet have actual detail. For an example, see my “Biopolitics and the Informating of Environmentalism.”
    2. my work
  4. describing an event, to make an analytic point
    1. Again, make the description speak to a social theoretical question or point. For an example, see Kim Fortun's 2008 AAA conference paper, “'From “Better Living Through Chemistry to “Essential2Life,” which leverages a description of an exposure science conference that she attended as a participant-observer. Also see the description of the student protests in Paul Manning’s “Rose Colored Glasses? Student Protest and Cartoon Chaos in Postsocialist Georgia”, linked to at http://culanth.org/?q=node/52
    2. my work
  5. describing an organization, to make an analytic point
then week nine:
  1. draft overview
    1. See example in Aalok's proposal, and in Mike and Jeanette's proposal, remembering that this section of the proposal should articulate the entire proposal, in brief. In other words, nothing that comes after should seem surprising. The later sections just provide detail. The "Detailing a Proposal" template should help you conceive of the proposal as a whole.
    2. my work
  2. draft background section (drawing on timeline)
    1. The “background and significance” section of the Fortun-Simmonds grant is helpful.
  3. chapter summaries
  4. ethical conundrums
    1. This memo should return you to reflection on the ethical issues and double-bindsyou may well face as your research proceeds. Try to consider the many places where "ethics" (broadly conceived) will be in play -- in the way you describe your project to potential interviewees, for example, in your choice of who to interview (and who to ignore), in the way you describe your interviewees (as in Memo 27, describing people).
    2. my work
  5. broad impact
    1. Ways in which the proposed research is of significance to those outside academic circles. Example from Aalok
      1. Science, Technology and Global Immigration Policy: In recent years, there have been significant debates over immigration policies, in the U.S., and throughout the developed world generally. A recent NSF report claims that (a) fewer American citizens are seeking education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine) related fields, and (b) the percentage of foreign-born graduate students in STEM-related fields has been on the rise (Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century 2006). At the same time, there is a rising concern that in the face of a shortage of skilled workers, countries globally are essentially competing for the same labor pool. In the United States, this has resulted in industry coalitions lobbying the Congress for a more liberal and flexible immigration regime (Gates 2007; Compete America 2008). By focusing on the structural constraints and affordances that shape technomigration, this project will contribute to such discussions over immigration policy in relation to the “highly skilled.”
      2. Giving voice to the concerns of Indian technomigrants: Dialogues on immigration generally assume the nation-state as the default unit of operation. This renders immigrants fundamentally voiceless in the immigration apparatus. By bringing into focus the experience of Indian technomigrants, this project seeks to give voice to their concerns.
      3. Immigration law as social policy: Immigration law, as Park and Park (2005:9) argue, is also an important social policy - one that has "described what the United States should look like as a nation-state." Thus understood, technomigration, in addition to addressing questions of technical workforces, also engages vital questions about the emerging shape of the American nation.
      4. Training for graduate student researcher: Support for this project will prepare me for an academic career in which I will conduct research on technomigration in varying cultural and historical contexts.
  6. cover mock-up
    1. design your book cover!