A few comment about this very simple statement. I keep saying I’m interested in interdisciplinary work, and sometimes I event start thinking about the differences between multi, inter and trans disciplinary, but should this really be the focus? There seem to be a number of different ways of looking at this – how would we think about disciplines for? through looking at people’s training / education, through how people self-identify, by characterising types of activities? Why is it important though? This seems to map on to looking at people ‘belonging’ to a discipline, so therefore multi-disciplinary being inherently multi-people. If the research was to follow this direction alone, then I can see there may be pragmatic problems for data collection is it was to focus directly on interdisciplinary collaborative (same-time, same-place) activities – just simply problems of organising the workshops, making sure we had coverage of the relevant disciplines, etc. If it was slightly re-framed around activities or relaxing of the space-time constraints (which may well be interesting actually in personal manufacturing) then it allows more freedom to gather interesting data.
The idea of capturing the context of flow was mentioned in the first paragraph – however, this shouldn’t be interpreted too simplistically. Actually, this is really at the core of the work – Csikszentmihalyi’s flow is a psychological notion and thus can be accounted for through psychological modes of inquiry; a reinterpretation of this is that flow may be considered from a sociological perspective and thus requires a different mode of inquiry.
What does this mean in practice? The most common method of measuring flow is through using the Experience Sampling Method (ESM) developed by Larson & Csikszentmihalyi (1983) which asks individual participants to stop at specific times and take notes of their experience. They record their feelings ‘right there, right now’ using a variety of questionnaire approaches. The reliability of these findings comes from multiple repetitions and shows up correlation of events. An example of a sociological perspective on this may be found in Suchman’s notions of situated actions where the interest lies beyond the immediate context and would seek to take into account individuals “past experiences, future expectations, control and feedback of self-image within society”. Another example is the ideas of Ed Hutchins around distributed cognition – using this perspective then cognition (and thus perceptions of experience) are not best understood through information processing at the level of the individual, but rather as a distributed phenomenon.
A slight interlude to capture points made in meeting with Monika. I need to send Monika / Gordon a full draft context/lit review by Monday 26th September – I’ll then be able to get some comments back in time to incorporate them in time for the submission date. Key points are: is it clear?, does it say what I need it to say? have I missed anything significant in the literature review? Importantly, it requires an overall argument – as a stylistic measure it’s good if it all comes out at the end – i.e. at strategic points, spell out argument so far, or sub-argument – but don’t destroy suspense of it coming out at the end. Certainly you never ever want the read to day at any point “well this is all very interesting, but so what?”.
The actual upgrade panel is, naturally, very important. It would be nice to see the presentation given some details of the empirical work done so far – some examples, and then the details of the ‘tweet button’ example. Entertain the panel and allow them to see the significance of the work. As important aspect here is believing in the work – having confidence, which most come from the writing obviously. Some key questions that might come up: What is it all about in one sentence? Why is it important? Hasn’t it all been done before? I need to really believe in my answers to these questions and to follow-up supplementary questions. A key question for me is why the sociological approach? What will it bring? What criticisms are there of the socio-technical approach to informing system design, e.g., compared to say user modelling?
It’s worth looking at writings of Fred Turner in From counterculture to cyberculture – particularly about Stewart Brand from the Whole Earth Catalogue. There are some thoughts in there about initial revolutionary ideas of the internet – some of which have come true, but it’s more participatory. A quote – “We are as gods and might as well get good at it” – opening line of the first World Earth Catalogue in 1968 – borrowed from A Runaway World? by anthropologist Edmund Leach. There seems to be an argument in here that what matters is the tools people are given… There is also a youtube video chaired by Fred Turner involving Stewart Brand and Howard Rheingold (also Whole Earth Catalogue) which may have something of interest. It’s also worth looking at Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins.
The three identified gaps in the literature seem very interesting (1) maker community work, but little about their practices; (2) flow, but little from a sociological perspective or interdisciplinary group related; and (3) design, making well documented – little addressing design/manufacturing/materials/programming. Indeed the same critique of (2) flow should be applied to (3) designers / makers / materials. If I understand it correctly, then Karen Barad’s work identifies that agency is shared amongst humans and materials, it’s not static and it’s part of a conversational process – it happens all the time – agency is an interactive, performed, dynamic phenomenon. Her key idea is that of ‘agential realism’ - the world being made up of phenomena which are “the ontological inseparability of intra-acting agencies”.
Finally, don’t forget that there needs to be that ‘golden thread’, the intellectual problem, that connects everything – and all the decisions related to the research, e.g. literature reviewed, methodologies choosing etc, make sense in relation to the intellectual problem and the golden thread that connects everything together. This should be made obvious, but not in a simplistic, in-your-face, clumsy way.
Okay – we know what we’re doing now - focus on being clear and expressing the logic and significance of the work. Now to focus on the actual literature review.