new media: July 2004 Archives

practice v research

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Just a couple of quick notes, while I'm on a brief break from the manuscript...

Nancy White posts over at M2M about the relationship between practice and research when it comes to social software. She's riffing on some comments of danah's which in turn responded to some of Liz's remarks in her blog research post there. It's been interesting to me to watch the M2M conversation unfold in parallel with Liz's conversation with Elijah, who posts the emails at his blog, and continues the conversation at M2M. Got all that? Heh. It's probably easier to just read M2M than to try and follow my winding attempt at a summary here...

Anyhow, Nancy's post (and a remark she made in the comment section to another) got me thinking a bit. She casts this discussion in terms of distance, arguing (rightly, I think) that we need to give up some critical distance and actually use/practice/experience different media before we can speak with any kind of authority or credibility about it. And even then, extrapolating from that experience to speak about the medium itself is a pretty dicey proposition. (i've got a riff on this very issue in the manuscript...)

This reminds me alot of a conversation I engage my students in whenever I teach research writing. We talk about whether it's easier to work with a topic you know well or one you don't. At first glance, I think it's easier to work from what you know, but then that ignores the bad teachers out there (I've had a few, and tried not to be one), people who know their material cold but don't know how to communicate it to people without that same experience. Sometimes, it's more effective to work with an unfamiliar subject, that the questions you ask as a researcher are likely to be the same questions your audience will have, you don't take specialized language for granted, etc.

Nancy's comment to the conversation, about providing a bridge between practitioners and academics, made me think about this, bc I think there are really two bridges there. As someone who's both practitioner and academic, I find myself trying not to take academic habits of thought for granted when I post here, but I also find myself doing the same with practitioner habits when I talk to other academics about what I'm doing. As Alex has talked about, those of us techademics who blog are the tip of a big, slow academic iceberg.

Speaking for myself, of course, I feel oddly suspended between these two audiences, bridging sometimes more in one direction, sometimes more in the other. Like Nancy, I've got little patience for "my toys are better than your toys" kinds of contests, but as someone whose "official" writing is often for an audience that hasn't seen any of the toys before, I can't dismiss those kinds of discussions out of hand. That being said, there are right ways and wrong ways to hold them, of course.



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This page is a archive of entries in the new media category from July 2004.

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