Dissertation

Blogging break ahead...

As if one weren't already in progress! I'm in Atlanta, and I have a chapter 5 deadline for my dissertation writing group, ack. Regular blogging will resume around 10 February.

Hey, Dissertation Writers

Do you find that it's far easier to write than it is to revise? I've been working furiously all day on chapter 5 (the final chapter! I have a conclusion planned, but it's more like an afterword), having switched gears because revising chapter 4 was taking too long, slowing me down. I'm making excellent progress on chapter 5, though, and I'm reasonably confident that I'll have a draft of it ready for my advisor and my writing group to read on the 25th. From here on out, I'm going to go with Collin's advice: You write chapters, but you revise them into a dissertation.

Along those same lines, I submit my mental and emotional state as expressed by Jerri Blank's face (more under the fold):

Chapter 4 Vignette

I've been very reluctant to write this post lest it spur another round of "Where are the women?" for me to contend with, but I figured it was time for a dissertation post. I owe it to you, right? Well, a while back I finished Chapter 4 and am now in the process of revising it. In Chapter 3, I give a thorough overview and chronological description of the "Where are the women?" case: the posts, descriptions of the (onymous) people involved, and the contexts and exigencies of each instance of WATW. For example, the Larry Summers speech had a degree of influence on many of the comments. I also give a more detailed micro-rationale for my project than I give in the introduction. To clarify a bit, the macro-rationale is "why rhetoric should study blogging" and the micro-rationale is "why the 'Where are the women?' case." As anyone who has participated in them can tell you, the WATW threads are quite rhetorically unproductive; nothing really changes as a result of them, and that's one reason I find them so interesting. So in Chapter 3, as part of my detailed micro-rationale, I bring in some of the MANY metacommentaries and parodies of WATW, plus some of the interview responses.

Now for Chapter 4. I'm mostly drawing upon Nancy Fraser's article "Rethinking the public sphere: A contribution to the critique of actually existing democracy," but in this chapter I'm not going into her thoughts about multiple, subaltern counterpublics. I'm more interested in the four problematic assumptions she points out on which Habermas’ idea of public sphere rests: first, that inequalities in social status can be “bracketed” in a public sphere; second, that a singular public is preferable to multiple publics; third, that issues and interests deemed “private” should be excluded from the discussion; fourth, that a public sphere’s fruition depends on keeping “civil society and the state” separated (p. 117-118). Fraser claims that “[o]ne task for critical theory is to render visible the ways in which societal inequality infects formally inclusive existing public spheres and taints discursive interaction within them” (p. 121). That task, rendering visible these inequalities, is the raison d'être of this chapter.

I'm reviewing the various stereotypes and ideas about women's speaking in public that get tossed around in WATW. To illustrate, see this comment, and tell me if this guy didn't totally nail the "maiden, mother, crone" archetypes/stereotypes that feminists have been talking about for years (sincerely, I think this is really well put):

[I]n the world of Big Punditry women get one of three jobs:

1. The Soft-core Liberal Infobabe. Doesn't say or do much. Her entire function is to perpetuate the idea that if you're a liberal, you can have sex with women like this.

2. The Breast-Feeder from Hell. Begins every argument with "As a mother, I ..." Uses nurture six times in a single paragraph. Her function is to serve up chocolate-covered liberalism to guilty insecure housewives.

3. The Uppity Old Lady in Tennis Shoes. See Molly Ivins. This is where Infobabes go when they get put out to pasture. They're supposed to be sort of funny - Driving Miss Daisy kind of funny.

Specifically, I look at 1.) the role of sex, beauty, and attraction and how it can create noise; 2.) "women aren't interested in politics; they're more interested in fashion, gossip, and babies"; 3.) "women and men communicate differently," i.e. the "women can't handle the food fight, boxing match, swashbuckling, Crossfire, Hardball, insert agonistic metaphor here flavor of political debate"; 4.) "women are too busy with the house and the kids to have time to blog"; and 5.) "women aren't as technologically savvy as men." Mind you, I'm not saying there isn't any truth in any of these, especially #4. I'm just laying them out there. I may say more about these later, but for the vignette I want to focus on #2, because there are pictures!

Consider these sample comments:

There are simply less females than males passionate about politics, hence less females blogging.
If there is a blogosphere concerned with sales at Nordstroms or Hollywood gossip, that blogosphere will be predominately female. (Reader at Kevin Drum's weblog)

and here:

As for the gender thing, I still don't know if this is a problem in search of a solution or just the way women are. I'm leaning toward the latter, frankly. They don't like war, don't like hard-nosed arguments and have a hard time separating the personal from the political. Case in point, a girlfriend the other night told me Bush was too stupid to be president, and anyway she didn't like his family--his daughters didn't seem engaged enough (unlike who? Chelsea? Amy Carter? I was confused). This, apparently, was enough to decide her vote--Laura is a bit chunky and I don't like her shoes, it's settled!

Let me first say that I mean no disrespect toward the people who made these comments. The ideas represented here have a long history. In fact, in keeping with Jonathan's creative 'Aleatory Research' methodology, I happened upon some political cartoons from the suffragist movement, which I ended up using in the chapter. From January 27, 1909, a comic by T.E. Powers titled "When Women Get Their Rights":

Also from the 1910s:

The caption says, “Woman Devotes Her Time to Gossip and Clothes Because She Has Nothing Else to Talk About. Give Her Broader Interests and She Will Cease to Be Vain and Frivolous.”

I'll stop there; this is only a vignette, after all. As always, feedback is welcome.

This dissertation...

Yesterday I met with my dissertation workshop group, and one of the people whose drafts we were discussing had interspersed "I" with "this dissertation." As in, "This dissertation will combine the work of [this theorist] with [that theorist] and discuss the implications for [this rhetorical activity]." Pretty standard, right? Well, this person (whose draft was excellent, by the way -- very sophisticated and complex) overpersonified his/her dissertation a little bit in a couple of places, with constructions like, "This dissertation is aware of the distinction between [this term] and [that term]."

Of course we all started getting a little silly with that one, laughing riotously and making cracks like:

This dissertation is very worried.
This dissertation has a broken heart.
This dissertation can't get out of bed in the morning.
This dissertation just sits around in its bathrobe all day chainsmoking and listening to Morrissey.

But that's no way to think. Let me try to turn it around:

This dissertation is smiling its way to success.
This dissertation ce-le-brates good times, COME ON!
This dissertation's being headhunted by the most prestigious universities and think tanks in the U.S. and Europe, but it decided to just use its MacArthur grant to set up its own facility.

How about your dissertation?

Dissertation: Literature Review

Now for my concept map that represents my literature review. This is how it's shaping up, and hopefully I won't have to add too much to it (I'm fine with taking stuff out). I've been struggling with it and getting contradictory advice, which I've come to understand is common, and which boils down to one question: Is it preferable, in a dissertation, to enter a specific conversation in one field of study, or to get a broader sampling of books and articles representing multiple disciplinary perspectives on your general topic/object of study, even though you run the risk of overlooking some important work? I'm hoping to be able to do the former, as you can see on the concept map. I want this thing to be wieldy. (This image links to a larger one.)

Literature Review for Dissertation

But if there are problems, I need to know, and I'm always grateful for feedback, so please leave it here or email me.

Online Portfolio of Work Related to Rhetoric, Digital Media, and Feminist Theory

Rhetoric

Dissertation Prospectus

Preliminary Exams

Outlook: What's next for blogging? In Bruns, A., & Jacobs, J. (Eds.), Uses of Blogs. Forthcoming from Peter Lang Publishing. Original questions and answers posted July 24, 2005.

Between Work and Play: Blogging and Community Knowledge-Making (Essay in Lore: An E-Journal for Teachers of Writing)

Review Essay on Blogging, October 2002

Sites of Resistance: Weblogs and Creative Commons Licenses (PDF)

Making the Adjunct Visible: Normativity in Academia and Subversive Heteroglossia in the Invisible Adjunct Weblog Community

Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca on Data Selection

"Push-Button Publishing for the People": The Blogosphere and the Public Sphere

Neither Compelling Nor Arbitrary

Thoughts on Burke's "Four Master Tropes"

Response to Burke's "Semantic and Poetic Meaning"

Genre Theory, Genre Analysis, and Blog as Genre

Blogging as Privileged Speech

Anarchy in Academe? A Cultural Analysis of Electronic Scholarly Publishing

Musings on Foucault, Power, and Resistance

Thoughts on Aspasia and Diotima

Feminist Theory

Gender and Open Source

Performativity: Draft of 3W Encyclopedia Entry

Essentialism: Draft of 3W Encyclopedia Entry

Whose Voices Get Heard? Gender Politics in the Blogosphere

Feminist Knowledge Claims and the Postmodern Critique

Identity Politics: Genealogy, Problems, Legitimacy

Theorizing Butler

Can Narrative Do the Work of Theory? A Look at Toni Morrison's Beloved

The Problem of Experience in Feminist Theory

On Theorizing Gender

Intersectionality, and I *Heart* Nomy Lamm

Notes on the Sex/Gender Distinction

Conference Notes

CCCC 2005

CCCC 2004

Feminisms and Rhetorics 2003

Two posts on Computers and Writing 2003

Roundtable on the Status of Qualitative Internet Research (from AoIR 2003)

Rhetoric Seminars

Seminar on Richard Fulkerson, "Composition at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century," College Composition and Communication, June 2005 (56.4)

Composition Theory, "Good Writing," and -- Impending Theory Wars?

More on Fulkerson

Seminar on Kelly Ritter, "The Economics of Authorship: Online Paper Mills, Student Writers, and First-Year Composition," College Composition and Communication June 2005 (56.4)

"It don't matter. None of this matters." Or, composition pedagogy and Ritter's article on plagiarism

More on Authorship, Intellectual Property, "Templates," and Student Writing

Dissertation: Methodology Chapter

As I write my dissertation, I've been mind-mapping like crazy. It helps me rein in all the material I'm using and everything I need to say. What follows is the map of my methodology chapter, which includes everything I really feel that I need to cover, i.e. stuff I would be remiss if I didn't say. But I want to know what you think: Assuming there's too much going on in this chapter as I've conceptualized it at this point, what can be cut? (This image links out to a bigger, readable one.)

Methodology Chapter of My Dissertation

The chapter basically has four parts.

  1. A review of methodological problems (or complexities) to consider in doing qualitative internet research. Some are from a roundtable on the subject, and others I have learned on my own.
  2. A general definition and overview of my approach: how I'm defining "rhetorical analysis," what is meant by a "feminist rhetorical approach."
  3. A description of my data collection and analytical procedure (to answer the "What did you do?" question).
  4. A reflective section that addresses situatedness and reflexivity -- locating myself in the research. This section is an important part of my overarching feminist approach.

I'm tentatively planning on doing it in that order, but I'm open to suggestions if you think another arrangement would be more coherent and sophisticated. [Edited to add: I should put the "operationalizing gender/online identity" point (which is just a little "how I define and interpret gender online" few paragraphs) under "general introduction." Probably better that way.]

My whole dissertation (at this stage) in sixteen pages

I'm working diligently on this thing all the time, improving and clarifying it a bit each day, but I figure now's as good a time as any to ask for some feedback. This paper was published in the conference proceedings of the New Media Research at UMN conference (well, really it was just a spiral-bound collection of the papers presented, distributed only to conference attendees). They might be publishing the papers online as part of a white paper about the state of new media research at the University of Minnesota, but I'm not 100% certain of that. My writing sample for the job market will probably look a bit like this, so I welcome your comments. Leave them here or feel free to email me: clancyATculturecat.net. Also, please shoot me an email if you decide to use this paper in any classes you're teaching; I like to keep track of that information.

Where Are the Women? Rhetoric and Gender on Weblogs (PDF)

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