Methods or Methodology?

Anti-foundational critique & tentative, trial and error methodologies, are sometimes opposed to or simply alternatives to "off the rack" methods, each of which may be preferred in political and epistemological variations. But locating among these is required of everyone as issues of authority, membership, and naturalization (Bowker & Star 1999).

And getting on with the job, knowing what counts as the job, and encountering violated assumptions are contingencies that keep methods from remaining fixed for any length of time.

In this context the terms local and global are sometimes figured as distinctions between the material vs. the universal; sometimes as local knowledge vs master theory.

A handout on Bowker and Star terminology and points made about infrastructure with an eye to conceptual infrastructures.

“several tricks I have developed..., helpful for “reading” infrastructure and unfreezing some of its features.”
1. identifying master narratives and “others”
2. surfacing invisible work

Readings from the following books, chapters and articles:

Sharon Traweek, "Faultlines" (21-48)
In Doing Science + Culture / By Roddey Reid, Sharon Traweek
Published by Routledge, 2000

Part I: Metalogues (3-60)
Contributor Mary Catherine Bateson
Published by University of Chicago Press, 2000

Chapters 1, 2, 11, 12
By Donna J. Haraway
Published by University of Minnesota Press, 2008
Part I is "We Have Never Been Human."

Katie King, "Feminism and Writing Technologies: Teaching Queerish Travels through Maps, Territories, and Pattern." In
Configurations - Volume 2, Number 1, Winter 1994, pp. 89-106

Preface and chapters 1, 2, 5
By Kath Weston
Published by Routledge, 2002

Introduction, chapters 1, 2
By Geoffrey C. Bowker, Susan Leigh Star
Published by MIT Press, 2000

Intersectional trajectories: Subjectivities and Methods

Anti-foundational explorations of power, subjectivity and epistemology, as with positionality and differential consciousness, historically shift. Intersectionality becomes increasingly used among feminists themselves to authorize and discipline method/s, in urgencies created among global academies restructured in neoliberal political economies of knowledge work.

Again, authority, membership etc. are tacit requirements for all forms of knowledge work, including feminist research. Locals and globals also figure among transnational powers and identities.

Some intersectionalities pivot around a center in a range of identity political incursions, sometimes in a feminist critical race analysis in the US; some network a heterogeneity of kinds of power and fundamentally different kinds of work. Local identity politics are properly registered in pivoting matrices of domination.

A handout on intersectionalities, political subjectivities and methods.

A MATRIX OF DOMINATION (Collins 2000: 227-248):

"Placing U.S. Black women’s experiences in the center of analysis without privileging those experiences shows how intersectional paradigms can be especially important for rethinking the particular matrix of domination that characterizes U.S. society…. (227-8) Within any matrix of domination characterized by intersecting oppressions, any specific social location where such systems meet or intersect generates distinctive group histories. (246) …moral positions as survivors of one expression of systemic violence become eroded in the absence of accepting responsibility for other expressions of systemic violence. (247) …In this model, there are no absolute oppressors or victims. Instead, historically constructed categories create intersecting and crosscutting group histories that provide changing patterns of group participation in domination and resistance to it…. Coalitions ebb and flow based on the perceived saliency of issues to group members. This non-equivalency of group experience means that groups find some oppressions more salient than others….whereas all systems operate in framing the experiences of Black women transnationally, different configurations of such systems has saliency for Black women differently placed within them.” (248)

Trans knowledges

Knowledge worlds among the transnational, the multiply value-laden, the transdisciplinary, are among materially altered forms of gendering and sexing, and among materialities of global academic restructuring and new media.

Many urgencies are created in the mixes here: collaborations are mandated or desired, integrative project-oriented research is urgent, intellectual entrepreneurship and bringing in funding are necessary. Curiosity-driven research and project-driven research may be pitted against each other.

A handout on the material infrastructures of academic restructuring and their co-construction with current questions, methods and practices.

“I have become interested in how these massive shifts in political economy affect the kinds of questions intellectuals begin to find interesting at such periods, the kinds of resources amassed to investigate their questions, the kinds of curricular and pedagogical changes generated, and the new modes of investigation. That is, what else is going on when there is a change in what counts as a good question, an interesting mode of inquiry, way of teaching and learning, and the infrastructure needed for pursuing these emerging forms of knowledge making? Who resists these changes; how do they resist?”

ROBUST KNOWLEDGE (Klein 2005: online):
"The challenge for us today is to create robust knowledge that factors not only multiple disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledges but lay knowledges and indigenous knowledges in arriving at sustainable solutions.”

Posthumanisms and Posthumanities

This terrain is contested, and has many dangers for feminists and feminisms. Nevertheless I want to argue one thread through these that I think is helpful in understanding our own practices and the scales and scope of responsibilities and political meanings and that ties together the readings I selected.

Some folks today are arguing for a posthumanities, both an alternative to foundational humanisms that still has materialist and political economy meanings, and also distinguishes itself from posthumanisms that romanticize technology or that deny human agencies altogether.

Such a posthumanities acknowledges the need to reshape institutional territories that human sciences or knowledges have occupied, and acknowledges that we are being forced to do this now under neoliberal imperatives with which feminists are forced to collaborate as global academic restructuring takes shape.

It gets only too clear that humans are only fantasmatically in "control" of emergent patternings of knowledges that exist in ranges that include what currently counts as human within worldly processes that range widely in various forms of co-creation. Everything from global economies that are patterning in forms current economic theory can only partially account for, to planetary processes we have triggered and altered but can't control or fully understand, as well as how we are bits among multiple systems as we work to participate constructively in planetary processes.

A handout on emergent practices and interactions, with an eye to gender studies and globalization processes.

"Answers to these questions can only be put together in emergent practices; i.e., in vulnerable, on-the-ground work that cobbles together non-harmonious agencies and ways of living that are accountable both to their disparate inherited histories and to their barely possible but absolutely necessary joint futures. For me, that is what significant otherness signifies."



Complexity: a something greater than the sum of its parts
Complex behavior: "a system with multiple agents dynamically interacting in multiple ways, following local rules...."
Agencies: The kinds of agents here might be those actants described within Latour and others' Actor-Network theory: not only persons, individual and in collectives, but also things, communications, forms of social organization and worldly processes.
Complex behavior with self-organization: "it wouldn't truly be considered emergent until those local interactions resulted in some kind of discernible macrobehavior...a higher-level pattern arising out of parallel complex interactions between local agents."
Adaptive self-organization: creating more higher-level behaviors over time and adding learning through feedback loops.

ZERO DEGREE OF GENDER (Weston 2002: 20, 50-1):
“…representation becomes both a means to survival and the thing to be survived….”
“Although anyone can become unsexed/unraced/unclassed—undone—at any given moment, the process is not random…. the cipher represents a more general undoing of identities in which gender may have melded with class, race, age, religion, or any of the classifiers used for social sorting. Unsexing is a process too instantaneous, too ephemeral, and too complex to call only gender in and out of play. What at first appears to be a passing absence of signification turns out to involve a plethora of signs, none of them referenced, none of them fixed. Whatever onlookers perceive, it is not what they expected. A cipher emerges in the rare instance when perceptions lead expectations…. Why the cipher that exposes these disjunctions should resolve into threat can be explained only by calling upon wider sets of social relations: national loyalties, racialized betrayal, global economy, the privatization of public space that is the restroom. ¶ Embedded within any momentary absence of expected signification is an enticement to resolution.”

A method here: scoping and scaling, densities of information

Our projects work at different degrees of salience -- example is Weston's zero degree of gender -- with different densities of information. Neither only local or global, only practical and project driven or "academically" and impractically theoretical. Google maps and Google earth are one metaphor for working among layers of locals andglobals.


View Larger Map
For example, an alternative to the politics of representation in which accuracy or authenticity are at stake, is instead a pragmatic of gaming or trial and error style simulation in which one works among degrees of elegance or complexity.

Another method: identifying the grain of detail

Knowledge worlds often differ in terms of the grain of detail that signals membership -- which to outsiders appears as "jargon" or "abstraction" -- or which to insiders looks like "popularization" or "too general." Movement among knowledge worlds often requires agreements about what grain of detail signals expertise at the same time as allowing for participation by non-members.

Moving among scales and granularities

Scoping and scaling work for project directed bits of curiosity driven research: one may well have one or more very inclusive but extravagantly ambitious political and/or intellectual project/s over the course of a career or lifetime, but scope and scale among its possibilities individual and collective from paper for conference, to collaborative grant project to book publication and so on among the professional necessities now increasingly made entrepreneurial.
We usually use rhetorics of focusing or narrowing or instrumentalizing in order to shift scale and scope. Each of these is valuable but works with the presumption that control and order are both necessary and desirable, despite practices that actually require periods of chaos and disorder, and work among processes that cannot be controlled and among memberships that do not similarly value processes and products.

Scoping and scaling require sharing in forms both individual and collective, both highly controlled and wildly contingent. One highly controlled form of sharing is the kind of "literature review" in which the combination of mastery and range appears exhaustive. It depends upon and sometimes creates bounded communities of practice. You might see the more wildly contingent among sometimes mandated entrepreneurial activities, say, a book tour, where you desire or are required to create non-scholarly audiences for scholarly products.

A handout on a project that indexes and describes scoping and scaling and grain of detail.

Imagine Social Domains altering in the nineties as if in Google Map hybrid view:
• "knowledge work," knowledge and information systems as economies themselves and as forces in various economies. • "culture crafts, publics and industries," include public culture sewn up with economic development amid shifts in cultural value displayed in varying proportions among old and new technologies of entertainment.
• "academic capitalism," recombinations of national interests, global economies and ideological shifts that develop across the Anglophone academies, evident in various forms of privatized education and technology transfer and favored by both neo-liberals and neo-conservatives.

Transmission skills especially honed in the nineties when having to address many divergent audiences simultaneously and having to author knowledges as merely one of multiple agencies with very limited control were circumstances that become more and more intrusive for various communities of practice. Such science-styled documentary television as Leonardo's Dream Machines are themselves reenactments of these very shifts in authorship and audience as they wade among and exemplify products of knowledge, culture and entertainment industries as these altered in the nineties. Grain of detail is carefully limited and dynamically interconnected, via reenactment, to a range of possible interactive contexts, each salient and available to various sets of some of those viewing. Viewers engage in journeys among knowledges we discover already exist but are not yet finished.


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