Notes: Caroline Dadas, “Messy Methods: Queer Methodological Approaches to Researching Social Media”

Dadas, Caroline. (2016). Messy methods: Queer methodological approaches to researching social media. Computers and Composition, 40, 60-72.

Summary:

Dadas explains the queer methodology that ran through her social media research, highlighting the queering of private/public binaries, the complicated role of ethos, and the possibility of queerness as techne.

Keywords: Research Methods, Methodology, Queer Rhetorics, Queer Theory, Technology

Sources:

Browne, Kath & Catherine J. Nash (Eds.). (2010). Queer methods and methodologies: Intersecting queer theories and social science research. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing.

Cushman, Ellen. (1996). The rhetorician as an agent of social change. College Composition and Communication, 47(1), 7-28.

Law, John. (2004). After method: Messiness in social science research. New York, NY: Routledge.

Quotations:

“As more and more citizens are turning to social media platforms for civic work, rhetoric and composition must continue to develop methodological approaches that help study these online spaces. In particular, how do researchers ethically gather data from such sites, considering the tendency for users to treat online spaces as private interactions (McKee & Porter, 2009)? How might we use social media not only as sites of study but also as a method for conducting qualitative research? How can we adapt established research methods to better meet the needs of such dynamic spaces?” (61).

“Queer theory’s rich tradition of interrogating the public and the private provided me with the framework for establishing connectivity between my methods, data, and theoretical approach. The resonances between queer theory and digital research practices in terms of publicity and privacy make queer methodologies particularly fruitful for online research” (61).

“Glasby offered the “rhetorical negotiation” as a way of working through competing ideas (in her case, the dissonance between her personal and scholarly orientations to marriage equality) without expecting the kind of neat resolution that often dominates academic discourse. Rather, as Glasby”s (2014) approach showed, queer epistemologies honor the tensions, fissures, and gaps that often emerge in our research” (62).

“In this context, then, queer methodology functions both as a commitment to researching sites that have not previously found legitimization, as well as a willingness to draw from a range of disciplinary methods. Likewise, Kath Browne and Catherine Nash (2010) emphasized queer research as a way of challenging frameworks of power, located both in the disciplinary tools available to the researcher, as well as in her chosen topic(s). For Browne and Nash, ”Queer research’ can be any form of research positioned within conceptual frameworks that highlight the instability of taken-for-granted meanings and resulting in power relations’ (2010; p. 4″ (62).

“Uninterested in using queerness simply as a theoretical application or a framework for influencing research methods, they [Browne and Nash (2010)] argued that queerness should intersect with ‘those sets of logical organizing principles that link our ontological and epistemological perspectives with the actual methods we use to gather data’ (p. 2). Just as any methodology addresses the relationship between theory, data, and method, queer methodologies help negotiate methods that often do not yield clear-cut results” (63).

“Law (2004), more explicitly than most researchers, acknowledged the profound unknowability of many phenomena that we attempt to study; in doing so, he proposed that we embrace a more messy approach that does not purport to ensure the inherited Enlightenment-era notions of replicability, reliability, or objectivity” (63).

“[A] queer methodology is sensitive to moments when attention from a researcher might bring unwanted publicity to a participant/cause (Banks & Eble, 2009); it also acknowledges the benegits of publicity, particularly when conducting civic-based research, and seeks to harness those benefits in rhetorically savvy ways” (66).

“[U]sing queer ethics as a method involves establishing a more intimate relationship with participants… I drew on a queer ethic to divulge my sexual orientation. Due to the nature of the study…, I believed that disclosing my sexual orientation might be the primary gesture I could make toward establishing intimacy with them. At the same time, I worried that doing so would alienate those potential participants who opposed marriage equality” (66).

“[A] queer methodological stance will often not yield convenient results” (66).

“[A] queer methodology can help weigh all the factors involved and arrive at a decision that demonstrates a commitment to advocating for social justice while also showing care for our participants and ourselves. Such a methodology recognizes that the boundaries between safety and danger are not clear cut, and that acknowledging the fluidity of identity can help us navigate these boundaries in rhetorically savvy ways” (67).

“In other words, transparency can look very different at various stages of research. While being up-front about aspects of one’s life can enrich a project and benefit the researcher-participant relationship, other moments within the same study may require a more reserved approach. Implementing both strategies does not signal inconsistency but rather a kairotic sensitivity” (67).

“The methodology that I claimed, then, allowed for residing along various points on the public/private continuum as a researcher. Queering the methodological notion of transparency allowed me to be ‘public’ in one scenario and to privilege a more private approach in another—and to negotiate the seeming inconsistency by embracing the fissures that emerged in my method” (68).

“In this sense, queerness does not mean being either transparent or not with participants; what is queer is allowing for a broad range of possibilities when it comes to interacting with participants and data. Being able to adjust one’s approach throughout the course of a study, depending on the context, is a valuable tool at a researcher’s disposal” (69).

“Rhetoric and composition as a field has wrestled with its methodological diversity, sometimes seeking out categorization and classification as a way of demonstrating rigor and clarity in our research…. Because queerness flies in the face of clarity, reconciling it with methodological rigor might seem contradictory. In response, I turn to Boelstorff’s (2010) question about what queer studies would look like if it were less concerned with producing episteme than with techne…. When applied to the notion of queer methodologies, techne offers the possibility of troubling normative attitudes toward research rather than setting out a fixed set of characteristics that define such a methodology” (70).

“[V]iewing queerness as techne helps us to reorient toward the process of adaptation, the flexibility of method, the need to constantly change our approaches” (70).

“Using a lens of failure, we can see these disruptions as instances of nonlinearity: that research does not necessarily progress through sequential stages of (private) data collection and analysis and then on to a (public) presentation of the findings when the researcher is ready. Refusing this linear progression is one way that we might adapt established research methods to better meet the needs of dynamic online spaces” (71).

“They Are Not Us”—An Open Letter

To Students, Faculty and Staff:

The Eastern Michigan University Police Department is investigating the presence of a business card advocating hate and racism found in Halle Library this morning. The card was quickly removed once discovered.

I want to stress again, as I did last fall, that such attacks are hurtful to all of us in the campus community – students, faculty and staff – who work every day to make Eastern a welcoming and inclusive campus. We must continue to work together in this way, embracing our unity and common purpose in being a University of opportunity for all. These messages are not Eastern; they are not us. And they may not stop anytime soon, likely due to the actions of a few people who seek to divide our community and gain attention for their hateful messages. Indeed, these are polarizing times, calling for diligent work by all of us to further mutual understanding and support.

I assure you that this investigation and identifying those responsible will be a high priority for our Police. I also want to note that the racist vandalism incidents of last fall remain under active investigation, with police having spent hundreds of hours on that effort. Also, the $10,000 reward remains in effect for information in connection with those crimes.

There will be further updates as the situation warrants. Please join me in standing together with our students, faculty and staff and all in our community who condemn hate and racism.

I want to remind our community that we have many avenues to discuss concerns related to these matters, including our Department of Diversity and Community Involvement. In addition, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers free and confidential counseling to students seeking additional support. Students can make an appointment to talk to a counselor by calling 734-487-1118 during business hours. Students may also access CAPS’ after-hours phone support in the evenings and weekends by calling 734-487-1118. Students whose first language is not English may talk to a counselor in their preferred language. To access the International Student Support Program (ISSP), students may call 1-866-743-7732 or chat online with a counselor at https://us.myissp.com/Home/UniversitySearch.

President Jim Smith

Dear President Smith:

Documents such as the hateful business card found in Halle Library this morning impact us all. They harm us all. They are a part of us all.

There are those of us who have the privilege to decide whether or not this is a part of who we are or not, to choose to see how or how not this participates in our lives. But it always participates in our lives—it’s in our silences, it’s in our inaction, it’s in our punishing students of color for advocating for their own safety on campus, it’s in our ever-enduring inability to put forward plans of action, our forcing students of color to “manage” their responses with therapy in the face of our punishing student advocating, our not acknowledging our own complicity within white supremacy in every level from administration to our every conversation.

As you did last fall, distancing EMU from these actions ignores that this is exactly who we are. This is an extension, part of the broader context that we have sponsored at this institution through our inability to respond to student voices, to speak back to hate, to fail to acknowledge our white supremacist culture. We might pretend that this is not us, but this only serves to turn a blind eye, to not act, to allow future acts to continue.

EMU is not separable from these acts of hate—we are these acts. Each of us carry the experience of these acts of hate. Those of us who choose to pretend that these acts are not us can only do so because we are privileged enough to do so—to ignore how this document impacts every one of us and affects us disproportionately across differences, communities, and identities. What actions will you take? Or must our students march every day reminding us that “EMU’s President is Racist” before action will be taken again—as you did last fall?

“They are not us.” Who or what is not us? Those who would commit those acts of hatred? The acts themselves? Those acts that happened within Halle Library, on the side of King Hall, Wise Hall? Those messages that are heard and felt by our students, faculty, and staff?

It may be uncomfortable to admit your complicity—but being a university administrator, working within a university, being a responsible human is not comfortable. It involves understanding your values that are given both explicitly and implicitly. It involves being honest about what you have allowed to happen, and what you have not. It involves acknowledging the privilege you have to make these decisions.

So I will stand together with you, President Smith, but will we do more than stand?

Sincerely,

Thomas Passwater