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).

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