Friday, 30 January 2009

Supervision delayed

I don't think I write clear emails. I emailed my supervisors reminding them that we had a meeting and apologising for not getting them my writing in yesterday, but that they'd have it today, rough, not polished and I guessed that's what they'd prefer.

They've said they'll have the meeting postponed a week, emphasised the importance of writing and would like it in a week - rough. Well it's rough today.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

What spin?

What spin do I put on my interview data?

When you write up qualitative interviews, you have a perspective on the people who you talked with, but if you have a negative perspective how do you write it? One of my colleagues has interviewed around 30 people and I remember a discussion on how people could put themselves across in a bad light, arrogant for example. In my interviews, because of the nature of the research, people inevitably talk not only about themselves but also of others in the project. So how do I write it?

Colleague suggested writing so that an interviewee would feel comfortable if they should read the dissertation and recognise their anonymous selves, i.e. not write about them in a bad light. So that's what I'll do.

If I can write nice things on my students' assignments, even when they get a low mark, then I can write about people in a positive way too.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Clients & consultants as prisoners

Axelrod's Evolution of Cooperation could offer an alternative framework - I could take the relationship of clients and consultants from an economic perspective, value being added depending on they cooperate through an extended version of the iterating prisoner's dilemma. How fascinating!

But would it be engagement?

Axelrod, R. (1990) The evolution of cooperation, Penguin, London.
Robert Axelrod, not Richard Axelrod who writes about engagement from a practitioner perspective

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Knowledge creation

Marwick quotes Nonaka
"the key to knowledge creation lies in the mobilisation and conversion of tacit knowledge".
For example, a particular contractor would learn much from Internet sources or the local BCS. He would share this knowledge in a two page document that other team members could then work with and expand to a 15 page report. The contractor mobilised knowledge.

Nonaka has a matrix of four forms of knowledge conversion. One form is tacit to tacit knowledge conversion, which is socialisation and can be done in meetings and discussion between people sharing a common culture. "Thus tacit knowledge sharing is connected to ideas of communities and collaboration, Marwick argues. So far okay, but I'd argue that you need more than collaboration. Collaboration is where people have to work together. Collaboration is about groups of people, organised groups of people who've agreed to work together. You can have such groups in a meeting but they don't engage because engagement is different from collaboration. It's more personal and involves respect for what other individuals have to say, and what their experience is. If engagement is lacking then the tacit knowledge won't get shared. For example, consider a project that runs over time, perhaps because resources for testing are not available. One group, the users, tell another group, those allocating resources that there'll be a problem, but without engagement between the two groups, the words will go unheard. There's a lack of client-client engagement.

Of course this could all be hogwash if you don't believe Nonaka. I see Gourley has critiqued his work [1].

Marwick, A. D. (2001) 'Knowledge management technology', IBM systems journal, 40 (4). 994

Monday, 26 January 2009

Knowledge Management Technology

I have a [1] paper by Marwick about knowledge management technology. It's interesting now that I have some case studies because I can see where it applies. For example, Marwick writes
"explicit knowledge is represented by some artifact" (p814)
Explicit knowledge gets kept in documents, project documentation, service requests, opening and closing project documents, programme plan on a wall, minutes and agendas. All these contain information that a team shares between its members.

[1] Thanks to Shailey Minocha who drew my attention to it.
Marwick, A. D. (2001) 'Knowledge management technology', IBM systems journal, 40 (4). 994

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Writing up

I'm analysing and writing my first accounts of my first couple of case studies, which isn't an easy task I think because you have to transcribe, code - er how? Code what? How do I choose my codes? And what does it mean when you assign a code to a piece of text?

So I've got these codes from the Naphiet and Ghoshal framework and highlighted them over my eleven transcripts, but somehow I have to write up my findings so that they logically cohere with my codes. I read what I've written - 6000 words (wow!) but I've missed that step - it's in my head and not in my writing. So I've got to spend a couple of days pulling those codes out, deconstructing what my interviewees said into the various dimensions of social capital and then reconstructing the analysis into coherent writing. It sometimes seems a bit silly really.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Systematic review method

a systematic review is a method of reviewing a large body of literature to
  • reduce information overload
  • leave an audit trail
  • avoid bias
  • inform policy
  • support practice (E.g. to fluoridate water supplies)
When to use?
  • when there's uncertainty,
  • when evidence is required
  • when questions are unanswered
  • to direct future research
See 7 stages in Petticrew (p27)

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Analysis or stories ?

It's a bit difficult to write analysis. I get confused by thinking of the stories I've heard, or the story I was told. Analysis is deconstructing those stories. Miles & Huberman's book is so helpful in giving me tools to deconstruct, but then I have to put them together again. :(

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Vice Chancellor designate's address

We have a new Vice Chancellor designate, an Australian chap called Mr Martin Bean who's moving over from Seattle with his family. He's been working with Microsoft educational products for ages, and he says, with technology and education for his career and he wants to be Vice Chancellor of our university and he's got the job! Yesterday he addressed the staff of the University, speaking and taking questions. I was there in the audience. I was impressed. I thought he showed energy and sympathy and thoughtfulness, along with an ability to joke and laugh at himself. Inspiring.

They told us in November:
Martin Bean – Announced as New Vice-Chancellor
The University’s new Vice-Chancellor is to be Martin Bean, who is currently General Manager responsible for product management, marketing and business development for the Worldwide Education Products Group at Microsoft.

Martin, who will be the OU’s fifth Vice-Chancellor, will take up his appointment on 1 October 2009, following Professor Gourley’s retirement in September.
Here's a comprehensive blog on the session:

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Why blog?

I've only just found this blog arguing why academics should blog.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Analysis paralysis

Paralysis is what happens when you come to qualitative analysis. It's the weakest part of what they teach you - how to analyse qualitative data. As I work my way through with
I think it all feels as qualitative an approach to analysis as the data that I'm analysing. And the analysis is only another layer on top of what is already there - it's my view of the interviewees' views.

I think I learned a more about analysis of these sort of soft systems when I was tutoring systems (T301) years ago. Checkland's approach included identifying climate, process, facts, structure and queries, but it was the climate and process that revealed the issues. Even Miles and Huberman have picked up on those two.

So I have a framework that gave me my interview questions from which I've elicited data, and the main thing now is to explain how I've found these themes, or found any findings. I have to make the links back and that's the hardest bit - writing coherent and logical links. Perhaps it's my writing that is paralysed.

Miles, M. B. and Huberman, A. M. (1994) Qualitative data analysis : an expanded sourcebook, (2nd Edn), Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks. 758
Peled, D. A. (2001) 'Outsourcing and Political Power: Bureaucrats, Consultants, Vendors and Public Information Technology', Public Personnel Management, 30 (4), pp. 495. 475

Friday, 16 January 2009

Virtual Private Network at home

Work is somewhat delayed by having to sort out a new mother board and a complete reorganisation of all my hard disks.

However, a silver lining: I've discovered that the OU provides an VPN service for anywhere, called Cisco Any Connect VPN, so rather than having the client only on the one machine, I think, if I have to go to my aged parents, I should be able to use this way to connect to my OU files. How helpful of the OU.

I wonder if it would work on my eeePC under Linux.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Assistive Publishing

The OU PhD skills web site pointed out the availability to students of a web site, intra or internet available through the LTS, but you have to find how to use the Assistive Publishing System (APS). So I've been on the course, done that - it's a very simple content management system so it's really easy to use, but doesn't allow much room to differentiate your site. That's fine because I'll just concentrate on the content. I want somewhere on the intranet site that I can put up papers, and documents that I can't put on this.

Now, though I can't think what I should put up - what would be useful?

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Mobilising emotion or emotional mobilising?

Kristina Höök talked today about human centered computing using digital products that attempt to set the scene for emotional experiences. It was all a bit creepy. She gave examples of something called
  • eMoto - that's a phone - if you used this dildo-like pen with your mobile phone, it would send your message in colour depending on your mood, or what you wanted to express - I'd be grey so as not to give away mood to any one but family -
  • Affective Diary - you get some electronic gadget that reads measurements from a wrist-strap and turns them into not-quite-human blobs, whose colour is supposed to mean something
Needless to say, most of the computing chaps appeared from their body language to be a bit sceptical and disdainful of such equipment.

I can't quite see the use of it - but if given feedback I guess you could control your sweat and temperature - like you can control your blood pressure if you get feedback. So may be that's useful for controlling your stress levels.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Blogging research

Fascinated to read a conference paper on postgraduate blogs, found here (pdf). It's in paper 1150 by three fellow OU post grads who are a couple of years ahead of me and in a different faculty. But their experience is similar to what I'm finding. The blog is a
  • space for writing, reflection
  • a research journal but with search and sort functions and links
  • a "memory repository"
Sometimes I've used it to provide notes on a session that others have missed, so I can share. Because it's open, I'm a little more careful with grammar and spelling and readability, and like to include pictures, or links, or something other than pure text.

However, those three PG blogged together, even having a collaborative blog, and I am not in such a community; I'm the only PG student in the OUBS to blog. I do find other PhD blogs, but not physically close to where I am.

What I like most and most hope to have from my blog is some interaction. So I've appreciated the people who've commented or got in touch. The three PG authors conclude
  • universities should offer a blogging facility to research students
  • supervisors should draw attention to the potential benefits of this method of keeping a journal
  • authors of books on research methods should cover this area in some detail.
I don't think universities should necessary offer a blogging facility. I've used the OU one, and it's not good enough because it doesn't have a comment facility, which is really important if you want feedback.

My supervisors may not know what a blog is - I'm not aware that they read this, but they haven't discussed my using a research journal so the subject hasn't come up for over a year.

But yes, to the third recommendation - authors on research methods should cover this area in detail, because there are advantages to blogging, and with more PG students blogging in a community I could see more advantages .

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Ada Lovelace Day

March 24 is to be Ada Lovelace day.

Sign my pledge at PledgeBank

If you blog, will you join in too.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

What's wrong with this proposal? or right?

I have to rush to get a proposal together for the May EURAM conference doctoral colloquium, which has to be in by 12 January along with:
  • a letter of recommendation from my supervisors,
  • my CV,
  • my letter of motivation (what on earth is one of those!) and
  • a signed statement stating that "in the case of acceptance for the doctoral colloquium I have the funding and will definitely participate in the doctoral colloquium".
So I've abandoned my transcribing and analysis, and have got the outline of my proposal together. It will be useful to submit it because if you get it in and accepted then they send it out to other participants to read and then you get feedback on it at the colloquium, and that could be really useful. Mind you, what I'm submitting is the proposal for the research that I've already started, and I don't have the time to submit findings, but by May, I'll have findings and a better idea of what I've found. Nevertheless, getting good feedback will be helpful and still in time to use it to amend research questions, case study approach or method of analysis or what literature I need. And they promise you that each discussion group is supervised by a senior researcher. It should be really useful. So I'll get opinions from several sensible people on what is wrong or right with my work.

If you're interested, here's the pdf for the doctoral colloquium. Will you be there?

Thursday, 1 January 2009

New Year Resolution

This new year resolution has to be to get my research done, and written, not just collected, but analysed and written. And I can't write it until I've analysed it, so I'll just stop writing and analyse again. Having the analysis done helps avoid writer's block because analysis means putting something on paper, whether in a table, a matrix or just a scribble. Now, I have something already on paper:
  • role analysis matrix,
  • interview summary sheets,
  • data accounting sheet
  • network diagrams of relationships to compare with my theoretical ones
  • and interim report that I'm writing up for supervisors
So I guess that sums up into just keep going, never ever give up.