It seems like a pretty common technique in academic writing to re-envision "this" as "that", using new metaphors to reframe the way we think about certain conventions in our profession. This week, Fleckenstein, Spinuzzi, Rickly, and Papper (hereafter known as Fleckenuzzi-Ripper) invited us to re-cast research as ecology. The characteristics of ecology they think should be embedded into research include interdependence, feedback, and diversity. The manuscript excerpt on peer production by Moxley et al. seems to illustrate this idea of research as ecological.
Moxley and his co-authors resist the temptation to view their immediate problem (lack of participation by writing instructors in the community provided by the WPAs) as isolated or narrow. Their approach covers angle after angle of the program and its dilemma by quoting faculty, WPAs, mentors, and mentees; those in favor and strongly supportive of the program, those indifferent, and those opposed to one or more of its features. This allowance for feedback from diverse sources has shaped the program at the same time that it was shaping the piece we read.
Keith Rhodes, on the other hand, does not attempt to use a metaphor to reframe research. Rather, he offers an entirely new term for "what compositionists do that they call ethnography": "Psychography." He describes psychography as having "reasonably extended study, moderate thickness of description, small focus-groups, collaborative separation of teacher and researcher roles, self-conscious personalizing of all participants, and genuine concern for the dignity of the students and teachers being observed."
This definition of psychography seems to describe Herrington and Curtis's study of their student Francois. The study is extended--it follows Francois for more than one semester and through dozens of pages. Its description is moderately thick; while it doesn't do much physical description or context setting (at least in the sections we read), Francois' writing and comments are described at length. The teachers are actually writing the book, but the "part" of the researcher is "played" by "Elizabeth." (Actually, this quite confused me; both Anne Herrington and Marcia Curtis write in first person in this chapter.) They go out of their way to be fair to Francois, as frustrating as he must have been to have as a student.
Finally, we looked this week at van Maanen's chapter on the confessional ethnography. Van Maanen emphasized that this genre of ethnography is often interwoven into a larger framework of a different ethnographic genre. I can see some of the context-setting sections of readings we've done falling into this category--perhaps Sohn's description of her own experiences in Appalachia, for example.
Of the three descriptions of qualitative research (ecological, psychography, confessional) that we read this week, I'd like to read more about the ecological. The emphasis on dialogue, responsiveness, and truly listening to the research subjects shows promise for guiding qualitative research towards productive ends.