Friday, 27 September 2013

week 3 follow-up & week 4 blogging question

Today's wake-up music: Frank Sinatra, "Luck Be a Lady." A good research proposal is like a good Sinatra song -- it's to the point, its parts serve the whole, and a bit of Old Blue Eyes swagger can be just the thing when you need a confidence boost. And a song about gambling seems right for grant application-writing...

The SSHRC documents we discussed are all linked from the course schedule, or on Blackboard. I mentioned Stanford's Spatial History Project, and quoted from the posting about the project here:

Here's an excellent book to have on one's shelf generally, and especially to get one into the research-design headspace:

Hughes, W., Lavery, J., & Doran, K. (2009). Critical thinking: an introduction to the basic skills. 6th ed. Peterborough, ON: Broadview.

I also mentioned the reference management software Zotero (also linked in the resources section). If you'd like to learn more about this and other kinds of citation-management software, check out the link to the Inforum's iSkills workshops:

Finally, as I promised in class, from here on I'll post the assigned blogging questions on Fridays rather than Mondays to give you more time. Next week's question is deceptively straightforward: what difference does an information perspective make in your chosen research area? (see Vito's question on discussion board) Put another way, what difference does it make to pursue your research interest in an iSchool context? This is an opportunity to pull in some of the ideas you've been encountering in the first weeks of your other classes. Happy blogging, and enjoy what's shaping up to be a perfect Fall weekend!

Monday, 23 September 2013

week 3 blogging question

For this week's blog question, we'll take a page from Luker again. This time, with research proposals and literature reviews in mind, let's take on Luker's "bedraggled daisy" exercise as she describes it at the end of chapter 4, and in more detail beginning on p. 81. No doubt everyone thought about what their daisy might look like when they reached that point in the Luker reading, but it's another thing entirely to sit down, work it through, and draw one. This is partly an exercise in using another medium (drawing) to think thoughts that might not come as easily in a purely textual medium, and partly an exercise in the value of visualization: the point is not just to make a daisy, but also to step back and consider what you've done. As with writing things down and explaining your ideas to others, there are often new things you'll realize once you externalize and formalize your thoughts.

Part of the exercise, too, is acknowledging the provisionality of what you've just made, so give some thought to Luker's suggestion that you should number your daisy and think of it as an iteration in a series.

In the spirit of Luker's visual exercise, please post an image! You can use whatever medium you like: Adobe Illustrator; a sketch on a napkin snapped with a camera phone; coloured chalk on a sidewalk (no spray paint, please); a pencil sketch complete with crossouts and revisions -- whatever works best for your thought process. Some people's daisies may look more like sunflowers; others' may look more like trilliums (appropriately enough for Ontario). The point is the thought process that this exercise provokes, and the reflections and discussion that arise from it. However, I'd keep it simple for this first exercise -- best to avoid maple leaves or fractal geometries that have subcategories (at least for now).

For what it's worth, I'll be doing the same exercise as I prepare my own literature review for a project proposal on applying bibliographical approaches to born-digital texts. Having done this kind of exercise on a regular basis, I can attest that it's pretty much guaranteed to help not only your literature-reviewing, but also your articulation of it when it comes time to write it out.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

week 2 follow-up and slides

Here's a follow-up to this week's lecture on "Major Paradigms in Information Research." At the beginning of class I mentioned a couple of Inforum resources that should prove really helpful in different ways:
Conducting research: a selected bibliography of Inforum holdings:

iSkills: Professional, Academic, and Training Workshops:

The Prezi presentation for the lecture itself may be viewed here below. I will also be posting a downloadable version of the slides to BB, where you can also find a link to the free software to download to view Prezi files offline. I wasn't able to get through everything today, but some of the slides toward the end can remain mysterious for now, and I'll find ways to work them into future lectures. The Darwin images at the end will definitely show up in our "thinking through writing" class not far down the road.

The U.S. patent filed for the 1935 book reader device we discussed can be found here: . A tip of the hat to my RA Matthew Wells for finding this.

References for sources I drew upon for the lecture (in addition to the course texts):
Bates, M. (1999). The invisible substrate of information science. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 50(12), 1043-50.

Steinmetz, G. (Ed.). (2005). The politics of method in the human sciences: Positivism and its epistemological others. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Burke, P. (2000). A social history of knowledge: from Gutenberg to Diderot. Cambridge: Polity. (I was drawing mostly from his section titled "Varieties of Knowledge," pp. 82-90)
The slides also contain images from volumes held at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, which will show up in future lectures but whose full reference info I'll include here:
Robert Hooke. Micrographia, or, Some physiological descriptions of minute bodies made by magnifying glasses, with observations and inquiries thereupon. London, 1665. []

Charles Darwin. [proof sheets for] The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. London: J. Murray, 1872. []
The Fisher Library is attached to our building through Robarts, and is the best rare book library in Canada (and one of the best in the world). If you are curious about these books, don't hesitate to call them up and go see them at the Fisher -- that's why the library exists

Happy reading, and see you all next week for our class on designing research proposals.

Monday, 16 September 2013

week 2 blogging question

You guessed it: our first discussion question for the blogs comes straight from the end of chapter 1 of Luker's Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences, which recommends that students begin their own research diaries with the following exercise:

[from Luker, p. 21] "Someone once asked Balzac, who supported himself by writing reviews of plays, how liked a play he had just seen. 'How should I know?' he is reported to have answered: 'I haven't written the review yet!' Balzac was onto something: I find that when I write things down, I write and think things I've never really thought before. ... Set a kitchen timer for fifteen minutes, and write about what question concerning the ... research world you would like to investigate if you were absolutely guaranteed you would not fail. Be as ambitious and wide-ranging in your thinking as you want."

It's up to you whether you want to keep a private research diary, or treat your group blogs as your diary, or regard the two as intersecting from time to time. The point is simply to write down and externalize your thoughts so that you can step back, reflect, and see them evolve over time. However you approach it, this exercise is also a great way to get to know your other group members, so don't hesitate to discuss each other's posts in the comments. Even if you don't have a blog group yet, you can start writing offline so that you'll have your post ready once everyone is sorted into blog groups, which should be completed by the end of this Wednesday.

Btw, the Balzac reference really needs a proper citation, as do many of Luker's other references to cultural texts like William Blake poems. How would we know if Balzac didn't say this, or meant something different in context? (Remember how no one actually says "play it again, Sam" in Casablanca, despite all the erroneous attributions of that line to the film...) I recommend not following her example -- at least in this regard -- in your assignments.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Week 1 follow-up

Welcome to the course blog for INF 1240! Here I'll post lecture slides (as Prezi files) and supplementary materials to lectures. Most of the Blackboard material is duplicated here, too, and once the group blogs are set up you'll find them linked in the left-hand column.

Not much to add to our course overview from yesterday, though I'm happy to confirm that Jenna Hartel and Glen Farrelly will indeed be giving guest lectures on October 16th and 23rd, respectively. I've also updated the readings for our ethnography class on Oct. 16th. In addition to Jenna's article which I had already assigned, Jenna has suggested that students read one of two possible supplementary readings, one that's more relevant to information systems, or another that's more relevant to libraries. Of course, you're more than welcome to read both, and to explore the recommended readings if you think that week's topic might be useful for your own research proposals.

Happy reading, and see you all next week for our class on major paradigms in information research.