ICM836 Day 2 (6/1): Let’s Begin Researching!

Teaching

Welcome back!

1.First Step of Research: A Core Concept

Now it’s time to start your course-long research project. We begin with an introduction to a feminist approach to knowing and knowledge = a core aspect of research.

You will have two related tasks, one practical, one research-related.

  1. You will set up your blog/shared document; and
  2. You will post your first post/text, in which you “situate yourself” in terms of (global) feminism and the media, as well as connect YOU to a possible RESEARCH TOPIC you might begin to work on.

Situated Knowledge — What’s That?

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The core concept you will tackle is the idea of situated knowledge. It means that much of knowledge bears “perspective-relativity”. We see things and understand them based on our upbringing, education, experiences… And most of our perspectives relate somehow, explicitly or implicitly, to biological sex, and/or gender.

(A reminder: Gender refers to the socially and culturally constructed sexual identity and its markers.  When sexual differences become meaningful and ideological, we have moved away from biological sex to the concept of gender.)

Why are we looking at this concept as an introduction to your research?

The aspect of feminist epistemology, or, the theory of knowing (and researching) is very many-sided. To summarize:

  • First, the relationship between feminist scholarship and feminism as a social – political – cultural movement is complex — and sometimes there is no difference.
  • Second, definitions of gender as a concept, and feminism as a political movement, are mediatized, and frequently heatedly debated in public arenas. Those are often emotional, ideological debates as much as intellectual ones.
  • Third, gender as a defining object of study can be applied practically to any field of research.

As you will see a bit later today and in the coming weeks, feminism is not an easy or solid concept. It entails some entirely contradictory understandings and interpretations.

Yet one thing unifies all that: The idea of power imbalances that have to do with sex and/or gender.

That is probably why the idea of situated knowledge is so important for research. Scholars want to be 100% transparent about where they stand, why they understand the world and the research topic the way they do — in order not to contribute to re-creating those imbalances and possible privileges.

Dimensions of SK

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Here are some dimensions that, in part, may create one’s situated knowledge:

  • Embodiment. People experience the world by using their bodies, which have different constitutions and are differently located in space and time.
  • Emotions, attitudes, interests, and values. People often represent objects in relation to their emotions, attitudes and interests.
  • Personal knowledge of others. People have different knowledge of others, in virtue of their different personal relationships to them.
  • Know-how. People have different skills, which may also be a source of different knowledge.
  • Cognitive Styles. People have different styles of investigation and representation.
  • Background beliefs and world views. People form different beliefs about an object, in virtue of different background beliefs.

Gender, and biological sex, matter  in our societies, almost everywhere and all the time. Here are some gendered aspects that influence the way we know and understand things and the world:

  • Gender roles. Men and women are often assigned to distinct social roles.
  • Gender norms. Men and women are often expected to comply with different norms of behavior and bodily comportment.
  • Gendered traits and virtues. Psychological traits are considered “masculine” and “feminine” if they dispose their bearers to comply with the gender norms assigned to men and women, respectively.
  • Gender identity. A person’s ascribed gender identity—how others identify him or her—may not match his or her subjective gender identity. Subjective gender identity includes all of the ways one might understand oneself to be a man, a woman, both, or neither.
  • Gender symbolism. Animals and inanimate objects may be placed in a gendered field of representation through conventional association, imaginative projection, and metaphorical thinking. Thus, the garage is regarded as “male” space, the kitchen, “female”; pears are seen as “womanly”, assault rifles as “manly.”

See more here, at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Assignment: Your First, Situated Post

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  1. So, who are you? What gendered and other aspects define how you understand the world?
  2. How do you understand feminism? What does that mean to you, personally?
  3. And, what interests you in the VAST field of global feminism and the media?
    • Do you want to look at popular culture? Social media activism? Marketing? The UN, sustainable development, gender, and the media? A specific region? A specific feminist/gender issue? Are you interested in numerous topics and can’t decide? (I hope you will find your specific research essay topic soon, but this can be an exploration, no need to lock in anything specific yet.)

Compose the above into an introduction as your first post for your blog/research diary. Feel free to use any style and tell us things with images, videos, sound bites… This doesn’t need to be a conventional academic text. Express yourself!

Send your first entry to me as a link to your blog, by Tues 6/6 at midnight (aslamam@stjohns.edu). I will then share the links with everyone — and we will give each other feedback by Thur 6/8 midnight.

 

2. Example/Instructions for your “Lecturer Duty”

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As you know, you will take the role of the instructor once during the semester.

ALEXIS and LAUREN  will start next Wednesday (6/7) and introduce us to two intriguing thinkers or activists (one each). They can work together and create one post featuring two people, or work independently and post separate posts, in their respective blogs (research diary platforms). They will also give us a small assignment, due within a week as a comment to their post.

Weds 6/14 it’s turn for NICOLE and SARAH and Weds 6/21: KIAH and JEHAN to do the same: choose an interesting thinker/doer in the field we are examining.

What your lecture should include

  1. Basic biographical facts (with references, links or text).
  2. Why did you choose this person?
  3. What are his/her core accomplishments/ideas you want to highlight?
  4. What is his/her specific relevance to global feminism and the media?
  5. A small assignment / question for the rest of us.

Again the format is free. Feminist scholars like to break conventions. Just make this equivalent of a 1-2-page blog post.

An Example: bell hooks

[As an abbreviated example, I would like to introduce you to one of the most notable American feminist thinkers, bell hooks. Feel free to use a less formulaic presentation in your lecture. This is just to illustrate the content.]

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bell hooks is one of the most prolific, and internationally known American feminist scholars.

She is a feminist theorist, cultural critic, artist, and writer. hooks has authored over three dozen books and has published works that span several genres, including cultural criticism, personal memoirs, poetry collections, and children’s books. Her writings cover topics of gender, race, class, spirituality, teaching, and the significance of media in contemporary culture.

Born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, bell hooks adopted the pen name of her maternal great-grandmother, a woman known for speaking her mind.  hooks even has an academic institute dedicated to her work — see more of her bio of its website.

hooks is important to me personally as her writings initially introduced me to the idea of intersectionality, the multiple layers of societal power and power inequalities. In addition, her book about how to teach critical thinking has inspired me immensely.

As a scholar and a cultural critic, hooks is very valuable for our course. In her book Feminism Is For Everybody she writes very short but very poignant essays about what feminism is, and what are some of its main issues, challenges, practices. Here is the book for you in its entirety.

This is what she says in the book about global feminism, a good reminder:

[F]eminist women in the West are still struggling to
decolonize feminist thinking and practice so that [global] issues can be

addressed in a manner that does not re-inscribe Western imperialism. (…)

The goal of global feminism is to reach out and join global struggles to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.
This is one of her kinder ways of expressing her views.
Yet another way why she is interesting for us is that she is very outspoken, and evokes controversy.
Remember this video from the Syllabus:
Well, hooks had something to say about Beyoncé, at a panel at the New School:
And this, in turn, evoked some analysis:
What do you think? Is feminism too restrictive? (No need to answer to this example, but think about it…)

TIPS from the Living Lab Research #1: General organizational checklist

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Some concrete tips from our GESCI-AKE Living Lab Research, Part 1!

GESCI- AKE Living Lab Research

This checklist is based on the LL co-learning and co-creation processes of GESCI-AKE. Note that it lists core organizational issues that those projects have considered, and solved, but that may be very contextual, depending on the field and the kind of project at hand.

pitching1

  1. What are the innovations – business models to be developed? What kind of businesses are being developed in the programme/project hub? Is the model focused on creating start-ups (a concept focused on high capital commercial venture products) or also “creative” ventures, collectives based on other alternative strategies like open access / open content and sharing?
  2. What are your desired outcomes? Are all kinds of outcomes desired (products, services, media content)? If so, they may need different kinds of training and development processes.
  3. How to select your participants? How do your formulate the basic requirements for candidates? Do you choose individuals, or teams and team members? Can…

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ICM836 Day 1 (5/30): Let’s Start the Journey!

Research

Welcome!

Here’s a FAQ  — if I left something out please ask away below as a comment!

What is the course about?

As the title of the course depicts,  we will focus on global feminism and the media. On Friday, I will discuss this in more detail and offer some definitions. At this point, I just want to note that we are focusing less on identity and gender than to (global) development questions pertaining to women, and the role (international) communication including digital and legacy media, and different forms from journalism to PR. Our scholarly framework is that of feminist media  and communication studies.

That said, the course is not only about women. It is about sustainable development, information needs, issues of representation, and other questions that are important to our societies and the world as a whole.

What will we do?

We will take four outlooks on core issues and ideas of global feminism:

  1. The broad overview: We will look at some principles, theories, and the diversity of issues under “feminist media and communication studies”, bearing in mind international communication.
  2. The specific focus on “global feminism”: We will reflect empirical issues of global development and gender with feminist theorization.
  3. Discovering important thinkers/doers. Everyone will have one lecture duty: You will need to write one blog post, with a small assignment, about a scholar or activist in the field of global feminism.
  4. The in-depth exploration, individually but not alone: You will look at one issue in depth for your final (academic, research-based) essay. The specific topic and focus will be YOUR CHOICE. You will work on it every week, starting at Thursday 6/1. The twist: This will be a collaborative, communal effort in some sense. Your colleagues will comment your progress and help you along they way, also every week. And you will help them.

Where are we now and when will we meet?

This is my personal blog. We will “meet” here every Tuesday and Thursday briefly for a lecture briefing and/or assignment briefing.

Tuesdays entail the theoretical and conceptual briefings and examples. Thursdays are dedicated to your research project.

New assignments — actually, reflections and fact finding missions — will be posted early afternoon and you will also receive an email to notify you about them. You can complete them at anytime within the following few days.

  • Tuesday – theory assignments will be brief. You will need to complete them by the following Thursday,  midnight, so in 2 days.
  • Thursday – research assignments will be more extensive. You will need to complete them by the following Tuesday,  midnight, so in 5 days.
    • Comments to your colleagues’ research posts: asap after they have been posted but by the following Thursday, midnight.

You will create your own blog or equivalent (an online platform that we can give you feedback on) for the duration of this course (or, if you want and have one, use your existing blog).

You can use any screen name, any title for the blog, any blogging platform or equivalent, and so on.

Just a (fictional) example – to show you how it works.

On Tues 6/6, you will be emailed a written lecture posted here. You will be asked to comment on  a feminist theory: do you think it applies in today’s world.

By Thur 6/8 evening you have thought and researched about the question. You will post your reply as a comment below: I believe this theory is outdated because… When prompted by the comment function of this blog, you will use your St. John’s email address (that will be seen only by me, the admin). Then you will use any screen name, in this case, MH.

By the same Thur afternoon you have also received your research prompt-inspiration, here on this blog. It could be something like: Search for, read, and summarize 3 academic articles that relate to your research topic. What did you learn – what are some questions/points you need help with? Post the summaries on your blog as a blog post. You will work on this the following Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon and post your summaries by Tues 6/13 evening. At the same time, you will check the new research briefing of that Tuesday, and see what your colleagues have posted.

You will spend the next two days reviewing your colleagues’ work and completing the small research assignment. By Thur 6/15 midnight, you have helped your 5 colleagues by sharing your thoughts/tips with them as comments on their blogs, as well as completed the research mini-assignment.

IN ADDITION! Note that Wed 6/7 and Wed 6/14  would have been dedicated to inspiring examples of thinkers/doers: Blog posts from 4 of you.

If you are new to blogging, here’s a good tutorial about WordPress (this blog is a WordPress one):

Or, here’s a tutorial on how to make a Tumblr blog.

You can also create a Google Docs or Dropbox file — just give us rights to comment.

(More about this on Thursday 6/1. Let me know if you have any questions, below or via email.)

You will respond to the research assignments on your own blog, as a blog post.

Why these platforms?

Apart from Google Docs / Dropbox documents, these blogging platforms are public (although you can keep your identity from potential readers). Blogging is also a more informal and personal, inclusive way of communication, than academic writing. Perhaps you have heard the famous feminist saying: “The personal is political”. Here, we understand that slogan in terms of offering our views to everyone, and going beyond the format of a specific audience. While being scholarly and analytical in our thinking and referencing, we can now practice our own voice. Hence, my posts are on my own blog. I would encourage you to blog, but appreciate it if you want to keep your work just between us. In that case, create a shared Google Docs folder or a Dropbox repository (or equivalent) — just make sure we can comment your texts.

What general principles do we follow?

Some other principles that many feminist scholars practice are:

  • The aforementioned personal voice and style; inclusiveness. Open mind, acceptance and respect of different ideas and views.
  • Critical thinking, i.e., constant analysis and questioning of the status quo. Please feel free to critically examine all the readings and assignments. This, as you know, doesn’t mean constant criticism of views that you don’t agree with, but an open mind to multiple interpretations beyond the most obvious ones.
  • Situational knowledge, i.e., acknowledgement of one’s background, current personal and professional situation, and even biases that might, or do, influence one’s opinions and analyses.
  • Willingness to assist and help one another.

Please keep these in mind when completing your assignments.

Why these books?

Our course books are:

Current Perspectives in Feminist Media Studies
Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (April 11, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0415754720
ISBN-13: 978-0415754729

  • This book, actually a collection of short essays to honour the academic journal Feminist Media Studies, is a great introduction to current thinking around core practices and issues. It is especially useful for our course as the texts are compact and diverse, also in terms of addressing cultural and global diversity. In other words, these texts allow us to explore many issues within our five weeks.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307387097
ISBN-13: 978-0307387097

  • This book is the opposite of the one above: It’s a journalistic exploration of global women’s issues, and solutions. And this is precisely the reason why I chose the book. These two texts show the array of approaches one can take to “global feminism and the media”. Furthermore, this book is about one of your assignments (book review). A further reason for this book? It has turned into an effective family of communication-PR spin-offs, ranging from a PBS documentary/film to its own multi-media website with educational materials, to a Facebook game. Finally, this book and the related products also showcase the contested nature of many issues, theoretical and practical, that can be labeled under “global feminism”. The authors are American journalists, and that has evoked quite a bit of criticism (as “veiled colonialism”, as one-sided, and so on). More about this later.

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What’s next?

  1. Check our the syllabus, here and ask me any questions you might have, either below as a comment or via email: aslamam@stjohns.edu.
  2. Get the books, if you haven’t already, and begin reading Half the Sky.
  3. Await for the first “research prompt” here on Thursday. I will also post a “sample profile” = instructions for your lecture duties (Wed 6/7, 6/14, 6/ 21.) (When these are posted, you will receive an email notification.)
  4. EXTRA – just FYI: Here’s a first draft of an article I am writing for the Handbook of Mediated Communication, titled Gender and the Media. We will discuss the content in the coming weeks, but if you want to have a head-start you can glance through it.

See you on Thursday!