Monday, April 16, 2007

Getting Over Delusions of Grandeur

Taking my M.A. comprehensive exam gave me the opportunity (or required me to through a test question - however you want to look at it) to reflect on what exactly is a feminist methodology. There has been much debate and discussion about what makes a method feminist or not, as no method is inherently feminist. So, what is it about my project here that makes it a feminst one? And, are there any ways in which my project is not feminist - despite my goal of making it so?

In my research, I have made respecting the wishes of the folks who participated in interviews my #1 goal. I asked people to tell me how they wanted to be identified (legal name, blog name, psudeonym, etc), to review all transcripts, and to decide for themselves if they want transcripts to be posted on my blog.

In reporting my research, I have tried to honor the spirit of the blogosphere and have soliticited feedback from folks about whether or not I am on target in my analysis. Feminist bloggers are the REAL experts about the feminist blogosphere and I want to give them the strongest voice in my project.

Despite these efforts, the fact remains that I, the researcher, still have the most control over my project. There are ethical and political implications to my project and there will always be some degree of power imbalance between researchers and research participants. But, in being aware of these factors, I have tried to close this power gap and to make my research beneficial to the blogosphere. By keeping a blog and sharing my research and interviews, I am in a small way contributing to archive feminist work in the blogosphere.

There is still a part of me, however, that gets nervous about making strong claims based on the conclusions that I draw from my research. Indeed, I often fall into the trap of self-reflexive paralysis. Especially when dealing with the insight interviewees have shared with me. I want to remain true to the spirit of what bloggers stated when discussing interviews in my thesis while at the same time allowing myself the freedom to provide assessments based on my own interpretations. But what if a blogger disagrees with how I represented her or him? Well, that's when I fall back on the structure of my research plan - I actively solicit peer review to provide a great opportunity for bloggers to have voice in this project. Yes, the narrative voice of the researcher is often all-power, but I really want to change this dynamic in my work.

The question remains whether or not I have been successful in doing this. I do hope so...

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