Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Reflecting on my involvement with Larvatus Prodeo

Classified as: reflective journal

Reflecting on my involvement with Larvatus Prodeo leads into two areas:
  • A need to classify blog entries - key word or some system for eg primary research results and updates vs discourse analysis, reflections and theory.
  • A need to look closely at the ethics of my involvement as researcher and participant

The second point arises because in my original ethics application I hadn't really considered the ethics of discourse analysis in detail, let alone the ethics of discourse analysis as a researcher when one is participating in a blog, while simultaneously researching it as a field for discourse analysis.

It raises a lot of questions, which can be summed up as a being on a continuum varying between, at one extreme, the so-called 'objective' researcher, who from a place of safety observes the interactions of people as unknowing subjects, to the other extreme where the researcher is like a kind of agent provocateur stimulating debate ( which may be heated and deeply felt) and then retiring and analyzing it. Neither of these seems entirely comfortable positions ethically. My previous post seems uncomfortably close to the latter.

Updating this afternoon -

There probably is not a lot more to say except to acknowledge that I now see some ethical issues in talking about women 'policing' other women. It is true that the site I was discussing is one in which primary 'ownership' is held by a man, who does most of the posting, while enforcing of the rules appears to be mainly done by women, who don't seem to do much posting (on that site). Nevertheless I recognise and acknowledge that the lived experience of those individuals is much more complex and nuanced than this summary might suggest.

Similarly I acknowledge that in reproaching or getting angry with me, women on that site, as one said, may be reacting not to the content of what I said, but to the way I said it. I am not always tactful or perceptive in the way I say things and I apologise for hurt that I have caused by that.

I will let my previous post stand, but invite anyone who wants to put a different perspective to make a comment - or to make a guest post here if interested.

Regarding future discourse analysis of left wing (or any other) blogs, I don't intend to move right back to the 'detached observer' position, because I think that is ethically problematic also, but I do intend to move back from the  'emotionally engaged participant' position.

This post is classified:
Feminism - theory and practice
Discourse analysis
Reflective journal
Ethics and methodology


Anonymous said...

Dear Val,

Participant observation has risks, that just goes with the territory. For example: journalists who were embedded with U.S. forces during the invasion of Iraq and afterwards were condemned and disbelieved - yet some of them later went on to produce credible accounts and analyses of what they saw.

Were you being deliberately provocative? I don't think so. Forceful and very abrasive? Yes - but I doubt you were deliberately provocative.

One great change I have noticed over a few decades is that words themselves are now far less important than are images and impressions. It is as though nobody bothers to read anything these days but merely glimpses a few words here-and-there in a text - not necessarily key words either - creates an instant impression that is then linked to an emotion and moves on.

I had thought of creating nonsense sentences (well, more nonsense than usual, some might say) with key words in eyecatching places and then posting on one site or another just to see what response I got - but then decided against that - mainly because it would be ill-mannered to do so. Still, it does look as though some people do not actually read much at all but rely mainly on their fleeting impressions of what a text might have in it.


Graham Bell.

Anonymous said...

p.s. Thanks for your "Uncashed Dividend" on health and environment. Can't read it on my screen but have saved it for later. Graham Bell

Valerie Kay said...

Thanks Graham, as one of the people I tangled with that's appreciated. And of course I wasn't trying to be an agent provocateur, what I was saying was deeply felt - perhaps too deeply felt - but then coming back here and reflecting on it was a bit odd. Also I felt that my post on the arguments amongst women on LP, even though I thought about it a lot, did end up being a bit glib in places, sadly. The whole point that we ended up arguing, even though there were real problems of sexism that we agreed on, was a shame and a bit of a lesson.
I'm thinking of changing my photo to a bad egg - watch out for it! Cheers

Anonymous said...

Dear Val,
Another thing that seems to have changed over decades is the increasing readiness to become aggressive and to adopt a winner-takes-all attitude. Perhaps this comes from children being exposed to so much of that on television - bearing in mind that those who write and produce those t.v. shows are more likely than not to have limited life-experience. Sorry, I can't offer any evidence: it's just an "impression" I have. Aggressiveness and winner-takes-all has always been with us, of course, but now they seem to dominate every interaction.

Larvatus Prodeo is a site I have visited for some years (with a break when my own computer died and I had to rely on very expensive, time-constrained public computers). I found many of the topics discussed and the views expressed interesting, informative and sometimes quite helpful so I kept coming back. There are clusters of preferences and biases and interests among the participants but these are right out in the open so no harm is done at all - in fact, they add to distinctive charm of Larvatus Prodeo. Nearly everyone there is reasonably polite and tolerant even when involved in quite spirited debate .... which is why I was really caught by surprise at the explosive reactions on a few topics lately. Has something changed about the participants in discussions on Larvatus Prodeo or is there a trend in broader society?
Graham Bell

Anonymous said...

((don't know if that went through; internet here in the Other Australia is hit-&-miss at times))G.B. :-)

Linda said...

Hi Val

But women do police each other's behaviour. A system of male supremacy teaches us to do this from an early age.

You saw Dr Pav reprimand me for risking "offending the blokes" because the reality is that we rely on their good will (speaking in a broader sense, not just on LP) and the truth is it is risky to upset the master lest things become a whole lot worse for us. So much time and energy goes into keeping things relatively safe for women to live and be, we can't afford to let our guard down.

There are just a few mavericks around like me who keep blurting out truths, because radical feminism deals with the actual truth and reality of women's situation, no matter how awful it is and hard to face.

I use the principle of Occam's Razor to explain pervasive sexism - quite simply, men want it.

Valerie Kay said...

Hi Linda and Graham thanks for your comments here and on previous thread. I think I've become a bit exhausted talking on the topic of sexism and politics recently but I think a big part of the problem is that the discussion is so light weight sometimes - that's what I found so frustrating about the discussion at LP, it was just so difficult to get a sensible conversation going. I think especially the ideas that there can be sexism, but it doesn't really matter, and that confronting it somehow means that you are being rude or unreasonable.
It's like that army guy said 'the standard you walk past is the standard you accept'. So you can't say - as you did in the previous post Graham - that some people aren't affected because we're all affected even as bystanders.
Sure also there is a need to be careful about the words we use - and I think one word we should be thinking about is contempt, because that is often the key feature of sexism or misogyny, but it isn't often discussed - but even more than that we need to be able to talk about sexism thoughtfully. Anger on the topic of sexism - from both men and women, and from frustration or defensiveness - can act to silence people, and I think that is a problem that needs to be looked at. It could have been looked at sensibly on LP but it wasn't, which is a pity. I think a more thoughtful use of the blog rules would have helped.