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Saturday, 12 October 2013

FIT6021 Workshop 9: Theories and Discourses

The reflection for Theories and Discourses will be relatively brief as I am only auditing Workshop 9 (via video recordings, as I couldn't attend the workshop in person due to illness) towards my Research Training unit.

Of all the workshops, I think I have struggled with this one the most. While I had a pretty good idea of what the other research methods were all about and what they involved, I find the concepts of postcolonialism and postmodernism a bit vague (perhaps that's the point) in comparison, and hard to wrap my head around (I was briefly introduced to them in my communications degree but more in the context of media/arts, so it requires a bit of a shift in my assumptions about what postcolonialism and postmodernism are).

The concept of meaning being "made and not found" discussed in the lecture resonated with me. Two people can read the same book or watch the same TV show etc and each take something completely different from it. This is especially relevant in the research field (especially to grounded theory, in that two researchers could look at the same set of data and come up with completely different questions or hypotheses based on that data). Likewise, two researchers reading/studying the same piece of work could glean different understandings depending on their paradigm or existing background knowledge. Also, for me, the postmodernist ideal is something that most researchers would strive towards in some form, as we naturally want to improve the way things are done or examine whether the world really works in the way we think it does. I find postcolonialism a bit harder to define, but in terms of colonisation, I think it can be seen to be happening both ways. Ie. Some cultures have, over the course of history, become more dominant and prevalent, while others have almost been 'absorbed' by other cultures or have become much more of a minority.

One part of the discussion I found particularly interesting was the concept of 'the body as archive', in which (at least in the given example) the dancer's body is an archive of choreographed dances. This got me thinking about how archiving works in general (like many people, I have always just thought of archives as a dusty basement under a library full of old books and documents) and the other forms archiving can take, eg the kata of a martial arts discipline being passed down through students, or stories passed down by Aboriginal tribes (though some of the more obscure ones are in danger of being lost as the members of their tribe dwindle). Not strictly related to information systems, but still interesting. It is also important to question the completeness/accuracy of archives; they are, in a lot of cases, written by the dominant culture or a dominant authority within that culture (the phrase "history is written by the winners" comes to mind), so it makes one wonder what knowledge has been lost or excluded.

As for how it will relate to my research, it is a bit hard to say; I know that my research isn't going to involve archiving. My (admittedly confused) understanding of critical theory, postmodernism and postcolonialism is that they deal better with more abstract or sociological research questions, and since my research will focus on a more concrete concept, I have trouble seeing how I can link them explicitly.

Rex is as confused by postcolonialism and postmodernism as I am:

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