This blog will document my dissertation writing process. My research is focused on college student digital identity, emergence, and the role of complexity sciences in understanding, navigating, and challenging traditional discourses surrounding college student “development” and identity in the digital age.
My dissertation research is utilizing a theoretical framework not commonly employed in higher education and student affairs: complexity theory. Broadly, complexity theory challenges traditional Western conceptions of the world, of research, and epistemology. Complexity theory argues against an epistemology of simplicity for a more holistic understanding of phenomena, what Morin (2008) calls an epistemology of complexity. This means that linearity, simple causality, reductionism, fragmentation, and predictability are questioned and challenged, replaced with more holistic concepts such as systems thinking, non-linearity, disequilibrium, emergence, relationship, and probability.
Perhaps most important to this blog, complexity theory details and explores living systems. Alhadeff-Jones (2013) proposed the idea that research itself is a complex living system. A “researcher” is not a solitary individual who comes to “truth” or “knowledge” through the research process. Rather, research is a dialogue: between the researcher and informing texts or literature, between the researcher and his or her participants, between the researcher and a larger community. Further, research is never complete, since the world around us, since individuals are constantly changing, shifting, emerging, and becoming as they interact with the world around them.
The idea of research as a living system is also advanced by Kincheloe and Berry (2004) in their conception of incorporating a research process they refer to as the bricolage. In employing a bricolage approach to educational research, a researcher uses all possible and available tools at his or her disposal to interrogate, question, challenge, examine, think, and interpret their emerging research agenda. Further, the researcher becomes a theoretical, methodological, and epistemological multi-linguist, a term employed by Scott (2009) who argued for broad, expansive, and holistic approaches to research, rather than the narrow, stringent, and methodologically constraining approaches that continue to dominate many approaches to research.
This blog is one of many tools that I will utilize as a researcher to explore the topic of digital identity in college students. This blog is part of the “living system” that is my dissertation research endeavor. And this is where you, the reader, can play a vital and important role. Commenting on ideas that are explored through this blog, challenging my conceptualizations of theory, research, or emergent findings will greatly enhance this work. You are critical to my research process. Through dialogue, comments, and the sharing of your own knowledge, theoretical interpretations, or questions, this blog will create a feedback loop throughout the research process. This will greatly benefit the holistic nature of the research project being carried out.
I chose blogging as one form of feedback looping for several reasons. First, blogging is one of many ways digital technologies are being used to create digital identities. Secondly, Wakeford and Cohen (2008) discuss the possibilities of blogs being used as a form of fieldnotes, as well as opening the discourse around an academic area of inquiry. The process of blogging during research allows a community of individuals to understand, follow, and learn about the debates, shifts, and emergent nature of the research process. Further, blogging allows a researcher to engage with others and share research findings as they emerge, rather than simply producing a tidy research report at the “conclusion” of their formal study. For these reasons, blogging seems an appropriate and necessary part of this research process exploring the role of digital spaces in identity emergence of college students.
Please share your thoughts, subscribe, post or link information that will be helpful to the overall shape, trajectory, and emergence of this research. I look forward to hearing your thoughts about this important inquiry on college students in the 21st century.
Alhadeff-Jones, M. (2013). Complexity, methodology, and method: Crafting a critical process of research. Complicity: An International Journal of Complexity and Education, 10(1/2), 19-44.
Kincheloe, J.L. & Berry, K.S. (2004). Rigour and complexity in educational research: Conceptualizing the bricolage. New York, NY: Open University Press.
Morin, E. (2008). On complexity. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
Scott, C. (2009). Epistemological multilingualism: A tool for conviviality. Paideusis, 18(2), 43-54.
Wakeford, N. & Choen, K. (2008). Fieldnotes in public: Using blogs for research. In N. Fielding, R.M. Lee, & G. Blank (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of online research methods (pp. 307-326).