Friday, May 19, 2006

Cyberplanning & Virtual Community Development?!

So, I came across this article as the result of a Google Alert on light: A Red-Light District in the Comfort of My Own Home. I think American society is more influenced by childhood games like Red Light, Green Light than we might care to admit, for articles about "red-light" cameras and organizations getting the "green light" to move forward with some plan or other are quite pervasive. Just as I was ready to hit the delete key, however, I caught a glimpse of the annotation of the article and decided to give it a closer look. I was struck by the following ideas:

1) The "mapping" of cyberspace to the physical geography of a community. Sometimes I think we view them as completely separate, not recognizing how much our experiences in the physical world influence our expectations for and interactions with one another in the virtual one.

2) The issues the article raises regarding the growth and development of cybercommunities. Can you imagine a degree in "cyberplanning and virtual community development?" That is what reading this article evoked for me and it seems rather plausible in a weird sort of way!

3) How deeply entwined everything is with policy and how many questions about it are implied by this article. Who influences policy the most? Who makes final decisions about it? How many of the decisions surrounding policy are made behind closed doors before an issue even becomes a public one? Can the population at large really move policy in a particular direction? How much "public" would that take?

4) What makes the author think that a new "community of shadows" won't spring up in the "dark alleys and sewers" of the xxx district if it were created? People who wish to avoid scrutiny aren't necessarily going to hang out in the "approved for loitering" areas of a community!

5) The psychology implicit throughout this article is especially intriguing.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Of Blogging & "Knowledge Packages"

What struck me as I read this interview was the idea that blogging facilitates what is, in essence, a continuous process of identity development. It supports the synthesis and analysis of individual topics, facilitates recursive exploration of those ideas, and ultimately results in the production of a series of pre-fabricated "knowledge packages" (to quote Liping Ma) that are relatively easy to incorporate into larger works. My personal experience with blogging suggests that it goes a few additional steps. When I take the time to post to my blog, I find that it seems to function on both an emotional level and a cognitive level as a way of helping me to incorporate thoughts, understandings, feelings, and ideas into my conceptual framework in ways that ultimately support my ability to integrate them into the fabric of my life.

Mixing Methods

While cleaning up old e-mail, I was investigating the abstracts of a journal on Alegebraic Combinatorics. (Don't ask!) The keywords in the abstract for an article entitled, A Basis for the Non-crossing Partition Lattice Top Homology led me to some very interesting things. [By way of explanation, that particular article caught my eye for two reasons--the term lattice evoked an image of Rand Spiro's criss-crossing landscapes in my mind (which are of interest to me), and the idea of a lattice that didn't cross and wasn't partitioned was also intriguing to me].

I wanted to see a picture of what such a lattice might look like, so I did a quick image search for stack sortable permutation (not in quotation marks). It led me to this Wikipedia article in German. My German isn't so hot, but the diagram in the article intrigued me (as did the title of the article--Quicksort). So, I took the time to look for more clues and found the neat little link on the side that lets you try it out in English. Unfortunately, the English and the German articles do not contain identical information. However, they are similar enough for me to make sense of the German page. As I read both articles, I realized that math idiot that I am, I could still make sense of the concepts because of prior work I had done with pivot tables in Excel.

So why do I care about this abstract, mathematical stuff anyhow? Because it seems to me that this idea of partitioning can be combined with the concept of constant comparative analysis and then applied to the analysis of qualitative data. It also intrigues me because the examples given in both the German and the English articles are so visual, and I think being able to visually represent data is important (not only when one is ready to present it, but also during the analysis stage when one is trying to make sense of it). Different representations privilege or foreground different patterns, and that helps the researcher to see things that might previously have been invisible.

Now, add to the idea of inserting a partition or dividing line of sorts into the data and then sorting on either side of it, the concept of then organizing the data on either side of the partition in terms of binary sets. The images in this article on binary trees help illustrate this--especially those near the end. What I like about this idea is that sorting them in terms of binaries might help the researcher to allow outliers to remain inside the data set and, in so doing, to interpret the data with more accuracy.