«University of Colorado, Boulder CU Scholar Communication Graduate Theses & Dissertations Communication Spring 5-28-2014 Form, Function, and Figure: ...»
She wrote that “sincerity means that research is marked by honesty and transparency about the researcher’s biases, goals, and foibles as well as about how these played a role in the methods, joys, and mistakes of the research” (p. 841). A rigorous accounting for reflexivity or sincerity in qualitative research aids readers in following the journey of research from theoretical set up to data collection to the interpretations that one researcher chooses to present. Agar (2008) calls for ethnographies that can respond to the question, "can you do something here given this amount of time and resources, what will the results be and, more importantly, what will they not be" (p. 39).
Answering this question depends on an ethnographer’s awareness of her relation with the community of focus, the assumptions that she brings with her to the field, and how engaging with this community alters and refines the assumptions and interpretations she makes. In order to account for reflexivity and to hold myself accountable to Agar’s question, I want to take some space in this thesis to consider the relationship that I have had with SPC and its members, the multiple roles and identities that I assume in this research and how these enable and constrain
research perspectives and my goals in this research.
As I briefly mentioned above, I serve three roles in SPC’s organization. I am a board member, originally appointed by Mary in the summer of 2012 to serve for a year and a half before the board voted again on members and officers in the annual meeting in December 2013, where I was reelected to the board for another year-long term. As a board member I attend meetings and I am expected to give my input in discussions during meetings and on Wiggio. I was also the chair of the community relations committee, which was disbanded by Mary shortly after the September 2013 meeting, and may possibly morph into an events committee in the future. In this role I scheduled and ran meetings with my committee. I also assigned tasks for committee members to complete. Many times I wrote meeting minutes after a meeting was completed to document the actions and interactions that occurred during the meeting.
In addition to these roles that I serve within the organization, I held (and still hold) many other roles in relation to the people of SPC. The most obvious one perhaps is that of researcher to the researched. This places me in a position of power over the narrative of these organizational members’ lives and story that I produce in my research. This power position may have granted my voice, typically backed by some theory of communication, greater prevalence over other voices in making decisions or discussing the communication of SPC. However, even though I was the researcher in this setting, as a member of the organization I was also one of the researched. In the dual role of researcher-researched, I have had power over my own portrayal in my work, but I was also closer to the meanings created within the organization than a nonmember researcher would be. This enabled me to access certain kinds of data and interpretations that a non-member might not have been able to negotiate, but it also constrained me from taking
Informally, I have relationships with many of the members of SPC outside of the context of the organization and my own research. I was privy to some of the details of the board members’ private lives from being friends with them on Facebook. I knew all but three of the current board members prior to the organization’s founding through church and through other friends. Mary, the current president and founder of SPC, and I worked together for almost five years at a coffee shop inside of a local grocery store, and quickly grew to become “best friends”.
I am the only board member with a relationship to Mary labeled as such, and this might have also granted me some privilege in the organizational context of which I could be unaware. After Mary, I am perhaps most acquainted with Lise, Mary’s sister. This primarily comes through Mary’s stories of her childhood with Lise and Mary’s relaying newsworthy items of Lise’s life to me. The three board members that I did not personally know before SPC was founded are Amanda, Doug, and Theresa. Sean, Lisa, Dan and I met through church and know each other through Mary’s social network influence.
I filed protocol number 12-0689 with the Institutional Review Board in early November
2012. On November 9, 2012 the reviewer determined that my project had exempt status. After designing new interview questions for the respondent interviews that I added for this thesis, I submitted an amendment including these changes and changes to my research questions and timeline on September 19, 2013. On September 25, the office contacted me to acknowledge my amendment and that my project still had exempt status.
theory method. In this stage, I marked when “meeting” or “to meet” was explicitly used or alluded to in the transcripts, field notes, and documents that I collected, in addition to other concepts and words that seemed to be important. After open coding each meeting transcript, I then used the etic framework developed by Schwartzman (1989) to analyze each meeting for the following analytic concepts: participants, channels and codes, frame, meeting talk (which includes the sub-components of topic and results, norms of speaking and interaction, oratorical genres and styles, and interest and participation), norms of interpretation, goals and outcomes, and meeting cycles and patterns. During these initial coding phases, I kept track of emerging patterns and relationships that I drew across different examples and components by writing memos. After these two initial coding phases, I used the entire body of data to compare and “test” these initial patterns and relationships.
After coding and drawing relationships and patterns out from my data, I began writing.
The writing process is an extension of analytic work, and is a construction analogous to how I view the forms of communication that I study. This writing is informed by the work that has been produced by other researchers in the two perspectives that I study. In the form and function chapter, I construct a broad snapshot of SPC’s meetings utilizing Schwartzman’s (1989) framework, followed by three more focused snapshots to examine the norms of interpretation.
The figure chapter follows more of a general discourse analytic approach (Gee, 1999), as researchers in ventriloquism might use (Cooren, 2010). In the final chapter, I compare the
The ethnography of communication is best known for detailing the form and function of communication practices and events in relation to large-scale ways of speaking in particular communities. In this chapter, I will use Schwartzman’s (1989) analytic framework as a guide for explicating the form and function of meetings in SPC. I outlined the parts of this framework in the introduction chapter. This analysis will address my first research question: What is the form and function of SPC’s meetings, and what does metacommunication about meetings reveal about the norms of interpretation of meetings? Most of the framework is presented to examine the form and function of meetings and other points of interpretation of what talk about meetings might be doing for the participants. After explicating the rest of the framework, I will focus on norms of interpretation, because this part of the framework allows me to best look at how the metacommunication about meetings relates to the characterization of meetings that members hold. It also lends itself best to a concern with how meetings have been characterized over time, a concern that Sigman (1998) challenged ethnographers to use. At the end of the chapter I will summarize what this analysis says about the form and function of SPC’s meetings, and why this might not be enough to understand the metacommunication about meetings from a more nuanced perspective.
The first component of Schwartzman’s (1989) framework is the participants. Meetings include various subsets of the members of SPC. All meetings included in my data set include two members: Mary, the president and founder of SPC, and me. Other regular meeting attendees
and Theresa, only attended one meeting in this data set, the December 2013 board of directors meeting. Theresa is the newest board member, and she was voted onto the board during the December 2013 annual board meeting. The other board members have been on the board since June 2012 when Mary appointed the first board of directors. Only one of the original board members, Donna, has resigned from the board, and this happened before I began my study. All of the meetings in this data set include various subsets of the board of directors, and although there are organizational members that are also a part of various committees, they did not attend any of the meetings for which I have transcripts. Dustin and Nick, members of the marketing and educational committees are included in the meeting minutes for the meetings of those committees.
Most of the board members and volunteers are in their mid-twenties. Amanda is the youngest member of the board at 21, and Doug is the oldest member at 57 years old. He is older by most other members of SPC by 30-35 years. Some of the board members hold titled positions, with certain responsibilities attached to their positions. Mary is the founder of SPC, and the current president, so she has some executive decision-making power. She is also the incorporator of the organization, so her name is tied to the legal documents that were sent to the state of Pennsylvania and the IRS. Mary is also the current chairwoman of the board of directors, which gives her tie-breaking power and she organizes and chairs the board meetings.
Amanda had been the secretary of the board, and thus she kept meeting minutes. In 2014, this position will be split by Lise and Lisa as the board voted. Sean is the treasurer and he deals with the budget, receipts, and taxes for the organization. The chairs of all of the committees sit on the board as well. Amanda is the chair of the education committee, Sean is the chair of the
was recently disbanded, I was chair of the community resources committee. More specific information on each of the board members such as names, age, roles in the organization, and meetings attended are included in Appendix 2.
Many of the board members knew each other before joining the board. Dan, Lisa, Lise, Sean, Mary, and I all attended the same church between 2008 and 2012. While attending this church, Mary was inspired with the idea behind SPC and ran the campaign on her own for two years between 2010 and 2012 before asking many of us and others who attended the same church to volunteer and help her create an organization. Mary also knew Doug before he volunteered with the board. Doug had taught Mary and Lisa in a small private high school from 2006 to
2009. Some of the members of the board also have more informal relationships with each other.
Dan and Lisa have been in a relationship for almost two years, and they got engaged at the end of
2013. Lise is Mary’s older sister by two years. Although neither Dustin nor Nate is on the board, they are Lise’s fiancé and Mary’s husband, respectively. Sean is engaged to one of Mary’s childhood friends. Mary and I call ourselves “best friends”, which is not a relationship that any of the other board members share. Amanda and Theresa are the only current board members who did not know at least one other person before joining the organization. Amanda found out about the organization through its Facebook page and Theresa found the organization through a craigslist.org post for volunteers. A diagram of SPC’s structure, both official and unofficial through these informal ties, is included in Appendix 3.
Schwartzman’s (1989) conception of channels and codes is best akin to Hymes’s (1972) instrumentalities component, rather than Philipsen’s (1997; see also Philipsen, Coutu, &
Most meetings take place in two channels or spaces. The first is face-to-face. Most of the organization’s members live in central Pennsylvania, where SPC is located. These members meet one-on-one at local coffee shops or in each other’s homes. Members who can attend the face-to-face space of a meeting convene at a local bookstore with a conference room or in Mary’s home. However, not all of the members live in central Pennsylvania most of the year.
Amanda attends college in western Pennsylvania, and has been for as long as she has been on the board of directors. Theresa recently accepted a job in Delaware. Each of them are about a four hour drive away from the physical location in central Pennsylvania. I live the furthest away while I am attending university in Colorado, which is at least a four hour plane ride, or 22 hours of driving. Thus, Amanda, Theresa, and I require a different meeting space for meeting with those who attend face-to-face.
The solution to the issue of physically distant members has been to include a virtual meeting channel. Members of SPC can use phone calls or video-conferencing software to attend meetings. Video-conferencing software, like Skype or Oovoo, has been used most often in these meetings. The video-conferencing software provides those meeting face-to-face with our virtual faces, as if we were also attending the meeting “face”-to-face. Usually the only person that virtual participants can see on the other end of the camera is Mary, and perhaps the side of one or two other members sitting at the table. Although most meetings take place in both of the face-toface and virtual spaces, three meetings only occurred in the virtual space. Two meetings were of the community relations committee, and the last was a Facebook chat meeting between Mary and me.