Rose Bender
Building community through meaningful digital experiences

THESIS

Throughout 2019 I will be working on my graduate thesis for a Master of Science in Integrated Digital Media at NYU's Tandon School of Engineering. Sounds pretty intense right? Below I'll chronicle the ideation, iteration, failures, and triumphs. Join me, won't you?

Methodology: or how I learned to stop worrying and love the framework

Yup. Google searching "types of methodology" is my starting point.

Struggling to Understand

After auto-correct sent me down a rabbit hole of "types of mythology," I finally got on track. (But if you haven't checked out the Kraken recently, you totally should).

I had a really hard time wrapping my head around the differences between methods and methodology. I called in my friends who work in research labs, the Twitter hive-mind, and r/explainlikeimfive. I found this thread, but it seemed to define the methods used rather than methodologies similar to the examples in the deck. I decided to take a step back and try out trusty Wikipedia

Based on this article, here is my understanding of methodology:

The methodology...

  • provides a framework or mindset that advises what type of methods you should implement. 
  • defines the standards and best practices of the field, aka what will make your research withstand peer-review in a given field.

So Many Tabs

Once I had a grasp on what a methodology is, I looked through a list of the branches of sociology and let the Wikipedia spiral take over. I compiled a list of methodologies that might make sense for the thesis topics I have brainstormed.

The List

Feminism, Demography, Bibliometrics, Digital Sociology, Historical Sociology, Sociology of the Internet, Agnotology, Mass Communication, Community Informatics, Disability Studies, Gender Studies, Internet studies

From here, I did some preliminary research with my potential thesis topics in mind. I picked three that I thought were a good fit and did further research. Below are my findings on Mass Communication, Disability Studies, and Community Informatics.

Mass Communications

About 

In the simplest terms, mass communications studies mass media, including television, newspapers, movies, and the internet. The study focuses on the impact, trends, and interpretations of mass media. According to the SAGE Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods, the most common methods in the study of Mass Communications are "cross-sectional surveys, experiments, and quantitative content analysis." New technology has impacted the study of mass media. Traditionally, mass media was produced and controlled by a corporation or entity. With the advent of the internet and smartphone, individuals have access to communicate with large groups at low- or no-cost. 

"These technologies have created new forms of media such as digital games, web pages, mobile apps, and social media platforms. Furthermore, they are changing how traditional forms of mass media are created, disseminated, and used. Many of the characteristics that distinguished mass media from other types of communication, and thus the subject of mass communication from those of other specialties, are becoming less distinct."

Source: The SAGE Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods

Relation to my Thesis

This area relates the most to my thesis regarding the impact of podcasting. One of the most interesting things to me about podcasts is how easily a person can make one without a sponsored distribution channel, advanced technology, or broadcast training. Podcasts are a cousin to radio, one of the first mass media. 

Mass communication is also applicable to the sharing of knowledge through channels that could be seen as mass media (Lynda, Youtube, etc) and could be pertinent for the exploration of early 2000s digital design. My topic on cinematic television would also (of course) take place in the mass communications realm, as television is a form of mass communication. It would be interesting to see how access to on-demand and streaming television has impacted mass communication overall.

Accessibility  Studies

I don't love the term disability and a lot came up when I expanded my search to include accessibility, so I have adapted the name to fit emerging trends.

About 

I looked through a few academic journals, including Technology & Disability and the Journal of Accessibility and Design for All. I was not able to identify a succinct and wholly agreed upon definition of the methodology as it seems that professions working in it are still debating.

One interesting area I read about was the societal construct of a disability versus the physical manifestation. I had also never heard of Crip Theory, which is a prominent theory in the field that considers disabilities as an integral part of one's identity and has a larger overlap and emphasis on intersectionality with other aspects of one's identity, including queerness. I will definitely need to familiarize myself with Crip Theory if I hope to research within this methodology.

Sources: Technology & Disability, Journal of Accessibility and Design for All, Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability.

Relation to my Thesis

It's pretty obvious that this area of study would be applicable for the exploration of descriptive television for persons with visual impairment.

Community Informatics

About 

Community Informatics is the study of empowering communities through the effective use technology. The focus is on traditionally underrepresented of suppressed communities in support of economic advancement, social justice, and political activism. 

Relation to my Thesis

I think Community Informatics is particularly applicable to my interest in studying podcasts impact on politics and activism. It could also apply to the 2000s design and descriptive television for persons with visual impairment, as they can both be framed as technologies that empower underserved communities.

Sources: The Journal of Community Informatics

 

Rose Bender