Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Dissertation thoughts

Here it is, a New Year; new thoughts; new prospects. I’ve been studiously not writing anything for almost a month (except for crafting the occasional obligatory response to confused questions!) I think that my wrists are almost back to normal and my wits are mostly restored. As I embark on this journey called “2005”—what an exciting title—I’ve got some ideas. These ideas should coalesce somehow into a dissertation. Time to get down to it…

The first stop on this adventure is to figure out a rough itinerary. I’m still not clear on how I’ll hit all of these places but I’m sure that will come together:

  1. Abstract
  2. Summary of Research
  3. Background (review of the literature; where the problem came from; related problems, etc.; why hasn’t it been addressed; why I can do the research (maybe shift to end?)
  4. Aims and Objectives: Aims (what I want to find out; why I’m doing the research); Objectives (specific things I’ll achieve to attain the aim)
  5. Research Questions (basically the bridge to methods and materials)
  6. Methods and Materials (what methods will I use or what materials will I require; specify equipment; specify analysis)
  7. Deliverables
  8. Significance
  9. Bibliography

(thanks to http://anthropology.ac.uk/ResearchMethods/WritingaResearchProposal.html)

In addition to these rough locations, I have a whole list of things that I want to see and to or at least experience. My plan is to peruse an entire realm of adventures and gradually pick off the locations as I go. I’ve appended that list to the end of this entry and I’ll be updating with additional entries.

Here are some of my basic thoughts on why I want to make this journey in general. After undergoing many of the trials and tribulations of the PhD experience I’ve gained a bit of insight into both the field and my own skills and interests. First, I’ll mention my own skills and interests.

  1. Perhaps it goes without saying, but I have to study something that I’m interests me. A recurring theme though my training as both an engineer and a social scientist is a fascination with visual representations and technology. I’m interested in how these things stabilize, and how humans perceive them.
  2. At the same time, I still have an ongoing interest in the organizational and social dynamics of information. The question still remains from my days in software (a social science question): how do groups of people use information? I suppose there’s an addendum (an engineering question): how can we improve the ways that people use information?
  3. I suppose there’s also a third personal aspect that needs addressing. I have a fundamental belief that whatever I do should be prescriptive or constructive in addition to being descriptive.

This notion of prescriptive vs. descriptive gives me a segue into some of my ideas about the general limitations of the field.

  1. Much of the theory we’ve developed seems to be descriptive. We come up with enumerable theories for how people use information but it is difficult to generalize these theories across contexts. Each theory may be valid but they just don’t seem to accumulate.

The need for accumulation brings out any number of other concerns in our particular field. I’m particularly interested in the split between the tribes of academics, professionals, and IT types. While both academics and professionals have a vested interest in issues of information behaviour, the academics are increasingly relying on fairly complicated social theory while professionals continue in their use of survey based research that the academics despise. The theories used by the academics are meaningless to the professionals while the academics ignore the work of the professionals. Something needs to be done. Using Latourian notions of normal science, we have no centres of calculation and few common inscriptions used by both professionals and academics. We need some sort of common language.

Our field is inherently biblio-centric; we love words and books; however, increased use of “visual rhetorics” may get us somewhere. The field of engineering, for example, has developed extensive and varied visual languages to describe the world. These languages serve both to describe the world as it is and to prescribe what the world could be. The fluidity between these two states is quite remarkable. Engineering as a field has even been described as model for information science by authors such as Jud Copeland. Of course, engineering primarily deals with real things—machines, concrete, nitrogen—rather than the social structures of information behaviour. Still, the concept intrigues me.

So, here’s my plan: I’m going to create and validate a visual language to document patterns of information behaviour. The language must be based on what we know about effective visual communication and must be validated in some way. A visual language could be used by all of the various tribes of information science and may act as a boundary object to facilitate the accumulation of inscriptions. Furthermore, the visual language may act in both descriptive and prescriptive manners.

How do I get there? Well, I’m going to have to do a few things:

  1. I’ll have to figure out what the best practice of visual languages. Tufte (of course) provides some pretty extensive guidance but my personal opinion is that he came to his conclusion with little rigour. I’m far more interested in the processes that led to the closure of some of the various forms we see in visual languages. There are a number of ways to explore this phenomenon: visual languages, diagrammatic reasoning, etc. One project that intrigues me is to explore the development of the engineering visual language. I’d like to conduct some sort of analysis of the various machine and pattern books of engineers through the ages. I imagine a time line that includes Villlard de Honnecourt and ends with the Victorian era. Perhaps the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica is a good cut-off. The period includes all of the various theatrum machinarum, the mechanical movements compendia of Brown and Hiscox, and a number of manuscripts in Old English Books Online. I suspect that visual languages underwent a dramatic change with the advent of modernism (i.e., sans-serif fonts, etc.). An interesting analysis would involve a content analysis of the various volumes of Architectural Graphic Standards. A similar analysis could involve trade literature. Luckily much of this work is now available online.
  2. In describing a visual language there is also the issue of primitives—a classification problem. What things must the model describe? This is a much tougher problem.

Even if I know all about visual languages I need a way of building one out. Here’s what I propose:

  1. Create a pattern language of the various theories inherent in information behaviour. I can perhaps start from our comps list and other existing bibliographies. The pattern language must be both descriptive and prescriptive as per Alexander’s tenants.
  2. The second step would be to develop a visual language to document the pattern language.
  3. The language would then have to be validated. The first means of validation would be through existing field data as a way of boot-stripping the project. By comparing the language to the data we have a way of revealing problems and concerns.
  4. The second type of validation would involve personal use of the language in a new information setting to determine if I could possibly use the language.
  5. The final type of validation may involve the use of additional participants to use the language and then conducting focus groups to judge their reactions to the use of the pattern language.

Let’s look at some of the possible outcomes of this approach:

  1. Review of best practices in visual languages for social dynamics.
  2. Critique of existing uses of visual languages in LIS.
  3. A pattern language for information behaviour.
  4. A proposed visual language for info behaviour.
  5. Field tests of the visual language.
  6. Focus group tests of visual language.

This all sounds about right. Since I have a meeting this afternoon, we’ll see how it goes!


- trade literature

-- BIBLIOGRAPHY http://www.sil.si.edu/tradeliterature/bibliography.htm

-- INSTRUMENTS FOR SCIENCE http://www.sil.si.edu/DigitalCollections/Trade-Literature/Scientific-instruments/

- Ramelli's machines http://www.sil.si.edu/ondisplay/ramelli/

- Besson http://www.sil.si.edu/DigitalCollections/HST/Besson/besson.htm

- Doodles drafts and designs

- Leonardo and the engineers of the renaissance

-- http://brunelleschi.imss.fi.it/ingrin/

- Portfolio of Villard

-- http://www.newcastle.edu.au/discipline/fine-art/pubs/villard/album-1.htm

- KMODDL Digital Library

-- http://kmoddl.library.cornell.edu/bib_noframe.php

Early English Books Online provides some references with diagrams

-- use keywords like diagram*

-- http://eebo.chadwyck.com/home

-- remember vitruvius Pollio

Carnegie Mellon has links to various sites, etc.

-- http://www.library.cmu.edu/Research/Humanities/History/hots.html

Architectural graphic standards

- 9th Ed. TAY NO LOAN TH2031.A84 1994

- 8th Ed. TAY TH2031.A84 1988

- 7th Ed. *v McMaster 1980

- 6th Ed. BRES NA2700.R18 1970

- 5th Ed. *v Nipissing 1956

- 4th Ed. *v TUG 1951

- 3rd Ed. *v TUG 1941

- 2nd Ed. * Waterloo Arch 1936

- 1st Ed. *v Toronto Arch 1932

DBW OS z121.p58 1973

DBW z124.s8 1996

DBW z244.5.M42 1992

DBW CB478.L65 2001

DBW nc998.5.a1l86 1996

DWB z246.b74 1996

MUS ML431.T285 1999

MUS ML431.S18 1989

DBW NC998.H57 1983

DBW P93.5.I28 2000

TAY Q223.C48 2003

KC BF231.M38P8

DBW OS GA102.3.K55 1990

DBW P93.4.S33 1996

BUS HF1008.C724 2000

TAY QA76.9.H85M57 2004

DBW BF241.E45 1996

DBW BL627.C37 1998

DBW BF311.C5522 1999


DBW T15.H5713 1986

DBW OS TA175.L27 1980

DBW NA1123.B8P7

DBW TJ144.P73

DBW T40.L46L46


DBW OS T17.O46

DBW NC748.E33

DBW N7430.5.E34 1991


Source Perception & psychophysics [0031-5117] HALLORAN

yr: 1989 vol: 45 iss: 5 pg: 467

DBW BF233.P47


Source Human factors [0018-7208] SMITH

yr: 1981 vol: 23 iss: 3 pg: 305


From Ferguson's Obit:

"In addition, serious scholarship by a number of engineers, historians of technology, and art historians on late medieval and early Renaissance engineering-ranging from SHOT members Lynn White Jr., Bertrand Gille, Frank Prager, Ladislo Reti, Alex Keller, and Bert Hall to others including Gustina Scalia and Samuel Edgerton Jr.-made study of the visual aspects of Renaissance art and engineering an exciting area of reading, teaching, and research in the 1960s and 1970s."

Eugene S. Eerguson, "Leupold's Theatrum Machinarum: A Need and an Opportunity," Technology and Culture 11 (1971): 64-68 DBW T1.T43

Citing Prochaska:

Rhodes KV, Levinson W

Interventions for intimate partner violence against women - Clinical applications


Daniels JW, Murphy CM

Stages and processes of change in batterers' treatment


Levesque DA, Gelles RJ, Velicer WF

Development and validation of a stages of change measure for men in batterer treatment


Burge SK

Violence against women

PRIMARY CARE 24 (1): 67& MAR 1997

Burke JG, Gielen AC, McDonnell KA, et al.

The process of ending abuse in intimate relationships - A qualitative exploration of the transtheoretical model

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN 7 (10): 1144-1163 OCT 2001 ** WOMEN **

Finding ways to reduce the prevalence of child maltreatment among fathers: A comment on the alternative approaches

Author(s): Bugental DB


Title: Personality, interpersonal, and motivational predictors of the working alliance in group cognitive-behavioral therapy for partner violent men

Author(s): Taft CT, Murphy CM, Musser PH, Remington NA


Title: Ending intimate partner violence: An application of the transtheoretical model

Author(s): Burke JG, Denison JA, Gielen AC, McDonnell KA, O'Campo P


Envisioning Architecture : An Analysis of Drawing (Paperback)

by Iain Fraser, Rod Henmi NA

Design Drawing (Paperback)

by Francis D. K. Ching

Visual Studies: A Skeptical Introduction (Paperback)

by James Elkins

How to Use Your Eyes (Hardcover)

by James Elkins

Design and the Social Sciences (Hardcover)

by Jorge Frascara

Cognitive Science (Hardcover)

by Benjamin Martin Bly (Editor), David E. Rumelhart (Editor)


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