looking up and down and turning around

i looked up today and for the first time noticed that atop a house in my neighborhood is a beautiful rooftop deck. this is significant because i have lived in my house for six and a half years and know my neighborhood well - or so i thought. but today, while walking back from the grocery store, i thought to look up at an intersection where apparently i had never looked up before. so i spent the rest of the walk home looking up and noticing other things (some of which shouldn't be seen by the random passer-by...) and looking only slightly like a lost tourist and made it safely home with only a brief slip-n-slide on a patch of ice that hadn't quite melted away. i looked up. this one act, this one shift of line of sight, opened up new information and the story of my neighborhood has been expanded.

as a kid i was told to look right, left, and right again before crossing the street. i was told to watch my back, look straight ahead, don't look down (which always made me look down). as a child, when i was much smaller than the rest of the people in my house, i was told to look up but after i could navigate through every day activities on my own, i guess i forgot to look up as often as i look left, right, back, front, and down.

as qualitative researchers, we are taught to interview, collect artifacts, be participant observers and prepare fieldnotes, conduct focus groups... what haven't we thought to do? what situations can we create or put ourselves in that might render new insights into the questions that keep us up at night (or is that me?)? after reading the wonderful growing up with television, by joellen fisherkeller, a couple of students in my tv & youth class wondered how significant three case studies could be in the vast landscape of research related to the role/impact of tv in the lives of youth. i used to answer that query by advocating the richness and texture that comes from deep inquiry into phenomena, made possible through the use of ethnography, case studies and the like. but now i find myself asking a question in response: (how) can we afford to keep asking the same questions and using the same instruments/methods/positionalities/roles...? especially when the stories that are out in the ether are in desperate need of rewriting.

hopefully this will all make more sense in 9.5 hours at which time i co-present the first of two papers this weekend. maybe it will be ok if i just look up and present with my back to the audience...


"wassup rockers" and other questions of youth portrayal(s) in 15 minutes or less

i have seen kids. i have seen bully. having done so, it's fair to say that i have a complicated relationship with larry clark's portrayals of youth. but it's a recent film of clark's - wassup rockers - that has me intrigued, not so much for the film itself - i haven't yet seen it, but it's at the top of my netflix queue - but for the reviews about the film from netflix users. specifically, the differences viewers see between this recent youth pic and the others that clark has become known for, are interesting to say the least. whether viewers liked the film or not, they all more or less agree that wassup has fewer and tamer sex scenes, lots of images of kids just "sitting around" or skateboarding, and that the dialogue is sometimes lacking and certainly unexpected. having not actually seen the movie yet, i can't comment on the accuracy of these comments. i did, however, find the reasoning for viewers' like or dislike of the film quite intriguing. that is, while several individuals noted the toned down presence of jarring portrayals of teenage sexuality in this clark film, they all did not agree on the number of stars (1 to 5) they gave the movie.

...all of which got me thinking about what portrayals of youth we find palatable... believable... appropriately scintillating or adequately exploitive. i'm not ascribing any of these labels onto this or any other specific film, but raising the question to portrayals of youth - and their identities, social and cultural practices, literacies, etc. - in general. i am particularly keen on these imaginings as i prepare to share data about a new research project for the first time this weekend. with audience comes responsibility, and sometimes the stories we tell - that we solicit, interpret, repackage and restory - can have a lasting affect, like the frozen images that deborah appleman cautions us against in her chapter full of critical self-reflection ("are you makin' me famous or makin' me a fool": responsibility and respect in representation). so what will be our mission this weekend, as we cloak ourselves in the language of methodology and literacy theory? how will we engage the lives and performances of our research participants as more than data examples? how do we resist the danger of frozen representations when we have 15 minutes to share two years of work? and convey relationships that evolved slowly, over time, across experiences? how do we share texts and at the same time convey the stories behind the texts? and is there a way or space available that is better suited to work that is grounded in the pursuit of youth-full stories, new knowledge, and textured representations than the 15 minute paper presentation/short film/photo essay/reality tv series...?


photo essay

Incarceration: American Style

an excerpt:
ILLINOIS—At Stateville Correctional Center, the buildings are based on Jeremy Bentham's 1787 design for the panopticon prison house. The round house is the last remaining panopticon cell house. It's used for segregating inmates from the general prison population and for holding inmates who are awaiting trial or transfer, 2002.


myspace s.o.s.

when i logged onto my myspace account yesterday, i was dismayed - nay, heartsick - that all the messages in my inbox from a fellow myspacer were GONE! this person's profile has been deleted, which meant that all of our myspace message correspondence is gone, as well. so i offer this as a warning to those who may be relying on that messaging function as a source of data or who want to keep a record of some kind: cut and paste into a more stable format!

and, assuming that everyone already knows all of this, b/c i am somewhat of a ms neophyte, i ask: help! does anyone know how to retrieve these lost messages? is it doable? and why, oh, why do i not heed the call to back up my work - in whatever format it may exist?