AO: These orals documents seek to understand the discursive risks (Fortun 2012) of relevant literatures for my project. How have scholars been thinking and writing about science and technology in Africa, collaboration, and investments into the African university?
What is a structured analytic and what does it help to do?
Fortun (2012) writes of complex conditions such as those we find ourselves in the contemporary Late Industrial period where there are conditions to deal with for which there is no available idiom, no way of thinking that can grasp what is at hand. Fortun calls these “discursive gaps” and its opposite -- “discursive risks” -- emerge because of a tendency to rely on established idioms and ways of thinking. Discursive risks or the way a particular phenomenon is repeatedly talked about sets us up to miss key aspects of the dynamics. However, it is often hard to pay attention to that which is not being said. This holds true in the field but also in reviewing the existing literature. Therefore, I use a set of ten questions designed by Fortun (unpublished manuscript) to unsettle and unpack nested problem spaces to try to shake out what the discursive gaps and risks are. As much as possible in my analyses, I try to identify the discursive risk in the way the analyst has thought about the particular object of study.
FAQ: "But we are qualitative researchers, we know that overly structured questions and work just create tunnel vision! Why would you do that??"
The development of an analytic stucture establishes a shared set of questions with which readers/contributors will be able to query the works. The aim of these analytics is not to overdetermine how such encounters play out but rather to lightly structure and set the stage for collaborative encounters. In setting up these reading/contributing infrastructures, I hope to enable multiple readings and varying (possibly divergent) insights which I believe enrich the overall knowledge production process. How the PECE infrastructure was designed to faciliate this kind of "kaleidescopic" analysis is described by lead platform architect Lindsay Poirier here.
Why use PECE for an orals document?
An article I encountered recently by Digital Humanities scholar Kathleen Fitzpatrick is a good starting point to partially explain why I feel compelled to use PECE for my orals documents. There are multiple reasons why having this work available online is beneficial: for myself as public demonstration of the literatures I am familiar with, for my future self to use in spurring my memory of the pieces that are relevant and to continue to return to them and reannotate, as a resource for other students to use in crafting their own projects and bibliographies, for interlocutors to see what other relevant works have been done that I am drawing on, etc. Despite the additional work it requires, this form has been rewarding for me not least because it also calls into question assumptions and expectations of the PhD process and norms and values that are enscribed in the processes and expected outputs. In exploring an alternative approach to producing these orals documents, I hope to also open up possiblities for others to explore new forms and genres.
My decision to leverage PECE to do my orals documents is an attempt to meditate on the underlying expectations about outputs and milestones within the academy and to play with these assumptions, particularly important given my project topic. I am very grateful to the Department for being open to and supporting this approach.
Finally, creating my orals document on PECE allowed me to develop a familiarity with the platform that will be critical for my fieldwork and the rest of my dissertation project, where PECE will act as both the data respository and a "para-site" (Marcus 2006).
AO: This text artifact explains my interpretation of Fortun's concepts of "discursive risks" and "analytic structures" (2012) and how I use them to shape my querying of the literatures. The term "structured analytic" is used often by those working in PECE so I have created this artifact in an attempt to clarify some of the commonly used PECE terms. This artifact also includes brief explanation about why I decided to use the form of PECE for my orals documents.