Help me choose my thesis topic, which exists somewhere in the confluence of techno-sociology, media studies, developmental psychology, and the study of attention.
September 30, 2010 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Help me choose my thesis topic, which exists somewhere in the confluence of techno-sociology, media studies, developmental psychology, and the study of attention.

This is for a masters in Organizational Leadership from a pretty good regional school in Washington state. It is not *officially* a thesis, since there isn't formal peer review involved. Rather, this is the so-called "scholarly option", as opposed to the less-intensive portfolio option. I will be working extensively with a graduate adviser, with the goal of bringing together an article suitable for publication, at least in format and level of rigor. Earlier this year a professor recommended I submit a paper for publication to a reputable journal in the field of leadership studies. I did, and it was selected for publication in this fall's edition. I was pretty surprised, but the taste of literary success has me taking this final paper pretty seriously.

I wrote my final paper for the Research Methods course on the effect of internet-enabled cell phones on the capacity for attention. I've posted the paper as an entry on my blog, which you can reach from my profile (it's long, but the meat is in the first 10 pages, as well as the bibliography).

I would like to write my final paper within this same sphere. I am not tied specifically to 'attention' as a construct of study for this effort, but I'm also not opposed to continuing the research in this direction. Mainly I am interested in continuing exploration in this space - the place where technology and people meet, and the effects that technology has on relationships, sense-of-self, and the like.

There is a lot being done in this area, and my adviser has pointed me to Latour's Actor Network Theory as a possibly fruitful avenue to ground my research in solid scholarship. While promising, nothing I have come across in following this vein has provided an a-ha moment in terms of a specific subject.

I'm hoping that you will have thoughts on topics in this field that are a.) interesting, b.) needed and, c.) have some relationship to the study of leadership or organizations. Even if this paper is never published, I would still like for it to be written within an area where fresh scholarship is needed.

Thank you!
posted by Roach to Education (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Instead of asking Metafilter, why not do a literature review, as per what you learned in your methods class? Only then can you determine where the gaps are in the literature and what might make for the best/most interesting study.
posted by k8t at 12:51 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks k8t. The first 10 pages of the paper linked in my profile are a literature review of these areas. I'm asking Metafilter for additional insight precisely because its population is so attuned to these areas, and from a variety of angles. I don't really have any real humans in my life that I can have an actual conversation with about these topics in any detail, but Ask MeFi is a pretty good stand-in.
posted by Roach at 12:57 PM on September 30, 2010

I understand that it can be hard to approach faculty, but it sounds like there are a few professors (your academic advisor, and the professor that recommended publication) that, while they might not be experts in your area, would definitely be appropriate people to have conversations with about this, in detail. They'll be able to help you meet people who are experts in the field -- good professors are always willing to admit that they're not experts, but they know someone who is, and here's there contact information -- and talking to faculty is a great way to hone your own research interests.
posted by k8lin at 1:27 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think you should do a study on average article length in media starting from the dawn of the internet to now, and whether it is because of reduced attention spans or other reasons. You could use sites that have been around for a long time and see if they have archives you could do work counts on. I swear it is really hard to find anything lengthy and new to read on the internet today!
posted by meepmeow at 2:35 PM on September 30, 2010

This is a difficult one to help you with from way out here, but I can see why your advisor recommended Latour. You may also find the work of Donna Haraway and those inspired by her helpful. Starting with her essay on cyborgs, she's been influential a school of thought (particularly in feminist studies) that tries to treat humans and non-human objects (including technology) on a more equal conceptual footing. I can see work of this sort being something helpful if you want to write about the internet and mobile devices becoming a kind of extension of the brain and of personhood.

Latour (and especially Haraway) come from a very different perspective than the kinds of communications and psych scholars you seem to be using--you might have some work getting them to go together in a coherent narrative. They would also draw you in a very humanist, (continental) philosophical direction, which may not be what you're looking for.

If you do decide to check out Haraway et al, here's a set of links on digital media, communications, and cyborgs that I just found on Google. And here (via some Google-scholaring with "haraway," "latour," "personhood, " "mobile phone," etc) are a couple of papers that might be of interest in the tradition of either the critical social sciences or science studies. I can't guarantee that you won't wade through some incomprehensible (possibly incoherent and nonsensical) material when you get into this stuff, however. I also can't vouch for any of them personally, because I'm way outside my own field here.
posted by col_pogo at 3:44 PM on September 30, 2010

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