Thoughts, writing & snippets

Marguerite Koole, PhD

Interesting Research Tools (Goodies) to Investigate

mkoole, · Categories: E-Research · Tags: , ,


Google Maps Mashup: MapTube




Digital Replay System


National e-Infrastructure for Social Simulation


Survey Mapper


My Experiment: Social Networking Site for Scientists

E-Research Tools & Resources

mkoole, · Categories: E-Research
Paper and keyboard

Notes on e-research

When I first heard the word “e-research”, I thought it was unnecessary nomenclature. Research is research. Our research topics are based on our interests and/or perceived needs (gaps) in our fields. How we shape our research questions and approaches is interwoven with our ontological and epistemological perspectives. We choose and shape our methodological approaches in ways that help us answer our research questions. The actual methods for gathering, analyzing, and interpreting our data is commensurate with our perspectives and designed to answer our research questions. We choose the tools according to all of these above criteria along with some considerations for timelines and finances. Or, perhaps, we simply use the tools at our disposal, making modifications and concessions if necessary and defensible. It all fits into a tidy series of steps—or so I thought. The problem, however, is that researchers are confronted with a stunning array of tools and possibilities. And, eventually, we must ask ourselves to what extent the tools might influence the research process, the researchers, and the participants. More importantly, there are ethical and legal implications surrounding how we employ these tools.

So, what is e-research?

Hooley, Wellens, and Mariott (2011) suggest that there are two basic forms of online research in the social sciences: 1) that which examines the Internet itself, and 2) that which uses the Internet to conduct research on social issues (also see Carusi, 2008). There is a large variety of e-research tools including, but not limited to:

Researchers can use more than one tool in a given research project. This may mean mashing together quantitative data with qualitative data (mixed methods). Researchers may combine video, audio, and textual data (Carusi, 2008). This may further complicate the research process as the researcher is confronted with a huge amount of data. Furthermore, s/he will have to determine whether inclusion of different media and modes of expression can result in meaningful analysis. For example, is an interview conducted purely by audio comparable to an interview conducted using audio and video or an interview conducted asynchronously by text. Each medium may draw focus to different aspects of interaction (visual cues, auditory cues, textual cues such as spelling and grammar). The different media may also permit more or less reflection time during interaction. They may compel different techniques for conveying meaning (such as voice modulation or physical gestures).

More to come . . . nifty tools . . .


Carusi, A. (2008). Data as representation: Beyond anonymity in e-research ethics. International Journal of Internet Research Ethics, 1(1), 37–65. Retrieved from

Hooley, T., Wellens, J., & Marriott, J. (2011). What is online research?: Using the Internet for social science reserach (p. 176). New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA.


Thoughts on E-Topia as Cosmopolis or Citadel

mkoole, · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,


Hand, M., & Sandywell, B. (2002). E-Topia as Cosmopolis or Citadel: On the Democratizing and De-Democratizing Logics of the Internet, or, toward a Critique of the New Technological Fetishism. Theory, Culture & Society, 19(1-2), 197–225. doi:10.1177/026327640201900110

Computer mouseThe main purpose of Hand and Sandywell’s (2002) article is to bring awareness to the social discourses that are used to paint a picture of technology as democratizing, progressive, and benign or, alternatively, as destructive, corporate-driven, and hegemonic tools. The authors suggest that these discourses are oversimplifications of much more complex phenomena. Whilst I agree with their position, I am left with some questions about their underlying epistemology. Particularly troublesome for me is their presentation of social constructionism and essentialism. First, I will examine their argument on technological determinism, then I will examine their epistemology.

Hand and Sandywell divide the positions into a utopian-dystopian dichotomy.

  Utopian Dystopian
Associated terms
  • Democratic
  • Global citizenship
  • Borderless world
  • Deregulation
  • Global village
  • Voluntary association
  • Continuous town meeting
  • Grassroots social movements
  • Computer-mediated civil interaction
  • Participative democracy


  • Global capitalism
  • Social inequality
  • Enhancement of power and wealth structures
  • Dumbing down society
  • Poverty and cyber-exclusion


Types Computer-mediated Cosmopolitanism

  • Communication that was few to many is now many to many
  • Hierarchical society gives way to flatter structures
  • Unidirectional becomes multidirectional

  • Globalization becomes homogenization
  • Have-nots cannot participate

Global Citadel Theory

  • End of the social; end of politics
  • Consumerism & capitalism
  • Hedonistic

Electronic Panopticon of Cybernetic Capitalism

  • Technocratic control and surveillance
Extreme form Technological fetishism




Hand and Sandywell, define technological essentialism as a view of technology that is intrinsically utopian-ist and dystopian-ist. Essentialist views are based on notions that technology has some underlying “essence” or characteristics that determine their effects upon society. The authors suggest that when these notions surface solutions include grafting “the ‘social’ or ‘historical’ dimension onto the technology” (p. 206). They refer to this as a kind of social constructionism that “often results in a kind of ‘balance sheet’ perspective in which ‘technical’ factors are counter-balanced by ‘social factors’” (p. 206). They then call for a more radical socio-cultural perspective that emphasizes a human-machine dialectic. They observe that some historicism abstracts machines from their contexts, and that the development of technology is contingent and situated rather than linear. In addition, they note that some historicist models suggest that technology was intentionally constructed for specific purposes with clear stages of development. And, finally, they add that historicist accounts are themselves socially constructed (see Abbate, 1999) and that essentialist accounts are aimed at prediction—that is, deterministic.

The new, radical perspective that the authors offer takes a view of technology as relational, contingent, non-synchronic, discontinuous, and power-mediated. They are critical of simply positing the social construction of technology. Social constructionism, according to Hand and Sandywell, mechanically divides the world into separate categories such as technology, society, and nature.

My understanding of social constructionism, from the European philosophical perspective, is that terminology such as technology, society, and nature are constructs. But, social constructionists do not necessarily support the view that such dualisms exist in a “real” underlying reality. Rather, the nature of existence cannot be known for certain. In a social constructionist view, knowledge is relational, and language is an imperfect medium for discussing ideas, constructs, and perceptions. Critical realists, on the other hand, are more likely to take a position of the world as constituted by “real” objects that are perceived by “real” subjects—though perhaps these subjects view the objects in unique ways. Social constructionism does not necessarily relegate meaning construction to autonomous subjects of “society”, but to a dynamic relational and reflexive interaction between subjects and society that cannot necessarily separated into dualist typologies with essential characteristics.

The authors’ proposed solution would appear to fit nicely within a social-constructionist philosophical perspective quite commensurably. Their acknowledgement of Actor-Network Theory (ANT) as promoting their radical, new perspective supports my argument as social constructionists often draw upon ANT as a methodology for research. Notions of agency and socio-cultural appropriation also fit within social constructionist philosophy.

Finally, the authors propose moving towards a “deconstruction of technological essentialism” as an escape from dualism. Yet, then they propose that theorists take up a “detailed phenomenology of specific technologies” (p. 215). My limited understanding of phenomenology based on Husserl and Merleau-Ponty is a philosophical perspective and methodology aimed at discovering the “essence” of a phenomenon(-a). Hence, the authors are proposing an escape from essentialism by employing a methodology and philosophy that relies upon essentialism.

As I write this, I realize that there may be some misunderstanding of terminology. Social constructionism is understood differently in North America than it is in Europe. I take the European view of social constructionism as defined by Berger and Luckmann (1966), Burr (2003), and Hacking (2000). According to Hacking, “social constructionists teach that items we had thought were inevitable are social products” (p. 47).  He defines social constructionism as:

Various sociological, historical, and philosophical projects that aim at displaying or analyzing actual, historically situated, social interactions or causal routes that led to, or were involved in, the coming into being or establishing of some present entity or fact (p. 48). 

According to Berger and Luckmann (1966), reification is a significant process in social construction:

Reification is the apprehension of human phenomena as if they were things, that is, in non-human or possibly supra-human terms. Another way of saying this is that reification is the apprehension of the products of human activity as if they were something else than human products—such as facts of nature, results of cosmic laws, or manifestations of divine will. Reification implies that man is capable of forgetting his own authorship of the human world, and further, that the dialectic between man, the producer, and his products is lost to consciousness. The reified world is, by definition, a dehumanized world. It is experienced by man as a strange facticity, an opus alienum over which he has no control rather than as the opus proprium of his own productive activity . . . The objectivity of the social world means that it confronts man as something outside of himself. The decisive question is whether he still retains the awareness that, however, objectivated, the social world was made by men—and, therefore, can be remade by them.

To conclude, I agree in principle with Hand and Sandyman, but their representation of social constructionism is not in line with the definitions that I draw upon.


Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. (1966). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge (p. 219). Garden City, NY: Anchor Books (Random House, Inc.).

Burr, V. (2003). Social constructionism (Vol. 2nd). New York, NY: Routledge.

Hacking, I. (2000). The Social Construction of What? (p. 272). Boston, MA: Harvard University Press. Retrieved from

The challenges with connectivist learning

mkoole, · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Hi everyone,



I thought I would investigate “connectivism” further in preparation for this week’s topic. I found this paper by Rita Kop. She provides a good description of connectivism (perhaps others can indicate if this is a good definition because I am not an expert).  But, she also outlines some possible issues with connectivist learning.

KOP, R.. The challenges to connectivist learning on open online networks: Learning experiences during a massive open online course. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, North America, 12, jan. 2011. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 21 Jan. 2013.

If you choose to read this article, consider some of these points:

  1. The need for learners to be self-directed. To what extent you prefer directing your own learning? And, to what extent do you prefer someone coordinating your learning?

    [My reaction: I tend to like both models. I like exploring, but I also like to know if I’m barking up the right tree when I’m checking out a topic. What I mean by the “right tree” is the most efficient way to seek specific information, for example.]

  2. Online presence. To what extent do you try to interact in this MOOC? To what extent do you wish others to interact? To what extent do you prefer your facilitators (such as Alec, for example) to be visible/interactive?

    [My reaction: I do not feel the need to be highly “visible”. I appreciate what others post, and I tend to view what is offered to me when it is convenient. I gain a sense of timing and direction from facilitators, so I appreciate some signposting along the way. But, I do not feel that I need them to comment on everything that I might post.]

  3. Critical literacies. Rita writes, “People need the critical ability to not only use network resources, but also to look at them critically in order to “appropriate them and redesign them,” as one of the learners stressed” (p. 33). To what extent do you feel that you have the literacy to use and mould the resources offered?

    [My reaction: I practically breathe computers, so I’m pretty comfortable in these environments. However, I am finding that this experience gives me new reasons to try tools that I previously hadn’t bothered to examine. I also appreciate seeing how others use these tools. Nonetheless, I am challenged to construct a way to organize all the information that is being posted into a sense-making system that works for me, personally.]

I am super interested hear how others view this article and their reactions to the above three challenges.




#etmooc 2013 blog

mkoole, · Categories: PhD Studies, Uncategorized

It has been a very long time since I last contributed to my own blog. As I look at my last entry, I was just about to defend my viva at Lancaster University. As it happens, I passed with revisions. Now, I am just awaiting some feedback and should submit my revisions shortly. Then, I can call myself “Dr”. With all the time passing, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. After four years of doctoral studies, it is wonderful to be able to participate and experiment with different technologies.

Anyways, I’ve decided to follow along with the etmooc for the next few weeks. Already I feel like I cannot keep up. There are hundreds of messages, and my Gmail account is filled to the brim and pouring over. This is one of the issues that I hope to assess in my attempt to participate.

So far, I am delighted with the introductions that the participants are posting and in the creative ways they are doing it. I have been inspired to develop some kind of personal introduction also. So, I decided to do a quick video. But, what do you say about yourself in a brief video? Well, I decided to comb through my pictures and put together a collage. Although it seems a bit self-indulgent, it put me in a great mood. It brought memories back. One of my favorite experiences was visiting a Middle Eastern town and being surrounded by children who were absolutely fascinated by my short, short hair.

etmooc video

Click on the image to view the video

Already, I find that the mooc is stretching my capacity. I’ve never uploaded a video to YouTube before simply because I have never had a reason. It is unbelievably easy. It is a fantastic repository which relieves me from having to manage my own server space. Anyways, this is what I have uploaded:

There are many different countries in this video. I’m curious how many of the #etmooc participants call these places home! 

Research is Ceremony

mkoole, · Categories: E-Research, Indigenous education, Research · Tags: , , , ,

This desk is very similar to the one my grandfather used

I have submitted my thesis to my committee, and now I am preparing for my viva. I’ve decided to re-read some of the key sources that I have cited. And, I have decided to do some reading around and somewhat outside of the works upon which I have drawn.

I have been awaiting an opportunity to read:

Wilson, S. (2008). Research is ceremony: Indigenous research methods. Fernwood Publishing: Winnipeg, Manitoba.

This was a great choice after having done so much concentration on other methodologies and having written up my own PhD research in a standardly more formal Western European style. (Although I must admit that writing from a social constructivist perspective and within an interpretivist paradigm, I used a combination of both first and third person singular.) Research as Ceremony was written using a more inclusive voice. The author, Shawn Wilson, began the book as if he was writing to his sons. He later addressed the reader directly in the second person. This style is very engaging. It is nice to follow. The book reads more like a narrative interspersed with some definitions (epistemology, ontology, axiology, methodology, etc.)

Wilson presents this work about indigenous research in a humble manner, honouring the indigenous voice. For me as an aspiring researcher of European descent, the most striking message is the significance of relationships. Although I took a relational perspective on my own research of identity of doctoral students in networked learning, the nature of relationship as I read it in this book extends much deeper. Respectful and trusting relationships amongst people is of vital importance. But, there are also relationships with the land, other creatures, ideas, and the cosmos. Spirituality seems inherently embedded within this view. All are interrelated.

The narrative style, addressing his sons and introducing other indigenous scholars from around the world, offers a sense of relationship to the reader. Interestingly, I wondered if I had met one of the scholars in St. Paul, Alberta at a workshop I had attended several years ago. He seemed familiar to me. Although not of this tradition, I feel that I started to sense how relationships enrich inquiry.

The author paints a picture of his struggle to work within the dominant paradigm of academic research and the indigenous way. Particularly interesting for me was the discussion of ethics. The research ethics boards with which I have interacted support work in which the participants’ identities remain anonymous. I understand that this protects participants–particularly when the subject of research is sensitive. However, because relationships are so significant for understanding indigenous worldviews, the obfuscation of identities can decontextualize and render the research less meaningful. It could even create misunderstanding. Also, identifying contributors is part of honouring them and recognizing that research is collaborative. I am probably not articulating this as well as I should, but it is such an interesting juxtaposition from what I previously held to be “common sense” research ethics. For me, this shows the richness and value of examining perspectives outside of one’s own. What makes our research meaningful–especially as we take such extreme measures to hide identities and decontextualize our research in an effort to reach some nebulous level of “objectiveness”?

Here is an interesting quote which the author cited from an elder named Eber Hampton:

Emotionless, passionless, abstract, intellectual, academic research is a goddamn lie, it does not exist. It is a lie to ourselves and a lie to other people. Humans–feeling, living, breathing, thinking humans–do research. When we try to cut ourselves off at the neck and pretend an objectivity that does not exist in the human world, we become dangerous to ourselves first, and then to the people around us. (1995, p. 52)

Furthermore, there is a relationship of the research to self: “If research doesn’t change you as a person, then you haven’t done it right”. I like that view. It’s what my own recent research was about: how people change as they do their doctoral studies, as they do research.

Here are the main principles cited from Atkinson (2001, p. 10 cited in Wilson, 2008, p. 59):


Reading this book left me in a reflective mood. Two thumbs up. (I’d give it more, but that’s all I have!)

Channeling Your Inner Writer through Bribery, Beer, and Blogging

mkoole, · Categories: Uncategorized

Procrastination Pedicure

Having written up much of my data, it is now time to return to the other chapters I’ve already written. I need to examine them and complete the bits that I had decided to leave until I had had a solid look at my data. Today was to be a major writing day. But, that was not to be. Sigh.

I started the day rising at a reasonable hour after an horrendous, overnight thunderstorm that left many people in the neighboring city flooded out and shoveling hail off their lawns. Sleeping through the thunder and lightning was nearly impossible. Nonetheless, I completed my daily ablutions and set out to a favourite coffee house to peruse another students’ completed doctoral thesis. I was starting to visualize how the rest of my chapters would come together—yet I felt this wave of overwhelmedness (I’m not sure that’s an actual word, but it describes how I felt) wash over me.

Addressing this feeling, I went for a pedicure. Whilst waiting for the pedicure, I noticed this new shop with jeans from Brazil and Columbia. They’re supposed to be very curvy and “bum-lifting.” I had to try them on just to see what the hub-bub was all about. Yup. Nice products. So, I purchased what is probably the most expensive pair of jeans I’ve ever purchased. (I don’t regret it because I’m usually pretty thrifty.)

So, then, I decided to go for lunch and read. But, I noticed the local paper. Needless to say, I read that instead of my chapters. Then, I came home and took a nap—after all, procrastination is tough business.

And, now, here I am. I just wrote one sentence in my methodology chapter, and I switched to blogging. Next, I will turn on some music and have a sip of beer to see if that will loosen up my inner muse. I’ve just got to write something.

Procrastination Pedicure

Rabbit eats fox: The pursuit of a post-graduate degree

mkoole, · Categories: Uncategorized

Rabbit Eats Fox

Shrub in the Lois Hole garden, Alberta Legislature

Shrub in the Lois Hole Garden, Alberta Legislature

This is a joke about the pursuit of a post-graduate degree. I cannot take credit for it, I received an old copy of it from a former boss who had originally received it by email back in 1998!

Scene: It’s a fine, beautiful day in the forest. A rabbit is sitting outside his burrow, typing away on his lap top. Along comes a fox out for a walk.

Fox: What are you working on?

Rabbit: My thesis paper to graduate from University.

Fox: Hmmm. What is it about?

Rabbit: Oh, I’m writing about how rabbits eat foxes.

Fox: [After an incredulous pause.] That’s ridiculous! Any fool knows that rabbits don’t eat foxes.

Rabbit: Come with me, and I’ll show you!

They both disappear into the rabbit’s burrow. After a few minutes, gnawing on a fox bone, the rabbit returns to his lap top and resumes typing. Soon, a wolf comes along and stops to watch the hard-working rabbit. [Tippy-tap, tippy-tap, tippy-tippy-tap.]

Wolf: What’s that you’re writing?

Rabbit: I’m doing a thesis on how rabbits eat wolves.

Wolf: You don’t expect to get such garbage published, do you?

Rabbit: No problem. Do you want to see why?

The rabbit and the wolf go into the burrow. Again, the rabbit returns by himself. This time he is patting his stomach. He goes back to his typing. [Tippy-tap, tippy-tap, tippy-tippy-tap.] Finally, a bear comes along.

Bear: What are you doing?

Rabbit: I’m doing a thesis on how rabbits eat bears.

Bear: Well, that’s absurd.

Rabbit: Come into my home, and I’ll show you.

Scene: Inside the rabbit’s burrow. In one corner, there is a pile of fox bones. In another corner is a pile of wolf bones. On the other side of the room, a huge lion is belching and picking his teeth.

The moral of the story

It doesn’t matter what you choose for a thesis topic.

It doesn’t matter what you use for your data.

It doesn’t even matter if your topic makes sense.

What matters is who you have for a thesis advisor!


Testing Pages Application and New Verbatim External Keyboard on iPhone

mkoole, · Categories: Mobile learning · Tags: , , ,

My new mobile keyboard just arrived today. It’s a Verbatim Wireless Keyboard. There was no need for software installation. I could simply turn it on and go. Now, I am able to type using a relatively normal keyboard rather than use the hunt-and-peck method.

My previous phone, with Windows Mobile paired fairly easily with a different mobile keyboard, but permitted more keyboard commands that would allow greater control over the device. It is possible that in the first 5 minutes of using this keyboard, I have not yet discovered the magic keys that allow me to navigate through the app icons.

The “Pages” application and its sibling programs (a presentation tool and spreadsheet) are impressive–considering that these tools are usable on a phone. Now, let’s see if I can add some kind of object.

That was nice, I could add a meaningless graph (it could be meaningful if I had some data to add) with the click of a button (and have figured out how to navigate via the keyboard–I still cannot use the keyboard to navigate the app icons).

Now, to add something else. I’ll add an image. I’ll be able to select from the pictures that I’ve taken at Ikea today.

All the objects are easily sized and placed into various locations with a few finger movements. Very nice.

Now, I’ll see if I can upload this to my blog via WordPress. Now, this is a little more difficult. I’ll have to email the page to myself and upload it via the desktop method. I was unable to import the Pages document that I created directly to this blog. Nor was I able to copy and paste the images and their formatting. But, when I get on my computer tomorrow, I’ll post a PDF and Word document for comparison. It is handy that Pages allow export into these formats. Here ’tis:

Nonetheless, handy tools and fun in experimentation.

Lunch – mobile stuff

mkoole, · Categories: Mobile learning, Uncategorized

20120323-144327.jpgMy intent here is not to promote Apple or any other company, but simply to express my experience.

I have been steadfast about developing mobile learning resources for the lowest common denominator. I remain adamant that this should be the case. Access and openness is fundamental.

Anyways, I have not upgraded my smart phone for quite some time–four years to be exact. I have also kept a variety of other devices around for testing.

Alas, it was time to upgrade. Sitting with our university’s assistive technologist, I noted how she used her iPhone camera to enlarge the text of meeting agendas. And, I thought, “It’s time for me to take a better look at this technology.”

So, now I am the owner of a brand, new iPhone OS4. I haven’t tested Siri, yet. But, I’m absolutely in love with the device. The software and hardware is so highly integrated. Who would have thought that the camera’s flash could be used as a flashlight (with the installation of a simple app).

So, why the sashimi picture? Well, I just installed the free WordPress app to see how well it would support mobile blogging. I just happened to notice the picture button. My only complaint is that it did not help me reduced the size. Nonetheless, up it went.

A few days ago, I was talking to my mother. She had received an old photo taken shortly after WWII. She, and a group of other kids were sitting atop a German bunker left behind after the liberation by the allies. She asked me to go look at it. Normally, I would have whined and complained about having to get up, turn on my computer, wait for it to boot, connect to the Internet, log into my email, and finally retrieve the picture. But, using my mobile phone, I simply turned it on, clicked on the email icon, scrolled down, and there it was. In less than a minute, I said, “Which one are you?”

The convenience is amazing. The connectedness, for me, is overwhelming. What am I going to do for private time? 🙂