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Definition of a story

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Published on: 14/07/2011

A story is a sequence of events (places, humans, things, interactions) with an experience connected to each of them and a storyline connecting all of them offering a logical flow. The experience connected to a event can be induced in the ‘reader’s’ imagination by visuals (picture, video).

I know there is a defintion like this in Suzannes book: she uses Denning among others: “Een verhaal is een weergave van gebeurtenissen die op een of  andere manier met elkaar  in verband worden gebracht.” That looks a lot like I described above.

Within a collection of stories overlap can manifest itself on the experience level or on the event level. This results for example in keywords like Dapperstraat (streets), fear (emotions), koninginnedag, WW II (event), Oosterpark (places), etc.

Some thoughts on memories/ stories

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Published on: 12/07/2011

I’ve been reading a bit on the memories/ stories distinction:

  1. Bohlmeijer’s De betekenis van levensverhalen (2007)  (The meaning of life-stories) is about ‘complete’ lives. Not my thing, I believe.
  2. Paul Arthur writes about the growth from Biography/ Autobiography towards a more inclusive Life Writing, which with the arrival of Web 2.0 gets even more expanded. But it is more or less constrained to focus on  ‘writing about your life’, not about life in a neighborhood or about a neighborhood. Maybe I should have a look at: Smith and Watson’s 52 genres of life narrative (p. 47).  These three might be interesting for me:
    1. Ecobiography (interweave the story of the teller with that of the conditions, ecology, geography etc. of it’s environment).
    2. Memoirs (a narrative that situates the subject in a social environment, either as observer or as participant).
    3. Witnessinig (give testimony to something, often related to how subjects respond to trauma).
  3. “Stories about memories” (see Vos & Ketelaar), but it makes stories different from memories. A memory can become active in the present as a (new) reconstruction of experiences in the past (Andres Hoskins, in Save as ….). That present memory can be expressed in a story. That makes the following situations or processes possible:
    1. The expression in a story of a memory in the present of a experience in the past.
    2. An real live experience in the present recorded as a story for later remembering (what happens to one then with respect to the same experience?)
    3. An earlier recorded/reported story by someone else on a certain experience (e.g. archived news paper articles). Can be input for process 1.
  4. In short, I think I should use stories (non fiction) instead of memories (or narratives) in the phrase: Online collections of local stories.
    1. If I define story widely as a series of non-fiction events that are related to each other, then historical, personal, journalistic,  etc. genres fit in.

Discussing with Susanne/Paulina

Categories: 2 Literature review
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Published on: 30/06/2011

Susanne’s and Paulina’s comments on the first part of the literature review:

  1. Put in a teaser like ‘neighbors go local on the world wide web’.
  2. Make sure that the word ‘memories’ is the right word in ‘online collections of local memories’.  (see online dictionary, maybe I should define it in a footnote). Or I should call it ‘stories’, ‘narratives’…
  3. Don’t use ‘community memory’ is a equivalent for ‘online collection of local memories’.
  4. Let the reader feel that th three claims with respect to the meaning for society are of great value to emphasize the urgency to develop a framework.

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Bryman Chapter 3: Reviewing the literature

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Published on: 05/03/2011

Some notes on chapter 3 that adds a little more than I already covered in this post about an effective literature review and this post where I already mention Bryman. See also this one where I started my literature review.

  1. When writing the literature review part of my first article (looking for appropriate theoretical perspectives to look at the neighborhood story websites)  I should check the writing tips on pp. 83-85 (coherence, problematizing the situation and examiners ‘glasses’.)
  2. On page 95 there are some reasons for writing a literature review. I made some notes about where I stand, knowing what I know now:
    1. Looking for a gap: that there is one will become clear below.
    2. I can find theoretical approaches, but it’s hard to find methodological ones where the former are really empirically tested or improved. Remember remark Ellen Hommel, that within cultural studies empirical evidence is hard to find; most is literature based. Is that also Liesbet’s remark about missing middle range theories?
    3. I have to remember that I am not doing a systematic review, but an attempt to conduct an ‘effective literature review’.
    4. The list that Bryman uses in the ‘Research in focus’ to conduct his ‘narrative review’ resembles my ‘intelligent summarizing’ efforts in e.g. this post.
      1. Sector –>  context
      2. […] –>  details of case
      3. Research design –>  research question (not only this)
      4. […] –>  theories or theoretical perspectives (influences research design)
      5. […] —>  what methods were used (also part of the design)
      6. key findings –>   results
      7. research focus–>   relation to my research
    5. It feels sometimes like I am mixing a(n effective) literature review with a field analysis, so I might have two questions for my first article (see also: this post):
      1. What empirical claims and theoretical frameworks are associated with neighborhood story websites?
      2. What is the variation within neighborhood  story websites with respect to certain aspects (see here)?

Change of approach

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Published on: 16/01/2011

My search approach up to now did not result in concrete cases of online neighborhood stories, so I tried broaden the search and that brought me in trouble. The trouble was that I zoomed out too much and ended up with a literature list with big topics like citizenship, identity, culture describing internet or neighborhood or stories, but not all three of them. I lost the connection with my cases, which is why I found it hard to find the gap (see this post): I was not able to define the material around it. This is what Levy & Ellis call a ‘cold start’.

Analyzing what went wrong leads me to the conclusion I should not have started with the Journal of Memory Studies and then Sage as a whole and then Amazon (zooming out). Finding no cases exemplary for mine, I started to use combinations with less keywords (too quick), also on the Amazon level. Better is to start with three or four keywords in on of the biggest indexes there is ( and then zoom in and shake out. Liesbet asked me surprised why I did not do that yet. The only answer I could give was that I was going to start with the journal of Memory Studies.

Anyway, we went through my literature list and graded the literature one by one, checking whether there was a connection with the triangle online-neighborhood-memory. There was none, but we graded two journal articles with a 2 (Narratives in the old neighborhood and Linking little narratives to big ones (see this post). Also the article Digital Storytelling as participatory public history from John Hartley’s book by Burgess got a 2. Two other books Digital storytelling, mediatized stories and Mediated memories ended up with a 2.

Liesbet then did a quick search with [digital storytelling neighborhood] scholar and together we found two 1’s (through the citations):

  1. The work from Helen Klaebe (et al.) about The Sharing Stories Project in Brisbane and
  2. Paolo Ferri’s (et al.) article about a project called Memory Line on different locations in Europe.

From these cases I will be able to overcome the cold start problem, because I can use these cases (and possibly also that of Burgess) to either define a gap in their work or to apply their research approach to my cases. I will summarize the articles answering these questions:

  1. What is the context? (historical, project, etc.)
  2. What are the details of the case? (where, how, who, what, etc.)
  3. What is the research question?
  4. Which theories or theoretical perspectives are applied?
  5. What is the research method and why was it chosen?
  6. What were the research results?
  7. What is the connection with my research?

From there on I will make decisions with help of Liesbet, about the followings steps (more cases, which theory do I want to follow, what is relevant to follow up, etc.). That way I can slowly work towards redesinging my research question, approach, theoretical framework.

Summary of literature review up to 13-01-2011

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Published on: 13/01/2011

In this project I conduct research on two communities in Amsterdam that gather stories about their neighborhoods on a story website. I am interested in the interplay between neighborhood stories, local forms of cultural citizenship, a story website and memory. Participants share, select and write stories with pictures in face to face situations. Then these stories are gathered and clustered on the website, where people can read them and leave comments. From the website the stories end up in the physical world again sometimes, for example as background material in organized neighborhood walks. Participants have been reported to have positively changed their attitude towards and interactions with other inhabitants of the neighborhood and to the neighborhood as a whole (Baasbank et al, 2004). Changes like this bear a relation with cultural citizenship and are likely to be connected to the role of collective and individual memory. Interestingly enough, top down stimulation for participating in the community is hardly needed.

Why a literature review?
With my research I will attempt to enhance the understanding of this phenomenon and hopefully enlarge the body of knowledge related to it. This implies that I first have to conduct a literature review to find out what is already known about phenomena like this. My assumption is that there will be empirical claims about the face to face processes of neighborhood stories, but not many combined with a story website. So I will have to look at this related material to be able to pinpoint were research is needed and why it is necessary. In this process I will also meet theories and models related to my topics from which I hope to choose the theoretical foundations for my study. At the same time I will encounter research methodologies that are suitable for filling the gap in the body of knowledge taking into account the theoretical foundations. The literature review should conclude with a justified research outline that convinces the reader that performing it would add something to the scientific community.

I have designed a roadmap that guides the review in a systematic way following Levy and Ellis (2006) among others. One important step is finding the right synonyms for the key concepts (neighboorhod, stories, website, citizenship and memory). A next step is defining combinations of these concepts or their synonyms. Then there is a ranking of significance of sources where to search for references: peer reviewed journals, books, editorials, conference proceedings, professional magazines and news papers. I will stick to the first two to begin with. Searching in several vendor’s databases and other sources secures the necessary width of the search  (Sage, Amazon, Oxford, Routledge, Palgrave, Polity Press, JStor, university presses). Next to proper keywords, the depth of the search can be improved by backward and forward reference search. Ideally the search is complete when new articles do not add new arguments anymore (Levy et al., 2006).

First results
I did a first search through Sage (journals, books), Amazon and Oxford (in that order) and ended up with 15 journal articles and 7 books. I am not sure yet what the difference will be between the two and how I can apply them to my aims with the literature review. I have the impression that concentrating on finding a gap in the body of knowledge is a strange exercise: you can only prove that there is a hole somewhere by showing what is around it. I am pretty sure that that is what I am doing, but it is hard to decide what should be close to the hole and what further away, especially because I am in the process of defining what is missing. Maybe I should concentrate on theories and models more and look what I could add on that level. That means I should for example look at Van Dijck first (broad picture) and then concentrate on journal articles that are filling in that broad picture by empirical research and pieces of theory. That way I can find what piece of the – in this case the Van Dijck’s – puzzle is missing.

If I look at the other books, there are three that are editorials. I am not sure yet but they might be a sets of journal articles, not proposing some big kind of picture. The book Cultures and globalization: Heritage, memory and identity (Anheier et al., 2011) might be one of those, offering a fragmented set of explorations among issues of mostly material heritage.  It zooms out in a couple of articles though. The Story circle: Digital storytelling around the world is not offering a big picture either it zooms in only on (the practice) of digital storytelling. I am not sure about the book Digital storytelling, mediatized stories – self-representations in new media (Knut, 2008) either, it looks very much about digital storytelling (moving pictures) only too. I see now, while checking the table of contents, that Knut’s book is part of a series called Digital Formations, that might be interesting to have a look at. There is another series worth looking at: New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies. The book Participatory citizenship: Identity, exclusion, inclusion offers a big picture but it is located in India, maybe that is a problem. Finally Understanding intercultural communication zooms out, but takes intercultural strictly: people who hardly can understand each other.

Looking at the books like this is worthwhile, but first a talk with my supervisor.

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