Virtuosity 11.11

Where words become worlds…

Archive for the month “September, 2017”

Week 9 – Thesis Countdown

One of my mentors in Second Life, Jadyn Firehawk, told me that my dissertation work was like a braided river. You have rivulets and streams — places where water trickles to dry, but when you look at the big picture, the river continues to move. She said that this was like the dissertation process in that we cannot cover the entire river bed at one time. Instead, you must choose which rivulets to run, and continue to progress forward.

As I work on the analysis and writing part of my dissertation, I find that I must spend less time in Second Life. While data collection is interesting and fascinating, and there are so many people I feel I should talk to and connect with, my work would be meaningless unless I graduated.

This week, I have continued to work on the different places and practices found at the Builder’s Brewery. In order to do so, I have woven together data collected from photographs, memos, survey responses, and interview responses to paint a picture of the Brewery and what people do there. It is a very slow process, because I may have to analyze long stretches of data several times to pull out the different patterns from it. However, each pass through my data forces me to become more familiar with it, and what it tells me.

I must submit Chapter 5, my findings chapter on the Brewery’s site descriptions and practices, on Tuesday. Afterward, I must do the heavy lifting of making sense of the learning theory that I have developed based on my findings. This week, I will also begin the process of member-checking — sharing parts of my written thesis with community members to ensure that I have accurately represented and described what I have found.

I have 61 days before the full dissertation draft is due.



Photo Credit: Sam Beebe



Week 10 – Thesis Countdown

I turned in the first draft of Chapter 3 to a classmate of mine, as well as my advisor. Chapter 3 details the methods of my study. This week, I’ve focused on writing out a strategic plan for how I will complete my dissertation as well as accomplish some of my personal goals for the year. It seems that I’ve been investing a lot of time planning, as of late, and for good reason. When I think of the entire dissertation process (the writing of eight chapters), it’s very intimidating. The more I plan and write out the details of how I intend to finish, the calmer I feel. A friend told me once, that you cannot eat an entire whale at one sitting. Instead, we must consume it slowly, one little bite at a time. It take a bit of planning to figure out where to bite next!

By Monday, my next bite will be into Chapter 4, where I talk about my research site. I’m looking forward to writing this chapter, because it details the rich history of my site, its culture, and its people. I’m using documents collected from the site, the web, as well as personal accounts to construct my story. This will be my first attempt at answering my research question: What forms of learning emerge through the practices found at the Builder’s Brewery?

This week, I begin to tell the story about the Builder’s Brewery to the world. Believe me, this is not a story that you will want to miss!


BB - Sim 1

Photo credits: Sen Maximus


Week 11 Thesis Countdown

Last week, I’ve interviewed over ten community members from my research site! Although I may need to do a few more interviews, this week is dedicated to writing the methods chapter of my thesis, parts of my findings chapter, and the theoretic analysis of my interviews.

The process of analyzing interviews can be rather slow. First, I contact people to see if they are interested in interviewing with me — these have been people who have offered to interview, or they are people who indicated on my learning survey that they’d be willing to interview. In order to select people, I do what is called purposeful sampling. In other words, I find people whose particular experiences (or lack of experiences) can help me understand particular questions that I have about the model I am developing.

Unlike research that we are used to (such as the physical sciences), qualitative research is about understanding how people define things on their own terms. Thus, even a simple term like “learning” may mean different things to different people. My interviews are to get at what people come to understand as “learning,” and how they learn at the Builder’s Brewery.

Once I’ve contacted people, and they have given me consent to interview them, I conduct a 1.5-2 hour interview. To help prepare my interviewees, I give my interviewees example questions ahead of time so that they know the things that I’ll be asking about. These interviews are recorded, while I’m also taking down notes about what they say. Afterward, I go back to the recording and transcribe the interview, so that I can pay attention to the exact words that participants use. These words and terms make-up the skeleton for my model.

Once I have the transcript and my notes, I code them. What this means is that I break up the interview into blocks, where each block signifies some code, or refers to a certain experience. I may have to go through transcriptions several times like this, because each time I go through a transcription, I may see different things.

Afterward, I put all my interviews side-by-side, and look for overarching themes and commonalities as well as differences. These get recorded, too, as thematic codes. This is what goes into my learning model.

Week 12 – Thesis Countdown

I’ve been busy these past two weeks with interviews and survey analysis! So far, I have interviewed six people from my community, and intend to interview a few more.

A few people have asked me about my research, and I’ve noticed that many people do not have a good understanding of the grounded theory methodology that I use. This methodology is very different from traditional research methods, in that I’m using an abductive process to create a theory of learning from the data that I’ve collected. Unlike the tradition of designing quantitative experiments and testing hypotheses, the theory-building process in my methodology is entirely qualitative, and is not based on experimentation or statistical significance. Instead, I collect data from a variety of sources, such as observations, participation, and interviews, to interpret and find patterns within these data to try and understand individual learning experiences. These patterns are then tested for trustworthiness by member-checking, and a process called triangulation (seeing whether these patterns hold across multiple time points, data sources, conditions, and situations).

This week, I will be analyzing my interviews thematically — I look at what all my interviews have in common, and also where they differ. By analyzing these data thematically, I can then compare it to my survey data to see whether these patterns hold true for everyone, or whether these are unique instances for individual people.

Also for this week, I’ll be doing a few more classroom observations, as well as continue teaching at my site.


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