Thursday, July 03, 2008

Coding and Memory Bursts: Undoing the Closet

Hi. It's been a while. I've been working like a puppy digging under a fence.

I actually started some of the content for this post way back at the end of April. Not sure why I didn't post it, but here it is. I'm editing it, updating it, and finally posting it.

Today, July 3, is one of the days I'm working on dissertation-work, and on work-work, from home. I'm really glad it's raining and muggy out today: keeps me focused and able to sit in my office/prison without getting distracted by house chores. OK, anyhow: onto the bulk of the post as related to the dissertation:

I've been coding coding coding interview transcripts these last couple of months. Months, yes. Not doing all that much in one sitting, but am making progress. Things are moving along well enough. What I'm finding interesting is the level of detail I remember from the interviews themselves while re-reading the transcripts. In a way, I'm re-living the actual interview experience with each person as I do this. I interviewed 14 undergraduates for this study. Some of the participants have insight that seems beyond their years, at least with regard to the direction of their studies and careers. Others do not, which is actually pretty normal.

Either way, I find it exciting to hear how they conceptualize their future based on the work they've done in college. I typically feel really positive about the world and our society when I'm finished coding an interview, probably because most participants found my topic to be upbeat. I'm asking them to think about themselves, after all, and most people don't mind chatting with someone else who seems to be interested in their experiences. Some are saying that they were glad to have had a chance to participate in the interview because it helped them to reflect on their college experiences, something they do not take the time to do very often. Hey, if they get something positive out of the interview besides just the gift certificate I gave to the participants, then that's all the better!

A week or two ago, a friend asked how the data analysis was coming along. I compared it to when you have a large storage closet that you know you need to clean. There are useful things in there you're not using because the closet is too full and cluttered. At some point, you need to just pull everything out of the closet, lay it on the floor, sort through it, and repack the closet with only the things you'll use. Comparing that to data analysis, I'm at the point now where the crap is out of the closet, spread all over the floor. I'm slowly wading through, throwing things out I no longer need, and sorting through that which is still relevant. I'm now in a good place, especially because for a while I think I was in the, "Holy shit, I have to clean out that damn closet," stage. I'm through the fear and anxiety, and I'm just cleaning house now. Finally.

Well OK, there's still some fear and anxiety. For example, I've no idea what sorts of shelving, storage boxes, hangers, or anything that I'll need for repacking the closet. The thought of organizing everything into something that's understandable is a bit daunting. I do know from experience, however, that the closet's organization will define itself as I move through the cleaning process. It's not a perfect process: I'm probably going to buy some storage boxes I think I need now, but later I'll return and exchange for something different. I'm probably going to start organize things as I'm moving forward, but later on may change the whole order of things. That's alright. Part of the process, I suppose.

OK, gotta get back to digging under the fence.

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