INF1240 Blogs vs. Kristen Luker & the Canadian Coast Guard’s VHF Radio Frequency Channel Structure

Hello internet and those surfing it,

I would like to thank you for allowing me the courtesy to briefly explain to you why I am here -rye in hand- looking to mingle.

Mingle you ask? …Yes, mingle.

You see, Kristine Luker (2010) has brought to my attention that research is somewhat akin to a cocktail party (65). Through this metaphor she describes scholarly research as an event to which one must cordially imbibe a drink of your choice and cruise the room for a few souls that are of a common mind. The tricky part being: showing up late and all the while shifting the conversation to your advantage (66-67).

While I am always up for a gala of wits, this blog structure we have been given does not allow for as she puts it “drifting around the room, hoping to strike up a conversation with some interesting people” (Luker 2010, 65). Now for those of you associated with this blog, please do not take offense, this has nothing to do with you, but rather the lack of choice we have in properly aligning ourselves with groups of similar interests. We may very well all share an incredible amount of interests. That said, if we look at Luker’s cocktail model, this blog is comparable to walking into a blind date. We have had no chance to walk around the room sampling the conversations before we butt in.

Thinking about this on the bus the other night, I thought back to my summers on Georgian Bay as a kid on my Dad’s 1981, 36 foot CS36 sailboat, and his instructions on using the VHF radio. Without going into too much detail, there are about 90 radio frequencies (or channels) used on (V)ery (H)igh (F)requency radios for communication out on the lakes and coastal waters in Canada. Some are strictly weather broadcasts, others are coast guard only and some can be used for a quick chat with another boater to boast about that 6 pound bass you just caught. (For a detailed description of user etiquette and channel uses see: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/eng/sf01011.html#sect8

While most channel specifications will vary from region to region, Channel 16 is the go to channel to hear what others are talking about. This is the channel that most will send out their request(s) to either another boater, marina or the coast guard, after which point they will agree on another more suitable channel dedicated to their specific needs/conversation.

Channel 16 is to Luker what these blogs are lacking: the ability to browse broadly then communicate more precisely. The VHF channel structure, while much, much older than blogging, still allows for an organized and effective means of “drifting around the room” to know which group may be the most applicable to you. I guess what I am getting at is the a priori notion of groups structured around specific topics in a purposeful manner. The structure of the “blog group” as it is now in INF1240 does not allow for any cocktail party mingling or channel 16 surfing. I do believe these blogs are a great attempt to integrate technology and the ideas of sharing knowledge, but it stops short in helping us, the bloggers/hopeful scholars the chance to mingle meaningfully in the way Luker had in mind. (Granted, I could surf the other blogs and comment all I want, but as blogging on your assigned blog is a graded requirement in the course I probably will not.  If credit was given to any comments/posts on any approved course blog however, this post would gracefully slip into oblivion and become obsolete.)

For those of you who just scrolled down to this final paragraph without reading the rest, let me try and sum it up for you… and those patient souls who actually did. I believe we (INF1240) may have to look at our blog assignment and consider another format in the future. Lessons can be learned from Luker and the VHF radio communication structure described above. If as new scholars we are expected to try and find the group or conversation we are most adept at participating in, why box in the conversation? Why can we not find a way to enable a broad open line for communication (channel 16) from which we can take the conversation further on more appropriate channels/blogs once our interests are peaked? Is a blog group the best approach? In my humble opinion, it is not. But in the mean time, if you want to get in touch, I’ll be on Channel 16,

Richard Laurin

Works Cited
Luker, Kristen. 2010. Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences: Research in an Age of Info-glut. Cambrigde, MA: Harvard University Press.

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6 thoughts on “INF1240 Blogs vs. Kristen Luker & the Canadian Coast Guard’s VHF Radio Frequency Channel Structure

  1. Hey Richard- great post!
    Until you mentioned this- I never considered the structural implications of this assignment. Very interesting- we’ll see if this is brought up in class tomorrow.
    Thanks for sharing,

  2. Hi Richard!

    Hope all is well on Channel 16. Thanks so much for your insight into the applicability of the blog and its shortcomings in terms of being an online “gala of wits”. Do you have any suggestions for something that would be more conducive to a cocktail party rather than a blind date? I could not myself – beyond using an algorithm that would create the perfect group.

    Luker says “the one question I always try to think about, as I make every single decision in my research, is what would my smartest, nastiest, most skeptical, and meanest colleague think of this particular descision?” (47) I wonder if the blog is not trying to be a cocktail party so much as a place where we can share ideas and receive different perspectives?

    I wish I had a better answer!

    -Vanessa

  3. Hi Vanessa,
    I do understand that this class is only that, one class among a million other things in our busy lives. My post was not meant to criticize anyone, I only posted this to shed light on an older technology that many would see as “inferior” to blogging or the internet but in my opinion may be more in line with what this blog is intended to be.

    Let’s just say I’m a little frustrated with the defacto group and/or course blogs we are all expected to work on now in so many classes (at least in my experience). Yes it is a quick, virtually free means of disseminating and discussing just about anything under the sun. That said, I feel we may have jumped on the band wagon cause everyone else is. In other words, are we at this cocktail party because we feel compelled to or because cocktail parties are easy to plan? Should we be having 4 o’clock tea instead? What about organizing as “temple sweep” mentioned by Luker on page 68. It’s not the party I am unsure about, just the way we are party-ing. I agree I’m not sure there is a perfect solution, but the notion of defined blogs creates discussion bubbles, not the fluid ability to consider all potential forums, seemingly so critical to Luker.

    As I said in the post above, if we get credit* for posting on any of the class blogs this may be a great way to allow more cross-group pollination and a step towards “drifting” between groups that Luker contends new scholar’s should be doing when they are trying to break into scholarly communities and circles.

    Thank you for the comments, I’m glad to see -right or wrong- the post pushed others to respond.

    -Richard
    ***Not to say I am only posting for the grade, but without that component this blog would become an almost negligible priority on my list… Does that make me a bad scholar? or just a student pressed for time?***

  4. Hi again Richard!
    I completely agree with you! The way we are party-ing does not achieve what Luker is proposing. That being said, I do really look forward to receiving feedback from you with regards to our research questions.
    Your fellow pressed for time student,
    Vanessa

  5. Thanks Richard! You started up a great discussion here! Do you have any specific suggestions as to how a course instructor might integrate technology into a class to promote a similar kind of activity as on channel 16? I’m also interested in the contrast between the open, free mingling that you envision, and the fact that such mingling would probably be mandatory given the structure of courses that include group blogs as a graded component.

    • Hi Chaya,

      When I envision channel 16 and how we might be able to integrate such a system into our blogging or technological component of this course I think of a hub and nodal structure. Posting would still be required and I respect that we are all expected to contribute. My recommendation is that we be free to post and or comment on any class blog and be given credit towards our weekly posting and/or commenting required in the course. The required posting is not my concern, but rather the somewhat restricted nature of how we may be graded for it. As I explained in my original post, Luker states we should get a drink and scan the room looking for the conversation that we are most interested in. INF1240 on the other hand created discussion (blog) groups with little or no previous knowledge of what kind of dialogue may take place in them (other than the obvious topics of research methods…).
      That said, I do feel we could tweak the system to align Luker’s scenario and our own. To this I propose 2 possible outcomes:

      Develop a central blog that publishes all our blog posts as a blog feed/roll to be able to see all the conversations going on, and yet enable the clustering nature of the group blogs already set up? In this scenario, we have to ability to see all of the posts in one area, while still enabling the grouping in the blogs. Almost like channel 16 where all activity is chained and then redirected depending on the needs of the conversation. More set up time by the instructors or maybe more collaboration during the development phase between groups setting up their blogs may be required, but the added fluidity and mingling would most likely outweigh the costs.
      Another possible structure for the future could be an open sign up where the class shares in multiple blogs in such a way that multiple conversations can develop while no one is tied to any one blog. This would be useful in that if anyone realized at some point through the semester that they are no longer interested in the topic of their blog or that they have developed a new interest that another group is actively engaged in, they would be free to engage and partake in that conversation. At which point the blogging structure would more closely resemble a multi-lane highway, where we are all part of the drive but are free to change lanes when we feel the need.

      Maybe Prof. Galey is has been open to cross-blog posting this whole time and would give you credit for it, however that is not what I understand from the assignment as it is described in the syllabus or on galeyinf1240.blogspot.ca. If this is the case, then most of my argument is moot.

      I do think having a home or base blog is fine and a reasonable way to begin discussion but a more seamless integration of each blog may be something to consider. Many may disagree and I do acknowledge I am taking her metaphor quite literally. On the other hand, what good is just talking about a scenario if you aren’t willing to experiment with it and see if it is applicable in practice. In this light it brings us around to another relevant conversation of generalizability and the ability. What good is Luker’s advice if we don’t apply it beyond her book?

      Richard L.

      p.s. sorry for the novel.

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