the everyday life turn

I remember talking in college about "The Linguistic Turn" in academic perspectives that had occurred some 30 years before we got to academia.  These articles/chapters all make me think that perhaps there has since been an "Everyday Life Turn" of equal importance (as Sheringham, below, argues).  From the everyday information behavior of children and tweens to the everyday significance of racial micro-aggressions (more coming soon, as I prep for the second Reading Around Race group), it seems to me that there's something to this argument that the everyday has become at least a major rhetorical part of the direction of research in many disparate fields.

First, here's an example of the kind of "everyday life" research that I often read, related to children and libraries:

"Leisure and Work in Library and Community Programs for Very Young Children" by Roz Stooke and Pamela J. McKenzie (Library Trends 57: 4, Spring 2009)
After observing children in multiple Canadian settings, Stooke and McKenzie come to some intriguing conclusions about the differences between programming approaches from library traditions vs. other traditions.  They draw on feminist sociologist Dorothy Smith for a nuanced definition of "work" as the social order which is the product of coordinated (every day life!) activities.  They spend pages 657-664 on their theoretical underpinnings, while, while all great citations, may belie some concern over the validity of purely observational data.  (I myself have mixed feelings about this as a researcher, but I'm willing to go along with it for the sake of the article.)  They did have fifty observations at eight sites to draw from, so not an insignificant pool of data.
     The most salient findings, from my vantage point, were the differences between the value of language play in library activities (books especially) while only one community program leader that they observed used any books.  Library program leaders also used physical artifacts (puppets, books, feltboards) while community programs used interactive toys at informal times but "only words and gestures" during formal programs.
     This, of course, led me to wonder about what they didn't see from their observations, such as:  what role does storytelling or narrative play in the "words and gestures" programs?  What kinds of literacy are children learning in such environments?  
     They also discussed the importance of inclusivity and the need to avoid overly rigid approaches to programming, noting that "a rigid commitment to any mandated program, however research-based, can function as a barrier to inclusive and ethical practice." (p. 667)  This may be part of why program leaders "presented themselves as friendly elders or peers rather than as experts."  (p. 669)  A strong sense of hierarchy in this kind of environment may inhibit the optimal combination of planning and flexibility that a really good program requires (and deserves).  However, they also brought out some flaws, including that leaders worked to "diminish social gaps between themselves and participants, but tended to ignore social and cultural differences among participants." (p. 671)  Differences like who does or does not have a romantic partner, which cultures people come from (no tofu was served--but meat was--as part of a "healthy foods" program despite the presence of Chinese participants).  Overall, this is an intriguing and well-researched set of snapshots of what programming is today.

Here's the scholar who argues that there's an intellectual tradition hiding in all this...

Everyday Life:  Theories and Practices from Surrealism to the Present, by Michael Sheringham (Oxford, 2006)  
This introduction brought me the idea that, at least in French scholarship, investigations of the "quotidien" or everyday have taken on new prominence since the 1980s.  Sheringham goes on to argue throughout the book that there is a "real tradition rooted in cultural and intellectual history, where the period between 1960 and 1980 is a phase of active, if often invisible, invention, and the period from 1980 to 2000 (and beyond) a phase of practice, variation, and dissemination." (p. 6)  He notes that scholars like Lefebvre and Certeau are frequently cited in Cultural Studies venues, from the visual to the ethnographic. (p. 7)  He goes on to argue for various associations in this tradition, from Certeau back to Lefebvre, and from Lefebvre back to humanist Marxism, to Barthes and Structuralism (to post-structuralism and postmodernism), to Perect and the Oulipo group of literary experimentalists...  it's an interesting intellectual path to explore.
     It won't surprise some of you that I wanted to check out the chapter on Barthes, which he introduces on p. 10 with a succinct but fairly accurate overview of Barthes' work, especially its last phase which he describes as "governed by a renewed vision of subjectivity rooted in affects and pleasures at large in the everyday." (p. 10)  And it was worth it for me, as it would be for scholars of historical trends in scholarship, which is really what this book is about.
      *Cited here and worth exploring:  an article by Rita Felski (scholar of feminism and phenomenology) called "The Invention of Everyday Life" in New Formations, 39 (1999-2000), 15-31.

Here's a theoretical piece that connects some aspects of thought of two rarely juxtaposed "everyday" theorists:

"Theorizing White Consciousness for a Post-Empire World:  Barthes, Fanon, and the Rhetoric of Love" by Chela Sandoval, in Displacing Whiteness, ed. by Ruth Frankenberg
     Sandoval does this really interesting project of unpacking some of Barthes' views of "oppositional consciousness" in Mythologies about theorizing the limits of colonialism, from inside a country that was a major colonial power (France), and comparing those to Fanon's views, from a viewpoint within being colonized by an outside power.  Both scholars, Sandoval argues, are involved in "decolonizing" projects, only Barthes' project is lost in loneliness and, ultimately, in a kind of dispersion of effort amidst the distractions (and pleasures) of the society built on colonizing power.  Sandoval also argues that Fanon, on the other hand, escapes through his allegiance to revolutionary forces and his commitment to transforming the world around him.

For later:  I have Certeau's book The Practice of Everyday Life with its chapter on "reading as poaching," first mentioned in the post about the Ross article a month of so ago.  Need more time to read!




Article Amassment

This post is the first of what I hope will be a regular feature, a quick look through my recent Article Amassment.  Be they print journals or citations emailed me by colleagues, Article Amassment is all about fast skimming/reading a bunch of articles related to some aspect of youth services librarianship and blogging them here.  I expect entries to be more like abstracts or even annotations than summaries, with my own slant, of course.  So here goes, my first ever Article Amassment:

Large, Andrew, et al.  "Developing a Visual Taxonomy:  Children's Views on Aesthetics"  JASIST 60(9): 2009, pp. 1808-1822.
Bring together visualization and usability testing/design, with seven 6th grade young people as collaborators.  Includes children's prototype drawings of taxonomies, and uses them to suggest six aesthetic characteristics that should characterize such browsing interfaces for children, including "maplike metaphor."  They come up with six aesthetic dimensions (from earlier work by Ngo et al. 2003) that are important to consider in children's taxonomies.  It's a bit tough to see the connections from the children's drawings to the aesthetic measures, but it makes for a provocative piece.

"Dramatic Interpretations: Performative Responses of Young Children to Picturebook Read-Alouds." By: Adomat, Donna Sayers. Children's Literature in Education, Sep2010, Vol. 41 Issue 3, p207-221, 15p; DOI: 10.1007/s10583-010-9105-0
This is a qualitative study of young readers' responses to picturebooks.  Uses five kinds of responses, a framework developed in a previous study:
     "Sipe (2008) developed five types of responses that are indicative of five facets of literary understanding. In summary: (1) Analytical responses include discussions of narrative elements, such as plot, setting, characters, theme, style, and use of illustrations; (2) Intertextual responses are the links children make to other books or texts, broadly defined; (3) Personal responses involve connections children make to their own lives or the experiences of others; (4) Transparent responses indicate a deep involvement with the story world; and (5) Performative responses show that children are ‘‘manipulating the story for their own creative purposes’’ (p. 183)."
      The teacher read the story and encouraged participation throughout, and the article focuses on one child's responses, including vocalizations, physical responses, and responses that took on acting out the character's perspective.  Recommended to anyone who wants to see an updated version of The Braid of Literature.  Fun to read!

"Studying" and "Making Sense Of" Tweens
"Making Sense of An Information World:  The Everyday-Life Information Behavior of Pre-Teens" by Eric Meyers et al. in Library Quarterly 79: 3, 301-341.
and
"Studying the everyday information behavior of tweens: Notes from the field" by the same team:  Eric M. Meyers, Karen E. Fisher, Elizabeth Marcoux, in Library & Information Science Research 29 (2007) 310–33, doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2007.04.011.
       These two articles by Meyers et al. describe the same project, so I'm blogging them together.  Perhaps the most interesting part in both, but especially in the L&ISR piece is the "play-date" format of the data collection time, a "five hour research 'play date' combining social interaction, creative play, and multiple data collection methods" with the hopes of doing research with youth, holding a central service philosophy.  They blended focus groups with other activities to structure a fun and stimulating session, and it sounds like it worked.  They used three locations:  a university, a church, and a school (why not a public library?).   The bulk of the LQ paper, appropriately, is devoted to qualitative findings, written in accessible and descriptive form.  Ending with a section on "Applicability of the Research to Practice:  A Guiding Framework" is very smart, and while the general LQ audience may skim, I'm glad to see a focus on practitioners in this level of research.  This is NSF funded research, and the lit review places it squarely in LIS, which makes this an inspiring set of articles that I'm sharing with doctoral students as I type.

Hughes-Hassell, Sandra et al.  "Through Their Eyes: The Development of Self-Concept in Yount African American Children through Board Books" in Children and Libraries  9:2, p. 36
This is a call for real representation and cultural relevance in board books, with an exceedingly valuable list of good board books to promote and purchase (pp. 40-41).  A few sample authors/titles:  Asim Girl of Mine, Baicker I Can Do It Too!, Hudson Good Morning, Baby, Pinkney, Shake Shake Shake and many more.

Roman, Susan and Carole D. Fiore "Do Public Library Summer Reading Programs Close the Achievement Gap?" in Children and Libraries 8: 3, p. 27.
In short, yes, but there's more work to do.  Study relies heavily on librarians and teachers, with just one survey for student input, but has the advantage of a timespan of over a year.  But the findings are positive, and the ending call to action is about publicizing these findings and doing more outreach to populations not as well served by public libraries.   


Prendergast, Tess, "Beyond Storytime:  Children's Librarians Collaborating in Communities" Children and Libraries 9:1, p. 20
Describes a Vancouver based program in which librarians go to a variety of sites and serve children at those family service agencies, from specific language groups to addiction recovery and other service sites.  Qualitative evidence of efficacy is given in parents' own words. 

Rothbauer, Pauletter.  "Exploring the Placelessness of Reading Among Older Teens in a Canadian Rural Municipality."  Library Quarterly 79:4, p. 465
Explores "role of reading and libraries" in lives of older teens, with a focus on a particular rural geography.  Based on interviews with 27 young people, and quotes are sprinkled throughout.   Found libraries to be lacking for older teens, defined by what they offered them as younger children.  Discovered large impact of spatial factors:  proximity of reading selections, internet as default reading, public library as childhood space (not for them), lack of time for reading.  "Nonactive teen readers" pose a host of challenges to rural public libraries, and only some of them are listed here.


delirium

Lauren Oliver's Delirium follows the months before Lean is scheduled to be cured of deleria, the disease of love.  Everyone goes through it, and society is seemingly peaceful and calm as a result.  No falling in love means no insanity, no wars, no troublesome partner squabbles.  At eighteen, everyone is surgically operated on to remove the part of their brain that can love and matched with a suitable heterosexual partner for life.  And assigned a number of children to have. 

But sometimes it goes wrong, as it did with Lena's mother, on whom the operation was not successful.  Despite four tries, they never did cure her of love.  As a result, Lena grew up first in a household full of love and games, and then, after her mother was said to have committed suicide, in her aunt's cold household, their whole family shamed by the blemish of her mother's failure.

Very slowly (sometimes a bit too slowly for the pace of the story) Lena begins to understand that the world of safety constructed around her is built on a backbone of violence and deception.  She realizes it when she meets Alex, who has the scars of the cure behind his ear, but in fact grew up outside Portland as an Invalid in the Wilds.  And he hasn't been cured at all, and they fall in love.  And she realizes it when she sees her best friend Hana change, suddenly and dramatically, into someone who goes to secret music concerts.

Finally, it all breaks apart when (SPOILER!!) Alex shows her that her own mother was alive this whole time, kept in the endless prison of the Crypts, carving the word "love" over and over into her cell.  And then Lena knows:  she has to leave.  All the safety of her society comes to seem like a cage, and she'll do anything to get out.  Unfortunately, as she and Alex are planning their escape, things get very difficult and it's ultimately impossible to have a grand happy ending.  But the ending is happy in smaller ways.  Lena will survive, intact, and keep her ability to love.


Favorite quotes:

"You may think the past has something to tell you.  You may think that you should listen, should strain to make out its whispers, should bend over backward, stoop down low to hear its voice breathed up from the ground, from the dead places. [...] But I know the truth:  [...] I know the past will drag you backward and down, have you snatching at whispers of wind adn the gibberish of trees rubbing together, trying to decipher some code, trying to piece together what was broken.  It's hopelss,  The past is nothing but a weight.  It will build inside of you like a stone."   (p. 176)

"One of the strangest things about life is that it will chug on, blind and oblivious, even as your private world--your little carved-out sphere--is twisting and morphing, even breaking apart.  One day you have parents; the next day you're an orphan.  One day you have a place and a path.  The next day you're lost in a wilderness.
     And still the sun rises and clouds mass and drift and people shop for groceries and toilets flush and blinds go up and down.  That's when you realize that most of it--life, the relentless mechanism of existing--isn't about you.  It doesn't include you at all.  It will thrust onward even after you've jumped the edge.  Even after you're dead."  (p. 303)

job hunting advice

Personally, I like to read websites or blogs about a sequence of events.  With a beginning, middle, and end.  Oh, that sounds a bit like narrative, doesn't it!  Funny how story creeps up as a defining element of all that I'm into even when I don't think it's the main point.

So this blog, http://modernhypatia.info/2011/08/job-hunt-index/, is all about a particular person's job hunt in librarianship, but written in ways that so many folks will recognize.  I personally know several people, most of them recent former students, who are finding the same stories of successes and pitfalls.  It's out of season for our semester cycle, but well worth reading if you'll be job hunting as a librarian or information professional of any sort in the next year.

just listen

Sarah Dessen has a steady hand at writing emotionally involving YA books with female protagonists.  Her stories are usually about coming of age in one way or another, and this story is about Annabel Greene, whose two sisters have been in so much trouble lately (one nearly dying from anorexia) that she has stuffed her own problems deep out of sight.  Problems like the fact that she was raped by her best friend's boyfriend last summer, and her best friend Sophie dumped her over it because she blamed Annabel for being a "slut."  Now school has started, but Annabel still hasn't told a soul what really happened, and endures Sophie's stream of verbal abuse in silence and alone.  Until, one day, she starts to really talk to the guy who also sits alone at lunch.  Their friendship blossoms into romance, but then screeches to a halt when Annabel goes into total shut-down mode and can't tell him why she's so upset.  It's many things, but the main one is that Sophie's new best friend Emily was also attacked by her creepy boyfriend but has told the police and is pressing charges.

There's a history of friend-dumping behind this story... Sophie dumped Annabel, but back when Sophie first moved to town Annabel dumped her then life-long best friend Clarke for Sophie.  But Clarke begins to reach out to Annabel, and Emily makes a shrewd guess about what happened and approaches her as well.  Annabel stays silent for awhile, but she watches Clarke and Emily with their new friends.  Emily especially, with her seemingly unshakable confidence, makes an impression on Annabel.  So Annabel finally reaches out to Owen, and then to her family.  They rally, the trial is a success (Sophie's ex is put behind bars), and Annabel really begins to move on.  She even considers reaching out to Sophie, but all the time she has had to reflect makes her realize that this particular bridge isn't hers to mend.  As Owen said, if people close to you can't get over being upset with you then "'...maybe you weren't as close with them as you thought. 
     'Meaning what?'
     'Meaning that if someone is really close with you, your getting upset or them getting upset is okay, and they don't change because of it.  It's just part of the relationship.  It happens.  You deal with it.'
     'You deal with it,' I said.  'I wouldn't even know how to do that.'
     'Well, that makes sense,' he said.  'Considering you never let it happen in the first place.'" (p. 151)

Dessen is a go-to author for me for good reads during busy times.  I'd recommend her work generally, and while some of her books have won awards, I find them all to be similar enough in tone that, if you like one, you generally like them all. 

*****

And speaking of reading in general, I came across this press release about a study by Shira Gabriel at SUNY Buffalo that shows that readers identify with characters like vampires and wizards.  It suggests that readers feel such a sense of belonging when they are reading that the experience actually alters their self-image somewhat, making them feel like the characters they read about.  I don't seem to have full-text access to the article itself (quick searching goes back to 2009 for recent articles in Psychological Science) so I'll have to wait to read that.  But it's an interesting tidbit, and makes me think of some blog post this past year when I wrote about my own sense of belonging that comes from reading fiction or, in some cases, memoir.