Thursday, May 22, 2014

Virtual/Actual

Wow. I have certainly been inattentive. In my defense, I have been working on my thesis. And living my life.

My Master's thesis "Positive Spaces", is in the second draft stage and I hope that this one is defensible. It has been really hard to write, and nothing in regards to my thesis has happened exactly the way I planned. I'm trying to stay optimistic. This isn't unusual. This kind of change is normal for a research project, especially the type of research project that I conducted.

After the thesis gets processed through the university and I've secured my copyright, I'll start posting sections of it here. I'd start posting it now, but I'm a paranoid person. I removed all of my work from Academia.edu because the idea of strangers reading my papers weirded me out. I think that attitude is due in part to my case of imposter syndrome. I don't want someone to read my papers and decide the material isn't good. Not without the chance to defend myself, at any rate.

Back to my thesis. I interviewed eight individuals who live in my local area (with one exception). We had conversations varying in length from 25 minutes to two hours on topics regarding LGBT identity formation and expression in relation to the Internet. We discussed the implications of LGBT identity in communities both actual and virtual, as well as some of the experiences that the participants had negotiating their identities in Southern American culture.

But the research also provided an element that I had not expected and it was delightful. The first couple of people I interviewed all mentioned how important Tumblr was to their identity. The very first person made some comments about how Tumblr is a social media site for LGBT individuals. At one point, they very frankly told me that they sometimes forget that there are straight people on Tumblr, because everyone she interacts with is LGBT and everything she looks at on Tumblr is LGBT related. A Tumblr user myself, I couldn't help but think she was on to something. And so, a large portion of my thesis became focused on LGBT identity on Tumblr. I was already a participant on Tumblr, but I came a participant observer. I followed the tumblrs of several LGBT people, as well as a couple different permutations of the #LGBT tag.

Aspects of Tumblr, as well as aspects of LGBT identity and community, were revealed to me over the course of the research that were absolutely fascinating. Although my original thesis was going to be a grand piece of applied anthropology focused on rural mental health for LGBT individuals, I'm still proud of the work I have done. The people I interviewed were interesting, and they were interested in thinking about how the Internet has impacted their identity as well as their daily lives. I have found the research and especially the writing process frustrating at times, but I think others will benefit from my work, too. At the very least, I hope that future social science researchers interested in the Internet. social media, identity, and communities realize that Tumblr is full of unique, exciting, and even potentially beneficial research opportunities.

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Beginning

After a really odd review process, the IRB (Institutional Review Board) gave me approval to conduct my research.

I've already started seeking out participants and have made contact with a couple individuals. I'm super excited.

Below, please find the blurb I've been passing around on social media sites. I've also posted flyers on the campus of my university and I plan to carry those out to the local community as well.

I am conducting research exploring the influence of the Internet on LGBT identity formation and expression. I am also interested in what LGBT individuals consider essential to their happiness and well-being. I hope that this study will reveal information that can be used to help LGBT individuals by increasing awareness of important resources both online and in local communities.
If you are 18 years of age or older and interested in sharing your experiences as a LGBT individual please contact me at all16@students.uwf.edu or on Skype (username: AnthropologicalAmanda).
I look forward to hearing from you!

That last part is definitely true. I'm going to go ahead and admit that I've already completed one interview and it was very enjoyable. The participant and I had a great conversation and they provided me with some valuable insight into my own process.

So far, so good.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

GRE Name Change Woe

As many of you know, in order to gain entry to an MA or PhD level program in the United States, you have to register for the GRE (Graduate Record Exam), brought to you by ETS.

I have recently decided that I want to apply to PhD programs, so I logged into my ETS account and registered to take the GRE again. As you may also know, I got married back in April. I am very aware that in order to take the GRE that your name must match your ID. However, I could not find any information that dealt with an individual in my situation. The instructions provided here http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/register/name_you_use seemed in my opinion to be targeted at new users and did not address my situation at all. I did however, find information in the scores section that I thought applied to me. At https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/scores/send/, it states that:

If Your Name Has Changed

If you are registering to take a GRE test, have changed your name since you took a previous GRE test and want current and previous scores reported, follow these instructions:

Computer-based Test

  • After you have registered to take the test, contact GRE services for assistance. Be prepared to provide your current name, appointment number, date of birth and previous name and test date.
I thought this was meant for me. I was registering to take the GRE, had changed my name since I'd taken the GRE last, and thought I wanted both sets of scores reported. Apparently I was wrong. I contacted customer service. The following is the little missive I wrote to GRE/ETS in response to that call.

GRE,

I am less than thrilled with your customer service. I was under the impression due to an area of your website (https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/scores/send/) that because I had taken the GRE under my maiden name, I had to register through your website with that account and get my name corrected after the fact. I am very aware that the name on my registration needs to match my ID or I can't take the test. Additionally, the ETS website would not allow me to edit my profile to reflect my name change. 

I called customer service and explained my situation. Now I've been told by your representatives that I have to cancel for only a partial refund and then register again, essentially paying $92 extra on top of the $185 fee. I was quite rudely told by a representative that I deliberately read the website wrong and out of context. Yes, maybe I did read the website wrong. But your website does not clearly cover situations for individuals who take the GRE before and after a name change. I was also told by this same representative that I was supposed to create a completely new ETS profile because I changed my last name and that ETS can't go into the system and change my name for me. It never occurred to me that I would have to create a completely new account because it's ridiculous. Nowhere on your website did it instruct me to do this before I registered. I'm still the same person, why can't I have the same profile?

I see no good way out of my situation because I'm sure ETS would never make an exception for someone who apparently made such a costly mistake on purpose according to your representative, who made it very clear to me that I will never get a full refund. I just want to complain and make sure that other people see this (especially newlywed women like myself) and don't make the same mistake. If you've taken the GRE before a name change, make a new ETS profile and then register. Apparently the instructions I mistakenly read apply to you then, and only then.

-Amanda Cullen,
The Girl Who Reads out of Context.

I'm angry now. But the truth is, right after that representative ended the call, I laid down on the floor and cried like a baby because the system is forcing me to pay approximately $277 for the privilege of taking a standardized test that proves I'm good enough.

UPDATE: I spoke to someone at the testing center on my campus, and she informed me that as long as I have one government issued ID with my maiden name on it I can take the test with it and have my name corrected on everything after the fact. As it just so happens, my Passport was issued less than a year ago and still has my old name on it. Excellent. I don't have to deal with ETS/GRE Customer Service and I can still take the test I originally scheduled.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Prospectus

I apologize for the long absence, assuming I have been missed here. I took much of the summer off, which I haven't done in a while. I spent a lot of time with my new husband and prepared for the fall semester. I'm starting the research portion of my thesis this semester AND I'm teaching an Intro to Anthro course online.

Tomorrow is the end of the second week of the course and it's been very interesting so far. We've covered the basic concepts of anthropology and culture, and delved a little into the four-field approach. The students have good discussion with each other, but seem to wait until the last minute to turn in their individual assignments. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised, having both been there and done that. Hopefully this next week, focusing on the basics of evolution and human variation, will be tons of fun.

I posted my prospectus at Academia.edu if anyone outside of my thesis committee is interested. I'd love to get additional opinions on my ideas, methodology, and anything else really. Some aspects are admittedly vague, but I did this on purpose. I want to have conversations with my research participants about how the Internet has influenced (or not) their identity as an LGBT individual. I don't want to enter these conversations with preconceived notions about what I expect to say or hear, but in my prospectus I do outline the sorts of topics I'd like to discuss.
Ultimately, I want to know if the Internet has any sort of influence on identity formation or expression. One of the underlying premises of my research focuses on rural LGBT residents. Many of them might not have access to the physical social and personal supports that urban LGBT residents might have such as gay friendly spaces or groups. Is this true? Does the Internet possibly alleviate this lack of physical support? Is support necessary or desirable? I think it might be, given that LGBT individuals still count as a marginalized group in the United States. Can aspects of urban areas that might make an LGBT identity less ostracizing be replicated in rural areas? I think the obvious answer would be yes, if more rural places followed the example of places like Vicco, KY. I know attitudes which are prevalent in some rural areas can't/won't become more supportive in a day. But what about gradually? Could more/extensive/consolidated online resources be developed for LGBT individuals who feel isolated in rural areas?

I feel as if this is a topic that needs to be explored more. It could be that I'm wrong. But I'm hopeful about the answers I'll get. I'm from a rural area where I had LGBT acquaintances who spent a lot of time online reaching out to others, which I believe had a huge influence on their identity. I felt isolated in my rural hometown, and I often used the Internet to reach out to others. I still do, sometimes, because the Internet has become part of my identity and my support seeking behavior.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

UWF Anthropology Department Academic Genealogy

For the final project in Presenting Anthropology, the Avant-Garde Challenge, I collaborated with Christina Estep, a fellow cultural anthropology graduate student. Tina conceived of the idea, based on a similar project at her undergraduate institution of William and Mary, to develop an academic genealogy chart for the University of West Florida Anthropology Department. Check out her description of the process and see the charts as they were in development over at her blog, One Does Not Simply Write About Anthropology. Her posting features the cultural anthropology chart, as well as charts which show her academic lineage at UWF as well as mine. It also includes a rough draft of the chart for the entire department.

In this posting, let me share the finalized chart which went into the final portfolio for Presenting Anthropology. Tina and I hope to develop this further, especially be filling in the missing gaps, and make this into a poster to be showcased in the department.
EGO is the place of any student in the department.