Inserting My Path into Argument

As I began plotting information in URT last week, I began concretely dividing my data into layers and thinking about how to construct an argument, and it occurred to me that I was almost leaving out  a very important and fundamental layer or argument of my project- the insertion of myself into the cartographic space that I am constructing.

Normally I’d argue against inserting the self into academic research, but I think in some cases it’s necessary. Looking at the plots i was mapping, I realized that yes, this research could speak in and of itself and make its own argument on its own. As I traced the points I was attempting to plot, I realized however that, due to the fact that I collected this data by basically planting myself in the middle of a neighborhood and “hanging out” to see what I could find, the map space that I took up in this case is fundamental to understanding the cartographic space my data set takes.

Speaking to somebody, I mentioned that gathering data in some ways kind of felt sometimes like a scavenger hunt. While I was able to find research and a couple materials to bolster my data collection, most of my data is primary. And i was interesting to see how one source sort of led to another, or how my spacial path led to information.

My arguments are still centered on the disjunction of dialogue surrounding murals in East Harlem, but I now realize it is necessary to create one final argument that maps my own personal path in data collection. My research IS still a statement of murality in East Harlem, but only really in the places I placed myself so to speak. Even most of the graffiti artists I met who were able to offer a larger picture were met in the spaces I decided to walk or through people I met on my journey.

The insertion of my personal space into this project therefore, I believe is an important footnote to include.

I am mapping information onto a map, but my own personal space informed the data that is being mapped in the first place. It’s an interesting for observation me, and one that I now think is a necessary qualifier.

One comment

  1. This is great, Laura. Yet I think this realization is more than a “footnote” or a “qualifier.” Acknowledging your own role in the project is a significant part of researcher “reflexivity.” Your decision to plant yourself in front of particular murals, to talk to particular people, to allow *those* contacts to lead you to others (which we might consider a form of “snowball sampling”), etc. — all profoundly impacted the arguments you’re able to make, the stories you can tell. This kind of reflexivity is central to ethnomethodology. You might be interested to look into “autoethnography.”

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