[Air-L] Technology as ideologically neutral?

Shulman, Stuart stu at texifter.com
Sun Jul 8 05:25:00 PDT 2012

Here are some of the key dichotomies or spectra I face daily negotiating
the inscribed ideologies (notably plural) of the text analytic technology
that I manage:

Transparent vs. Black Box
Open vs. Closed
Evolving vs. Static
User-shaped vs. Inventor-shaped
Collaborative vs. Individualistic
Free vs. Fee-based
Open Source Data vs. Proprietary Data
General Purpose vs. Sole Purpose
Mixed Method (pluralist) vs. Singularly Qual or Quant (purist or positivist)
Inductive vs. Deductive
Idiosyncratic Outlier-oriented vs. Central Tendency-oriented
Measurement-focused vs. Discovery-focused
Replication-friendly vs. Replication-hostile
Scalable vs. Un-scalable
Machine-centric vs. Human-centric
System Lock-in vs. Interoperability

There are probably many more. In each case there are debates, trade-offs,
and ultimately choices that require software code and a wider architecture
that does not easily fall to one side or the other of a particular instance
of the listed spectra. The ideology of our code is all over this map as a

One of the things I like most about being a technology inventor is talking
at length with a huge ecosystem of very diverse, multi-cultural,
multi-disciplinary, and multi-national users about what it is they think
they want to do with text. Very often, we struggle to say no to a user with
a good idea. A really good idea is usually repeated by successive users and
becomes a trigger for a fork in later stages of technology development.
Usually, these are utilitarian feature requests. However, they can also be
deeper, almost seismic disruptions in my thinking that answer the basic
question: "What the heck is this thing really good for?" This is an
incredibly social process; a melting pot of assumptions, critiques, hopes,
and dreams. The deeply plural nature of the ideologies reflects conscious
selection, unconscious bias, accidents, and necessities like the stark
reality of resource limits. Oh the things I would build with five more
engineers just like the heroic one (Mark Hoy) who has been breathing
hundreds of thousands of lines of code into my long dog walk-inspired
visions since the summer of 2007.

Some of the more scholarly sources of all these ideas are captured in an
article Chi-Jung (Lucie) Lu and I wrote about 5 years ago while I was at
Pitt just starting to develop the free, open-source kernal of what is now a
sprawling mass of running commercial code tapped into the world's social
media, survey data, public comments & email.

You can read it online at: http://www.umass.edu/qdap/IJMRA.pdf

"Rigor and flexibility in computer-based qualitative research: Introducing
the Coding Analysis Toolkit"



Dr. Stuart W. Shulmanhttp://people.umass.edu/stu

Founder and CEO, Texifterhttp://texifter.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/stuart-shulman/10/351/899
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/StuartWShulman

Director, QDAP-UMasshttp://www.umass.edu/qdap

Editor Emeritus, JITPwww.jitp.net

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