Masculinities in Cyberspace – Schmitz & Kazyak

You know me, I’m fascinated by masculinities online and when I came across this citation I just couldn’t resist! I’m usually a stickler for methodology in gender research but this paper really got me thinking. I’ll admit it’s not my perfect cup of tea…

But it’s pretty close!

Schmitz, R. M., & Kazyak, E. (2016). Masculinities in Cyberspace: An Analysis of Portrayals of Manhood in Men’s Rights Activist Websites. Social Sciences5(2), 18.

The context that Schmitz and Kazak acknowledge is that of a growing use of cyberspace providing ” a more legitimate, accessible space for anti-feminist backlash to cultivate and spread across regions and cultural contexts” and more generally for counter masculinities to form, such as bronies and men who enjoy pegging who “directly challenge heteronormative sexual scripts by promoting a wider range of sexual practices viewed as acceptable and masculine”. It’s really great that the authors position cyberspace as a tool or an environment rather than a net evil/good. They don’t go into the specifics of this but this paper is an extension of their other work  “Cyber Lads in Search of Masculinity and Virtual Victims in Search of Equality” (who’s citation I can’t find!).

I don’t know what I was expecting but I’m deffo not surprised

The methodology the authors use is a content analysis that while it sounded pretty flakey turned out to be somewhat solid… though this is the first time I’ve seen it used! From what I understand, they took 50 pieces of content from 12 MRA blogs, hand tagged subthemes and then used the interactions of these subthemes to generate overall themes or strategies that the men’s rights activists were using to progress their aims. Seems a little subjective and open to the researcher’s prejudices but honestly, they seem a well detached pair of researchers so while there were elements of interpretation that seemed like out of hand condemnation, I somewhat trust their methodology.

In terms of how to replicate in a comp-lang situation, I think that I would tag keywords using proximity to construct networks of subthemes, manually look at these associations, bucket them and see how they function as repetitive structures/ngrams from this we might be able to create a general/abstract argument and progressions that one could put into context and use to create conclusions that would be backed up by the size of effect within the corpora? Maybe… or something.

The research questions that the authors were trying to answer were;

” are the sampled MRA groups antithetical to feminism and the goals of gender equality?”
” what strategies do online MRA groups utilize to delegitimize feminism and the goals of gender equality?”
It’s a big paper so I’m going to make this a two-parter because I really want to focus on the research methods that they used. The tool that they used to categorise their data is called  QDA Miner by Provalis and looks to be a tool that has applied some ML and NLP techniques to create a tool that can tag and analyse texts with and without supervision. There is a free version that I’m going to be downloading and checking out (watch this space).
Pretty graphs!
Some of the killer features that I’ve found GDA Miner has are easy access to code-co-occurrences that shows relationships between tagged codes such as hierarchical cluster analysis, proximity plots and more. Interestingly, this and the other statistical outputs of the tool aren’t used by the authors in their work.
The other killer feature that I could find any intel about was something called a ‘Coding Sequence’ tool. This is a really interesting idea that would be able (with the manual coding preceding it) to identify sequences of arguments, the flow of writing and so on. This is similar to the potential comp-lang methodology I proposed earlier.

Next up will be the conclusions and analysis of the methodology that the authors propose here

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