Verbing Method

In 691 Method~ologies this morning, we re-traced some of the semester’s
where have we been
: history, discourse analysis, ethnography and now
theory. Obviously there’s overlap aplenty–blends and
interplays among these methodological orientations. In supershort form, history considers memory, record, retrospectives and recovery; discourse analysis works primarily with language and corpus (linguistic objects of study); ethnography notices people, culture and pattern/dynamics; and theory (small-t)
accounts for a wide variety of stuff not limited to reading, writing, and
thinking. Assemble, arrange, re-arrange, and answer curiosities, solve
problems. No, these aren’t my complete notes, and perhaps these few lines
aren’t very good as thin representations of ten weeks of work.
There’s a whole lot more to say here. But I wanted to raise a side
question or two about method and methodology. When the subject of
method~ology comes up, I’m increasingly tuned in to the part of speech invoked
in the conversation. This has especially been the case with ethnography. The noun positions the method as a thing already done by others; it acknowledges a tradition and model projects against which we measure the edges defining the activity involved with doing ethnography. Is it like documentary? Must it feature human subjects? If we look to a set of nouned ethnographies (things, already-existing objects), then answering is possible. But the answer is set against a generic backdrop of the stuff already done.
I don’t know that we have a good verb for doing ethnography (ethnograph?
ethnographize? um…no). The chosen term, however, has bearing. Consider the
difference between using use the noun–ethnography–or the
adjective–ethnographic–to account for the way of doing, ultimately the
way of describing the research activity. And consider the verbs that we could collect under the broad (or is it narrow) rubric of ethnography: notice, observe, etc. What does this all come to?
Well, I’m finding it more and more appealing to talk about methods as verbs, and
I’m also wondering whether the methodology-as-noun departs from (or, on the
other hand, refers to the same thing as) genre. Near enough as to be thought the same thing?

Program notes: The
fall symposium on
visual and digital rhetorics
is happening on Thursday and Friday–two days
of workshops and talks with Anne Wysocki, Jeff R.,
and Jenny E. What’s not to look forward to?