|The paradigms of e-Education: An analysis of the communication structures in the research on information and communication technology integration in education in the years 2000–2001|
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The social system selects information from a chaos of possibilities. In scientific research, the question “what” defines the information that is significant for research in the specific research field. Basically a researcher could choose his/her research topic from the chaos of different alternatives, but some alternatives are more obvious and favorable than the others. In practice the question “what” defines the criteria; for example, which research findings will be published in a certain scientific publication (Stichweh 2000, 12). These selection criteria of information describe basically the ontological framework of the research paradigm. Whether we should consider ICT integration in education as software packages, computers, learning environments or complex communication systems, depends on this framework. Each individual research study will enlighten as a little bit on this basic question and it can also be seen as a constitutive element defining a (sub)domain of the research field. Usually the criteria are embedded in the basic research question or the basic problem of the research and are explained in the theoretical framework of the research.
If the research fulfills these theoretical “prerequisites” or expectations about the research domain, a researcher can expect that the research will be adequate in terms of the research domain and maybe it will be funded and published in an appropriate scientific publication. (Funding as a selection mechanism in science is also an interesting form of communication but is beyond the focus of this research). Individual research without further communicative processes (e.g. it is not funded and published) cannot be seen as a part of a communicative system of science, no matter how brilliant the research is. Only what is communicated is part of the social system (Luhmann 1995).
While the “information” criterion relates the research to the research domain, the utterance of information refers to the formal side of the research and can be described with the question “how”. Of course, for the individual researcher the question “how the research was done methodologically” is a more relevant question but from the social system point of view the question “how it was reported to be acceptable as a scientific communication” is more relevant. From the paradigmatic point of view, this question is as important as the question “what”. Which forms of research are recognized as scientific research and which forms of reporting are recognized as scientific reports in a specific research domain? These two formal questions of research are not separate but go hand-in-hand. An utterance in scientific communication means publishing at least in some form.
Methodologically different types of research usually have their own specific forms of reporting. It is easy to recognize this for example by comparing how qualitative and quantitative research is reported. Different scientific publications have their own criteria for publishing as well. Sometimes these criteria can disclose certain research as non-scientific research and the research will not be published. Basically, this question is connected to the epistemological question of the research that defines the method of the research and therefore is fundamentally connected to the way the research is reported (e.g uttered). If these criteria together with the first criteria fulfill the expectations, the research will be published and the next step of communication in scientific system can start.
The question of understanding is probably the most difficult to understand and apply to paradigm research because the selections in the two previous stages are retrospective in a way that this last stage gives the meaning for all the previous selection processes. Stichweh (2000, 10) suggests that we must understand the communicative system bi-directionally: as an ongoing process in time but also as a backward process where communication starts only if there is an instance which understands and projects the difference between information and utterance.
In scientific communication understanding is connected to the discussion and feedback of the scientific community. How does it value a certain piece of research? Does it criticize it or does it generate further research based on that? A research can be rejected or even ignored and the evaluation will change in respect of time. From a paradigm point of view, it is difficult to research this question because the cycle of the discussion is slow and the discussion forums can vary. The analysis is always related to a certain time and it cannot bring back the original meanings and understanding of the concepts as they were introduced to the research. The only thing the research can do is to re-describe the understanding as it is embedded in the research communication itself.
From the paradigm research point of view, one interesting view to the change of a scientific system is the so-called autopoesis or self-production of social systems, where the scientific communication with its selective structures can be seen in a central role in the paradigm change (Vanderstraeten 2000). Social systems use communication as their particular mode of autopoetic reproduction and can be seen as emergently developing systems. An autopoetic system should not be seen as an isolated closed system but an open system which is interacting with its environment and other social systems all the time.
How will a communicative system of science change in the context of paradigm change? The emergent synthesis of the three different selections (information, utterance, understanding) provides the basic dynamics of the cohesion of the science system but also for the development of a paradigm as a structure of a scientific communicative system. The synthesis should not be seen as a static, logical set of selection processes always producing the same result but more like an ever-changing interaction process where the system maintains the relation to the whole with a specific function and other systems with performances (Luhmann 1990. 73).
A social system of science is complex and unstable. A good metaphor for a social system could be an amoeba rather than a machine, which has a mechanistic (natural science) connotation or a monument, which has a construction (constructivism) connotation. The latter metaphor, which has been used for example by Foucault (1972), has its roots in the constructionist epistemology, which considers scientific knowledge as a construction, a monument, which can be researched as it is. This is partly true. A social system is a production of human interaction, but not necessary like a monument, which is metaphorically based on understanding, that the construction could have had a plan – or a hidden plan (as the critical philosophy presumes) and the knowledge is cumulative by nature. Both of the claims can be rejected as the social as a system does not necessary have any plans – or at least not any major plan – which could lead to the accumulation of knowledge and construct a solid monument to be researched. Instead, it has a structure of its own (a paradigm in science), which is based on selections and can be changed only by the system itself and the change is rather qualitative than cumulative by nature. A system like this develops autopoetically (Luhmann 1995), and therefore is always provisional.
The social system is a dynamic autopoetic system, which not only reproduces the paradigm structures but also can change the paradigm evolutionally. It can also split and form new paradigms in terms of specialization and differentiation of sciences. In practice, it looks like a competing paradigm, striking the old one although it existed first as an emerging new “tentacle” of the old “amoeba”, which can grow and form a new “amoeba” of its own. Many paradigm sub-systems can exist parallel in science as we have seen in the postmodern era. This does not mean necessary that the science has totally lost the reference, but merely illustrates the hypothetical and provisional character of all knowledge (Luhmann & Behnke 1994). Only the evolution of the science, society and other systems will show which branches will develop further and which will become obsolete.
The difference in Luhmann’s (1995) thinking about the development of social systems compared to some other constructive epistemologies like enactive constructivism (Bopry 1999) is that the social system and its autopoetical evolution can not be returned back to the intentions of individual persons, and therefore the social systems cannot be formed or changed by an individual person or even a group of people intentionally. The human interaction system and social communicative system are interrelated to each other but fundamentally different although the same processes of self-reference and autopoesis can be seen as main the features in both of them.
The question of what is relevant information for the research field or the domain of ICT integration in education depends on how the research object is defined in the research communication. When we look the definition of the research object from a communication point of view, we can see it as language and concepts.
Traditionally, in sciences following the research idea of natural sciences, the relationship between a concept and its object has been presented three dimensionally, where a concept has been seen as an exact representation of the object. A concept can have a name, which is pointing directly at the same object. This means ideally that a researcher should name the research object strictly by using names coming only from the selected theoretical background to keep the research object fixed. This classical representation triangle (Figure 1) has been adopted by natural sciences, and the research of information technologies seems to have adopted this as well (Verrijn-Stuart 2001, 9). This assumption of representations has made it possible to create the concept of “exact” sciences, and it has been used also by some of the research in social sciences.
In social sciences there is an abundance of different theories, concepts and names pointing to the same object. Any objectively measurable pattern in social interaction, for instance, usually has many explanations depending on the theoretical orientation of the researcher. That explains the conceptual diffusion in the research field of ICT integration in education in many cases. Many research problems in education in general and educational technology in particular is considered as multidisciplinary research objects, but how a common, shared conceptual framework for the research can be found?
Current research in social sciences and language research has not adopted the classical representation triangle as such. According to Luhmann (1995, 94), naming the object is more symbolic generalization than relating a name or sign strictly to the object. This means that symbolic generalization will bridge the multiplicity of meaning dimensions and keeps the concept accessible for different moments of meanings. So, the first understanding of the meaning of the concept can be different from others, which allows consensus with different understandings in details and can display local “bits of meaning”. Symbolic generalization also makes it possible to solve logical problems because even a contradiction or a paradox can have a meaning.
Figure 2. Symbolic generalization (Luhmann 1995) and root metaphors (Aro 1999) in connection with ICT integration in education.
In practical research publications, the symbolic generalization means that, for example a new organization concept in one article can be named a virtual university and in another article a web portal instead of a virtual university, but still this allows researchers to start discussion of the phenomenon even with different exact understanding of the concept. All meanings can still point to a real “object” in “the physical world” or in “the social world” where ICT is changing the operations, structures and functions of the education system (see figure 2).
An analysis of concepts and the symbolic generalizations that are defining the ontology of the research object can be seen also as an analysis of conceptual metaphors. The concept of conceptual metaphor developed by Lakoff (Lakoff & Johnson 1980) among others, pointed out that in conceptual thinking the essence in not only on language per se, but in figures of speech and in the specific way of using language metaphorically when naming the concept. According to this view, instead of trying to find fixed, exact and correct meanings for phenomena like “virtual learning environment”, or “course management system”, we should be interested in finding out what kind of metaphors are used when pointing to the information and communication systems in education or what names are used for ICT integration in education, etc. By analyzing these metaphorical expressions we can find out the original concepts (Lakoff & Johnson 1980, Luhman 1995) or “root” of metaphors (Aro 1999) that is shared by many different metaphorical expressions.
Metaphors emerge in all cultures as figures of speech that relate abstract matters to the physical reality (Lakoff & Johnson 1980). A conceptual metaphor is a shared – but not exact - definition for the concept. A metaphor is not necessarily created for a purpose, as it can emerge in a similar manner to any other cultural object. Cyberspace, for instance, is a metaphor using the meaning copied from physical space, which makes it more understandable for people because things can happen and places are entered like in real space.
In practical applications, a metaphor can also be reinforced by visual means by changing the figures of speech into virtual space with the help of graphical images. From the viewpoint of human experience, the metaphor can be as real as physical reality (Lakoff & Johnson 1980, Ohl & Cates 1997). If we look what is directing human action in practice, cultural artifacts are, after all, as real as the physical objects or subjective experiences.
Metaphorical expressions used in technological applications in education carry the cultural meanings and the pedagogical suppositions when implemented in education. We can assume that the new concepts related to the integration of ICT into education are capable of reproducing and transforming the processes that can be found in traditional education. The transforming and reproduction process is based on the metaphors we are using for naming the applications. Technology is never just a neutral tool in education.
It is also argued that metaphors can be based on pre-existing structures, while at the same time partially structuring the target domain by mapping knowledge of the source domain onto the target (Johnson 1993). This means that the metaphors can be layered and the upper layers of meanings will inherit the meaning from the lower layer. Johnson (1993), for example, claims that metaphors as image schemas have an active role in the constitution of our conceptual system and in the way we reason.
In metaphorical projections, metaphors involve mapping of structures and features (including an image-schematic structure) from a source domain onto a target domain. One consequence of this is that whenever an image schema is projected onto an abstract domain, it carries over its internal structure, and with it, its particular "logic" (Johnson 1993). It is anticipated that the metaphors used generally describing applications of ICT like virtuality, platform, space, bits, community, network, (see Schultze & Orlikowski 2001) will be used to understand educational applications of ICT as well. These metaphors will bring part of the meaning into education as a heritage.
According to Lakoff and Johnson (1980), many of our metaphors can be rooted back to our physical and bodily experiences of the world. We are using our bodily experiences by using metaphors for understanding more abstract concepts. On this basis, metaphors can be divided into two further sub-categories: orientation and ontology metaphors.
Orientation metaphors express directions, advancement and navigation: going in and out, going forward, coming back, time is movement etc. These metaphors give the user information about the priorities in the operation environment, about the order in which to proceed in matters such as learning or the structure of knowledge. For example, the course outline is one of the most important navigation tools for a course.
Ontological metaphors express the fundamental nature of things and can be divided into two different categories. Essence metaphors express the entity and substance of things. Answers to the question “what is all about”. Some things are experienced as resources, tools, etc. These metaphors communicate to the user conceptions about the structure of knowledge, among other things. Some metaphors dealing with the names of things are important, like course, project, module, etc. Container metaphors express things like areas, fields of vision, events, etc. We can say that something is in the Internet, in the virtual classroom, in virtual community, etc.
Orientation metaphors as well as some ontological metaphors have been extensively used in computer interface design. It is now obvious to everyone that we store “files” in “folders” by “dragging” the “file” from the “desktop” to “my documents folder” for instance. It makes it easy for us to understand the nature of the abstract processes that are basically produced by digital (on-off) calculations.
These metaphors are important, as they communicate to the user the "places where the action takes place" in the learning environment and where different types of contents and things are situated (Ohl & Cates 1997). In ICT integration in education, these places often simulate real places such as the virtual classroom, lecture hall, library, etc. At the same time they also transfer pedagogical procedures to these learning environments as metaphorical projections. In the metaphorical analysis, it is important to analyze the ways the metaphors are combined or layered.
Many of the metaphors are implicit and we are using them without noticing. For example, in everyday life and in social sciences the essence of society or social institutions is described by using metaphorical expressions. We can say, that the society is “sick” or the university is “producing” information or the organization can “learn”. Behind these metaphorical expressions can be found a “root metaphor” (Aro 1999, 42), which defines ontologically the society as an “organism” and the university as a “factory”, or an organization as a “human being”. The root metaphor can be identified by grouping the metaphorical expressions according to differences and similarities in their meaning and context in which they are used.
Van Schalkwyk (2002) views the metaphor as playing an important role in co-constructing realities, also research realities. Many theorists have attempted a definition of metaphor that can describe its value and usage. We can say, for example, that metaphor is a device for seeing something in terms of something else. It brings out the “thisness of a that”, or the “thatness of a this”. Indurkhya (1992, 246) explains a metaphor as "an unconventional way of describing (or representing) some object, event or situation (real or imagined)". The process underlying the use of metaphors is essentially that of projection, an unconventional way of interpreting the concept network in a different context or target realm (Indurkhya, 1992). Multiple realities can be constructed from the same metaphor, whereas many metaphors can be conjugated to construe one consensual domain of meaning or reality. A good example of this is the usage of “e-“ in the beginning of the word, which can give the same property for a multiple of other domains, like e-learning, e-mail, e-business, etc.
Metaphorical analysis is specifically relevant when constructing a conceptual framework for researching the ontological definitions of the research object as one of the selection structures of the communicative system of research in ICT integration in education. In fact, this is the fundamental structure defining empirically the research domain as a separate field of study. This definition is always different compared to the normative definitions of researchers, thus the normative definitions are required for formalising the field at universities for instance. New structures for disciplines, funding mechanisms for research, research posts for universities etc. can be established in the research field when the field is developed enough to be recognised by the scientific system itself as a field.
What makes a research article to a scientific article? In this research, the distinction between any article and a scientific one is made from the point that a scientific article describes more precisely why we can trust that the information reported is true. In practice this means that the article must be more precise in describing the research design: how the method of acquiring the information is reported, how the analysis is reported, how the results are reported and how the trustworthiness of the research is evaluated. It attempts to answer the basic question: what distinguishes true (adequate) knowledge from false (inadequate) knowledge? Practically, this question translates into issues of scientific methodology: how can one develop theories or models that are better than the competing theories? (Heylighen, 1993.) In the philosophy of science, these questions are studied by epistemology, which is the branch of philosophy that studies knowledge.
Historically, epistemology was concerned with the sources or methods of knowing: which methods of belief-formation, which routes to belief, augur well not only for belief production but for the production of knowledge? Which routes to belief offer good prospects (or the best prospects) for yielding true, justified belief? (Goldman 2001)
In the research concerning the paradigmatic communication structures of science, it is essential to see how the trustworthiness of information acquired in research is justified in communication. In this thesis, it is not an intention to analyze the “real” epistemic assumptions of the researcher as an individual and how the researcher actually ensured that the information in the research is true, but how the researcher is able to convince rhetorically the publishers, other researchers and readers of the scientific nature of the report. Due to its own epistemic basis, this thesis is not even able to make such interpretations of “original” meanings, as Foucalult (1972) explains in the archaeology of knowledge and Luhmann (1995) in the theory of social communication systems. Discourse and communicative structures cannot be returned back to the individual, intentional operations, e.g. researchers “actual” thinking and operation, nor any hidden discourses can be found. The communication structures can be described only as they are.
In the description of the scientific rhetoric related to the epistemic bias of the research only a three-dimensional description to realistic, contextual and constructionist epistemologies (Madill et al. 2000) will be possible. The typical utterances related to these epistemic approaches could be described and identified. Any more detailed analysis could be too ambitious in the context of this thesis which is aiming only to identify the selection structures of utterance of the communication. More detailed analysis is a separate research project aiming at philosophical analysis of the epistemic approaches.
Madill et al. (2000) associate the basic differences in the three different epistemic approaches to the discussion of objectivity and reliability of the research. These qualities come under discussion when different scientific approaches are compared and the essence of science is discussed. Madill et al. (2000) relate overwhelming reliance on statistical analyses to achieving objectivity and reliability. Any competent researcher could repeat the research and come to same conclusions. Consistency, stability and repeatability can be associated with this approach. According to the realistic approach, research is discovering knowledge. Steiner (2002) relates naturalistic epistemologies also to technicity, which can relate a naturalistic approach to the instrumental relationship to the research subject calling them to “clients”, “consumers”, or “end users”.
According to Madill et al. (2000) critical naturalistic epistemological approach to scientific research is very close to contextual or contextual constructionist epistemologies. Typical of these approaches is emphasis of inter-subjective meanings and rather replacing the “objectivity” with “permeability”, the capacity of theories or interpretations to be changed by encounters with observations. This means the research is emphasizing the locality, provisionality and situationality of knowledge (Madill et al. 2000). Contextual research usually “grounds” the results to original observations or texts and sometimes uses the research subjects as judges of the truth (Madill et al. 2000).
Radical constructivism does not seek any justification from the participants account of the research results because it does accept the idea that the language could represent the reality hence knowledge is considered as a discursive construction. (Madill et al. 2000). According to constructivist epistemologies, the objectivity of the research is not necessarily counterpoised with subjectivity but rather it is dependent on subjectivity. Radical constructivism does stress the importance of providing raw data to assess the adequacy of an analysis. (Madill et al. 2000).
When analyzing understanding, the ultimate goal of the research, the analysis is still an analysis of communication selection structures. The meaning of each piece of research is in its own goals and interests as expressed in the research report. Sometimes these goals are expressed clearly and sometimes not so clearly. Sometimes the expressed goal of the research is only part of the value structure and interest the research is aiming at. The ultimate understanding of the research field is embedded in the goals of the research.
The concept of “research interest” was introduced by Habermas (1987) to explain the connection between knowledge and society. According to Habermas (1987, 308) there are three categories of processes of inquiry on which the knowledge-constitutive interest of research can be demonstrated. The approach of empirical-analytic research incorporates a technical cognitive interest. Historical-hermeneutic research incorporates a practical approach and critically oriented research incorporates the emancipatory cognitive interest.
Habermas’ concept of “interest” has been widely used in the sociology of science and in educational research. In education the question has been what the interest of teaching and education is in general. A tradition has emerged of emancipatory research and education among critical science researching hidden agendas and power structures among the actors in education.
According to Blühdorn (2000, 351) the central argument in Habermas’ thinking on research interests is that underneath the communication of a social function system there is a subject-centered communicative rationality or ideology, which can provide a counterweight to the function codes. So he basically believed that a human intention could steer the interest of a social system, which in the context of this research is a research paradigm.
The interest of research can also be seen as a discursive formation, where researchers are actors of discourse and agents of social change. In this view interests and strategies of individual researchers are seen through embedded social and political constrains. (Skillington 1997.) From this critical philosophy’s understanding one could draw the conclusion that some strategically positioned researchers or a group of researchers could consciously steer research within a certain paradigm based on their own ideologies. Further, the problem for research on research interests is to find these strategic agents influencing the paradigm and uncover their political intentions.
There are also some other approaches to understand the concept of interest. According to Lemke (Lemke 1995) humans are self-organizing systems that set their own goals and produce order without having external order imposed on them, or, more precisely, they participate in ever-larger self-organizing supersystems in which there are always new, emergent goals at each stage. As actions occur, they change the possibilities for further action, and goals change along the way. Lemke calls this model an emergent agenda, which is a cognitive model of how action agendas and goals emerge through the dynamics of self-organization in collaborative activities.
The idea of emergent agendas does not explain very much about the supersystems as an environment of humans and where the goals of the supersystems come from. The explanation still remains individualistic, assuming that agendas will emerge in collaboration with other people and their agendas. This point of view cannot explain the existence and dynamics of research interests as part of a paradigm that is a structure of a communicative social system of science. If a researcher wants to participate in a scientific communication, the emerging interest of the researcher, as Lemke describes it, does not emerge only in collaboration with other people without any imposing of external influence. In fact, the expectations coming from the communication system of science or a specific subsystem of science or a paradigm will be imposed on the motivation of the researcher. These expectations can be seen to be the results of the interaction between an individual researcher and a paradigm system and can be understood in terms of self-socialization: intentional action of the individual cannot control the effect of the action on the paradigm system and a paradigm system cannot transform the paradigm for the researcher.
The structure of the communicative system consists only of expectations and of expectations of expectations, which will interfere with the researcher. The result is not a consensus, not a total socialization of the researcher. The possibility of disagreement from the researcher and the possibility of ignorance in the paradigm system will create the dynamics of autopoetic self-organization in both of the systems: in the researcher as a human system and in paradigm as a structure of a social system of science (see Vanderstraeten 2000).
To understand research interests being realized in a paradigm structure we have to understand two different kinds of functions in a social system: First, interaction with the environment of a system like communication, expectations, self-socialization and second, communication with the other systems, like economics, politics and law. We have to remember that each of the social systems is a part of a larger system of society and therefore is not isolated from the rationality and communication of the other systems. So the interest is not a hidden agenda, but a reality that makes research meaningful for the researcher and for the society.
We can assume that a research interest will be embedded in the research texts in a rhetoric form expressing the goals and purpose of the research. These expressions may be interfered with of agreements and dis-agreements with the individual researchers (= their own interpretation of it) and is necessarily interfered with of the rationalities of the other systems of the society. We can expect to identify these expressions of interests from the research documents or publications intended to communicate with other researchers and explaining the goal of the research.
The interest of research can also be seen as the social relevance of the research. The researcher tries to seek a larger meaning and context for the research from two different points: responding (giving meaning) to the information presented by other researchers on that specific topic and by expressing new information (results) for other researchers to be evaluated. In this way, the researcher is looking backwards to history and forwards to the future in this process. The analysis in this research can seek answers to questions: the “why” in the beginning of the research when the researcher contextualizes the research and the “so what” in the end of the research when the researcher suggests the significance of the findings of the research. In this context, the interest of the research can be seen as a documented part of the understanding process of the communicative system. Especially the rhetoric text where the researcher is seeking the motivation of the research from a larger, societal context, will communicate the researchers understanding of the research interest that is expected to communicate.
To understand the research reports and articles as products of personally and socially meaningful research processes within a scientific communicative system, we need to make some basic definitions in relation to time-bound activities and social.
In everyday experience, we can consider time as an entity which can be observed and measured objectively. The past and future can be understood on this basis. In the research observing cultural artifacts and phenomena, this definition of time may not be satisfactory. Luhmann (1995, 78-79) defines the flow of time as a difference between two presents, which are simultaneously given. In any event, it is impossible to experience or to act in the past or in the future as it was or as it will be. Only the temporal horizon shifts as time progresses. So the futures and pasts can only be thematized, not experienced or acted. This means that events and objects do not have any exact original meaning but a generalized, slightly different meaning that we give it in our temporal acts. For example, when a researcher writes a research article and publishes it being personally sure that the content is scientific fact, it will be understood slightly differently when another researcher is reading it in different time, in different place and in different social context. There is no exact original meaning to recover but the meaning is given recursively. Still the research can be recognized and understood as a scientific research article only representing the time and context in which it was created.
Time is the dimension which divides the processes of temporal interaction and social communication in Luhmann’s (1995) social systems theory. All the actions happening in temporal, like social interaction between individuals, are related to a social dimension, but they are not entirely the same processes as the social communicative processes. The social dimension is “timeless” in the sense that it has been developing historically through interactions but it cannot be retuned back to a temporal interaction system any more. Thus, the social system carries the meanings over the time and even over generations – but not exactly as they were experienced in the temporal interaction but as symbolic generalization (Luhmann 1995, 94) of concepts.
In the same way, the elements of physical world, like our bodily experiences, culture artifacts like books, technology, etc. are always present in meaningful action. The following figure illustrates the three dimensions (Luhmann 1995, 87) in which context a research report (as a culture object) and concepts (as conceptual metaphors and tools), as a part of scientific communication, can be understood.
Figure 3. A contextually and personally meaningful research process producing research reports as culture objects (text).
The difference with some of the constructive theories, which has been commonly used for understanding meaningful activities in research is that the interaction system (individuals intentional activity) is not able to change or control the other systems of the social and physical world as intended but only having responses which can increase one’s understanding of these systems. According to Luhmann (1995) all the systems are dynamically different and will change autonomously (autopoetically). The naïve idea of constructing a scientific system intentionally as a project can be discarded.
The fact that the researcher refers to previous research and gives some meanings to the phenomena or events in his / her research does not mean that exactly the same meanings will be transformed from research report to research report. And again, the readers of the report may understand it differently. Each of these interpretations will be performed from a certain temporal horizon which is unique.
If we look at the genesis of the conceptual metaphors (Johnson 1993) as carriers of meanings from the point of a temporal horizon (rooting even back to bodily experiences), a symbolic generalization and three-step selection process of the social system (Luhmann 1995), we can see that the conceptual metaphors (researchers’ conceptual tools) have historical layers of meanings. Originally simple physical objects and bodily processes (like orientation, movements, flow of time etc. – different personalized “tools”) have had more conceptual layers of meanings when the researchers and scientists have invented ever-increasing complex systems.
In temporal acts (see figure 4 above), the research process and the writing process of each of the sample articles consist of the historical chain of developments of the research object, the problem, the framework and the paradigm. The researcher constitutes the framework of references, concepts etc. on the basis of his/her understanding of the current state of the art in the field of study. In this process, the researcher is giving meaning retrospectively to the previous articles and publications, which can be, and quite often is, different from the intended meaning of these previous researchers. In fact, each researcher will discard most of the information available in the field by not commenting on (or understanding) it, or because some of the information does not “fit” nicely in the framework. Thus, by creating their research framework and defining the research problems, researchers are participating to the selection process of the communication system of science (e.g. research paradigm). By this peculiar way the researchers are interfering the selective structure of the social system, or discursive practice and the monuments of concepts, as Foucault (1972) would say the same thing.
The process will continue in another time and also reports and articles can be commented on or ignored by other researchers. From the individual researcher’s point of view, the paradigmatic selections of the research are time dependent and can be viewed of as subjective, though reflective actions. In fact, the reflection happens always in the framework of the communication system (or as discursive practice) and therefore can be considered also as expectations.
The historical analysis of temporal research interactions in different times would be the comparison of these subjective choices at different times and it would be quite useless as Foucault (1972) explains. Instead, if we look at the same process from the “timeless” social communication system point of view, the conceptual ideas to be presented (information), the ways of acceptable scientific communications (utterance), and different generalizations and understandings (understanding) are embedded in each of the research report and articles. We can call this embedded structure also a paradigm. In order to get an historical perspective for the analysis, the researcher can “scratch” the layers of meanings, like an archaeologist does, for the historical objects.
So, theoretically one single article could be broken into meaningful units and interpretation of the structures of scientific communication spelled out. The problem may be that the current development of research techniques does not provide widely accepted valid analysis tools to make any generalizations based on the analysis of one single article. The descriptive and interpretative validity (Johnson 1997) can be questioned and the interpretation would easily be understood as a personal opinion, and not considered as scientific research. Especially these research approaches with realistic epistemologies, which are seeking objective evidence for the generalization of the result, would not accept this kind of research without measures like methodological, investigator or data triangulation (Johnson 1997). Therefore in this research, multiple articles will be selected (data triangulation) presenting roughly the same time period (2000 – 2001), but various research orientations as explicated in the contextual analysis. This will result in better coverage of the field and therefore better descriptive validity, although it will generate much more text to be analyzed. The amount of text will postulate a computer based qualitative analysis process.