Should Cultural Studies be RAD?

Photo Credit: uwinnipeg Flickr via Compfight cc

In my own journey through a graduate program in Rhetoric and Composition, I have frequently needed to look at my own research in terms of a simple but often tossed around phrase in my field: is it R.A.D.? Coming from the work pushing against what was seen as writing studies research that was seemingly unable to be replicated due to missing information or lack of clarification, Haswell (2005) writes of scholarship that should meet a simple criteria: replicable, aggregable, and data-supported. Although controversial in some circles, the call to have RAD research has been taken up by many to be a rallying-cry to have scholarship based in clear, articulated methodologies and methods that could, in other contexts, be repeated to the same results.

In recently taking a cultural studies survey course, I broached this subject, given my background, of if cultural studies scholarship should have the same goal. Is there a responsibility, I asked, to outline in clear terms how an analysis was done and provide a framework for others to repeat the work? Even with the more pedagogical bent cultural studies scholarship often has, is there some type of ethical concern for the audience to help them, in their own work and context, come to the same conclusions or conceive of topics in the same way?

While no clear answer arose from this discussion of what I was deeming ‘ethical concerns,’ what was pushed back at me – rightly so – was if cultural studies needed to be RAD at all. Instead of worries of replicability, should not the work itself take a center stage? As with pedagogical, or even more activist trends, in cultural studies, was not the concern of the scholarship one of informing toward a call to action instead? Or even if some action could be repeated in the future? Shouldn’t I turn the question away from “is” and toward a greater placement of “should” when it comes to cultural studies research and work?

It is one I have wrestled with since this turnaround for me. Clearly, yes, research should seek to outline the methodology, even the epistemology depending on the work, used in its construction. And there is a strong feminist obligation to disclose the self in the work and how the positioning of the researcher in regard to her work affects – and is affected by – methods, participants, and processes used. The researcher is embodied in and a part of all of her work. Yet, I have been left wondering, is this RAD? I certainly believe in the importance and often reliance of the subjectivity of the researcher in her work. There is no objectivity to be had and any attempt at it should be rejected. Yet, what does this mean at the same time for aggregability? Replicability?

Have I, in pursuing stricter, more formalized methods of study fallen into a trap of assuming some implicit objectivity in the data-driven component of RAD? If the researcher is the source of the unique ability to communicate certain observations, doesn’t that limit the ability of others to do the same things and reach the same goals? Might there be a place of intersection between the performance of the researcher and wanting to impart results in such a way to be RAD?

As someone questioning everything about this, including if I am imparting some overt need to organize this, I am left very unsure. Should cultural studies be RAD? Is this a question worth asking to begin with? What does it say about me that I even consider it in the first place?