Friday, January 30, 2009

An Artist's Spirit

How can knowledge about a social phenomenon be best gained through interviews and if I express my knowledge through the arts how might this contribute to social knowledge of the phenomenon?

As researchers in the area of social phenomenon we are not trying to produce timeless truths. I have discovered that knowledge is a truth of my own personal reality. It is constructed by our own experience in the world. And not all experiences led to any great knowledge. So when we find ourselves aware of a phenomenon that attracts our attention we now are looking deeply at it. If what attracts our attention is also experienced by others, they may be able to tell us more about it from their truth or their reality based on their experiences. It is in language that we are able to express our experiences. We as the seeker of the story will have our own truth to work from and have unique collection of tools at our hands depending on where we stand in this world.

Now I think that most of us believe that the world is not flat but many teachers/researchers still collect data as if it were. If we change our visual image of the earth from being flat to the earth being a sphere in our minds our understanding about going deep changes it’s shape. earth hug With this image in mind the interview can’t be deep if the interviewer goes linear and stays flat with simple one-shot question and answers. When I read through the descriptions of each of the different kinds of interview types, I was informed that each of these is a method of collecting qualitative data. I myself could see me shifting in and out of each one of these varied methods. I think back to our first reading from page 5 of the concept of the researcher being a quilt maker. I truly believe for the interview to be a meaningful or valid method of collection, the researcher should be prepared to craft questions from all sorts of direction and deploy what ever strategy seems to be appropriate to the question at hand. If we just interview in a fashion of question and answer we end up with a very flat quilt with very little depth. If we take the notion of a dialogue approach and spend time visiting and revisiting the participant we end up with a thicker description and richer data. By dialogue I mean allowing space between the listener and the speaker. In this magical space is where understanding may occur. Since we are no longer working with the notion that the participant is faceless and that the researcher is invisible the dialogue approach would make a better fit for how I wish to approach my research.
I would like to try to apply my understanding on Arts Based Inquiry to my own research. I do happen to come to research with an artist’s spirit so I wonder what do I need to be mindful of because this is something I may very well do? I wonder how can the arts support the construction of new meaning? And when we say new meaning, whom do we mean? What about creating a space for this construction? I think it is more like fostering a community in order for participants to feel comfortable to dialogue with you and your research. How do we behave in this environment? What skills and strategies do we need? At this point I see three main ideas to contemplate. The first is the notion of community and the second how best to manage and participate within it and the third is to invite a broad range of perspectives into my community.


I think many of us have heard of the term Shift in education but is that the right word? Is it not more of a Rupture? What are we shifting from? What are we shifting towards? Or is it just a division of thinking that will never come together? I created a Cmap in order to organize my thinking on this and I placed a snap shot of it on my web page. It is huge have a look:

Monday, January 26, 2009

Connected Knowledge

1. How can qualitative researchers participate in creating ‘public spaces in which marginalized people’s narratives can be heard even those who normally do not want to hear them’ ?
2. How can researcher’s authoritative voice contribute to social change?

I am not sure about the creation of public spaces as in the sense build it and they will come but there sure are enough spaces all ready present to allow for the qualitative researcher to fully participate in a global dialogue today. What we need to keep in our heads the notion of a lived experience and that we need to participate if we want the social change aspect. In this chapter Chase reminds us that the lived experience is and event that has potential to be transformative in nature if we are open to transacting with the data we gather. Not just in its collection but in the interpretation and expression of our understanding of it. If it is going to be transformative then it is not a one shot deal, it takes place over time. The tools we have available to us today as researchers allow us to participate in collaborative collection, interpretation and expression of ideas and these tools are expanding daily. Individuals now have to the opportunity to articulate individual ideas, remix, and co-create with others. In a Web 2.0 read-write environment the tools for creativity and communication have now become very democratic. We now have more possibilities to participate and not have to actually be physically present. The notion of fixed knowledge is extinct.
If you are like me you first experienced society and school in broadcast fashion. You sat and you listened, you thought and you sometimes communicated your thinking, end of story. However I have become aware of a shift in our culture, on the radio and TV we moving away from direct broadcast news and understandings to a more ‘participatory’ newscast. Technology today gives people the potential to participate in a more creative, open sharing of ideas. Emails, Blogs, homemade video, social networking, text messages and yes YouTube all give us an opportunity to participate in our news and even the traffic reports, why not in our research.

As humans we are capable of many complexities. Traditional text while informative is still very limited in the ability to make connections and articulate complex thoughts and emotions. In our readings this week we no double were involved in a dialogue of a kind with the text but when we viewed the video the elements of sound and images that are included in this medium expand the author’s ability to articulate complexities of emotion. Because of this I think we need to think differently about data and knowledge. We can now think of a digital camera whether video or still as a tool to capture some of this complex data.
What impact does this have on our understanding of knowledge? In this case this kind of knowledge is not a something to find. Dewey would say knowledge is found in the happening of experience. However I think even Dewey would agree that our understanding of knowledge in a digital world needs to expand because of how we experience the world has become more networked and nebulous. This gives today’s qualitative researcher a different authoritative voice (and face) because it speaks from the wisdom of crowds and it is this wisdom that may contribute to social change. It is the blending of these voices that gives the message a new connected authority.

Personally I am excited about this. The world is indeed rich and in the world of web 2.0 is just got richer. The power of we!

Picture of knowledge

I believe the world is alive. It is constantly in motion. As Qualitative researchers we need to come to the table open to the possibility that we might learn something that may take us in a new direction as we explore. When studying anything such as a social phenomenon I believe it is important for us to not loose site of the fact that we live in the world. I believe we are connected to the phenomena just by being alive. If we want to capture any part of a truly lived experience we need to remind ourselves we do not live in a vacuum. How can we study the “other” as if it lived on Mars? We need to participate in the study. In this case we need to be prepared to dialogue with what we discover in order to use a wide range of interconnected interpretations. We do not need to concern ourselves with notions of timeless truths because truth is found in our own sense of reality through interpretation of it. “Objective reality can never be captured. We know a thing only through its representations”(p. 7). As Qualitative researchers we set about to study what is found in front of us and all around. We do not need to concern ourselves with the model of cause and effect, or right and wrong because we now know there are many ways to be right and there are many stories to be told. The often used language of “… investigate the causes of high drop out rates among ESL students ...), suggests that we are looking for a reason so that we can fix something that is perceived broken.

I believe the world has edges. I believe that there is more out there, things unseen, that there is mystery in the world and that we cannot prove everything. To investigate we need to have a spark, to take notice of a happening and then seek to understand it. The first step in any research is to notice something to causes us to care and then name it. To see that a situation requires inquiry is the first step in inquiry. The next is to take action to understand the phenomenon. Understanding depends on your time and place. This is a different way of understanding that takes us away from the traditional scientific approach.

We bring with us into research backpacks full of experiences. It is important for us to recognize what is contained within but as Qualitative interpreters we need not remove them at the door. He no doubt will come to his research with his own backpack of experiences. My advise to any researcher would depend on what is in his or her backpack and his or her philosophy of being in the world. Philosophy means to love knowledge. The search for this depends on the method of research. It is a kind of lens or his point of viewing. Perhaps it is a picture of knowledge. His point of viewing is not so much about the picture that represents the phenomenon but is the frame he may choose to put it in. Much thought must go into matching the frame to the picture.

Conversation Begun

I have created this blog in an effort to be more interactive with my thoughts as I live my way through my doctorate in educational technology. Today I want to remember that I watched a video from Stephen Downes on Web 2.0 and Your Own Learning and Development. This is an attempt to take some of his advise and organize my knowledge in a more connected manner.