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.

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