Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

a “new” methodology?

June 14th, 2005

Unlikely. 🙂 But my prof thinks I’m up to something (this has happened before, btw!) She was “struck by the approach” of “involving your informants by sharing your analyses/engaging in participatory methods…so early.”
The question is, does sharing my thoughts on the blog “help” or “hinder” the research effort?

Some of her questions and my responses:
“Are these summaries of the clusters of interactions/observations and interviews?” Yes. I think of them as a continuation of the interview, showing my thinking more substantially as it occurs in (or near) the moment, as patterns come into my perception.
“What kind of information do you purposefully leave out of them?
I purposely leave out information that I think might link a participant with particular content. Even though the interviews are (for the most part) conducted one-on-one, they occur within the Parliament building and we are often seen by others. I don’t want anyone’s particular statements to be identified, so if I think something might give a person away I don’t include it here. These posts are too close in time to the actual interviews and some savvy person might put two-and-two together, as it were.
“What is your purpose in sharing so soon?”
Well. This is the question that matters the most, yes? First, it is to disrupt the power position of the outside observer who collects knowledge and holds it close in order to package it “properly”. Second (although I’m not sure the ranking is an actual prioritization), it is to generate energy around the research &emdash; its object, aim, and goals. I had the most affirming conversation recently with an interpreter who said she’d finally taken the time to read the blog. She said she just kept going and going and going. 🙂 She was “amazed” that I had gotten so much, and represented it so well. She appreciated the comparison with journalism and explained how, no matter how well-intentioned journalists are, they always get something wrong. She felt I had gotten nothing wrong. Maybe that’s because I am also an interpreter and I can “live” in this world? I don’t know. But she was so enthusiastic and emotive that I was not only gratified, but also validated.
Third….this is harder to explain. It has to do with theories of language and the social construction of reality, and my own conviction that discourse is the way to social justice. I think we must “talk it into being.” Monologues won’t cut it; private conversations aren’t enough. We need a public sphere.
“A question: would these folks otherwise be in dialogue? Or are you creating a new forum?”
This, I didn’t know. I’ve received some feedback that my questions are bringing to the surface things interpreters have thought but typically don’t discuss with each other. There is some relief (?), or validation (?) that colleagues think similarly about certain things. Many interpreters have asked me at some point during the interview if others have given similar or different responses. It seems to feel good (to those who have asked) to find their perceptions and concerns are to varying extents in sync with their colleagues. A comment that’s been said more than a few times is that I’m asking questions that gets them thinking about things that are “there” but not usually said or explored. I’ve been appreciated for being an “outsider” coming in. I don’t think I’m “creating” anything, because the knowledge and perceptions have always been there. I’d say I’ve only been a stimulus for pre-existing impulses to emerge.

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