Why I am no longer a Critical Theorist

LyotardLeave it to Maha Bali in her Embracing Paradox: Both/And Mentality and Postmodernism to get me thinking about critical theory and how I find myself somehow free of it.

Egads, what did I just say?

Power is all around us, right?

I agree.

Do all people operate with equality and fair use of power?

Certainly not in my experience.

So how can you be beyond critical theory, given that it Continue reading “Why I am no longer a Critical Theorist”

(Online) Identity in Postmodernity

I am starting to be a little restless with my blog byline recently; perhaps it no longer fits me or I have outgrown it. The wonderful thing about websites is that they can grow and develop with us.

My current one is:

Research and Practice in Postmodern Learning

This combines my educational research focus with my need to integrate my learning with practice, coupled with a worldview that is increasingly postmodern. Now, almost a year into my doctoral studies, with my professional practice filled with project management, teaching, conferences, and publishing; it may be time for a change.

I want something that will integrate my degree focus, E-Research and Technology Enhanced Learning, into this, while still allowing for my academic interests in qualitative research designs, autoethnography and narrative inquiry, and transformative learning as an experience in critical identity formation. Having recently been influenced by the term postmodernity in the text Identity in Question, I am considering:

(Online) Identity in Postmodernity

This feels right to me; what do you think?

Are Transformation and Power Shifts All of Nothing Events?

Jacqlyn S. Triscari is presenting this session. Her answer to the session title is simply, no! The purpose of her qualitative research study is about the role of power and shifts in power that occur in an organization during an organizational transformation. How is the transformation process intertwined with shifts in power, and issues in and around power? She spoke about organizational change as the main framework, and then organizational development (OD, which is a policy and procedure way of managing change that comes from senior management) and organizational transformation (OT, which addresses issue of culture and people).

She addresses issues of critical reflection and altering values / assumptions / beliefs. She used a case study, which was a non-profit that provides services for people with developmental disabilities. With her case study,  she interviewed senior management, documents monthly newsletters as DVDs where senior management spoke, interviews with workers, and focus groups.

Her theoretical framework was Critical Organizational Theory with a Postmodern Lens. She did a spin on mainstream organizational theory (Abel, 2005), which is generally around maintaining the status quo. She then added critical theory, specifically critical management studies and critical HRD (cf. Alvesson & Wilmott, 1992). Jacqlyn did a nice job explaining these critical organizational theories and how they merge into transformative theories. Critical Organizational Theory and its view of power assumes power from society spills  over to organizations, diversity is seen broadly and includes many organizational factors, some people have more voice than others, and power is repressive and a negative entity. Postmodernism includes multiple views, perspectives, and voices that are encouraged, deconstruction is used as a teaching, learning, and questioning tool, context is crucial, no preferred ways of thinking, and solutions (even temporary ones) are sought. Needless to say, based on my blog’s subtitle, this is something I am really interested in. Postmodern organizational theory posits power that exists, though it is not good or evil, and this is based on the work of Foucault.

I asked a question about how deconstruction was done within the organizations; she will come back to this and respond later.

There is a lot of research on (planned) change (OD change), but less on organizational transformation with its issues of power.

She used a Spiral of Analysis (cf. Cepeda & Martin, 2005)—she did an analysis and then brought the findings to more people in the organization to test them out. This process reminds me of the PDSA (Plan – Do – Study – Act) cycle in the performance improvement literature.

One of the fundamental things that she learned from the workers within the organization—they followed what management told them to do (policies), unless they knew they were wrong. This was in part linked to the CEO’s initial tea and cookie session, when the CEO told the workers that sometimes you stand alone when you are right. The CEO gave a list of values, and asked the employees to accept the one(s) they thought were right and agreed with.

She was then asked at the end to reflect on what she learned and how she has changed (reminds me of my Lancaster paper I submitted last week and am now revising). One of  the items is that maybe power does not follow organizational lines. There is more than one “reality” to any event. In this way, everybody can be right.

A person in the audience recommended a Sage text by Dvora Yanow – Conducting Interpretive Policy Analysis, that may be useful for this style of research.

Trying on a New Tagline

This past week I raised the issue of rebranding my blog by updating my tagline. Thanks to all those wonderful colleagues who offered their comments on this, I am making an update and will “try it on” for a week or so. If I like it, I will keep it; if it still feels somehow incomplete or inaccurate, I will adjust it again.

So, I went from:

Reflective practice in organizational learning, educational technology, and postmodern society.

to

Fostering the practice of postmodern learning and research.

I believe this includes my passions:

  • reflective practice
  • learning paradigms
  • teaching and learning
  • postmodernism and post-structuralism
  • constructivism and critical theory
  • qualitative research
  • technology enhanced learning and educational technology
  • communities of practice

I wonder if those who know me (or those who may have only recently met me for the first time) think this “fits?”