Narrative Inquiry and Education

Narrative Interviewing and Narrative Writing. Issues around meaning making, words, and identity development. Transformative narratives cf. Grant, 2007. Nice sharing of autobiographical drawings to show parts of one’s life as  a story in pictures while learning English, develops though the stories of childhood and learning. There was a storyline of hope that emerges and then later gets more developed, and alternative storylines that then develop, such as around caring for family. There are two cases that are being discussed.

There is now discussion about transformative learning that happens within the creation of multiple stories and the construction of meaning in the process. Movements from verbal to drawings, from secrets to mutual valuing, and then going to the one view to multiple views.

There was a change that happened with the second case person, once the writing and narrative took the form of story, as opposed to school topic. She constructed herself through her writing and self-storytelling.

I want to learn more about this narrative identity construction.

This student developed a new learner identity through this narrative writing, with the multiple viewings that this research included.

The second presentation was about discourse analysis, as per Gee 2005, 1999, 1990. Discourse is about using language and representing  through writing. All of us are involved in multiple discourses, the question about how to identify those that influence us to decide, distinguish, and develop. We seem to have an internally dominant discourse (IDD). The IDD shifts in life and experiences (in this case, from test-oriented to self-oriented and from focus on form to focus on meaning.

Implications for this research in and around writing. If writing is defined by the internally-dominated discourse, then how change and develop them. Negative and oppressive IDD’s need to shift, so as educators, how do we shift these?

Creative representational practices, and the process of being and becoming a practitioner and educator and researcher and a scholar—part of the second presenter. Creative and representation within social work, especially when evidence-based practice pushes things to the edge. I wish this presenter would look at us when she is speaking to us as audience.

She is speaking about the use of self. She interviewed and conducted focus groups on how we teach practitioners to conduct reflective practice and the use of self in one’s own development. How do we as educators impress and show the use of self as an important component of understanding and knowing.

Her looking down while she speaks and very rapid speech and awkward stance and choppy motions; I am very distracted. I feel so spoken at. I know that many people  read their papers at academic conferences, but here it seems like a power issue; ironic, as this presenter is a PhD in social work.

It is interesting that she is using poetry she wrote to give examples of what she is trying to illustrate. The poems are getting smaller and smaller on the overhead. This last one she shows, though out of time, is so small that we (or at least I) cannot see it. Wonder what it means? Hope it is clearer to her students at least.

Two of the presenters did not show up, so there is now more time for question.

New Directions in Autoethnography & My Presentation on Autoethnographic Liveblogging

This was my own research session, along with 5 other papers that were presented during the early morning of the first full-day of the QI2009 conference.

My paper was entitled Liveblogging as Autoethnography: Exploring Blogging for Meaning Making, Power, and Positionality:

Using constructivist and critical theorist lenses, this paper will be an autoethnographic exploration of the experience of liveblogging (the practice of blogging and posting the results in real-time). The author has engaged in liveblogging several academic and practitioner conferences, and will explore what liveblogging is and how it is an opportunity for an attendee to publicly and collaboratively engage in meaning-making by sharing in the presentation itself using just-in-time reflective practice. It will be argued that liveblogging conferences promotes democratic knowledge exchanges and expanded possibilities for research.

The other presentations were rather varied, with wonderful issues that were raised about digital storytelling, troubleshooting lying about getting a PhD and getting fired, and even inanimate autoethnographic experiences.

I got some really good ideas, especially about exploring ethical issues with liveblogging autoethnography, expressing the experiences more as stories, and including more theoretical issues in my work in reall time.

I  want to revise my paper and look to publish it, as there is little work out there right now.

Qualitative Research and the Internet

The presentation on technology made some interesting comments about how the rooms we are using in the conference are a bit barren of technology. Wonderful wifi access throughout the campus, but a strange lack of projectors for computers. Oh good, the overhead projector is almost warmed up.

Nice to have some interaction here at the beginning of the session. Interesting that one of the people in the session is from the CUNY Graduate school.

The first person is speaking about patient populations accessing their own healthcare information is available online.

Interesting how Canada is now doing a lot of work with online health counseling. This seems to have to happen since Canadians are so geographically disperse.

The issue about ethical considerations and consent are still surfacing with online research. There is not a standard or clear consensus yet about this. This supports what we learned and studied in my Lancaster program, where we spent some time with Kanuka and Anderson’s Ethical Issues in Qualitative E-Learning Research.

The person who is presenting this now asked the attendees what their thoughts are about what sorts of questions may or should be asked for the online patient population for online counseling.

Really interesting about this pushing the boundaries of healthcare. I know there are more and more needs and calls for research around this area, in part because of need and (at least in the US) for cost savings. Really interesting thinking about online patient care needs.

Now another presentation, this one called “Shopping for Humans: Love, Sex, and friendship on the Internet and Elsewhere.”

There was an interesting session on World Cafe-sort communication. We met in pairs, and initially I was in a triad. We are now in a larger group, and were just given paper and crayons. Interesting how we are now discussing issues in and around community. One person is speaking about diversity and related challenges in the Ivory Tower. Another person is focused around community in a larger context, the American Leadership Forum. Goodness, what should I say or share? I ended up talking about my own preference for online communities, and allowing them to develop organically rather than intentionally. There was also some discussion about political communities, especially with a discussant in our group from Columbia. People then discussed Second Life and Adobe Connect as other options for online community.

There is now a really interesting presentation on the use of a blog with a classroom teacher, on using a blog with a series of math classes. There is a data analysis done with this, as a grounded analysis. I am wondering how they addressed the ethical issues and consent (for the research part) and how this works with privacy (for minors and their names online with what they do or do not know). I will have to ask about these. Interesting work with student blog summaries of mathematical concepts in textual form. There is even an interesting discussion about breaking down barriers of accessing information and communication between classes. The math teacher approves each comment to the blog with the student responses listed. The researcher co-presenter works with mathematical communication.

I personally received a strict order: not to take more than 4 weeks, and the dose of Ambien Without a Prescription in 4 weeks should be decreased and then the reception should be stopped at all.

All the students and parents signed consents on this, and the blog is open to the public, but the links are not readily accessible. This presents a challenge (IMHO) about privacy, equality of  service, research, and a need to use current technology to meet learning needs.

Autoethnography with Carolyn Ellis and Art Bochner

We are introducing ourselves at the beginning of  their pre-conference session. What a fascinating cross-section of people: doctoral students, a few master’s students, faculty, researchers, and investigators. People are from all over the world, including even some introducing themselves through translators. I am amazed how interdisciplinary the audeice here is, and with the number of faculty members who tell about how they want to integrate autoethnography and these sorts of qualitative methods within research departments. Educational programs, communications programs, sociology programs, and  nursing / health programs seem to include most of the attendees.

Amazing how many people are here and are actively using this method in research projects.

There is a lot of love and passion here in the room, and Carolyn used that as her introduction into what she does and how she justifies it. She begins by contextualizing it.

With autoethnography, she begins by speaking about ethnography, which is the study of a culture, with its literature, experiences, traditions, and meaning-making structures. It involves both art and science.

If we were to focus on the science part, we would want to be neutral and try to accurately describe what is happening with them (ethnographic study) over there, in a neutral and objective manner. Generalizabillity and concepts to explain things would be useful, as well as what theory is being used, the variables, etc. In this manner, you would be the researcher only observing, and not experiencing or actively participating in it. The research voice would be used, and is the single voice of the text. in a more scientific form, it ends with a conclusion.  This model is a reporter—just reporting what objectively happened.

As a researcher, if we wanted to be more artistic, we may start with a story. Embody your topic. We would have multiple voices. Use the participants’ voices to show you are there. We would share authority, as try to get text in multiple voices. More arts-focused research projects are structured in a variety off ways, and when it ends there is often the perspective that explains what the researcher learns and invites the reader to consider his or her own thoughts. This is intended to generate some kind of response / effect in the reader.

Autoethnography has combinations between autobiography and ethnography. It is my thinking and feeling with what is going on with them (the ethnographic other). Writing autoethnography wants to evoke the reader.

How do you read qualitative articles? Abstract and conclusions seem to be how many people read traditional journal articles. More arts-based writers try to engage the reader with a specific experience.

Autoethnographic writing often has dialogue, plot, etc.

Art’s proposition: All scholarship is a form of communication.

The researcher is always part of the research data (Art believes now), though he was taught  the complete opposite—the researcher should be absent and not included in the research at all. To do this, it is common in qualitative dissertations that it begins with a story. The first chapter often addresses the researcher’s story, in other words what brings me to this research (why am I interested in this). Another component of this is about how do you change in this project? Why do research if you do not learn anything (or otherwise already know it)?

What we write in the name of research is written for others. We do not write it for ourselves. Is this research project just for me? What do I owe to those people who I study? What is the exchange (ethics) if we take stories from another and then do not give them anything back.

All stories have some elements—time, characters, plot, scene, action

How do you do this? Consider immediacy and write a story that makes the person jump off the page and be alive. Writers do this (as opposed to reporters who just “report” what happened.

What keeps us reading? Action, tension, trouble.

Autoethnographers get into trouble at times for having stories about trouble and loss and tragedy. However, these are the issues that keep people’s interested.

Narrative methodology holds that writing is part of the inquiry. This is the opposite of what we were taught in grade school—begin with your thesis (in other words, begin with the main point even though we have not written it yet). Narrative method understands the narrative through the process itself.

For autoethnography, write and create the effect of reality. Do this as a believable writer / researcher. In putting myself on the page, it is warts and all, as this makes it more believable. The vulnerability of the researcher helps the reader to trust.

They gave us a four page copy of Maternal Connections, a short piece that Carolyn wrote in the Ellis and Bochner text Composing Ethnography. We read the piece individually during the break, and then the participants discussed the meanings and what struck us readers about the story. I am trying to connect this story to research. There is quite a bit of discussion about what was going on there, and how it seemed to draw different readers in different ways. This then developed into a discussion about contextualized truth and how it can be evaluated.

It seems that autoethnography requires that the author faces his or her issues and then publicly airs those experiences. This seemed that this is a big issue that has come to many of the participants in the room.

What role does ethics play in all this? How does this work with the autoethnographic author when writing about the experiences of others. What is ethical to write about in a situation? The researcher has the ability to write the story in any  way that is wanted, though the issue of ethics arises in many different ways.

Autoethnography does not need to be about you as the main focus of the research, but that you (me) as the author still enters the story as a character in the story, even if it is mainly about somebody else.

Somebody just asked a question from the perspective of critical race theory, and to what extent this is or is not believable. Interesting question that now invites me to consider some other topics.

When you write your own story, it is never only our own story as it often involves others.

I asked a question about Maternal Connections, as I initially thought this was part of a larger piece of autoethnographic piece. Carolyn and Art responded that this four-page work is the entire autoethnographic research in itself. No literature review, no findings, no stated theory, etc. Research can be thought of as on a continuum, and our job is then for us to have our voices in the piece, knowing that this work will be accepted in some research journals / sources / communities, but not in others. Carolyn stated that this short story is really pushing the bounds of qualitative research.

I have to think about this idea a little more, as it is personally a little troublesome. This is one of the issues that I am happy to struggle with it, as it will help me learn something new. Learning in this regard is a nice reminder of how painful an experience education really can be. In fact, this is one of the reasons I came to this conference in the first place–I want to learn, and there is no better place to grapple and learn about these issues than with those who have done the most with raising them in the first place. If I come to a conference and do not have something that makes me reflect and consider other possibilities, then either  it was the wrong conference for me or I was not ready to face it.

When doing autoethnographic research, issues in and around the IRB are important and handle this in a different way. As Art said when encouraging IRB submission and approval, “Protect thyself.”

For advisors, it is important to know if people (who want to write with autoethnography) are capable of doing it or not.

Experimental Writing with Yvonna S. Lincoln

I am attending a pre-conference with Yvonna Lincoln at the QI2009 conference today. As we are nearly ready to begin, she just distributed a workbook (that she was clear to tell us we will not work in), but that contains examples of the different materials and media that she will discuss.

“Who brought data in?” Of course, none of us did not since that was omitted with in the description for this session. That is ok, she said, as it is now time for autoethnography!

She enjoys experimental writing, as opposed to that difficult, academic-style writing.  This session is all about experimental writing as the product of research, not as creative fiction done outside a research perspective.

Good gods, she just turned on an overhead. Not a projector, but an overhead. No, this is not necessarily the way that she always works; we were told at this conference that there are no projectors available, but only overhead machines. Glad I printed my slides on overheads!

Why Write Experimentally?

  1. To capture the emotional and psychological impact and residue of fieldwork (Brady, 2000, Handbook of Qualitative Research 3rd Ed.). I really like this concept, the “residue of fieldwork.” Never heard of that before, and my initial thinking is that this will be
  2. To create a “re-thinking of presence.” this is all about admitting that the researcher  is there and we were affected by the research and experience. This inserts a sense of reality, and not a sterile writing and sense that everything is gods-eye view of reality
  3. Writing experimentally permits a criticism of the “rhetorics of scientific authority, [the] techniques of vision, and [the] discursive mechanisms of relating time and space” – Clough, 2000.

Somebody just knocked a cup of coffee (under a seat) over and onto somebody’s Apple laptop. Ouch.

Criteria for Judging Experimental Writing (there are no firm criteria)

  1. It should “motivate cultural criticism. . . .”
  2. Experimental writing should “be open to the future;” it should help readers to pose alternative—and perhaps more just—scenarios for tomorrow – this hints at some present and talks to us about a presence that is less than satisfactoy and points to a more just future
  3. It should prompt “theoretical reflection,” never straying far from theory. . .
  4. If experimental writing is literary in form (e.g., poetry, plays, short stories) it must meet criteria for good literature in that specific genre (M. Allen, n.d.). Mitch suggested that if you want to turn fieldwork into a play, then we need to think about what makes for a good and strong play. This makes me think about Michael Hemmingson’s writing.

This is the first time I am liveblogging a conference this year, and am looking forward to the paper I am presenting tomorrow, where I discuss liveblogging from the perspective of autoethnography.

I think that my liveblogging work is changing. I used to capture what the person said and then include my own thoughts on the topic. However, with my increasing work with autoethnography and how I believe liveblogging cannot be a neutral act as I as author and participant am writing this material from my own perspective—I am the one who chooses what to include from the presentation.

Thinking about this more, I think liveblogging is more accurately about sharing elements of the author’s perspective of an experience, insofar as the author is able to type some of what thoughts and experiences can be captured. From this perspective, the liveblogging experience is my work, and my words. This is where the co-creation from the experience comes from; I am discussing my experience and thoughts from this session, and cannot claim it may or may not represent the experiences of anybody else in the session.

Yvonna just talked about experimental writing and how, when it is done well, then that does not make this easy, as good writers are often still very deep and complicated.

The first kind of experimental text she showed was from Carol Rambo Ronai, Betty St. Pierre, and Patti Lather. There are multiple things moving; things come together and then come apart, and then perhaps come together again.

Yvonna is not very loud. Somebody requested she speak into the microphone (too lecture-like, but with the air conditioning unit and the loud presenter next door, this may be a good idea). She does speak there, but only time to time. As her voice does not seem to project very much, I wonder what the environment where she commonly presents is like?

With experimental writing, the concept of layered texts shows how complicated texts and experiences are. I like the section heading for the booklet she passed out: :Skirted, Pleated and Layered Texts.”

Poetry is a form of experimental text. She favors ethnographic poetry, such as by Laurel Richardson and Hartnett. This is significant because it clearly states that there is never a detached researcher.

I really like that—there never is a detached researcher. That is what John Creswell talks about as being one of the 3 components of a research design, namely by explaining and discussing what worldview the researcher has when writing.

She is discussing Laurel Richardson’s need to write an ethnographic poem, Louisa May, based on a transcription that just did not seem to easily be written in any other way.

I am glad we have the hand-out booklet that includes all the examples she is discussing.

About poetry, she said

Captures the emotional residue of fieldwork; makes it plain that fieldwork is not all “science,” but rather involves the entire person of the fieldworker.


The “voyeur’s gaze” is turned back onto the researcher herself of himself. The “subject” becomes the subject of the research. Done in order to theorize more deeply on some social situation, or the effect of the researcher’s presence in that situation.

Somebody in the audience just shared the story when a poem was rejected, and the feedback was that the poem beautified a tragic story. It seems to be that the poem must have been wonderful. Yvonna suggested these journals as ones that publish poetry — QSE, Qualitative Inquiry, Humanistic Anthropology, and IJQI.

Choose different articles and review them from different paradigms as a way of better understanding these different perspectives.

It seems useful to give students the opportunity to explore various ways of experience. Some students are instrumentalists and some are interested in learning anything they can. There was a discussion about how to deal with experimental coursework. This makes me think about WIFM? – What’s In It For Me? Help students meet their needs, though consider Mezirow’s Transformative Learning as a way to help challenge learner’s worldviews to invite them to think more creatively and expand their horizons. Seems the issue is about helping students to learn in ways that may engage them in ways that the learners did not previously consider.

Autoethnography is a theoretical way of the researcher researching one’s own experiences. Carolyn Ellis, Stacy Holamn Jones, Brian Alexander are all examples of this.

Really glad my netbook computer has a good, long battery.

Ethnographic Fiction (why fictionalize science?)

  1. To disguise identities—names are changed to protect the innocent . . . if there are any
  2. To create more seamless story when pieces of narrative are missing
  3. To provide the mood, context, tempo, climax, and other literary elements of fiction

Performance Ethnography

  1. The giving of voice to interviewees
  2. the re-creation of tough, hard, profoundly moving life experience so some group
  3. The demonstration of the moral dimension of some issue or context
  4. the call to arms for a moral, more just world
  5. as a way of understanding “the substance of what we [are] saying”
  6. as a means of demonstrating that culture does not pre-exist human beings. culture is created and performed every day
  7. giving a sense of immediacy

Poetry, fiction, and drama – it has to be good science and good literature

Autoethnography, autobiography, memory work, visual/photographic experimentation as less bounded by these criteria and rules. They have to be readable, engaging, and theoretically grounded. I really like these criteria.

We now have an assignment:

Write and be prepared to read what we write to the class here. What is an experience we have had that is powerful or painful. Try writing a short piece (in a little less than an hour), write about something to explore the emotional residue of some research project on which you have been working. I am going to do this as another post.

Just as I was preparing to work on this, I saw my friend and colleague Johnna Parker, who I have not seen in years and who told me about getting to UIUC from flying into Indianapolis, and not into Chicago. So nice to catch up . . .