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Reflections on Positionality
 

Reflections on Positionality

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From the different worldviews between these groups, we discuss positionality and access to data, i.e. the ways characteristics such as socio-economic, education, social status, and gender influence ...

From the different worldviews between these groups, we discuss positionality and access to data, i.e. the ways characteristics such as socio-economic, education, social status, and gender influence the research. The idea is not to set ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’, but to ponder on how successful (or not) were our attempts and reflect on unforeseen effects of our own work.

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    Reflections on Positionality Reflections on Positionality Presentation Transcript

    • Reflections on Positionality: pros, cons and workarounds from an intense fieldwork Eduardo Gonçalves http://about.me/cuducos Marcelo Fagundes marcelofagundes@insitum.com
    • How might we engage direct sellers in a digital learning platform for an ongoing online training support about cosmetics?
    • Project scope 3 2 phases ethnographic research Co-creation Ethnographic research (generative) PHASE 1 PHASE 2 Concepts User’s needs Hyposthesis Ethnographic research (exploratory) Analysis Concepts’ integration Benefits Design principles Users’ profiles and opportunities Analysis Learning platform
    • 60+ people (mainly women from social-economic levels)
    • 17 cities (from 5 different Brazilian macro regions)
    • 2 research teams (one female researcher, one male researcher and one person from the client each team)
    • And some unexpected stories...
    • Project scope 2 phases ethnographic research We got back to some participants from the first phase during the second phase. Due to that it was possible to compare and analyze the influence the researchers could have had in participants life and draw a set of reflections about the role of the ethnographer in terms of positionality. 8
    • Project scope 2 phases ethnographic research We got back to some participants from the first phase during the second phase. Due to that it was possible to compare and analyze the influence the researchers could have had in participants life and draw a set of reflections about the role of the ethnographer in terms of positionality. 9
    • “ [Postmodern] ethnographers question the ability of any method to represent ‘reality’ accurately on three grounds: there is no one fixed ‘reality’ in the postmodern understanding of nature to capture ‘accurately’; all methods are cultural and personal constructs, collecting partial and selective knowledge; and since all knowledge is selective, research can offer only a socially constructed account of the world.” Brewer (2000:22-23)
    • “ Turning in upon ourselves as researchers makes us look subjectively and reflexively at how we are positioned.” Chriseri-Strater (1996:119)
    • Our own position during the fieldwork as researchers could have influence over the access to data.
    • Our own position during the fieldwork as researchers could have influence over the access to data. • Ethnography and the Client • Ethnography and Gender • Ethnography and Social Positions
    • 1 Ethnography and the Client
    • Ethnography and the Client It’s recommended to not disclose the name of the client or it’s presence (if it happened) during corporate ethnography, since it could inhibit participants. 15
    • “ You need to tell them that it must change!”
    • “ Sorry for the inconvenience. I was afraid. You know that’s too much violence... And it’s difficult to trust people nowadays.”
    • Ethnography and the Client Client’s ethical principles Asked to discloser name and presence Concerns for the research team 18
    • Ethnography and the Client 19 Client’s ethical principles Client’s ethical principles Asked to discloser Asked to discloser name and presence Concerns for the research team X name and presence Better access within the ethnography; Encouraged participants to talk more, more passionate, and more in-depth about the exact topics that we were looking for
    • 2 Ethnography and Gender
    • Ethnography and Gender The research theme and the social context led us to think that going to the field with a men on the team could inhibit participants. 21
    • Beauty products
    • Lower socio economic level women (sexist environment dominated by men)
    • Strategies • Assumed secondary roles in order to fade out during the interactions; • Slightly pretended to be more feminine (or tried to avoid being explicitly masculine).
    • Ethnography and Gender Theme and social context Men in the research team Concerns for the research team 25
    • Ethnography and Gender 26 Theme and social context Theme and social context Men in the Men in the research team Concerns for the research team X research team Our positionality as male researchers may already be enough to influence the research with this women profile. However, if we succeeded in this project (and the project results strongly suggest we did) we believe that gender was a minor issue.
    • Actually, these previous issues were not as important as we thought. In addition to what we pondered perviously, there were issues we were not able to foresee that were pretty helpful to the success of the project.
    • 3 Ethnography and Social Positions
    • Ethnography and Social Positions Even if the use of basic ethnography techniques were as useful as important, there are some issues that are just impossible to dismiss: the research team was Caucasian, some of us were males and some women we were talking to were victims of domestic violence with their husbands being the aggressor. 29
    • “ My son was shot due to his involvement with drugs, with dealers… but you, you don't have this problem, you studied, you have a job, you should get married.”
    • “ You shouldn't be so attached to any boyfriend, you have a college degree, you have a good job, you’re a an independent woman!”
    • Ethnography and Social Positions 32 Participants and their social context Different social position Differences inherent to the research teams also – and surprisingly – worked as positive aspect in terms of positionality and access our participants.
    • Ethnography and Social Positions We clearly felt that in the beginning of each interaction participants were suspicious about what was going on. On the one hand, probably due to their context. On the other hand, because of the deeply interest that we were having on their lives. 3
    • “ The KP [Kottai Pillaimar] women also wondered what I was getting out of the whole exercise. ‘Well, at least a Ph.D.,’ I would joke, but they were not convinced. Why should anyone leave family and city comforts to spend weeks at a stretch wandering around the KP villages? Nonetheless, once they had got the drift of the questions I asked, their responses were quick. They felt that I was genuinely interested in what they had to say, I remembered the smallest things they told me and followed up next time. We were soon locked jointly in the enterprise of discovering their history. Reciprocity was not an issue any more. Kamala Ganesh (1993:136)
    • “ That's not how it works here, if we broke up, he'll beat me, even threaten me with a machete or something.”
    • Ethnography and Social Positions 36 Participants and their social context Not used to have anyone truly listening Deep level of access to someone's life because visiting them was something unique for them, was something that had the potential to value them – and they felt that.
    • ? Ethnography and its Impacts
    • Only by doing our job, we could not avoid to have influence over the people we were talking to; we changed our source. It leads us to reflect on the influence that our practice have on the research object and on the research results itself – and all the ethical issues involved on that.
    • Ethnography and its Impacts 1 The peculiarities and contingencies of each fieldwork can challenge the rules as well as its effects. 39
    • “ [methodological guidelines] are like signpost or a map to provide some direction and give us clues as to where to go when we get lost.” De Vaus suggests (2002:7)
    • “ You should not try to follow each step slavishly. Use the method: do not let it use you.” De Vaus suggests (2002:7)
    • Ethnography and its Impacts 2 To what extent is it possible to consider that we got to know the lifestyle of our participants? Since now they could be different people from what they were before, and since the very fact of doing the research with them was the catalyst of that change. 42
    • Ethnography and its Impacts 43 3 Do we have the right to get into someone else life and, without notice, drive them to such a deep impact as we did during this project?
    • All those are unavoidable consequences of the work we do – and we cannot afford to do it without reflecting on them. Thank you. Eduardo Gonçalves http://about.me/cuducos Marcelo Fagundes marcelofagundes@insitum.com
    • References Asad, T. (1994). Ethnographic, Representation, Statistics, and Modern Power. Social Research, 61(1). Back, L. (1993). Gendered Participation. Masculinity and Fieldwork in a South London Adolescent Community. In Diane Bell, Pat Caplan and Wazir Jahan Karim (eds.) Gendered Fields. Women, Men and Ethnography. London: Routledge. Bourdieu, P. (1979). La distinction. Critique sociale du jugement. Paris: Éditions de Minuit. Brewer, J. D. (2000). Ethnography. Buckingham: Open University Press. Chiseri-Strater, E. (1996). Turning in Upon Ourselves. Positionality, Subjectivity and Reflexivity. In. Ed. Peter Mortensen and Gesa Kirsch (eds.). Ethics and Representation in Qualitative Studies. Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English. De Vaus, D. (2002). Surveys in Social Research. 5 ed. London: Routledge. Ganesh, K. (1993). Breaching the Wall of Difference. Fieldwork and a Personal Journey to Srivaikuntam, Tamilnadu. In Diane Bell, Pat Caplan and Wazir Jahan Karim (eds.) Gendered Fields. Women, Men and Ethnography. London: Routledge. Harrington, B. (2002). Obtrusiveness as Strategy in Ethnographic Research. Qualitative Sociology, 25(1). Kvale, S. and Brinkman, S. (2009) Interviews. Learning the Craft of Qualitative Research Interviewing. London: Sage. Ladner, S. (forthcoming 2013). Practical Ethnography: A Guide to Doing Ethnography in the Private Sector. (Sample chapters shared by the author as a work-in-progress). Malinowski, B. (1922). Argonauts of the Western Pacific. An Account of Native Enterprise and Adventure in the Archipelagos of Melanesian New Guinea. London: Routledge. Web resources Schiffman, J. and Civelekoglu, D. (2012). The Refocus Group. (Conference at IDSA 2012 Midwest Design Dialogue Conference). Available: http://vimeo.com/42413053. Last accessed 10th July 2013.