QualMIP week 1: sensitizing to nonverbals

January 25, 2016 – 3:12 pm

Part of the QualMIP series, gynecologist introduced here.

A format that seems to work for now:

  1. Starting discussion
  2. Studio time with guided exercises
  3. Fieldwork kickout 1
  4. Discussion 1
  5. Fieldwork kickout 2
  6. Discussion 2 and wrap-up

One of our big ideas for the semester is sensitizing ourselves as research instruments. Therefore, website like this rule #1 of the semester is that we must take care of ourselves. Sleep, hospital eat, do things that make you happy. This is officially homework.

When was taking my own qualitative methods courses, one thing I noticed is that my (hearing) classmates seemed to focus first and foremost on the dialogue — words, what was said. I want to start out trying to shake you up from your habits a little bit by specifically not allowing you to do that. Today we’re going to focus on everything that isn’t words.

Studio time 1:

1. Sculpture garden: show us what you look like when you’re studying — now take turns picking one person’s posture to be the “sculpture” and fine-tuning and adjusting the postures of the other student(s) so that they match the sculpture. Notice: bodies are different, and that it’s easier to imitate some people than others. (Exercise inspired by Mary Pilat’s workshops on trauma)

2. Posture amplification: take turns showing us what you look like when you’re really interested in something… and really bored by it. Walk around the “model” student — what are the physical indications of interest/disinterest? Can you amplify/mute them — what does it look like when it’s big and obvious? Subtle? Notice: we can’t tell someone’s “true” interior state, even if they tell us what they claim their state is; we can only guess and make our own observations. (Exercise inspired by Sally Wallace’s choreography course)

3. Slideshow: I’m going to close my eyes and count to 10. Before I open my eyes, I want you to arrange yourselves to show me that one of you is dominant over the other two — use position, gesture, height, etc. Rotate who’s dominant. No talking. We’ll do this 10 times. Afterwards, let’s discuss: what indicators did you use? How did you communicate? (Exercise inspired by Rebecca Bryant’s improvisation course)

4. Conversational arrangements: Try out different positions for discussion — facing each other, angled, far, near, close — how do they feel, and how do they affect the quality of the conversation? What affordances do they give you? What can you do from a distance to the conversation — how is your position different?

Kickout 1:

Go to the dining hall. Don’t sit together, don’t communicate; come back with 3 observations of different types of what you see.

Discussion 1:

1. Share observations with the group. What did you notice/do? How did you interact? (Because even if I said “no interacting,” you did interact — waves, nods, etc — or if you didn’t, that probably felt weird.)

2. Discussion of how to become conscious of our default interpretations, and how to back up to explain that interpretation so others could see how a reasonable person would reach it. What makes you think the two people you watched were friends? How else could you have interpreted that situation?

3. Positionality. What is it? What was yours? What are the different decisions you might make, and what assumptions about research and the role or research might it imply? New vocabulary: agential cut / Bohrian cut.

Kickout 2:

Go somewhere together — studio, etc — and observe, but this time as a team. Sensitize to yourself again, but this time use your teammates as instruments as well — what do their reactions tell you? Knowing that your teammates are watching your reactions, what will you do to make it clear (or not) to them what you are doing or thinking about?

Discussion 2:

1. What did you notice in the thing you were describing? Try to help me guess what it is without using any names or titles — this is a “making strange.” (New term!) Pretend I’m an alien from another planet.

2. What did you notice about each other and how you communicated?


During your 3 hours of fieldwork (including prep) this week, you should get closer to three things:

1. Bounding your project for the semester. What population will I be observing, what will I be looking for, how will I be looking for it… what is interesting?

2. Sensitizing to your own reactions, specifically when you disengage. What makes you disconnect from a situation, what do you tend to do in order to disconnect (shift back? check phone? write? sing inside your head?), and what indicators can you use to flag awareness of your own engagement level? Longer is NOT necessarily better — how long can you reasonably sustain it?

3. Playing with memo formats. Experiment with at least 3 different formats for your private memos this week; Use different mediums, different human languages (digital writing counts as one medium, so writing in notepad vs word does not count as different mediums). Example mediums: audio recordings, webcam video, sketching, handwriting in Spanish, typing in Swedish, livejournal, collage, etc. Remember that memos are one level abstracted from raw data — so video of your interview is not a memo, but a reflection from you on the interview afterwards can be. (Also remember that your private memos only need to be understandable by you as long as the end of the semester. We’re used to outputting for the consumption of others, and this is not necessarily how we best produce for ourselves as things-to-think-with.)

We will begin in “alien from another planet” format during our discussion next week.

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