Researching with others – slices and segments

When we carry out research, or, indeed, when we do anything with someone from another group of people – teaching, learning from, collaborating with, helping to mediate conflict with, selling to, buying from – we are somehow bringing along slices or segments of culture that we are associated with and abutting them with slices or segments of culture that they are associated

There are several things that need to be remembered in this respect:

[1] These slices or segments are operationally formed. They have become very real to us and other people concerned. Indeed, they are perhaps important bases for our identities and providing recipes for action – small cultures in every sense of the term, with all their regulatory and sense-making features. However, they are constructed, reconstructed, and reified for the purpose of operation.

[2] The people we are approaching are also involved in something similar. While we might be categorising them as the group of people we want to research, the boundaries that are important to them, that connect with the small culture formation that they are involved in, may be very different.

Because the ‘real culture’ swirls between us and connects us all together, or, at least, gives us all a common base of human experience, whatever is in our operational small cultures, there will be stuff going on that the people we engage with, from the point of view of their own operational small cultures, will be able to recognise.

Imagine therefore this train for thought passing in some degree through the mind of someone who is being interviewed – not forgetting that there will also be a lot of other things passing through their minds from all the other preoccupations and events that they are involved with.

Oh yes, I can sort of see what’s going on here. Yes, I also know what it’s like to have a task to do with rules set by other people but that I’m trying hard to make my own. This researcher wants to look formal and at the same time open – aware that she might be imposing, or appear imposing, but also wanting me to be myself and feel comfortable enough to intervene, but not too much, of course.

This ability to share and – but perhaps ‘share’ is the wrong word.

Oh, yes, but, I really don’t want to get into having to share anything about the process. I’ve enough of that in my own life already. Just ask me the questions and let me go.

Better to say appreciate. This is not only because of existing experience of the workings of our own small cultures, some of which we might indeed share – being members of a family, being employees in a company, being students – but because we also have experience of the operational part – the ‘on the go’ part.

This must be the case even if we are interviewing or whatever with people from very different societies. At a certain level there will also be this shared experience. These sorts of operational negotiations of small culture membership and how we deal with it are universal.

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