Friday, July 12, 2013

How does phenomenography relate to other philosophical -ologies?

I read this article:
Cunliffe, Ann L. and Matthew Eriksen. 2011. Relational leadership. Human Relations 64: 1425-1449. DOI: 10.1177/0018726711418388.

The authors are conceptualizing relational leadership, the relational practices of leaders, using "a lens of relational ontology," in which "our experience is intersubjective [which falls under the phenomenological paradigm] rather than individual" and "organizations are ... understood as ... communities of people and conversations" (1431). On p.1432, "Consistent with other relational theories, our work is situated within a social constructionist ontology, which posits that we exist in a mutual relationship with others and our surroundings and that we both shape, and are shaped by, our social experience in everyday interactions and conversations."

In other words, social constructionist ontology means that groups (rather than individuals) create reality by discussing the essential properties, identities, and categories of experiences, objects or situations. Knowledge isn't objective. 

The authors also place this leadership in "an epistemology grounded in knowing-from-within interactive moments ... making sense, creating action and knowledge with others.... A relationally-responsive orientation brings into focus our reflexive relationship with our world" (1433).

Phenomenography is a qualitative research methodology, with an interpretive and subjective lens, that investigates the different ways in which people experience or think about/understand something. It is both ontological (concerning the essential properties, identities, and categories of reality) and epistemological (concerning the nature of knowledge, i.e., truth, belief, and explanation) and is empirical (knowledge comes from sensory experience and is tested experimentally through observation). Researchers describe similarities and differences in the meaning that people give to experiences and the relationships between people and the phenomena. People's perceptions and the researcher's categories vary. Phenomenography lets researchers use their own experiences as data for analysis, along with investigating the experience of others. Phenomenography aims for a collective analysis of individual experiences. So it is relational but not necessarily social. It is also not phenomenology. Phenomenology focuses on the essence of something (the phenomenon itself). Phenomenography focuses on the experiences and categorizes the perceptions people have of something (the phenomenon); the categories and their logical underlying structure (conceptions/understandings) become the essence.
(Summarized from theorists Ference Marton, John Bowden, Shirley Booth, Lennart Svensson, Roger Säljö, Gerlese S. Akerlind.)

The Relational leadership article also cites Bakhtin's stress on the importance of continual polyphonic dialogue (multi-voiced meaning-making) in leadership instead of monologue (1434). "it’s not easy to arrive at agreed meaning.... Such understandings will not be total, nor fixed and enduring for, as Bakhtin suggests, meanings are dynamic and unique to conversational moments and individuals" (1436).

This is what V strives for in her pinhole conversation photographs. Also, Bakhtin's idea fits with phenomenography in the sense that meanings are dynamic and unique to individuals, but not in that they're unique to conversational moments--phenomenography focuses on experience rather than conversation.

Participants make meaning "by recognizing and surfacing conflicting viewpoints, anticipating resistance, asking questions, wanting to ‘know’ the ‘other’, and by negotiating a way between the differences – not with the intention of controlling the outcome or imposing views, but with creating new relationships, seeing new ‘dimensions’ and doing things differently" (1437). 

This is what D,V, and I have been engaged in this year, figuring out together how our teaching and leading can better facilitate student learning. So this article sets a communication studies/philosophy of communication framework for our collaboration which is slightly different from phenomenography. 

"Relational integrity" means being "responsive to moments of difference, ... unsettling accepted views and practices (their own and others), and working towards new ways of seeing and doing," and exercising "judgment in moments of uncertainty" (1438). In other words, be respectful, responsible, and ethical; maintain integrity and exercise reciprocity.

"We have sought to offer an additional perspective that emphasizes the crucial nature of ‘relationships between people’, ‘character’ and the ‘small details’ of conversations – often taken-for-granted because they are viewed as common sense and therefore unsurprising. Perhaps this explains why little work has been done to explore the nature of such everyday relationships" (1443).

This is also related to what B+ studies.

"This not only requires a leader to examine how s/he relates with and responds to others in ongoing interactions, but also requires us as academics to reconsider how we teach and write about leadership (Cunliffe, 2009a). At the heart of such an examination is a critical and self-reflexive questioning of what assumptions we hold about people; of how those assumptions play through our relationships and conversations; and of how others respond. It requires understanding the importance of creating opportunities for open dialogue and the need to be responsive to the subtleties within living conversations and their importance in creating understanding and respect" (1443-4).

"Dialogic ways of talking require that we do not talk about something to others, but work with them in negotiating and shaping a sense of what may be happening and what we need to do. So this ‘new way’ is not about the practice of persuading, instructing, and managing impressions, but:
a) Creating open dialogue: conversations in which pre-judgments are not made...
b) Accepting responsibility for recognizing and addressing moments of difference: noticing and being responsive to the interplay of unifying and dispersing forces unfolding in conversations...
c) ... Shaping the scene occurs in the present moment by being responsive to others, together drawing out practical features of the ‘landscape’, and surfacing tensions so that people can notice and respond to otherwise unnoticed features. In this way diverse voices may be brought into the conversation without focusing on different positions. ...
d) Understanding the importance of relational integrity: respecting and being
responsive to differences, being accountable to others, acting in ways that others can count on us, and being able to explain our decisions and actions to others and ourselves.
e) Becoming more attuned to sensing and responding in the present moment by looking, listening, and anticipating (Shotter, 2010) in the unfolding conversation..." (1444).

Harris, Lois Ruth. "Phenomenographic Perspectives on the Structure of Conceptions: The Origins, Purposes, Strengths, and Limitations of the what/how and referential/structural Frameworks." Educational Research Review 6.2 (2011).

"Phenomenographers continued to draw on phenomenological theory" (110) and principles, but extended the theory so much that it "has made it difficult to relate these frameworks back to phenomenological concepts' (110).

After reading the Harris article, I do not think I can state that my research is phenomenographic. But Bruce's is, and Harris recommends that other researchers review their use of terminology for frameworks within phenomenography.

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