Friday, January 23, 2015

Speaking and Not Understanding

After 2 weeks of redoing a web presentation of VCU's ECAR findings, I'm at Round 3 (or more, I forget, after trying to push some data up quickly by redoing charts over and over) -- figuring out what is at the heart of this project, and what we want to show from these findings. I hear a number of words repeated over and over. Here's my depiction of that situation.

In the liminal zone. 
The problem is that the mental model I have about research and dissemination of research findings is sloshing around in the whirlpool of new ideas that I'm yet to reconcile with. I do not understand inductive reasoning and the coding of themes from quantitative data.

In my current understanding, all research starts with a problem question, but now, I have a mass of data and I'm supposed to induce from collected data a problem question so as to "create a story," "construct a narrative," "tell a tale" etc. Yes, I hear you, my dear good-intention friends and colleagues. That is clear to me -- the storytelling part. These words are abstract input that need to be broken down, and operationalized into action, into deeds. Actually, no offense intended, but if anyone mentions another synonym for storytelling or narrative to me, I might have to excuse myself from the conversation. I've looked at the data since November and storytelling is what I've been trying to pursue. 

As I reflect, I find that we are all speaking the same language -- English, but NOT using the language in the same way. They are communicating through their filters of how they see the world. And I'm not making my thinking visible to anyone -- what I'm truly trying to tell them is not conveyed. 

Reframing my perspective, the work as far as I understand myself entails these processes: 
  • Reading the data findings repeatedly to induce themes from 2 surveys that might lead to a general research question or two.
  • Then, when you have a clear question (or two), I can begin to tell a story to the intended audience. 
  • What is a metaphor for the findings? (No, I will never use the phrase "digital natives.") 
  • David McCandless and company are wonderful, but nothing "fancy" can begin until I unearth the questions from the data to reveal what is significant about the findings. The real work. 
I want to soar but I feel like a tortoise plodding on. And I can't afford to be one.

But learning something new and forging new knowledge or a mental model often humbles me and trains me -- to be teachable and be willing to fail forward. Onward. 

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