Header image: Ian Mutto
Blavatar image: Knilram
Both images are from Flickr and are used here under Creative Commons Licenses.
Here is the zine of the Ways of Knowing – still a draft and posted here for our 15th January workshop participants to have a quick look at before we meet. We’ll probably do another final version after the workshop, so whether you coming to the workshop or not and have some comments – do let us know!
Arts@Trinity in Holy Trinity Church, Boar Lane, Leeds
10am-4pm, 15th January 2014
Participatory Action Research projects gather up social critique and outrage, ambivalence and desire, as forms of knowledge. Inquiry is valued as oxygen for democratic
sustenance. Collaborations are forged as necessary for sustaining global
movements of resistance. Participatory action research is a strategic tool
anchored in some very untraditional formulations of some very traditional
notions of objectivity, validity, and generalizability. With innovation and a
proud legacy of activist social researchers, participatory research collectives
can interrupt the drip feed, engage critical questions, produce new knowledge,
provoke expanded audiences, and allow us to ask as scholars, in the
language of the poet Marge Piercy (1982), how can we “be of use?”
Michelle Fine (2008) ‘An Epilogue…of sorts’, in Julia Cammarota and Michelle Fine (2008) Youth Participatory Research in Motion. London and New York: Routledge, p. 231.
Collaborative and participatory action research has long focused on the link between collective development of knowledge and liberatory social and political change. Yet exactly how researching and knowing together might be ‘of use’ remains an open question.
Over the past twelve months a group of us have come together to work on a project called ‘Ways of Knowing’ because we wanted to experiment with what it means to know things through collaborative and participatory research. We experimented with methods drawn towards higher-order analysis, articulation and consensus, where the implication is that change comes through new understandings that might underpin collective action. We also experimented with methods which focus on embodied and emergent knowing, where the change is imagined as coming within the individual and in the spaces for ‘being with’ each other in new ways. There’s been multi-coloured knitting, wire animals, key words, post it notes on sticky walls and the slightly painful application of reason through a neo-Socratic Dialogue.
Rather than see these approaches as opposed, in this workshop we will explore how they might nourish each other. How they might help us ‘untraditionally’ imagine and practice validity, generalizability and usefulness? What might this mean for more nuanced imaginaries of how knowing together might relate to action which addresses inequalities and injustices?
We’d like to invite you to join us to explore these issues. In working through these questions, we are delighted to be joined by Michelle Fine, Distinguished Professor, CUNY Graduate Centre (New York) who has very clearly articulated and so carefully evoked the relationships between knowing together and political transformation.
Together we will have new experimental experiences which will open up the questions of how we know together and what this might mean. We will ask you to bring your stories of collaborative knowing, unknowing or not knowing. And by the end of the day, we’ll have – in the proud DIY and feminist tradition of the city of Leeds – made a ‘zine-in-a-day to evoke and/or articulate our insights.
If you’d like to hear more or to take part in the workshop then drop us a line with the 100 word story of collaboration you’d like to bring to the workshop by 9th December 2013:
How have you known something together and how was this useful?
We have three travel bursaries available for those travelling from overseas.
Helen Graham email@example.com
School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies
University of Leeds
The workshop will be followed by a public meeting led by Professor Michelle Fine:
Evidence in Revolting Times: How can participatory research challenge inequality?
Arts@Trinity, Holy Trinity Church, Boar Lane, Leeds
5.00-6.30pm, 15th January 2014
Free tickets: http://bit.ly/1ehCUvn
We are living in a time of growing and revolting inequalities; a time when measurement, audit and surveillance threaten to constrain what counts as knowledge about us, our cities and our communities. We are also living in a time of resistance and revolt; where new modes of collaboration between researchers, practitioners, artists and activists are opening up new possibilities for knowing and acting. Drawing on insights which have developed through the New York-based Public Science Project, Michelle Fine, Distinguished Professor, CUNY Graduate Centre will open up for further discussion the role of evidence and knowledge in perpetuating and challenging these inequalities. We ask you bring with you your thoughts on the following questions:
• Which inequalities are you seeking to challenge?
• In challenging inequalities, what counts as ‘evidence’?
• How has/might collaboration create new possibilities for knowing and acting?
‘Ways of Knowing’ is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Connected Communities programme.
I like ‘Can we know something together?’ as a question for our Socratic Dialogue too. It seems to create space for us to explore both knowing and togetherness. Steve’s example is very interesting and deliberately challenges both the notion of ‘knowing’ and ‘togetherness’. The 10 people he shared his knowing with were not there at the same time, he’s not even met most of them in person but what they did share was the experience of being in the shed and in the woods. So Steve seems to be positioning both knowing and togetherness as connected through discrete embodied experience. It’s value is not located either in the afterwards of its articulation and nor in it being articulated in a way which is collectively agreed. This is such a helpful example as it immediately takes us back to one of the key discussion points/differences in our first workshop and shows how this question might work in the context of the Socratic Dialogue.
To push the dimensions and potential uses of the question from the other direction, I’ll give the example of very much being in the same room with people, at the same time and trying to develop shared understandings about ‘how should decisions about heritage are made’ for the purposes of agreeing on a research design. A research design which (as we agreed as a group) explicitly aims to influence both museum and heritage practitioners and heritage studies as an academic discipline. One of the logics of the 14 of us working together to design a research project was precisely that we came from different types of organisations, groups and experiences – so the logic of our collaboration was that the different perspectives coming together might enable the generation of new, more responsive and more accountable ways of knowing.
We’re just moving into the research phase now but from the design phase which ran February – May, I was just really interested in how the two logics of our difference and our togetherness worked in practice. Sometimes it was like we were all carrying our worlds with us into the discussions, always checking the validity of our emerging questions and ideas by what our nearest colleagues, peers or comrades might say (like in the film Donnie Darko where the paths people have followed and where they are going stretches out visibly from their bellies). Others times it was like we entered the group fully. Probably to ‘know’ in a way which profited from our coming together we needed/need to both move into the new world of collaboration we were creating yet still feel that apartness, that tug back to the worlds we’d come from and would go back to. So what is ‘known’ through this type of togetherness might require adaptability – so our ‘knowing’ might also be able to stretch from the group back to our normal places, when we aren’t together, too. So I think the question might helps prise some of this stuff open.
I’ll be attending the two days.
I prefer question 1.
Can we know something together?.
An interesting example of this I suppose was my involvement in a project by the artists Tyman and Rushton called “The Good Life”
The Good Life documents a project by Emma Rushton and Derek Tyman, realised over six months at two sites in the Lake District in 2011.
In association with Lanternhouse Arts Centre, a cabin – a copy of writer Henry David Thoreau’s – was constructed in Miterdale Forest and employed as a dwelling for artists, writers and musicians.
A counterpoint to the cabin, The Good Life Stage, occupied a space at Lanternhouse. Painted with quotations by philosophers, writers and typographers it hosted a series of events and talks.
I spent four days living in relative solitude in Thoreau’s cabin reading Jon Ruskins “Unto this last” A book by John Rusking to develop a project proposal. The point here is I shared this experience with around
10 other people only a couple of whome I have met but in some way I think we as the group of “Shed Alumi” which is what I call us perhaps “Know something together” about ourselves and the woods
Here is a film of the experience – sorry about the image of my arse.
Our second Ways of Knowing workshop will be on the 18th and 19th September. On the agenda, among other topics and activities, will be Sarah Banks facilitating a Socratic Dialogue. In preparation for this we need to decide on a good question (one that gives us good scope for moving through the Socratic Dialogue process), so Sarah has asked the research team to consider either:
1. Can we know something together?
2. Can I know what you know?
To help us all decide, Sarah has suggested that we say which one we prefer and give an example you might use to illustrate it using a comment box below this blog post. (if you’re not on the team and you want to pitch in too, please do!)
And this is what Sarah wrote about Socratic Dialogue before…
Sarah Banks, Durham University
My substantive contribution to the Ways of Knowing project will be to facilitate a Socratic Dialogue at the second workshop in September 2013.
I will adopt an approach based on the model used by the Society for the Furtherance of Critical Philosophy (UK, http:/www.sfcp.org.uk) and Philosophisch Politische Academy (Germany: http://www.philosophisch-politische-akademie.de), with whom I trained as a facilitator. This approach is sometimes called ‘neo-Socratic dialogue’, which is derived from, but not the same as, the method used by Socrates (470-399 BCE) in ancient Greece. It was developed by a German philosopher, Leonard Nelson (1882-1927) (Nelson 1940) and subsequently modified by his pupils and later followers (for an accessible UK introduction, see Saran and Neisser, 2004)
Socratic Dialogue is a means of exploring complex philosophical or mathematical questions with a group of people. It is a method by which a group works together with a facilitator to find an answer to a well-formed question (such as: ‘What is justice?’ or ‘When is it right to lie?’). The procedure involves collecting concrete examples relevant to the question from the participants, choosing one example to work on, exploring the chosen example, articulating its core statement and agreeing on principles in answer to the general question. This approach is used to engage members of the public in ‘Socratic cafés’ or other arenas and in teaching practical ethics and critical thinking in schools and universities.
Although the focus is on reasoning, critical analysis and consensus-seeking, the process is very different from what we might usually associate with philosophical argument. While an abstract question is set or agreed upon, the starting point is with people offering examples from their own experience. Furthermore, one of the ‘rules’ of the dialogue is that participants should not refer to ‘outside authorities’ (i.e. no references to Plato, Karl Marx or yesterday’s Guardian). Participants are asked to ‘put themselves in the example-giver’s shoes’ (hence drawing on empathy), listen very carefully to other people, build on the ideas of others, seek points of agreement and from time to time they may reflect on how the group is working (‘meta-dialogue’). Although the process is consensus-seeking, the ultimate aim of a Socratic Dialogue may or may not be to reach ‘truth’ by consensus (this depends on the views and approach of facilitator and participants). Collaboration is at the heart of the process. It is a dialogue, not a debate (i.e it is not about one person seeking to persuade others or ‘win’ an argument). Hence participants do need to engage not only at the level of reason (logic, analysis), but also at an emotional and embodied level (empathy, managing frustration, performing as caring person or a rational expert).
The different ways of knowing identified by Heron and Reason (2008) in their ‘extended epistemology’ (theory of knowledge) developed in the context of collaborative research are all there in Socratic dialogue: propositional knowledge (intellectual knowing of ideas and theories, ‘knowing about’); experiential (gained through direct face-to-face contact with a person, place or object, based on empathy and resonance); presentational (grows out of experiential knowing, expressing it through story, movement, drawing, etc); and practical (knowing how to do something, a skill or competence – this brings together the other forms of knowing into action in the world). Although the overt focus may be more on propositional and experiential, nevertheless presentational knowledge is drawn upon in the offering of examples from experience (essentially short narratives or stories) and practical knowledge (through the skills in dialogic communication).
However, there is no doubt the dominant ‘register’ is cognitive, and the form of Socratic Dialogue lends itself to the valuing of reasoning, consensus and ‘objectivity’. So it will be interesting for us to explore the complex interplay of cognitive, affective and embodied ways of knowing in the process of a Socratic Dialogue. We will need to decide on a suitable question and agree about whether to audio-record and how to use any recordings made.
Links with co-inquiry action research (CAR) groups
Sarah Banks, with reflections from Tessa Holland and Ann McNulty
In earlier work with Beacon North East (the Newcastle-Durham Beacon for Public Engagement, 2008-12) and a previous Connected Communities project on ethics (2012), we used a co-inquiry approach to collaborative research between academics and community partners (drawing on the work of Heron and Reason, 2000).
We called our groups ‘co-inquiry action research’ (CAR) groups. In both these co-inquiry groups a key theme was how academics and community partners communicate with each other, value each other’s knowledge and experience, develop shared understandings and how participants recognise and handle difference.
The first CAR group used a co-inquiry group to study the process of co-inquiry research (Beacon NE, 2011a, 2011b). As facilitator, I was very much influenced by my Socratic Dialogue training, as well as methods derived from Paulo Freire and thinking in the field of community development (I have a background in community development). One interesting idea to come out of that group was the notion of ‘collaborative reflexivity’:
Participants were surprised at what they learnt from each other and about themselves. They reflected not just on the collaborative processes in their own current and recent research projects and evaluated their roles, strengths and weaknesses, but also studied themselves in the group and analysed the workings of the group. (Banks et al, 2013, forthcoming)
The second CAR group explored ethical issues in community-based participatory research, as part of a wider scoping study (Durham Community research Team, 2011). Tessa Holland and Ann McNulty were involved as community partners. Tessa Holland noticed a particular interchange between two other members of the group, which prompted us to go back and listen to the audio-recording and then we wrote it up in a case study. Here is an extract from the case study (Banks and Armstrong, 2012):
Whilst the group had identified the avoidance of academic jargon as an important ground rule, this was only one part of the story about how academics could dominate the proceedings. Academics are also very used to analysing, critiquing, summarising and interpreting the comments of others. This was highlighted in an exchange between a community partner (Carol) and academic (Alan) at the third meeting, when Alan was feeding back to the whole group what Carol and Alan had been discussing in a pair relating to details of an ethical dilemma told by Carol to Alan. Carol commented: ‘that is not what I told you!’ Alan explained he was trying to summarise, to which Carol responded:
This gave an opportunity for all members of the group to acknowledge what had happened and what they could learn from it. The fact that it was handled amicably and discussed openly by Carol, Alan and the other participants was testimony to the levels of trust in the group by this point. Reflecting on this exchange later, Carol commented that the issue for her was that Alan took her story and ‘made it his own’.
Ann and Tessa were then involved in the follow-up to this project, which involved working with members of three other Connected Communities projects in 2012 to develop some ethical guidelines and cases for community-based participatory research. Ann McNulty reflected on that process in connection with thinking about the Ways of Knowing project:
The important thing for me about ethical guidelines group work was the preparation for and facilitation of the process. Maybe that’s something to get people to think about – how to do it – that is, working respectfully and collaboratively with people who you see as different to yourselves, and who are called a different thing (‘academic’ or ‘community’), which goes both ways. How to work at making co-production possible and positive? Doesn’t just happen by itself
Banks and Armstrong (2012) (eds) Ethics in community-based participatory research: case studies, case examples and commentaries, National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement, Bristol, www.dur.ac.uk/beacon/socialjustice/ethics_consultation/ or www.publicengagement.ac.uk/about/ethics/
Banks, S. & Armstrong, A. with Booth, M., Brown, G., Carter, K., Clarkson, M., Corner, L., Genus, A., Gilroy, R., Henfrey, T., Hudson, K., Jenner, A., Moss, R., Roddy, D. and Russell, A. (2013) Using co-inquiry to study co-inquiry: community-university perspectives on research collaboration, Journal of community engagement and scholarship, forthcoming
Beacon NE (2011a) Co-inquiry toolkit. Community-university participatory research partnerships: co-inquiry and related approaches. Newcastle, Beacon NE, www.dur.ac.uk/beacon/socialjustice/toolkits/ or www.publicengagement.ac.uk/how/methods/co-inquiry
Beacon NE (2011b) Beacon NE Co-inquiry Action Research Project, www.dur.ac.uk/beacon/socialjustice/toolkits/ or www.publicengagement.ac.uk/how/case-studies/car-project
Durham Community Research Team (2011). Community-based participatory research: ethical challenges (Arts and Humanities Research Council Discussion Paper). Durham, Durham University, http://www.dur.ac.uk/beacon/socialjustice/researchprojects/cbpr/
Nelson, L. (1940) Socratic Method and Critical Philosophy, New Haven, USA: Yale University Press.
Philosophisch Politische Academy, http://www.philosophisch-politische-akademie.de
Saran, R. and Neisser, B. (2004) (eds) Enquiring minds: Socratic dialogue in education, Stoke-on-Trent, Trentham.
Society for the Furtherance of the Critical Philosophy, http://www.sfcp.org.uk/
I keep thinking about saying “I know a lot about tacit knowledge but don’t like to talk about it.” at the ways of knowing meeting. I’m thinking a lot about the idea of Co-produced knowledge for a project I’m working on and at the back of my mind is a very big question about value.
Is tacit knowledge tacit because talking about it or making it visible is a bit pointless unless you want to study it as an object?
I was talking to my long time collaborator Kate Genever in the car the other day she says that her dad who is a farmer says she is a Fartist (Artist farmer) based on lincolnshires Parmers who were parson farmers.
The point is that her dad has so much knowledge about so much stuff to do with the farm and the land and how to manage it which is unspoken and held within his hands. Perhaps we should call it meta-knowledge rather than tacit knowledge.
Perhaps he has things to pass down – things which could be lost to the next generation things which need to be preserved. I don’t think this is what we are talking about when we consider co-produced knowledge I think it is more about “Self knowing” and this is perhaps the thing where the academic world and the world outside has different ideas of value.
I’m reading Tim Ingolds “Been Alive ” book at the moment – I love Ingolds he is an artists Academic – he knows how our mind set works.
The chapter I have just read is a fantastic piece of writing about why we should consider calling “Things” materials in the world rather than “Materialities” as somebody who hovers around the edges of reading – a short sighted dyslectic who lost his glasses a month ago and hasn’t bothered to find them, I have probably said Materiality to try and impress but for most people a brick is a brick and a hammer is a hammer. The idea of a materiality brings nothing new to the discussion – Ingolds explains this really well and it needs to be said and I enjoyed reading it but the big question is – “What do the academies have to offer in terms of co-produced knowledge” or is this a meta-question.