Reflecting on Work Practices: Possibilities for Dialogue and Collaborative Knowledge Production in Institutional Ethnography

Friday, July 18, 2014: 3:45 PM
Room: 424
Oral Presentation
Riikka HOMANEN , University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland
The presentation explores ontological and epistemological issues of institutional ethnography (IE) in relation to bringing together different knowledges and epistemic commitments. More specifically, the presentation addresses the possibilities for dialogue and collaborative knowledge production between research participants’ practice-oriented, experience-based ideas about their work and researchers’ academically informed concepts. The issues are explored through analysis of how participants in an IE project, namely researchers and maternity nurses, engage in reflection collaboratively on the care activities. The material analyzed are fieldnotes produced at workshops arranged for joint reflection on the nurses’ own work practices as documented on video.

The analysis shows that the possibilities for, and the difficulties of, achieving dialogue emerge from three sources. First, conflicting knowledge interests between researchers and research participants may lead to complementary projects in situations where all parties align themselves with the other’s interests. In such situations, experience-based knowledge may be co-produced through storytelling motives. Second, doing IE is about the researcher moving from one setting to another and taking up different positions accordingly. These fluid positions create constraints and possibilities for dialogue. An outsider expert/administrative power position and circumstances that reinforce it are not conducive to the articulation of multiple voices. However, it is possible to shift the overall positioning so that the participants may co-produce knowledge. In my case this was done through working with videos and researchers’ provocative commentary that bore ‘responses’ that the nurses quickly picked up and reflected on. Third, presenting theory-based interpretation that addressed an organizing element of care provoked accounts that addressed the organizing element from a different angle and specified how such organization is actually realized. Reframing the ongoing analysis through such dialogically produced experience-based knowledge means that theoretical concepts are used not to make generalizing statements on commonalities in the material but to put them to test.