• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Stop wasting time looking for files and revisions. Connect your Gmail, DriveDropbox, and Slack accounts and in less than 2 minutes, Dokkio will automatically organize all your file attachments. Learn more and claim your free account.


Representation in Research

Page history last edited by Yasmeen 12 years, 6 months ago

Research as Representation

Thanks for putting up this heading, Pearl.  I’ve been wondering a lot about representation in research – were you thinking of representation in terms of something else?


Peter Cole asks what research can do but interpret?  Yet, I’m not entirely happy with the idea of research as representation either which sounds too much like mirroring even though I know there’s possibility for the word to mean something else.  Does research as experiment offer something more participatory?  What about research as practice….which I’m sure I don’t fully understand. 


Lather (2001) writes about foregrounding the “inadequacy of thought to its object, a stuttering knowledge is constructed that elicits an experience of the object through its very failures of representation” (p. 207). I like her description of work that forces a reading in two directions and wonder how that can be done in other ways, forcing reading in many ways…


These are some random thoughts on representation and refraction of light:

When a single ray of light strikes a boundary between two mediums, it gets refracted.  Light then bends toward the ‘normal’ – which is the perpendicular (because the angle of refraction is smaller than the angle of incidence) So – it doesn’t record the entire anomaly or difference…..I’m thinking of this in terms of representation in research and how it misses the particularities, tends towards what we think we know of ‘normality’.

However, when light connects with the reflected surface….water or glass….into the air, light bends away from the ‘normal’.  The angle of refraction is larger than the angle of incidence – so it exaggerates difference back to us….despite changes in positioning, changes in the amount or placement of the light, etc. 

Why am I making this connection??? Does it make any sense? Thinking through refraction, what does research offer then but an experience with the sensation of light? Crazy thoughts but I seem to be stuck on them for now…:-)



Hi Pearl and Valerie,


Thanks for starting the discussion Pearl.  Interesting link to refraction Valerie.


I've just finished reading an article by Peter Gouzouasis (2008) called Toccata on Assessment, Validity and Interpretation where he is exploring these issues in relation to A/r/tographic Inquiry.  He comments that "We can never totally extract ourselves from the data.  If you're a quantitative researcher you're always trying to find different ways of massaging the numbers to find some significance to the differences or relationships you're investigating.  And the interpretations of the findings, especially unexpected findings, are frequently stories based on purely theoretical assumptions, even so-called 'educated guesses'..(p.222) He goes on to say," The bottom line is that we're all writing fictions-invented, crafted, made, created, constructed-pick your theory laden term." (p.222)  I think the idea of fictions is an interesting one...


On a living inquiry kind of note, if I may, I just watched a show on the Outdoor Life Network called Word Travels, which follows a travel writer in her search to "get the story" in Ethiopia.  While she makes claims of not being "one of those tourists" and wants to present both the "good and bad" it was interesting to see how she talked about representing differently but was really just attempting to justify why she was doing the same old.  I thought this was an interesting comment on research in general.  I would have loved to see some of her "subjects" come to study Vancouverites in their natural habitat.





Hi Yasmeen and Valerie:



Great to start this 'research' discussion.



Thinking of refraction...There is a show on right now at Catriona Jefferies Gallery with the work of the late Jerry Pethick who was one of the first to utilize diffraction and holography in sculpture... you might find his work/ideas very interesting Valerie.



....yes, the research field is totally constructed (from the researchers’ point of view)...why we can't just admit that and get on with it I don't know.  But Atkinson (2007) suggests that even if we acknowledge the field as constructed that doesn't mean that what we are witnessing is not valid...that we can't begin to draw meaning and knowledge from the sites/settings we are participating with/in. Paul Atkinson in the Ethnographic Imagination: textual constructs of reality draws a lot to parallels to fiction/rhetoric in ethnographic writing. Yes, I think there seems to be a lot in common with fiction too. On the other hand, what is the matter with creating an ethnography as a tourist?




Hi Pearl,


Enjoyed reading your post. 


For me, I think the idea of admitting it,  stating who we are, our background, connection and intention is useful and important.  I  think of all the studies that have been done of "the other" and how historically there seems to have been so much Western or European research invested in making/defining  lives and cultures from a perspective outside the culture.  My questions are around continuing to define the lives of others in ways that serve to create generalizations or simplified views of situations, which might not be contested or expanded on because the voice of those being studied is absent and left behind when the study is over.  Back to your suggestion of admitting it...possibly in being very clear about ourselves and disclosing what we understand about the researcher/researched relationship we could acknowledge this power issue, what is has meant and might mean now. 


What has your research experience been like?











Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.