Guiding research design principles:
Methodology, in general, cannot merely be reduced to an instrumentalist approach of methods only. Methodology is more than our knowledge of using different research methods. Although methods are indeed integral to methodology, methodology is also about process and the guiding principles necessary for steering both the directionality and design of the emergent research process — something which cannot done by methods per se.
When adopting narrative action research (NAR), the following principles play a key role in guiding the on-going re/designing of emergent TTDR processes:
- Epistemic justice ~ refers to how knowledge is being co-produced in situations of unequal knowledge / power relations — and more specifically the unfairness built into systems of knowledge production, where certain viewpoints and personas are more represented and hold more power — aka epistemic injustice. Epistemic justice is the practice of redressing such imbalances in TTDR processes.
- Self-signification ~ taken together with epistemic justice, this principle of self-signification means handing the hermeneutic power of interpretation back to storytellers (see Naturalising Sensemaking on publications page). In practice, this means deliberately creating the collaborative opportunities with the participants in TTDR processes for co-designing (see below) the tools with which to interpret and make sense of their own lived experiences.
- However, apart from the fairness involved in this, there is another sound epistemological reason for giving the hermeneutic power of interpretation back to storytellers. That is, when facing real-world issues that are too complex for approaching purely from within academia, we are then simply forced to acknowledge and work with the experiential / practical knowledge of those social actors embedded in the problem situation at hand. Failure to do so, does not only run the risk of producing reductionist understandings of the problem situation at hand, but also, very importantly, increases the probabilities of coming up with non-sustainable solutions in the end. It is, therefore, in our problem-solving interests to allow our methodological and epistemological endeavours to be guided by the principle of self-signification.
- Distributed cognition ~ working both within and across diverse groups of people in ever-changing contexts — aka distributed ethnography or the ability of working with and through many different interpretive ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ — not only those of the researchers’. This is important, because it is not necessarily possible to enter the life-worlds (Lebenswelt) of others in a kind of direct way. This was indeed one of the core ideas posited by the idealist hermeneutics of Schleiermacher et.al, but which has proven to be a hermeneutic mission impossible over the years. A better approach to take in this would be what Anthony Giddens has referred to as the double hermeneutic — or the meaning-making of meaning-making. In essence, this means acknowledging and working with the many diverse ways and means others are interpreting and making sense of their worlds — rather than trying to interpret the world for them.
- Co-design ~ When taken together, the three principles of epistemic justice, self-signification and distributed cognition form a formidable trio of guiding principles for co-designing TTDR processes. This means co-constructing the tools with which to co-produce said systems, target and transformation knowledge (see homepage). When adopting NBAR approaches, this means co-constructing the signification frameworks to be used by the relevant social actors in the research process for interpreting and making sense of their lived experiences. As a key, first step in the research process this normally happens prior to going into the field to do the data / story collections (see methods page).
- Reflexive learning ~ is the learning of learning — or in the words of Gregory Bateson1 2 triple-loop transformative learning. In practice, this means that the new insights and understandings gained through reflective learning during TTDR processes are being used for real-time decision-making and re-designing of the unfolding research process.