EXPLORATORY WORKSHOPS

 
FIELD WORKS: TOWARDS COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH PRACTICES IN DANCE

Background


The inspiring long-time interaction within Nordic dance studies made the members of the research group wish to superimpose a new dimension of innovation, laboratory workshops as research practices. The workshops focused on developing a reflected approach to practice-led, collaborative scholarly analysis. In a laboratory-structure the researchers intended to work with a division of labour and in tight cooperation on defined materials/topics.


The greatest challenge was to question the conventional composition in humanistic research. We followed the ideas of a Finnish social scientist Pertti Töttö concerning crossing the boundaries between qualitative and quantitative methodologies, as well those of  American cognitive scientists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson concerning embodied realism, empirical evidence and rejection of a strict subject-object dichotomy.


We placed ourselves in the field of empirical studies that have traditions of both “hard” and “soft” methods. We did not want to take as granted either of those traditions, but we stressed the embodied character of all scientific inquiry whether it was regarded as natural scientific or humanistic. Furthermore, we stressed the importance of collegial work with features from both natural sciences and humanities.


The main purpose was to test the benefits of having the work take place concentrated in one time and space and in an inspired togetherness, but still with time to individual work between the laboratories. What this meant was that the researchers shared the same frame of research, the laboratory, which allowed them to investigate same phenomena from different perspectives according to the division of labour. This kind of innovative inquiry was intended to strengthen the evidence of research, producing multiple views that were to be discussed, interpreted and clarified through collegial work and external evaluation.


Implementation























The objective of the two workshops was to develop a more solidly reflected approach to practice-led, collaborative scholarly analysis. The workshops explored three field work situations: 1) the study of dance practices (1st workshop) 2) the study of dance as part of a performance events (1st and 2nd) and 3) archival studies (2nd). The intention was to define a cluster of common methodologies, particularly useful in cooperative projects, The methods growing out of the first workshop were re-visited during part of the following workshop for the purpose of evaluation as well as critical and more in-depth theoretical reflection. The second workshop was used for entering into discussion with experts from outside the project.


The workshops were constructed as’ laboratories’, where the group examined what happened when the researchers challenged themselves to perform in new ways based on a larger degree of improvisation, sharing and interactivity. The main point was to shift seamlessly and efficiently between collaborative work in groups, plenaries and individual explorations according to the needs in each case. 


In order to add an outside perspective to the collaborative processes within the group, two experts from dance research, professors Gediminas Karoblis and Georgiana Gore were invited to follow, observe and discuss the work and give the group advice on work practices.


The work was carried out in Finland (Tampere) and Sweden (Stockholm). The material, performances and sources were chosen according to how they related to a mix of participatory and theatrical dancing. The group also looked for events and sources with a potentiality of speaking to either national or regional specificities, thus hoping to access dimensions of the analytical methodology that could be relevant for a more contextual approach, and one in which the workshop participants' sense of cultural belongings might be activated, investigated, rejected, and/or deconstructed.


A workshop was a period of 2 days when the whole research team was accommodated in the same place, working intensively in groups or individually according to needs, and shared meals and social time in the evenings. The laboratory had a defined progression. It was starting with sharing a material in plenary session:  A dance performance, a work of a central theoretician, a short fieldwork, or archival sources. The sharing was carefully planned and can be more of us presenting our readings of theory for the others or all of us going to a performance. The next step was an analysis, formally on paper or through discussion, and the last step was writing up a text. At all steps labour division was considered.


Results


The most important result of the workshops is connected to the epistemological and methodological questions that came up during the process. The workshops indicated how knowledge is built in the interaction, through exchanges and discussions of differences in background knowledge when doing collaborative field work.  Varying focal points, different observations as well as interpretations of the events between the participants in the group  helped the group to articulate differences and become aware of prejudices, which added to its awareness of the epistemological questions.


Methodologically, the researchers’ positions were displaced – other people were questioning one’s interpretations, judgements, positions in collaborative research. The field work was more conducted among methods, as a form of interaction of methods, which can be seen as interesting as interaction among people. This implied that the border between qualitative and quantitative methods could be exceeded. The personal ethnographic work could reach a more valid and reliable level, still not losing its unique character.


Six members of the group presented the work-in-process at the Ethnographic forum at DeMontfort University (UK) in January 2011, and the group intends to continue the process of investigating collaborative methods both within Nordic and international research programmes as well as educational cooperation.



The workshops were supported by the Joint Committee for Nordic Research Councils for the Humanities and the Social Sciences (NOS-HS).



Schedule



Tampere 3. – 4.10.2009

Theme: Field work: participant observation, documentation and multisited research


Saturday 3.10.

10.00 – 13.00 Meeting, planning, division of labour, practical issues

14.00 – 17.00 Observation and documentation: The Pispala Schottische dance contest for new folk dance compositions

19.00 – 23.00 Observation and documentation: Modern folk dance performances and participatory dancing


Sunday 4.10.

9.30 – 12.00 Discussion, comparison and evaluation of the observations

13.00 – 16.00 Preliminary analysis of the field work



Stockholm 29. – 30.5.2010

Themes: Field work: archival material and performance ethnography


Saturday 29.5.

10.00 – 11.00 Meeting, planning, division of labour, practical issues

12.00 – 15.00 Work with archival material

15.30 – 17.00 Discussion, comparison and evaluation of the observations

19.00 -23.00 Participant observations of dance performances


Sunday 30.5.

9.30 – 12.00 Presentations of the material, research process and analysis by the members of the group

13.00 – 16.00 Evaluation of the process and analysis

17.00 – 19.00 Feedback of the workshops



Literature



Conquergood, D. 2002.. Performance Studies:  Interventions and Radical Research.  TDR: The Drama Review 46.2.


Denzin, Norman K. 2003. Performance Ethnography. Critical Pedagogy and the Politics of Culture Thousand Oaks, London, New Delhi: Sage Publications.


Dewey, J. 1925. Experience and Nature. Open Court.


Goffman, E. 1981. Forms of Talk. Blackwell.


Lakoff, G. & Johnson M. 1999. Philosophy in the Flesh. The Embodied Mind and Its challenge to Western Thought. Basic Books.


Madison, D. S. 2005. Critical Ehtnography. Method. Ethics, and Performance Thousand Oaks, London, New Delhi: Sage Publications


Marcus, G. E. 1995. “Ethnography in/of the World System: The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography”. Annual Review of Ethnography 24 (95 – 117)


Marcus, G, E. 1998. Ethnography through thick and thin, Princeton: Princeton University


Marcus G,E, and M. F. Fischer. 1986. Anthropology as cultural critique: An experimental moment in the human sciences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press


Schechner, R. 1985. Between Theatre and Anthropology. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania


Sklar, D. 2000 “Reprise: On Dance Ethnography” in Dance Research Journal 32/1


Töttö. P. 1999. Pirullinen positivismi. Kysymyksiä laadulliselle tutkimukselle. Jyväskylä: Kampus Kustannus.


Yin, R. K. 1984. Case Study Research. Design and Methods. Beverly Hills.

The first workshop begins: The group enters Sampola educational centre at Dancemania-festival in Tampere