Frog Design - Seattle 5 by Ted Eytan
Frog Design - Seattle 5 by Ted Eytan
Frog Design – Seattle 5 by Ted Eytan

After a very busy fall term, PHEEL reconvened on Tuesday; our group will be working together weekly, from 2:00-5:00PM on Tuesdays in Drexel’s Center for Science, Technology and Society.

There is a sizable list of tasks that we want to complete by the end of the term, including a summary report for community groups and local organizations. We also have more data to process, including over 500 photos, 240 block observations, and ethnographic field notes.

We’ve broken our term tasks into sub-working groups that will collaborate on these tasks. At the outset, we’ll be focusing on finishing up analysis of the survey data. But more than just processing and analyzing the data, I’m increasingly emphasizing the collaborative process that we’re engaged in.

Hypertriple Trammel* of the Hyperpowerful Fates
Hypertriple Trammel* of the Hyperpowerful Fates

For example, during our first meeting, we had twelve people at the table — some of whom have worked on the project since January 2014, and others who are just starting work on the project. To have twelve people, with different relationships to the data, looking at the numbers together… it was really a wonderful experience; students who were looking at the project, its design and data for the first time, as well as folks who had collected the data, entered the data, and processed the data in SPSS. Team members who were reflecting on their experiences collecting and working with the data over the last year, and questions from others, who had a fresh set of eyes on the project.

Sitting together looking at the data, we were able to generate cross tabs to run, and we gained insight into a few mysteries. For example, the number of responses to the question on income was very low. To investigate this further, we’re going to search the literature and see if researchers have seen this in other surveys as well; I’m also going to do exit interviews with all data collection team members to see how they asked the question, and whether this was a question that got skipped more often than others.

The experience of looking at the data together — and you can picture this as, everyone sitting around a work table, each with a folder of data printouts for the three zip codes, as well as for the planning district, highlighting and note-taking in their folders; these get collected at the end and everyone’s meeting notes get typed up together — this experience, has got me thinking about collaborative research writ large, what it looks like across projects, and what our own team might do from here. I might have our group read “A New Form of Collaboration in Cultural Anthropology: Matsutake Worlds” (2009) by Tim Choy, Lieba Faier, Michael Hathaway, Miyako Inoue, Shisho Satsuka, and Anna Tsing.

The two pictures above aren’t from our team’s work; they’re images I grabbed from Flickr’s creative commons gallery, after I searched for “collaboration.” It was very interesting to see the kinds of images that came up. I chose these because I like the way pattern, color, and texture “made” the images interesting (for me). Our group talked A LOT about methods this week. Feeling very fortunate to work with such a creative, sharp, and inspired group of students.

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