This post is in the Self Observation category

It has been observed that “any behavioural act may be interpreted in a meaningful way by the other party. The message may be intentional or unintentional, accurate or inaccurate, but it will be interpreted” (Stewart & Cash, 2006, p. 15). While the ongoing self observation process is designed to record the participant’s own observations and memory of both brief moments in time and general trends, a tangible record was required to allow an additional interpretation of verbal and non-verbal interactions occurring at and around the moment in question. The video recordings are not considered objective data for the extraction of statistical fact, rather an additional layer of mnemonic interpretation via stimulated recall for both myself and other participants.  They offer an opportunity for an “outside view” of the interaction that is not available. The observation of the video has been a challenge to personal meaning-making within the interactions themselves, tapping multiple layers of consciousness (Ellis, 2004; Smith & Sparkes, 2008) including introspective reflection and emotional recall, and an “externalised” reaction and reflection.

These layers of interpretation;

a) immediate reactions documented in blogs and narrative,
b) reflections over time similarly documented,
c) stimulated recall of the event from the video, and
d) observations of elements of the interactions that were not recognised or remembered at the time, occasionally produced conflicts, and these have provided some of the most interesting insights.

The techniques of recording and coding of talk-in-interaction are well documented and accessible (Seedhouse, 2005; ten Have, 1999) and provide a solid foundation of skills required by the researcher to venture into the observation of “whole” interactions (Ruhleder & Jordan, 1997, p. 5) that can be analysed via video. Conversation Analysis (CA) provides a basis for analysis of verbal and symbolic interaction (Heath & Hindmarsh, 2002, p. 3; Kaiser et al., 2000) but may not directly account for the Gestalt of an interaction (ten Have, 1992, p. 19). Criticism of CA has been made of the “narrow focus on talk” and disregard for background, professional activity, organisational framework which may produce a “denuded characterisation of conduct” (Heath & Hindmarsh, 2002, p. 6). The social activity cannot be understood via talk alone but must consider the interdependency of bodily conduct and the material environment of the participants (ibid, p. 7). Generally such recordings are transcribed moment by moment for words, gestures, pauses, changes in prosody, changes in environment and non-human interactions and coded for textual analysis via various qualitative research software packages. Thus the complete interaction captured on video, including the non-verbal communications, environment and non-human interactions such as equipment and the context of the interactions is a stronger base for understanding the Gestalt. Concerns were raised as to my ability to interpret the interactions captured on video, as I have known deficits in areas of both verbal and non-verbal communication. In practice I found the coding process, following guidelines from various texts (Dickerson, Rae, Stribling, Dautenhahn & Werry, 2005; ten Have, 1999) and the help files in TAMS Analyser, more of a hindrance to personal understanding than a help.

Viewing the video material evoked significant reactions, firstly at an intellectual, and then emotional level. These reactions themselves, and the events that stirred them, became the focus of attention, rather than the second by second motion of eye or tone of voice. The impact of multiple dimensions aspects of empathy (Davis, 1980; Rogers, Dziobek, Hassenstab, Wolf & Convit, 2006) are likely implicated in this process and are discussed in the Empathy Insights section of this document.

The coding of the data was a new skill to develop in terms of fine detail observation and statistical analysis. The point of the observations was to observe the whole interaction as Gestalt, indeed to assist in the formation of a global viewpoints. In hindsight I believe my naturally strong local and weaker global coherence hindered the process of forming meaning from the coding process, as there was a significant experience of becoming lost and de-sensitised in the detail, making it extremely difficult to “step back” and interpret the bigger picture.

Detailed transcription of the videos was therefore largely abandoned at an early stage in favour of narrative description of events, memories and reflections, in some cases accompanied by inclusion of the video material itself or “mockup” illustrations in this document. This process and mode of discussion also has the effect of re-personalising the data, and offering it to the reader through an interpretive lens.

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