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Price of being critical

February 24, 2012 2 comments

Well it has been a strange week if I’m honest.  I came to Glasgow to to learn about multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary research.  Achieved.  However, I didn’t expect to come away with such a dark feeling on how difficult and even alienating research across disciplines appears to be. The advice quoting an important academic in the area is “Only do research across disciplines if you really have to!”   What is perhaps more important is that this approach of telling PhD students “the way it is” in such a critical fashion, they say – enables researchers to go in with their eyes wide open.

This got me thinking – why does this bother me?  Then I realized.  My own pilot research on identity in project management is too in this critical perhaps negative spirit.  Soon I’m going to present my findings at a practitioner conference with the idea of giving project managers the information in order to emancipate themselves…. To share with them some of the structure that shape their identities.  I believe this is in the spirit of Michael Foucault also.  Tell it the way it is and let the individual deal with it.

My problem here is that this just doesn’t feel too great.  Do I want people to walk away from one of my presentation feeling uneasy, taken advantage of, or disappointed in a system that they have dedicated their careers?  Is this the price to pay for doing critical research?  Most if not all presentations at practitioner conferences in particular have such a functional and above all positive message.  So what do I do?  Do I force some positive messages into my presentation, or do I take the Foucault option?

Love to hear from other critical researchers… how do you think I can come to terms with this?

Time to get on the plane back to the UAE!

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Categories: Research Methods Tags: ,

Moving on quickly then to PhD proposal

I’ve no idea whether this blog will make any sense today, but I just feel the need to write a couple of things down…

My MRes dissertation (aka pilot study), on the effects of project life on project manager identity is now complete, and in its final packaging before sending to the external examiner.  I’ve started some knowledge exchange in terms of one conference and another workshop in April.  For some reason though, I’ve found that there is a strong desire to move on to my PhD proposal, especially after making the following few realizations (in no particular order).

1. My MRes was great, and an interesting and rewarding research experience.  However, I felt near the end somewhat dissatisfied with the ‘shakey’ and bland case study methods in identity research, particularly around any tie back to ontological and epistemological foundations.  Something lacked a little here without trying to undermine it too much.  I think it is good research, just Master level research.  This I want/need to correct during my transition to new PhD.

2. Identity research from the organisational theorists’ perspectives has also left me a little unsatisfied.  In fact, I’ll agree with Mats Alvesson that there is a considerable myopathy within identity’s philosophical paradigms.  I would prefer to be more holistic in my PhD identity research so I’ve been looking for alternatives.  That’s when I stumbled across Paul Ricoeur.

3. Paul Ricoeur offers a considerable depth for me as a researcher.  From the hermeneutic cycle which I do like as a method to increasing understanding – like reflexive practice, and not claiming any certainty etc.  It also fits with my beliefs around the social construction of human reality.  Next his work on time and narrative, and most important to my research – his conception of narrative identity.

I’m now reading about his structured approach to narrative interpretation through Mimesis.  Mimesis 1, the pre-configuration of narratives events, Mimesis 2, configuration using employment, and Mimesis 3 – a hermeneutic I suppose in the reconfiguration with the addition of the researcher’s/readers own meaning.  I can sense this fits quite well with Wittgenstein’s language games.  I see to that there will be alternatives…  Now, I don’t proclaim to have a great depth of understanding yet, but there is a sense in which this all feels like a safe and exciting place to start my journey.  If anyone has any PhDs, Masters or even articles on Ricoeurian Hermeneutic analysis I’d be most grateful for a heads up on where to find these.

4. Finally, on one hand, I’ve narrowed my interest to specifically the effects of “project success and failure” and on the other hand, widened my interest to the notion of professional manager identity i.e. not necessarily certified project manager.  Ricoeur’s narrative identity looks like a new way of conceptualizing what happens to peoples plots after project success/failure, and I think it will fit well with managers who will need to tell me their stories either by interview, or through text (say a book, blog, autobiography etc)  Narrative identity looks to allow things that seemed lacking in other theories such as allowing the combining of history and fiction; the past, present and future (temporal aspects);  the implicit and explicit; the concordance and discordance; etc.  I currently though to be fair – I do not really understand yet what is on offer and what is not.

I have some reservations on Ricoeur, particularly as he had such a strong evaluative, ethical, moral, and christian side to his works which rubs me up the wrong way a bit.  I’ve always preferred existentialist philosophers better such as Nietzsche or Jen Paul Satre and the aesthetic life.  But at least, another favorite of mine – Heidegger is foundational to Ricoeur.  Nevertheless, reservations aside, I think I’m on my way – and the sense-breaking has begun again as I try to understand his writings and read others writings of him.  When I just thought I understood what identity is… it is once again taken away from me.  How exciting!!!!