Home > Research Methods > Price of being critical

Price of being critical

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!

Categories: Research Methods Tags: ,
  1. February 28, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Hi Michael

    I think its important and a good thing to raise awareness of what critical approaches and understandings can show people about the structures they operate within. On twitter, I suggested agency for balance as a way to be more ‘positive’ at the conference. I am taking a discursive psychological approach in my research which emphasises the action-orientated nature of language, speakers as having agency over how they construct their identities. However, I also need to account for the structure and have explored the ideologies and discourses that are provided for people by the social world to construct their identities. I think this is why Wetherell (1998) called for an ‘eclectic discursive psychology’. Billig covers agency quite nicely here http://semen.revues.org/8930

    Hope this makes sense.


    • March 19, 2012 at 12:56 pm

      Hi Jenna. Sorry for replying so late… yes I agree with you mostly. Perhaps instead of balance we use Kahneman’s ideas where what actually counts is people memory of an event, and that is almost always related to how something ended. So finish with a strong couple of positive slides on hope and agency!!



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