From idiotic questions to the co-production of knowledge - reflections on in-tervention as method in research with/ on a highly specialized field
Anja Klein (Humboldt-Universität Berlin)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in a research group of model developers I argue for in-tervention as method in highly specialized fields not only to produce data but also to find common ground for conceptual work and knowledge production.
Paper long abstract:
This paper draws on explorative ethnographic fieldwork on knowledge practices in an inter-disciplinary research group developing computational models of socio-ecological coevolu-tion. Conducting my research I realized that I could not rely mainly on participant observa-tion but had to resort to methods which elicit explicit reactions and responses. Therefore I argue that intervention as method is a necessity for data production in highly specialized fields where most knowledge is implicit and embodied. At first, interventions happened "on the go" and for pragmatic reasons. The kids of data pro-duced require further scrutiny and reflection. Already my presence as an academic peer in that specific research group entailed a somewhat uncontrollable form of involvement. This was underlined by the fact that I shared a strong interest in the field's research objective: understanding socio-ecological processes. However, what was controllable was the manner of intervention. These interventions happened on different scales, from asking "idiotic" questions in everyday conversations, via actively participating in discussions on work in progress, and conducting semi-structured interviews to, ultimately, a feedback workshop with the involved researcher. To grasp this workshop as intervention will be the focus of my paper. Its aim was twofold: to discuss my hypotheses as well as shared concepts and contents of common interest with the field. Here, intervention served three purposes: generating ethnographic data, problematiz-ing epistemic assumptions in modelling, and finding a common ground for knowledge pro-duction, co-laboration and conceptual work on shared matters of concern in both their field and mine.
Smugglers, idiots and loyal cheats: situated intervention as method out of control