Research Methods & Documentation

I have found an amazing site: MIND THE DANCE. It’s all about documentation in dance practice, both teaching and own process. Documentation can be so much more than an afterthought. Whether you want to or not, it is how the work will be remembered and seen by the majority of people.

On the other hand, the obsession with recording everything is not very helpful either. One of the articles on the site asks: do you look at the recordings? What do you do with them? It’s good to have a strategy for documentation and to include time to actually go over what you captured. That’s the bit that’s missing for most people. We think we know what happened because we were there so we don’t need to look at the footage, but that’s not true. The camera shows us a different view, it sees things the eye can’t, and vice versa. Having another person to work with also give this other view of what you do. Different media have different affordances, including the human subjective viewpoint.

Can we only know something by changing it? By looking at it from different angles, exploring it over time, changing some parameters of the situation? This seems to be the scientific method that I think Merleau-Ponty talks about. We only know the world by being in it, moving through it, approaching it this way and that. We don’t just look from an imagined nowhere/everywhere. This is where the phenomenological view differs from the empirical, on the question of POV. Empiricism pretends there is no POV, while phenomenology takes it as the only thing we can know for sure.

Hanne De Jaegher is calling for a first person methodology in social interaction research, realizing that perhaps the most useful tool of all to the researcher interested in social and embodied processes is their own experience.

Grasping intersubjectivity: an invitation to embody social interaction research

Hanne De Jaegher1,2 & Barbara Pieper3,4 & Daniel Clénin3,5,6 & Thomas Fuchs7

Published online: 8 July 2016

# The Author(s) 2016. This article is published with open access at

Abstract Underlying the recent focus on embodied and interactive aspects of social understanding are several intuitions about what roles the body, interaction processes, and interpersonal experience play. In this paper, we introduce a systematic, hands-on method for investigating the experience of interacting and its role in intersubjectivity. Special about this method is that it starts from the idea that researchers of social understanding are themselves one of the best tools for their own investigations. The method provides ways for researchers to calibrate and to trust themselves as sophisticated instruments to help generate novel insights into human interactive experience. We present the basics of the method, and two empirical studies. The first is a video- study on autism, which shows greater refinement in the way people with autism embody their social interactions than previously thought. The second is a study of thinking in live interactions, which provides insight into the common feeling that too much thinking can hamper interaction, and into how this kind of interactional awkwardness might be unblocked.

I find it interesting that she speaks about calibrating yourself in order to do this research. It makes sense to me, and perhaps that is what the movement lab is, what somatic practices are in general – a calibration, checking in with your body, locating yourself in it, attuning yourself to your embodied presence in the immediate environment and in relation to others.

It seems to me that I am developing a first person methodology in this study. Figuring out how research in Media Studies (specifically to do with somatic practices and body related technologies) can genuinely integrate embodied practices in the research itself, not as merely a way of testing out preconfigured theories, but as a place of discovery, where the research is formulated. There are inherent difficulties with this endeavor. Academia is notoriously resistant to ambiguity – a key component in artistic research, and indeed the breeding ground for any undertaking. Michael Polanyi talks about this well, he says that if all things were clear to us from the start we could never discover anything new, there must be a tacit dimension to our thought which presents itself as a hunch or intuition about something worth exploring. Without this we could never formulate a research question in the first place. Of course many people do write papers and conduct studies that already have an answer, but Polanyi is talking about research in the sense of getting at novelty. How does anything new ever come to be? Certainly not by simply adding blocks of knowledge together. I imagine that quite often it has to do with interdisciplinary approaches, applying different ways of thinking, different methods, changing the scene. Like the story of Poincaré having his major breakthrough the moment he went on vacation, stepping onto the bus and entering a different space. Through the Movement Labs, I have started to think that most disciplines and professions could use this kind of space for elaborating and testing out ideas. It is a completely different kind of being that opens the world up and enriches our perception and experience of being.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s