My big task at the moment is devising flash cards for my focus group method, which is supposed to be a development of Jonathan White’s from his Political Allegiance after Integration (2011), a crafty method for stimulating political content from a discussion. I guess I perceive a few challenges in adapting the method: first, to do the work and do it right; second, to make sure I have some ownership of the method, rather than performing a presto change-o switcheroo.
Above: a famous archaeologist demonstrates "the Switcheroo"
I want to adapt the method rather than adopt it, so it’s important I design important parts, like the flash cards used during the discussion, myself, not least because I’ll be able to make the method specific to my empirical intentions. The key to gaining ownership won’t be adapting the method itself but, instead, constructing a new method derived from the same basic ideas.
This is where things get difficult. To adapt an idea presupposes understanding. If you were looking to make a movie based on Romeo and Juliet you’d have to know what happened in Romeo and Juliet first, right? By the same token, if I’m to appropriate the essentials of someone else’s successful methodology I’m claiming to understand them. So that’s one thing: making sure that I fully comprehend the original author’s intentions and perspective and staying aware that his method, adapted, is an interpretation of his ideas.
Second, I have to actually sit down with some pens and do the work, pulling out my hair over trying to be sort of lackadaisical and cartoony with my drawings (it wouldn’t do to look like I tried too hard) while staying close to theoretical principles. Oh boy! I find myself looking back at my work and feeling either that I’ll show them to a group and they’ll scoff at me, or else I’ll turn up before the department and they’ll roll their eyes at my mindless doodles. Low confidence yields procrastination.
Third, it’s important that while doing the work and not trying too hard at it I keep a firm track of my ideas as they develop so that, step by step, I can explain my rationale to others and myself for the cards and topics I devise. Though the card exercise is not central to data collection I can’t simply ignore it: it’s important I am aware of the ideas I’m spreading around with my cards and those I have not included.
I am nevertheless happy about the methodology and its potential. It will be fun, too. I am not sure about posting example cards here but I am leaning towards doing so, just because I love the idea of open research. I will have to speak to my supervisor about it… peace all!