Introducing an element of exchange to a conversation:
To have a conversation with the local knitting group using a knitting based question.
I planned to introduce the ‘question’ and then to mostly observe the interaction with a view to how I would record it if I were documenting.
Background: The knitting group is an informal group who get together to knit and socialise. The group consists of around 16 people ranging in age from 8 – 80 (the core group (about 10) meet every week and others come and go). The meetings last for around 2 hours on a Friday afternoon.
I planned to ask a simple knitting question and to observe the exchange between the knitters. (novice to expert)
Execute/Act: During a natural break in the conversation I asked the best way to knit a rib. I didn’t want to highlight that this was a college assignment – I wanted to keep it as natural as possible.
The resulting conversation was a lively exchange of ideas (use two needles then sew up once completed, to using 3 needles and knitting the rib ‘in the round’) The experts illustrated their conversations with demonstrations, the novices shared what they found difficult about knitting a rib-in-the-round (ie getting a ‘ladder’) and the experts shared tips on how to avoid the ‘ladder’. Some suggested starting each row with a purl to keep it tight, while others suggested passing the last 2 stitches onto the next needle to knit in a ‘spiral’.
Review: Everyone who took part seemed engaged – perhaps this was because there was a common aim and interest – it was a question with a definite response. There was a lot of movement (we were sitting around a large table and people moved from their seats to view the ‘demonstrations’ clearly.) There were very few interruptions (any interruptions were usually to ask for clarification or for repeat) The school children were keen to learn and keen to show what they were doing. My interpretation was that everyone learned something.
- The group was there through choice and were willing to explore and learn from each other.
- There was a clear directive – to discuss a particular point – which kept diversions and digressions to a minimum.
- Everyone was willing to share – the group have been meeting for around 2 years – so they know each other and the ‘trust’ and confidence needed to share successfully was already there.
Points to consider:
- If /How the dynamic would have changed if they had known it was for an assignment.
- How recording would have affected responses – would they have been more reticent? More formal?
- How would response have changed if the question had been unrelated to the common interest?
- What would have happened if the question was still about knitting but had required a more personal response?
- I didn’t direct the conversation after the initial question, I was more of an observer than a participant. (I personally learned a lot from the responses- but didn’t contribute in any significant way)
- How do you gauge what others learned from the conversation? Perhaps ask them next week if they have tried any of the alternative suggestions?
- How would I have recorded this conversation? Notes? Photos? Video? Diagrams?
What have I learned?
My plan was to view the conversation while thinking how I would record it and I found this difficult.What exactly would I want to record? I need to think about an aspect I want to record – narrow it down and focus in. If I wanted to record how to knit a rib that would involve a certain type of record, if I wanted to record how people interacted – that would be different again. I think I have learned that recording a whole conversation may not be necessary or desirable.