Reflection & Action

Yesterday, David and I were debriefing about the mentoring event on Sunday. Long and short of it, he felt that the show and presentation invited action, not reflection. Very interesting! I think he’s right – and I’m not sure that’s what Li and I intended. Let me qualify, from my point-of-view: I do want and hope that folks will take some kinds of action, but the desired mode of that “action” is primarily reflection. In concrete terms, that means (for me) continuing to think about communication practices that may lead or contribute to a perception of indifference, sharing my thoughts and feelings about this with others, and paying close attention to what others have to say about their own thoughts and feelings regarding this question, as well as the other “take aways” from Sunday’s session.
For instance, it seems some faculty think the main point of the presentation was to criticize them. Certainly, there was some critique directed towards faculty practices about which many graduate students have expressed dissatisfaction. But it seems to me that those specific criticisms are examples of the larger phenomenon of perceived American indifference to international students, and much of THAT critique was directed towards American students.
Anyway, the thing that has really stuck with me the most is something David said about the presentation’s clarity…there wasn’t one specific statement that summed it up, but what it made me wonder about is the effectiveness of the rhetoric – by which I mean the attempt to be persuasive about our analysis of the data. Is it possible to be too persuasive? If the actual effect of the presentation has been to shut conversation down because it seems as if the conclusion has already been made, that would be an effect counter to what I (and I think Li) intended…and it would bum me out! ­čÖü
The other thing that has been on my mind has something to do with variations in research aims, modes, methods…I deliberately chose NOT to take a class or write a specific paper on this project because I didn’t want to think in the typical research way. Does anyone know what I mean by that? Li and I are making a movie – one that we would will be provocative and stimulate enough talk among viewers that actual practices of interaction between and among international and domestic changes…even (Dreaming Big!) that institutional practices that might promote or enhance cross-cultural interactions might be improved. So, this aim is different than a research goal of producing knowledge, per se.
A corollary of this kind of action research (which is the closest frame I’m aware of) has to do with the nature of groups, group processes, and the focus or desire on acting in (so-called) real time. The kind of deliberative, deep thinking that characterizes the presentation of research intended to stand the test of time is not possible in the same way. Literally, Li and I generated the entire script and presentation in six days. Sunday was an “in-process” snapshot of our best “making-sense” of the data. In that regard, I want to emphasize the HYPOTHETICAL nature of the hypotheses! They are certainly up for debate – I think I had envisioned a contemplative mood (including healthy doses of self-reflection, smile) for this next phase within the department…occurring in essentially spontaneous snatches of conversation here and there. (Perhaps this is happening and I’m unaware.) Obviously, my projected fantasy (!) about what might ripple out from the presentation doesn’t need to have any relation to the reality – its just my own subjective point-of-reference. ­čÖé

2 thoughts on “Reflection & Action”

  1. Steph and David, I wasn’t with you guys on the debriefing, so I am not certain about what kind of “action” you are pointing to here. So, I would like to leave that question for the near future, while responding to what I decipher as certain anxiety around the un-anchoredness of the play/performance in general – the presentation, I think, was pretty much anchored and did have a “conclusion.”
    First of all, I agree that the dramatic play was quite provacative, which was clearly intended. What was less clearly intended, if at all, was its open-endedness, at least on my part. For me, the song-singing was a symbolic end to the play. In it I wanted to express my optimism as well as my wish for a better future in general. There I wasn’t so much addressing the International Grad Student group as to the general condition of human being, that is, the desire to free from suffering. However, given its position in the entire sequence of activities, i.e. followed by group discussion, the singing was also intended to invite identification and discursive contribution. In other words, to offer a conclusion of findings seems not desirable or appropriate. In this sense, I am pretty happy with the play’s open-endedness, if that’s what we are talking about here now. I might be wrong though.
    Catch you later!

  2. Hi y’all,
    One of the things that we mused over with Steph was the deafening silence after Nov 2 that Steph had experienced. I volunteered a (personal) explanation as we were walking away from the worst Greek food I’ve ever had: the reason why I hadn’t felt that I should react to Steph and Li and carry on the thought process about the mentorship project was that I considered Nov 2 to be a forceful ending to the COMMUNAL thought process. I felt that it was time to walk away from Lord Jeff with lots of thinking to be done on one’s own about where to go from here. As I experienced it, the performance called out to the individual members of the audience and encouraged them to take a stand on a controversial issue and to choose a course of action.
    Steph writes: “Long and short of it, he felt that the show and presentation invited action, not reflection.” Just to clarify what I meant: instead of inviting more contributions to the department-wide communal thought process about mentorship, the presentation in my opinion invited personal reflection and communal action. Hence, I have no reason to think that Nov 2 was unsuccessful just because people are not bringing down the blog with article-long postings. I think people are figuring, turning things around in their heads, and getting ready for… let’s see what.

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