13 SES 04 A, Hospitality, Method of Discussion, and Research Methodologies
New trends in methodology have tried to push the boundaries of humanist and anthropocentric assumptions to create new modes of qualitative research in line with the posthumanism turn. Examples would include post-intentional phenomenologies and sociomaterial approaches. These methodologies have received considerable attention in educational research.
In this paper we attempt to address these methodologies in education and demonstrate how they fail to acknowledge the unavoidable void that resides at the heart of research. We will do so by turning our focus to three dimensions, namely three unaccessible voids of research, that can emerge either singularly or jointly in each study. Each of these voids produces an opportunity to rethink the very limits of what counts as research precisely because they suspend (if even for a moment) the intentional structure of perception. Secondly, we analyze particular responses to this void, or a-voidance strategies found in post-intentional phenomenologies and sociomaterial research.
Drawing on the work of Catherine Malabou (2012; 2008), the first dimension of the void refers to the accident. Malabou identifies an accident as a destructive plasticity, that is a “power of change without redemption, without teleology, without any meaning other than strangeness” (p. 24). If the accident is a law, it is a peculiar one as it “does not allow us to anticipate its instances” and is therefore “surprised by its own instances” (p. 30). Such a law cannot predict its own occurrence, and in this sense, is a law of pure contingency. Thus accident is post-teleological, post-redemptive, and, because it has no relation to what came before, resists interpretive exegesis. Posthumanist methods attempt to take into account the possibility of accidents, and for this, they should be praised. Yet their understanding of accidents is reduced to either flexibility(post-intentional) or fluidity(sociomaterial), thus missing the destructive nature of accidents to disrupt research by presenting a void that cannot be interpreted or mapped.
The second dimension of the void draws on the work of Paul North(2012) on distraction. Distraction escapes a definition as it is at the furthest edge of what is thinkable precisely because it indicates an interruption of intentionality. As a contrast to attention, which is focused on either this phenomenon OR that, and tries to reduce the phenomenon down to its essential features, post-intentional phenomenology and sociomaterial approaches switch this conjunction to the AND as a strategy to overcome the non-thought of distraction, as such sociomaterial researcher has to attend to human AND nonhuman actors to access an all-inclusive view of the educational setting. Posthumanist methods therefore insist on various forms of intentional or post-intentional attentiveness through the conjunction AND. Missing here are moments of distraction where voids in intentional directedness emerge or where voids in the network cannot be easily mapped over (referring to the ANT).
The third void draws on the work of Flusser(2000) on camera as a mechanic apparatus. Mechanization is an inherent part of all research methods, and especially so in more experimental varieties of post-intentional and sociomaterial approaches. For Flusser a camera is an apparatus that its program escapes human intentionality. The apparatus of the camera exerts its own program on the field of research and codifies its relations. One cannot look into and see or map this program in its totality, and thus Flusser calls the camera a “black box” or a zone which cannot be accessed by the photographer or researcher or philosopher. Nevertheless, the researcher tries to open the black box of digital devices in the field by observing functions and operations, thus avoiding the void of the program that is utterly black in this black box.
This paper is a result of contrasting philosophies of accident, distraction and mechanization with the current research methodologies, namely post-intentional phenomenology and sociomaterial approaches in education. Literature analysis of examples of these methodologies in education, their philosophical underpinnings and a synthesis with current philosophies of thought is the method deployed to develop the arguments of this paper.
As a finding of this paper, we suggest these voids can be rendered invisible when they happen in isolation, through various tactics of a-voidance. In this way, research can continue its work unimpeded by the sudden happening of accidents, distractions, or black boxes. However, the conjunction of these three dimensions results to the explosion of the research, where intentionality and humanism are fundamentally suspended and the tactics no longer function. The explosion refers to moments when these three dimensions come to contact with one and other producing overlapping and co-constituting voids. Explosion however, should not be seen as ending research so much as an opening to a truly post-intentional, post-human moment where the invisible, meaningful lines connecting the researcher to his or her activity are ruptured, cut, and rendered utterly inoperative to the point where the research as such might very well disappear. What remains is an opportunity to radically rethink research that no longer avoids the void but sees within it a destructive creativity.
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