Interest-talk as Access-talk
Andrea Whittle
Cardiff University
[email protected]
Frank Mueller
Newcastle University
[email protected]
Peter Lenney
Lancaster University
[email protected]
Alan Gilchrist
Lancaster University
[email protected]
Interested in Interests
• What do we mean by ‘interests’?
– More or less stable and more or less shared
understanding that we have about:
• what we/they want,
• what stake we/they have in a particular situation,
• what we/they stand to (potentially) gain or lose
from a particular course of action,
• what agenda we/they might have.
Interests as Research Problem
• Researchers face a very practical problem:
– Participants often have few good reasons to ‘let researchers in’,
and many good reasons to ‘keep researchers out’
– Opposite can occur: research gets ‘co-opted’ into sectional
agendas, political battles, legitimizing role (‘rubber stamping’) etc.
– Not a ‘one-off’ event at the beginning of the research (negotiation
with key gatekeepers), part of an ongoing process of negotiation.
– Each participant will (understandably) want to know
•
•
•
•
who the researcher is,
what they want,
who or what the research is for,
what their own stake is (what they might stand to gain or lose).
Classical Studies
•
‘Identity’ (fitting in, being ‘like them’ and ‘liked
by them’)
–
Get tattoos or taking drugs to ‘fit in’ with a gang?
…. Linked to ‘interests’ (I will not ‘snitch’ or damage
your interests)
•
Studies of gang culture: researcher required to
undertake illegal activities (theft, drug taking etc)
to ‘prove’ allegiance: “I am on your side”
•
Humphreys (1970) became a “watch queen” - a
lookout for the police or homophobic attackers for the purposes of his study of anonymous
male sexual encounters in a public park in
Chicago.
•
Interests at forefront of organizational research
– instrumental repertoire?
Discursive Psychology
“The argument is not that social researchers should interpret people’s
discourse in terms of their individual or group interests. There are all
sorts of difficulties with such an analytic programme, not least of
which is that it is very difficult to identify interests in a way that is
separable from the sorts of occasioned interest attribution that
participants use when in debate with one another . . . The argument
here is that people treat each other in this way. They treat reports and
descriptions as if they come from groups and individuals with
interests, desires, ambitions and stake in some versions of what the
world is like. Interests are a participants’ concern, and that is how they
can enter analysis.”
(Potter, 1996: 110, emphasis in original)
DP does not deny that interests or motives exist (just as with other
cognitive entities eg. emotions), rather it problematises the idea of a
straightforward relationship between language and interests (i.e. language
is driven by interests) and seeks to study empirically how people handle
and manage notions of stake and interest.
Whittle, A. & Mueller, F. (2011) “The Language of Interests: The Contribution of Discursive Psychology” Human Relations 64(3): 415-435.
Term
Definition
Target/referent
Stake
inoculation
The discursive process through which people Self
deny, or down-play, the notion that they have a
stake, interest or motive in a particular argument
or course of action.
Stake
confession
The discursive process through which people Self
handle actual or potential counter-arguments by
admitting or “confessing to” having a particular
stake, interest or motive.
Stake
attribution
The discursive process of ascribing (usually Other
illegitimate) interests, stake and motive to other
individuals or groups.
Stake
construction
The discursive process through which people Other
describe and shape a shared understanding of
what (legitimate) interest, stake and motive an
individual or group has, or should have.
Table 1 Definition of Four Discursive Strategies used to Manage Interest
The Study
• Ethnographic action research study of senior
managers in multi-national company
Nature of fieldwork
Participant & non-participant observation of managers in
non-formal settings
Duration
Continuous over a period of
30 months
Combination participant/non-participant observation of the
12 formal cross-functional Key Account Steering Group
Meetings
3-5 hours per meeting, over a 12
month period
Full & ‘formal’ ‘work-shadowing’ observations
5-8 days in length of 2 marketing
managers and 1 marketing director
Attendance of 17 “Steering Group” meetings (Key
Account Service/Plan Implementation cross-functional
team meetings)
1-2 hours per meeting, over a 12
month period
Interviews with Board Directors and Managers; including
regular periodic interviewing of Steering Group members
during the 12 months of its operation.
113 of 60-90 minutes each
Document capture: emails, meeting actions-arising
notes/minutes, flip-chart work from meetings,
presentations, planning documentation etc.
Continuous collection for duration of
project
Our
extract
Researcher:
“So the first thing to emphasise is that I’m not here as the consultant, right. This is
free of charge. The – it’s a quid pro quo really I get access to FitCo research in
return for me doing this.
Now I’ve had lots of experience in doing this. I’ve worked with ConsultCo1,
ConsultCo2 [inaudible] and they all say the same thing and they all charge you
£1500 a day for something that they might have for breakfast.
So it is – I think this is a reasonably good deal for FitCo and it’s a great deal for
me, right so it’s a quid pro quo.
So I’ve got no axe to grind right and the thing you’ve got to understand here is I’m
here as a researcher, I’m going to help you like crazy and throw myself into it but if
it doesn’t work and it goes wrong it’s as big a research opportunity for me as it if it
goes right, so I’ve no vested interests right, it’s a weird thing.
Except as my missus says “that’s not like you, there’s no way you could be like
that”. And she’s sort of right. So obviously I do want it to work but from a research
point of view it doesn’t really matter, okay, yes.
So I’m a bit of a mixed bag I’m not a classic consultant and I’m not a classic
academic either. But as my mates in the pub say “If that’s semi retirement you can
keep it.”
Extract
Discursive strategy
Formulation
of
interest and motive
stake,
1
I’m not here as the Stake inoculation
consultant, right. This is
free of charge.
Claim to have no personal
financial interest.
2
The – it’s a quid pro quo Stake confession
really I get access to FitCo Stake construction
for research in return for
me doing this.
Claim to have a legitimate
interest (access).
Claim that the participants
have a legitimate interest
(something to gain from the
research).
3
Now I’ve had lots of Stake construction
experience in doing this.
Claim that the participants
have a legitimate interest
(something to gain from the
research).
4
I’ve
worked
with Stake attribution
ConsultCo1, ConsultCo2
[inaudible] and they all say
the same thing and they all
charge you £1500 a day for
something that they might
have for breakfast.
Claim that other parties have
an illegitimate interest.
5
So it is – I think this is a Stake construction
reasonably good deal for Stake confession
FitCo and it’s a great deal
for me, right so it’s a quid
pro quo.
Claim that the participants
have a legitimate interest
(something to gain from
the research).
Claim that the researcher
has a legitimate interest.
6
So I’ve got no axe to grind Stake confession
right and the thing you’ve Stake inoculation
got to understand here is
I’m here as a researcher,
I’m going to help you like
crazy and throw myself
into it but if it doesn’t work
and it goes wrong it’s as a
bigger research opportunity
for me as it if it goes right,
so I’ve no vested interests
right, it’s a weird thing.
Claim to have no predefined agenda or
allegiances.
Claim to have no vested
interest in commercial
outcomes of research.
Claim to have a personal
interest in commercial
outcomes of research.
7
Except as my missus says Stake confession
“that’s not like you, there’s no
way you could be like that”.
And she’s sort of right. So
obviously I do want it to
work but from a research
point of view it doesn’t really
matter, okay, yes.
Claim to have a personal
interest in the commercial
outcomes of research, relating
to identity (personality
attributes, attitudes) etc.
(animator position)
8
So I’m a bit of a mixed bag Stake inoculation
I’m not a classic consultant
and I’m not a classic
academic either.
Claim not to have ‘typical
interests’ associated with either
membership
category
(consultant or academic) –
distancing
from
possible
damaging
‘interest’
assumptions of both categories
(eg. sell-on for consultants,
possible lack of practical usevalue for academics, etc.).
9
But as my mates in the pub Stake inoculation
says “If that’s semi retirement
you can keep it.”
Claim to have no personal
gains to be derived from the
research project – not to be
envied for personal
or
financial benefits. (animator
position)
Sociology of Translation
How did scientists working on a polymer called DIMEVA attempt to
publish their findings in the journal Cancer Quarterly?
Translation 1. Those interested in
chemotherapy would be interested in
DIMEVA because it is thought to have
chemotherapeutic qualities.
Translation 2. Your readership would
therefore be interested in our research
into how DIMEVA enters cells.
The
“Interests
Funnel”
Translation 3. You should publish our work on
the DIMEVA polymer in Cancer Quarterly.
Callon, M., & Law, J. (1982). On Interests and their Transformation: Enrolment and Counter-Enrolment. Social Studies of Science, 12(4), 615-625.
Whittle, A., Suhomlinova, O. & Mueller, F. (2010). Funnel of Interests: The Discursive Translation of Organizational Change Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science Vol.46(1): 16-37
Convergence…
Translation 1. You want to make your business
more profitable/successful/efficient etc
Translation 2. You want outside help, but don’t
want to employ management consultants to help
you.
Translation 3. You want someone with
experience and expertise who can ‘make a
difference’ but without a hefty price tag.
Translation 4. You want me! (and another PhD
researcher…)
… Divergence
“What on earth is Researcher 1 up
to? What are his motivations?”
“He’s not on the payroll, he’s a loose
cannon, I’m not sure if we should
trust him”
“He’s taking things too far, getting
too involved.”
“Can you keep us updated on
what he is up to?”
Researcher 1 viewed as threat to new Sales Director’s interests.
Researcher 2 as ‘watch queen’?
Conclusion
• Ethnography depends on convincing participants their
interests are either furthered by researcher, or at least
not threatened by them
• ‘Presentation of Self’ (identity) coupled with
‘Presentation of Stake’ (interests)
• Both researcher and participants can change
understanding of interests during process of research
– Interests are not fixed entity but part of process of ongoing
sensemaking: “made within the process itself” (Hernes & Maitlis,
2010: 27)
– We need to study how “interests are invoked, constructed and
utilized” within social processes (Woolgar, 1981: 372).
Woolgar, S. (1981) “Interests and explanation in the social study of science.” Social Studies of Science11: 365-394
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Interest-Talk as Access Talk