DISCURSIVE RISKS: What are the epistemic assumptions of the analyst of collaboration?

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Angela Okune's picture
August 21, 2018
  • AO: This 2009 co-authored article offers a “research in progress” report by the different authors seeking to bring about conversation about how social cultural anthropology (dis)incentivizes collaboration. The analysts are especially strong in their nano and meta analyses, highlighting how their notion of collaboration differs from other works they have reviewed (they hold that collaboration should enable multivocality as a productive outcome of collaborations with each other whereas most other works aims towards consensus. However, notably, while they are very reflective on their research processes and experiments, they do not mention the data and technical infrastructures that undergird their collaboration.

  • AO: After reading Griffin and Hayler (2018) (after this paper), I also noted that despite the collective's egalitarian intentions, Anna Tsing seems to have become more well-known for the group’s work, raising questions about the evenness in distribution of the group's collaborative efforts. Griffin and Hayler note that collaborators within an endeavor can become marginalized through the denigration of certain kinds of expertise, since “power structures both within and beyond the immediate interactions can lead to the work of one or more collaborators being reduced or going uncredited, and to the detriment of their institutional and subject standing” (15). This is an important nuance and distinct from the point that many have made about the institutional disincentives to collaborate (which favor individual publications and outputs), highlighting the differential stakes and gains from a collaborative formation.

Angela Okune's picture
August 20, 2018

AO: This editorial intro by Fortun and Cherkasky focuses largely on the meta, nano and practice (micro) levels of conceptualizing “counter-expertise”.

James Adams's picture
August 17, 2018

Christine Hegel is primarily concerned about the missed potential of improvised collaboration between peers during the process of data analysis: “A model of collaborative work in which we listen and respond in real time and think through one another’s data in unfinished states, whether in the field or in lab/studio environments (as opposed to symposia or workshops, where we share mostly finished work), could enrich how we produce knowledge and make our concepts portable.”

Thus she is not trying to think through the mechanics/dynamics/politics of collaboration, or what differentiates successful from unsuccessful attempts to collaborate. Rather, she is calling anthropologists to adopt a specific “improvisational” breed of collaboration during data analysis that she characterizes at “yes, and.” She argues that this manner of collaboration is often employed between the researcher and their interlocutors during data production, but not between researchers during the data analysis phase. She also notes an absence of collaboration during the dissemination phase as interactions at this stage are typically non-improvisational (in the case of publications and peer reviews) or non-collaborative (in the case of Q&A sessions). That is, neither case follows the “yes, and” model. The other phases of the research process that Angela and I have identified are not included in this analysis. Yet, given that the topic of this CA series is “collaborative analytics,” it is understandable that the focus is limited.

James Adams's picture
August 17, 2018

As pointed out by the commenter, Mark Kramer, these practices are alive and well within the Global North. Established scholars often abuse graduate students and junior scholars in much the same way Bouka describes.

Angela Okune's picture
August 17, 2018
  • AO: Contrary to much of the development literature I have been reading which emphasizes the normative value of collaboration as empowering and benefiting, this piece highlights difference and potential for marginalization even within the project of “collaboration.” The analysts focus heavily on the meta and meso levels of analysis (asking questions largely at the level of the “organization although they define organization not just in the narrow sense of the word but also as broader discourse like feminism). They also conduct analysis at the level of edxo, working out the expertise and “counter-expertise” relied upon in different collaborative formations.

James Adams's picture
August 16, 2018

Star and Griesemer do make explicit the fact that they are presenting and analyzing a case where the collaboration was notably successful. They also make sure to note that boundary objects are simply one means of facilitating collaboration. Others are less voluntary. “The production of boundary objects is one means of satisfying these potentially conflicting sets of concerns. Other means include imperialist imposition of representations, coercion, silencing and fragmentation” (Star and Griesemer 1989, 413). In footnote 66, they acknowledge that they were made aware of this discursive gap/risk by an external reviewer: “We are grateful to an anonymous referee for drawing our attention to the limits of the cooperation model, and the importance of conflict and authority in science-making.”

 

Based on this acknowledgement, however, I am not sure that the authors have paid enough attention to the degree that these elements of conflict are present in the situation they describe, even if they are attenuated to be made more tolerable. Likewise, I am still wondering if these scholars are arguing that boundary objects are the only “voluntary-ish” means of establishing collaboration/cooperation across social worlds. And if they are, whether or not they are being too hasty.

James Adams's picture
August 16, 2018

Despite claiming to have been the first to combine Galison’s concept of “trading zone” with that of Star’s “boundary object,” Gorman seems to be privileging a consensus model, which is the exact model that boundary objects were intended to obviate. To what extent can “adversarial” relationships in research be productive?

Angela Okune's picture
August 13, 2018

AO: The analysts are thinking about “collaboration” as “cooperation.” They note severally the growing common language which is facilitating “more and more collaboration and cross-fertilization” (391). Their analysis largely centers on the practice level - noting how psychologists and economists are increasingly working together. They are missing much macro analysis although they do suggest that greater collaboration between economists and psychologists can lead to better policy and “efficiency of interventions” (390).

Angela Okune's picture
August 13, 2018
  • AO: Unsurprisingly given that the authors are publishing in ICTD, the techno level of analysis is very strong. They focus on collaboration in a part of the research process, initial design, which is less discussed in general and explain how they first came in contact with each other which is usually not included in analyses of collaboration (how the worlds come to intersect).

  • They however fail to discuss the terms of the collaboration itself and seem to use the notion of “collaboration” loosely to include any kind of dialogue or discussion. The “collaboration” that they discuss (which helped them to see that they should use a Facebook group page to annouce that they wanted to have a focus group discussion” does not appear to have fundamentally shifted their intention or proposed methodology for the project (identify user needs, design solution for a problem, test the pilot of it with users). There is always an assumption that there will be a problem that can be solved with a designed (tech) solution.

Angela Okune's picture
August 13, 2018
  • AO: The authors focus primarily on meso level analysis given that their focus on institutional co-authorship. They lack any sort of nano or micro level analysis and mention legal and political infrastructures but do not provide any analysis at this level. They are limited by their data which is a dataset of co-authorship that they are using. The 30 countries they are using in their analysis as stand-in for the world do not include any African countries and only include 2 Latin American countries. They are primarily European and “Western” countries which the authors defend by saying that there was no data on the other countries.

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