Re: Re[2]: Help - Anybody in Edinburgh

Devi (
Fri, 19 Dec 97 12:39:37 +0000

Dear All,

> I am sure Devi is one of the best person you can work with. He has
> given me some good ideas and I enjoyed the communication with him when
> I used RepGrid for PCP analysis for my research in the perception of
> cross cultural differences in organization behaviour: a study of the
> Chinese working in Canada. I am not sure Devi still remembers me but
> it is important that I appreciate his ideas.
These kind words, during a difficult time of transition for me, are very
much appreciated. Thank you, Aaron!

> I think that the data we get may overwhelm us. There are two ways to
> go about sorting them out. First, by being rational is having all our
> questions in mind and try to have the answers from the data. The
> second way which I like is allowing the data to tell me what that
> means. The pattern, the clusters and.... will give you some important
> indicators for more detail study.

An interesting problem, peculiar to Rep Grid work of all the qualitative
techniques, when you think about it. Grids are numerate qualitative
techniques! Somehow, when the information is expressed in numbers (rather
than in words, e.g. focus group transcript work, NuDist textual
analysis), the promise of all that _specificity_, and one's awareness
that there are explicitly defined rules for doing things "right" as
opposed to "wrong" in statistical analysis, can blind one to the issue
that is in fact common to both qualitative and quantitative analysis,
viz., the need for one's own personal judgement in choosing, amending as
necessary, andpresenting results of, those analytic techniques in the
first place.

As regards presentation, for instance:
Overawed as I was (and occasionally, still am) by accounts of very
numerate factor-analysis-with-oblique-rotation-type work, it occasionally
surprised me that the act of _naming_ the factors so derived (by
definition, abstractions depending for their existence on iterative
variance partitioning and subtraction) depended intimately on a personal
judgement, the reliability of which was rarely checked as explicitly as
the prior number-crunching; and that the resultant _meaning_ created in
the reader was thereby intimately personal.

So when Aaron says
> This is normal to feel not knowing what to do in the first place
> particularly when we have not been very clear in the first place on
> what to examine. This is particularly so for qualitative studies.

then of course I agree, with the reservation that it _needn't_ be
particularly so in the qualitative studies. To admit this as a general
rule would be to contribute to the view that "qualitative" is where you
start (pilot work, not-quite-sureness etc.) and "qualitative" is where
you oughter know what you're doing. Sure, the timetabling of many
research projects flops out in that way, but it needn't be so: a
competent, complete qualitative study is as valuable (and as vulnerable
to idiosyncracies/"errors" of personal judgement, as a competent
quantitative one: no more, no less.

There's a way of looking at this which I find very useful: the notion of
a "calculus", or symbol system for helping you analyse and conceptualise
a topic. Analytic statistics is a calculus; equally so, a focus group is
a calculus. The idea being that you can take a problem expressed in one
language (e.g. verbal) and at a given stage in your thinking, express all
or part of it in a different medium, the particular calculus you choose
(e.g. analysis of variance; differential or integral calculus). You do so
because you suspect that the rules according to which that calculus
operates will help you to make useful deductions _more effectively_ than
the initial medim in which the problem was expressed. Having cranked the
handle of the particular calculus you've chosen and arrived at an
end-point, you then translate the outcomes back into the original medium
or language in which the issue was first expressed, and, hopefully, find
that you've made useful progress.

Here's where it gets interesting. Notice the _focus group_ example I used
in the paragraph above? _Any_ symbol system with rules (in the case of a
focus group, the role definitions and process guidelines according to
which a focus group does its work) is a calculus with the above property
of, potentially, easing problem analysis and resolution. Musicians
compose in their heads and try it out on their chosen instrument, but
find musical notation, with its rules and constraints, a valuable part of
the process: musical notation is not simply an information _recording_
system! Painters experiment with different media: they're not just
"mucking about", they're resolving the problem of a particular idea
seeking expression, by seeing what's possible within the constraints of a
particular medium, which acts as a calculus for them before they return
to their original medium for the finished work (indeed, the process may
go on for years, with no single painting or drawing being the final point
of resolution). You can express different meanings more effectively in
one natural language than in another: so Polish might, for me, be the
"calculus" in which I can think something through better than in English,
choosing just the right word or phrase ("le mot juste": you take my
point?!) albeit I might start and finish the process in English.

(I wonder whether choreographers find that dance notation acts as a
calculus in the same way, or whether it is indeed just a medium for
_recording_ the steps of a dance once it's been composed by them?)

Okay, so a calculus needn't be a numeric one; calculi exist across the
qualitative-quantitative divide; across all media of expression; any one
medium can act as a calculus for another in this way.

And of course, a Rep Grid is just another calculus: see all the work
that's been done by Laurie Thomas, Sheila Harri-Augstein, Mildred Shaw,
Colin Eden, and others, on the Grid as an aid to gathering and refining
one's thoughts in personal and managerial problem-solving: as well as all
the applications of Grids in research work, in which it fulfils the same
function in refining the researcher's thoughts about the topic being
researched: the scientist as person, to paraphrase Kelly.

I got off on this track by remembering some work I once did on creative
block amongst painters and sculptors, using the Grid precisely as a
calculus in the above way. If this interests anyone, the reference is

Kindest regards to all, a peaceful Christmas, and a New Year full of

Devi Jankowicz

Jankowicz A.D. "Construing artistic imagery: an alternative approach to
creative block"
_Leonardo_ 1987, 20, 1, 39-47.
Jankowicz A.D. "Construing artistic imagery: a reply to Osbourne"
_Leonardo_ 1987, 20, 3, 297.