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Exercise 7

Exercise 7 – Power

Today will be an extended, free-form observation session. Note when you begin and end your session, but do not restrict yourself to pre-determined moments of observation. For this exercise, you want to think with as much of the field as you possibly can, using whatever is available to think about expressions of power in the field. This is a different way to do concept-driven fieldwork. It’s just as analytical but is not driven by the rhythms and restrictions of the interval research approach. Instead, you will look for things that you believe are related to your conceptual focal point – power – and use them to think more about this concept and how it manifests in your subjects’ lives.

Select one of the following two options. Everyone should answer the question at the end.

Option I. Track any instances in which one individual seems to assert power over another. These may be seen 1) when a less powerful individual refrains from doing what she or he seems to want to do and/or changes what she/he is doing because of what another individual does, is doing, or wants to do. Such instances also include times when 2) a more powerful individual resists changing whatever she/he wants to do, regardless of what the less powerful do or want to do, or might wish the more powerful would do.

Pay attention to what appear to be preferred or privileged spaces (e.g., perhaps any space occupied by the most powerful or perhaps specific locations in the habitat) and times (e.g., a particular slot in the line-up; the longest or shortest duration of engaging in a certain activity or of possessing a certain object or space.) Be sure to pay particular attention to any instances of waiting or interruption.

Does what you see resonate with, complicate, or challenge what you think you've already learned about the status hierarchy within this group?

Option II. Power is always relative. The distribution of power within the group or space you have been observing is framed by the distribution of power outside of it, too. Record instances in which you see a visible impact of the spatial (or temporal) design decisions present in your field on your subjects’ behaviors. Think very high level here as well as down close, at the level of micro-interactions.

(In other words, you are looking for broad, generalized examples of the ways the designers of your subjects’ lives support and control their users through the structures they provide. You can do this by looking for and reflecting on those generalized structures as well as by focusing on the micro-interactions between individuals that are enabled by those structures. Either entry point should get you to roughly the same analytic place.)

How do these design decisions enable, even facilitate the existing group hierarchy? What do more powerful individuals appear to need in order to achieve their goals, carry out their roles properly, and assert and maintain their position of higher status? What do less powerful individuals appear to need in order to achieve their goals and carry out their roles properly, given their positions in the hierarchy?

To be included in this week's reflection part of your report, whichever option you pick: If your goal was to disrupt your subjects’ existing status hierarchy as much as possible, what single temporal or spatial feature of your field would you change? How would you change it?

Responses 0 (pdf file)
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Responses 8 (pdf file)



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