Notes on prato narrative and how communities can memorize

Posted on Saturday, 15 July, 2006 by


I read the conference paper ‘prato narrative‘ by Beverly Trayner, John D. Smith and Patricia Arnold. As I haven’t  read any of the books and do not even know the authors they are reviewing I feel like a rookie and an ignorant. So normally, I would not be inclined to react. Yet on the other hand there is something to their text which is exciting and unsettling at the same time. They are mixing styles (scientific & narrative), media (article & wiki), point of perspective (first tense, third tense), roles (as character and researcher) …. what not?

The reader is forced to switch roles as well, from being drawn into the intimate description of part of the lives of the three, to a student of the literature. Ultimately, the reader could contribute to the wiki and become co-creator. It makes reading an experience, which is a welcome change from traditional research aricles.

Like Mathemagenic, I always start reading a PhD dissertation by the acknowledgements. Knowing (something of) the person who is writing makes reading much more interesting. It provides context, colour, feel…Here the authors help you, by describing their settings and their work process.

I love it…. It is what I like about reading blogs, too. 

And, though not familiar before with “autoethnography”, I instantly acknowledge the usefulness of ‘personalized accounts’ to extend understanding or to put into perspective any subjectivities.

But still. It is unsettling because I feel a bit guilty: Surely the details of their work processes is not what I am studying the article for? I love to know some context, but it sometimes feels too close, almost inappropriate to just read this as normally ´context´ is gradually discovered, through other ways than the actual article. Getting it presented like this feels like intruding, cheating. Would I have finished reading the article without the narrative patches? Isn’t it also about making an article less dense, more accessible, less difficult? Isn’t this a concession to the zap-generation who otherwise will not be able to stay focused long enough?

It is a very interesting effort to take academic writing a step further, from the era of print and linear, static writing, into the era of hypermedia with “multi- layered, multi-tagged web or references.” By reading the article, looking at the wiki, trying to grasp the content, the initial questions the authors set out with start to become more clear: how to have a common understanding of issues in a (research) community? How to jointly practice meaning making? How to remember, and what to remember? How can successive ‘generations’ of community members be mutually learning, with help of what kind of technologies?

It’s this last question which gave me an idea. I am new to CP square, which is the community the authors are all part of. I will try and ‘test’ CP square for its ability for introducing and teaching newcomers.

Posted in: learning log