One of the best things about teaching workshops is getting to hear stories from so many people. This one is from Francis Rowland, describing his excitement in finding stories “in the wild.”
This morning, a friend in the bioscience research institute next door to where I work made some time for me to come over and do a bit of ethnography. It was a lot of observation, with some prompting and questions from me – straight contextual enquiry.
I am really keen to learn more about the context within which lab-based scientists like her use some of the online tools and other pieces of software produced by institutes like the one where I work.
One of the major design problems in my work is the wide range of vernaculars and concepts that exist between and amongst different kinds of biologists, even when they work on the same topic. If we present data and info for one type, another type just doesn’t get it at all.
So after learning more about the context in which my friend uses online applications and the like, I asked her about this communication issue.
What it boiled down to is stories.
She told me that, just as she had just done with me, she would tell a collaborator a story about her research – the findings, the data, the clues, the leads, the implications…
This would frame the research from her perspective. The collaborator can obviously interact with that “story”, and help to build it into something that they share. It isn’t just that the data or the research can tell a story about some wider scientific subject. The scientists have to use stories so that they can communicate.
Just the sort of thing that you described in your workshop, of course, Whitney! But it was exciting to see it being portrayed as exactly that without any prompting from me.