Intended to limit this to one focal point, but just had an epiphany (Saturday morning as I ate my cereal) so it is maybe one and a half points.
Film – Kitchen Stories – The first consideration to acknowledge is the obvious: this is a movie. It is a construct with actors playing roles, not a documentary with real people. Even so, as a representation of real life and an ethnographic sample of that culture, much can be gleaned, even though it is a construct. That aside, it would be interesting to read some reviews by native Norwegians or Swedes as to its representation and interpretation of the people and cultures.
What I took away from this movie is its focus on phenomenology and the problems therein. It is like a movie on a utopian society that reveals that utopia is impossible to attain. Phenomenology in human terms may be “truly” impossible to attain, especially in modern times. I say in modern times because we live in a world of consent, and that implies that the subject of study knows that he or she is being studied. That in and of itself contaminates the phenomenological nature of empirically studying human behaviour. This is the obvious comedic and ultimately tragic message of the movie. That is, Folke the observer, has influenced the outcome of the study by his presence in Isak’s kitchen. Isak no longer behaves “naturally” because he is conscious of being watched. So what is the point of studying and tracking single men’s movements in the kitchen when the men alter their behaviour because the observer is present? What possible conclusions can be made from the study’s original hypothesis? As Malmberg, the supervisor notes in frustration, if the observer talks to the subject, it derails the study. In the end, Ljungberg the research head sees that there may be other uses of the data collected, so the data takes the researchers in a different direction.
In terms of the four Rs, how does this relate?
The Research – The movie presented a Swedish study of Norwegian single men’s movements in the kitchen, presumably to compare against their data on Swedish women’s movements in the kitchen. The outcome was to inform the researchers on how to design a kitchen more efficiently so that less time and energy was spent moving around the kitchen space. This approach was phenomenological in nature in that its intention was to study “ordinary” life.
The Researcher – As researcher, this comes across as both a “how-not-to,” as well as a phenomenological, “slice-of-life” portrait of the realities of research. It literally brings to life what may lie behind the words and numbers on the pages of research studies. The abstract, advanced statistics and raw data of the studies have a very concrete, human component to them. We must look at the author, who in this case is Ljungberg. What is his background? Why is he doing this study?
The Researched – of the Norwegian men in the study, we only see Isak. We are presented with a figure who is hermit-like in his isolation, both physically on a farm by himself, as well as psychologically from other people. He interacts with one other person: Grant, with whom we see has a limited verbal interaction. While he has volunteered for the study, we find out that he did so only because they researchers promise to give him a horse at the end of the study. At the beginning he is clearly a reluctant participant. By altering his behaviour during the study, he negates the usefulness of the data gathered for its intended purpose.
The Reader – or viewer. As stated in class, the primary audience would be Norwegians or Swedes. They would be the best judges of whether this movie represented their typical cultural past (the 1950s) as well as the typical personalities and representations of relationships and attitudes. While we in North America may be able to relate to the human nature of the characters, we would miss a lot of the references and historical background and attitudes the Norwegians and Swedes have built over the centuries. However, as we look at the film’s examination of humanity in the world of science and experiments, it is not necessary to know all of the background to still come to some conclusions. What we learn is not exclusive to those who come from those countries. As the movie highlights the dangers and difficulties of research, we as viewers and ersatz researchers reflect on how that applies to both our own observations, as well as those whose studies we read and critique.
A realization – It occurred to me as I reflected on the different speakers we had this week for both 515 and 568, that Dr. Shauneen Pete and Jeff Hopkins had similar paths in different areas. Dr. Pete’s goal was to change the system from within, to reimagine the Indigenous curriculum and ways of teaching pre-service teachers. The challenge being to begin a wholesale change to a system that is very entrenched. Jeff Hopkins’s initial goal was to change the education system from within to make it more student-centred than teacher-centred. For both, a bit of the irresistible force meeting an immovable object. In the end, both found the object immovable, and decided to go over or around it.