Video perspectivity meets wild and crazy teens: a design ethnography (Ricki Goldman)

Goldman, R. (2004). Video perspectivity meets wild and crazy teens: a design ethnography. Cambridge Journal of Education, 34(2), 157-178.

In this article, Goldman describes a digital video design ethnography of the introduction of a perspectivity meme into a classroom. Digital video technology was used to spread the perspectivity meme. ORION, a digital video analysis tool, is offered as a way for readers to view and comment on the video data.

The “perspectivity meme”:

  • Idea that people who share their viewpoints and interpretations will gradually affect role changes in the learning environment. Related to Goldman’s points of viewing theory.
  • 1) subjective views are important in the research process; 2) perspective is the outcome of how we make sense of the world; 3) perspective is connected to social constructionism– it’s a mental and cultural state of being in the world.
  • Digital video technology is the medium that enables the perpectivity meme to spread.
  • Memes (from R. Dawkins, 1976) – ideas that enter into a cultural system and replicate themselves.
  • “In short, spreading the perspectivity meme encourages cultural change as people share their viewpoints and interpretations and change roles in the process. Eventually this meme enters the consciousness of a community and becomes interwoven with the topic being studied. As it propagates throughout the system, incremental transformations are created that can eventually affect the entire system to create a deeper commensurability among diverse values, ethics, and ideals. People change roles as they engage in assimilating others’ views into their own schema, as Piaget (1930) would say” (p.159).
  • Video is the most compelling technology that spreads the perspectivity meme bc it is not possible to view video without asking: whose perspective is being represented in this video clip?


  • an online digital video ethnographic tool; a video data analysis, interpretation, and presentation tool
  • designed for users who use digital video in their research and need to conduct analysis collaboratively
  • video chunks uploaded to a central server. Constellations (or clusters) of video chunks (stars) can be constructed by users browsing or searching the db
  • user can add comments and links, read transcripts, view descriptor tables that include numerical ratings that show the significance of the attribute. Users with admin privileges can code (rate) the significance of the descriptors. This process allows users to start comparing and exchanging views on how they contextualize the same info differently in order to reach valid conclusions about the data
  • considered a perspectivity technology that encourages users to add views and construct their own stories [perhaps social networking tools in popular use today (blogs, wikis, flickr, youtube, facebook, twitter, etc.) fulfill the same fxn, though without the necessary scaffolding to provide the meaning-making that the author rightfully seeks]
  • promote different way of teaching, learning, or conducting research
    • socially constructionist
    • honors the learning of each member of the community as she reconfigures new cultural and personal knowledge
    • community of practice is established, where the community works as a design team, creating new knowledge for others to explore

Social constructionism — acquiring knowledge is a continually changing mental process, formed as the mind in and of itself interacts with the many internal body systems, and also as it interacts socially with other experiences that occur around the body as the person moves through the world.

“The importance of sharing our perspectives is fundamental to creating conditions for social change that are not coercive, punitive, or legislated” (p.158).

Design in teaching and learning environments:

  • Perkins’ “knowledge as design” — “…for a long time too much teaching has suffered the thrall of ‘knowledge as information,’ and with the passive view of knowledge that this formula projects… (Perkins, 1986, p.214)”
  • Harel’s five reasons for using a design paradigm: 1) motivates learning; 2) designers make things happen; 3) evokes self-knowledge; 4) promotes consideration; 5) integrative and holistic.
  • Kolodner: design demonstrates success in the real world; is interactive and iterative; enables reflection and collaboration.
  • enables learner to think creatively and colaboratively while they explore alternate paths through complex problems.

Brown’s design experiment — using design as a research method

  • “[Design experiments] result in greater understanding of a learning ecology — a complex interacting system involving multiple elements of different types and levels — by designing its elements and by anticipating how these elements function together to support learning. (Cobb et al., p.9)”
  • But methodology missing “thick descriptions of events (Geertz, 1973)” and “partial truths (Clifford, 1986)

Design ethnography:

  • Bridges gap between design experiments and ethnography.
  • Occur in a more flexible time-scale — examine one big idea within a learning community. Researchers take a snapshot of what is occurring in a culture.
  • By laying multiple viewpoints and uncovering the larger patterns that run through the dataset, researchers can attain configurational validity.
  • Users have access to a range of digital artifacts, data analysis, and presentation tools.
  • May involve quisitive research methods, which involve blending numerical coding tools with rich verbal description to reach conclusions.
  • Describe participatory partnerships among researchers and those being studied.
  • Have planned interventions brought into the culture. They also describe the process of the intervention entering the cultural make-up of the community.
  • Explore the complex composition of factors during the intervention.

Interesting theory & history:

Prior to emergence of learning sciences field, ed research was informed by ed psychologists and practitioners. Theory and practice remained separated in two disparate worlds until the cognitive revolution. Bruner, influenced by Vygotsky’s exploration of affective, socio-contextual aspects of appropriating knowledge, moved from exploring behavior to exploring meaning; i.e., the science (and art) of learning (Bruner: “…[by] virtue or participation in culture, meaning is rendered public and shared. Our culturally adapted way of life depends upon shared meanings and shared concepts and depends as well upon shared modes of discourse for negotiating differences in meaning and interpretation.”)

According to the author, the learning sciences has not yet achieved “a culturally sensitive psychology…[that] is and must be based not only upon what people actually do, but what they say they do and what they say caused them to do what they did (Bruner).” Goldman: “The current focus in the learning science community on design for knowledge construction is still not as concerned with cultural and ethnographic studies as it should be…” (p.162).

And hence the choice of methodology for this study: “In design ethnographies, meaning is rendered (transformed) into a public and shared experience as all participants in the study begin to learn about each other’s perspectives as a means of reaching conclusions that are based on consensus and agreements about the meaning of the topic under investigation” (p.162).


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