department of informatics

Methodologies for sense-making in community-based research

TitleMethodologies for sense-making in community-based research
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsSabiescu, A. G., S. Vannini, D. Salomão, L. Cantoni, and A. Halabi
Conference NameCIRN Prato Community Informatics Conference 2013
Date Published10/2013
Conference LocationPrato, Italy

Community-based research can generate high amounts of data. Data elicitation typicallyinvolves settings where what is shared by participants far surpasses what can be representedand stored. A common distinction is made, in this process, between knowledge, information,and data. Knowledge is thought to be alive, embedded in social practices, and produced incollaborative settings. Information is a set of representations of prior episodes of knowledgeproduction (Christie, 2004). In social science research, “data” refers to information gatheredto understand phenomena in a certain context (Leech and Onwuegbuzie, 2008). Ideally, forresearch conducted in community settings to adequately grasp participants’ meanings andunderstandings, the information gathered should maintain some fragrance of the context inwhich knowledge was firstly shared. In the process that converts knowledge to theinformation used for research and design purposes, some of this fragrance is inevitably lost.Additionally, data generation methods are never neutral, and due attention should be given tochoosing relevant instruments to genuinely search for surfacing community understandingsand meanings.

This panel engages with these issues, focusing on methodologies for community-basedresearch that share a concern for understanding community views and visions. Three datagathering methods are explored, and examples are given of their application within threeinternational research projects in Syria, Mozambique, and South Africa. The comparison anddiscussion over these cases aims to examine the impact of methodological choices on theoutcomes of community-based research, clarifying implications for two complementary, yetdistinctive, purposes: 1) generating genuine community meanings and understandings; and 2) informing design of relevant community information systems and communication artefacts.

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