(This is it folks. I may have found the research method of choice to write thesis and dissertation in social psychology and media studies respectively. It’s Participatory Action Research. Everyone teaches and everyone learns, including the study participants. Stay tuned.)
Participatory action and the research that it entails give me hope for the future. Seeing Pray the Devil Back to Hell was enough to remind me that it takes a group of people to create powerful change (political or otherwise), but it only takes one individual to initiate that change that creates a domino effect in others, whether that be intentional personal propaganda or unintentional propaganda, and while I have hope in the future of humanity, I believe that it will take a great deal for people in the United States to realize this simple fact. There are many throughout the world that have already realized this. The women of Liberia give me hope.
Johnson et al’ Naming our reality recalls the torture and murder of a young transgendered woman outside and a few feet away from an upper Manhattan police station that made the rounds of Facebook and Tumblr. This article was written in 2007, and the murder occurred in 2013. Activism has improved awareness of these issues, and affected populations have banded together to realize that they are stronger as collectives than as individuals and that everything is connected, “where life histories and social positions – including gender, race, sexuality, age and culture – are taken into account,” making participatory action research more powerful and effective by drawing upon liberation, black, and feminist psychologies. Still, there is much to be done when the so call safety officers of a city ignore the safety of a person whom they do not consider as a human being.
In Fine and Torre’s Re-membering exclusions, they directly engage members of the affected populations of a school and a woman’s prison (as well as the fellow social scientists) to participate in the research by critically reframing the way questions regarding social justice are constructed. I see this as actively participating in a process of learning local environments and teaching the social scientists/teachers. It is actively questioning the public institutions that frequently institute public policy without determining what is best for the public. This is a process that could benefit the government and most bureaucratic institutions to evolve beyond the apathetic and engage the personal and the people behind the job titles and the people behind the numbers they are serving. From an activist standpoint and the perspective of someone directly engage in the positive evolution of society and the individuals participating in it, I am wondering how Participatory Action Research could be applied directly to a study of unintentional influence and unintentional propaganda upon small groups of individuals. Rather, I want to understand it properly to engage focus groups to understand the propaganda that surrounds them daily, to actively question its sincerity in every facet of their daily lives, and to change the way that they act and react to it.
In the post-deportation human rights project, Lykes, et al, emphasize the social justice aspect and the close collaboration of participants as researchers. It benefited the researchers that one of them were part of one of the affected immigrant communities which I believe is part of participatory action research to actively engage the community in question as equals. What I find intriguing is the active involvement of the researchers in the study participants lives to effect change. I find this even more so than in the institutional ethnography methods used in sociology that I still don’t know if I understand in spite of previous class instruction. Specifically, Lykes, et al cite a participatory workshops where small group discussions created a financial and family action plan in the event a family member was deported (Lykes, Mcdonald, & Box: 25). The further I read of participatory action research, the more I see an ongoing collaborative research project forming beyond a thesis or dissertation where the public learns and teaches its members and researchers to recognize the propaganda within their local vernacular, language, and media.
Kidd and Kral’s Practicing Participatory Action Research sounds a note of caution regarding becoming too involved in studies, communities, and projects where one fails to see the biases that are forming and the disagreements that may form between the researchers and the study participants. Given that objectivity is difficult and near impossible in most cases if one is passionate about the work they do, it is still possible to be aware of motivations personally, collectively, and culturally on all sides and make note of them. Thus, it is possible to be aware, to constantly check for perspectives and discuss them with colleagues and with participants in order to continue to learn from different evolutions and different perspectives.
On Lykes personal website at Boston College, they list several links including instructions for beginning a participatory action research project, how to conduct it pre-study and pre-research, and what to consider. Other web pages I consulted cautioned that participatory action research may not be consider seriously by dissertation committees and other groups so that this method may need to be combined with additional methods to be used. Still, I am extremely excited by this method, because I believe it may be a long-term method to teach, to learn, and to conduct studies locally and internationally to analyze the pervasiveness of propaganda on a global scale.
Billies, M., Johnson, J.; Murungi, K., & Pugh, R. (2009). Naming our reality: Low-income LGBT people documenting violence, discrimination and assertions of justice. Feminism and Psychology, 19, 3, 375-380.
Fine, M. & Torre, M. E. (2004). Re-membering exclusions: Participatory action research in public institutions. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 1, 15-37.
Kidd, S. A. & Kral, M. J. (2005). Practicing participatory action research. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52, 187-195.
Lykes , Brinton website: https://www2.bc.edu/~lykes/
Lykes, M. B., Mcdonald, E & Box, C. (2012). The post-deportation human rights project: participatory action research with Maya transnational families.