The following is a KMb story that illustrates how a story is a method of knowledge dissemination. As Marshall McLuhen said, “the medium is the message”.
Ce qui suit est une histoire de mobilisation des connaissances qui illustre de quelle façon une histoire peut servir de méthode pour disséminer la connaissance. Comme l’a dit Marshall McLuhen, « le médium est le message ».
David sat on the dock. It was a sunny day on Beaver Lake in Ontario’s Kawartha Lakes region. White wine in hand and friends all around, he watched Gary (@KMbeing) play with their 8 year old niece, Maddie (ok, she’s not a niece by blood but a niece by love, nonetheless). Maddie wanted to build a sandcastle, which for her meant that she would tell Gary where to put the walls and turrets and keep engaged just long enough to get it half completed. Gary was playing. And David thought, “When was the last time I just played”?
David played with Maddie’s brother Alex a few months ago when they built Leggo things but he felt regret that he couldn’t remember the last time he played. Just played. Without kids. He thought of asking friends:
- When was the last time you went to a play ground, or a water park or just played?
- When was the last time you played in anything other than grown up organized sports or fitness classes?
- When was the last time you just explored your own imagination and just played?
But he suspected that his friends would all be as constrained as he felt about playing. He wanted to play and act like a kid but he always found excuses about being too busy. The real excuse is he doesn’t’ want other adults (or kids for that matter) to wonder why is this grown up is playing and not acting like he should.
David is also a knowledge broker who works at York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit. He needed to make a decision about playing so he explored the evidence on play and other child like freedoms. He asked the 21st Century oracle, Google, and found lots of references to play and research but mostly from a child’s developmental perspective. Google returned less about research on adult play but one studyby Samuel West explained that “Adult play is a facilitator of creativity in an organizational context”. David thought about this and realized that if adult play is important to success in work (and likely in life as well) why didn’t grownups play more often?
David asked Gary, “You remember when you were playing with Maddie?”
“Yeah”, he answered, without looking up from his TweetDeck.
“Well”, David continued, “what else can grownups do to act more like children and still benefit their personal and professional lives?”
Recalling a time when they went to a playground about 2 years ago to just play, Gary looked up and cautioned, “Be careful when sliding as you can lose your wallet that way, but I know that’s not what you’re looking for.”
David chuckled as he realized kids never lost wallets when they played. That was a uniquely adult risk of playing. Gary added, “Adults write lots but they don’t tell stories. Is that something kids can do that would help adults let go of their constructed constraints?”
An interesting idea. David pondered, “I wonder what would happen if we actually told stories as a complement to all the tweets, blogs, reports, academic papers, book chapters and, ugh, e mail grownups produce on a daily basis?” David had blogged about theatre as a means of research dissemination so he was already starting to think differently. David also remembered two things about story telling. He recalled that his colleague, Linda Hawkins (from the Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship at the University of Guelph) used story telling as a method to convey research findings to a workshop at the Community-University Expo 2011. The title of her story was “Learning to fit: a story about the City of Guelph and the Research Shop” and the abstract was posted on line. In an e mail Linda told David that storytelling was an acceptable method of research dissemination for the community sector. David had also read Alex Bennet’s book, Knowledge Mobilization in the Social Sciences and Humanities: moving from research to action. In the book she says one aspect of knowledge mobilization is like a “Pow-Wow, an exchange of knowledge through story and music named after the Native American gathering involving dance, music and socializing”.
“A Pow-Wow and Linda’s story about her partnership with the City of Guelph are great examples of how to tell a research story,” David thought but he also recalled a tweet about story telling. The tweet linked to a research paper by Patrick Lewis titled “Storytelling as Research/Research as Storytelling”. Patrick published this paper in a journal called “Qualitative Inquiry”. The paper was published in 2011, in volume 17, number 6. It started on page 505 and ended on page 510. David found the paper pretty heavy with words like Kierkegaardian. While on a bus to see friends in Waterloo, Ontario, David turned to Gary and said, “Please read this and tell me what it’s all about”.
Twenty minutes later Gary summed it up. “This paper talks about the interplay between research and storytelling and how each informed and supported the other. You should try telling a story about knowledge mobilization. It might help you break out of your traditional academic structures like building a sandcastle with Maddie helped me be creative”.
All he could respond was, “Hmmmm” as he thought about the idea and watched the big Schneider’s sign go by near Aberfoyle, Ontario. So, two days later David sat down to write a story. He wrote a story about trying to tell a story. It’s not a blog. It’s not a research paper. It’s a story where the medium is the message. It’s a…
“Lunch is ready!” yelled Gary, interrupting his thought. And off he went. Story told.