Speaking About Performance: Hearing Other Narratives

Back in 1988 Donald Polkinghorne produced the delightful book Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences. In his preface to the book he observes that “practitioners work with narrative knowledge. They are concerned with people’s stories…”

In Chapter Two he notes that “Narrative is the fundamental scheme for linking individual human actions and events into interrelated aspects of an understandable composite.” His insights resonated with qualitative research I was doing in the 1980s and have informed my work ever since. They added to my reading of Miller Mair‘s work at that time too.

I have been prompted to revisit their ideas about narrative and storytelling following two fascinating radio programs and the discovery that Miller Mair is a keynote speaker at the 2010 CPN Conference. His workshop at the conference is titled Imaginative Writing as Psychological Enquiry. The information for the workshop states:

If we are psychologists, counselors or psychotherapists, we live and work in conversation. This means we have to engage more fully with the ambiguities, surprises and riches of language. Writing as a significant mode of inquiry will be approached as a form of conversation.

These “ambiguities, surprises and riches of language” enchant me too! The Clyde Street blog contains a number of posts about writing and narrative. There are posts about performance too. My interest centres on how these elements are focussed in coaching and learning.

The two radio programs that ignited my desire to write today are Barry Lopez’s discussion with Ramona Koval on Radio National’s Book Show and Ramona Koval’s interview with Lady Antonia Fraser.

In the first program, Barry Lopez (who is taking part in the 2010 Perth Writers’ Festival) discusses Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape (edited by Debra Gwartney and Barry Lopez). I enjoyed in particular Barry and Ramona’s discussion of William deBuys‘ discussion of ‘ripple’ in his story of New Mexico.

A week before the Barry Lopez interview, Ramona Koval interviewed Lady Antonia Fraser about her account of her life with Harold Pinter Must You Go? I enjoyed this interview enormously partly because of Ramona Koval’s questions and Lady Fraser’s discussion of the role of a biographer in telling the story of a creative artist. I thought Ramona’s use of her own meetings with Harold Pinter at the Edinburgh festival were wonderful anchors for her conversation with Lady Antonia.

This convergence of ideas around narrative has furthered my interest in how we discuss, describe and share performance in sport. My thoughts about narrative and story telling were framed two decades ago by Donald Polkinghorne, Miller Mair, and John van Maanen. They were harbingers of a wonderful approach to story sharing. In the last year I have become a real fan of Ramona Koval’s Book Show and her interviews with Barry Lopez and Lady Antonia Fraser were gems. Collectively they all provide a discourse that has enormous possibilities for those interested in exploring coaching and learning in sport.

I believe any discussion about performance in sport is enriched by our openness to the forms and contents of other narratives. This post is part of an ongoing story about coming to know performance.

Photo Credits

Private Conversation http://www.flickr.com/photos/danisarda/4204257051/

Donald Polkinghorne www.usc.edu/uscnews/experts/841.html

Miller Mair http://www.constructivistpsych.org/2010/mair.html

Barry Lopez www.upaya.org/newsletter/view/2009/03/16

Ramona Koval www.abc.net.au/rn/bookshow/about/

Lady Antonia Fraser http://www.flickr.com/photos/35803015@N03/4345794258/

Bluebells http://www.flickr.com/photos/anguskirk/2684740057/

Accidental Connectivism and the Impulse to Write

Writing has been on my mind a lot lately. Perhaps because I have been thinking about writing I am finding stimuli everywhere and everywhen. I realise that it may be that I am an ‘accidental connectivist’.

The most recent stimulus was George Siemen’s blog post Teaching as transparent learning. In the post George explores the idea of learning by sharing:

My work on blogs, articles, handbooks, and so on is an invitation to engage in conversation, not a proclamation of what I absolutely know.

He adds that Will Richardson (see, for example, New Reading, New Writing), Terry Anderson, Stephen Downes, Grainne Conole, amongst others, “seek not to proclaim what they know, but rather to engage and share with others as they explore and come to understand technology and related trends.” (Stephen Downes picks up on this point in his OLDaly post. Stephen notes that “When I write, and even when I speak, I am basically thinking aloud – and readers and listeners are able to follow along.”)

George adds to his list Alan Levine, D’Arcy Norman, Janet Clarey, Brian Lamb and Alec Couros as examples of writers who decide “to share their thoughts and ideas in a transparent manner” in doing so “they become a teacher to those who are observing.”

[George’s post sent me off on a tangent about teaching and demonstration. Many years ago some physical education textbooks used to talk about ‘executive demonstration’. This kind of demonstration required the teacher to demonstrate a skill or an activity. The idea was that learners could observe and extract from the demonstration. Whilst looking for some links to old texts I came across a conference paper by Michael Messerole and Paul Clark (2004) entitled Electronic Portfolios: What Value Do They Provide? In it they show examples of teacher candidate portfolios. These examples include “types of digital artifacts being created by teacher candidates, including digital video, text and electronic documents.”   Michael and Paul’s paper demonstrates the transparency George writes about.]

Earlier this week (27 April) OLDaily pointed me to Clay Birrell’s post How to write timed essays that are not crap. He shares an approach to writing that  “was never possible before about two years ago – a way that allows the students to literally watch and hear their teacher read an AP Exam prompt, read the exam poem cold, and then write the exam. All under test conditions, within the 40 minute time limit.”

Will Richardson’s post on New Reading, New Writing had a fascinating ripple effect. Gardner Campbell picked up on the annotation potential of Diigo explored in Will’s post as did Melanie Jennings.

A few days earlier two car journeys in two days gave me access to Radio National’s Book Show. One of the journey’s had me transfixed with Lee Gutkind’s interview.

lgutkind Photo Credit

I was fascinated by Lee’s discussion of creative non-fiction as a genre and followed up his discussion here in which he observes that:

Although it sounds a bit affected and presumptuous, “creative nonfiction” precisely describes what the form is all about. The word “creative” refers simply to the use of literary craft in presenting nonfiction—that is, factually accurate prose about real people and events—in a compelling, vivid manner. To put it another way, creative nonfiction writers do not make things up; they make ideas and information that already exist more interesting and, often, more accessible.

Number 36 of the Creative Nonfiction Journal took George’s transparency and Will’s Diigo annotations one step further:

During the editing process for this issue, with the permission of the writers, we eliminated the original beginnings of three essays and started them a few paragraphs or pages in. Our goal was to make the beginnings more immediate, to eliminate some writerly throat-clearing, to help plunge readers into the heart of the story—the action, the theme, the substance—from the very beginning. Did these changes in fact make this story more effective? And what was lost in the process? See what the author had to say about the changes, and join the discussion below!

One day earlier I listened to the Book Show’s discussion of Richard Brautigan and Chris Kelly‘s great idea for the Torpedo magazine‘s birthday tribute.

hawkline-bcover Photo Credit

John Barber has created a remarkable website that chronicles Richard Brautigan’s work. In a section on Brautigan’s novels, this quote appears:

One day when I was twenty-five years old, I looked down and realized that I could write a sentence. Let’s try one of those classic good-bye lines, “I don’t think we should see so much of each other any more because I think we’re getting a little too serious,” which really meant that I wrote my first novel Trout Fishing in America and followed it with three other novels.

An audio file of the Radio National program can be found here. I ended up reading some of Richard Brautigan’s poems after Adam Ford‘s observation that Brautigan started writing poetry “to learn how to write a sentence and once he was satisfied he could write a good sentence he would have a crack at writing fiction.” I liked this short poem from Wild Dog (1965) entitled The Buses:

Philosophy should stop
at midnight like the buses.
Imagine Nietzsche, Jesus
and Bertrand Russell parked
in the silent car barns.

I did stop myself pursuing poetics at this point but I did remember fondly Miller Mair‘s work.

All these opportunistic encounters add to my sense of being an accidental connectivist. By this I mean that many of the wonderful opportunities to engage with other writers in structured courses like CCK08 are transformed into a local context after such courses are ‘over’. Of late I have been participating in Yammer communities and writing Tweets. Both of these encourage parsimony. Despite the brevity of exchanges in these media I sense there is enormous transparency available too (shortly after concluding this post I received a link to Tweeting to Inform learning Space Development via OLDaily and followed up with a visit to Kate Trgovac‘s blog). There is great humour. (Just recieved a Creative Nonfiction tweet on Writing it Short.)

Blogging after shorter writing episodes is a treat. Writing about writing is a great slow blogging possibility to be open. Todd Sieling explored these ideas earlier this year.

Oh and … I realise that I must return to How to write articles and essays quickly and expertly (2006) too if I am to continue exploring witing!