Director Bent Hamer’s movie ‘Kitchen Stories’ is based on a real-life social experiment conducted in Sweden during the 1950’s. Post World War II, a research institute is looking to modernize the home kitchen by observing a handful of rural Norwegian bachelors. See a quick trailer below.
As we were watching this movie, our professor prompted us to reflect on three questions, which we then shared in a small group discussion today:
1.) How does this film connect to the topics we have been learning in the readings?
We started out this course learning about quantitative data collection. Academic research is filled with quantitative data studies and it provides so many advantages to the ever changing science of the world. However, as we have learned about more research methodologies such as quantitative, action research, and self-study, it is moving in the direction of the researcher being integral and at the center of the research. By doing this, it allows the researcher to understand much more contextual information.
For example, something that kept coming up in discussion today was there were a couple instances in the movie where the researcher asked the homeowner questions, as their relationship developed, that he would never have understood by just sitting and observing for days on end.
As Leanne and her group mentioned in their break out discussion today, is that the movie is a great satirical representation of an ‘old style’ of research. Quantitative data has a place and a purpose but we need to understand, as researchers, and George mentioned this last week in his discussion, that when we focus solely on that kind of data, we might miss the humanity in the people that we study. Brene Brown has a great line about this in her 2013 Tedx Talk called ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ – “stories are data with a soul.” I think that comment is so profound and hits right at the core of what we need to understand as researchers. In order to develop a well rounded understanding of a concept, we need to understand our place and our role as researchers.
2.) What does this film pull at? How do you do research?
Something that become quite apparent to me throughout the course of this movie was the importance of the chair. A tall chair is built in order to observe a willing participant in this study. The researchers are given strict instructions to not have any contact with their participants as this taints their data.
However, what is made painstakingly clear, is that human beings are social beings. We are wired for connection and some of the researchers in the movie have a hard time abiding by the guidelines. In my small group discussion, Dale brought up a great point. He said that as soon as the researcher and the participant acknowledge and nod at each other, the objectivity of the research is null and void. He likened this to the feeling of waking up early before everyone else on Christmas morning to find your presents and when you go back to bed you have to pretend to fall asleep when your parents wake up. All the while, you are second guessing yourself about what your actions should be because someone is watching and you feel the need to act in a certain ‘correct’ way.
3.) What does it pull at for you or remind you about your work and your practice?
As I reflect on myself as a teacher and researcher, I do a lot of observing and quantitative data collection. However, when it comes to assessment, that quantitative data falls flat and doesn’t tell the whole story of a student. However, I am able to do so from the anecdotal notes I take and conversations I have throughout the year. I am realizing that I have incorporated these research methodologies into my practice without even knowing what they are.