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Worldview of action research

So far as we become possessed of a heightened awareness of how power is distributed and held in the world, we are likely to become more acutely interested in how knowledge is generated, who owns or controls the means of knowledge production. Such ownership has historically been partisan and certainly in my experience invisible, I can still remember very clearly at the age of around 18 realizing that just because something appeared in a newspaper it wasn't necessarily true or correct.

That knowledge production reflects the priorities of these who control or contribute to it has become more sharply apparent in the last 50 years, and at least to me, even more sharply in the five years. Just as we can't get outside nature, we can't either escape our psychic framing of events and priorities through claims of objectivity and impartiality, which on closer inspection often turn out to mirror their owner's political priorities.

Action research is a form of knowledge production that presumes the intrinsic subjectivity of human inquiry, and the over-arching intelligence of persons, groups and community participation in progressing those aspects of human affairs that really matter to us. Its approach to power is that of participation, cooperation, negotiation, power-sharing and mutuality; in which what is learned, understood, or discovered, is co-owned by the community of inquirers.

If you want to follow up the epistemology of action research further, there is a thriving, and easily accessible, academic mini industry devoted to Action research and the fine grain of whether or not, as I would argue, it is the only ethical way to do certain kinds of research.

I'm going to confine myself here to a brief account of an action research worldview that works for me, ie that I subscribe to.

In my personal life and client work I have long valued and worked with John Heron's notion of Psyche and Personhood (pdf download). In his notion of a personhood up-hierarchy:

  • human action,

is shaped by

  • conceptualization,

which in turn is nourished by

  • intuition,

all three are informed by our

  • embodied feeling and emotionality.

I have worked for ten years or so with this notion and I find it stands up well.

Allied to and congruent with Heron's theory of Personhood, he and others have proposed a theory of knowledge that matches it. In their scheme:

  • practical knowing

emerges from

  • conceptual knowing,

this is turn is shaped by

  • presentational knowing,

and all three derive from

  • experiential knowing.

Action inquiry sets out to honour all four of these strands of human knowing, taking care not to let any of them run the whole show.

This perspective on persons and knowledge production underlies my approach to on livingfromlove as an Action research inquiry, however here, rather than to give a comprehensive account, my intention is more to own it, to point to it as informing the inquiry.

If you want to know more, follow the links at the left.

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This document was last modified on 2005-10-08 08:41:37.