The QI 2011 Experience: A Newbie’s Perspective (Part 1)

This was originally written 21 May, 2011 after my first day at QI.  Reflections on my paper presentation to follow…

I’m sitting outside in the cool of the evening on a small table near to where I’m staying.  The occasional car breaks the calm and the quite rustle of trees in full bloom is a reassuring sound.

The scene I’ve described is quite the opposite of the day I just had.  Manic, intense, challenging, constant, vibrant and, well, busy.  It’s been a lot to take in and in this space I’m going to attempt to capture on paper the jumble of thoughts and emotions I’ve got.

The first thing that comes to mind is what exactly do I understand “proper” scholarship to be?  The presentation of research, by in large at most conferences, are what might be considered the norm – an abstract plus a few power point slides with 15 minutes or so to present a situation-problem-resolution-evaluation (think Hoey) summary of a study; Q and A follows and then applause.  This form of presenting works for many and is, usually, an effective way of dissemination information.

Coming to QI I was witness to several different types of presentations that challenged my own assumptions of what an effective scholarly presentation entails.  One particular presentation that springs to mind was Lisa Yvette William-White’s presentation, which I found exceptionally refreshing and challenging at the same time.  It was evident that the content of her paper was thoroughly researched, referenced and theorised in which all this complexity was embedded in a creative, spoken-word performance full of passion and wit.  This was the first of this type of presentation that I witnessed today and time and time again, I was challenged with my own assumptions of what a “proper” paper should look like.  I acknowledge that this type of performance may not be an appropriate vehicle of disseminating research but all the same, it was refreshing to see something different.  Beyond the novelty, and beyond the performance there was a point, a message that was made clear.  And I think this is why I remembered that paper because I actively listened.

With all this newness I find myself getting overwhelmed by the sheer scale and energy of the conference.  People want to talk and discuss things.  I lost count of the number of times I’ve summarised my research to complete strangers and they, in turn, do the same. I found the curiosity to find out about others and what they’re researching exceptionally positive. But was more the questions that followed after “So what’s your research about?” that I found tiring – in a good way.

I found the questions much more focused on theoretical aspects of my research rather than the methodology.  Many people wanted to know why as well as the view/position/framework that I was coming from.  For those that spoke to me, theory was the very foundation of doing qualitative inquiry.  And this getting-to-know-you chat made me realise that I can’t quite articulate what my theoretical roots are, and moreover, I should get to work on it.

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