looking up and down and turning around

i looked up today and for the first time noticed that atop a house in my neighborhood is a beautiful rooftop deck. this is significant because i have lived in my house for six and a half years and know my neighborhood well - or so i thought. but today, while walking back from the grocery store, i thought to look up at an intersection where apparently i had never looked up before. so i spent the rest of the walk home looking up and noticing other things (some of which shouldn't be seen by the random passer-by...) and looking only slightly like a lost tourist and made it safely home with only a brief slip-n-slide on a patch of ice that hadn't quite melted away. i looked up. this one act, this one shift of line of sight, opened up new information and the story of my neighborhood has been expanded.

as a kid i was told to look right, left, and right again before crossing the street. i was told to watch my back, look straight ahead, don't look down (which always made me look down). as a child, when i was much smaller than the rest of the people in my house, i was told to look up but after i could navigate through every day activities on my own, i guess i forgot to look up as often as i look left, right, back, front, and down.

as qualitative researchers, we are taught to interview, collect artifacts, be participant observers and prepare fieldnotes, conduct focus groups... what haven't we thought to do? what situations can we create or put ourselves in that might render new insights into the questions that keep us up at night (or is that me?)? after reading the wonderful growing up with television, by joellen fisherkeller, a couple of students in my tv & youth class wondered how significant three case studies could be in the vast landscape of research related to the role/impact of tv in the lives of youth. i used to answer that query by advocating the richness and texture that comes from deep inquiry into phenomena, made possible through the use of ethnography, case studies and the like. but now i find myself asking a question in response: (how) can we afford to keep asking the same questions and using the same instruments/methods/positionalities/roles...? especially when the stories that are out in the ether are in desperate need of rewriting.

hopefully this will all make more sense in 9.5 hours at which time i co-present the first of two papers this weekend. maybe it will be ok if i just look up and present with my back to the audience...

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