Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Revelation. An Orthogonal Model. And A Lot of Emotion.

There are three things I want to share regarding this week’s reading and fieldwork. I apologize for the length, but since I can't be in class, I figured I just speak my mind here...

ONE: “… a dominant paradigm is located within a meaning community – the community of scholars and practitioners who have come to define what it means to theorize and practice within the discipline” (Dutta, p. 46). What struck me with this statement, and with those that followed it, was the whole idea of meaning, tools, and the universal criteria used by the dominant paradigm in health communication. In many ways, they represent a conditioned approach, one that is well practiced. It is the norm; it is the most logical; it makes sense; it works; and it is dependable. What made me begin to mull this over and think about this so carefully was because, as I sat at home reading this, my five-year-old daughter sat next to me, playing a matching game on the computer. As she uncovered the hidden animals, a voice with an English accent would state the name. “Rhino.” “Robin.” Each time the voice stated the name, my daughter would repeat it out loud… in a perfect English accent. As I heard her do this a few times, I wondered how I would have repeated the word. Of course, I would have said the animal name, but it would not have occurred to me in the slightest to incorporate the accent. Therefore, in carrying this shared word to a new recipient, I would have lost part of its meaning (not in what the animal is, but the source from which it came). Plus, if I had tried to include the accent, it wouldn’t have come out right, it wouldn’t have sounded natural. Turn this back to the dominant paradigm (yes, I know, I loose connection), but such an observation in a matching game helped me to consider one of the ways in which the dominant paradigm can easily look past certain components of meaning in order to gather the most “pertinent” pieces of the social issue.

TWO: The orthogonal model that categorically explains the approaches to the study of culture offered a very different way to understanding very prominent research paradigms. So often I’ve broken down approaches from simply the methodological approach, or the creative theoretical framework applied to the research questions or hypotheses. But this model actually allowed me to see specifically where my current research project fits… in the culture as a barrier (cultural sensitivity) quadrant. Of course, I realize that this book is a proponent of CCA, by which I’m very much intrigued. Therefore, other approaches are going to be a little less desirable. But, it does make me consider the weaknesses that exist in our approach: (1) We’re looking for stable characteristics on which to stake a claim and develop targeted messages; and (2) we’re not necessarily bent on trying to identify cultural inconsistencies that may exist.

THREE: Yesterday three of us went to the mobile pantry and volunteered. Obviously this was the time where we were able to actually interact with the individuals and families who were there to partake in the available food. This was an eye-opener for me to see the magnitude and impact of what the mobile pantry can do. I was charged with asking a few survey questions with each individual moving through the line. These questions were for the Food Pantry to use in their grant writing. There were three simple questions (which we, as students, later severely critiqued…):

  1. Do you have access to enough food to feed the members of your household on a regular basis? Always, often, rarely, never?
  2. How do you provide food for your family? Food Pantry, Mobile Pantry, Food Stamps, Grocery Store, Soup Kitchen, or a combination of these?
  3. How much does the mobile pantry help your family? Does it add to your food supply? Would you have to skip a meal(s) if you didn’t have access to it? Do you still have to skip meals even with the mobile pantry?

Three basic questions… but wrought with emotion and a stark reminder of why they werethere. All were very willing participants as I engaged them in a discussion to answer these questions. Some, though, shared with me stories of why they are there for the first time; others revealed circumstances of their life and how thankful they are for the resources such as this pantry; and others, still, began to tear up, answering the questions very quietly and briefly. The moment I saw pain and shame in some of the faces, I found it difficult to move through the three simple questions. To me, it reminded me of what I really thought of these questions, and I often found myself struggling to not tear up with them. I was there to help, and be a positive light in their day. But, in the end, I think the tables were turned.

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