Commentary: The Need for the Participant’s Perspective in a Kaia Joint Enterprise
ByNoel Enyedy and Joshua A. Danish
Pages 11

Given the theme of this volume, Sherin begins his chapter by establishing a rather provocative goal: identifying the research questions and analytic approaches that might explore thinking and learning without attention to interactional detail. As researchers who are passionate about the centrality of interaction in accounts of thinking and learning, and who are deeply committed to an agenda of integrating ideas from KA and IA, it would be an understatement to say that we initially found this proposal to be quite puzzling. However, upon further reflection, we believe that this kind of discussion is in fact central to the project of reconciling ideas from disparate approaches such as KA and IA. The power of a question such as this is that it challenges us to make our assumptions visible, and to question them in an effort to move forward with an increasingly robust analytic toolkit. It is in this spirit that we therefore respond to Sherin’s provocative proposal in an effort to highlight and discuss what we see as some key tensions in his proposal, and with a goal of promoting discussion and debate. We believe that this kind of debate can strengthen all of our collective research efforts as we move forward. The thrust of our response is that to frame the question as Sherin has (i.e., when can we safely ignore interaction when analyzing knowledge?), closes off, from the beginning, inquiry into what knowing “is.” If what counts as knowing is an open object of inquiry, and we intend to pursue this line of inquiry from both a KA and an IA perspective, then the goals of the analyst – and how these goals affect the selection and omission of data – need to be balanced by attention to the goals and perspectives of the participants and how the participants attend to selective aspects of their experience. It is the latter focus that is central to the IA approach and is missing from Sherin’s proposal.