Thursday 28 March 2013

Interview Practice

As part of the Media Skills Training I mentioned the other day, I always put myself through the same thing as the participants: being interviewed on camera.  I do it partly to show that I wouldn't expect them to do anything I wouldn't do myself (some people are really quite apprehensive about it, and I hope that this helps reassure them a little) and partly because it is good practice for me.

So here is my most recent practice session: spot the deliberate mistakes...

Wednesday 20 March 2013

In defence of MBTI (sort of...)

Yesterday, in his online blog at the Guardian, Dean Burnett launched an attack on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.

Whilst I don't think the MBTI is above criticism, it seems to me that his post conflates the abuse of the MBTI, questions about the underpinning Jungian theory, and the MBTI's own validity, into one messy, anecdotal, misinformed mess.

He gets off on the wrong foot straight away, referring to it as a test throughout the piece.  It is not a test, but an indicator (the clue is in the name). He goes on to say that it 'isn't recognised as being scientifically valid' but gives no data or source to support that assertion - an interesting approach to science writing.

He makes much of the fact that it 'is largely ignored by the field of psychology,' again an unsupported assertion; however looking at some of the critical articles to which he links, I think he means it isn't used in clinical psychology - which is scarcely surprising as it isn't a clinical tool.

And so it goes on.  He retails lots of anecdotal evidence, most of which demonstrates misunderstanding and abuse of the tool, and makes rather large leaps of logic along the way.

He is particularly incensed by the binary choices offered, but misunderstands what the tool is doing: nowhere does he explore the notion of preference (ie that one might be left-handed or right-handed, but certainly value and use boh hands) instead saying ' in the category of extrovert v introvert, you're either one or the other; there is no middle ground.' That is simply to misunderstand and misrepresent the tool.

I think it would have been more sensible to have addressed three questions:

1 What is this tool trying to do, and how well does it do it?
2 Is that a sensible or useful thing to be doing?
3 What problems are there with abuse/misunderstanding of the tool?

On that basis, I think MBTI has a pretty clean bill of health on 1; I think 2 -  how much one accepts the Jungian underpinning of MBTI -  is debatable: but he deliberately side-steps this issue.  And his article provides ample evidence, with regard to 3, that the tool is much misunderstood and misused.  He (rightly) points out that it is an absurd way to recruit people - but he fails to point out that when one is trained in MBTI it is made clear that it should not be used for recruitment.  

I do share his frustration with the evangelical zeal, and uncritical true-believer faith, of some MBTI practitioners; but with regard to that, MBTI isn't where I'd start.  Try NLP, with its 'master-practitioners', its pseudo-philosophy, and its largely unproven and extravagant claims (though again, I am not saying there is no value in all the NLP stuff: much of it is lifted from skilled psychologists - but there's an awful lot of bunkum stirred into the mix!)

All in all, a poor piece of journalism, that looks to have been based on a superficial understanding supplemented by reading a few websites and getting some angry readers' comments about MBTI.

For myself, although I am not a fan of Jungian psychology, I find it a useful tool, principally for enabling reflection and discussion about some interesting aspects of ways in which we differ from each other.

I always present it as a hypothesis that should not be swallowed whole: indeed I normally explain my relationship to it by relating the story of Niels Bohr and his good-luck horseshoe: 'of course I don't believe in it, but I'm told it works, even if you don't believe in it...'

Cutting edge

One of the things I love about my work is that I so often spend time with people who are right at the cutting edge of their chosen field.

Yesterday, for example, I had lunch with Atau Tanaka, at Goldsmiths.

Here he is at the Sorbonne demonstrating how to use the accelerometers in iPhones (and some pretty advanced realtime software) to create intriguing music from a few loops, based on the gestures of the performers.

Friday 15 March 2013

Handling the Media

Another excellent module of Cardiff Futures.  After an introductory talk by the internal Comms team, we had an oustanding presentation by Richard Sambrook. We were treated to a humorous stack of anecdotes featuring Princess Diana, Mila Kunis, Jeremy Paxman, Michael Howard, Angelina Jolie, Rupert Murdoch, and an audio clip of himself defending the BBC (following Alistair Campbell's attack) on the Today programme - but this was not mere entertainment (and still less name dropping) but rather a well crafted sequence of stories each designed to exemplify a crucial message for any academic contemplating engaging with the media.

The rest of the day was led by Karen Ainley of Mosaic, with whom we have worked before.  She started by taking advantage of Richard's presence and interviewing him, to demonstrate how to make a podcast.

After that, Karen took us through the five Ps of a Perfect Podcast, and the participants spent the rest of the afternoon making a podcast in four groups.  These were all very good, ranging from the serious and useable to the irreverent and amusing!

For the second day of the course, we were also joined by Kevin Bentley, also of Mosaic; he and Karen then helped us prepare for and practice both TV and Radio interviews. We were working at NEP Cymru, which has a TV studio, so the whole process was a very close simulation of reality.

Despite some nervousness, not only did everyone survive, but all acquitted themselves admirably; most enjoyed it (at least surviving!) and some really took to it, and can be expected to pop up on the media on a regular basis.

Wednesday 6 March 2013

BeSiDE themselves

I have just spent a couple of very interesting days with the BeSiDE project team in Dundee.  They are a part of the SiDE project, and are undertaking some fascinating research into Care Homes.  In particular, they are hoping to use both technological (quantitative) and interview based (qualitative) data to understand how Care Homes are used, what works well and what less so, in order to develop recommendations for Architects on the key design considerations.

This meeting was really an opportunity to look more broadly and creatively at the possibilities of the project, so we did a lot of things like mind mapping, picture-metaphors, force field analysis, criteria generation and evaluation, and so on.

The team is multi-disciplinary and multi-site, so as well as thinking about the content, methodologies and potential impact of the research, we also considered how to ensure they are working well together as a team.

The project has plenty of challenges, but also lots of possibilities, and very clear and significant potential impact on the quality of life of people who are sometimes out of sight and out of mind.  I am sure the team will deliver something of real and lasting value, as well as developing methodologies that will be applicable in a range of analogous settings.