Between the Data
Episode 47: Post-Intentional Phenomenology: Considerations and Principles
Social science researchers have long utilized phenomenological research methodologies in their qualitative research to study consciousness from direct experience. While this approach to the human experience offers significant insight, it can miss contextual data due to ignoring the environment of the experience itself.
The complexity of the context surrounding the phenomenon is what post-intentional phenomenology (PIP) inquirers set out to analyze with their qualitative research. Dr. Mark Vagle, a Professor at the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Minnesota and post-intentional phenomenology expert, met with Dr. Stacy Penna to discuss this research methodology for the 47th episode of the Between the Data podcast.
What is Post-Intentional Phenomenology?
The field of phenomenology has two ends of the spectrum – descriptive and interpretive phenomenology. Descriptive phenomenology maintains that each phenomenon has an essence that makes it a specific phenomenon. With enough studying of the phenomenon, descriptive phenomenology states that you could describe it with enough clarity that it would become applicable.
On the other side of the spectrum, interpretive phenomenology states that a phenomenon is felt and that our interpretation of the phenomenon changes as the context and situation changes.
Instead of being pulled to either side, Dr. Vagle was interested in mixed methods research and started studying post-structural phenomenology and the influences of complexities that assert themselves on the phenomenological experience that individuals may or may not even be aware of.
“I started drawing from different parts of descriptive and interpretive phenomenology and then got interested in post-structural philosophies. Then I started to tinker and play with what it would be like to take some post-structural ideas and phenomenal ideas and see what could get produced when I put them together,” said Dr. Vagle. “So post-intentional phenomenology is taking the phenomenal concept of our intentional relations, our inter-connectedness with all things at all times, and the post-structural commitment to saying that everything is always in flux – always being shaped and reshaped and produced over time.”
Unlike descriptive or interpretive phenomenology, PIP assumes that a phenomenon is always in flux, that context produces and shapes the phenomenon, and that there is not an essence to a phenomenon.
Approaching PIP as an Inquirer
To study a phenomenon as a post-intentional qualitative inquirer, Dr. Vagle stressed that one should have the desire to study obvious things and be committed to making them less obvious. A second consideration is that the PIP inquirer needs to believe in the ever-changing nature of phenomena.
“A third is that you really have to be okay with ambiguity and have to be willing to sit in it for quite a while,” said Dr. Vagle. “Moving too quickly to tie things down … would work against the whole process, and PIP is a lot about process.”
The fourth aspect is that a potential PIP inquirer needs to value the process itself as new and continuing data.
“You’re not just finding data, you’re producing data as you’re studying, and you have to feel okay with having that kind of influence,” said Dr. Vagle.
The Three-Considerations Core of PIP
The triangle approach, or the more recently titled three-considerations approach by Dr. Vagle, is composed of phenomenological material, theories you want to think with, and post-reflexing.
Phenomenological material is anything that helps the researcher get some access to the phenomenon such as interviews, observations, anecdotes, historical analyses, and writings. This term allows for a broader collection of material to be studied as opposed to “data” which originates from quantitative research methodologies.
The second consideration, theories you want to think with, encourages taking theoretical concepts and thinking with those concepts in relation to the phenomenological material.
In the final consideration, Dr. Vagle explained that post-reflexing is about trying to look at what one usually looks through. Once the frame has been identified, the researcher should look at the frame itself and post-reflex on it.
“For every thing they want to really stress or emphasize as a finding, or something they want to assert, that they engage in all three considerations,” said Dr. Vagle. “They have some phenomenological material, they have at least a theoretical concept they’re thinking with, and they’ve got some of their post-reflexing.”
Five Principles of PIP for Everyday Life
Dr. Vagle encouraged the use of the five principles of PIP in the everyday contemplations of both academics and non-academics. The process involves combining the principles of PIP with mind and body breath work to help people who are stuck on an identified phenomenon develop a different relationship with that phenomenon.
The five principles of PIP are:
1. Vexing, perplexing phenomena are always in flux and there’s never nothing going on with them 2. Contexts provoke and produce the phenomenon 3. Slow down in order to open up 4. Identify what is framing the vexing phenomenon 5. Look at those framings instead of looking through them
“It’s a lot of humbling self-work in everyday contemplation,” said Dr. Vagle. “It’s easier to do the analysis on other people contributing to the thing making me stuck. But this work is wanting to name those influences in addition to what can I do. How am I influencing my own stuck-ness, and what might I do to get unstuck?”
Concluding this insightful discussion, Dr. Vagle left us with one piece of advice for those interested in working with PIP methodology in their qualitative data research.
“Don’t rush coming to find and settle in on the phenomenon you want to research. Take your time, talk to people, go to places you’re interested in going to and observe,” said Dr. Vagle. “You want the phenomenon to be something you’re passionate about wanting to explore and open up.
Learn more about this research: Listen to the full podcast episode here.