In Algeria over the past 10 years or so they’ve gone from 2 – 15 newspapers.

All well read too and only lightly censored.

No blogs for days and then two come along at once. Typical of the information highway I say. But this has been on my list to post for a week or two and I’m thinking hard about our new assignment – a Knowledge Enquiry into the knowledge transfer and knowledge economy impact of the cultural assets (experts, collections, spaces) of London (museums, archives, libraries). So what is knowledge transfer? What’s a knowledge economy? What is evidence? How do you find it out? How do you verify?

This is something I found out (but have not checked on) in conversation with the Algerian man who runs a stall in the farmers market. An excellent stall with bourek and Algerian flatbreads and pastries and mint tea, all of which he makes himself. We always chat, about this and that.

How did I find it out? Not by asking about newspapers, but by talking to him about how safe I’d be travelling as a Western woman alone in Algeria.

Now to me, it’s interesting for 2 reasons which we might want to think about in our narrative enquiries and building of evidence bases:

1. an interesting shred of evidence. Only a shred. But he’s an educated man, been here for 17 years, very attached to his home land, observant. In his view, with which I happen to concur, the increase in range of press is an indicator of a society which is opening up to challenge and so more robust. It’s a little nugget to hold on to, a bit of a surprise, something which leaves a knotted handkerchief in the mind as a reminder to build other shreds around it – Algerian shreds, things to do with how the published press, censorship and so on can be indicators of the openness of a society.

2. I found it out in passing while asking about something else. So it was offered to me tangentially by way of evidence that I would be treated with openness not hostility. I wasn’t looking for it. I was looking for something else altogether.

Which leads me to wonder the extent to which we need to ask direct questions or to ask indirect questions which lead us to shreds and snippets we can built into patterns.

Which leads me in turn to wonder about horizon scanning methodologies and inferential research and whether we should boning up on these in any way.

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One response to “In Algeria over the past 10 years or so they’ve gone from 2 – 15 newspapers.

  1. Thanks so much for your insightful posts Victoria. I’m having a quiet read while my girls are reading the latest Harry Potter. It sort of feels like Christmas. Everyone is taking it easy and reading. But that’s not the reason for this comment.

    I was struck by your observation that you discovered important things tangentially. From our work at Anecdote, which sounds very similar to your own, we go out of our way now to avoid the direct question. When we help people retell their experiences we might be interested in the theme of workplace safety. In which case a question like “Tell me about a time when you felt you were in danger in the workplace” would be too ‘in your face’ but something like “Have you ever seen a near miss? What happened?” might be more open and lead to tangential discoveries. But even this example seems too head on. I wonder what other ways can one create an environment where useful tangential information arises?

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