Interview with Donna Harraway

In prep for this weeks design session I went back to a few interviews I had found when looking for more information about Donna Harraway following her name cropping up in a couple of theory sessions.

Donna Haraway has provided new ways of thinking about the relation between modern technology and organisms, showing how they are not in opposition but interwoven with one another. Drawing on feminism, and radical thought and ‘labelled’ postmodern, over her career she has explored a range of fields, including embryology, primatology, genetics, technoscience, and animal studies, demonstrating that many of the ‘binary’ oppositions we have, like genetics and environment or human and animal actually interact and connect. It is her thoughts/belief that as humans we are not masters but companions to other species which I find most exciting.

I have no experience whatsoever of interviewing in a research context but like many people have been interviewed myself in a recruitment context, heard interviews on radio and TV and read the types of interview found in many popular weekly ‘celeb’ magazines.

The first interview was from 1996 ( however this is very long and I was not sure how to approach it ( roll on the taught session on Tuesday) the next ‘Like a Leaf’ is actually in the form of a book… I had a look at a more recent one. This interview took place on 6 July 2009 at Donna Haraway’s house in Santa Cruz, CA. It was conducted by Jeffrey J. Williams, editor of Minnesota Review, and transcribed by Heather Steffen, managing editor of the Minnesota Review while completing her PhD at Carnegie Mellon University. Although it does not state as such I believe the interview was conducted because of Donna’s status within her field, current interest in human animal relationships and building upon earlier interviews around her seminal works.
The full interview transcription can be found at:

As this is long I will only comment on the first eleven questions as these form a natural break in the interview. I felt the primary answer to the question being asked of me (“What is the purpose of the interview? What are the research questions, hypothesis or query or phenomena that is grounding this interview (in other words, what is the interviewer trying to find out?)” was clearly stated within the first question which I found a reassuring setting of the context.

“Williams The first question I want to ask is about the “Cyborg
Manifesto,” because that’s how many people know your work, and
also because this year is its twenty-fifth anniversary. It was a different moment to be doing theory in the eighties. Could you tell me about the situation then and how you reflect back on it? “

The interview reads as being a relaxed chat between two people unknown to each other. The interviewer asked questions and sought clarification in a manner which appeared to indicate he was very familiar with her work or had carried out substantial research prior to the interview. There were also a number of more chatty questions such as those about how Donna ‘felt’. The extremely readable interview was conducted in an enquiring and clarification manner rather than a challenging one. Within the course of the interview the questioner is a able to ascertain not only quite personal information but also exactly where Donna is currently thinking in her paradigms.


Design – Activity 3 My Thoughts…..

Quantitative research is used to quantify research by way of generating numerical data or data that can be transformed into useable statistics. In educational and social research it is used to quantify attitudes, opinions, behaviors, and other defined variables – and sometimes generalise results from a larger sample population. Quantitative research uses measurable data to formulate facts and uncover patterns in research. The data collection methods are much more structured than Qualitative data collection methods. Quantitative data collection methods include various forms of surveys – online surveys, paper surveys, mobile surveys and kiosk surveys, face-to-face interviews, telephone interviews, longitudinal studies, website interceptors, online polls, and systematic observations. The proponents (Al) would suggest that it is dispassionate, objective and neutral with the inductive reasoning happening prior to the actual data collection in the formation of the hypothesis and questions.

Qualitative research is primarily exploratory research. It is used to gain an understanding of underlying reasons, opinions, and motivations. It provides insights into the problem or helps to develop ideas or hypotheses for potential quantitative research. Qualitative research is also used to uncover trends in thought and opinions, and dive deeper into the problem. Qualitative data collection methods vary using unstructured or semi-structured techniques. Some common methods include focus groups (group discussions), individual interviews, and participation/observations. The sample size is typically small, and respondents are selected. The proponents (Queenie) would say that the researcher needs to be immersed within the research and not assume much before the commencement with inductive reasoning being applied to the information gathered to seek patterns answers to the research questions.

Within my own research I see an overwhelming need for qualitative research to determine my hypotheses, questions and exact format, variables and indeed nature of the quantitative work I would then carry out. I do not see them as mutually exclusive that the use of both is both justified and will increase the credibility of my work.

Quants and My Research

Reflecting at the end of the quants sessions and having had the opportunity to play around with some data I am convinced that quantitative analysis of data collected during my research will be essential. I envisage taking some time and care using qualitative interviewing of a small number of participants to develop a set of questions to answer my research question in respect to the perceived benefits of donkey assisted therapy. I would then look to devise a booklet style user friendly questionnaire to trial the questions on a sample group in order to ascertain their appropriateness and that they will answer the research question(s).

Having created the questionnaire (probably mainly comprising Likert scale questions) I would be looking to have two sets of data, the first from completed questionnaires prior to any donkey assisted therapy and the second questionnaires completed after a therapeutic intervention (duration to yet be determined). The two sets of quantitative data can then be statistically analysed for significance using tests appropriate to the two being ‘related’ – although introduced to some basic tests I would welcome the opportunity to explore which would be most appropriate in further detail. There may also be scope for looking at the data within each sample but in this case they would be ‘unrelated’ and use an alternative test such as Mann Whitney.

While I would like to ensure robust research which will ‘hold up’ within a medical/clinical field as well as the educational and social I very much appreciate that there is an opportunity for the inclusion of a few more qualitative questions within my research questionnaire. I would not envisage appreciating the nature of these until some interviews have been conducted.

Having had an introduction and being reminded of previous use of quants and statistical analysis I look forward to creating some ‘thinking time’ and discussion with my tutor(s)/supervisor to maximise my understanding and the best use. I was not previously familiar with SPSS but having borrowed a library copy and worked with it in the sessions I can see it being a valuable tool as my research progresses.

Is Mary thinking like a human?

This clip of the donkeys playing after one of our Saturday Clubs features Mary….. Adele (a riding instructor) was absolutely certain that Mary looked to her for help…. So what/how was Mary thinking?

We have used donkeys in animal-assisted therapy for over 40 years and our Founder Dr Elisabeth Svendsen (a teacher by profession) was convinced from the outset that donkeys possess special characteristics which facilitate possibly unique relationships with humans. No work has ever been carried out, as far as I am aware (I did have a search), around the cognitive ability of donkeys. I have worked for the charity for 15 years now and during that period time and again I have been amazed at the behaviour of donkeys in relation to all humans but specifically those with a ‘need’…. Reflecting back to Nic’s quants input …. When does the chance of it being a coincidence become significant?

A Theory and Philosophy Session For Me… or…The first blog written as me rather than just as part of the course…

For perhaps the first time on Thursday I realised that this time I had left the room buzzing and that this time some of my colleagues were possibly the ones left wondering about spending time watching clips of animals dressed up…… now I see personally why philosophical debates can go on for hours, days, weeks, months, years…centuries….. I found myself looking for further information because it inspired me rather than just to try to make head’n’tail of it!!!!!!!

So my further reading sent me looking on the book shelf for a book I read earlier this year about discovering the unique intelligence of’ Man’s Best Friend’ (Hare & Woods) (2013 but EndNote not playing)and to the library search engine…then back to literally root into the back of the book shelves (they are wide IKEA ones with two or three layers of books) as one of the titles my search threw up I knew I had read already and had somewhere…somewhere… sure enough there it was….In the Company of Animals-A study of Human-Animal Relationships (Serpell, 1996)

I first met Karen Barad’s work in the Ethics part of the course and although a very challenging read especially on screen I did feel an affinity for what she was saying. To meet her again in Philosphy and this time feel at home with her writing (although still requiring considerable concentration) was a surprise. To me, the ‘sense’ was that theoretical thought does not have to be at the expense of concrete thought and also the relationship between humans and non-humans…..Then there was her introduction to the work of Donna Haraway (Haraway, 1997; Haraway, 1991; Haraway, 2003; Haraway, 2008)…. I have only tasted these as yet …..Also that of Vicki Kirby….yet to find and explore but starting from Telling Flesh (Kirby, 1997) and Anthropomorphsm, Again (Vicki, 2010)- sorry Endnote again!!

Sooooo I took the plunge and using that great next day delivery book shop we all know…. my own copy of Meeting the Universe Halfway arrived… I could not face trying to explore Barad’s work on the computer screen …… My hubby is flabbergasted that the big book (i.e. not a novel or my iPad) I was reading in bed had the words quantum physics on the front (he was a chemist and also taught physics in schools, met me at university and knows very well my physics ended aged 14) I could never have imagined it would be physics that would finally have such a Philosophical unlocking and resonance for me.
Greg and Toby
As far as my research goes…. as I am being funded I will be bound to some degree with a ‘traditional’ study, looking at the worth of the therapy and educational intervention we are providing, which is acceptable to a medical/clinical audience in addition to an educational one…however… looking to a possible PHd ….educational and social science research in the human/non- human field really attracts me. Lets face it one of the reasons I am sponsored here on the course is the love our financial supporters have for the donkeys I work with…….and most of them have cats or dogs or both or…….

Haraway, D. J. (1991) Simians, cyborgs and women: the reinvention of nature. London: Free Association Books.

Haraway, D. J. (1997) Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan_Meets_OncoMouse (TM): feminism and technoscience. New York: Routledge.

Haraway, D. J. (2003) The companion species manifesto: dogs, people, and significant otherness. Bristol: Prickly Paradigm.

Haraway, D. J. (2008) When species meet. Vol. 3, Bristol: University of Minnesota Press.

Hare, B. a. and Woods, V. a. The genius of dogs : discovering the unique intelligence of man’s best friend.

Kirby, V. (1997) Telling flesh: the substance of the corporeal. New York: Routledge.

Serpell, J. (1996) In the company of animals: a study of human-animal relationships. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Vicki, K. (2010) ‘Anthropomorphism, Again.’ CR: The New Centennial Review, 10(3) pp. 251-268.

More Thoughts on Quants…

Following on from last week’s intro I found it reassuring to see how SPSS is going to make my life so much easier when it comes to analysing my research. What the reading and the playing with the data achieved for me was a comprehension of how essential the formulation of the research questionnaire i.e. the questions I am going to ask is going to be and intrinsic to this what analyses I will be making. The tests are there but which to use…… exploring this will be a challenge but because the tools are there one well worth the investment of time to get right. There are lots of times during the process when sitting with a pad and pen are vital and I think this will be one of them. I also want a piece of work which will be valuable and acceptable to a number of audiences. To ensure that it achieves this objective I need to be sure what types of statistical analysis are being carried out by those respective audiences be it medical, therapeutic, educational, public relations…. Then ensure that my own have credibility.

Use of Statistics in The Media

During our last Design session we looked at various uses of statistics in the media and looked at the benefits and drawbacks. The article I had found was from the Business section of the Sunday Times (please don’t make judgements… it is not a section I normally pay any attention to… usually only the Travel, Style, Home and Culture after the headlines…)

The headline was ‘Cut inflation and free consumers to spend’ and the text included various percentages drawn from various reports and surveys. The article also included two graphs the top one “Shoppers have opened their purses….” appeared to show that currently spending was up and prices down but actually was a percentage and both were trending downwards. At times on the graph this had been reversed and in an earlier section the difference between them had been greater and yet both at a higher percentage – so did not really seem to show what was stated….. Even more confusingly was a second graph showing a completely different scale of years and two separate vertical axis – I didn’t work out what it was supposed to be showing at all….. this could very well be the media ‘blinding by statistics’ approach as it was supposed to be showing “…as inflation has been driven down by a stronger pound”. The net result was that I was very very suspicious of the article’s claims – even more so as in the first sentences the author himself admits to erroneous predictions made earlier in the year…
During the session each potential benefit and drawback of using statistics seemed to me to almost always be able to be considered as having qualities of both depending on how they are used. For example; data matching the claims made, sample size, visual representation, questions asked………
Lots and lots of food for thought in how to use statistics honestly….