The Enigma of Subjectivity

by techagogy

The “Enigma of Subjectivity” is a wonderful paper from Donna Ladkin about how researchers “might account for their subjectivity whilst simultaneously seeking to more fully understand ‘the other’ as they engage in the inquiry process.” I say wonderful because it has enabled me to start to seek my subjective stance regarding my research into the use of learning technologies in Education and the role of state violence in the classroom. I have always – and probably will remain – confused as to the meaning of subjectivity and objectivity. Coming from a classical empirical background I was embroiled in the realm of objectivity, things can be measured, and by isolating variables, effects measured. This however I have challenged personally via my Ed. Doc. course and experience and feel that qualitative methodologies say more about a ‘thing’.

The paper gives me more ideas about the objectivity/subjectivity dichotomy and moves it into two realms of subjectivity, where objectivity becomes subjectivity outside the self. The process involves the phenomena of the ‘other’, that is its essence, and references the work from Husserl and Heidegger, specifically a phenomena being ‘ready to hand’. I feel the that main question for me was “How can researchers engage with their subjectivity whilst also look up and out from it, in order to encounter something real about the other?” For me I have to feel that I understand what my subjectivity is and also the desire and drive that has lead me to my current position in my research. I am currently working on a benchmarking framework for learning platforms and I need to examine my subjectivity in order to examine where my questions are coming from and the institutional need for objectivity. 

The paper further details areas of phenomenology and how examining the essence of a thing, by stepping out of own subjectivity can lead to truths or essence of a thing. She details how Judi Marshall offers the ideas of inner and outer arcs where you can reach “outside of myself”. There is also the useful tool of “bracketing”, she quotes from Sokolowski “Bracketing retains exactly the modality and the mode of manifestation that the object has for the subject”. Donna helpfully lists some useful tips about how “to consciously bracket aspects of their subjectivity” which helps to find a path from using objectivity within subjectivity.