Friday, August 24, 2012

John and Gill: Communication Partners

What can you learn from watching the ethnographic videos?

After more than 4 years and 35 films, I am still amazed how Ida Institute documentaries are able to provide insights that help audiologists understand their patient’s communication needs. I find the videos especially helpful when it comes to understanding and exploring the patient’s communication relationship to their spouse, children and other communication partners.

Let me show you how:

In 2009 I visited John and Gill from Colchester in UK. Gill has a profound hearing loss. While John supports Gill, the hearing loss is clearly putting a strain on their relationship. Unintentional irritation, lack of patience, loss of spontaneity and even social pain are well-known and common consequences resulting from hearing loss. The hearing loss is “owned” by Gill, but it is clear that John is also to a great extent affected by it, because hearing loss essentially is a matter of social communication – thus not reducible to kilohertz and decibel.

One of the ethnographic insights I got from the visit was the role shifting in their relationship. John tells us that he is “acting as an earpiece” for Gill at social gatherings. This means he has taken over some of Gill’s former communication competences in terms of small talk, social networking and even friendly gossiping.

People with hearing loss often experience the loss of social competences as a loss of their own identity. : “I am not the person I used to be”, I often hear. Gill was very much aware of this and during the visit she even joked about the fight they would have of being the family’s best gossiper if she suddenly she got her hearing back…..

So what can you learn from this:

By letting the patient talk freely about their hearing loss, the ethnographic video uncovers some of the real problems Gill and John are dealing with. These “real problems” would probably have gone unnoticed if she had been given a traditional questionnaire to gauge her hearing ability.

Therefore my advice to you is:

Be curious and take the time to listen to your patient’s stories and challenges! Chances are you will get a more precise and more realistic picture of your patient’s concerns, especially their relationship and communication challenges with their spouses and friends.

I hope this will inspire you to try out the ethnographic method of being curious, posing open-ended questions and listening! If you are interested and would like to know more I can clearly recommend that you take a closer look at the Ida Institute's GPS and Communications Rings tools.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Beginning

Welcome to my virtual office and my first blogpost.

This first post is rather long so that I can explain what I am actually trying to achieve through my presence in the blogosphere.

I am a social anthropologist with a PhD in “Rumor and Gossip – as Social Resistance” and a trained cameraman and director from the National French Documentary Filmschool. I’ve made more than 30 short documentaries since I joined the Ida Institute in 2008. Many of my documentaries are available on our website and more are coming.

Our main goal in producing the ethnographic documentaries is to inspire audiologists worldwide to reflect upon their own practice and promote a more patient-centered approach. We strongly believe that a cornerstone in changing deep-rooted behavior is awareness of your own practice – even though it can be a burdensome task during a busy day at work.

And that gets to my goal for this blogspace.  I want to know what you see when you view the documentary videos – the “ethnographic mirrors” -- on the Ida website

Perhaps I should step back and start by explaining how these ethnographic mirrors are created.

It is a simple process. When I visit a hearing care professional in his or her clinic, I use a small handheld camera.  As part of my method, I take a participatory approach. I very deliberately avoid becoming the detached fly on the wall…instead I insist on being the friendly fly in the soup.
You might say that I am almost an irritating presence with my camera. If I am not being accepted and given “permission” to enter the comfort zone of people I film, these documentaries will never succeed. You, the audience, will immediately sense that there are signs of resistance in the body language of my subjects, indicating that my camera is intrusive and unwelcome. Luckily, it very seldom happens!

Because I am getting up close and personal with the camera, it often feels a bit like dancing a tango.  It can be quite intimate and, of course, requires at least two participants!

The camera itself always plays a role in setting the scene. The challenging part is to create a safe space where the interactions becomes real, honest and trustful – where the patient’s worries of losing more than “just” hearing are expressed and where the audiologist does not have all the answers.  

The goal of an ethnographer/anthropologist is to reveal the yet unarticulated differences between what people say they do and what they actually do.

But, we do more than this.  We make the documentaries common points of reference for reflection and discussion as part of the co-creative learning principles that you can find on our website and at Ida seminars and workshops. It is my experience that these ethnographic documentaries work as excellent “mirrors”, reflecting common challenges for all audiologists.   

Through the conversations on this blog, I aim to help you observe other practices -- and your own -- through my “ethnographic eyes.”  I hope to provide you with a new and thought-provoking way of looking at the clinical encounter between hearing care professional and client. And I hope to inspire you to rediscover your own clinical practice.

By doing this, I provide you with a unique possibility to overcome your professional and personal barriers by enabling you to share your everyday dilemmas, challenges and successful experiences.

I look forward to sharing with you!