Goodwin's Professional Vision
- Coding is not just something that qualitative analysts do -- it is what
all human beings are doing at all times -- it *is* thinking
- Coding can be seen as a form of measurement (see figure). It is where theory and reality meet. Quantitative
data is generated by mappings in which items are assigned numbers, and some relations among
the numbers correspond to relations among the objects.
- We think with the codes for things, not with the things themselves. We
*do* confuse the map with the territory. We are symbolic processors, not
reality processors. In this sense, simulation
(modeling of reality) is the basis of all human cognition.
- To use the language of old school organizational theory, in thinking with
symbols instead of reality, we effectively buffer our technical core (the
manufacturing of analyses) from the turbulence of our environments (the
messiness in the data). In general, once the coding is done, any record of the
uncertainties of assigning a code is eliminated.
- Most of the codes that we use "naturally" are learned: they are provided by the social system. Typically need to
be actively taught. There are also some basic psychological processes that
we share with other animals, such object recognition, salience,
- Does this mean we have distributed cognition? Transactive
memory systems (dan Wegner)?, Collective minds (weick and roberts)?
Highlighting -- first step in coding
- Not only do some things stand out in the perceptual field (thanks to our
brain's built-in systems), but we highlight them
deliberately by circling them, marking them, demarcating them, and
ultimately naming them (the final step in coding). The highlighted or
demarcated items then figure strongly in our thinking. They are the units of
- Example: The "trail" of blood in the Rodney King trial, which is actually a pretty
random spattering that we think of as a clear path.
- Highlighting is a form of data smoothing, of coping with the messy,
continuous, analog nature of reality
Graphic Representations as embodied practice.
- Diagrams, photos, graphs, maps etc. are often the central objects of a discipline.
People cluster around them, talk about them, refer to them, construct them, etc.
- Building the artifacts around which the profession is based.
- But the diagram or artifact is only half the story. The other half is the
the interaction of people with the artifacts (... with categories, with deictic
Rodney King case
- fact to be explained is the success of the defense in a "slam-dunk" case
- goodwins theory is the transference of professional vision (or at least that the
police were acting professionally given their own codes). In short, to allow
jury to highlight and code the world as a policeman does.
- explain the professional rules of engagement
- using coding and highlighting techniques to match the video record with the rules of
- expert testimony was allowed to elucidate police guidelines, and
- explain how the police were seeing things on the assumption
- expert is source of professional vision. is a translator
Ways to build from this article
- less constructive way: the article seems to imply that we see what we want to see,
its all political or we can never see past our blinders
- more constructive: defines our goal as ethnographer: to acquire, to mimic professional
vision, so as to predict and control behavior. Could we predict which patches of soil an
archeologist will call a post hole? This is the beginnings of an expert system.
- also constructive: are there systematic, predictable ways in which humans discretize and
salientize. Can we help people avoid bias?
Examples of professional vision in corporate settings
- viewing a stock exchange
- what gestures mean
- how to read the displays
- where people are located
- reading stock movements
- emergency room
- evaluating the financial health of a company:
- reduce to a small set of figures which become in the peoples minds, the health of
- quality: a set of measurements
- scanning the environment for significant events
- which technologies are watched? which competitors matter? Which stakeholders in general?
- analyzing loan/credit applications
- interpreting events within the organization from a political perspective
- does office size and placement "speak" volumes about who and what is
valued in the organization?
- is it just window office vs non-window? Do corners make a difference? Floor? Distance
from the elevators?