Harmonizing Strong Voices: A Case for Collaborative Interpretation

Harmonizing Strong Voices: A Case for Collaborative Interpretation

Yhna Therese P. Santos, Gerard Martin C. Suarez, and Irish Jane L. Talusan

The beauty of qualitative research is that it allows flexibility and embraces nuance in interpretation. Of course, this comes with the recognition that reflexivity is essential to interpretation. However, interpretation becomes challenging when it involves varying perspectives. We (Irish, Gerard, and Yhna) provide an account of our collaborative interpretation experience in, analyzing the Out of the Box Media Literacy Initiative’s Media and Information Literacy for Democracy Handbook.

—As cross-global, interdisciplinary research becomes the norm, spotlighting reflexive and inclusive practices become more essential—
Irish: A Media Practitioner

Yhna, Gerard, and I met for the first time in a PhD qualitative class. The section was bigger than usual so we had to work in groups. Despite just meeting, we had an instant common denominator: media and information literacy (MIL). The topic was easily sealed.

We equally divided the tasks based on our expertise, from the introduction and review of related literature to the content sections that we were assigned to analyze. However, it eventually became apparent that our MIL denominator was not that common after all, especially when it comes to interpretation. 

My take on MIL was focused on the media. Having worked in the industry made me focus on how MIL can support journalism. It also helped that I have some understanding of the behind-the-scenes of media production. At the same time, I was able to apply a pedagogical lens to interpreting the handbook, having taught MIL myself. 

We made it cohesive through an autoethnography. Meaning our discussion marks whose voice was speaking at that moment. Yet, we also made sure to have a “we” voice. After doing individual interpretations, we gathered our findings and mutually agreed on parts. 

Gerard: An Advocate

For my part, first, I drew from my experiences working in the Philippine public sector. As a teacher with years of personal practice and conversations with others working within the public classroom setting, an education policy drafter for several local and national government officials, and as a recent observer of community initiatives—that handbook was not it. But then there isn’t much use focusing on just the ‘problematic’ and lashing out against people earnestly trying. Assuming that their intent was to get the youth more enthused, to get them to believe that they could make a difference for a ‘sick’ country in spite of its constraints, I had to link my findings to what was happening around me.

I then started thinking about why students were making their voices heard in spite of the fears that history was about to repeat itself. I asked why ordinary people were risking their lives and police harassment just to feed their neighbors, and why some politicians were receiving public praise while others were condemned. Lastly, I had to reconcile these thoughts with the fact that progressive narratives online do not necessarily translate to physical democratic sentiment. What I came up with wasn’t really controversial.  Though our digital illiteracy rates are the highest, ‘the masses’ aren’t incapable with respect to knowing what’s right or wrong. I didn’t think that democracy died or people were manipulated because of technology. These, for me, were rational actions in response to democratic promises unfulfilled. To capacitate others, then, requires going beyond the technological—Do we have the sociocultural infrastructure to support doing things ‘right’?

Bringing it back to interpretative collaboration within academic spaces—expertise can obscure. Listening to people, then understanding their context sharpens collaboration. Academic interpretation should follow after.

Yhna: A Librarian

I am a librarian. My orientation on MIL is mainly based on my library and information science background. This meant that I was more comfortable with the information aspect of MIL. Because of this, my theories of choice were more aligned with information theories, which focused on information flows and seeking-behaviors. 

At first glance, this might seem daunting, after all, MIL has an equally important media aspect. Eventually, however, I realized that my background could offer a potential advantage. My familiarity with information behavior theories and information literacy perspectives allowed me to read and comment on the text using my understanding of how a person would typically seek information. This contributed to my reading of the text: which topics could go first, which could go last, which were redundant. 

Through my LIS background, I was also able to compare and contrast the context of the handbook against other MIL initiatives in the Philippines. Our group recognized that the handbook was more than just a resource. Its creation is an MIL initiative in itself. As such, it became more fitting to look beyond the text and also consider the specifics behind the handbook’s creation.

Aside from being a licensed librarian, I am also an academic and had, at the time of our research, over 11 years of experience teaching LIS. This made my critique of the text reflective of my teaching background, and I was able to connect my own pedagogical strategies to the recommendations I made. Being able to put myself in the position of the teacher, the potential user helped me comment on the value of the text as a teaching tool. Accomplishing this was crucial since the handbook we analyzed was being marketed as a key resource. 

Some Final Thoughts

There is no doubt that balancing multiple voices in interpretation is difficult, but our three voices allowed us to suggest grounded improvements in a layered way. As cross-global, interdisciplinary research becomes the norm, spotlighting reflexive and inclusive practices become more essential.

Cite this article in APA as: Santos, Y. T. P., Suarez, G. M. C., & Talusan, I. J. L. Harmonizing strong voices: A case for collaborative interpretation. (2024, May 16). Information Matters, Vol. 4, Issue 5. https://informationmatters.org/2024/05/harmonizing-strong-voices-a-case-for-collaborative-interpretation/


Yhna Therese Santos

Yhna Therese P. Santos is an assistant professor at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of the Philippines Diliman. Her research interests includes information literacy, information behavior, and other related topics.