If we aim to understand professional learning and practice in material, embodied and discursive terms,then one obvious place to turn methodologically is to ethnography and observation. Ethnographicmethods normally presuppose the physical presence of the researcher in the research setting. In thispaper we explore what it might mean to observe, document and represent practices throughethnographic work in contexts of (i) interdisciplinary collaboration; (ii) economic and time pressures,making extended periods of observation difficult; and (iii)multi-sited, including international, collaboration.As we conduct and plan projects that involve scholars from different national and disciplinarybackgrounds, and imagine the temporal and spatial opportunities and constraints within which ourresearch unfolds, we are forced to think through what it means to ‘be there’, observing, in the field, aspractices and learning unfold. The material contexts in which we now work challenge the notion of thesingle ethnographer whose embodied presence in the field underpins an embodied understanding of theworld. We have to rely on others’ experiences, read field notes we didn’t write ourselves, engage withsituations where we don’t share a common language with participants, and make sense of the differentways data, analysis and theory have meaning for us as collaborators from health, geography andeducation backgrounds, drawing on a range of theoretical frames in our research.In order to grapple more fully and tangibly with these issues, we undertook a piece of observational workin a health professional education setting in Linköping, Sweden. An experienced gynaecologist andeducator, ‘Birgit’, runs evening sessions for small groups of medical students. Central to these are the‘professional patients’ – women who make themselves, their bodies, available so that students can learnand practise pelvic examination. Two of us, Madeleine and Nick, were present at one evening’s session;Alison was not. In the paper we will present excerpts from Nick’s and then Madeleine’s account of thesame ‘moment’ during the session. These will be followed by reflections from Alison as a remote‘participant’, on the sorts of understandings and questions that arise for her in this different position. Wewill then develop a collective response to the ‘data’, foregrounding ways in which our personal,professional, and disciplinary backgrounds or ways of being shape our engagement with the world, thedifferent accounts, and our responses to each other. We complicate notions of ‘being there’ to exploremultiple ‘beings there’ and ‘beings apart’, highlighting important theoretical and methodological issuesaround observation, representation, and analysis, and reflecting on these in terms of theoreticalgroundings of our substantive analysis in practice theory.
2012. 11-11 p.