What object do people treasure most? Why?
These are questions that I have been asked to find answers to, through a bit of research and interviewing. I began to think about sentimental value, what it is, and why we ascribe sentimental value to objects. From asking myself this question, I found that I all but forgot about my most ‘valuable’ possessions, my laptop, camera, and phone, and instantly thought of photographs, jewellery, notes and letters. I did a bit of research to help me to understand what sentimental value is, and Guy Fletcher (2009) states the following: “We can give a definition along the following lines: something is sentimentally valuable if and only if the thing is valuable for its own sake in virtue of a subset of its relational properties, where the properties include any or all of having belonged to, having been given to or by, or having being used by, people or animals, within a relationship of family, friendship, or romantic love, or having been used or acquired during a significant experience. This is not comprehensive, not least because it leaves unanswered the important question of why it is that the relational properties sometimes generate sentimental value and other times do not.”
Anthony Hatsimoysis (2003) states “The intimate relation between oneself and the objects one experiences as sentimentally valuable may support the view that sentimental value is personal. It can, indeed, be argued that sentimental value is personal because it is not impersonal, since it is part of a phenomenon that involves a point of view of the world, namely, the point of view of the person who is emotionally connected with the bearer of value.”
From this I understood that sentimental value is given to items which a person has some other, more meaningful interaction with than ‘I wanted it so I bought it.’ I decided to focus on this, and hoped to find out if what people most valued was items with a high sentimental value, or if monetary value would have any sway over peoples’ choices.
Hatzimoysis says in the same article, “An object is sentimentally valuable to an agent for certain reasons, which, by the very fact of being reasons, are in principle intelligible by everyone else, even though they may not be applicable to anyone else. Universality may thus come in through the understanding that something has the relevant quality, but not in the experience of that quality as enjoyed by the agent who sees the object as sentimentally valuable.”
So, for example, you might understand why I would treasure a particular piece of jewellery, even though the jewellery has no particular meaning to you personally. I kept this in mind while interviewing, as I understand that it might be quite a close-to-heart subject, and I wanted my interviewees to be comfortable talking to me about something so personal.
I made did a bit of brainstorming about what sort of items I thought people might treasure and why – I came up with such possibilities as photographs, jewellery, soft toys, and computers: items given as gifts, items that once belonged to a friend or relative, or items that had been worked hard for and well-earned. It’s quite a wide subject, really, so I found it a bit difficult to narrow down my interview questioning.
In the end, the questions I armed myself with were:
- Do you have a ‘prized possession’, something you would save from a burning building – if so, what is it?
- How did you get it?
- Does it remind you of any particular thing/place/person/time, or does it have a particular use – if so, what?
- Do you keep it because of what it reminds you of, or could it be easily replaced?
- Do you keep it in a prominent place, or is it kept ‘safe’ and only looked at / used on occasion?
Using a semi-structured interview style means my questioning was somewhat open – I asked my questions, but there was room to ask follow-up questions, and really just have a conversation. I took minimal notes during the interviews, just noting down key words or phrases. The answers I was given were then plotted on mind maps.
I interviewed Leona, a student and retail worker in her mid-twenties, who initially found it quite difficult to decide what she felt she prized most. I found my conversation with Leona very helpful, because we touched on such issues as ‘silly’ sentimental items and small tokens, all the way to big expensive purchases – laptops, phones, and cameras. What means more? In the end Leona told me about two photographs of her grandfather, one which lives in a prominent place in her bedroom where it is seen every day and one which she keeps in a small box in a cupboard, which she only brings out to look at every so often. These photos bring her happy memories, but they also bring sadness over a much missed family member.
Daniel, a student in his twenties told me about a glass paperweight that was given to his mother in the ‘80s as a thank you for doing a favour for someone. He told me about how he used to find it interesting because it was so colourful, and how it reminds him of his childhood, when he lived in Menzieshill in Dundee. The paperweight is kept on a bookshelf in his bedroom, a fairly prominent place. The item was never actually used as a paperweight; it was always just something that was kept around on display. Daniel reacquired this paperweight a couple of years ago after losing track of it in the early nineties – finding it instantly reminded him of the place he used to live, and he feels that this paperweight coming back into his possession sort of symbolises him having grown up.
Linsay, also a student in her twenties and a retail worker, told me about a doll she’d had since she was very young. She was able to describe the doll in great detail, and told me the story of how she came to have it. When Linsay was young – around two and a half or three years old – she had to have an operation on her thumbs, and after going to get her stitches taken out (which was quite a traumatic experience for such a young child) she was taken to the shops to choose a toy. She chose this doll, whose name is Tracey. Linsay related stories about Tracey, memories to do with her aunts, taking Tracey on holiday, and other family-orientated memories. She keeps Tracey in quite a prominent place in her room, where she can see her every day.
I also got input on my chosen topic from a few members of my boyfriend’s family, whose answers to the ‘prized possession’ question included family photos because of the associated memories, wedding photos and guestbook because of the messages contained within, and a wedding ring because it reminds the owner of his wife, the wedding day, and it symbolises the promise he and his wife share.
Through my interviews and general conversation I have found that people seem to treasure tokens, rather than items which would necessarily cost a lot of money. People treasure objects which connect them with other people, or places, or even periods of time; people treasure the memories that are associated with these objects. Nobody I spoke to really mentioned anything expensive as something they’d instantly think to save from a fire.
I think my interviews went well, and I found my conversations with my interviewees and the answers they gave very helpful. I could have perhaps been a bit more confident with my approach to interviewing, as I found myself being unsure about when was an okay point to move on to a different question. While I find mind maps useful, I now feel that I should have used a more fun and interactive design tool with my interviewees. Over all though, I feel I was able to gather the information I was looking for.
Flethcher, G. (2009) Sentimental Value. The Journal of Value Inquiry, 33 pp. 35-65.
Hatzimoysis, A. (2003) Sentimental Value. The Philosophical Quarterly, 53 (212) pp. 373-379.
To further my research for our RSA brief, as part of our Change by Design module, I have chosen to read two of the journal articles I found during assignment 3. These articles are mainly concerned with reflective learning, and learning using social networking sites.
The 2011 article “Expression and Connection: The Integration of the Reflective Learning Process and the Public Writing Process into Social Network Sites” by Park et al, in the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, looks at the reflective learning process and the public writing process as a way of improving the quality of reflective learning on social networking sites, and it proposes a model for reflective learning on social networking sites based on two key areas of such sites: individual expression and collaborative connection. The most important information in this article, for me, is in the sections related to using social networking sites as a tool for reflective learning, and the areas specifically on individual expression and collaborative connection.
This article makes many references to other articles and studies, and I found a few of the quotes used particularly relevant to my research. Branch and Paranjape (2002) are quoted as saying that reflection ‘brings about “growth of the individual – morally, personally, psychologically, and emotionally, as well as cognitively”.’ Park mentions a 2009 article by Branch and Kastanis which identified three major obstacles in adopting a social networking site framework for reflective learning, which are 1) insufficient time, 2) technical difficulties, and 3) the reflective learning process being insufficiently integrated into the social networking site characteristic – in this article, Park looks to solve this third obstacle. Park also uses several diagrams in this article which I found especially useful: Gibbs’s (1998) diagram of the reflective learning cycle, Kolb’s (1984) diagram of the experiential learning cycle, and Strauss’s (2008) diagram of the public writing process. I found these diagrams particularly relevant, as they display exactly the kind of information I was looking for throughout my research, my question essentially being “Can an online forum environment be used for self-reflective learning to aid in understanding and changing behaviour, and how?”
Park has provided two new diagrams, based on the ones mentioned previously. The first diagram shows the expression process on social networking sites, and it combines Kolb’s and Gibbs’s reflection processes and Strauss’s public writing process. The second diagram shows the connection process on social networking sites, detailing four stages of the connection process: searching, expressing, reflecting, and connecting. Again, I found these diagrams very helpful, as they outline very succinctly the processes of expression and public writing, and connection. Park also gives an exemplary model of and a customisable framework for web-based reflective learning, which is incredibly useful in setting out the stages of web-based learning – there are several stages mentioned, including initiation, preparation, expression, connection (the process of giving and receiving peer feedback), reification (collecting and critically reviewing selected feedback), actualisation, and evaluation. Understanding these stages will be extremely useful in building a successful online learning community environment, because allowing users to participate in these stages will give them a very good basis for self-reflection, and learning about their own behaviours.
The article concludes that in an online learning community environment, the reflection process should be integrated into the processes of expression, public writing, and connection. It also concludes that levels of participation in such a community are subject to change depending on the users’ needs and learning objectives, and that the quality of social networking depends on the media types used, and the development of the content.
Park assumes, however, that the internet is consistently available to everyone. Park quotes numbers of social networking site users from Park and Kastanis (2009) and Ellison, Steinfield, and Lampe (2007), but these figures come from undergraduate class numbers – there are no figures relating to non-students, the middle-aged, etc.
Park also quotes a study which says that reflection is often regarded as time consuming and an annoying interruption, and which goes on to say that learners can become introspective and anxious about their actions, which can affect the quality of their reflective practice. However, Park uses these statements to convincingly support his own argument, that the design of a reflective learning community should focus on the users’ engagement in and participations with others users, and the public writing process.
The 2010 article “Social Learning Networks: Build Mobile Learning Networks Based on Collaborative Services” by Huang et al, in the journal Educational Technology & Society proposes the idea of collaborative services to help service users find learning partners based on shared interests. It contains the results of a survey Huang performed to determine user satisfaction from the collaborative service platform. The key question the article poses is whether or not knowledge sharing in communities of practice is effective, and if users can be assigned learning partners based on shared interests and expected outcomes from the service.
The article contains the results of a survey conducted by Huang and his associates themselves, which positively support the point of the article. Many studies are referenced, but some key sources which I found relevant are Huang et al (2009) – the idea of supporting collaborative learning with blogs, Yang and Chen (2008) – the idea that knowledge sharing communities could be based on social networking sites, and Fischer et al (2002) – where’s it’s concluded that social relationships have an impact on learning in a collaborative environment.
The main conclusions Huang comes to are that learning activities can be well supported by a collaborative learning process, and that knowledge sharing by learning partners assigned due to similar interests and specialties is successful, and rates highly in user satisfaction. The section titled “Results and Discussion” contains the following information, with supporting references: Knowledge sharing attitude, system quality, information quality, and service quality have positive influences on the collaborative service platform.
The information in this article is geared very positively towards building learning communities based on collaboration and interaction, and the authors found that in such communities, user satisfaction is high. Using the information laid out in this article, and following the references made throughout, could lead us to a greater understanding of what it takes to build a successful learning community, with an atmosphere designed to foster collaborative and reflective learning.
The main assumptions this article makes are, again, that the internet is available to all, and that users will actually want to be partnered with someone based on their interests or specialties, rather than find their own friends and way around an ‘open’ community. There doesn’t seem to be any allowance for letting users work by themselves, as the author shows that learning communities work well when users are partnered up – however, there should perhaps be the option to work alone, and opt out of being partnered with other users based on shared interests and specialties, at least until the users feel comfortable within the community environment.
I am happy with the information I have gathered through my research into this topic. I came at this assignment with quite a specific question – can an online forum environment be used for self-reflective learning to aid in understanding and changing behaviour, and how? I think that through my research I can say with a degree of certainty that an online community environment can be used for self-reflective learning and understanding behaviour, as long as the framework is right. Of course, learning is a very changeable and diverse subject, and the service’s success would depend very strongly on the users’ attitudes and commitment to it.
One article is based on the results of a study conducted by the authors themselves, and the other uses secondary sources of information as a base for the points it makes, but both of my chosen articles do seem to support each other. They both conclude positively towards online learning communities in a similar vein to social networking sites like Facebook, and even though our idea was more along the lines of a forum or bulletin board, I think the conclusions presented still apply to our design. Park et al propose an actual model for reflective learning on social networking sites, which has given me a greater understanding of what reflective learning actually is, and what it entails. It is quite an in-depth process, but along with personal expression, public writing, and connection with other users, I think it could be an extremely helpful process to give users a better understanding of their own behaviours.
I am still very interested in the idea of using personal videos to aid the self-reflection process, either in a candid, simply behaviour-recording way, or as a sort of video blog, so to have a better understanding of this I would like to conduct further research – during my search for information for assignment 3 I noted a number of articles related to using videos in a learning context, so I would like to investigate those articles to see if videos really would be useful in the kind of learning environment that our service would provide.
As part of the assignment, our groups were asked to meet up in order to get a fresh perspective on our projects. Team 8 and team 7 took over the DJCAD cantina for a while to discuss what we’d been looking over. Our groups had both become aware of each others’ projects after last week’s Pecha Kucha style presentations, but it was really refreshing to meet up with another group who had a completely different project, and hear what they had to say in a more relaxed setting.
Branch, W. T., and Paranjape, A., 2002. Feedback and reflection: Teaching Methods for Clinical Settings. Academic Medicine, 77 (12), pp. 1185-1188.
Huang, Y.-M., Jeng, Y.-L., and Huang, T.-C., 2009. An Educational Mobile Blogging System for Supporting Collaborative Learning. Educational Technology & Society, 12 (2), pp. 163-175.
Huang, J. J. S., Yang, S. J. H., Huang, Y.-M., and Hsiao, I. Y. T., 2010. Social Learning Networks: Build Mobile Learning Networks Based on Collaborative Services. Educational Technology & Society, 13 (3) pp. 78-92.
Park, J.Y., and Kastanis, L.S., 2009. Reflective Learning through Social Network Sites in Design Education. International Journal of Learning, 16 (8), pp. 11-22.
Park, J.-Y., 2011. Expression and Connection: the Integration of the Reflective Learning Process and the Writing Process into Social Network Sites. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7 (1)
Yang, S. J. H., and Chen, I. Y. L., 2008. A Social Network-based System for Supporting Interactive Collaboration in Knowledge Sharing Over Peer-to-peer Network. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 66 (1), pp. 36-50.