“In its broadest focus, it involves systematic discovery of what gives ‘life’ to a living system
when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic,
ecological, and human terms” (Cooperrider & Whitney, 2005). There were appreciative
moments modeled on the field where I observed the importance of encouraging
teammates by focusing on what was working rather than engaging in a trash-talking “deficit
discourse” that goes nowhere (Gergen K., 1994). The conversations that make a difference
allow a space for “creating something anew” (McNamee & Shotter, 2004).
The doctoral program that Alice Kolb casually mentioned on the sidelines of our softball
game resurfaced when I started investigating Ph.D. programs. This “seemingly” sidebar
discussion propelled me toward a social constructionist practice that examines how our
conversations and relationships create meaning and generate change. Even after leaving
the team for a job teaching communications in 2004, the lessons learned on the field are
still with me and continue. In fall 2009, I entered The Taos Institute/Tilburg University Ph.D.
program, immersed in a Social Constructionist framework and Appreciative Inquiry, which
offered the freedom and fluidity to study while working and here I entered a new field.
This dissertation, The Migrant Creative: U.S. Media Freelancers at the Border of a
Changing Work Culture, is a collection of conversations with eleven media freelancers
discussing the shape shifting required to work in the liminal landscape of this emerging new
economy. The inquiry uses the notion of “liminal space” to position, describe, and create
the experience of media workers’ life at the border of a changing work culture.
I draw on Social Constructionist Theory (Burr, 1995; Gergen & Gergen, 2008), Appreciative
Inquiry (Cooperrider & Whitney, 1999, 2005; Holman, 2010), and dialogic engagement
(Anderson & Gehart, 2007; McNamee, 2004, 2005) to understand media freelance culture
where negotiation (Putnam, 2004), collaboration and conversation present challenging,
provocative ideas (Dixon & Adamson, 2012) that are critical, continuous throughout the
freelance process. The design, data collection and analysis were all relationally informed
process, which I briefly describe below. I will subsequently describe in depth my research
process, practices and tools used.
Engagement With Participants Is Relationally Connected
Reflecting the value of relationships in social construction, I intentionally invited media
freelancers with whom I was connected to be a part of this project and welcomed shared
engagement when it came to sharing their story as it was seen through an appreciative,