Kitchen stories

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David Heyburn
Social Science Research
January 21, 2012

Kitchen Stories assignment

The film Kitchen Stories begins with a presentation, set in post World War II Sweden, at the “Sweden Home Research Institute” where a presumed scientist reveals findings that the average Swedish housewife walks, inside the kitchen, the equivalent distance of Sweden to the Congo and back, within one year.Bewildered by this finding they set out on an experiment to see if the distance is because of the design of the kitchen, and to see if the same holds true for Norwegian bachelors. Does this constitute a hypothesis? I do not think so; I will address what I believe the hypothesis of the research project is later in this paper.
The research project in the film fits with a definition of scientificresearch, because it “seeks to answer a question, systematically uses a predefined set of procedures to answer the question, collects evidence, produces findings that were not determined in advance, and produces findings that are applicable beyond the immediate boundaries of the study (Mack 2005)”
The researchers were setting out to evaluate the interaction of persons within their kitchens. Todetermine the hypothesis of the experiment, I think it is important to consider the timeframe in which the research is taking place. Set in post wwii Scandinavia, modernist thought was sweeping the globe in which minimalism and efficiency were paramount objectives of the time. Mostly associated with architecture and art, modernism also influenced the ideas with which we try to organize our lives,our living spaces, and our work places. In this light, I believe the Sweden Home Research Institute saw the home kitchen as an in-efficient workspace. If an average Swedish housewife can walk from Sweden to the Congo and back all within one room, logic would tell us that the design of the room must be poorly designed, forcing un-necessary “trips.” Another hypothesis could be “what motivates ourmovements within the kitchen?” Was the reason for the extensive walking due to a poorly designed kitchen or an unorganized person? If the unnecessary movements were indeed because of the person, then the researchers likely wanted to understand what motivates their movements within the kitchen. The Research Institute clearly determined a predefined set of procedures to answer the question. They evenwent so far as to provide a judge’s chair so that they could be “out of the way of the subject” and a place to live outside of the subject’s home so that direct interaction was further discouraged. The observers were simply there to be “a fly on the wall” and record the movements of the subject. The observer was not to interact directly in anyway as that would obscure the data. However, when sittingin a room over looking someone, this physical presence will obviously create issues with observing random and natural movements as though no one was watching them.
Determining the hypothesis was difficult because as a viewer, we were simply watching observations. Little information was given to help us understand the experiment itself and its reason for being. The mystery however allowedfurther questions that kept me intrigued.
The research method being used by the team managing and implementing the project was likely the applied qualitative method. According to the Sage Encyclopedia of Social Science Research, “applied qualitative research is an activity rather than a movement or coherent philosophy… The objective is to observe or monitor a phenomenon in order to inform a policy orpractice.” In this case the initial objective was to observe the movements of a single male in his kitchen and based its findings inform the Sweden Home Research Institute about how to design a more efficient kitchen. I don’t think the approach changed throughout the movie, but I think the observer began to see the observation procedures as insufficient to ascertain the desired information....
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