Interpreting People’s Stories

Posted on  by alicia.churilla

I’ve been thinking a lot about how our third party analysis of the collages is even valuable information for us to consider in terms of research. John brought it up during one of our meetings last week and I have been considering it myself. The intention of the collages are for the participants to create using art as their medium to tell their story. If we are interpreting the collages without considering their story/intention, aren’t we just making things up? Are we just putting ourselves into the collage? Because what is our basis besides our own interpretations and experiences?

Let me clarify through this article/video I found.


This article shows how 10 different people interpret the same animated video short. The purpose of the video was to show how different aged people interpret things differently based on their life experiences and brain development. What I gathered is that each person saw something different, something likely based on their personal life experiences.

If we are interpreting the collages, on what grounds are we able to claim that certain characteristics mean specific things. It’s all hypothesis unless confirmed/told to us by the creator. We’re not art therapists… we can’t claim that this squiggle line means x or y. Art in galleries is intended to move the viewer, to allow the viewer to experience something about themselves. Art as inquiry is intended to allow the creator to discover something themselves.

Using art and narrative inquiry, we have to keep in mind that we are using the art as a medium for the creator – not as a medium for us the viewer. The literal communication of their narrative is the data we are searching for, as that is what narrative analysis is. There are different methodologies for interpreting exactly what a narrative means, as we are basing it off of a literal artist statement.

This would be a different situation though if we were using someone else’s art to prompt response from our participants. Nonetheless, the important perspective is the participant and their narrative.

Watching this video and reading the interpretations made this clear to me – narrative analysis is understanding someone else’s narrative and interpreting it on a greater scale, through common themes. Us, as researchers, interpreting their collage says more about us than it does about them.

My interpretation of the video before I read the other statements:

There is an old man sitting in a park; there is a red ball that continues to hit him. This continual nuisance wakes him, and suddenly he is reminded of memories that are associated with a red ball from his life. He chases the ball, nostalgically reminded of his childhood and journey through life. He runs into the boy and is reminded of his personal journey unto adulthood after connection with his youth.

Real meaning of the video:

Side note – This search on youtube was inspired by a series called 4 photographers shoot 1 model – all about how art narrative is interpreted by the creator. I just love this series.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s