Observing Participating Observation—A Re-description Based on Systems Theory


  • Tina Bering Keiding Aarhus University




participating observation, systems theory, observing observers, meaning


Current methodology concerning participating observation in general leaves the act of observation unobserved. Approaching participating observation from systems theory offers fundamental new insights into the topic. Observation is always participation. There is no way to escape becoming a participant and, as such, co-producer of the observed phenomenon. There is no such thing as a neutral or objective description. As observation deals with differences and process meaning, all descriptions are re-constructions and interpretations of the observed. Hence, the idea of neutral descriptions as well as the idea of the naïve observer becomes a void. Not recognizing and observing oneself as observer and co-producer of empirical data simply leaves the process of observation as the major unobserved absorber of contingency in data production based on participating observation. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1003119


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Author Biography

Tina Bering Keiding, Aarhus University

Tina Bering KEIDING is associate professor and leader of the research program "Educational research in higher education" at Department of curriculum studies, Danish School of Education in Aarhus, Aarhus University. She holds a master degree in environmental engineering and a PhD in higher education. Her main research combines general theories of teaching and learning (allgemeine Didaktik) and systems theory and concentrates on redescriptions of educational concepts and on teaching in higher education.




How to Cite

Keiding, T. B. (2010). Observing Participating Observation—A Re-description Based on Systems Theory. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 11(3). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-11.3.1538