Week 7: Color Gives Meaning

“This is so much fun! This is way more fun than sitting at my computer and writing.”–Color coding self

JHaley with ball2The ball was just begging for some color. But in research, color is never for entertainment. Rather, color demonstrates meaning. So, I used my colored pencils to color-code the themes we’ve collected about sense making. Similar colors indicate similar themes. My friend and project commentator, Jean, paid me a surprise visit, so she got to see the ball in person! To my great relief, she was able to guess what most of the colors mean without looking at the legend. In research, that’s one way you know you’re not crazy. Check out the 3-minute video below to see for yourself!

Colored ball legendI found that talking through my coloring process was just as helpful as the color codes themselves. Like, here’s a bit of brilliance that popped out when I colored the “dialogue” facet:

“…So, this ‘dialogue’ stuff is where embodiment meets spirit and mind. Which is funny, because we usually talk about ‘dialogue’ in terms of mind only.”

I mean, that’s brilliant! This is how the ball really helps with synthesis: it literally juxtaposes concepts that we often separate, and the colors sometimes yielded surprising combinations. But similarity of color on surface area doesn’t indicate the structure of an idea: it can’t give depth.

“That’s a limitation of using a ball as an object-metaphor: surface area isn’t great for showing the ‘core’ of an idea.”

So, more writing and thinking will be needed to put these themes together into some argument. Well, check out Week 6. Do you see all of this week’s themes in last week’s post?

PrismOn second thought, maybe it’s okay if my explanation of sense making is incomplete. While I was coloring, I had this Aha! moment: I’m breaking the concept of sense making into colors and then trying to put them back together again, just as a prism does with white light. So if I put all the facets of sense making together again, they would form the mental equivalent of white light, and I wouldn’t be able to see it. It’s really hard to look at light, because you use light in order to see. (Polanyi’s subsidiary-focal integration yet again). One can’t use white light to look at white light, and perhaps, therefore, one can’t make sense of sense making. To look at sense making without using it would amount to analysis via confusion (definitely feels accurate right now). BUT, if I remove a few colors from the sense-making spectrum, maybe I can see most of it.

I mean, how do you get around this conundrum?

Well, besides breaking it with a prism, which has been my current strategy with sense making, another way researchers study white light is by examining what it does to the things it illumines. For example,

  • it makes them heat up,
  • it makes them appear to have certain colors, and
  • it makes them reflect certain wavelengths.

So, by analogy, let’s see what happens to people when they make sense of something and what describes the knowledge they have just produced through sense making. Foreshadowing: I’ve already collected some data on this and a new post is not far away!


Bethany stick figure cover“P.S. Can I just say that it is such a nice day outside, and I am loving sitting here in the sun, coloring my ball, and drinking some beer. And talking to myself.”



2 thoughts on “Week 7: Color Gives Meaning

  1. Nice work, Bethany! I’m just going to throw another idea from the spiritual-physical world in here… only because seeing your Roy G. Biv list made me think about the chakras, all of which have associated colors. Do yours line up? Or could they, given the opportunity to recolor the ball (which I’m not advocating doing, by the way)? You know, just another opportunity to cross-reference your sense-making with another cultural framework…

    It was really great to see the ball up close and personal-like! I will confirm for the rest of the readers that I was, indeed, able to make sense of the color categories. And in fact, I was immediately drawn to do so as soon as I picked it up and started looking at it (if memory serves correctly – I don’t think you prompted me to do so?). In any event, it’s very exciting and great fun!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *