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Hi Red Center, Designed by George Maciunas:
Bundle of Events (1965)

"Ask more, and I quickly become a bore."

I despise questionnaires, so it seems ironic or perhaps somehow justified that I find myself designing … a questionnaire. I swear this universe works precisely like this: whatever I despise, I eventually find myself involved with. I would be wise to be more careful with my despising, but my initial reactions seem less choices than visceral responses, not terribly volitional. However this happens, it happens. I prefer to think that my underlying dislike of questionnaires will enable me to produce a superior one, for I will probably avoid most questionnaires’ more annoying aspects. I will not, for instance, insist that any of my questions be answered, for if 'no response' isn't valid, neither could any other be. Forced choices aren't choices but forces. I'll also keep mine simple. The worst questionnaires ask many questions. The best ask few.

I intend to ask only ThreeQuestions.
I've chosen three arbitrarily, but it feels right to me. Even four seems like one too many, and two just too few. I've had some positive experiences with ThreeQuestions. For instance, I learned to ask ThreeQuestions when first meeting someone: 1- How do you happen to be here? 2- How do you feel about finding yourself here? 3- What do you hope might happen as a result of your being here? The answers to these three questions easily distract from the unease of meeting someone new. The responses have usually helped reveal some essence without seeming too prying. They're my go-to introductory questions.

The Muse and I included a brief questionnaire in our workshop participant prework packet. This one did something that only some workshop organizers ever seem to ask prospective participants. 1- It asked what each wanted to learn as a result of attending the workshop. It didn't promise that anyone would learn what they reported to want, but it enabled us as teachers to better understand the students' expectations. It also encouraged the students to consider what they might want rather than expect the instructor to decide for them. 2- It also asked how they'd know if they received what they said they wanted. 3- It ended by asking if there was anything else they wanted their conveners to know about them before the workshop began. We learned much from those three innocent questions. We learned, for instance, that only some prospective participants responded to our questions. Since I despise questionnaires, I felt that I understood this response best.

The first question seems key. It seems perhaps best if it asks after something personal in the form of some disclosure. Not opinion, not fact, just observation, something like 1- How do you usually describe what you do? This form helps avoid receiving some labels in response. For instance, it's difficult to assess the meaning since the term "coder" seems inherently ambiguous. For the second question, I prefer to delve into feelings, something like 2- How do you usually describe how you feel about fulfilling this role? This question, too, seems likely to produce more than a single-word response. It at least attempts to get the responder out of their head by asking after feelings. For a third question, I might ask: 3- What do you believe might help you better fulfill your role's responsibilities? This question encourages a bit of imagination. It doesn't promise any improvement, but it might provide insight into what improvement might look like. It might also offer some clues as to how this person keeps themself imprisoned with unrealistic expectations.

There, ThreeQuestions, any or even all of which might be declined. Notice how I didn't ask for any rating on a ten-point scale. These attempts at quantifying feelings and opinions produce garbage that can be too easily averaged. What in the heck does an average 5.73 response on workplace cleanliness imply? Whatever anyone wants it to imply. I try to stay subjective. I want the responses to be ambiguous, even contentious. I do not want to settle any argument by citing the meaning of some out-of-context opinion. I want my ThreeQuestions to spawn more questions and, hopefully, many without discrete answers, for an actual questionnaire is never the answers but the questions. With luck, ThreeQuestions will spark many more, and an authentic conversation might eventually result. Ask more, and I quickly become a bore.

©2024 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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