Using movement as data

Recurso 21

Use your own body as a site of knowledge and as a data processor. This technique helps to articulate, through physical movement, feelings or thought processes that the researcher is struggling to express verbally; doing this exercise will see you start paying attention to the knowledge in your body, and to the metaphors that might arise in the form of images and phrases.

Recurso 14

Written by

Christy Zinn

Edited by

Gioel Gioacchino & Mattieu Ramsawak

Developed by


Our Experience Using this Technique

‘Movement as Data’ was developed by Christy Zinn, with Grade 8 and 9 learners at the Centre of Science and Technology (COSAT school) in Khayelitsha, South Africa. Christy developed this technique as part of her master research, which explored how the organizational culture of a public school was embodied.

“The research was developed very experimentally and ‘free movement’ (the practice of moving freely as an expression of how your body is feeling in the moment) was our main source of observational data.

We played with various processes, from sharing stories of significant memories followed by ‘free movement’ exercises, to simply arriving at the session after a long day at school and going straight into ‘free movement’, only speaking about what came up in the exercise afterward. We also practiced ‘free movement’ to certain themes that were arising from the research about the organizational culture of the school, and we then imagined what the opposite movement would be like.

Through this experimentation, and as we became more comfortable moving freely with one another, we started to notice two things: 1) when we do free movement, often a phrase or an image comes up for us while we are moving (a metaphor), and 2) when I imitate the free movement of another, the body is able to sense the meaning of a movement far better than by simply observing another person’s movement; images and phrases come up even if we were just repeating the movements of others, without knowing anything else about their movement (whether it was inspired by a feeling, etc.).
We realized we could use our own body as processors of the data (the meaning-making of other’s movement) and we developed a way of ‘cross-pollinating’ data, through imitating the movements of others and speaking about the metaphors that would come up for each of us.

We embarked on various cycles of reflecting through the body, followed and verbal discussion with the intention of constantly connecting the two kinds of data (verbal/intellect with movement/body). This greatly enriched the analysis of data.”

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