Too Many Hats, or, A Tale of Intersecting Frames

Caps for saleEver feel like this guy?

You know, that guy from Caps for Sale?

I mean, maybe you don’t feel like you’re napping under a tree or being hassled by monkeys – but, do you ever feel like you’re “wearing many hats,” so to speak?

The very fact that there’s an expression for this is an indication that it’s not an isolated phenomenon. We all have many roles and we constantly step in and out of those roles. Sometimes with grace and sometimes…not.

Personally, I don’t generally mind wearing many theoretical hats – I find my boundaries and my balance, and I make it work for me.

But here’s what I do find: I am terrible at making connections between my roles.

I find this particularly surprising because much of my work is about making connections. I look for communication gaps, holes in process, and (I like to think) I regularly seek to find and establish connections between people.

Perhaps I am the only person with this problem, but I find it significantly easier to connect Person A to Person B, then to connect my own Role A to my own Role B.

When I do this, I have to be intentional about it. I find myself saying things like, “Well, with this lens, I think this. With this other lens I think something else.” Then I have to step back and try to figure out what that all means for what I – an indivisible individual – think.

It’s all very confusing.

I’ve thought about this for awhile, but I recently started thinking about this – of course – through a slightly different lens.

David Williamson Shaffer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, along with others, has developed a framework of around Epistemic Frames.

Essentially, a professional in a field has a an epistemic frame, which can be visualized as a network “in terms of the connections between elements usually described as: skills, knowledge, values, identities, and epistemological rules, from any particular domain.”

A professional’s epistemic frame encompasses the way they approach an issue – the type of questions they ask, the type of knowledge they seek, the type of people they engage.

Much Shaffer’s work looks at the effect of online games which seek to educate and mentor students in a particular field. Using Epistemic Network Analysis, he demonstrates how certain games cause student frames to develop to be more like a professional mentor’s frame.

But more generally, this approach brings a new way of thinking about my hat problem.

To “change hats” or “shift gears” a person would have to alter their epistemic frame – to think differently and approach a situation differently.

I’m not sure that get’s me any closer to integrating my thinking, but it’s an interesting way to look at it.

In theory, at least, I could map all my epistemic frames, figure out how they fit together, and then, perhaps, transition between them more seamlessly.

Or, perhaps, I should think about this with another hat on…

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