The role of narrative in collaborative reasoning and intelligence analysis: A case study
Tim van Gelder and
Robert E Horn
PLOS ONE, 2020, vol. 15, issue 1, 1-17
This paper explores the significance of narrative in collaborative reasoning using a qualitative case study of two teams of intelligence analysts who took part in an exercise using an online collaborative platform. Digital ethnographic methods were used to analyze the chat transcripts of analysts as they reasoned with evidence provided in a difficult, fictional intelligence-type problem and produced a final intelligence report. These chat transcripts provided a powerful “microscope” into the reasoning processes and interactions involved in complex, collaborative reasoning. We found that Individuals and teams used narrative to solve the kinds of complex problems organizations and intelligence agencies face daily. We observed that team members generated what we term “micro-narratives”, which provided a means for testing, assessing and weighing alternative hypotheses through mental simulation in the context of collaborative reasoning. The creation of micro-narratives assisted in the teams’ reasoning with evidence, an integral part of collaborative reasoning and intelligence analysis. Micro-narratives were combined into, and compared with, an ideal or ‘virtual’ narrative which informed the judgements the team came to in their final intelligence report. The case study developed in this paper provides evidence that narrative thought processes play an important role in complex collaborative problem-solving, reasoning with evidence and problem-solving. This is contrary to a widespread perception that narrative thinking is fundamentally distinct from formal, logical reasoning.
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